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Lungs Full of Noise

Tessa Mellas

Publication Year: 2013

This prize-winning debut of twelve stories explores a femininity that is magical, raw, and grotesque. Aghast at the failings of their bodies, this cast of misfit women and girls sets out to remedy the misdirection of their lives in bold and reckless ways. 

Figure skaters screw skate blades into the bones of their feet to master elusive jumps. A divorcee steals the severed arm of her ex to reclaim the fragments of a dissolved marriage. Following the advice of a fashion magazine, teenaged girls binge on grapes to dye their skin purple and attract prom dates. And a college freshman wages war on her roommate from Jupiter, who has inadvertently seduced all the boys in their dorm with her exotic hermaphroditic anatomy.

But it isn’t just the characters who are in crisis. In Lungs Full of Noise, personal disasters mirror the dissolution of the natural world. Written in lyrical prose with imagination and humor, Tessa Mellas’s collection is an aviary of feathered stories that are rich, emotive, and imbued with the strength to suspend strange new worlds on delicate wings.

Published by: University of Iowa Press

Series: Iowa Short Fiction Award


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-7


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pp. 8-11

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pp. xi-xiv

...wish to extend my deepest gratitude to Jim McCoy, Allison T. Means, Charlotte M. Wright, Karen A. Copp, and all of the readers and editors at the University of Iowa Press who gave my manuscript such careful reads and who said yes to this rather strange bird of a book. Thanks also to freelance editor Will...

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Mariposa Girls

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pp. 1-4

...Last year, the girls wore dance skirts on the ice, sheer fabric tied at the waist, ribbons fluttering behind them— absurdly expressive tails. This year, they wear nothing. No skirts. No leotards. No tights. They skate naked, wind nipping their nipples, ice burn searing their thighs...

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Bibi from Jupiter

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pp. 5-21

...When I marked on my roommate survey sheet that I’d be interested in living with an international student, I was thinking she’d take me to Switzerland for Christmas break or to Puerto Rico for a month in the summer. I wasn’t thinking about a romp around the red eye of Jupiter, which is exactly what I’d have...

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Blue Sky White

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pp. 22-30

...The first day the sky is white, nobody is suspicious. Every so often this happens. The sky drains of color and fills with fog, blanched white like porous bone. A transient member of the landscape, the white hovers mute, distant as the moon. We expect the blue back shortly, so we treat the white like a visitor...

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The White Wings of Moths

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pp. 31-43

...Bea lies in her daughter’s bed, in the narrow rut of the mattress, where the small hips of a stomach-sleeping child wore grooves between the springs. It is an upper–bunk bed. As a child, her daughter liked being scrunched tight to the ceiling...

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Quiet Camp

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pp. 44-51

...We arrive on a westerly wind, our lungs inflated with speech. Our mothers said this would happen if we didn’t learn to quiet our tongues. Our tongues couldn’t be stopped, so up we went. Up and up. Until we knocked the chandeliers with our heads and scraped the ceiling with our feet. Our mothers...

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pp. 52-70

...Lucy’s baby is born green, face splotched with yellow like variegated leaves, hair wispy white, corncob silk. All across his body, tiny buds are sleeping. On his arms, a dusting of moss. Veins spider from his chin to his temples and ears. Only his feet are the color of flesh, but not in that pink baby-soft way, more...

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Landscapes in White

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pp. 71-73

...The sky full of feathers, a quarrel of wings. Plumage blooms across our windows, the glass smeared cloudy with milky streaks. The beltway a blur of sparrows. City towers beaten by doves. The ponds in the park untidy with chickadee bodies, breasts buoyant, claws branching up without leaves...

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So Much Rain

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pp. 74-80

...its skirt so rain wouldn’t soak into its ruffles. Cupcake says if our house’s joists were legs, the water would be past her knees. Puddleduck says by tomorrow the waves will splash up on our house’s panties. Butternut says, Your simile stinks; before giving a house panties, you have to liken her base floor to...

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Six Sisters

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pp. 81-88

...When the morning sickness subsides, I crave canned peaches, slippery fat on my tongue. Pits cored out of their bellies. Bodies embalmed in juice. The skin so supple my teeth sink all the way through, hewing the fruit again and again. Nothing sharp to pierce the palate or scrape the throat. So the bits slide...

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Dye Job

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pp. 89-109

...On the bus to school, Lily sucks fat purple grapes through her lips. Ruth tells herself to stop staring, but her eyes lock tight on Lily’s mouth. She watches until Lily catches her watching, then hops across the aisle and squishes into Lily’s seat...

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opal one, opal two

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pp. 110-119

...opal one—insect smallness, brown-gray girl, who scurries on spindly legs. so busy crossing empty spaces, sometimes she doesn’t breathe. thus the miniature hiccups. staccato sounds that lurch from her throat. pinprick hiccups. and pit pit...

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So Many Wings

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pp. 120-133

...mirror off a Jeep and keeps going. Parks in a fire zone. She gets there gasping, nose dripping salt on her tongue, hair frizzing out of a polka-dot headband, breasts loose in her shirt and sweaty against her ribs. She sets her palms on the counter, fingers gripping the grain of the wood. His name trips over her teeth and the nurse flips through papers and pauses, biting...

The Iowa Short Fiction Award and the John Simmons Short Fiction Award Winners, 1970–2013

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pp. 134-135

E-ISBN-13: 9781609382179
E-ISBN-10: 160938217X
Print-ISBN-13: 9781609382001
Print-ISBN-10: 1609382005

Page Count: 150
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: 1st ed.
Series Title: Iowa Short Fiction Award