On the county fair and casino circuit with Huey Lewis, who at 61 is “part of a select fraternity of musicians who can draw a couple thousand people in dozens (if not hundreds) of middle-American towns … scattered throughout the country.”
Loss, redemption, and magic highlight a friendship between two different men.
"He was standing beside the Cutlass, looking at Billy with an old man's expectant smile, waiting for him to unlock the door and hold it for him till he'd placed his still-calcium-rich but nonetheless old bones in the passenger seat. Billy stared at him, trying to figure out what was at risk if he unlocked that door. Then he snorted a tiny laugh, unlocked the door, held it for Gaspar as he seated himself, slammed it and went around to unlock the other side and get in. Gaspar reached across and thumbed up the door lock knob. And they drove off together in the rain."
Sketches from the violent, troubled life of a Middle Eastern man.
"The boy’s name was Mokhtar, but no one ever called him anything but Chico. I first got to know him when he was fifteen. He had grown up healthy and handsome. His pockets were always stuffed with money, and that was what was special about him. His life consisted of sitting in cafes, day and night, and he learned to drink alcohol and to sleep with whores. He was generous and goodhearted, but if he got angry he could be dangerous, and he often got angry when he was drunk. When Chico was seventeen his aunt died, leaving him her bank account, three houses and a bakery in the city, and a big farm out in the country. He began to give large parties, buying great quantities of food and drink for many friends, and spending even more on girls."
A congressional hearing exposes the hypocrisy of American superiority.
"So that’s where you need these cheap inflation dollars so everybody can pay everybody back, right? See we had this neat idea of this here trickle down theory only it didn’t work out so good, I mean it all like got stuck at the top where 15 years ago this richest 1 percent of the nation held 27 percent of the wealth now they’ve got almost 36 percent, I mean it mostly like trickled up. And see where the Administration’s goal was to end inflation it worked so good that this sudden massive collapse of it brought these terrific budget deficits so like now we’re this world’s biggest debtor nation where if these here Japanese weren’t like buying $60 billion in Treasury bonds a year we couldn’t hardly pay the gas bill, right?"
A troubled mother and daughter spend their first day in Los Angeles.
"I wonder what we looked like then, that day we drove over into California. My mother could probably still tell you what we wore. We were driving to California from Bay City, Wisconsin, just the two of us, so I could be a television star. We'd taken Ted's Mobile Credit Card and stayed in motels, charging gasoline and Cokes on the bills. We dug up to our shoulders in the ice chests, bringing the cold pop bottles up like a catch. We'd stolen vegetables all across America, anything we could eat without cooking. My mother spotted the trucks."
A poetic support of the downtrodden, and a father's refusal to buy a family dog.
"My dad wouldn't let me have a pal. Who will have to walk that pal, he said. I will. And it's going to be snowing or it's going to be raining and who will be waiting by the vacant lot at the corner in the cold wet wind, waiting for the damn dog to do his business? Not you, Billy boy Christ, you can't even be counted on to bring in the garbage cans or mow the lawn. So no dog."
Two girls--one white, one black--meet as troubled children and then at various points in their different lives.
"So for the moment it didn't matter that we looked like salt and pepper standing there and that's what the other kids called us sometimes. We were eight years old and got F's all the time. Me because I couldn't remember what I read or what the teacher said. And Roberta because she couldn't read at all and didn't even listen to the teacher. She wasn't good at anything except jacks, at which she was a killer: pow scoop pow scoop pow scoop."
A fictional imagining of Edgar Allan Poe and a Faustian explanation of his talents.
"Don't you admit that a grave and corpse are more real than a memory and a lock of hair? and she said I never thought you such a materialist, Eddie and he laughed and they went on into the suffocating gloom and the Star set slowly over the black valley which his reasoning powers in combination with his accurate knowledge had enabled him to predict in bold relief, and as the Star set it cast a last beam down through the night-trees that occluded the gull, and tenderly brushed the pure darkness below."
A substitute teacher entices and repels her students with mysterious "substitute facts."
"'Pyramids,' Miss Ferenczi said, still looking past the window. 'I want you to think about pyramids. And what was inside. The bodies of the pharaohs, of course, and their attendant treasures. Scrolls. Perhaps,' Miss Ferenczi said, her face gleeful but unsmiling, 'these scrolls were novels for the pharaohs, helping them to pass the time in their long voyage through the centuries. But then, I am joking.'"