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Publication Year: 2012

In Crum, a gritty coal town on the West Virginia-Kentucky border, the boys fight, swear, chase and sometimes catch girls. The adults are cramped in and clueless, hemmed in by the mountains. The weight of wonder, dejection, and even possibility loom over this tiny, suffocating town. This story is the tale of Jesse Stone, who doesn’t know where he’s going, but knows he is leaving, and whose rebellion against the people and the place of his childhood allows him to reject the comfort and familiarity of his home in search of his place in a larger world.

Published by: West Virginia University Press

Front Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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An Introduction to Crum

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pp. vii-xii


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Chapter 1

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pp. 3-14

When I was growing up there, the population of Crum, West Virginia, was 219 human beings, two sub-humans, a few platoons of assorted dogs, at least one cat that I paid any attention to, a retarded mule and a very vivid image of Crash Corrigan. At first there were no whores, but...

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Chapter 2

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pp. 15-24

Ruby Harmon was really something. She knew things other girls didn’t. For instance, she had a bra on every morning when she left the house—I mean, her mom would have never let her out of there without it. But then she would sneak into a closet at school or go out to the outhouse and take it off. And she would be sure that all the other girls knew...

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Chapter 3

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pp. 25-34

Living in Crum, where the dogs were either mongrels or some sort of coon hound, you just never saw a really big dog that had long—or even medium-long—hair. The German shepherd that belonged to Ott Parsons’ brother...

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Chapter 4

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pp. 35-40

A couple of weeks after we killed off Ralph’s dog, a bunch of us were sitting out on the front porch of Luke’s Restaurant. It was a late afternoon in mid-summer, it was hot, and we were drinking cold soda pop and trying to figure ways to make money. Inside, Luke was fixing meals for a few...

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Chapter 5

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pp. 41-48

Mule came back to the shed with me and we sat around talking. He rolled some old corn silk and we smoked it, feeling good as the darkness rolled over the mountains, covered the river and then eased up the other side of the valley, until the window in my shed went black....

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Chapter 6

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pp. 49-60

It wasn’t long from our coal-collecting experiment to the day that Mule and I decided to rob the meat truck. There was no real reason for it—we weren’t hungry, but we’d been handed our asses by those Kentucky pig fuckers and we needed something to make us feel good again. Plus, we needed...


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Chapter 7

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pp. 63-66

I loved autumn, the one season of the year that God seemed to have put there just for the beauty of it. The air was lighter and cleaner and it smelled better. Things in the woods seem to calm down, knowing that they are having the last kind days before the wet and blowy winter slams the lid shut...

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Chapter 8

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pp. 67-80

One of the first things you noticed about Benny Musser was that he liked to play with his dick. I never knew of any other dick he played with, but he surely did put some miles on his own....

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Chapter 9

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pp. 81-97

On Halloween all hell seemed to break loose in Crum. Lug nuts were taken off wheels of cars, dogs were tied in the middle of the railroad track, cats were turpentined and turned loose in the beer garden, and one year somebody set fire to a hundred and two individual fodder shocks in the field that belonged to Mule’s dad, Herschel. The fire almost...

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Chapter 10

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pp. 98-105

The vine went high up into the tree, right to the very top, tangling among branches that were out of sight, reaching for the light at the top of the tree and strangling the tree in the process....

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Chapter 11

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pp. 106-111

Sometime while we were hiding out in the hills Benny arranged for the preacher to be told that I hadn’t been the one who hit his wife. I don’t know how he did it—it took guts—and I’m sure he didn’t talk to the preacher directly, but somehow he let him know it wasn’t me. Word also got around town it wasn’t a rock that hit the preacher’s wife, just an overripe...


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Chapter 12

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pp. 115-118

Winters in Crum were a pain in the ass. It was impossible to go anywhere without getting mud up to your armpits. Half-crippled cars that still ran on the roads of summer became total losses, captives, on the muddy winter lanes. The river bank was too wet for sitting and it was too cold to hold...

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Chapter 13

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pp. 119-123

Miss Thatcher was short, plump, plain, clean and smelled good. She also had the most delicious tits we had ever seen, which she strapped tightly to her chest underneath long-sleeved, high-necked blouses that didn’t show a thing. But there was no way you could completely hide a pair like hers, and Miss Thatcher knew we liked to stare at them. They led...

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Chapter 14

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pp. 124-136

Miss Thatcher was gone, we read our Bible every day in class, we learned that no man is without sin, his days are short, and the whole thing was pain in the ass....

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Chapter 15

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pp. 137-146

The icy heart of the Appalachian winter seemed to beat on forever. The freezing, bone-crushing mists that passed for winter rains hung over Crum and for days on end the sun would not shine, unable to cut through the layer of insulation that hung above the valley and prevented spring...


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Chapter 16

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pp. 149-153

I couldn’t be sure, but now and then the sky got a darker blue tone to it and the wind seemed to slow to a gentle breeze, carrying just a hint of something warm from wherever it came. There were no buds on the trees yet or anything, but winter was dying and maybe it would be possible...

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Chapter 17

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pp. 154-156

There should have been something more special about this, but there wasn’t. There should have been more ceremony, more of something that makes good memories. But there wasn’t. I had looked forward to this day for such a long time, actually counting the months or the weeks or the days trying...

Summer . . . Again

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Chapter 18

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pp. 159-164

It was early morning and hotter than hell and I woke before daylight. The night temperature must have stayed near ninety and now Mattie had put a fire in the stove and I guess breakfast was underway. The back of the stove that stuck into my sleeping shed made a furnace out of the place and...

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Chapter 19

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pp. 165-173

It was three o’clock in the afternoon of a stifling day in early August and I was going down to the river to say goodbye and to get my brains beat out....

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Chapter 20

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pp. 174-179

There was an old cardboard suitcase in a closet in the house and I waited for Mattie and Oscar to go out to a revival meeting and I went in and took it. It wasn’t much of a suitcase and I thought about just taking my gunny sack, but I felt that anybody going on the road should have...

Looking For Benny

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pp. 181-192

About the Author

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pp. 193

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781935978596
Print-ISBN-13: 9781935978503

Publication Year: 2012