182 Pages
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420 Characters

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Works of fiction the length of Facebook status updates: “Just because a story is short, even really, really short, doesn’t mean it can’t contain multitudes.” —The New York Times Book Review

Alternately surreal, funny, ominous, and lyrical, Lou Beach’s 420 Characters offers an experience as dazzling as any in contemporary fiction. Revealing worlds of meaning in single paragraphs, these crystalline miniature stories that began as Facebook status updates mark a new turn in an acclaimed artist and illustrator’s career. This ebook edition has been enhanced with original collages by the author and with exclusive audio of fifteen stories brilliantly read by legendary rock musician Dave Alvin, Golden Globe–winning actor Ian McShane, and Academy Award winner Jeff Bridges.

“A tiny book filled with tiny stories . . . Tragic, absurd, and sweet by turns, each snip of a story is a gem, able to hold its own against more standard-length fare.” —Flavorwire, A Must-Read Pick

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Published by
Published 06 December 2011
Reads 0
EAN13 9780547617947
Language English

Legal information: rental price per page 0.0105€. This information is given for information only in accordance with current legislation.

Contents
Title Page
Contents
Dedication
Copyright
Author's Note
THE STORM
THE TRAIN
ZUMA PEDLEY
I AM EXPLORING
SHE TRUSTED
WHILE I WAS AWAY
THE GUNNYSACK
MOUSE AND I
HE CALLED AGAIN
TODAY I'M JIMI HENDRIX
LORD MUMFORD
THERE IS A KNOCK AT THE DOOR
HUMANITY SERVICES
THE MUSEUM GUARD
CLIFF KNODES
I HAD NEVER
"ARE YOU MY MOMMY?"
NOT FAR FROM HUNTSVILLE
THE BOOK SITS IN MY LAP
HE DIDN'T
I BRING
THE WANKER IN THE WARDROBE
OPEN THE GODDAM DOOR, RONNIE!
THE OAK TABLE
HE FISHED
THE FLOOR MANAGER
THE PRISONER OF NOISEMY LIFE IS NOT
THERE WAS A MOUSE
TURNS OUT
"GERONIMO!"
I SAW YOU
THE LOOK ON THE NURSE'S FACE
FREEDOM
THE ASPEN SHIMMERED
THE SCHOOLGIRLS
I DON'T KNOW HOW
THE ROWBOAT
NOT MUCH TO DO
THE HOUSE
I'M ALONE ON DECK
HUEY "PUDGE" WILSON
MUD
FROM THE RIDGE
THOUSANDS OF STARLINGS
FOR-EV-UH
I DON'T CARE MUCH FOR PLUCKY HEROINES
HOOVES
I SECURE THE HOUSE
I LOOKED
HE SPLASHED
I KISS
HE FOLLOWED HER
DON'T
DANNY AND I
THE BEAUTIFUL YOUNG WOMAN
THE DOG
I'VE NEVER SEEN
CHEAP AND GAUDY
I KEEP MY FRIENDS IN A BOXTHEY ARE CLOSING THE MINE
SHOT BY A MONKEY
THE NORWOOD
HIS CHUTE FAILED TO OPEN
I CORK HER NAVEL
HE WAS HANDCUFFED
I READ
THE SERVANTS SEEM PECULIAR
STUMBLE
I QUIT
MICK JAGGER BLEW HIS NOSE
WANT A SANDWICH?
I'M THE ONLY DADDY
SHE WAS BEAUTIFUL
THERE IS A DEEP HOLE
WE ARE ON A RIDGE
KISS ME A QUESTION
THE HOTEL WAS ON FIRE
I HAD AN IDEA
I HAD NEVER
THE ROAD CLUTCHES
ANN O'DYNE
I LIVE IN THE POCKET
IN
THERE WAS A MAN
I RISE
THE NURSE LEFT
THERE IS A PLACE I
SHE LOVED SECRETS
THE RHUBARB
THERE'S A GLASS
SHINBONE AND NUSBAUM
THE TRAINDON'T DRINK
I CAN'T HEAR YOU
CRAWFOOT
THE OTHERS
THE ELEVATOR IS BROKEN
A BIRD LIVES ON MY HEAD
WE WERE
HER MOUTH
I SIT IN THIS ROOM
I WAKE
THE FIRE AND SMOKE
THE SKY
HIS HANDS
HE SAID
THE NEW
WHAT'CHA WANNA
I WENT TO HIGH SCHOOL WITH THE KING
SHE WAS INDISCRIMINATE
THE LONG CARGO SHIP
I STOLE
LITTLE FLUFF
HER FEROCITY
JESSE PAINTED
SHE SHOWED HIM THE TIES
"SHUT UP,"
RAY WAS THIS TENOR PLAYER
THE SKY
SHE WAS FROM TRINIDAD
I OPEN THE CAN
DO YOU
SHE SAT
I WAKE UP
OH
AFTER
THE LIGHTS
IRIS BEDLICK
A PORCH
SHE LOVED HIM
RONNIE
I LAY THE BOOK
EDDIE FORMED
THE POND
VERA "WOOLY" LAMB
THE BODY IN THE BACK SEATIN THE GRAY
AFTER SHE FLED
JOE PRINGLE
I FLAY
IT WAS A LARGE SHIP
HE WAITED
"LET ME IN!"
GEORGE
HER SUMMER DRESS
THE CITY BELOW
THEY BOUGHT
I DROP IT INTO
ARDELLE PHELPS JR
HE SITS IN THE SUN
I REMOVE MY HEADGEAR
THEY'VE TAGGED
I WAS NEW
WHEN I WAS TWELVE
I WET
THERE IS A TURD
THEY PUT ME IN A CHAIR
THE BLOODLETTING
THE BRIDGE
THERE IS A TERRIBLE ROCK
WHEN I DIE
YEARNING
HE DISMOUNTED
THE SEA
HOT IN THE BAIT SHOP
THE RAVEN SWAYS
YEARS BACK
THE ORCHARD
AcknowledgmentsFor my mother, Emily LubiczCopyright © 2011 by Lou Beach

