A small truck stood curbside in front of a narrow store; a florist was taking delivery as I approached. The shop’s metal cellar doors, normally flat and flush with the sidewalk, were opened and upright revealing the steps to the storage area below the shop.read more...
“Isn’t there some other way we can go?” she asked, looking warily at the work crew only a few yards ahead of them. She buried her hands in her muff, although she wished she had insisted on taking the reins. It was, after all, her horse and carriage…read more...
I found Dad’s typewritten manuscript in his filing cabinet three days after his funeral. It lay flat and about an inch thick in a 9×12 envelope. The flap had been sealed, the metal clasp spread open. It was in a drawer that also contained insurance documents, the title to his car, and his honorable discharge certificate. The envelope had my name on it, written in copperplate pencil.read more...
Christmas break arrived, and I elected to stay in the city. Without any school or family obligations, I could explore the landscapes of Gotham, a student on furlough, looking for random adventures flowing with women and rivers of beer. Nebraska was gone—God knows where—and I had the room to myself, sleeping at any hour, traipsing naked if I wanted. I could have women without any concern for Nebraska’s rights to his space.read more...
Baltimore, May 1832
Virginia Clemm sits with Cousin Eddy on the small stoop in front of the little brick house in Baltimore, Maryland, in the Republic of the United States of America of which the president is Andrew Jackson, known as Old Hickory, slave owner and Indian killer. The street is unpaved, but a slave on the other side sweeps the dirt with a long-handled broom because his mistress says he must. A brown and white dog sleeps in the wagon ruts, and he will be run over if he doesn’t move; drovers are hauling produce to market in their rattling, trundling wagons.
What woke him was the sound of a fist on the front door, a thumping that signified in its speed and its impertinence that his landlord was coming to collect the rent again.
The scar tissue wasn’t healing well, so he was constantly in pain. Clad in just boxers and a vest, Bill winced as he took the five steps from his bedroom into the living room, crouching and running his hand down his uncovered leg, feeling the bristles and the indents, soothing himself.
There are things I’ve never told anyone, secrets hidden away in a vault with the doors clanged shut, forty years ago or maybe fifty, in the deepest recesses of my head. Secrets not previously told because they might have jeopardized my future by branding me a pot fiend, a beer hound, a left-wing radical or a white pointy-headed bigot. But I’m older now with a dwindling future, and the story is ready to be told.
Everything starts with the seed, and then come the roots.
When I am young, I dream that I die. In this dream, I am sitting cross-legged beneath the dining-room table. In front of me sits myself in the same position. I am both selves at the same time, though sometimes I am just one. One of my selves – I am not sure which – has been poisoned. I know I am about to die. I know it both as a fact of my body and as a kind of empathy. The me that is not dying is filled with self-pity and begins to make small choking sobs like a caught zipper. The other me makes the same noises but does not feel self-pity.read more...
Before he met and married my mother, my father used to go to Orchard Beach in the Bronx, so he could strip to his trunks without seeming like the exhibitionist he actually was. Other guys his age also flocked to the boardwalk with their muscles oiled and their stomachs drawn in. Summer flings were rampant. The air was heavy with two kinds of heat. But my father offered more than mere youthful swagger. He was the spitting image of Harry Houdini.read more...
On the way to Dublin Nora O’Neal stopped in Kilkenny to see Olga Kerensky. Olga’s house was on the main road. Nora remembered it well but not the big brass knocker on the front door. Maybe it was new. She reached up for it and slammed it down a few times. She sniffed the air around her and wondered where the beautiful roses were. She could smell them as if she was standing among them. There wasn’t a sign of them anywhere. Once she was in a bog and the rose smell made her think of a lot of butterflies in a garden.read more...
14th March, 1643.
An eccentric old woman. Creaky and bent. Snarling. Haggard. Annie Parsons hunched in her chair, dribbling and murmuring. Clumps of lank, grey hair shrouded part of her face. Grime made the whiteness of her shift barely visible. It clung to her body like a loose skin. Her bony wrists and ankles bore the sores of a long spell in irons.
Samuel Hawke loomed over her, arms folded, about to perform his service for the town and the county of Hampshire, and more importantly, for God.
It was almost the Vernal Equinox and the warm spring air was dry and turbulent. Its signature tulip gardens, baby animals, and happy pastel hues notwithstanding, that most optimistic of the seasons doesn’t always come calling with a smile on its face. Nor was there one on a young woman’s face as she auto-piloted her youngster along a windy Piraeus sidewalk. Oblivious to the plastic bag fluttering just above them and the dervish of leaves swirling above the gutter that delighted the boy, she fretted that the recent outbreak of what the Health Ministry had dubbed “a mild transitory outbreak of late-season flu,” might be neither.read more...
Saya had not decided whether to let Olafson see Ambon. She left him tied up in a water-filled pit that was lined with bamboo spears, not so much as a test but merely to keep him occupied for a few hours. He stared at her, wild-eyed with fear, and she disappeared into the rainforest.
She had not visited the spice plantation for more than two weeks, not since the day she had taken possession of Olafson. The home where she had grown up, what was left of it, was much higher upland than the cannibal hamlets and the hidden kamp where Saya now slept.
“Look at these people,” said Arif pointing at the television. “Look at the way they talk and talk.”
“Well, isn’t that the point?” I asked.
“The point of what?”
Arif’s face turned bright red.
“What this country needs is a monarch,” he said, “a kind and benevolent monarch.”
He removed his eyes from the nightly news to stare at me again.
“None of this democracy mess.”
When the girl wanders into the living room in the morning, her mother is seated cross-legged on the piano bench, phone pressed to her ear.
The girl toes the rattling skeletons of the open boxes. How can it be, she wonders, that as the boxes are emptied, the house only feels emptier? Does the emptiness come from the boxes? Is that the secret of moving? That you move the emptiness from one place to another? That you stuff boxes full of books and clothes and photographs and toolboxes, but the true heaviness comes from the emptiness, an emptiness that leaks from the boxes and sinks into the pit of her stomach?
Take the exit when you see the sign and leave the highway. A small narrow road will take you there. You’ll not be surprised how you missed it, nestled away from the day-to-day neurosis of shopping therapy, road rage and commuter traffic. A medley of native trees and shrubs line the road in places interspersed with glimpses of ocean blue in the distance. As the land flattens, the road lines with melaleucas, their raggedy white trunks a wall of papier mâché bones, and clears to low growing coastal heathland and saltmarsh. In spring it will come alive in a multitude of tints, tones and textures.read more...
Winnipeg, September 8, 1983
Dolores stood for a moment outside the door of Neil Rosenblatt’s office, checking that the bow of her blouse was properly tied.
“You can just go on in, Mrs Alexander”, sang the assistant from her desk, where, under cover of the school calendar, she was surreptitiously re-reading a letter from her boyfriend who was travelling abroad. Dolores straightened her shoulders.
“You wanted to see me, Neil?” she asked.
The man behind the desk pushed his glasses down his nose and set aside the pile of student information forms that he was perusing.
MISSING: A teenaged girl with lanky blonde hair and a sunburst tattoo on her cheek.
The holographic posters, brighter than day itself, lit up the air on every block of Main Street. They were the first thing Rags Goldner noticed as she and her partner Flint Sten turned onto the street.
The girl’s name was Effie, and she was sixteen.