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20: Twenty Best Of Drue Heinz Literature Prize

edited by John Edgar Wideman
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    Book Description:

    The Drue Heinz Literature Prize was established in 1980 to encourage and support the writing and reading of short fiction. Over the past twenty years judges such as Robert Penn Warren, Raymond Carver, Joyce Carol Oates, Margaret Atwood, Russell Banks, Alice McDermott, and Frank Conroy have selected the best collections from the hundreds submitted annually by up-and-coming writers.20represents the best of the best-one story from each of the prize-winning volumes. Chosen by acclaimed author John Edgar Wideman, the selections cover a broad range of inventive and original characters, settings, and emotions, charting the evolution of the short story over the past two decades. One of the most prestigious awards of its kind, the Drue Heinz Literature Prize has helped launch the careers of a score of previously "undiscovered" writers, many of whom have gone on to great critical success.Past Winners of the Drue Heinz Literature Prize: David Bosworth, Robley Wilson, Jonathan Penner, Randall Silvis, W. D. Wetherell, Rick DeMarinis, Ellen Hunnicutt, Reginald McKnight, Maya Sonenberg, Rick Hillis, Elizabeth Graver, Jane McCafferty, Stewart O'Nan, Jennifer Cornell, Geoffrey Becker, Edith Pearlman, Katherine Vaz, Barbara Croft, Lucy Honig, Adria Bernardi.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7241-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xvi)
    John Edgar Wideman

    In 1992 I enjoyed the honor of awarding the annual Drue Heinz literature Prize to a book of short fiction by Jane McCafferty. Now, in my capacity as editor of this anthology of stories commemorating the twentieth anniversary of the Prize, I must choose only one of Ms. McCafferty’s fictions to include in this volume composed of a story from each winner. I’m pleased to report my task isn’t easy. Even with Ms. McCafferty’s assistance—she and most of the writers suggested two of their stories for the editor’s close consideration—I find myself stymied, second-guessing myself as I attempt...

    (pp. 1-60)
    David Bosworth

    A house on the northern coast of Maine. One story high, its rectangular sections extend in three directions, fitting through the abrupt rise and fall of the promontory rock: prosthetic limbs, mechanical fingers, angle-jointed, clinging there against the wind like the roots of a scrub pine. Easy to frame, and in fact frames itself with an encircling metallic railing, a futuristic boardwalk which flirts with the cliff’s uneven edge and overlooks the cove. Two materials dominate—steel and glass. One color—orange. Five hundred feet below, the North Atlantic, a white-capped winter ocean, its dull green brine squeezing like a...

  3. 1982 THIEF
    (pp. 61-64)
    Robley Wilson

    He is waiting at the airline ticket counter when he first notices the young woman. She has glossy black hair pulled tightly into a knot at the back of her head—the man imagines it loosed and cascading to the small of her back—and carries over the shoulder of her leather coat a heavy black purse. She wears black boots of soft leather. He struggles to see her face—she is ahead of him in line—but it is not until she has bought her ticket and turns to walk away that he realizes her beauty, which is pale...

    (pp. 65-74)
    Jonathan Penner

    They lay curled in their chaise lounges; the ocean foamed at the island dunes like milk. Perry and his wife were sharing a cottage with another couple. On the darkest nights, when the island seemed to slip its moorings, he sometimes liked to tell about his father and Jasmine.

    He had been twelve, he could remember this distinctly. His father had come home on a Friday, impatiently fingered through the mail, lit a burner under the waiting potatoes that Mrs. Lawrence always peeled and sliced, mixed mayonnaise into the carrots that Mrs. Lawrence invariably shredded, and asked—he’d been a...

    (pp. 75-125)
    Randall Silvis

    When Emiliano Fortunato returned to Torrentino after being wounded in the war, he found his small village still in mourning. Of the twenty-eight men who had marched off happily a month earlier, vowing to destroy the oppressive federal regime, only Emiliano, a thin, hazel-eyed youth of seventeen, survived his outfit’s first encounter with the enemy. Ironically, the men of Torrentino had suffered no previous oppression at the hands of the government. So remote and insignificant was their mountain village that most of the inhabitants could not even name the politicians then in power. But the revolutionary soldier who happened into...

