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Authors: Michael Kimball

Us

Praise for
Us

“Michael Kimball never ceases to astonish. He is a hero of contemporary fiction.”

— Sam Lipsyte

“A deep love between an ageing husband and wife is given a heartbreaking voice … tender and poignant”

— Time Out London

“Be warned: this book has the power to make even the most hard-hearted of readers shed a tear. … Kimball has broken into new territory:
Us
is one of the most graphic depictions of illness and loss I have ever read.”

— The Glasgow Herald

“Haunting and awesome … beautiful and intense … This is a novel from a great talent.”

— El País
(Spain)

“Powerful and moving … breathless”

— Observer

“A monument to love”

— El Placer de la Lectura
(Spain)

“Bathed in tenderness … touching and breathtaking … one of the most moving, heartbreaking, and sad novels of contemporary American fiction. It is essential.”

— El Razón
(México)

“This is the saddest book I have ever read and one of the most beautiful and unusual. … One can't help being aware of his grief and the great love he feels for his dying wife. It will make you cry and break your heart but this is one book you must read.”

— Telegraph and Argus

“First, Camus showed us the human condition. Now Kimball has … with a fluid style and a dizzying empathy. Kimball is a great writer.”

— El Mercurio
(Chile)

“Kimball has created something rare and brave … [It is a] beautifully tuned, near perfect account of a very ordinary death.”

— Metro London

“There are two books I can remember that ever made me physically cry. There were the rape scenes in Saramago's
Blindness,
and there was nearly every chapter of Michael Kimball's
[Us].
While the first hurt because it was so brutal, Kimball's was a softer kind of invocation—as I read it in a bathtub, I could not shake the feeling of being held, as if somehow the words had interlaced my skin. This is the essence of the magic Michael Kimball holds—his sentences come on so taut, so right there, and yet somehow so calming, it's as if you are being visited by some lighted presence.”

— Blake Butler

Praise for Michael Kimball's Other Novels

“Occasionally a novel by a new writer will cause critics to choke with excitement. This is one. … Kimball resembles a skinhead at a cocktail party—no quarter given to poxy commercialism. For that reason alone, his achievement is admirable.”

— The Scotsman

“[Michael Kimball] has taken it [American literature] somewhere very dark and unsettling.”

— The Times

Michael Kimball “has already delivered the future of the novel … [He is] one of the authentic innovators in contemporary fiction.”

— Letras Libres
(Mexico)

“Kimball creates a sort of curatorial masterpiece, finding the perfect spot for everything that a life comprises.”

— The Believer

“There is a whole life contained in this slim novel, a life as funny and warm and sad and heartbreaking as any other, rendered with honest complexity and freshness by Kimball's sharp writing.”

— Los Angeles Times

“I don't always say this, so I hope you will indulge me: Read
Dear Everybody.
It is a work of literary inventiveness and great compassion.”

— WETA's
The Book Studio

[Dear Everybody
is] “one of the hottest, most innovative books of the year”

— Htmlgiant

“Dear Everybody
has the page-turning urgency of a mystery and the thrilling formal inventiveness of the great epistolary novels. Jonathon Bender's magical letters to the world that never wrote to him are at once whimsical, anguished, funny, utterly engaging and, finally, unforgettable.”

— Maud Casey

“Kimball should be commended”

— Village Voice

“Elegantly and eloquently written … It's an unforgettable book”

— The Star-Democrat

Dear Everybody
confirms Kimball's reputation as one of our most supremely gifted and virtuosic renderers of the human predicament. It's as moving a novel as I have read in years.”

— Gary Lutz

“In addition to writing stunning prose, Kimball evocatively hints at entire physical and emotional worlds lying just behind his story's surface.”

— Time Out New York

[Dear Everybody
is] “inventive and often extremely funny, but it will also break your heart. Michael Kimball is one of the most talented and original writers in America today. You should read his books.”

— Greenpoint Gazette

“Compelling”

                                  —
Booklist

“Relentless”

                                  
— Library Journal

Tyrant Books

676A 9th Ave. # 153, New York 10036

isbn# 978-0-615-43046-1

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

First Tyrant Books Edition, 2011

First published in Great Britain in 2005 by

Fourth Estate

Copyright © 2005, 2011 by Michael Kimball

The author would like to thank the editors of
New York Tyrant, Prairie Schooner, Open City, Unsaid, LitRag, Sleeping Fish, Avatar Review, Mud Luscious, Necessary Fiction, Whiskey Island,
and
The Collagist
where excepts of the novel first appeared, often in a different form.

A different version of this book was previously published in other countries under the title
How Much of Us There Was.

Designed by Ryan P Kirby

Cover art by Shelton Walsmith and

The Flying Chabowskis

Author photo: Rachel Bradley

www.nytyrantbooks.com
     
www.michael-kimball.com

Us

Michael Kimball

TYRANT BOOKS

For my grandparents,
Kenneth and Gertrude Oliver.

And for my wife, Tita.

We seemed to decay at night. There were little sheets of our skin in our bed every morning.

