James Michener Fellowship winner Joshua Furst's widely acclaimed debut collection explores the perils and paradoxes of childhood in ten harrowing, moving, and surprising stories, offering a rare and unsentimental depiction of the lives of American youth.
In "The Age of Exploration," two boys experience the world so differently--Billy through science; Jason with fantastical powers of imagination--that they sense their lives will stray irrevocably away from each other. In "Red Lobster," which won the Nelson Algren Award, a gaggle of children try to please the father who has rounded them up from their various homes to take them to a fateful dinner. And in the collection's climactic story, "Failure to Thrive," a maternity ward nurse takes compassion too far. Emotionally astute, brilliantly written, these stories mark the arrival of a powerful new voice in American literature.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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|Title of eBook: Short People|
|Release Date: 12-18-2007|
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|Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group|
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Chapter OneThe Age of Exploration
It's summer, and when it rains the concrete smells sweet, slightly mineral, fresh. When it's sunny and dry, wavy lines hover over the asphalt. You have to wear shoes or you'll burn your feet. The neighborhood belongs to children, to chipmunks and ducklings, to things that haven't stopped growing. It belongs to Jason and Billy.
Billy is smart-he wears glasses. When he finds things, he learns what they are. He's older than Jason. Jason was born on April eleven, and Billy was born on January five. That makes Billy more than three months older. Jason and Billy are both six, but Billy will be seven first. Jason wishes that he were as old as Billy. Then he would know all the things Billy knows.
Billy knows what he's going to be when he grows up. A paleontologist. Not just somebody who knows about dinosaurs, a paleontologist is a searcher of the past, a finder of fossils, reader of bones and rocks, knower of what's hidden deep in the earth-ten million years deep; time is recorded in rings you can see if you dig deep under the blacktop. He has scoured the neighborhood, examined every rock and every chunk of bark in search of new fossils. Billy's favorite animal is the trilobite. It's a kind of an arthropod, a crab the size of a quarter, and it has a horseshoe shell. It's been extinct for hundreds of thousands of millions of years. He has one in his collection. He didn't find it, though; his father bought it for him at the museum. His other fossils he found. Footprints of a tiny bird. Petrified wood. A cluster of shells embedded in a piece of dolomite.
What does Jason know? He knows the routes to his...