Chase Us: Stories by Sean EnnisChase Us: Stories by Sean Ennis

Chase Us: Stories

bySean Ennis

Paperback | May 27, 2014

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In this beautifully imaginative collection, young people attempt to negotiate the often surreal terrain of childhood and adolescence where family, friends, clergy, and teachers often pose a threat instead of providing safe harbor. At the heart of the collection is the relationship between the meek narrator, his best friend alpha-male Clip, and the near-feral Roger-but there are also agoraphobic mothers, gorgeous babysitters from New Zealand, paranoid stoned veterans, and deeply sad older sisters. Ennis has crafted modern day captivity narratives, set not at some remote fort, but in the neighborhoods of Philadelphia. Using cinematic imagery and deft characterization, Ennis explores how we often feel confined and yet, find ourselves in places we least expect.
SEAN ENNIS has been published in Tin House, the Mississippi Review, Pindeldyboyz, Fifty-Two Stories, the Good Men Project, the Greensboro Review, and Best New American Voices . He teaches creative writing at the University of Mississippi.  
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Title:Chase Us: StoriesFormat:PaperbackDimensions:208 pages, 8 × 5.31 × 0.52 inPublished:May 27, 2014Publisher:Houghton Mifflin HarcourtLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0544263006

ISBN - 13:9780544263000

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Going After Lovely On Christmas Eve, Dad came home from the mall and hammered up a bedsheet in the doorway to the living room. No one was allowed in, and there was crashing and cursing behind it. I had been scanning TV commercials on the small set in the kitchen for any last-minute gems I might have missed during my six weeks of Christmas requests. Mom was locking the windows, and my older sister, Lovely, was at the kitchen table, talking on the phone with her boyfriend, Roger, a kid who would mainly twist my ears whenever he saw me, saying, “Now hear this!”   When Mom saw the hanging sheet, she padded quickly back to the bathroom and ran the water in the tub. Lovely hung up the phone.   “You were listening, weren’t you?” she said. “You’re going to tell them.”   I had no idea what she was talking about. I had just been watching the sheet, hoping for some clue about what was on the other side. Lovely headed toward the living room and pushed the sheet aside.   “Don’t!” Dad yelled. “Get out!”   Lovely turned back, her face pinched with contempt. She turned the TV off as she walked out of the room and gave me the finger. I crept across the kitchen to turn it back on, but kept my eyes trained on the sheet.   Finally, Dad came out from behind the sheet and grabbed me by the arm. “I need your help,” he said. “We have to put this together for Mom.”   A dozen long sheets of frosted plastic, four fluorescent bulbs and rigs, and two big bags of potting soil were laid out on the carpet in the living room.   I recognized the equipment. It was an indoor greenhouse, something my mother had pointed out in the Sharper Image catalog, but I knew — even at twelve — that she didn’t really want this. Dad had filled the small patch of dirt in our backyard with pachysandra specifically because they required no care.   The greenhouse was flimsy and everything snapped into place, but assembling it was still a two-man job. I held a piece, and Dad tried to slide another into it, cursing like I’d never heard him. The plastic wasn’t cut perfectly, but he hammered the pieces together anyway. Then he hung the fluorescent bulbs, and I poured the soil into the bottom when he was finished. He plugged the lights in, and they buzzed and glowed a white-purple above the dirt. I guess the idea was that you could have a garden inside the house.   “She’s gonna love this,” Dad said.   I realize now that Mom was well on her way to becoming completely agoraphobic. She made only one daily, frantic trip outside, never at night. The rest of the time, she stayed deep inside the house, reaching into the dryer, organizing cans in a closet. She had stopped working in October. At the time, I thought it was a move made out of choice — that people either wanted to work or they didn’t. But Mom was probably incapable of holding a job at that point.   Two other conspicuous packages sat in the living room: one for me and one for Lovely, I assumed. Dad always did his shopping on Christmas Eve, and as a result he bought everyone exactly what he thought they might want, no questions asked. It was a strange, vomiting kind of charity. He was helpless and well intentioned, working two jobs now, confused about why his family seemed to hate him.   But I didn’t hate him. I think I just missed him.   Dad turned off all the lights in the living room except for the fluorescent bulbs hanging inside the greenhouse. He meant for it to be pretty, but it wasn’t. It was like someone had put a pay phone in our living room. He looked disappointed for a second, as if he suddenly saw that the gift was ridiculous, and then he just switched off all the lights, and we went to bed.   Lovely came into my room and demanded to know what I’d helped Dad build. I wouldn’t tell.   “Go in and look for yourself,” I said, but I knew she wouldn’t. Dad had scared her earlier. Scared me, too.   “It’s something stupid for me, isn’t it? A dollhouse or something. Know what I really want?” she said. “A backpack. A big sturdy backpack.”   I didn’t know why anyone would want that. She had been hinting all fall that she wanted a car, but even she knew that wasn’t going to happen. At seventeen, her red hair and freckles were no longer cute, but she hadn’t grown into her name yet either. It was part of why she was so angry, I think.   “Weird things are going on, little brother. I found Mom under her bed when I came home from school yesterday. She said she fell asleep. What do you think of that?”   I shrugged. I had seen Mom throw her car keys in the trash two days earlier. I took them out when she left the room and set them on the counter. I didn’t mention that, though. I just said, “Don’t sleep too late tomorrow. I want presents.”   The next morning — Christmas — the sheet was still up in the living room, and we waited outside until Dad came down. Rather than pulling the sheet aside, he plucked at each nail until the curtain finally fell, and there, framed by the doorway and lit up by the sun through the windows, was the indoor greenhouse.   Mom approached it slowly, peering into it as if it might contain some sort of animal. It did look like a drained aquarium, eight feet high and four feet deep.   “What the heck’s that?” Lovely said. “What’s it do? Who’s it for?”   “It’s for Mom. It’s a greenhouse,” Dad said. “For inside.”   Mom opened the see-through door and looked in and then looked back at Dad. He smiled nervously, teeth gritted, and made a “voilà!” gesture with his hands. She shut the door, and Dad handed her a small package. There were seeds inside, and Mom shuffled through the envelopes nonstop like they were playing cards.   I guess at that point Mom was on medication, too. She did seem fainter and fainter, almost blurry to look at, charged with a purpose none of us could understand and focused on something just above our heads and out of the frame.   Lovely opened her package from Dad; it was a telescope. She didn’t hide her displeasure. Dad gave me an archery set. Since we lived in a row home in Northeast Philadelphia, there was no sensible place to shoot an arrow. Also, there were no stars above the lights of the city, telescope or not. A brown smog hung above the neighborhood that brightened occasionally under a full moon. Our stars were only as high as the street lamps, the floodlights at car dealerships, the blinkers at the tops of factory smokestacks.   And when Lovely and I looked around, we realized there were no other presents to open. Christmas was over.   Lovely ran out and slammed the door to her room, leaving the telescope box behind, unopened. Dad walked Mom over to the couch and whispered to her about what seeds would be best to plant first. I went to my room, got changed, and took the bow and arrows outside to see what I could do.   All the other kids in the neighborhood were riding their new bikes and playing with their new remote-control cars in the street. I had never shot an arrow in my life — had never even thought of the possibility — and I was excited. Targets hung everywhere: street signs, parked cars, the occasional city tree. A thin groove at the bottom of each arrow seemed to fit the string, so I settled one in and pulled it back, but the tension became too much and I let go with both hands. The contraption fell to the ground with a clang, and all the neighborhood kids looked up. I had something, for sure.   After a few more tries, I managed to launch an arrow across the street without much speed. It hit the Kramers’ garage door with a thud. Everyone cheered. My friend Clip dropped his new hockey stick and followed me around, begging for a turn.   When I went back inside, Mom was on her knees with a little spade, planting seeds in the living room. Lovely’s door was still closed, but Dad had taken the telescope out of the box and was setting it up. He pointed to my bow.   “How’s it work?” he said. “Kill any Indians?”   Mom looked up. “The Indians used arrows. Cowboys used guns.” She’d taught grade school before she quit.   “Right, right,” Dad said. “Well, maybe there’s fighting between Indians. They did that, too.”   Mom wasn’t listening. “But no matter what,” she said, “all those things still fall out of the sky. Right on your head. A person shouldn’t get involved.” Then she climbed farther into the greenhouse. She said a lot of things in those days that we ignored.   I said, “I hit the Kramers’ garage from over here.”   “Good. They need to be brought down a few notches.” Dad turned the end of the telescope toward me. “Here, look at this. Wanna see Pluto?”   I looked in and saw that Dad had cut out a space scene from the telescope box, taped it to the far window, and lined the scope up perfectly. A flying saucer was frozen in front of a green planet with rings, and moons and stars were everywhere in the background.   “Just kidding,” he said and tore the picture off the window. Lovely hadn’t even seen what he had planned for her, and I could tell he was sad about it. He slapped the end of the telescope, and it spun and wobbled on its hinge. “Well, merry Christmas, family.”

Table of Contents

1. Going After Lovely 1
2. This Is Suicide 19
3. Saint Kevin of Fox Chase 35
4. Darkflips 4
5. This Is Pennypack 76
6. Chase Us 94
7. The Kidnapped and the Volunteers 107
8. This Is Ambler 123
9. This Is Recession 152
10. Dependents 169
11. This Is Tomorrow 180
      Acknowledgments 201