Excerpt from The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Story of Arthur Truluv

A Novel

by Elizabeth Berg

The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg X
The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg
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    Nov 2017, 240 pages

    Jul 2018, 272 pages


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She takes out her phone and snaps a close-up of a tuft of grass, a patch of bark. She loosens her shoelaces, steps out of her shoe, and photographs it lying on its side. She walks to a nearby grave and photographs the center of one of the lilies in the wilting bouquet placed over it, the gently arcing stamens, the upright pistil.

She looks at her watch: 1:40. She'll stay here until school is over, then go home. Tonight, she'll meet Anderson, after he's done working. Anderson is so handsome, he makes you vacant- headed. She met him at the Walmart, where he works in the stockroom. She was leaving the store and he was coming out of the bathroom and he smiled at her and asked if she was Katy Perry. As if. She smiled back. He was on his way to get a hot dog and he asked her to join him. She was scared to, but she did. They didn't talk much, but they agreed to meet later that night. Three months now. She knows some things about him: he was in the Army, he loves dogs, he plays guitar, a little. Once he brought her a gift: a pearl on a gold chain, which she never takes off.

She slides farther down on the tree she's leaning against and makes the space between her knees an aperture. All those graves. Click.

Most people find graveyards sad. She finds them comforting. She wishes her mother had been buried here, and not cremated. Once she heard a guy on the radio say that the cities of the dead are busy places, and it was one of those moments when it felt like a key to a lock. They are busy places.

Last time she saw Anderson, she tried to tell him that. They were at a nearly deserted McDonald's, and she spoke quietly. She told him about the old man she saw there all the time, about how he talked to dead people. She told him what the man on the radio had said. She told him she found it peaceful being in a cemetery with the dead. Beautiful, even. What did Anderson think?

"I think you're fucking weird," he said.

It made her go cold in the back. At first she sat motionless in the booth, watching him eat his fries. Then she said, "I know, right?" and barked out a kind of laugh. "Can I have one of your fries?" she asked, and he said, "If you want some, get some," and shoved a couple of dollars over at her.

But there was the necklace. And one time right after he met her, he sent her a little poem in the mail: Hope this little note will do / To tell you that I'm missing you. Another time he kissed her from the top of her head all the way to her toes. All in a long line, kiss, kiss, kiss. She had thought of it the next night at dinner and had had to hide a shiver. "Eat," her father had said. That was one of their chatty dinners, he talked to her. He said a word. Usually, they said nothing. Each had learned the peril of asking questions and getting answers that were essentially rebuffs. "How was work, Dad?" "Work is work." "How was school, Maddy?" "Meh." "Do you like this chicken?" "It's fine." "Want to watch Game of Thrones tonight?" "You can."

She checks her watch again, and gets up to find another place to sit.

When Arthur gets home, he pulls the mail from the box, brings it into the kitchen to sort through it, then tosses it all in the trash: junk mail. A waste of the vision he has left, going through it.

He pours himself a cup of cold coffee from the pot on the stove and sits at the kitchen table to drink it, his long legs crossed. He and Nola, they drank coffee all day long. He pauses mid- sip, wondering suddenly if that helped do her in; she had at one time been warned against an excess of caffeine.

He finishes the coffee and rinses out his cup, turns it upside down in the drainer. He uses the same tan- colored cup with the green stripe all the time: for coffee, for water, for his occasional nip of Jack Daniel's, even for his Metamucil. Nola liked variety in all things; he doesn't care, when it comes to dishes. Or clothes. Get the job done, that's all.

Excerpted from The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg. Copyright © 2017 by Elizabeth Berg. Excerpted by permission of Random House. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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