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Heavier Than Air

Heavier Than Air: Stories

NONA CASPERS
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 208
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5vk817
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  • Book Info
    Heavier Than Air
    Book Description:

    Throughout this collection, which was plucked from a pile of 300 manuscripts and awarded the Grace Paley Prize in short fiction, Caspers details the many ways reality can interfere with our dreams. Not surprisingly, dissatisfaction becomes a dominant theme. . . . Many of Caspers's stories are set in Minnesota's cattle and dairy country, and all of them traffic in the kind of Midwestern realism that doesn't rely on pyrotechnics to generate dramatic heat. Throughout, Caspers's people—it's difficult to consider some of them mere characters—question the decisions they've made or the ones they refuse to make. There's nothing flashy about Caspers's prose; like the beauty of the prairie itself, its attraction lies in details seen up close.New York Times Book Review

    eISBN: 978-1-61376-078-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[x])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [xi]-[xiv])
  3. Country Girls
    (pp. 1-24)

    THE PICTURE on the cover of the dairy magazine was of a middleaged farm woman, about forty, smiling directly, yet shyly, into the camera. She wore five blue ribbons around her neck. Her skin was clear, almost translucent, and her eyes were lovely and innocent, not the innocence of the religious devout or a child—she was a grown woman—but the sure-footed innocence of a herdswoman. The woman in the picture was once my friend—that is why my father sent the magazine—and for a moment I felt transported against my will back to my parents’ home, the...

  4. Wide Like an Eagleʹs Wings
    (pp. 25-50)

    MANNY STOOD on top of the weathered wooden cable spool in her yard, trying to see what Senator John F. Kennedy would see if he visited her family’s farm on his campaign tour. Beyond their paintpeeled barn and aluminum tractor shed with the unhinged door was their clumpy cow pasture, littered with thistles and dry milkweed pods wobbling in a dangerous sheet of unexpected September heat. Burning, burning. Uncomfortable, inhospitable.

    Manny lifted her chin and unfocused her eyes from the particular shapes of things to let in a general view of the county’s green and yellow pastures, field after field...

  5. La Maison de Madame Durard
    (pp. 51-64)

    HOPING IT would make her seem dramatic, like someone from out of town, Marie undid the buttons on her coat so the fabric fell open around her hips and the hem draped her ankles. Peter Schneiweiss and a few townies were bowling. At the end of the bar, in her jacket with squirrel fur around the collar, Chrissy leaned her bony hip on a stool, like some sort of time traveler from the wild west. Marie walked over and leaned her back up against the bar.

    “Hey,” she said, poking a finger into Chrissy’s side.

    “Hey,” Chrissy said without moving...

  6. Mr. Hellermanʹs Vacation
    (pp. 65-82)

    MR. LAWRENCE Hellerman’s brain is yawning against the slick coat of drugs the psych nurses give him to sleep. His mind moves like a glacier sliding south, leaving odd deposits on the landscape: a shoe burning in the fire, the eyes of deer like a trail of turds, work boots, hunting knives, bird feeders, the entrails of ducks and geese and quail. Squirrel bones. His father, Bernard, deaf, hairless, inebriated, slides out the side of the ice in a soft chunk; as soon as he’s gone Mr. Hellerman can open his eyes. But Mrs. Hellerman and their six children are...

  7. The EE Cry
    (pp. 83-96)

    FRANK WASNʹT sleeping at night. Instead, he sat on the living room couch and made lists of the new spring diets he and Barbara would start in the morning, like the six-day “Wild Rice Diet.” You eat plain wild rice the first two days, the second two days you eat wild rice salad, and the last two you eat wild rice casserole. Every two months you repeat the diet until you’ve uncovered the real you.

    “OK, this is it, you listening?” Barbara’s voice was loud in the phone. It was the middle of the night.

    “Uh huh.”

    “We fly to...

  8. Alfalfa
    (pp. 97-106)

    ITʹS EIGHT-FORTY p.m. on a Saturday night and Ruthie Marie Hinnenkamp is not out driving around the countryside with her boyfriend John and her best friend Margaret in John’s El Camino. She is not squeezed between John’s hard hip bone and Margaret’s fatted thighs; she is not lusting after either of them.

    Ruthie is at home, on her belly in the middle of her bed staring at the mute TV. She couldn’t tell you what she’s watching; she is trying not to think. She is supposed to be reading her family’s Bible and picking out the scripture to be read...

  9. Vegetative States
    (pp. 107-120)

    I STAND at my Auntie Jenny’s hospital bed and watch her breathe. That’s all she has to do—makes living look easy. Whenever Auntie Jenny forgets to breathe, a gray machine wheezes and feeds some mix of oxygen into her lungs. The air pushes her chest up and then her lungs slowly deflate. The machine breaths look the same to me as when Auntie Jenny breathes on her own. She looks like she’s sleeping. According to my mother, sleep is something Jenny could never get enough of.

    My mother and my Auntie Sal are sitting on green plastic chairs in...

  10. Mother
    (pp. 121-140)

    FROM WHERE she sits at the desk in her bedroom, Deborah can hear her mother, who has been camped on the living room couch for three days, nibbling saltines. The low hum of the soap operas, even though Deborah has insisted she wear headphones, penetrates the walls and Deborah’s skin. None of it is fair. She picks up her pen and writes on yet another blank page of her dissertation the wordsego regression. Then she writesSelsa Basu doesn’t love me anymore.

    No, it isn’t fair, she thinks: her girlfriend’s sudden departure with the birdlike English professor after ten...

  11. The Fifth Season
    (pp. 141-156)

    ʺDO YOU remember when all the neighborhood kids had ringworm?” he asked me from his hospital bed, inviting me to imagine, I suppose, that the lesions corrupting his brain were a similar phenomenon. I said yes, but really only one kid in the neighborhood had had ringworm, and it wasn’t even ringworm—it was impetigo. Or so I remember.

    “Come lie in the bed with me,” he said. He said it every time I went to visit him. There was a large window near his bed. Out the window I see gray—perhaps the roof of another building or it...

  12. Heavier Than Air
    (pp. 157-172)

    THE CASKET was shining white, and my mother wore a cotton white dress with small clear buttons and nothing around the neck, nothing on her face or wrists or fingers, except her thin gold wedding band.

    “She’ll go up to the Lord like a helium balloon,” Dee said.

    I stood next to Dee, feeling the weight of my legs and breathing into the tops of my lungs. I couldn’t stop watching my mother’s face, looking for a sign, something. My mother was sixty-five years old, but her face had been made round and smooth. She looked like a woman who...

  13. Stigmata
    (pp. 173-186)

    LINDA PREVKEY closed her eyes, and her immaculate voice, a voice I’d rarely heard outside prayers, floated above the rest of our bored sixth-grade voices. The veins in her lids were the same blue as the eyes they covered. We stood in a circle at the front of our desks, reciting our last morning Act of Contrition. I imagined a halo surrounding Linda’s pale face, her long white hair, and I was certain that if she were naked, I’d be able to see straight through her skin into her heart, which would not be sloppy with sin like Shelley’s and...

  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 187-188)