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Authors: T. C. Boyle

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Tooth and Claw

BOOK: Tooth and Claw

Praise for
Tooth and Claw
by T.C. Boyle

Tooth and Claw
are Boyle’s trademark taut writing, immediate intimacy, vivid language.…Among Boyle’s gifts are his roaring intelligence and a curiosity that has led him over the years to develop a masterly range of subjects and locales.”

—Annie Proulx,
The Washington Post

“Boyle returns to mercilessly test his characters’ physical and emotional endurance.…Each character, captured in Boyle’s calculating and caustic prose, fights his or her way out of the wreckage.”


“An impressive miscellany of styles, genres, voices, and subjects…at his best, Boyle succeeds in creating a world where scientific determinism plays a part, but the characters go on living as if they had a choice and a chance. That he makes their predicament not just compelling but often exuberantly amusing is a tribute to his talent and proof of John Cheever’s claim that good prose can cure anything, including the common cold.”

—Michael Mewshaw,
Los Angeles Times

“Spine-freezing, guilty-giggle inducing and, oddly, heartwarming stories…fourteen small masterpieces of sculpture fashioned from sinew, muscle, marrow…heart. While unremittingly primal, they remain undeniably, and touchingly, human.”

The San Diego Union-Tribune

“As always, Boyle writes wonderfully about oddballs, boozers, and the terminally self-deluded. But his best work here isn’t satirical. In ‘Chicxulub,’ he juxtaposes the history of civilization-ending asteroids with an account of a happy middle aged couple, summoned in the night with terrible news about their daughter. The impact is shattering.”

Entertainment Weekly

“Whether Boyle is breaking your heart or making you laugh, you just don’t care because he is so darned good at it.…Boyle has the voice to make you smile, make you care and make you hate yourself in the morning for being taken in by such a smooth storyteller.”

San Francisco Chronicle

“There is little doubt that Boyle is one of the most inventive writers of our age.…He is at the top of his game in ‘Swept Away’—wry, playful, and generous toward his tenderhearted lovers even as they are torn asunder.…‘Dogology’ is another irresistible romp [which] deftly plumbs the inextricable conflict between man’s rational capacities and his animalistic urges, a theme Boyle has been examining, in one way or another, since his debut collection
Descent of Man.

The Boston Globe

“Boyle has an impressionist’s range with voice. He is adept at jerking the rip cord at story’s end without leaving readers feeling they’ve been jerked around. And he loves the challenge of grabbing an intimidating premise and whipping it toward despair or disaster.”

The Oregonian

“For those who are unfamiliar with Boyle’s work, this collection is a perfect place to start.…The short story is an ideal form for his remarkable talents. He has a seemingly limitless gift for the outrageous, sometimes grotesque, often incredible situation and for compelling the reader to buy into it.…Many of these stories are dazzling.”

Rocky Mountain News

“T.C. Boyle could probably spin a riveting story out of the contents of a seed catalog. He is a writer of astonishing range and imagination, fierce intelligence and trenchant wit. Those gifts are dazzlingly on display in this collection of fourteen short stories, each a fully realized world shot through with perils either natural or man-made.…His universe may be cruel and random, but it has a brilliant blaze.”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

“Like the best episodes of the late
Six Feet Under
, T.C. Boyle’s new collection of stories takes readers to the edges of life just to keep it valid.…Boyle keeps us hooked by injecting vivid details and dark humor into his characters’ distress. His conversational storytelling also draws the reader in casually as if he is just sharing heartbreak over drinks at the bar.”

Boston Herald

“The threat of imminent demise—whether self-inflicted or from an ungentle Mother Nature—hovers in Boyle’s seventh collection.…The wired rhythms of Boyle’s prose and the enormity of his imagination make this collection irresistible; with it he continues to shore up his place as one of the most distinctive, funniest—and finest—writers around.”

Publishers Weekly

“Boyle has never been more enrapturing than in his seventh collection of shrewd and comic tales. He orchestrates suspenseful, ludicrous, and wrenching predicaments, and his evocation of visceral detail, great gift for supple social commentary, and ability to occupy the psyches of his perplexed male characters are extraordinary.”


“Vintage Boyle, and not to be missed.…Darker tones and an impressive range of subjects dominate this impressive collection of fourteen vivid stories.”

