Ate It Anyway

Ate It Anyway

Stories by Ed Allen
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 194
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Ate It Anyway
    Book Description:

    In the limbo bounded by rebellion and resignation, belonging and solitude, Ed Allen's middle Americans seem to be either freely adrift or uncomfortably vested in an exit strategy wholly inadequate for their circumstances. These sixteen darkly humorous stories gauge the tension between what we really feel and what we outwardly express, what we should do and what we manage to get done. In "Celibacy-by-the-Atlantic," Phil negotiates a lingering, low-intensity regret brought on by the annual family get-together at his parents' beach house, where memories of his aimless, privileged adolescence mingle with forebodings of his aimless, privileged middle age. In "A Lover's Guide to Hospitals," Carl lies in bed, pining over a stillborn romance through a moody, post-op haze of painkillers. As a consoling needle through the heart, the object of Carl's unrequited affections also turns out to be his nurse. In "Burt Osborne Rules the World," a precocious boy ponders his childhood in "a world protected against anything you could imagine doing to make it more interesting." Sensing that only more of the same awaits him as an adult, Burt charts a different course--as a class clown with a truly toxic sense of mischief. Others, like Lydia in "Ralph Goes to Mexico," assert their individuality more effortlessly, for they're just too naturally odd to be cowed by convention. Lydia's dilemma is whether she should have her leukemic cat stuffed and mounted or turned into a hat after he dies. These lyrical tales celebrate the ordinary--and the not so ordinary--with a flourish of Nabokovian wit that combines grandeur, kitsch, and the author's broad empathy with his characters.

    eISBN: 978-0-8203-4481-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. river of toys
    (pp. 1-11)

    I love to walk with my eyes closed. At night, when I come back to my apartment from work, there are almost no cars on the road, and I can walk and walk until I hear a car coming from behind or until I see through my closed eyelids the light of one coming toward me, and I open my eyes and find myself walking in the middle of Highland Avenue.

    I love to walk in the middle of the night, past the dark Laundromats, past Kentucky Fried Chicken standing dim in its all night utility lights. With the road...

  5. celibacy-by-the-atlantic
    (pp. 12-26)

    It was a clever idea, but the movie did nothing with it. The noncheerleader girls, wearing their boyfriends’ leather jackets and popping gum in time to the music, swaggered between rows of combination lockers and advanced toward the camera in a phalanx of lipsticked smiles. Phil Heath sat in his wooden folding chair, his rear end already getting sore. He kept noticing how the girls on the screen, with their bell-shaped hair set a little too high on their heads, looked as if their saddle shoes wouldn’t be enough counterweight to keep them from tipping over.

    “You want to leave...

  6. night of the red palm
    (pp. 27-34)

    “One thing I ought to point out is that I don’t think morgues are usually ever closed,” Chuck said, perched at the edge of his rolling chair and looking down for a minute at the first draft of Kristy Koller’s narrative essay and then back up to her face and the red hair around it, stirred, as if waiting to get back out in the wind. “I still don’t understand why you say you had to wait for it to be opened.”

    It was one of those nights on the Sierra State campus when the wind comes down from somewhere...

  7. wickersham day
    (pp. 35-44)

    Getting the dog off the roof meant that somebody had to pull Danny’s Land Cruiser up to the kitchen door, as close as possible to the edge of the house, then Danny would climb on top of the car, while Booger would walk back and forth, not quite understanding that he was on the roof, his long lips swinging, little pink potato buds of squamous cell carcinoma already growing around his mouth.

    Danny would call Booger to him over the slanted asphalt, then balance him in his arms before handing him down to Kevin or Michael. Sometimes they forgot to...

  8. ralph goes to mexico
    (pp. 45-58)

    Even at highway speed, the Ryder van’s automatic transmission seems never to shift, just winds out faster and more frantic, like a washing machine on the spin cycle, revs up from ramp to interstate, to a high whinny at sixty-five. If Lydia tries to go any faster, some kind of governor comes on and literally pushes the gas pedal back up.

    In his carrying case on the passenger seat, Ralph cries with what little strength he has left—a dry, lifeless yowl that after listening to it all day yesterday, Lydia hardly hears anymore. Sometimes she pokes a finger through...

  9. hungry hungry hippos
    (pp. 59-65)

    In my first year out of college, I spent so much time staring into my old black-and-white television that I began to incorporate into my own eyes the tendency of the picture to roll when the tubes overheated. Drifting off to sleep, I often had vertical-hold problems: the hypnagogic images would travel upward, slowly, framed by dark bands above and below. I remember waking up angry during those days, then starting to laugh, quilted under three blankets and the comforter of a zipped-open sleeping bag in my half of a winterized bungalow, its forced-air vents cut into the ceiling where...

