Read This and Tell Me What It Says: Storiesby A. Manette Ansay, Manette Ansay
In her first full-length story collection, author A. Manette Ansay explores the rural Midwest landscape and the people who inhabit it: ordinary folk with extraordinary inner lives, struggling to make sense of the isolated, sometimes painful, and often intensely religious worlds in which they live. Her are 15 haunting and exquisitely written tales that offer a… See more details below
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In her first full-length story collection, author A. Manette Ansay explores the rural Midwest landscape and the people who inhabit it: ordinary folk with extraordinary inner lives, struggling to make sense of the isolated, sometimes painful, and often intensely religious worlds in which they live. Her are 15 haunting and exquisitely written tales that offer a rare and unforgettable glimpse into the complexities of being human and being alive.
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At night, my brother heard wolves in the corn. There were no wolves left in southeastern Wisconsin, but Alex had seen their yellow-slit eyes, their long teeth brighter than moonlight. He listened to them mutter in the language of wolves on those nights when he crouched by my window, shivering in his BvD's, staring out at the cornfield that began ten feet from the house. Occasionally, we'd see the glowing eyes of a deer or raccoon -striped or one of the tiger cats that lived, half wild, in the barn. Once we saw a fox, brief as a breath of smoke. But the wolves stayed slyly hidden, slipping between the stalks only when the vnnd blew, rustling the leaves with their tails."Wolves," Alex told me, "are smarter than most people. They are smarter than astronauts and doctors. They live in cities built deep under die ground."We were sitting in the apple tree we'd claimed for our own by carving our initials near the top. It was June, and most of the tree was still in blossom; if I squinted, the petals blurred and made the leaves look like they were covered in snow. But Alex diddt seem to notice the blossoms, or the bees hanging above our heads, or die sound the bees made which rose and fell like the sound of someone breathing."The mind of a wolf is like a maze," he said. "No human being can figure out exactly how it works.""What about scientists?" I said."When the moon is full," Alex said, ignoring me, "wolves speak in a language no one else can understand.'His pale hair reached to his shoulder blades; the soles of his feet, dangling near my head, were stained the color of grass. I listened to him as politely as I could, but I preferred my own thoughts to my brother's, and I wanted to go back tothe house and lie on my bed, as I often did for hours, letting the breeze from the open windows ruffle over me. My bedroom had once been my mother's, and it still had the same pink walls and gray trim, the lacy white curtains, the bed frame carved with flowers that my grandfather had finished just one day before he died. Alex's room faced the highway where he claimed the wolves were afraid to go; he bribed me with candy and cap pistols and robin's eggs, but I wouldn't trade rooms because I loved to lie in bed and imagine my mother as a young girl. She'd been bright, I knew, and pretty- She liked to read, and filled sketchbooks with drawings of flowers and sunsets and trees. At night, I fell asleep imagining the sound of her voice, and in the morning, when I woke up, I could hear her talking quietly to my grandmother in their room. Sometimes Alex would still be under my window, wrapped in the bear's paw quilt he'd swiped from the foot of my bed, his pale hair glowing sunlight. After breakfast, after chores, we walked down to the orchard and climbed into our tree, looking out across the fruit trees and the surrounding fields of corn, past the house and the barn and the milkhouse forming a crescent around the courtyard, down the dirt mad which led to the highway, searching for the subtle signs a careless wolf might leave behind. We had moved in with my grandmother at the beginning of the summer, after my father announced he was hitching west to Caffor- nia with a woman named Marge. He brought her to our house just before they left: my mother served coffee while Alex and I sat on the couch, dressed in Sunday clothes, snitching candy rais table. Marge had wrinkly hair and I laugh that echoed in our ears like a slap. She called us kiddos and my mother dear. She and my father sat side by side on the padded folding chairs my mother brought out for company. "I want all of you to get along," my father said. He kept his hand on Marge's arm as if he thought she might jump up at any moment. He looked unfamiliar, and I stared at him until my mother tapped my knee with her finger, her signal that I shouldn't be rude. She wore a white dress printed with yellow and pink flowers; her hair was braided neatly and tied with a pink ribbon. She looked fresh and bright as a doll, with her pretty dress and tiny doll's feet, and watching her, I felt proud. But when she poured coffee into my father's cup, her hand shook, and coffee spilled down the front of her dress."Oh, I'm so sorry," she said to no one in particular."I always do things like that," Marge said, and she laughed her ringing laugh. She wore jeans and a man's flannel shirt, untucked. Her hair was cut short; practical hair. "If you use cold water right away it won't stain.""I'm so embarrassed," my mother said. She did not leave to wash it out with cold water. Instead, she scrubbed at the brown streak with her napkin. By the time my father and Marge stood up to go, it had faded almost gold. My father kissed me, suddenly, on the forehead. The kiss sounded like stepping in something wet. I wiped it away and my father laughed."These kids are too old for kissing" he said. Then he shook Alex's hand. From the way Alex bit his lip I could tell my father had squeezed too hard."We'll be sure and write you kiddos soon," Marge said.And, after we'd moved to my grandmother's, we did get one in a strange, spiky hand: Dear Alex and Susan, Today we saw mountains bigger than anything you can imagine. Love, your dad and Marge.
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Meet the Author
A. Manette Ansay is the author of eight books, including Vinegar Hill, Midnight Champagne (a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award), and Blue Water. She has received the Pushcart Prize, two Great Lakes Book Awards, and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. She teaches in the MFA writing program at the University of Miami.
- Port Washington, Wisconsin; now lives in New York City
- Date of Birth:
- Place of Birth:
- Lapeer, Michigan
- MFA, Cornell University, 1991
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