Winner of the 2011 Drue Heinz Literature PrizeShannon Cain's stories chart the treacherous territory of the illicit. They expose the absurdity of our rituals, our definitions of sexuality, and above all, our expectations of happiness and self-fulfillment.Cain's protagonists are destined to suffer-and sometimes enjoy-the consequences of their own restless discontent. In the title story, Lisa, a city dweller, is dissatisfied with her life and relationships. Her attempt at self-rejuvenation takes her on a hiking excursion through a foreign land. Lisa discovers a remote village where the ritualized and generous bisexual love of its inhabitants entrances her. She begins to abandon thoughts of home.In "Cultivation," Frances, a divorced mother strapped with massive credit card debt, has become an expert at growing pot. When she packs her three children and twelve pounds of homegrown into the minivan and travels cross-country to sell the stash, their journey becomes one of anguish, revelation, and ultimately transformation. "Cultivation," like many of the stories inThe Necessity of Certain Behaviors,follows a trail of broken relationships and the unfulfilled promises of modern American life.Told in precise, evocative prose, these memorable stories illuminate the human condition from a compelling, funny, and entirely original perspective.
Front MatterFront Matter (pp. [i]-[vi]) https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt5hjnr3.1
Table of ContentsTable of Contents (pp. [vii]-[x]) https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt5hjnr3.2
this is how it startsthis is how it starts (pp. 1-14) https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt5hjnr3.3
there is a boy and there is a girl. Jane sees the girl on Tuesdays and Fridays and she sees the boy on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The other three nights she sleeps by herself in her big, firm bed. She gathers the dogs each morning at six. This requires both the boy and the girl to leave her apartment and refrain from preparing her breakfast. Given the chance, the boy would make eggs benedict. The girl would make cheese omelets. On Jane’s mornings alone, she eats cold cereal with sugar.
The girl is fond of her strap-on. The boy is...
cultivationcultivation (pp. 15-39) https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt5hjnr3.4
one evening, Maury calls. Those public service announcements, he tells Frances, the ones about casual drug consumption supporting terrorism? Apparently they’re working. Now his customers insisttheirmarijuana be grown domestically. He needs the entirety of her last two harvests, which Frances estimates at roughly twelve pounds, counting the supply that’s now curing in Mason jars in her basement. “These people buy organic produce, if you know what I mean,” Maury says. “They read theNew York Times.”
He’ll pay her a thousand dollars a pound, but he wants her to deliver it. Here’s the trouble: Memphis is fifteen hundred...
the nigerian princesthe nigerian princes (pp. 40-49) https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt5hjnr3.5
to silence their noise about giving them grandchildren, I’ve let my parents believe that my best friend Ramón is my lover. They’re too old to embrace homosexuality but know better than to admit that. They’re in their seventies, and I’m their only child.
Truth is, I can’t keep a girlfriend. Louise looks at me now as if I’m the copy machine repair guy. Right through me. I’m sad most of the time, but let’s face it; everyone is sad. Everyone except Ramón. He says that Louise is invested in the story of herself and that I shouldn’t give up on...
i love bobi love bob (pp. 50-65) https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt5hjnr3.6
hillary’s father was Bob Barker. From the TV game show. But he didn’t know this, so at the end of her sophomore year at Coconino Community College she drove from Flagstaff to Los Angeles to tell him in person. She’d stay for the month of June, long enough to execute her plan.
With tips from her job waiting tables at Denny’s, she rented a studio apartment in a stick-and-stucco complex in Van Nuys with walls of cardboard and a swimming pool that sparkled.
Hillary’s mother left a voice mail message. “Why did you go all the way to California?” she...
the steam roomthe steam room (pp. 66-80) https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt5hjnr3.7
helen was unhappily married to the mayor of their midsized American city. Sometimes she masturbated in the steam room of the downtown YMCA. A sign posted in the showers named the city statute under which those engaging in sexual behavior of any kind would be prosecuted. It admonished members to Think! But yesterday afternoon, hidden in the semi-dark and wrapped in a hot fog, she called up the eyes of Johnny Depp, gazing into hers as his tongue traced perfect, slow circles around her clitoris.
The overhead light came on in a shocking flash of fluorescence. Two girls in City...
juniper beachjuniper beach (pp. 81-95) https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt5hjnr3.8
charlie works as an auto travel counselor in the Cranston, Rhode Island, branch office of the American Automobile Association. Mostly her job involves the assembly of TripTiks. Charlie’s parents are newly dead, their car having run off the road three weeks ago outside of Tucson, Arizona. Upon her return to work after their funeral, she began creating TripTiks that send Triple-A members to destinations different than those they requested.
There have been complaints. But this week Charlie rescued a pair of newlyweds from a vulgar Niagara Falls weekend, sending them instead on an off-season bargain honeymoon in the turret of...
the queer zoothe queer zoo (pp. 96-112) https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt5hjnr3.9
there’s no actual policy at the Queer Zoo against hiring straight people; that would be illegal. Sam is alert to rumors about the existence of other hetero employees, but so far none have turned out to be true.
Sam cleans cages. Primates, birds, elephants. No, not cages: enclosures. At the Queer Zoo, the word “cage” is forbidden. Sam’s girlfriend, Teri, says he underestimates his coworkers, that he ought to come out, already, that they’re more open-minded than he gives them credit for. But it would be absurd, after all this time, to admit he isn’t gay.
The Queer Zoo is...
houseworkhousework (pp. 113-126) https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt5hjnr3.10
danny and Betsy have settled on “nesting,” a system of divorce espoused by certain how-to books in which the children stay in the family home and the parents take turns vacating it. Betsy and Danny agree on practically nothing, yet have managed to come together on the subject of minimizing the kids’ suffering.
Normally, nesting requires three domiciles: the home currently occupied by the kids and their Parent of the Week, one for the husband, and one for the wife. Betsy and Danny can’t afford a mortgage plus two rents, so they’ve leased a single studio apartment only large enough...
the necessity of certain behaviorsthe necessity of certain behaviors (pp. 127-142) https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt5hjnr3.11
to escape from the hot city and the people in it, Lisa goes on an ecotourism trek in the mountains of a foreign country. To get there she endures a long airplane ride. There is the usual business of camping equipment and protein bars and local guides in odd headgear carrying packs containing tea and dried meat. But one afternoon she becomes separated from her group of Americans, and after trudging half a day on a narrow path that doesn’t look all that well-traveled, she comes to a village.
Lisa is thirsty, and relieved to have stumbled across civilization. She...
acknowledgmentsacknowledgments (pp. 143-144) https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt5hjnr3.12