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ISBN : 1932416-12-9

Issue 14 features a return of the hard-hitting journalism that has made McSweeney's our nation's preeminent source of Whys and Wherefores: Joshuah Bearman leads a daring investigation into the enigmatic Great Gerbil (Rhombomys Opimus) of central Asia, uncovering signs of an impending disaster that could totally mess up life as we know it.

The issue also includes strange and wonderful stories from T.C. Boyle, Susan Straight, Jim Shepard, Wells Tower, Jessica Anthony, Chris Bachelder, and approximately seven other good people. At least one of these stories contains the following paragraph:

"I am Felicius Victor, son of the centurion Annius Equester, on active service in the Twentieth Cohort and scribe for special services for the administration of the entire legion. All day, every day, I sad. Over the heather the wet wind blows continuously. The rain comes pattering out of the sky. My bowels fail me regularly and others come and go on the continuous bench of our latrine while I huddle there on the cold stone."

Table of Contents:

Chris Adrian – A Child’s Book of Sickness and Death
My room, 616, is always waiting for me when I get back, unless it is the dead of winter, rotavirus season, when the floor is crowded with gray-faced toddlers rocketing down the halls on fantails of liquid shit.

Jim Shepard – Hadrian’s Wall
Who hasn’t heard by now of that long chain of events, from the invasion by the Emperor Claudius to the revolt of Boudica and the Iceni in the reign of Nero to the seven campaigning seasons of Agricola, which moved our presence ever northward to where it stands today?

Kate Braverman – The Woman Who Sold Communion
When Amy Cruz heard she had been denied tenure, she stumbled into her office and picked up her telephone directory.

Ryan Boudinot – Civilization
When I turned eighteen I was among the kids who received notice that it was time to make some sacrifices and fulfill our duties as Americans.

Jessica Anthony – The Death of Mustango Salvaje
Uno. They say that it’s amazing: I am not only a woman-bullfighter, but the best bullfighter that ever lived.

Wells Tower – Executors of Important Energies
My sister was under her house again, at 6:00 a.m., calling me up. “Do you ever think about all the ones who you didn’t let them relish you? I wish I could get another crack at all of them, even the nastiest ones.”

Joshuah Bearman – Rodent Disaster in Xinjiang
It was early last spring when people started noticing. There was a late thaw, ice still on the ground, and already a lot of gerbils – numerous, fat, and healthy-looking.

Pia Z. Ehrhardt – How It Floods
Say I’m crazy about Roger who works in my office building.

Jessica Lamb-Shapiro – The Animal Kingdom
The whole world was afraid of mother: the trees shivered in the wind, the bushes hunched together, trying to hide, the grass lay flat and silent on the ground.

T. Coraghessan Boyle – The Doubtfulness of Water
The road was dark, even at six in the evening, and if it held any wonders aside from the odd snug house or the stubble field, she couldn’t have said because all that was visible was the white stripe of heaven overhead.

Lawrence Weschler – Convergence: Thumb in Eye
You can be coming round the corner there at the world’s loveliest and most beloved museum (Louisiana, of course, in Humblebaek, Denmark—but then that’s a whole other story), and suddenly find yourself face-to-face with it—or rather face-to-nail, or rather face-to-face-in-nail.

Silvia DiPierdomenico – That Which I Am
I am a woman of medium height. My eyes are hazel. My hair was reddish brown and wavy. I am now bald and completely hairless.

Susan Straight – What It Ain’t
Because it wasn’t nobody else, okay?

Malinda McCollum – Good Monks
A delirious moment. Picture this. Pale man shouting, “I am drunk on water and the bitterest love!” In the near-empty diner his voice surprising as a first drop of blood.

Robert Olen Butler – Three Pieces of Severance
A collection of heads in progress

Chris Bachelder – Deep Wells, USA
CELEBRITY: This just in from our Deep Wells Bureau… It seems there is… a… a baby… in a well.

Lawrence Weschler – Convergence: Torso as Face
Or, for instance, this. What are we to make of this?

Claire Light – Pigs in Space
From where I sit, strapped down in this seat, I can see most of the Earth through the porthole.

Lindsay Carleton – The People
There is something I want to say. Something for us, for the small group of small people here tonight.

Denis Johnson – Soul of a Whore: Act III
Bill Jenks: Slut… slut… slut… slut… slut.