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A Bright Soothing Noise

Peter Brown

Publication Year: 2010

The title, A Bright Soothing Noise, refers to the sound that fire makes, promising not only warmth and light but also violence and destruction. Brown’s greatest hero is Frank O’Connor, and like O’Connor’s his stories uncover the final bleakness of a national life but in the same moment glow with its promise of love and life and belonging. Brown’s Americans will try almost anything to connect. They tend to drink too much, to drive too fast, are a little too violent in their passions and even a little too religious. Too often they believe, they trust—and then again they don’t, depending not so much on what’s getting proffered as who’s proffering. They are always on the verge of something better. They only want a little more, only a little too much, and while we as readers want with all our hearts for them to get it, we also fear they might. “This highly entertaining collection of stories has the scenic intensity and quality of Tennessee Williams's one-act plays. Meet a varied cast of characters in strange settings, and enjoy their provocative and witty company.”—Josip Novakovich, author of April Fool’s Day: A Novel and judge

Published by: University of North Texas Press

Series: Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction

Half Title

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pp. i-ii

Title Page

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pp. iii-iv


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pp. v-vi

Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x

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A Deeper Color

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pp. 1-20

I found one of the old benches and set the bag down. I took everything out: a plastic lime, an empty Sprite bottle, the Beefeater and two cans of Schweppes. I poured it all into the empty bottle and squeezed in the last of the lime before I sent the lime tumbling down the steps into the sand. I shook the drink with both hands and sat for a minute more, looking out at the big ...

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The Slaughterhouse

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pp. 21-39

After Dad got promoted to VP for accounting, he said even less to Mom and me. Now and then, if he’d had a third Dewar’s after work, he would make pronouncements from the head of the table in his bright white shirt and striped tie. Once, he passed me the carrots and pointed to my brother, Sam. He said that for a man to be happy, he had to work with ...

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Since It's You

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pp. 40-55

I might have married Charlemagne, if he weren’t so black. If he weren’t as old as my own dead father would have been. I’d been waiting tables at the Circle Hill seven days a week for two years already—at twenty-three it was my whole life—and I had depended too much on him. He had more authority than anyone I knew, and I relied more on him for some things ...

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The Lie

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pp. 56-68

When I came down, Granpa’s door was barely open. A blade of candlelight from inside crossed the floor and the livingroom couch. Mom whispered orders. Someone prayed. When I peeked in, Mom’s hand touched the bed and her other was on Granpa’s chest. In the candlelight his mask was too thin, too much like his face. His chin had fallen. Someone closed ...

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The Blue Carriage

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pp. 69-90

Joanie rode the E into Manhattan three Saturdays in a row but found nothing good and no one helpful. On the fourth Saturday, she laid on the bright blood-colored lipstick, lashed her hair into a gleaming bun, put on her pinstripe suit, her paisley neckerchief and her heels. Now when she walked into the stores in midtown, the clerks either scattered or ran ...

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The Dancer

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pp. 91-111

Little Jimmy surveyed the mirrors on the ceiling, the spotlights above the runway, the horseshoe shape of the bar. Everything was cleaner and brighter than he imagined. A semicircle of tiny tables, each set with three chairs, zigzagged all the way around the room. He put his arms behind his head and stretched his long legs out between his two extra chairs. When ...

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Yolanda's Pool

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pp. 112-127

Lucy surveyed the patio. In the glass doors she saw her reflection in the white swimsuit and wondered if she’d lost her nerve. Her eyes hurt. A cloud, high overhead, weakened the shadow of her little table. Sunlight dappled the water. At the far end of the pool, the branch above Scott swayed, the only hint of a breeze. She checked her watch and felt the sun on her arms ...

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The Darkest Hole in the Globe

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pp. 128-142

Our lives were similar in some ways. When Sunny was eighteen, the day she got accepted to Columbia University, her father, in the locker room of Precinct 120, put his service revolver in his mouth and removed the top of his head. She inherited the house in Staten Island, which she sold right away to pay for college. Her mother had died of cancer long ...

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My New Life

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pp. 143-162

Once or twice that week we exchanged glances. On Friday night, at the Proteus, she was watching me. Saturday night, same club, same crowd of locals, she worked her way closer. The same leather jackets and sunglasses at the far end watched me, too. She was a very young woman, a girl even, with a small, pretty face, a large coil of black hair tied over her ...

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The Box

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pp. 163-184

Sarah dumped his drugs—the Delantin, the Prozac, the Lipitor, everything, even the vitamins—down the toilet. That was the morning after Mike’s seventy-first birthday. A few days later, he showed the ghost of an appetite. He took coffee and bacon for breakfast. At lunch he was lively enough to refuse the Nutriform until she bribed him with a teaspoon of whiskey. ...

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A Bright Soothing Noise

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pp. 185-212

Parked at the scenic vista, Smithy watched the fuel truck through his binoculars. The operator went back and forth as if in slow motion between the gauges and the couplings at the far end of the hose. Smithy put the binoculars down on his passenger seat and lit a cigarette. He sat for a while, staring absently until the long gleaming tanker pulled away, moving east ...

E-ISBN-13: 9781574413311
Print-ISBN-13: 9781574412918

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction