Delia lived on the second floor of Eldorado Street. She’d had it all to herself since the day Charlie tripped on the cat and bled to death, his nose broken, face-down on the pantry floor, where she found him on Ash Wednesday. There was still a stain on the linoleum, a grid of black and white squares.
There came a day when, damn it, he just couldn’t take any more. He’d offered the pearl-skinned girl a home, a little gal of her own, and upkeep. She’d quit her job, got as fat as she could, and outsmarted him in every way.
“It’s not like I won the lottery, dude,” says Brent. “It is a fucking lottery. There’s just over four hundred elk licenses this year and like twelve thousand guys applying, plus if you’ve struck out before, your name shows up more times–the more years you signed up and whiffed, the better your chances.”
The microfilm, as I recall, showed a water stain on the marbled cover, its tentacles extending toward the embossed lettering of the title. The filigreed etching on the frontispiece included a dedication to an earl from his “most obedient servant.” I don’t recall the author’s name, or the name of the earl.
A new neighbor’s moved into number 507. I’d just taken out the spun laundry and was about to hang it on the clothesline. The washer is junk now. Whenever it goes from rinse to spin, it gives a terrible groan and shudders, as if it might explode any second.
Roger Rabid, we called him. Jabbertalky. Evermore. But mostly we called him Gunner–Gunner Summers. And it wasn’t just the Asian Americans. It was pretty much all his fellow 1-Ls–the immigrants from Azerbaijan and Poland and Brazil.
I was born in silence at the Saint-Eugène clinic, at 8 p.m. on the day of Mouloud. I didn’t cry. The midwife shook my legs vigorously until the cry came. Fireworks in honor of the Prophet’s birthday crackled in the night.
We were sitting in the plane, waiting to back out from the gate, while the flight attendants prepared the cabin for takeoff. Perplexing airplane sounds arose from unknown locations–inside the plane, out on the tarmac, in the air. It was afternoon–through the small window the sky appeared blue and clear in a way that was both joyful and aggressive.
Ernst Barbakoff went to the Cambridge Public Library, the branch on Pearl Street, every weekday morning as soon as the doors were open. Also Saturday afternoons. That was where the librarian, whom everybody called Miss Virginia, had posted his advertisement for piano lessons . . .
Papa’s hands are in my mouth. The pliers are frigging deep. He always starts at the back. That makes it worse at the end, which is the front. All confusing, but he’s that kind of bastard, my Papa. He twists the pliers.