Her Husband

It was so late in our lives.

His Wife

I blacked out and fell down. I hit my head on the floor and forgot my wife and myself for a while.

My Grandfather Oliver

I wasn't me anymore either.

Michael Kimball

Contents

PART ONE

How My Wife Would Not Wake Up

How They Helped My Wife to Breathe

How the People at the Hospital Couldn't Find My Wife

The Dying Woman Who Looked Smaller and Older Than My Wife

How Much of Her Still Worked

Why I Stayed Awake

How I Tried to Make It More of a Morning for My Wife

The Small Things that I Asked Her For

How I Tried to Drive Myself Home

Come Back to Sleep with Me

The Things that I Brought Her from Our House

How I Unpacked the Suitcases in Her Hospital Room

The Other Woman Who They Put in the Other Hospital Bed

How I Moved into Her Hospital Room

How My Wife Started to Move Again

How We Talked with Our Eyes and Our Hands

The Small Ways that She Got Better

How We Got Out of the Hospital

PART TWO

Some of the People I Have Known Who Have Died

Some of the People Who Came Home from the Hospital

PART THREE

Her First Morning Back at Home

How We Slowed Our Time Down

How I Rubbed Her Wrinkles Out

Some of the Things that She Couldn't Do Anymore

How Our House Had Gotten Too Old Too

What the Doctor Said that She Needed

How We Practiced for Her Death

Why We Both Took Her Sleeping Pills

Hold onto Me

How I Tried to Get Her Back

What Part of My Life I Was Living In

PART FOUR

How Much He Cared for Her

How Love Can Accumulate Between Two People

The Funeral Home that Had Been Somebody's House

PART FIVE

How They Touched Her As If She Were Still Alive

The Picture of Her from When She Was Still Alive

How I Had Not Seen Her Since She Had Died

How I Wanted to Get Inside a Casket Too

Thank You for Looking at Me for So Long

PART SIX

The Viewing Room of the Funeral Home

How His Heart Hurt

How He Tried to Communicate with Spirits

How I Hear Voices

PART SEVEN

How I Couldn't Take Any of My Funeral Clothes Off

How I Danced with the Floor Lamp

How I Lay Down in the Cemetery Grass with Her

How I Was Afraid to Wash the Smell of Her Off Her Clothes

Thank You for the Suitcase of Clothes

The Little Pieces of Her that Were Still Her

How I Got Ready to Go Away with Her to Sleep

PART ONE
How My Wife Would Not Wake Up

Our bed was shaking and it woke me up afraid. My wife didn't wake up and her body seemed to keep seizing up. That stopped and her body dropped back down flat on our bed again. She let one long breath out and then stopped moving and breathing. She looked as if she were sleeping again, but she wouldn't wake up.

I turned the bedroom light on, but that didn't wake her up. I tried to shake her some more, but that didn't wake her up either. I laid her shoulders back down on our bed and her head back down on her pillow I picked her glass of water up from her bedside table and opened her mouth up and tipped a little water in, but she didn't swallow it. I pulled her eyelids up, but her eyes didn't look back at me, and her eyelids closed up again when I let go of them.

I picked the telephone up to call for somebody to come to help me get my wife up. I covered my wife up with the bedcovers to keep her warm. I pulled the bedcovers up to her neck. I brushed her hair back away from her face with my hand and touched her cheek. I held my fingers under her nose and over her mouth. I couldn't feel any breath coming out of her anymore. I held onto her nose and tried to breathe some of my breath into her mouth. There didn't seem to be enough air inside of me to get her to breathe.

I was afraid to leave my wife in our bed, but I was also afraid that the ambulance might not find our house. I walked out of our bedroom, down the hallway, and up into the front of our house. I turned all of the lights in all of the front rooms of our house on. I opened the front door up, stood in the doorway, and turned the light on the front porch on too. I wanted them to know that it was our house and us that needed them.

How They Helped My Wife to Breathe

They came inside our house to take my wife away from me and to the hospital. They banged their way through the front door and into the living room. One of them carried an oxygen tank, an oxygen mask, and a metal box that had drawers inside it that folded up and out when he opened it up. The other one of them rolled a metal gurney inside our house that had folding legs under it and a flat board tied down on top of it. He rolled it inside our house, down the hallway, and into our bedroom. They set everything that they had with them down around our bed and my wife and they checked to see if she were still alive.

One of them pulled the bedcovers down off her and straightened her nightgown out. He touched her neck and held onto her wrist. He listened to her chest for her heart. He pulled her eyelids up, opened her mouth up, and looked inside her mouth and into her eyes with a tiny flashlight. He put his ear down over her mouth and close to her nose to see if he could hear or feel her breathing.

The other one got the oxygen tank out, placed the oxygen mask over her face, and turned the oxygen tank on. My wife seemed to take a deep breath in and stay alive. They rolled her over onto her one side and placed the flat board on top of our bed where her body had been. They rolled her back down onto the flat board, lifted her up, and placed the flat board and her back down on the metal gurney.

My wife looked so light in their arms. I wanted to lift her up too.

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