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Publication Date: November 1, 2007
Publisher: Press 53
ISBN: 978-0-9793049-4-1
List Price: $16.00
 
Ten stories. One question. What do you do when the life you knew becomes the Before?
 

A college student working at a beer drive-through falls in love with the owner’s wife and contemplates murder to claim her until he faces his own brush with death. A man who has kept his sexuality a secret from his family must come home to help his brother cope with the loss of his wife. A woman reunites with a man she loved in her youth, and reluctantly saves the life of the teenaged girl next door. A camera store clerk with hidden photographs meets his new neighbor, who has her own secrets. And a soap opera writer struggles to extricate her love life from the familiar formulas.
 
The men and women we meet in Stories from the Afterlife have only recently stumbled, due to choice or circumstance, into the unfamiliar territory of their new lives. We encounter them in Florida resort towns, 1950’s rural North Carolina, 1980’s rustbelt Ohio and in the suburban sheen of the New South, where they wrestle with secret aspirations, drunken confessions, dreamed predictions, and love—lost or regained. We’re with them all the way.
 
Published previously in the country’s finest literary magazines, including Crazyhorse, One Story, and Verb, these stories build a powerful collection that you won’t want to miss.
 
 
Excerpt from "Five-Minute Man" first published in The Indiana Review
 
      Charlie used a Pentax K1000 from his photography major days, nothing fancy. He took shots around town and on the beach, usually as candid as possible, using a telephoto. He’d heard about photographers getting discovered, one guy for his shots of the passengers on public busses, and some New York cabbie for cityscapes shot out his window while hauling fares. He imagined the photographers themselves in the grainy black-and-white film they favored, and their faces were serious, hollow-cheeked, sad-eyed, as if their subjects had shot into them through their lenses and not the other way around. Charlie couldn’t match up to this. He had the sad part down, that was pretty certain, but he was too round-faced and fair to pull off the city darkness that got those other guys into white-walled galleries with people milling around in black, possibly to create negative space, drinking cheap wine and bidding on the latest hard, incisive glimpse of humanity.
His photos were all in color. He looked for shots that swirled in it, the brighter the better. He shot old women in turquoise flip-flops and red muumuus feeling up mangoes at Henson’s market, which had been at the base of the bridge leading off the Key for as long as he could remember. He shot kids in their bathing suits and too-big hats building sand castles with bright plastic tools you could get at Henson’s, too—a yellow shovel, blue bucket, red rake, a couple of green forms to mold patterns in the wet sand, all caught up in a white mesh basket and selling for $4.99. He liked the Hispanic kids best, whose families came mostly in the summer during the off season, because their skin glowed coppery against their bright towels and suits. He shot just-gutted salmon at the fish house down the road, the flesh pink and shiny against the dark scales and blood-stained ice it came packed in off the boats. When he developed the pictures, he wanted to spread the color over himself the way he’d smeared the glowing innards of lightening bugs on his arms one summer at boy scout camp in Georgia because the other kids were doing it; except when he thought of that he now felt a guilty ache, a tenderness in the gut. He wanted to be lifted by that color, filled with it like a cartoon in a fresh coloring book, transformed.
      And yes, he liked to shoot women, too, but he was picky. Sometimes the mothers of children he found on the beach. Sometimes groups of girls. Behind the camera he could appraise them, could decide if they were worth the shot, whereas if he’d somehow figured out a way to strike up a conversation with them, he would feel desperate, not sure how to keep their attention, dimly aware of not wanting to appear desperate but unable to stop the eventual glances women shared with each other when signaling a retreat. He’d seen similar stuff on the Nature Channel, when zebras or giraffes eye-balled each other upon sniffing a hyena, whose advance the quiet voice of the announcer calmly described. Except women generally didn’t see him as a hyena to be feared, he was pretty sure; it was more along the lines of pity, dismissal. The female gazelles cut a wide swath around the dying rhinoceros. But the women he photographed didn’t have the opportunity to react to him in this way; most never even saw him. And they were all different. Most guys he knew were attracted to one feature in women, typically the size or shape of breasts or asses. Charlie liked both, to be sure, but it was something in the whole line of the woman that had to catch his eye. He tried to find a pattern, looking through the women in his shots, but they were short and tall; fair and dark, long-haired and short-haired, petite and heavy. Perhaps it was in the way they held themselves, call it grace, or certainty.
      Showing these shots to anyone he knew was out of the question. Stu and Rick would probably make fun of him, particularly for the shots of the women. He’d thought about showing them to his sister, but she didn’t come home often, usually not unless she was in desperate need of money. He really thought a woman would be the better judge of them. There were a few female professional photographers who had their film developed at Camera Town—Stu made fun of them as soon as he saw them pull up in their minivans. “Wedding and portrait photography—the girl’s sport,” he’d say. But when they came in he talked with the seriousness of a psychologist with them about how they wanted their shots developed. The women knew their stuff, but it didn’t matter. They would never have respect in Camera Town, with their sisters stacked next to Stu’s light table, spreading their legs and smiling for free—and that’s the thing about a photograph, Charlie wanted to tell those women, your smile is just as good for us as it is for your lover. The camera makes no distinction. 

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