Publication Year: 2013
Published by: University of Nevada Press
Title Page, Copyright
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I’m indebted to many people and organizations that have helped me along the way. Josh Benke, Don Lee, Robert Boswell, Julian Rubinstein, and Pauls Toutonghi read early drafts and offered sound advice. For their insights, humor, and friendship, big thanks to Willy Vlautin, Ralph Morgan, Nicole Tourtelot, ...
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And here they were, the walkers and canes and Panama hats under the parrot-green Arizona sky. I checked my watch. Four thirty was dinner hour, the fever-rush to the dining commons. In the shimmery heat of the summer afternoon, everyone prepared for gossip and spoons. ...
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Questions I overheard at the surrounding dinner tables: Why was Saul Berger’s left eye so droopy? Anyone hear about Jane Munro biting a nurse? Who was excited about the upcoming Elvis Presley Impersonation Show, to be performed by a man named Eli Presley? ...
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I was up early, shaved, fingernails clipped, socked-up, considering whether or not to wear, in this strangulating heat, my grandpa’s long-sleeve blue oxford. It had been one of my grandfather’s nicest. My first interview in over a year, and I was actually looking forward to the event. ...
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The café hummed with low chatter. Japanese lanterns dangled from exposed beams over our heads, and the teenage barista, a girl with pixie hair organized by blue barrettes, called my order number even though I was standing directly in front of her. She wrapped my chocolate-drizzled cookie in wax paper, slid it across the counter, and tossed change on top. ...
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I always sped on the way down and followed all rules on the return. Mexico was sixty-three miles and an hour south of town. Monsoon rains had deepened the valleys and turned the desert a cammo-green color. During the drive Epstein remarked on a billboard advertisement for a restaurant in Two Guns, Arizona, called Forking Incredible. ...
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It was Juliet. The sound of children trickled through the phone. Squeaky swings, laughter, high-pitched shouts. The numerals on my digital clock blazed like neon. “Jesus. It’s five thirty in the morning,” I told her. I listened for another moment. “Are you near children? Is that the sound of children?” ...
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Several nights later, Danni Zepeda bounced away from the hotel bar double-fisting two mojitos. Pulverized mint floated amid the ice. I watched her hips—hips squeezed into worn, tight-fitting blue jeans. Her biceps spoke of money spent on personal training. And I liked women who knew how to wear jeans. ...
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Sunlight filtered through a cleft in the hotel drapes, strafing my eyes. I awoke with severe discomfort in my thigh. I tugged the sheets back, and there, in my quad, was a sewing needle. It was embedded a quarter of an inch. I blinked. It didn’t register. I touched the end and pain rippled down my leg. I couldn’t believe it. ...
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I spent Sunday morning working on the casita, isolating future repairs and fixing what was broken. A real estate agent had stopped by for a preliminary walk-through. She’d made lists of improvements for me. The most pressing issue was the pronghorn wallpaper. “Absolutely one hundred percent undoubtedly has to go,” she’d said. ...
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Ajo Cemetery’s office was inside a humorless white cinder-block building, and everyone in the place had large, sad, watery eyes, as though they were continually crying or being cried at. The secretary marked my payment down in her binder and handed me a receipt. ...
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Late-afternoon light flickered through the kitchen window, playing across my friend’s hairless body. The freckles on his shoulders looked enhanced and touched by sun. Warsaw was leaning on the cool stovetop burners, palms down, shirtless, sockless, wearing boxer shorts decorated with different cat breeds. I set my bag on the counter. ...
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“Our curtains, do you remember our curtains? You wanted the navy blue. I told you, come winter, the sunlight wouldn’t get through. We had routines, and arguments, sure, we had our arguments, but we had a life. We could still have one. I never wanted you to leave.” ...
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The vine grew long and withered. People entered and exited as though on conveyor belts. A line got marked in the sand the moment we were born. And nothing, nothing, nothing could prepare us for growing old. ...
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Early morning at the casita, I spread the morning paper across the counter, leaned on my elbows, and went shivery from the headline. Just when I’d convinced myself that Los Toros was a myth, or a gang composed of clowns like Diego, here was this morning’s juicy news item. ...
