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The Proper Words for Sin

written by Gary Fincke

Publication Year: 2013

Coal burns underground and destroys a small town. A woman confronts police officers with her pet copperheads. A young girl drinks Drano. A man is banned from his favorite bar.

Within these eleven short stories, Flannery O’Connor Award winner and poet Gary Fincke brings into focus the small struggles of ordinary people. The characters within this collection, from boys and girls to fathers, mothers, and the aging, live in cities, in towns, and in rural areas. Yet, no matter the surroundings, all seem alone within a collective anxiety. Set against extraordinary events, such as the Three Mile Island accident, the Challenger Disaster, and the Kennedy assassination, these stories personalize history through a juxtaposition between large and small tragedies and the unflinching desire to find insight within and redemption from weakness and shortcoming.

Published by: West Virginia University Press


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p. 1-1

Praise, About the Author, Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-9


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pp. ix-11

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There's Worse

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pp. 1-16

“I was right there,” my mother said every time she told the story, “that close to being nuked. It’s one of God’s mysterious ways that your mother is here to talk about it.” By the time I was seven, I had that story memorized, how there really was a nuclear...

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The Out-of-Sorts

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pp. 17-36

The story wasn’t on any of Stu Werner’s assigned pages. He copyread sports, but he paid attention to every line of the article about the woman who’d kept the police at bay with three poisonous snakes because that woman was his mother. Though they weren’t described, Stu could...

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The Fierceness of Need

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pp. 37-58

“This Khomeni fellow, what do those people over there see in him?” Sal Morrelli asked. For five minutes he’d been complaining to Ed Frank about his daughter Maria’s music—“All that what they call disco. Like dancing to a song makes it something special”—but suddenly...

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pp. 59-76

Early in the summer of my twelfth birthday, when my mother found me lying at the bottom of the stairs to the basement, my feet three steps up as if I’d fallen and broken my neck, I vowed to stop pretending I was dead. My mother agreed. “If I find you like this again...

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All the Big Things

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pp. 77-93

Because the other young women the newspaper interviewed were being left behind for the first time, Connie forgave them for saying things like, “I know he’ll be careful,” and “I’ll pray every day for him,” as if any of that would make a difference. Her husband Duane had been deployed...

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Private Things

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pp. 94-117

In the car on Thursday morning, Corey’s mother looked directly at him the way she always did when she was driving and said, “Wait until you see where we’re going.” Corey didn’t answer. If the car didn’t break down or crash, he would see whatever...

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The Proper Words for Sin

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pp. 118-139

My son loves to watch me spray the DDT. “Good,” he says, as I walk backwards, the cloud of mist following me around the house. He hates bugs. All of them, even ladybugs and fireflies, the ones other children collect and carry in jars until those creatures die. It’s gotten to keeping him inside more than a boy...

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You Can Look This Up

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pp. 140-160

“This is your Uncle Jack,” the voice on the phone said, and Len Phelps hesitated long enough to hear, “Your father’s brother,” before he managed to answer, “OK.” Uncle Jack kept his own silence then. Paused like a schoolboy getting up the...

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The Blazer Sestina

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pp. 161-179

Paul’s mother died at 2 p.m. the afternoon of November 22, 1963. “Kennedy died before her,” my mother said, while she listened to Walter Cronkite announce the time of his death. “It doesn’t matter what Cronkite says,” she went on. “Kennedy was a Catholic...

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The Promises of Labels

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pp. 180-195

Six weeks isn’t long unless every one of those forty-two days is a space between you and what you love most, and for Rick Morton, it was the Westberg Hotel, from which he’d been banished for fighting. The rules were written on signs that were tacked on each of the walls...

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Somebody Somewhere Else

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pp. 196-214

The tourists who come year round expecting flames and giant cracks in the earth are always disappointed. The ones who come in summer see how the trees are still green not so far away as in any another town. The ones who come in winter see how grass grows where the soil...

Back Cover

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p. 226-226

E-ISBN-13: 9781935978909
E-ISBN-10: 193597890X
Print-ISBN-13: 9781935978886
Print-ISBN-10: 1935978888

Page Count: 176
Publication Year: 2013