The Safety of Objects

The Safety of Objects

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by A. M. Homes
     
 

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Published to overwhelming critical acclaim, this remarkable collection of short stories established A.M. Homes as one of the most provacative and daring writers of her generation. Here you'll find the cult classic. "A Real Doll," the tale of a teenage boy's erotic obsession with his sister's Barbie doll; "Adults Alone," which first introduced Paul and Elaine, the… See more details below

Overview

Published to overwhelming critical acclaim, this remarkable collection of short stories established A.M. Homes as one of the most provacative and daring writers of her generation. Here you'll find the cult classic. "A Real Doll," the tale of a teenage boy's erotic obsession with his sister's Barbie doll; "Adults Alone," which first introduced Paul and Elaine, the crack-smoking yuppie couple whose marriage careens out of control in Home's novel Music for Torching; and "Looking for Johnny," in which a kidnapped boy, having failed his abductors expectations, is returned home.

Brilliantly concieved, sharply etched, and exceptionally satisfying, these stories explore the American dream in ways you're not likely soon to forget. Working in Kodacolor hues, Homes offers an uncanny picture of a surreal suburbia — outrageous and utterly believable.

Author Biography: A.M. Homes is the author of the novels The End of Alice, In a Country of Mothers, and Jack, as well as the short-story collection The Safety of Objects and the artist's book Appendix A. Her fiction has been translated into eight languages, and she is the recipient of numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and a National endowment for the Arts Fellowship. Her fiction and nonfiction appear in magazines such as The New Yorker and Artforum, among others, and she is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, Mirabella, Bomb, Blind Spot, and Story. She teaches in the writing programs at Columbia University and The New School and lives in New York City.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In these 10 stories of unstable suburbanites, a couple experiments with crack cocaine while their sons are away, a man loses self-definition upon finding his office unexpectedly closed, and a teenager becomes erotically attached to a demanding Barbie doll. ``Though occasionally given to straining for shocking effect, Homes has here demonstrated a quirky and original flair,'' said PW. (Nov.)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780679736295
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
11/05/1991
Series:
Vintage Contemporaries Series
Pages:
176
Product dimensions:
5.19(w) x 7.96(h) x 0.49(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Adults Alone

Elaine takes the boys to Florida and drops them off like they're dry cleaning.

"See you in ten days," she says as they wave good-bye in the American terminal. "Be nice!"

She kisses her mother-in-law's cheek and, feeling the rough skin against her own, thinks of this woman literally as her husband's genetic map, down to the beard.

"Go," her mother-in-law says, pushing her towards the gate.

It is the first time she's left her children like that. She gets back onto the plane thinking there's something wrong with her, that she should have a better reason or a better vacation plan, Europe not Westchester.

Paul is waiting at the airport. He's been there all day. After dropping them off this morning, he took over the west end of the lounge and spent the day there working. She knows because he paged her at Miami International to remind her to bring oranges home.

He seems younger than she remembers. His eyes are glowing and he looks a little bit like Charlie Manson did before he let himself go. Elaine is sure he's been smoking dope again. She imagines Paul locking himself in an airport bathroom stall with his smokeless pipe and some guy who got bumped off a flight to L.A.

She wonders why he doesn't find it strange, pressing himself into a tiny metal cabinet with a total stranger. He once told her that whenever he got stoned in a bathroom with another guy it gave him a hard-on and he was never sure if it was the dope or the other man.

She can't believe that in all these years he's never been busted. She used to wish it would happen; she thought it wouldstraighten him out.

"Let's go home," Elaine says.

"We don't have to go home, we can go anywhere. We can...." He winks at her.

"I'm tired," Elaine says.

They drive home silently. The car is so new that it doesn't make any noises. Paul pulls carefully into the driveway. Branches from trees surrounding the house scrape across the car. Elaine thinks of campfire horror stories about men with hooks for arms and women buried alive with long fingernails poking through the dirt.

"Got to cut those branches back," Paul says and then they are silent.

Paul follows her up the steps, talking about the steps. "If we're going to paint them, we should go ahead and do it before it snows."

"Maybe tomorrow," she says, but honestly she doesn't want to do anything else to the house. She's given up on it. It's too much work.

She feels like she's been having an extramarital relationship with their home. It isn't even an affair, an affair sounds too nice, too good. As far as she's concerned a house should be like a self-cleaning oven; it should take care of itself.

The last time she was happy with the house was the day before they moved in, when the floors had just been done, when it was big and empty, and they hadn't paid for it yet.

Elaine pushes open the front door.

"I wish you'd remember to lock the door," she says. "In the city you never forgot to lock the door."

It is dark inside. Elaine stands in the front hall, trying to remember where the light switch is. In the six months they've lived there, she and Paul have never been alone in the house. It's nice, she thinks, still feeling the wall for the switch. She turns on all the lights and begins picking up things, Daniel's clothing, Sammy's toys. She straightens the pillows on the sofa and goes upstairs to take a bath. The phone rings and Paul answers it. She falls asleep hearing the sound of voices softly talking, thinking Paul is a good father; he is down the hall, reading a story to Sammy.

As usual they both wake between six-thirty and seven, listening for the children. They are alone together, trapped in their bed. They don't have to get up. They don't have to go anywhere. They are on vacation.

Eventually, between seven-thirty and quarter-to-eight, when there is no more getting around it, she looks at him. He is balding. She thinks she can actually see his hairline receding, follicle by follicle. He has told her that he can feel it. He says his whole head feels different; it tingles, it gets chilled easily, it just isn't the way it used to be. She thinks about herself. Her face is caving in. She has circles and bags and all kinds of things around her eyes. Last week she spent forty dollars on lotion to cover it all up.

When she comes downstairs, he has already eaten breakfast and lunch.

"Maybe we should go to a movie later?" he says.

Paul doesn't really mean they should go to a movie; he means they should make a time to be together, in some way or another. Usually they have to get a sitter for this.

"Pick you up around four," he says.

"Does that mean you're taking the car? I have things to do."

"We can go together," he says.

In his fantasy about suburban life the whole family is always in the car together, going places, singing songs, eating McDonald's. He loves it when they pull up in front of a store and he goes in while she waits in the car for as long as it takes.

"Forget it," she says.

Late in the afternoon, Paul comes into the bedroom where Elaine is resting.

"I brought you something," he says, handing her a porno tape he rented in town.

"For me?" she says.

She can't imagine that he brought this for her.

The Safety of Objects. Copyright � by A Homes. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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