Best of Meals

When you got unhappy customers, best thing to do is feed’em. Shit, everyone knows that. So when the line into heaven backed up, they did the same thing and sent us to their overflow location: the buffet at Glacier Little Peaks Casino on the Blackfeet Reservation, outside Browning, Montana. They got keno there in the buffet section, so it’s a pretty good spot.

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Cloud Peak

“That ought’a hold her for now.”

I drop the car’s hood and slip the roll of duct tape over my wrist, wearing it like a bracelet. “Just a cracked radiator hose,” I tell the stranded driver. He peers at the closed hood like the sun will hit just the right angle to reflect hidden instructions in the shiny finish. The wind lifts his sparse white hair as he leans on his metal crutches. They’re the kind that only come up to your elbows. The kind they give to people who aren’t going to get better.

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Seeing

Every morning the neighbors watch Tom Wallace carefully as he strolls out to his car. Tom moves differently than most people, who walk with heads down, shoulders hunched, on the way to something they’d rather avoid: work, maybe, or an errand down to the new shopping center. Tom holds his head up, shoulders back, looking around with a wide, sweeping glance: at the other cars, at any

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In the Dressing Room

“She’ll never catch a man talking like that. She’s just too loud,” said one woman to another as they entered the dressing room at Frugal Fannie’s.

They were frumpy old ladies with gray hair and clothes that had gone out of style years ago. The other woman didn’t comment. She had an armload of polyester pants–pull-on, the kind you’d find in JC Penneys.

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The Orchid Tree

He hung the orchids on the dogwood tree in small crates he’d made himself, meticulously cut, precisely nailed, seventeen wooden bars in a four-side, repeat pattern. There were eighty-three orchids, and they all appeared to be dead with weird, snaky roots gnarling out like wicked fingers, but he dipped each into a warm bath of special water and talked to them sweetly. He hung them from the flowering tree, no matter their stage of death or dying.

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Penelope

I descend the attic steps stopping twice to curl into the bannister at the height of the pain. Once in our bedroom, I press my nose against the chilled, bare window, scouting for signs of life. The street is nearly erased like a sepia postcard, a two-dimensional image, noiseless, but for the crunch of an occasional snow-topped car or the wail of a muted siren crying in the distance. Carefully, I change from my bathrobe into a long-sleeved top, and maternity

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The Eavesdropper

After my brother died my parents pretty much stopped talking to each other and to me. I thought we were the saddest, most depressed family in the world. I never saw my parents laugh. We never went anywhere together and never even looked much at one another. And they definitely didn’t want me to ask them questions. Day after day of sadness and pretending to be a family.

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Beneath Loud Skies

Henry lay on his back with his eyes shut tight against the sun. His little brother, Lee, had socked him in the belly, and he was catching his wind as the grass walked up his arms and legs like insects. A neighbor was mowing her lawn a few houses down the way, and the noise separated into a whine and a rumble that chased each other over the fences and flowerbeds of the neighborhood. Henry tried sitting up and winced. Lee would have to pay for this.

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Hannah’s Chrysanthemums

The scent of fresh-cut grass assaulted me, like the raucous play of the children in the park across the street. I squinted from the bright light. Several cars crept by, music streaming from their open windows. Rex, on his leash, whined. I had the plastic bag at the ready, sweat dripping from my clenched fist. He pulled on my arm to run toward the park, but I hushed him. He’d just have to go here, in the small strip of city lawn. Rex whimpered

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Allen

By the time Eddie and Shonda have gotten out of the car and gone around the back for the picnic basket, the blanket and some extra jackets, their son Billy has made friends with some other kids in the park who are throwing pine cones at each other. One yells, “Die you mother” in a squeaky preteen scream and falls on Billy who is laughing and chases after him.

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