By Phillip Sterling

Short encounters with the soreness and triumphs of characters dwelling in northern Michigan via Phillip Sterling.

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In Which Brief Stories Are Told

Short encounters with the ache and triumphs of characters dwelling in northern Michigan by means of Phillip Sterling.

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He smelled like puke and urine, but he was smiling. Then off he marches, and I stopped playing to watch. He looked like he needed a good meal and a shave—his face had a kind of scruffy gauntness to it—but he was marching and playing his trombone with an enthusiasm I’d never seen before. He was really enjoying himself. I’d played for five years by then. But I knew at that moment that I was done with it. It would never be anything more than a high school memory. I just didn’t have the talent.

After school, Jamie would bring her assignments home. Jamie. Generous Jamie. Jamie, the jolly giant. Yes, all right. Jamie the jolly giant jumps. Jamie the jolly giant jumps . . giraffes. She giggled. Jamie the jolly giant jumps giraffes and juggles jam. She’d have to remember that one. Jamie was so lucky. She had Mrs. McLain this year. Marvelous Mrs. McLain. Lynnette missed Mrs. McLain, her favorite teacher, missed her fifth-grade classmates. The year before, when she had gotten so sick that she’d had to stay at U of M, every week the kids in Mrs.

She hadn’t felt well. For the first time in weeks, her nose bled that afternoon. She must have wiped it with her hand and then brushed the wall while she slept. The wall was dull with blood when she awoke. And her joints seemed stiffer, more painful than usual. But that was then. Lynnette loves her mother. No. That would never do. Lynnette loves Lynn, her only mother. The mother who left her. So a nap after lunch. Then Jamie would be home. But today she didn’t much feel like doing lessons. Maybe they’d watch that kids’ show on cable instead, the one where the point was to get as messy as you could.

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