What My Last Man Did by Andrea Lewis: Excerpts Part 2

What My Last Man Did won the Indiana Review / IU Press 2016 Blue Light Books Prize and is forthcoming from IU Press in March 2017. Read excerpts from two of Andrea’s stories below, and pre-order your copy of What My Last Man Did today!

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Andrea Lewis’s work has appeared in many literary journals, including Prairie Schooner, Cutthroat, Cold Mountain Review, and Catamaran Literary Reader. Three of her stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She is a founding member of Richard Hugo House, the place for writers in Seattle. She lives with her husband on Vashon Island, Washington. More of her work is available at www.andrealewis.org.

From “Rancho Cielito”

The heat of Galveston hits me as a thing measured more in memories than in degrees. Whenever I come home I find myself gauging heat and humidity by how much childhood grief they churn up. I never manage to separate the measurable from the immeasurable, the atmospheric from the melodramatic, the actual density of the air from the scents and sounds and sights it carries. The cicadas are my mother telling me to make up my mind. The cloud streets––high bands of cumulus stretching to the sea––are Louis and the way he loved us when we weren’t looking. Honeysuckle is the hum of bees, which in turn is Iris screaming she’d been stung. Her cries were so maniacal they brought my father to the porch with a shotgun. But it was Louis who dressed the wound. The damp packed earth beneath the magnolias was our playground, but even when I was small I watched the middle distance, as if my destiny might arise from the grooved line where the mangroves met the sky. Sometimes a pelican would appear out of the haze, six horizontal feet of pterodactyl in an effortless glissade, cruising just above the treetops, riding down the long, drawn-out minutes of the morning.

From “Family Cucurbita”

I had known Rick for twenty minutes before he told me about his dead wife’s uterus.

“Puerperal sepsis,” he said, leaning on his garden spade. “Some of the placenta stayed in there after Angelica was born. It sort of rots and gets infected.”

We were standing in my sad excuse for a vegetable garden. Behind Rick, over our low wall, I could see the professional-looking raised beds he was putting in his own backyard.

Rick told me how the infected uterus could have been treated in a hospital but they were living on Alaska’s North Slope, along the Colville River, far from help. The baby was born during a six-day blizzard, the birth attended by an elderly Inupiaq woman who closed her eyes and keened when the wife’s fever shot up.

Rick rambled on. “I worked as a bush pilot back then. Flew them out myself in the Staggerwing as soon as the weather cleared, but my wife died on the flight. Angelica was two days old.” His eyes filled up. “That was March 14, 1972,” he said, squinting back in time through fierce New Mexico sunlight.

Angelica, now five, played hopscotch behind us on Rick’s patio. They had moved in two weeks ago, along with Rick’s mother. That morning he had come over, introduced himself, and launched his life story with a brand of too-early intimacy that made me nervous. I was twenty-five, and my recently-wrecked relationships had made me wary of men, especially ones who teared up and talked placentas in the early going.

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Don’t miss our interview with Andrea Lewis in which she discusses research, place, music, and how she knew What My Last Man Did was ready to submit.

 

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