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The Physics of Imaginary Objects

The Physics of Imaginary Objects

Tina May Hall
Selected by Renata Adler
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  • Book Info
    The Physics of Imaginary Objects
    Book Description:

    Winner of the 2010 Drue Heinz Literature Prize

    The Physics of Imaginary Objects,in fifteen stories and a novella, offers a very different kind of short fiction, blending story with verse to evoke fantasy, allegory, metaphor, love, body, mind, and nearly every sensory perception. Weaving in and out of the space that connects life and death in mysterious ways, these texts use carefully honed language that suggests a newfound spirituality.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-9113-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Visitations
    (pp. 1-12)

    There was a squirrel trapped in the wall behind my stove in October. We could hear it clawing back there, but what to do? “Maybe it will leave of its own accord,” Paul said. We sat at the kitchen table, an old farm table so heavy it took two people to shift it, and listened. Perfect, I thought. One of my friends had come home one night to find her hunter husband had skinned a squirrel and put it in the Crock-Pot. She had lifted the lid expecting rice and beans and had found the pink body curled like a...

  2. Erratum: Insert ʺRʺ in ʺTransgressorsʺ
    (pp. 13-17)

    A murder had been committed, the instrument used being an ax.

    The victim was a sailor of Swedish extraction and had sailed the lakes for seven or eight years, making his home in Buffalo.

    The defendant was a dancer, a singer, a woman once beautiful who, because of her tortuous course, became roughened and changed.

    The victim was a sailor of Swedish extraction. He was in the habit of spending his nights when on shore at a notorious dance hall in the infected district.

    I was engaged as a medical expert in an investigation under peculiar circumstances. With your kind...

  3. Skinny Girlsʹ Constitution and Bylaws
    (pp. 18-24)

    We will know each other by the way our watches slip from our wrists, the bruises on our knees, our winged shoulder blades tenting silk dresses.

    We eat; we eat. We eat like wild boars, like wolves, like cyclists in training. We love the bloody shreds that cling to the T. We suck the gob of marrow that floats to the top of the soup. We gnaw the chicken down to splinters.

    Everything is bone, bone, bone.

    Her brother holds Polly to the candle to read her, the way one would a stolen envelope. Numbers float like seaweed under her...

  4. Kick
    (pp. 25-29)

    Last night, Ben dreamed of Freud and woke up laughing. He remembered this suddenly, as the lawn chair with its frayed, vinyl strips creaked against his fidgeting. Pale Johnnie threw two more steaks on the grill and some sausages and a bouquet of tender, pink chicken breasts. This was the monthly distance-running club gathering, and they were all on high-protein diets. Ben ran the farthest of them all, though Marco was the fastest. Ben was also the oldest of them, by nine years, an eternity to a runner, nearly two age groups. He shifted again, folding and unfolding his grasshopper...

  5. For Dear Pearl, Who Drowned
    (pp. 30-35)

    She wakes thinking today she’d like to eat eggs. All night she dreamed of a hard-boiled one, white and gold. She wakes thinking an egg is something beautiful to own. The sun is bright in the shelter. All the windows are bare. The sun is as bright as a memory. The sun is too bright in her. It is as bright as

    Her knees glow in the shower. She scrubs them hard. They are red and wistful. She has given up on soap. Soap is for sisters taking baths together. Soap tastes like Sunday nights. Now, everything is scrubbing. She...

  6. Faith Is Three Parts Formaldehyde, One Part Ethyl Alcohol
    (pp. 36-41)

    Rosa keeps her finger in a jar on the nightstand. In the morning, it twists to feel the sunlight. She watches its gentle convulsions and holds her other fingers up to share the warmth. Since she cut off her finger, she has worked in the diocese business office, filing and answering phones. Mostly, she answers questions from parents about the parish schools and fields requests for priestly appearances. While at work, she doesn’t think about her finger too much. It is just her left pinkie finger; she can still type seventy-five words a minute. In fact, some people don’t even...

  7. Last Night of the County Fair
    (pp. 42-42)

    You win a plastic frog at a half-price ring toss, and the hawker urges another game on us, his fingertips stained indigo and trembling. “Something big,” he yelps as each ring sails into the air. Across the way, the Ferris wheel endlessly cuts out its steep slice of sky. We’ve missed the monster trucks and rhinestoned crooners. The crocodile wresting pit is just an oval of damp sawdust. Only the dwarf remains, standing on the gold-painted box, yelling sonnets at the fat lady. A cloud of mosquitoes and pollen and cotton candy fibers balloons above us, some weird blessing. For...

