Macauley's Thumb

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158 pages

“Human relations have rarely seemed so complicated—or so tender—as they do in these darkly funny stories. Lex Williford is a gifted storyteller.”—Francine Prose

“These are wry, wonderful, and often powerful stories that take deep breaths of life and that herald Lex Williford as a masterful new literary presence.”—William Harrison

“In Williford's world of highways and back roads, kitchens and bedrooms, the unlikely becomes the inevitable, and hope abounds. His characters meet the myriad accidents of nature and the human heart with astonishing, believable, courageous humanity.”—Beth Lordan

Macauley's Thumb is a first-rate collection of fiction. Lex Williford's characters are complex and interesting, the creations of a generous yet subtle imagination. Williford tells his stories in a language at once strong, supple, and precise. The combination of the richness of invention and the strong feeling for form demonstrated here is impressive. These are stories that matter. Lex Williford is that rare thing—a storyteller who gives us the world with all its magic and horror.”—Donald Hays

“There is a startling, wry tenderness in the way Lex Williford writes about people, about rare gifts to and responsibilities for one another. These wise, musical stories about lovers, friends, parents, children, hitchhikers are highly crafted yet distilled with subtle, plain-spoken grace.”—Valerie Miner

“Lex Williford's Macauley's Thumb is a mature work of fiction and a great pleasure to read. Williford's stories deliver the skills of a natural and are original works of art. Sentence by sentence we realize that we are in the company of a master. An amazing American writer has arrived.”—James Whitehead

Lex Williford's seriously eccentric characters find that traveling down life's highway leads to the breakdown lane as quickly as it leads to the fast lane. Their quirky philosophy can best be summed up by Bucklin Rudd, who just lost his business and his wife after losing the last bit of his good sense: “Nothing like working half your life for something just to find out you think you're pretty damn sure you don't want it.” The ten stories in Macauley's Thumb—set variously in Texas, Old and New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Alabama, and Illinois—explore the complicated lives of disenchanted characters who find ways to express their grief at the losses they face under impossible circumstances, losses so large and so small that no one—not even Smiling Joe's insurance—can cover them.

A husband and wife, unable to speak to each other without arguing, face the dissolution of their marriage when they smuggle his mother's body out of Mexico. Two boys, confronting abandonment by their father, go to the Texas State Fair and stumble upon a way to get their mother out of bed. Thomas “Hoot” Ponder and his nephew find common ground in whiskey and storytelling amid the comedy surrounding death and dying. A chiropractor who loves science fiction movies struggles with his sexual fantasies about one of his patients, a Wal-Mart cashier who can't stop talking about her pain. In the powerful title story, Cal Macauley—driven mad by his wife's horrible death—faces mourning, regret, and the inevitability of forgetting by striking out against himself and the rattlesnakes on his mountain.