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Still Life with Plums

Short Stories

Marie Manilla

Publication Year: 2010

Still Life with Plums is a vibrant collection of short stories that weaves together the outwardly distant lives of several strangers. With heaping doses of dark humor and magical realism, these ten stories enliven a cast of characters scattered throughout the southern portion of the United States. From West Virginians, to Texans and Latinos, Still Life with Plums mines the lives of a Black-Irish West Virginian, a wise-cracking dog groomer, a guilt-ridden ambulance driver, a Guatemalan widow, a Japanese-Latin-American poster child for WWII reconciliation, and a meticulous predator. Marie Manilla’s accessible prose is powerful and richly layered as she births a quirky ensemble that unflinchingly probes the human psyche.

Published by: West Virginia University Press

Front Cover

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Table of Contents

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p. vii-vii

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Hand. Me. Down.

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pp. 1-18

Holy Thursday, 1965, I squatted over the heater vent in the kitchen picking knee scabs when my father’s voice boomed from down the hall: “You kids get in the car!” His reverberating diktat roused a pummeling of footsteps up from the dank cement basement where the KKK tortured crickets or mice or my younger brother, Duff. The KKK was an apt acronym for my three older brothers, terrorists...

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pp. 19-31

This bridal shower sucks, truly, and my shorts are too tight—my fat shorts, pinching my belly rolls (yes, plural), my crotch, and I can hear my ex-husband shouting across three states: I can’t believe you went out in public wearing that! He is right again, naturally, since I am once again underdressed in a roomful of shift dresses and well-ironed...

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pp. 32-41

You are a meticulous groomer. Every morning you crouch under the showerhead for eighteen minutes, spray of hot water baptizing you as you untangle the Old Spice soap-on-a-rope from the hot water faucet handle, your father’s scent. A nostalgic indulgence that is getting harder and harder for your wife to procure and wrap up every...

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pp. 42-60

As soon as I rounded the corner I knew, sweet Jesus, someone was free! Uncle Paolo was bent under the old Buick’s hood. “Who is it?” I said, running up the gravel driveway spraying stones. “Who is out?” Uncle Paolo straightened, wiped his hands on a greasy rag, and slammed the hood down. “Load the valises, Ana. I am getting too old for this.” Three suitcases sat beside the opened trunk: Uncle Paolo’s, Uncle Eliseo’s, and Uncle Luis’s. I hoisted them inside with a grunt and turned back to Paolo, who was clomping up the front porch...

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pp. 61-77

Betty sits in the passenger seat with an aluminum foil swan on her lap. Twisted inside are leftovers of the supper she paid for. She bought Jeff’s too, and now he sits behind the wheel, looking out the front window at the ribbon of I-45 South rushing toward him, at mile markers passing, at the thin strip of pink light on the horizon, as...

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Still Life with Plums

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pp. 78-99

The jet shoots like a missile through the westward sky. Natalie bends toward the sun outside the portal, the cadmium ball searing negative images of itself onto her eyelids when she closes them. But she can’t keep them shut for long with that frigid itch in her veins. Leaving her convalescing mother in James’s hands. She doesn’t know who to feel sorrier for. Well James, of course, with her mother’s...

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Counting Backwards

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pp. 100-113

There are 732 floor tiles in this corridor—at least from the elevator to the VISITORS NOT ALLOWED BEYOND THIS POINT sign. 12 light switches. 28 doorknobs. 3 NO SMOKING signs. 7 moonrise-over- the-ocean framed prints. And 13 visitors’ chairs (mauve and blue plaid) including mine. It is 26 steps from the elevator to Chrissy’s door. Of course, I wear a 13 work boot and have...

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Crystal City

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pp. 114-146

Lucky Baby snatches The Tormenta Falls Herald from her husband’s grip. “Let me see!” she says, peeling off the rubber band, frantically flipping pages with pudgy ink-stained fingers until she knocks her orange juice into her Cheerios. “Calm down,” Joe says, mopping up the mess with the dish towel tucked into his Wranglers. “It’ll be in there.”...

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The Wife You Wanted

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pp. 147-159

I hover in the foyer for five minutes, my heels digging little graves in the plush carpet as I pace back and forth, back and forth before the muted wall mural: cypress trees and tranquil streams meant to console. They don’t soothe me because I know you’re in there, Tommy, waiting. And the thought of you, the image, even after all these years,...

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Get Ready

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pp. 160-185

Chloe and her mother huddled inside Foodland’s bus shelter fending off pelting autumn rain. Wet grocery bags smelled like worms, so Chloe burrowed her nose into her mother’s side. Sarah’s foot tapped fiercely as she willed the bus to arrive: “Come on, come on, come on.” She balanced a wilting sack against her angular hip until the bottom split and out spilled cans of Spam and tamales, grape soda and...

About the Author

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p. 187-187

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781933202617
Print-ISBN-13: 9781933202600

Publication Year: 2010