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"Sam Michel is such a smart, manic, virtuosic stylist . . . the kind of deep insights that make you suddenly and newly appreciative of the world around you."-George Saunders

There was a hot, high sun, a hard ground and a long way off to any certain water, and my wife, a tenderfoot, I thought, not immodest, seemed bent on ruined feet and spectacle, on making of herself to passing innocents a living proof of what could happen to a man and woman ventured too far off alone together in the desert. Yet who passed? Who could be so innocent? Snakes and ravens, rabbits, buzzards, toads-- these passed, these witnessed, and what could they have made from us?...I saw myself preceded by my wife. I wanted to follow her, feel what she felt; I thought that I might find myself absolved… Maybe I would get some. Somewhere in me was a cheerful voice assuring me that what this needed was our getting laid.

Here is the head of his home-the one to speak, surely-on the occasion of his son Lincoln Dahl Jr.'s fifth birthday. Wife and mother order him to engage with his boy, but he remains in his chair dreaming up the speech he'll give to convey his life and glory to his boy, meanwhile avoiding his child and all others, until forced from his chair. Here's cowboy Beckett, a man of wonder and excess.

Sam Michel is the author of Under the Light and Big Dogs and Flyboys.

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