572 Chapters
Medium 9780253002365

Chapter Seven

Gregory Schwipps Indiana University Press ePub

Frank woke up and noticed the breeze lightly blowing the faded curtain that hung over the window by their bed. Ethel had sewn the curtains herself, and now the white fabric with its flowered border rose into the room and billowed up before being sucked back against the screen. He watched it do this for some time. It followed the same path but it didn’t. Not an exact pattern he could predict, anyway, lying on his back this Sunday morning in their bed where he’d slept regular nightly hours for the last forty-five years. The window frame had been painted white, but it was chipped in places where he’d hit it with his cane coming around the bed. Dead flies and other insects collected in the corner of the windowsill. The wind blew the curtain in, where it hung in the air for just a moment, before the undercurrent pulled it back to the window frame. Then the breeze would lift the curtain again with almost, but not quite, the same motions. He watched it and thought about how the river breathed the same rhythms.

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Medium 9780253010247

Chapter 17

Jesse Lee Kercheval Indiana University Press ePub

Pavel came at 11:30 the next morning. Ilya had just gotten up and was sitting in the living room eating the breakfast that room service sent up, a boiled egg in a brightly painted egg cup, sliced cucumbers, and a pot of strong black tea. Our room, thanks to Pavel, was a large, two-bedroom suite done almost entirely in stiff new red velvet furniture that was a modern imitation of the mahogany that clogged Mosjoukine’s apartment. The Hotel Sputnik, in spite of its name, was trying its best to appear more czarist than Soviet. Ilya was ignoring me, reading or pretending to read the morning paper in Russian. Pavel came pounding in with greetings in French and kisses for me, a crushing hug for my brother. He swept me out of the room with one huge arm around my shoulders. Ilya, he said, he would come back for.

When we were again in his car and vaulting out into traffic, he said, “I’ve checked out this Father Ivan you’re going to see. He’s the talk of Moscow, or so my girlfriend Kisa says. She has a taste for all this monarchist Orthodox bullshit.”

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Medium 9781574416237

Chuck Langford Jr., Depressed Auctioneer, Takes Action

Matt Cashion University of North Texas Press ePub

Chuck Langford Jr., 61, recovered his voice after three days, but he didn't feel like telling anyone, not even his fifth wife, Dr. Lucy Steele, Ph.D., whom he was fairly certain he still loved after seven years. He was more certain of his love for her than for anyone else he'd ever thought he'd loved, though he had no idea what he'd say if someone stuck a microphone under his nose and pressed him to prove it. Just now, as she entered the kitchen on her way to work, he was leaning against the sink, finishing his bowl of Crispix, still in his pajamas, dreaming out the window toward that place she liked to call his “la-la land.” He thought she looked nice. He thought: wouldn't it make her happy for him to say so? He thought so. But wouldn't saying so reveal his recovered voice and require further talk, which he was not, just now, up to performing? Yes. Yes, it would.

He worried that she was onto him. If she was onto him, he worried that she might mistake his silence as a statement directed at her, which was not what he intended, entirely. Whether she still loved him after seven years, he could not, with confidence, say. He certainly didn't want to ask. He felt fairly sure that if a relationship reached a point where each party verbalized simultaneous doubts then it was probably dead in the water, to use a phrase his father used fifty years ago just before he blasted a hole in the kitchen ceiling with the shotgun he kept on the table beside his bottle of Early Times. His father had warned that he'd shoot as soon as another person made another sound, then Chuck's beloved beagle, Clarence, yelped, and that was all it took for his dad to shoot his own ceiling. Which is when Chuck's wrist got snatched by his mother, who pulled him out of that house (without Clarence!) and into her rusted Plymouth and down that North Carolina mountain road forever, leaving Chuck Sr. at the table with white ceiling-matter in his hair, bills from his auto rust-proofing business (dead in the water) stacked on the table, a scene Chuck was sorry he remembered so vividly after so long a time, though he could not remember now having shared this memory with anyone, not even Dr. Lucy, from whom he felt no need to hide anything, except for his recovered voice, temporarily.

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Medium 9780253018175

To the Good People of Joplin

B.J. Hollars Break Away Book Club Edition ePub

May 23, 2011

To the Good People of Joplin:

This will get worse before it gets better. I know this because of what I’ve observed from my own firsthand experiences in Tuscaloosa, a city much like yours which was ravaged a month prior to your own ravaging. Likely you watched us from afar, which is what we do now, our cities forever wedded by our season of misfortune.

Allow me to share with you a difficult truth:

In the coming hours and days your death count is likely to rise. Cell phone reception will return—which, on the surface, seems like a good thing, though this increased communication will mostly only bring bad news. People will begin to learn who was lost and how, and as their stories are sifted from the rubble, it will soon become clear that everybody knows somebody now gone. You will begin hearing stories, though unlike the phone calls not all of them will end badly. Like the one where the bathtub blows away but the family remains safely inside; and the one where the dog survives two weeks on broken legs before reuniting with his people.

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Medium 9780253018175

Death by Refrigerator

B.J. Hollars Break Away Book Club Edition ePub

When inventor Oliver Evans first conceived of his “refrigeration machine” in 1805, he never dreamed it could be a killer. He, much like Jacob Perkins and John Gorrie (both of whom would soon improve upon the design), dreamed simply of extending the preservation properties of food. None of them imagined their invention had deadly potential, providing a perfect-sized trap for a curious child who dared step inside.

I first learned of refrigerator deaths while serving as a camp counselor in a small country town in Indiana. The victim was a boy named Bobby Watson, who in the summer of 1968—while lost in the throes of a game of hide-and-seek—wedged himself into an abandoned fridge left to rust on the edge of the dock. A maintenance man wandered past moments later, tied the fridge to the dock, and heaved it into the water, wholly unaware of the child hiding within.

The fridge, we informed our campers during weekly retellings, was meant to serve as an anchor for the docks, though for Bobby it served as a coffin instead.

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