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If I'd Known You Were Coming

Kate Milliken

Publication Year: 2013

In these twelve award-winning stories, Kate Milliken unflinchingly shows us what can happen when the uninvited guest of our darkest desires comes to call. Whether surrounded by the white noise of a Hollywood celebration or enduring a stark winter in Maine, the characters of If I’d Known You Were Coming yearn to heal old wounds with new hurts. With a wry wit and a keen eye for emotive detail, the author of this unforgettable collection sets intersections in motion that will leave you both winded and wanting more.
In one story, a mother, driven by greed, unwittingly finds out how far her needs will push her. A hand model surprises himself and everyone else at the birthday party of an old friend’s daughter in another. With poetic deftness, a woman evaluates the meaning, the familial stories, that we carry with us from birth. In a story ripped from the headlines, a woman pines for the legs her husband lost in a freak accident at a Santa Monica farmer's market. A medical clerk, restless and alone, takes advantage of a disabled neighbor.

Kate Milliken knows the ties that bind and how tautly we will pull them. These are stories about desire, betrayal, love, regret, and family. Like all great fiction, If I’d Known You Were Coming possesses that uncanny ability to reveal us to ourselves.

Published by: University of Iowa Press

Series: Iowa Short Fiction Award


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Quote

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pp. i-viii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiv

...First, for being people who unabashedly sing out loud, for believing stories are sustenance, and for their creativity, love, and support, thank you to Mark Milliken, John Getz, and my beautiful mom, Grace McKeaney. For teaching me how much a life can hold and change, thank you to my sisters, Hannah...

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A Matter of Time

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pp. 1-13

...now the front door kept swinging open like an invitation. This was when things were better than they had been, but still bad enough Lorrie was sure it couldn’t get any worse. This was in Calabasas, in the fi ve-room bungalow with the small square back porch that was partly detached, leaving a gap wide enough to catch a foot. The bungalow with the little kidney-shaped...

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Names for a Girl

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pp. 14-20

...and the straight gray line of street that stretched out before her like an arrow, out past all the matchbox houses. She could feel her mother and father talking behind the car, sensed their fi nal embrace, the brief magnetic pull then repel of it. Deirdre was thinking of the blonde-haired girl she rode home...

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The Whole World

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pp. 21-37

...They were in a grid of identical beige houses, against a sun-browned hillside, a muted blue sky, cloudless, still. They were stopped at a four-way stop, Bill sorting out the next turn, trying to go from memory. There was a kid’s bike discarded on a weedy lawn. A dog sniffi ng at an overturned trash...

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Everything Looks Beautiful

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pp. 38-41

...cowhide skirt. She likes the feel of the tanned leather, the smooth slip of it across her legs as she dances. She dances to mariachi music. There is the sound of the mower on the front lawn and Lila goes to the bedroom, dresses, opens the windows and then draws the curtains. The curtains are sheer and white and she is sure—once...

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Parts of a Boat

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pp. 42-55

...The boat is quiet except for the clanking of the halyard against the mast. Catherine edges herself down from the bunk and moves to the head, to wipe the crud of sleep from her eyes. She is still resolving herself to the horror the small, round mirror has revealed—her hair smashed, her face lined with sheet marks, her mascara—when the harbor dog, Buoy, starts up barking, followed by the quick, clipped footsteps of a woman on the...

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Man Down Below

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pp. 56-61

...You are standing at the newsstand, one block from your new apartment, and you have to wonder if he saw you, if he saw you walk from your front door down to this corner and if he is going to be right here tomorrow, holding out a cup of coffee, waiting for you. “What do you think, Eddie?” you ask, turning around. No, there is no getting rid of him once he’s spotted you...

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pp. 62-79

...The widow was demonstrating how to feed the dog by dipping a cup into the bag of kibble, bringing it up empty, then putting a can of wet food on the counter and moving the can opener around it like a pantomime, before fi nally circling the empty bowl with a spoon—all of this as if Josie were stone dumb, never mind the torture this pretend feeding was on the poor...

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pp. 80-87

...My father is in his car and I am in mine, but I can hear him as though he were right next to me. Technology is a wonder. He agrees and then tells me he has just walked off a plane, an on-schedule landing at O’Hare, returning from his mother’s. He tells me that he retrieved his car from Kiss & Fly...

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The Rental

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pp. 88-100

...The fi rst time Meredith Caul made love to her neighbor she rolled off him and gathered her clothes from the fl oor. Grasping her pants to her breasts, her thighs clenched in a feeble attempt to hide her nakedness, she scurried the fi fteen feet from his front door to hers. Once inside, top and bottom locks latched, she threw herself on the couch and listened to him...

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pp. 101-113

...with quick eyes and fi dgety hands. Hank found the girl, Caroline, in the kitchen at daybreak, fi xing coffee and remarking on the silence and how she wasn’t used to there not being any sirens or car horns. He thought her too young for coffee, but he was glad to see it ready. She followed him through the barn while he pieced out hay fl akes and mixed bran. She said she liked the way the horses smelled. “Their shit...

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Sleight of Hand

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pp. 114-117

...It was summer. I was newly twelve, though my father—just before going—had said, “You are almost a woman.” And then there was a man, the man who kept me for several days. A friend of my father’s—that is what he told me. He was in the house before I was, waiting. He knew my name. “Dolores,” he said, as though he’d just fi nished setting the...

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pp. 118-134

...Drew’s parents died as they had lived, one after the other, in a rather organized and unagonizing way. First his father, in early October, a stroke over his Post and tea. His mother followed six weeks later, before the holidays, in her sleep. It fi t them, painless and quiet. “So considerate,” a woman in eggplant black said at his mother’s wake, caressing the back of Drew’s hand as one might a smooth...

Further Reading

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pp. 135-136

E-ISBN-13: 9781609382186
E-ISBN-10: 1609382188
Print-ISBN-13: 9781609382018
Print-ISBN-10: 1609382013

Page Count: 150
Publication Year: 2013

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