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An excerpt from'What Can You Do With a General'

Linda was inside, on her phone—to who, this early? From the hot tub, John watched her pace in her robe and an old swimsuit in a faded tropical print that probably belonged to one of the girls. It was nice to drift a little in the water, to glide to the other side of the tub, holding his coffee above the waterline, the jets churning away. The fig tree was bare, had been for a month now, but the persimmon trees were full. The kids should bake cookies when they get here, he thought, persimmon cookies. Wasn’t that what Linda used to make, when the kids were little? Or what else—jam, maybe? All this fruit going to waste, it was disgusting. He’d get the yard guy to pick a few crates of persimmons before the kids came, so that all they’d have to do was bake them. Linda would know where to find the recipe.

The screen door banged. Linda folded her robe, climbed into the hot tub.

“Sasha’s flight’s delayed.”


“Probably won’t land until four or five.”

Holiday traffic would be a nightmare then, coming back from the airport—an hour there, then two hours back, if not more. Sasha didn’t have her license, couldn’t rent a car, not that she would think to offer.

“And she said Andrew’s not coming,” Linda said, making a face. Linda was convinced that Sasha’s boyfriend was married, though she’d never brought it up with Sasha.

Linda fished a leaf out of the water and flicked it into the yard, then settled in with the book she’d brought. Linda read a lot: she read books about angels and saints and rich white women from the past with eccentric habits. She read books by the mothers of school shooters and books by healers who said that cancer was really a self-love problem. Now it was a memoir by a girl who’d been kidnapped at the age of eleven. Held in a back-yard shed for almost ten years.

“Her teeth were in good shape,” Linda said. “Considering. She says she scraped her teeth every night with her fingernails. Then he finally gave her a toothbrush.”

“Jesus,” John said, what seemed like the right response, but Linda was already back to her book, bobbing peacefully. When the jets turned off, John waded over in silence to turn them on again.

A little bit about Emma Cline

Emma Cline cr Tracy Nguyen.jpg

Emma Cline is the author of “The Girls” and the recipient of the 2014 Plimpton Prize, from The Paris Review. The Girls was a finalist for a National Book Critic’s Circle Award, the First Novel Prize, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and was the winner of the Shirley Jackson Award. Her stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, and The Paris Review, and have twice been included in The Best American Short Stories. In 2017, Cline was named one of Granta’s Best Young American Novelists.

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