All rights reserved

Grateful acknowledgment is made to Dave Alvin, Jeff Bridges, and Ian McShane for
their recordings of the following stories: "Rust," "Mumford," "Path," "Cigarette," "Reno,"
"Postcard," "Blood," "Idea," "Finch," "Ikea," "Kitty," "Hen," "Surprise," "Dusting," and
"Grounded."

For information about permission to reproduce selections from this book, write to
trade.permissions@hmhco.com or to Permissions, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publishing Company, 3 Park Avenue, 19th Floor, New York, New York 10016.

www.hmhco.com

The Library of Congress has cataloged the print edition as follows:
Beach, Lou.
420 characters : stories / Lou Beach.
p. cm.
Summary: "The debut fiction project of an acclaimed artist and
illustrator, 420 CHARACTERS is a collection of sharp and evocative
miniature stories first presented as Facebook status updates"—Provided by
publisher.
ISBN 978-0-547-61793-0
I. Title. II. Title: Four hundred twenty characters.
PS3602.E226A15 2011
813'.6—dc22 2011009143

eISBN 978-0-547-61794-7
v2.1117Author's Note
The stories you are about to encounter were written as status updates on a large social
networking site. These updates were limited to 420 characters, including letters, spaces,
and punctuation. The author hopes you enjoy them.THE STORM came over the ridge, a rocket, dropped rain like bees, filled the corral with
water and noise. I watched lightning hit the apple tree and thought: "Fritters!" as we
packed sandbags against the flood. There was nowhere to go that wasn't wet, the
squall had punched a hole in the cabin roof and the barn was knee-high in mud. We'll
bury Jess later, when the river recedes, before the ground turns hard again.THE TRAIN pulled into the station. I hesitated before stepping down to the platform,
then made my way to the shoeshine stand. I sat, put my foot up on the metal rest. The
old man looked up before tending to my shoe. "You new in town?" I told him that indeed
I was. "OK then," he said and began cleaning my loafer. There was a local paper on the
chair next to mine. The headline read: FIRE IN HOSPITAL MELTS IRON LUNG.ZUMA PEDLEY hailed from Lubbock, came to L.A. in '02 with his guitar, some songs,
and an ugly dog. He didn't think to change the world, wasn't built that way, but thought
music might lessen the burden of those with hearts. He was looking for an army of
smiles, but settled for a girl with corn hair and a bungalow in the hills, grew tomatoes.
The dog is still ugly.I AM EXPLORING in the Bones, formations of caves interspersed with rock basins open
to the sky. I hear a sound like a turbine as I exit a cave and approach the light ahead.
I'm sure it's a waterfall. What I encounter is a massive beehive, honeycomb several
stories high, millions of bees. I crouch down to avoid detection and notice a shift in the
tone of the hive's collective drone. I turn around and see the bear.SHE TRUSTED grins, they were shot directly from the heart. Whereas smiles, oh,
smiles could trick, be untrue, do you harm. Mendacious, twisted with bad intentions,
like her father's, his mouth turned up at one corner like a beckoning finger, pulling his
eye down into a squint.WHILE I WAS AWAY you managed to rust all my tools. How is that possible? Did you
dip them in the bathtub like tool fondue? I do not understand. You deny everything but
cannot explain the rusted brad puller, pliers, awl, and bucksaw in our bed. "Maybe
someone was playing a joke," you say, then add: "A wet hammer is still a hammer."
THE GUNNYSACK hangs from the pommel, full of sparked ore. I let Shorty sip from the
stream, long neck arching in the sun. There is a ghost in the cottonwood I sit under to
reread your letters. It tries to sniff the pressed flowers you sent from the garden in
Boston, but the scent is gone. The petals and paper, envelope, all smell like campfire
now.MOUSE AND I lie on our stomachs on the warm and weathered planks. The little bridge
spans the stream two feet below and the sun lays its hands on our backs. We drop
pebbles into the creek and startle water striders, add to the trove of shining rocks and
stones. Preteen bombardiers, we laugh at splashes. Twenty feet away, in another
world, our parents and their friends sit on blankets, eat sandwiches and drink beer.