Archive for April, 2015

“Please don’t hold me. I had more of that than I could handle with Ray. He was the first man to ever treat me as anything more than a good bed partner. Here’s something I remember: I am a little depressed and so I’m very sensitive about being intimate. Ray sets me down gently, gives […]

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The German, still a little shaky on English parts of speech, calls them stand-by comedians. “Wayne, can we go on Friday to see them make the stand-by comedy?” she asks so purely. “Yes, Diane.” Dee-AH-na. She has given us all permission to pronounce her Die-ANN, but I insist on sighing her middle syllable, with longing […]

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Pauline’s haiku are starting to become nasty. The questions by people on the telephone seem outrageously inane, the nattering among her co-workers is irksome, and the next time her boss asks her to have yet another twenty-page proposal typed by 10 a.m., well, Pauline is a bit concerned that her reaction might have a detrimental […]

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Clear The Weather Channel helps me plan my day now. I used to waste hours cycling in what had been predicted as a hot clear afternoon but instead turned cloudy. I would go to the beach and make myself slithery with baby oil, but the rain would come. I would get caught fully clothed at […]

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I killed a man last night. I know that sounds evil and macho and extraordinary, but it was really one of the most mundane and embarrassing things I’ve ever done. The more judgmental among you are formulating words such as “murderer” in your heads now, and recoiling a bit at the connotations. You’re imagining a […]

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I am disdainful of fewer things since my wife and I separated. Professional wrestling, self-help books. While we were married, and for most of my adult life before then, I was either indifferent to or (more often) scornful of many of the manifestations of popular culture. Like most people I dismissed professional wrestling because I […]

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This piece of paper I remove from the compartment of your wallet where you store bank-machine receipts and the claim slips for your bike (tune-up, $39.99) and that suit bag (repair, under warranty, free) you bought so impulsively before the conference. Someone else’s handwriting, the piece not quite spherical, like a gibbous moon, a small […]

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The husband arrives home from work, gets changed, and then leaves for his girlfriend’s place again, all without a word to his wife. She’s almost accustomed to it now, accepts the fact that he spends all his evenings with Connie, that he returns home not to their bed but to a rickety cot he’s set […]

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This is not what happened: The copy of The Teaching of Buddha in his car was not his own. He had not been poring over either the English or the Japanese parts of the dual-language text, had not been cramming for an ethics mid-term, had not been seeking solace or enlightenment in those exquisitely printed […]

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Under
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In the tub, bubbles on her shoulders and drooping onto the floor, someone on the radio singing about flowers opening slowly, she soaks the scent of her dead husband from her body. Her eyes are wide open but not really seeing anything. She has a fist between her breasts. She remembers when she used to […]

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Martin spent the morning thinking outside the box, but when he tried to get back in, he bumped his head on a sharp corner. It staggered him a little. Rubbing the bump, he peered cautiously around the entrance to his formerly safe cubicle. The collage of clippings and pictures and cards which he had posted […]

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Trash
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Vicki spent the weekend packing up her things in preparation for her move. Monday morning she woke up with a feeling of release, surveyed the taped boxes arrayed neatly along the walls of her living room, and made her way to the Store 24 to buy the Globe for the last time. She skimmed its […]

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Derek was reading the Old Testament while he listened to Mae Moore on CD. He started to cry. Precisely after Mae sang about taking a room at the Oceanview Motel, one of his tears fell as a wet period at the end of Exodus 21:4-6 If his master gives him a wife and she bears […]

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Saved
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The same night I was saved in the Pentecostal church, my mother became an atheist. “What drove you to that?” I asked her. “George, my love,” she said, her voice steady and clear, her fingers fiddling with the handle of her coffee mug, “I don’t understand what God and his people are up to any more. Before your […]

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An Open Letter to the Mouse Under My Kitchen Sink I don’t have a history of murderousness. My brother Ward and my friend Mike and I used to catch bees and submerge them in a bucket of motor oil in Mike’s back yard, but that was about thirty years ago and I have been pretty […]

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The stewardess hands me a copy of the New York Times and a wetnap. “Pretty messy,” she says. “Kosovo?” I say. There’s a headline about yet another NATO threat. “No,” she says. “The ink.” I arrive in San Antonio in 100-degree heat but by the time I step out of the cab at Verna’s place the rain […]

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An Open Letter from the Family of the Mouse Who Used to Be Under Your Kitchen Sink I have enough common sense, and know enough about the biographical fallacy in literary criticism, to realize that the letter you wrote about trapping the mouse may have been fictional. There may never have been any mouse, or […]

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In the front yard of the house, the plastic Santa is flanked by humungous candles, all hiding the Virgin Mary who now seems even more reluctant to emerge from her half-bathtub alcove. The owner is taking down the Baywatch-babes photo that dangles from the mirror of his old red 240SX, replacing it with a Christmas-tree […]

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The credits are rolling at the end of this feel-good comedy—all those real and fictitious names, all those incomprehensible job titles, all those dots—and I don’t feel very good at all. The woman beside me looks over at me a little bleary-eyed, and says: “She reminds me of that actress in that stupid movie about, you […]

