New Stories from the Midwest 2012

By John McNally; Jason Lee Brown et al. | Go to book overview

Five
The Deep

Anthony Doerr

TOM IS BORN IN 1914 IN DETROIT, a quarter mile from International Salt. His father is offstage, unaccounted for. His mother operates a six-room, underinsulated boarding house populated with locked doors, behind which drowse the grim possessions of itinerant salt workers: coats the colors of mice, tattered mucking boots, aquatints of undressed women, their breasts faded orange. Every six months a miner is laid off, gets drafted, or dies, and is replaced by another, so that very early in his life Tom comes to see how the world continually drains itself of young men, leaving behind only objects—empty tobacco pouches, bladeless jackknives, salt-caked trousers—mute, incapable of memory.

Tom is four when he starts fainting. He’ll be rounding a corner, breathing hard, and the lights will go out. Mother will carry him indoors, set him on the armchair, and send someone for the doctor.

Atrial septal defect. Hole in the heart. The doctor says blood sloshes from the left side to the right side. His heart will have to do three times the work. Lifespan of sixteen. Eighteen if he’s lucky. Best if he doesn’t get excited.

Mother trains her voice into a whisper. Here you go, there you are, sweet little Tomcat. She moves Tom’s cot into an upstairs closet—no bright lights, no loud noises. Mornings she serves him a glass of buttermilk, then points him to the brooms or steel wool. Go slow, she’ll murmur. He scrubs the coal stove, sweeps the marble stoop. Every so often he peers up from his work and watches the

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New Stories from the Midwest 2012
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Editors’ Note xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • One - Mr. Scary 6
  • Two - To Psychic Underworld 22
  • Three - Townie 32
  • Four - The Amnesiac in the Maze 47
  • Five - The Deep 56
  • Six - Circling in the Air 72
  • Seven - Down to Bone 83
  • Eight - Starry Night 94
  • Nine - Peter Torrelli, Falling Apart 104
  • Ten - In Which a Coffin Is a Bed but an Ox Is Not a Coffin 117
  • Eleven - Drunk Girl in Stilettos 131
  • Twelve - The State Bird of Minnesota 146
  • Thirteen - The Five Points of Performance 156
  • Fourteen - The Baby Glows 170
  • Fifteen - Splendid, Silent Sun 172
  • Sixteen - Miscarriages 185
  • Seventeen - American Bulldog 198
  • Eighteen - Twelve- + Twelve 206
  • Nineteen - A Dry Season 221
  • Twenty - Schnecks 234
  • Thirty- Other Distinguished Stories 243
  • Contributors 245
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