    (pp. 126-142)
    W. D. Wetherell

    You realize what I had to do to get this place? It was thirty-odd years ago come July. I’m just out of the Army. Two kids, twins on their way, a wife who’s younger than I am, just as naive, just as crazy hopeful. We’re living in the old neighborhood with my folks four to a room. All along I’ve got this idea. Airplanes. P-40s, these great big 20s. We’re slogging through Saipan, they’re flying over it. DiMaria, I tell myself, this war is going to end, when it does that’s where you want to be, up there in the...

  7. 1986 WEEDS
    (pp. 143-155)
    Rick DeMarinis

    A black helicopter flapped out of the morning sun and dumped its sweet orange mist on our land instead of the Parley farm where it was intended. It was weedkiller, something strong enough to wipe out leafy spurge, knapweed and Canadian thistle, but it made us sick.

    My father had a fatal stroke a week after that first spraying. I couldn’t hold down solid food for nearly a month and went from 200 pounds to 170 in that time. Mama went to bed and slept for two days, and when she woke up she was not the same. She’d lost...

    (pp. 156-168)
    Ellen Hunnicutt

    “I don’t know who tunes the fiddles,” says Sister Theophane.

    “Fourteen?” I am only half listening.

    “‘They play the Bach Double Concerto but I don’t think they can tune their own violins.’” She reads this information from a letter, refolds the page, looks into her coffee cup and finds it empty. One more betrayal.

    “Perhaps they never go out of tune,” I offer. “The Japanese can do anything these days.” I am thinking about gardenias, my very first corsage, how my fingers ached to touch the soft ivory petals.Any place you touch will turn brown. This is my mother’s...

    (pp. 169-177)
    Reginald McKnight

    Idi, my very best friend here in Senegal, was suffering from a very strange eye malady. He didn’t know precisely what had caused his usually quick, pebble eyes to swell, yellow, tear, and itch so. He’d gone to both doctors andmarabousand they didn’t know either. “All that I can say,” said Idi, “is that my eye sickness remind me very much of my Uncle Moustapha’s eye sickness.” And at that he proceeded to tell me the story of his Uncle Moustapha M’Baye’s eye “sickness”:

    “This was a long, long time ago, Marcus. Before I even was born. My...

    (pp. 178-193)
    Maya Sonenberg

    From the sea, there rise innumerable hilly islands, each densely forested with pines and ringed with palms and juniper bushes. They break through the ocean like scabs, their shores like scrollwork. On some, only a few trees spring slantwise from the rocks; others support villages, a cluster of churches, an airstrip with orange windsock flopping at the end. Around each island, the yellow sand and pink rocks slide down the steep sides of the hills and out under the taut blue-green surface of the water. When the wind shifts to the north and clears the haze from the horizon, waves...

  11. 1990 LIMBO RIVER
    (pp. 194-209)
    Rick Hillis

    The bus trip took so long we felt like bugs trapped in a jar. It didn’t seem like we were getting anywhere. The windows always framed the same rigid mountain wall, and the same highway unscrolled blackly before us like a river. I slept a lot. My mother awoke me as we passed Frank Slide, the horizon ruined by chunks of rock the size of houses.

    “In the middle of the night,” she whispered to me, “a mountain collapsed and buried the town that was here. There was only one survivor, a baby girl. Nobody knew anything about her, so...

  12. 1991 HAVE YOU SEEN ME?
    (pp. 210-225)
    Elizabeth Graver

    Willa stood in the patch of light from the open freezer door and watched as the mist climbed in tendrils, swirled and rose. The milk carton in her hands was heavy, its surface smeared with yellowish cream—her mother had made more potato soup. Already the two tall freezers in the basement housed cartons and cartons of soup, enough to last them almost forever—carrot and broccoli soup, soup made of summer and acorn squash, rows of green and yellow frozen rectangles inside the cartons that had once held milk. And on the outsides of the cartons, rows of children—...

    (pp. 226-233)
    Jane McCafferty

    You can pretend when your father comes home from the war he’s all right, same as he’ll pretend same as your mother will pretend. First, the big supper!

    She got in her apron, wore it like the miniskirt, tied the sash tight, put on nylons, high heels, nothing else, just the apron with the fruit that’s the wrong color meaning oranges are grape and vice versa, someone’s humor we don’t need it.

