Matters of Life and Death: New American Stories by Tobias Wolff

By Tobias Wolff

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Sample text

It was making a joyful noise. " It's the Heavenly Choir. He went toward the fence and put his hands on the smooth posts and peered through into Heaven. He heard laughter and caught a glimpse of the running heels of children just disappearing around the corner of a golden street. They all wore shoes. Ellerbee walked along the fence for about a mile and came to gates made out of pearl. The Pearly Gates, he thought. There are actually Pearly Gates. An old man in a long white beard sat behind them, a key attached to a sort of cinch that went about his waist.

She wasn't worried yet, but she wanted to know what I was thinking about. "Let me try it again," I said. "That's a good idea," she said, and we all got back in the car. When I tried the motor it turned over right away and the red light stayed off and there weren't any noises to make you think something was wrong. I let it idle a minute, then pushed the accelerator down and watched the red bulb, but there wasn't any light on, and I started wondering if maybe I hadn't dreamed I saw it, or that it had been the sun catching an angle off the window chrome, or maybe I was scared of something and didn't know it.

Ellerbee had mentioned the older woman because he didn't want Mrs. Register to feel compromised. "It's company policy when these things happen," he said gruffly. Dorothy Register nodded. " He hastened to reassure her. "Oh now listen," Ellerbee said, "you mustn't give that a thought. The checks will continue. I'm getting another store. In a very lovely neighborhood. Near where we used to live before our house burned d o w n . " "Oh yes. I should be hearing about my loan any time now. I'll probably be in the new place before the month is out.

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