  8. A Crown of Sonnets Dedicated to Long-Gone Love
    (pp. 43-50)

    The tree outside my window was in bloom. Each morning we would watch its petals, thinking we could see them open. His breath on my left shoulder asking,when? Some days we’d lie in bed ’til two with their pinky-white, their paper hearts, their cold stamens—speaking,soon. The April silence of that room. My own pink heart was rolling over in my chest, my fingertips were tracing,when. Across his chest, across the thin scar where his fifth-grade friend hit him with a leaf-encumbered rake, or maybe it was someone in grad school who carved a letter of her...

  9. By the Gleam of Her Teeth, She Will Light the Path Before Her
    (pp. 51-54)

    After dinner, Father folds a swan out of his paper napkin. Mother says, “My, how early it grows dark.” First Daughter laughs at a flickering outside the window. She thinks it is an out-of-season firefly or a spark from the chimney, but really it is someone creeping through the trees with a flashlight.

    Father folds triangle over triangle, smaller and smaller, until a head and wings appear. Second Daughter watches the ghost of her grandmother walk around the table and touch everyone’s plate. Second Daughter wonders if the dead get hungry and she eats the last corner of her tuna...

  10. Gravetending
    (pp. 55-63)

    He was a willful child, brown and plump as a loaf of bread, and was left on their doorstep in the middle of the night. When she heard the wailing, Glynnis poked Frank with the crook-handled cane she kept under the bed for burglars. Brother and sister slept in two single beds with white sheets, plain as nuns’ beds, the only adornment in the room a chipped red cabinet someone had brought back from China a long time ago. “You hear that?” she asked, thinking it was probably a rabbit caught in a trap or a cat yowling. When Frank...

  11. In Your Endeavors, You May Feel My Ghostly Presence (Instructions for Contacting the Dead)
    (pp. 64-70)

    Trace a river to its source.

    Go to the mouth of the river Rhone. Go to the head of the lake. Pass these and push your journey still higher.

    I will act as your guide. I, who am recently blown out, undone, plunged into darkness.

    Look to your bedroom windows when the weather is very cold outside.

    Through that clear space the thing must pass.

    Light a fire, fuse metal, or burn the hand like a hot solid.

    We must now be observant.

    Dip your finger into a basin of water and cause it to quiver rapidly to and fro....

  12. The Woman Who Fell in Love with a Meteorologist and Stopped the Rain
    (pp. 71-75)

    She watches him every night at 10:12. When he says dewpoint, she breaks into a sweat, and it is as if her body has stolen the moisture of his mouth as he pronounces those two syllables. He is not particularly handsome, but as he moves before a map of the United States, pointing out cold fronts and low-pressure systems, she thinks he looks like an angel in a button-down shirt wielding a battered steel pointer instead of a sword.

    He is an old-fashioned man, the kind of man who would tighten the fan belt of her car when it needed...

  13. This Is a Love Story, Too
    (pp. 76-79)

    This morning, when the rooster would not stop crowing and the first egg I cracked had a bloody yolk, I knew. Now the sun is rising to the end of its tether. Soon, it will be on its way down, and the woods will darken first.

    No one cares about the old lady. I was like that myself, before I became the old lady. They leave their offerings on the doorstep and sometimes they come in and beg a story and then I am in the newspaper again, the tired gory details dredged up anew, wrinkled black and white, a...

  14. How to Remember a Bird
    (pp. 80-85)

    There is a hole growing in the center of town. People come from all over to see it. The first time anyone noticed, it was the size of a pumpkin, but since then, it has become so big we have stopped measuring. Just last month, the bakery slipped into it, and for days, the hole smelled like rye bread. It is hard to tell when the hole is going to open wider, so we don’t get too close to its edges. Of course, children are fascinated by the hole and must be kept away with warnings and threats. My friends...

  15. There Is a Factory in Sierra Vista Where Jesus Is Resurrected Every Hour in Hot Plastic and the Stench of Chicken
    (pp. 86-96)

    Stand still. I am taking your picture.

    The mission behind you, the sky paralyzed turquoise, the stop sign and the gleaming tourist cars, the way your hair is too long at the neck.

    You said when you called, “It’s worth a try.”

    You have a voice so seductive men have ridden twenty extra blocks on city transit to continue hearing it.

    I winced when you said “miracles.”

    The chipped metallic green of your Plymouth. The sound the tires made on the smooth skin of the highway.

    The four sentences in a row you started with maybe while I calculated mileposts....

  16. All the Dayʹs Sad Stories: A Novella
    (pp. 97-146)

    This is the year of beautiful trees. Cold nights, bright days, roadsides aflame. The wind blows, and maple leaves splatter the sidewalk. Mercy and Jake stand in the front yard raking. She has never had a false alarm; the blood comes as regularly as ever. Hopes are kept banked. The waiting extends only two weeks. It makes Mercy feel as if she is in some kind of dream in which they aren’t really trying at all. Or as if the world in which she is living and breathing and menstruating is divorced completely from the landscape of her mind, which...