In the kitchen, the smell was overpowering - the summer smell of a New York restaurant dumpster that hadn’t been washed in weeks - stinky cheese, vegetable bin slime, and something else much worse, a heavy, charnel-house smell. Something dark and bloody. Something like a drowned corpse, soft parts eaten away, floating and bloated. Something dead and gone.
Yevtushenko is a ladies man
the revelation came
as I begged an autograph
post-reading of The Kissing Inn.
By morning the winds had died and the water was glassy and there was a small swell, and even though I had been awake late, I got up early and grabbed Malone’s board from Penina’s railing and paddled out. The beach was empty. After an hour or so of catching some small, inside waves, I saw Penina out beachcombing. I came out of the water to meet her and we walked up to the Strand together talking.
That second time I remember, sweet minty steam drifted through the air from a tea stall. The call to prayer crackled, raspy and melodious and mournful, from a minaret on the other side of town. The sun was just beginning to set all soft and orange over the sea.
The Quran gate, where the paved highway leading north leaves Shiraz, marks the edge of the city. It is a high arch over the road, and embedded in the bricks near the top is a Quran, so that all departing travellers may pass below it, and be blessed. Just beyond the gate the terrain becomes rugged. Rocky, jagged hills and narrow ravines line either side of the winding road climbing out of the city.
He still hadn’t moved when she looked up, so she closed the book and said, “Diapers are on aisle four,” loudly and slowly like how she talked to Tyler when he was wasted. Mr. Coombs came up to the counter. She glared at him, but he seemed not to notice.
Stop me before I remember. The caves in California. Father behind me. Mother beside. The guide blew out his lantern. Quick darkness, quick. Above the other children snickering. A wailing. The rock, my father. As conduit. We did not run. Reached toward the unknown animal.
Everything stopped in an instant. Sound disappeared. The bright September air grew perfectly still. People around us turned to statues: Chief stuck in his retracted hunch, Slavich staring unseeing at his boots. A scrap of paper, caught by a passing gust of wind, hovered a few inches above the pavement. In the sky over City Hall, a flag hung in a half-furled wave. Nothing – not a person, leaf, insect, machine or object – moved anywhere in the world. Nothing, that is, except me and the two people whose skin I touched.
Aunt Shelley’s hair was all the way down to her shoulders – just like mine. I loved my Gramma Opal and Aunt Shelley but they were on the opposite team and I’m not so sure they believed me. I got all sad thinking Dad’s side didn’t believe me. There were these big brown doors and the one on the left had a little window at the top.