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Absent Without Leave and Other Stories

"Ms. Treadway's stories reveal a writer with an unsparing bent for the truth."
-- The New York Times Book Review

Winner of the John C. Zacharis First Book Award

From "Absent Without Leave" (originally published in AGNI):

When I got to town, I tried to guess which of the three usual places I might find my father. He could have been at his apartment, flopped on the thready sofa in front of the TV, his feet with their thick yellow toenails sticking out bare beneath the comforter, a pile of Saltine-and-peanut-butter sandwiches on the milk crate table beside him; or in a back row seat of the Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in the basement of the Reformed Church; or balanced on his lucky bar stool at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post next to the library. I figured he wouldn't be home, because he often said there was nothing more pathetic than some old boob laughing to himself in an empty living room at reruns of Gomer Pyle.

From "Outside" (originally published in The Atlantic)

Joe Wheeler was amazed at the world. With every step he could smell the dry dirt his shoe displaced and sent spreading into the air. He tried by stopping suddenly, a few times, to locate the exact point at which the particles became invisible as they rose from his feet; but they dissolved slyly against his blond shins, as if beating him at a race.

As he moved forward on the path, he was aware of the bugs flying around his face, but it seemed that by the time he got his hand up to shoo them, they had either bitten him or flown ahead. The green around him, and the brown under his heels, were sharp one moment and indistinct, flickery, the next. Dying, or at least his dying, was like that: like driving a car over a hill road, losing the radio signal in the high rock. The way a song came clear at the crest, then passed in and out of static as the car moved up and down through the gray: it was like that. Except that a radio could be fiddled with, turned up in volume, or switched off. Joe had no controls. And when his senses were working, they often came in too strong -- he heard things people meant to be secret, or saw details no one else could discern.

From "Something Falls" (originally published in Ploughshares):

They always meet us at the door and search what we're carrying, before we can go in. It's the same for everybody, just routine, but it always makes me feel guilty. As if they think we'd be trying to smuggle in something dangerous. As if we'd be looking for some way around the rules.

The thing is, we don't even realize sometimes, my wife and I. What counts as dangerous, I mean. We learned the obvious things early on -- they made us take Dee Dee's ceramic Far Side mug back home with us, that first day, and the instant coffee we brought her had to be poured into a margarine container, from the glass jar. Those things made sense, once they were explained to us. Glass and ceramic, you could smash them and come up with a ragged edge. Dee Dee asked us for a jump rope, because they wouldn't let her go outside to run or even walk, for exercise; we went to the sports store and bought one of those high-tech ropes, with wooden handles and a strap at the center to balance the weight. When we presented it for inspection, it got checked with the other sharps.

A jump rope? I said, and the nurse didn't have to tell me why, because Helen caught on right away, and she said Honey to me and then I got it: you could hang yourself with this toy.