Here's Your Hat What's Your Hurry: Storiesby Elizabeth McCracken
Elizabeth McCracken's first novel, THE GIANT'S HOUSEa finalist for the 1996 National Book Awardwas widely praised for its heart, its humor, and its poetic yet unsentimental voice. Like her extraordinary novel, McCracken's stories are a delightful blend of eccentricity and romanticism. In the title story, a young man and his wife are intrigued and amused… See more details below
Elizabeth McCracken's first novel, THE GIANT'S HOUSEa finalist for the 1996 National Book Awardwas widely praised for its heart, its humor, and its poetic yet unsentimental voice. Like her extraordinary novel, McCracken's stories are a delightful blend of eccentricity and romanticism. In the title story, a young man and his wife are intrigued and amused when a peculiar unknown aunt announces a surprise visitonly the old woman can't be traced on the family tree. In "What We Know About the Lost Aztec Children," the "normal" middle-class son of a former circus performer (the Armless Woman) must suddenly confront his mother's pain. In "It's Bad Luck to Die," a young woman discovers that her husband's loving creationshe's a tattoo artistmake her feel at home in her skin for the first time. Daring, offbeat, and utterly unforgettable, Here's Your Hat What's Your Hurry is the work of a n unparalleled young storyteller who possesses a rare insight and unconventional wisdom far beyond her years. Her stories will steal your heart.Elizabeth McCrackens first novel, THE GIANTS HOUSEa finalist for the 1996 National Book Awardwas widely praised for its heart, its humor, and its poetic yet unsentimental voice. Like her extraordinary novel, McCrackens stories are a delightful blend of eccentricity and romanticism. In the title story, a young man and his wife are intrigued and amused when a peculiar unknown aunt announces a surprise visitonly the old woman cant be traced on the family tree. In What We Know About the Lost Aztec Children, the normal middle-class son of a former circus performer (the Armless Woman) must suddenly confront his mothers pain. In Its Bad Luck to Die, a young woman discovers that her husbands loving creationshes a tattoo artistmake her feel at home in her skin for the first time. Daring, offbeat, and utterly unforgettable, Here;s Your Hat Whats Your Hurry is the work of a n unparalleled young storyteller who possesses a rare insight and unconventional wisdom far beyond her years. Her stories will steal your heart.
Read an Excerpt
Maybe you wonder how a Jewish girl from Des Moines got Jesus Christ tattooed on her three times: ascending on one thigh, crucified on the other, and conducting a miniature apocalypse beneath the right shoulder. It wasn't religion that put them there; it was Tiny, my husband. I have a Buddha round back, too. He was going to give me Moses parting the Red Sea, but I was running out of space. Besides, I told him, I was beginning to feel like a Great Figures in Religion comic book.
He got dreamy-eyed when he heard that. "Brigham Young," he said. "And some wives."
I told him: "Tiny, I've got no room for a polygamist."
Tiny himself had been married three times before he met me, one wife right after the other. I only had him, the one, and he's been dead six months now.
I met Tiny the summer I graduated high school, 1965, when I was eighteen and he was forty-nine. My cousin Babs, who was a little wild, had a crazy boyfriend (the whole family was worried about it) and he and some of his buddies dared her to get tattooed. She called me up and told me she needed me there and that I was not to judge, squawk, or faint at the sight of blood. She knew none of that was my style, anyhow.
We drove to Tiny's shop over on East 14th because that's where Steve, the crazy boy, had got the panther that had a toehold on his shoulder. The shop was clean and smelled of antiseptic; Babs and I were disappointed. Sheets of heavy paper in black dime-store frames hung on the walls-flash sheetsarranged by theme: one had Mickey Mouse and Woody Woodpecker; another, a nurse in a Red Cross cap and a geisha offering a drink on a tray.A big flash by the door had more ambitious designs: King Kong and Cleopatra on the opposite sides of one page, looking absentmindedly into each other's eyes.
Tiny was set up on a stool in back, smoking a cigarette, an itty-bit of a man next to a Japanese screen. He was wearing a blue dress shirt with the cuffs turned back, and his hands and arms were covered with blue-black lines: stars across the knuckles, snakes winding up under the sleeves. The wide flowered tie that spread out over his chest and stomach might've been right on a big man, but on Tiny it looked like an out-of-control garden. His pants were white and wrinkled, and there was a bit of blue ink at the knee; a suit jacket, just as wrinkled, hung on the coat rack in back.
He eyed our group, scowled at Steve and his two friends, and solemnly winked at me and Babs.
"So," he said. "Who's the one?"
"Me," Babs said, trying to sound tough. She told him what she wanted: a little red-and-black bow on her tush. He asked her if she were old enough; she got out her wallet and showed him her driver's license.
Steve and his friends were buzzing around the shop, looking at the flash and tapping the ones they really liked.
"Keep your hands off the designs, boys," said Tiny. "I can't tattoo a fingerprint." He turned to Babs. "Okay. Come back of the screen." There was something a little southern in his voice, but I couldn't pick out what it was. He jumped off the stool, and I saw that he was about a full foot shorter than me. I'm six feet tall, have been since eighth grade. I looked right down on top of his slick black hair.
We all started to follow him. Tiny looked at us and shook his head.
"You boys have to stay out here."
"I'm her boyfriend," said Steve. "I've seen it before, and I'm paying."
"If you've seen it before, you'll see it again, so you don't need to now. Not in my shop, anyhow. You-" he pointed at me "-- come around to testify I'm a gentleman."
He beckoned us back of the screen to a padded table, the kind you see in doctors' offices, only much lower. Tiny turned around politely while Babs lowered her blue jeans and clam bered up. He spun back, frowned, pulled down just the top of her yellow flowered underwear like he was taking fat off a chicken, and tapped her. "Right here's where you want it?"
"Honey, is it fine, or is it what you want?"
Babs twisted to look, careful not to catch his eye. "That's what I want."
He squirted her with antiseptic, got a razor and shaved the area good. I sat on a folding chair across from them.
Tiny loosened his tie, slipped it off, and hung it, still knotted, on a peg on the wall. "Hey Stretch," he said, looking at me. "What's your name?"
"Lois. Like Louise?"' He rolled his shirtsleeves up further. Babs was holding on to the table like a drowning sailor, and Tiny hadn't even got the needle out yet.
"Lois," I answered, and fast, because I had to talk to him over Babs's hindquarters and that made me a little self-conscious, "after my Uncle Louis. I was going to be named Natalie, after my Uncle Nathan, but then Louis died and Mom liked him better anyhow."
"My name is Tiny. No story there but the obvious." He picked up an electric needle from a workbench and hunted for the right pot of color.
"I'm Babs," said Babs, reaching around for a handshake. Tiny was looking elsewhere, and he dipped the needle in some black ink and flipped it on. "For Barbara?" he asked, setting into her skin.
"A-a-a-a-bigail. Ouch." She gripped the table.
"Honey," said Tiny, "this doesn't hurt. I got you where you're good and fleshy. Might sting a little, but it doesn't hurt...
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