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Fortune teller miracle fish


Cathryn Hankla

Publication Year: 2011

A mentally challenged teen in a coma, a WWII veteran weighing his beliefs, an intersexed man anticipating a relationship, a single woman who has kissed far too many frogs, and a first grader suffering at the hands of a family friend. These are just a few of the unforgettable characters in Fortune Teller Miracle Fish, an innovative collection of stories from award-winning novelist and poet Cathryn Hankla. The figures in these stories struggle toward more truthful expressions of themselves, as outsiders whose dilemmas, emotions, and desires make them unmistakably human. As varied as they are vivid, they strive for closer connections of love and community. Through humor and understanding, Hankla intrepidly navigates the transitions that define them — unplanned pregnancy, divorce, death, and gender change, to name a few. Acutely attuned to her subjects’ inner landscapes, Hankla captures the full spectrum of human experience, from childhood to old age, with heart, rare skill, and nerve.

Published by: Michigan State University Press


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pp. vii


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pp. v

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Love Bites

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pp. 3-12

The first time Mary-ann-with-a-hyphen ever saw any part of me unclothed, I was showing her a dog bite on the back of my thigh. I couldn’t see the bite for myself except in the mirror, and the image was too far away for inspection. I wanted someone to examine the bite up close and tell me how bad it really looked. But maybe I was already in love with her. The bite had felt huge to my fingertips, as large as the lump in my throat when she bent her head ...

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Community Standards

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pp. 13-22

For eight months Barry had been breathing on his own, but breathing very shallowly. His hands had drawn up and so had his feet, even though the physical therapist massaged his limbs twice daily. Surrounded by those who were dying of advanced age, the twelve-year-old boy was neither dying nor living. Soon a decision would need to be made, a decision about extraordinary measures. ...

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pp. 23-30

Carol thinks of the relationship as an inoculation that took, a live culture that raised a festering scab. And after the healing is complete, the scar will protect her in the future from ever . . . from ever being so vulnerable again. But it’s not that simple. She’s not the same. She remembers how daylight, streaking suddenly into the bedroom and over Steven’s chest that first, bright morning, set his tattoo on fire. With each rise and fall of his breath, the coiled, indigo ...

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pp. 31-60

When I was little my dad gave me a book on Indians, and I spent hours searching watercolor paintings of pueblo dwellings, mentally climbing carved hand and foot holes up high rock walls to hewn-out cliff houses, shallow caves in the rock. I studied the paintings of girls my age toting pottery jars of water on their heads all the way from the river. The Indian girls were dressed in skirts made of animal skins. They were strong and deliberate in ...

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Reptile House

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pp. 61-68

Tina Marie loved the zoo and every fuzzy creature, even the monkeys, which she thought were mean, noisy, and stinky, scratching around in each other’s fur and pulling out bugs. The other kids in Tina Marie’s second-grade class stood with her, forming a line around the monkey cage, laughing at their antics, until the teacher’s aide, Mrs. Brighton, said, “Come on everyone, we’re going to tour the Reptile House.” ...

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Elvis in Perspective

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pp. 69-86

There’s something about looking down on Graceland that can make you feel all shook up inside. You can drive there making all kinds of jokes about maybe seeing a Ken-doll-sized King hitchhiking on the side of the road, somewhere on Interstate 81 looking for Memphis, but it’s like when you get there, you have to shut your mouth, paralyzed, and just gape at the whole of this weird, ...

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pp. 87-92

We found her face down in the sand, one slightly bent arm extended over her head, one arm at her side, as if swimming. She wore a small wedge of polyester, and her hair felt sticky from saltwater. I don’t remember which one of us first spotted her, which one turned her bright blue eyes into the sun. Her perfectly applied blue eye shadow had not smeared or run when she journeyed through the surf. You wore a black one-piece and carried Barbie ...

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Powerful Angels

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pp. 93-100

Two girls, big and little, so sisterly, and alone, ride the waves, their father’s fast bursts of speed, in the backseat of the family’s new car, into the past or into the future. These two look so similar, not because of who they are, but because of what they’ve seen. One has seen Daddy throw a box of china dishes after her down the stairs, the winding, long stairs of the parents’ house. This one got away and never said a word, and afterwards he never spoke about ...

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Night Skating

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pp. 101-104

It was one of the things my father tried to do. It was something he worked on with a shovel and a garden hose, at five in the morning while we slept. And when we woke, he was out there without a hat or gloves. For days the temperature had been below freezing. Snow had iced over the ground, so that we had to stamp through a hard crust to keep from falling. Mother and I stood at the window staring down into the backyard. ...

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The Story After the Abortion

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pp. 105-114

This is for you, other, you who know nothing from the inside except your own sensation. And this is for me and for my sister, the only close relation not containing the word other. And this is by me, the woman writing the story after the abortion. I, who am loathed in too many directions to measure by points of the compass—I, who am neither magnetized needle nor thorn. To you, who hate my body and the biosphere equally. And to you, who call ...

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pp. 115-128

Snakeman walks to his mailbox, a short hike down a steep gravel drive, and pulls two government-blue envelopes, one a month old and one just-issued, like aces in a bad hand, from the mishmash of brittle discount store circulars and competing church bulletins. After scribbling a signature on the checks, he sets the preaddressed bank envelope in the mailbox and raises the red flag. ...

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Sound Effects

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pp. 129-132

There’s the intermittent wail of a truck horn—oogah, oogah—followed by a pause in which the sound almost dies, hesitates, then wails again, filling the valley, bouncing like a body on a trampoline off the surface of the creek up to the neighbors’ doors across the valley. If those doors happen to be open, the sound barrels right in, a nosy neighbor, an uninvited guest. ...

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Dog Days

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pp. 133-144

Sarah was winding a familiar two-lane road, legs already sweat-stuck to her seat, when she encountered a German Shepherd running toward her car with its flaccid tongue dangling wildly. Honking her horn, she slowed to evade the dog’s erratic gait, but it veered toward her tires, intent on being hit. She managed to swerve and miss, then she veered back into her lane to avoid a ...

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Meditations in the Dark

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pp. 145-154

The string from the bare bulb flew out of his hand and stuck somewhere above his head in the rafters. The light did not come on. Mr. Moore grappled with the air, pawed empty space. He almost lost his balance and felt a sharp stabbing in his knee. Gathering himself in stillness, he took a series of deep, slow breaths and edged away from the bottom of the steps into the dark basement. His right knee had locked up on him. It happened sometimes, but ...

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Meteor Shower

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pp. 155-166

Har-rumph,” Winnie sighed loudly, because she knew it annoyed her elder sister, Elaine. “Har-rumph,” Winnie repeated, like a broken windshield wiper. She could punctuate every word with har-rumph if she felt like it. She could drag out the second syllable in a breathy exhalation. She had lived long enough to do any damn thing she wanted. ...

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Fortune Teller Miracle Fish

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pp. 167-181

We were driving, driving Jessica’s car when it ended. No, she had no car then; work-study students were not allowed until their senior year—and we were juniors. It was my car, my parents’ car technically, a brand-new 1979 Ford Thunderbird of the boat-ish late seventies variety. Enough metal so that I could not be hurt. Always keep enough metal between you and them, Michelle, ...

E-ISBN-13: 9781609171315
Print-ISBN-13: 9781611860047

Page Count: 192
Publication Year: 2011