Kirkus Reviews



T.C. Boyle is the author of
Talk Talk, The Inner Circle, Drop City
(a finalist for the National Book Award),
A Friend of the Earth, Riven Rock, The Tortilla Curtain, The Road to Wellville, East Is East, World’s End
(winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award),
Budding Prospects, Water Music
, and seven collections of stories. In 1999, he was the recipient of the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction. His stories appear regularly in major American magazines, including
The New Yorker, GQ, Esquire, Harper’s, McSweeney’s
, and
. He lives near Santa Barbara, California. T.C. Boyle’s Web site is


T. Coraghessan Boyle

Penguin Books


Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.

Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto,
Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3 (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)

Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd)

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Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd)

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Auckland 1310, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd)

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Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices:
80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

First published in the United States of America by Viking Penguin,
a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. 2005

Published in Penguin Books 2006

3   5   7   9   10   8   6   4

Copyright © T. Coraghessan Boyle, 2005

All rights reserved

Page ix
constitutes an extension of this copyright page.


These selections are works of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are
the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual
persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.


Boyle, T. Coraghessan.

Tooth and claw / T. Coraghessan Boyle.

p.   cm.

ISBN: 978-1-101-20119-0

I. Title.

PS3552.O932T66   2005

813’.54—dc22      20040655108

Printed in the United States of America

Set in Adobe Garamond

Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not,
by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s
prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without
a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

The scanning, uploading and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means
without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only
authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy
of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

For Rob Jordan and Valerie Wong


Grateful acknowledgment is made to the following magazines, in which these stories first appeared:
, “The Kind Assassin”;
, “Rastrow’s Island” and “Here Comes”;
, “Blinded by the Light” and “The Doubtfulness of Water”;
The New Yorker
, “When I Woke Up This Morning, Everything I Had Was Gone,” “Swept Away,” “Dogology,” “Chicxulub” and “Tooth and Claw”;
, “Jubilation,” “Up Against the Wall” and “The Swift Passage of the Animals”; and
, “All the Wrecks I’ve Crawled Out Of.”

“Swept Away” also appeared in
The O. Henry Prize Stories, 2003
, edited by Laura Furman (Anchor Books), and “Tooth and Claw” in
The Best American Short Stories, 2004
, edited by Lorrie Moore (Houghton Mifflin).

The author would also like to cite the following books as sources of certain factual details in “Dogology”:
The Wolf Children: Fact or Fantasy
, by Charles MacLean;
Wolf-Children and Feral Man
, by the Reverend J. A. L. Singh and Robert M. Zingg; and
The Hidden Lives of Dogs
, by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas.

The Simiadae then branched off into two great stems, the New World and the Old World monkeys; and from the latter at a remote period, Man, the wonder and the glory of the universe, proceeded.

The Descent of Man


When I Woke Up This Morning, Everything I Had Was Gone

Swept Away


The Kind Assassin

The Swift Passage of the Animals


Rastrow’s Island


Here Comes

All the Wrecks I’ve Crawled Out Of

Blinded by the Light

Tooth and Claw

The Doubtfulness of Water: Madam Knight’s Journey to New York, 1702

Up Against the Wall

When I Woke Up This Morning,
Everything I Had Was Gone

to tell you about, the one I met at the bar at Jimmy’s Steak House, was on a tear. Hardly surprising, since this was a bar, after all, and what do people do at bars except drink, and one drink leads to another—and if you’re in a certain frame of mind, I suppose, you don’t stop for a day or two or maybe more. But this man—he was in his forties, tall, no fat on him, dressed in a pair of stained Dockers and a navy blue sweatshirt cut off raggedly at the elbows—seemed to have been going at it steadily for weeks, months even.

It was a Saturday night, rain sizzling in the streets and steaming the windows, the dinner crowd beginning to rouse themselves over decaf, cheesecake and V.S.O.P. and the regulars drifting in to look the women over and wait for the band to set up in the corner. I was new in town. I had no date, no wife, no friends. I was on something of a tear myself—a mini-tear, I guess you’d call it. The night before I’d gone out with one of my co-workers from the office, who, like me, was recently divorced, and we had dinner, went to a couple places afterward. But nothing came of it—she didn’t like me, and I could see that before we were halfway through dinner. I wasn’t her type, whatever that might have been—and I started feeling sorry for myself, I guess, and drank too much. When I got up in the morning, I made myself a Bloody Mary with a can of Snap-E-Tom, a teaspoon of horseradish and two jiggers of vodka, just to clear my head, then went out to breakfast at a place by the water and drank a glass or two of Chardonnay with my frittata and homemade duck sausage with fennel, and then I wandered over to a sports bar and then another
place after that, and I never got any of the errands done I’d been putting off all week—and I didn’t have any lunch either. Or dinner. And so I drifted into Jimmy’s and there he was, the man in the sweatshirt, on his tear.

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