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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  • First Published:
    Nov 2017, 240 pages

    Paperback:
    Jul 2018, 272 pages

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"Sit right there," Lucille says, indicating the wicker chair Arthur always chooses when he visits with her.

He settles down among the floral pillows: one behind him, one on either side of him, one on his lap. It's an undignified and unmanly way to sit, but what can you do? Arthur will never understand what seems to be a woman's need for so many pillows. Nola had it, too. They had to dig their way into bed every night.

"Now!" Lucille says. There is an air of satisfaction in her voice that makes him wary.

"Isn't this nice!" she says.

He nods. "Yes. Thank you."

"My grandniece is pregnant, I just found out," Lucille says.

"Oh, is that so?"

"Yes, and do you know, she's forty years old!"

Arthur doesn't know what to say to this. Congratulations? Uh- oh?

"These young people, these days," Lucille says. "They just . . . Well, I just don't understand them."

In his lower gut, Arthur feels a rumbling, sudden and acute. He shifts in his chair.

Lucille's eyes dart over and she says, "Oh, I don't mean to complain. No older generation understands the younger generation, isn't that true? But don't let's complain. Let's endeavor to be grateful and pleasant. Unlike them."

And now the pain becomes more acute. What in the hell did he eat?

He rises, warily. "I'm afraid I'm going to have to leave," he says. "Thanks for . . . Thanks for the visit."

His voice is pinched with his efforts to keep control. "But you've only just gotten here!" Lucille says, and— oh, no, look, there are tears trembling in her eyes, magnified by her glasses.

"I forgot about something," Arthur says.

"What?" Lucille demands.

"Oh . . . long story." He really has to get to a bathroom.

He moves cautiously toward the steps.

Lucille rises up to walk beside him, her hands kneading each other, and he detects a faint scent of vanilla. "Well, I just hope I didn't offend you. We're neighbors, Arthur, and we're the only old ones left on the block and I just invite you over to pass the time and I made some orange blossom butter cookies for you and— "

"Another time," Arthur says, and hotfoots it over to his house. He reaches the bathroom just in time. He sits on the john and lets go and here comes Gordon to sit on the threshold, his tail wrapped around him. Now there's a friend.

When Arthur's finished, he washes up and then stands there for a minute, doing a kind of internal surveillance, relishing the expansive relief that comes after recovery from illness, however short its duration. He's okay then.

So. He goes into the living room to lift the blinds and looks over at Lucille's porch. Gone in. Well, it would be foolish to go back now. He's sorry for hurting her feelings, but it would be foolish to go back now. The blue of the sky has faded and the thin clouds are ash- colored. The first stars will be out soon. It comes to him that Nola once asked, "What if the souls of the dead become stars that can always watch over everyone?" That was right before she died, and Arthur answered in a way he still regrets. He kissed her hand— so light, by then, a kind of husk of a hand— and said, "We don't know anything." He doesn't know why he said that that it's basically true. But he wishes he had answered more eloquently. He wishes he'd have said something to make her think that in the great unknown there was one constant: everything would be all right. He thinks that's basically true, too.

He opens the back door and Gordon slips out. "Hey!" Arthur calls. "Get in here!"

The cat's gone. There's a worry. A man Arthur met on his walk the other day said he had seen a coyote walking along the sidewalk, pretty as you please, and Gordon is old now. How old? Arthur slowly calculates. Fifteen! How did that happen? Fifteen!

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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