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Ball explores the darker edges of love and sex and death, how they are intimately and often violently connected, with bright, vivid stories set mostly in contemporary Los Angeles. In “Cactus,” a young girl comes to fear the outside world following the freakish, accidental death of her adventure-seeking, naturalist boyfriend in the California desert; in “Wig,” a woman must help her best friend face life-threatening cancer while covering up an unseemly affair with her friend’s husband; in “Fish,” the narrator sits watch over a dying uncle, trying to pay for past sins while administering to his final needs, but distracted by the ravenous fish in the Koi pond near the hospital; and in the collection’s stunning title story, the bonds of friendship and pet ownership collide in the most startling and unexpected ways.
With a keen insight into the edges of human behavior and an assured literary hand, Ball is the new book by one of the West’s most provocative stylists.
way. I’d assumed he’d call, want us to get together. Maybe he’d call later. Call me, call me, call me, I chanted to the phone. I dialed his number. His roommate’s voice answered, and I hung up. Tess perked her ears and hopefully dropped the plastic flap in front of me, expecting it to roll like a ball. When it wouldn’t, she just made do, picked it up again, dropped it closer so I could reach, and shoved it my way. But my spine was petrified from the long drive home, and I decided to go in the
like strawberries. He tugs her past a tall rack of wedding tiers awaiting their roses, toward the far corner, behind stacked tubs of hydrogenated oil, and turns her to face him. Kiss me, please, she wants to say, but tells herself to just wait, that’s what he’s brought her in here for, isn’t it, to kiss her first? She licks her lips. He unbuckles his belt, unbuttons his jeans with one hand and places the other one on her shoulder. He wants her to kneel, she realizes, so she does, her jeans too
sets for the price of one. She’d been trying to save money, she wanted to have another baby, have four of them together in this magazine house, symmetrical and sheltered. But now she knows he still smells it in this house, in their bed. The acidic, musky leak of what she’s done. The stain it’s left. He can’t be expected to forgive because of a silly pear tart and lobster risotto. He can’t be expected to ever breathe that taint in again, of course not. What was she thinking, pinning hope on that
claim the bridge for herself. She wants to feed the fish, too. It is her right, after paying her Botanical Garden admission fee. Feeding the fish, quietly, will bring the peace, will be the Zen thing to do. She waits for the crowd to move off in their two- and three- and foursomes, which takes a very long time. She resolves to wait it out. She paces a side path by herself, she taps her foot. She reads about the beauty and tranquillity of koi in the pamphlet. She coughs loudly. She buys, to be at
the ceramic child was racist kitsch or just kitsch, but he only rolled his eyes at me. In the end we put it next to the cactus, facing the street. I called him our little ceramic son. And, as a little ceramic child, it had no moisture or heat or energy, so I knew it would always be safe from the cactus spines and could sleep in peace. My leg healed, of course. The wound became a spray of small roseate scars. And the cactus did take root in our found-rock plot, did just fine. For two more months