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Our bill showed up in the mailbox, the corporation’s loud, obnoxious, cactus logo bleeding across the envelope. I stared at the amount due, stunned, insulted. Prior to pegging the bill to the fridge, I dropped it on the kitchen floor and scuffed it on the tiles. ...
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Epstein’s door was wide open. From inside I overheard a woman’s voice carrying on, ordering the old man around, which was a new, unexpected occurrence in Epstein’s apartment. I knocked on the doorjamb. No one answered. ...
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I met her at the city zoo before opening hours. I hadn’t been to the zoo since I’d been a teen, and my date was early, standing beside her two-door, in leather sandals, fanning her face with two tickets. Mona’s toenails looked newly polished, sunlight glinting off the red. ...
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The taste of her salty, sun-bleached skin remained on my lips. For a day I replayed our collision, rewinding the conversations, pausing on mutually agreeable moments. In the morning she was still with me. I walked around the casita halfway dazed. I spilled coffee on my toes. I looked down and I was wearing only one sock. It was more than the sex. ...
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Thursdays and Fridays felt more or less like Tuesdays, not much unlike Wednesdays, each day the same, rewind and play, rewind and play. Repetition stapled the days together into an undistinguishable heap. I spent time on the casita, caulking the leak under the bathroom sink, installing blinds in the spare room, and checking the fuse box. ...
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Coronado High School wasn’t far from the casita, an easy ten-minute bike ride, and it was exactly where I wanted to begin some kind of career. During lunch hour I sat outside the administration offices, hoping to befriend the principal, a woman with Technicolor blouses and cosmetically tattooed eyebrows. ...
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Mona nudged me awake by gently rolling her knuckles along my ribs. I was half-asleep, my ears clogged with nonsensical dreamscapes, when she crawled on top. Her musky hair tickled my eyelashes. I opened my eyes and saw her heart going in her neck. I reached for her hair and grabbed with my teeth. She eased down with a tug. It was nice. ...
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Five people inside the casita’s small living room brought the place to capacity. I watched Warsaw assist Danni with the large topo map. He pegged the corners to the floor with our empties. Warsaw had wanted to use my grandfather’s urn, which I now kept in the living room, but I refused. ...
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We were not square. We were several Benjamin Franklins away from ever being square. The balding old bird owed me hundreds of dollars, but now there was a professional compound bow in her kitchen, not to mention a Nubuck quiver full of razor-tipped arrows, and it was clear to me the old woman was not well. ...
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Early morning I received a phone call from the Mexicans. El Bebé’s advisor spat directions into the phone. I wrote them on the back of the sports section. I shut my phone. The casita was quiet. A clock ticked. A floorboard creaked. Something was blooming this time of year, and I sneezed. ...
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Four new voice messages: all Juliet. I couldn’t bear to listen. We were once a family with a shared grocery list. We gardened. Stained two bookshelves. Then she did what she did, and now the idea of her long, delicate toes grew more vague by the day. I erased the first three and listened to the last. ...
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I saw a cheap gold numeral pop off the motel door the moment Danni slammed it. Her boots scattered gravel as she marched across the dirt lot toward us. She rolled up her sleeve and examined her hand in the van’s headlights, pressing the flesh around her very red knuckle. “That dirty cop tried reaching for my ass,” she told us. ...
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When I emerged in socks from the bedroom Warsaw was lying shirtless on the floor, feet up on the couch, clutching the for sale by owner sign that, the previous night, I’d parked front-and-center in the yard. A cheap electric fan blew on my friend’s sun-struck head. ...
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The long hours stretched into morning. Outside I heard the clicking cicadas making music in the soapberry trees. I sat against the headboard, watching the sun rim the picture window in a yellow, ghostly glow, knowing the only thing left of any value, other than the casita, was my grandmother’s grave. ...
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Weeks passed, monsoon season came to an end, and the stone birdbath in the yard dried. The Santa Cruz River was less a river and more a dusty coyote footpath. I managed to fix the car stereo but couldn’t find any interesting tapes at Goodwill. There was no reason, anyway, to drive long distances. ...
Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: West Word Fiction