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The Truly Needy And Other Stories

The Truly Needy And Other Stories

Lucy Honig
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  • Book Info
    The Truly Needy And Other Stories
    Book Description:

    These nine stories are teeming with people on the margins, where destitute New Yorkers and determined immigrants are as much at the mercy of social services, media attention, opportunistic politicians, and "quality-of-life" campaigns as they are prey to grinding poverty, dangerous streets, and their own haunting memories. Delving into Lucy Honig's fiction, one is willingly drawn into an intimacy with these resilient, but flawed characters-among them, a woman who cleans a beauty salon, a high school kid who's lost a parent, a runaway Cambodian bride, an actress, and a homeless woman. Crossing paths, these difficult characters often misunderstand and sometimes demean each other, yet they also redeem and rescue one other in odd and unexpected ways. InThe Truly Needy, Lucy Honig has created a heartbreaking, imaginative world that is the American urban landscape.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7879-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. No Friends, All Strangers
    (pp. 1-19)

    I don’t know. Sometimes I wish they’d all shut up. At work Ronnie has the radio on every minute, and the customers are always yapping, the radio doesn’t even drown them out.

    When I say customers, Ronnie tells me to say clients. You’d think he was a lawyer or a shrink or something.

    A lot of the clients act as if hewasa shrink, sometimes as if I was, too. I give shampoos and sweep up, they don’t know me from Adam, they don’t tip me, most of them probably could never tell you what I look like. Still:...

  2. English as a Second Language
    (pp. 20-35)

    Inside Room 824, Maria parked the vacuum cleaner, fastened all the locks and the safety chain, and kicked off her shoes. Carefully she lay a stack of fluffy towels on the bathroom vanity. She turned the air conditioning up high and the lights down low. Then she hoisted up the skirt of her uniform and settled all the way back on the king-sized bed with her legs straight out in front of her. Her feet and ankles were swollen. She wriggled her toes. She threw her arms out in each direction and still her hands did not come near the...

  3. After
    (pp. 36-53)

    She had been out of class for three or four days and he had missed her: the dry wisecracks, those bright green eyes letting him know with the slightest narrowing or shift if he had stopped making sense. When he saw her in the hallway, finally, before first-period bell, he folded his big arms across his chest. All the ninth graders called him Mr. Clean behind his back, and he knew he looked like the character who advertised the cleanser, with his massive shoulders, the exaggerated athletic build, even the smooth-topped head. He was not altogether bald yet, but getting...

  4. Hilda
    (pp. 54-72)

    “But Hilda,” my mother prods, “your mother was so sick, you really were the one who brought Howie up, no? Tell the girls, they want to know.”

    “Ooh, Muriel,” my aunt Hilda says, clinging to her vowels the way her family has always done, drawing them out into small, nervous warbles, trills in the wounded singsong of their voices. She shrugs, wrings her hands in her lap. “How can I remember, I’m such an old la-ady. I don’t know, Muriel, did I? Maybe so-o.”

    If Hilda does not remember bringing up my father, her youngest brother, I suspect it is...

  5. The Sights of Cork (March 1967)
    (pp. 73-94)

    He awoke on deck with a foul taste in his mouth and the enormouscafardstill squatting on his soul. Thecafard. The cockroach. The French certainly had a flair for labeling their unhappiness. Long ago he had begun to visualize this nagging misery as the insect the word also named. It had taken form, grown huge and ugly inside him, become far weightier, finally, than a simple malaise. The cockroach had pursued him back and forth across the Continent. It had returned to England with him. It had sailed last night from Fishguard and was now docked with him...


    • The Truly Needy
      (pp. 97-132)

      Rita, the executive director, was the one who’d dubbed the new secretary Savvy: after all, she was so smart, Rita said, so quick to catch on. But it was really because her Cambodian name was weird, so difficult for an American mouth to wrap itself around. And the new name didn’t sound like what she looked like; people could see plainly she was—well, not Chinese, okay, not Chinese exactly, but fromsomewhereover there. With that long, long black braid, those almond eyes, she was such an authenticsomething. And a charmer, too: that absolutely radiant smile, the innocent...

    • Refuge
      (pp. 133-162)

      “Hey, China doll, gimme a kiss,” the dumb guy mutters when he staggers past me in the train. But it’s no big deal: he keeps going into the next car, the stench of alcohol trailing after him like a dog. It’s almost dawn now anyway and more people get on: heavyset ladies in white stockings, their uniforms poking out below their coats, and men clutching lunch pails who fall asleep as soon as they hit the seat.

      Me, too, I can sleep now for awhile, one eye open. That’s the way I do it after two weeks on the streets....

    • Love, Rescue, Care, Dream, Sweep
      (pp. 163-187)

      She spends half the day dragging the thing along Second Avenue from 21st Street to the square, one side rolling on rusty casters, the other side, casters missing, scraping and biting the sidewalk. The corner of the bottom shelf thumps and whines like a dog getting thrashed, and people huddled at a bus stop glare accusingly.

      “So send the SPCA,” she mumbles.

      A stagnant sea of gray slush taunts her at the corner of 11th. Leaving the cart on the sidewalk, she jumps with unlikely grace to the shallowest shore, a few feet into the roadway, then leans back, grabs...

    • Dispossessed
      (pp. 188-204)

      They were on the Bowery near Houston, around the corner from where the guys attack your car with smudgy window-washing gear and you pay a buck just to get through a green light. Axel Wheeler yelled “Cut!” He was a very large man, still, with silver-white hair. “Put that thing out, willya Rodger?” he shouted, pointing the curled sheaf of script in the direction of a fifty-gallon drum. A fire smoldered inside, and four winos huddled over it, warming their hands. “That smoke is killing the shot!”

      Rodger gave a good blast with the extinguisher and doused it.

      “Hey!” shouted...