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The first thing she threw at me was the duck-footed cheese board, a Christmas gift from Gordon and Melanie. It was heavy and didn’t travel far, barely making it over the kitchen counter she stood behind. It landed on one of the pewter feet, which broke off and clattered over the hardwood floor to my […]

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Nine
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It wasn’t until the 9 billion dollars had been deposited into my accounts, a packet of gleaming new checks awaiting me—personalized, but with my name misspelled as Bne—it wasn’t until I was poised to embark on a lifetime of consumeristic excess that I lost all desire for possessions, for travel, for anything. I sat in […]

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1. He doesn’t think much. That helps. But he doesn’t try to dull his senses either. He loses his desire for everything that matters: food, sex, beer, friendship. The messages on his machine start off terse (“Jesus, Jerry, come out with us for a drink”) but when days go by the tone changes. They get longer […]

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I decided to leave my wife at a bar called the Cajun something-or-other on Bourbon Street. With fiddle and accordion music filling the room, along with what seemed to be French lyrics—”mes pieds dans mes souliers”?—I was detached enough from the whole proceeding to note the time (8.39 p.m.), take a triumphant sip of beer, […]

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(co-written with Oscar Martens) She asks me what my phone number is and I tell her I don’t know. There are few acceptable excuses for not knowing your own phone number, and I can only think of two as I look down at my new shoes, one of which, I seem to remember, squeaks: I […]

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Sherry
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Sherry feels she looks better in the hotel’s mirror. Whenever she’s putting on her makeup (never too much) in the bathroom, her cheeks always seem a little less puffy to her, less chubby, and her jawline seems cut and slender and beautiful. Her skin looks great—same with her hair, and her eyebrows, and even the […]

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Avoid
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Everyone knows that you should try to strip everything down to its bare elements. Life’s easier that way. Go through the closets, try on each item in there, and summarily discard anything that does not fit or anything you have not worn in, say, six months. Bag it all up and take it to Goodwill […]

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None of the cards is appropriate for what she wants to tell him. She thumbs through rhymed and lilting sentiments, hundreds of them, and eventually they all seem the same to her, cardtalk, neither happy nor sad nor congratulatory. A new baby leveled with a dead grandfather. He shouldn’t have done that. That’s all. He […]

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Reading Alain de Botton’s On Love while listening to Yo La Tengo’s I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One and drinking Concha y Toro’s Cabernet Sauvigon & Merlot blend mixed with Diet Minute Maid orange soda Saturday evening, Feb. 3, 2001 Preface I feel bad that I was not able to attain the precious […]

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You were standing behind him in line at Starbucks, doubly distracted. First by his order, a tall non-fat no-foam latte, or no-fat non-foam—you weren’t sure, and you were puzzling over the syntactic protocol while looking at a flyer on the floor, bright orange, plain lettering, DOVE CLEANERS, and you were distracted by the immediate image […]

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Bank
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Here’s some advice about asking your bank teller out for a date: don’t do it by writing a cryptic message on a slip of paper and then passing it to her while you fidget and sweat on the other side of the counter. That was my mistake. I walked into the bank at what I […]

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During intermission at the play she eats a banana, calm, even taking the time to peel off that stringy bit that clings to it, calm even though she knows that her husband will kill her in about 45 minutes.

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Jason has rented a dumpster from the big place out on Commerce Road that he passed sometimes on one of the variations of his route to work, usually when he was in a hurry and so had to forgo the country road for the paved practicality of the industrial suburbs. It’s brand new, an excruciating […]

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My entry in The Globe and Mail’s Great Toronto Literary Project) The gush of water from the Eaton Centre fountain turns wispy at the top, stops ascending and seems to consider its options, and then falls back down in a scattered mess of drops, exactly 59 of which land on Vida’s head. “My father?” she […]

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Andrew arrives in the town of Knosting after he has been fired from his job at a big-city university, and a series of murders start happening soon after. He decides to apply his research skills to investigating these in order to find the killer and to write a book about the case. Though still recovering […]

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Seeing Others Grieve The group again, but much smaller than Will remembered it. He had competing urges: sit alone in the chair at the end of the semi-circle, or find out all he could about these people. He recognized at least one face from his first meeting, and he wondered about the half-dozen or more […]

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One
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Start with the baby. See it, see him, open his mouth for the warm sweet milk in the glass bottle with the sterile rubber nipple, see him cradled in his mother’s left arm, partially down the length of it, sloping from the arm to her lap—or gooey food, too, see him open his mouth for […]

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Monday, January 1, 2001 You always forget the details. I was sitting up in bed last night after midnight—so, technically, the first day of the new year—using my little Sony tape recorder to make a cassette letter for my friend Austin. I answered the questions which he had asked me on his last one, but […]

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Will starts drinking more beer after his wife Joni is killed in a car accident. He has a bath with her the day she dies, but she leaves and drives to the airport for the trip to a conference, and is slammed into by an SUV going the wrong way up the exit, while Will […]

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Chapter 40 I am sitting in a chair in a semi-private hospital room, waiting for my grandfather to die. Not waiting in the sense of wanting, but in the sense of having accepted what a couple of years of bodily deteriorations have reduced him to, and so simply attending the end. And, yes, often I […]

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