  10. burt osborne rules the world
    (pp. 66-78)

    All day long, on that day in the sixth grade when my life changed forever and the world became a better place, everything had been smelling and tasting like overcooked eggs. I wasn’t sick exactly; it was more that I was no longer friends with the taste of food. Through the last abbreviated class periods and the final rehearsals for the annual St. Vitus Academy Christmas pageant, I smelled eggs everywhere, hard and cheesy on people’s breath, tasted them in the green-sprinkled Christmas tree cookies they gave us, in the red lipstick that Mrs. Carmody put on everybody’s mouth. Outside,...

  11. how to swallow
    (pp. 79-95)

    Frank Sinatra was dead, to begin with, but that wasn’t the lead story. Cars were on fire in Indonesia, burning yellow and orange on the front page of the same newspaper in every vending box, which Jim could see every time the chartered bus stopped at a corner, the whole page bright with flames, leaving a narrow column on the right: the voice falls silent.

    Around him, the sustaining members of the National Woodwind Association sat calmly in their fragrances. Most of these people were retired music teachers, which made it strange to think that for the whole ride down...

  12. a lover’s guide to hospitals
    (pp. 96-105)

    In my oldest fantasy, everything is perfect after the giant bicycle accident. My friends and I clench our teeth as if imitating sharks, all our appendixes ruptured, such a crowd of us that they have had to call a second ambulance. The pain weighs us down on our stretchers as cleanly as a bag of sand. We are all injured, a good strong word from The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, as we drift in white vehicles toward the great white floodlit face of the hospital.

    I suppose that now, supported by my barely sufficient graduate student insurance, I’m the...

  13. in a city with dogs
    (pp. 106-111)

    Other than a man I used to know from school who was collecting signatures on a petition to abolish the international police force, and the kid in Central Park who tried to rob me by saying he had a gun built into the shoe of his artificial leg, my memories of the months I lived in New York are more or less unpopulated. I know that I remember the dogs better than I remember the people—how the long patient faces of dogs being walked across the honeycomb pattern of hexagons in the pavement around the Museum of Natural History...

  14. a bend among bumblebees
    (pp. 112-122)

    We’re sitting there waiting for our fake margaritas when we hear that sneezing noise of a charter bus pumping its air brakes, and in about half a minute La Sombrero is wall-to-wall with green warm-up jackets from one of those flag twirling and color guard squads that were competing this weekend at the HeiferDome. This group is called the Bradfield Bumblebees. You should have seen them. Their jackets were such an intense acid green that it reflected off the ceiling.

    We’re pretty near the door, at the table where we usually sit. Deb and I are already a little punchy,...

  15. ashes north
    (pp. 123-138)

    Roy’s two sons both cried on the phone when Bob finally reached them from the lobby of a pizza restaurant whose main dining area was filled with coin-operated cars and rocket ships. Bob had been calling their house every few hours, not knowing when they would get back from their camping trip.

    “So … where is he?” Jim asked, controlling himself, giving the word he a kind of humiliated non-emphasis. His usually hale and hearty foghorn of a voice trembled over the phone, as if he was afraid of the answer.

    Bob had to tell his nephews that their father...

  16. hot plate
    (pp. 139-151)

    Cabrito al carbón. Salsa, roja. Blosser is thinking in Spanish, though he doesn’t really know how to speak it, except for a few restaurant-related phrases, thinking as he always does on his last call of the day, even filling in on the blackboard at the back of his eyes those rolling diacritical squiggles that English doesn’t have a name for. From speakers bracketed in the crooks where walls meet ceiling, the music of Autoharp and hammer dulcimer fills the store with stringy, woodstove, old lady trills. Jasmine incense drifts between the racks of hanging knitwear. Legumbres verdes. Hígado con huevos....

  17. a puddle of sex books
    (pp. 152-162)

    How it starts is that a man is driving in the desert and a woman passes him in a car, and she is naked. Then there is something about how she pulls in for gas and somebody else sees her, maybe an old man. Or maybe by then she’s curled up in the backseat of somebody else’s car. The sight of her bare breasts revives some long-buried stirrings in the old gas station attendant, or words to that effect.

    All he knew was that the story took place in spring, in the desert. George read it page by waterlogged page,...

  18. singing pumpkins
    (pp. 163-169)

    George was sitting with Life magazine opened to a page that showed Senator Barry Goldwater’s face lit from below in the manner of kids in a tent trying to scare each other with flashlights. The sun had gone behind a cloud; he had read all his comic books twice; the foot traffic between the living room and the front hall had receded for the moment to the far ends of George’s grandmother’s house. Then the living room brightened, and George looked up from his magazine to see that his grandmother had burst into flames.

    He sat there, staring into a...

  19. a foolish but lovable airport
    (pp. 170-182)

    It is very satisfying to be part of a dialogue in which a man invites a woman whom he’s already given up on to come visit him at his parents’ summer house, at the very moment when that woman has a man in her apartment watching basketball and waiting for her to come back inside with the barbecued chicken legs. I leaned against the waist-high concrete wall that separates our two halves of the shared balcony, cantilevered over the smoke of somebody else’s hamburgers being grilled one floor below, and said you could stay there as long as you wanted....

  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 183-184)