Story — From the June 2015 issue

Interesting Facts

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Interesting fact: Toucan cereal bedspread to my plunge and deliver.

It’s okay if you can’t make sense of that. I’ve tried and tried, but I can’t grasp it either. The most vital things we hide even from ourselves.

The topic of dead wives came up a few months ago. My husband and I talked about it while walking home from a literary reading. It was San Francisco, which means winter rains, and we’d just attended a reading by a local writer from her short-story collection. The local writer was twentysomething and sexy. Her arms were taut, her black hair shimmered. And just so you’re clear, I’m going to discuss the breasts of every woman who crosses my path. Neither hidden nor flaunted beneath white satin, her breasts were utterly, excruciatingly normal, and I hated her for that. The story she read was about a man who decides to date again after losing his wife. It’s always an aneurysm, a car accident, or a long battle with cancer. Cancer is the worst way for a fictional wife to die. Anyway, the man in the story waits an appropriate amount of time after losing his wife — sixteen months! — before deciding to date again. After so much grief, he is exuberant and endearing in his pursuit of a woman. The first chick he talks to is totally game. The man, after all this waiting, is positively frisky, and the sex is, like, wow. The fortysomething widower nails the twentysomething gal on the upturned hull of his fiberglass kayak. And there’s even a moral, subtle and implied: when love blossoms, it’s all the richer after a man has discovered, firsthand, the painful fragility of life. Well, secondhand.

Applause, Q&A, more applause.

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won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for fiction for his novel The Orphan Master’s Son. His story “Teen Sniper” appeared in the March 2002 issue of Harper’s Magazine.

More from Adam Johnson:

Fiction From the March 2002 issue

Teen sniper

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