    He’s with his keys, we don’t know what they go to, there are fifty-two of them altogether, only I know because only I counted, it was night, they...

  14. 1993 WINTER HAVEN
    (pp. 234-240)
    Stewart O’Nan

    My father calls about the grass. It’s December, I’m trying to sell our place, and we’ve got a squatter jumping house to house down the beach, building fires on the marble floors.

    “You said once a week,” my father says, “it’s more like once a month.” It’s long distance—peak hours—and I pay no matter who calls. That’s all going to change once Eileen gets the papers together. The market’s depressed, and I’m eating Corn Flakes a lot.

    “Look,” I tell him, “I’ll give him a call, all right?”

    “I don’t want to be a pain in the ass...

  15. 1994 RISE
    (pp. 241-250)
    Jennifer Cornell

    This is a list of the things that went missing: half a metre of green nylon netting, a small quantity of stainless-steel gauze, a bolt of cheesecloth, two pairs of forceps, eight sheets of plywood and a box of syringes, half a dozen light bulbs, a spool of wire, a fret saw, a hammer, and a packet of needles.

    It’s that boy, my Uncle Vincent said. What did I tell you about that boy?

    Now hold on a minute, my father said.

    Hold on, nothing, my uncle answered. That’s who’s done it. And it’s your own fault for taking in...

  16. 1995 DANGEROUS MEN
    (pp. 251-263)
    Geoffrey Becker

    Calvin, a drummer from Long Island who lived down the hall from us, wore jeans and tight, white T-shirts, smoked Lucky Strikes, and had eyes that nervously avoided contact. He was nineteen and skinny, but in a muscular way that reminded me of a greyhound. It was the summer of 1974. and my friend Ed and I shared a dorm room in what had once been a cheap hotel, but was now part of the Berklee College of Music. One Saturday night, Calvin came to our room and laid out ten little purple pills.

    “Eat ’em up, gentlemen,” he said....

  17. 1996 VAQUITA
    (pp. 264-274)
    Edith Pearlman

    “Some day,” said the minister of health to her deputy assistant, “you must fly me to one of those resort towns on the edge of the lake. Set me up in a striped tent. Send in kids who need booster shots. The mayor and I will split a bottle of cold Spanish wine; then we will blow up the last storehouse of canned milk …”

    The minister paused. Caroline, the deputy, was looking tired. “Lina, what godforsaken place am I visiting tomorrow?” the minister asked.

    “Campo del Norte,” came the answer. “Water adequate, sewage okay, no cholera, frequent dysentery …”...

  18. 1997 FADO
    (pp. 275-288)
    Katherine Vaz

    One morning I could not find Lúcia, my stuffed toy pig. I ran crying next door to Dona Xica Adelinha Costa. Xica buried her Saint Anthony and told him he would stay there until he helped us. Then she kissed me and sent me home. That night I saw Lúcia’s cloven hoof jabbing out of my bed, and with a shriek I clutched her in a dance. Xica left Saint Anthony in his grave another day to teach him to be faster in finding what was lost.

    When the Californian valley heat pressed down on us, Xica would lift my...

    (pp. 289-300)
    Barbara Croft

    In dreams, the headlights make two narrow tunnels through the darkness. The woman appears on the right. The dun-colored grocery bag she carries shields her face, so that all that Chapin sees is a fringe of curly white hair and a white-gloved hand. He lifts his foot to apply the brakes, but something prevents him. He struggles and presses backward and feels the prickle of nylon upholstery on his neck. She starts to cross, and there is that moment that Chapin can’t get past.

    Then the bag flies upward in slow motion, cartwheels, and spills over the hood, dumping a...

  20. 1999 AFTER
    (pp. 301-315)
    Lucy Honig

    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...

    (pp. 316-340)
    Adria Bernardi

    At dusk, he crosses the threshing floor. The soles of his wooden shoes hit against the stones. The stones fit closely, embedded into the ground, squared blocks pressed tightly, one against the other such that no weed can grow between them. The threshing floor is Apennine sandstone, slate-grey, and not easily splintered.

    When he exhales, his breath is visible in the faltering light. Below, to his left, in the valley, a bell pounds five times, a hollow knocking toll. He pauses and looks. In Ardonlà, minute lights begin to flicker; the river has already disappeared in the dark. The mountain...