You are sitting in the bedroom of a house that is inches away from the freeway. Cars whiz past at an alarming rate, and it seems to you that a minor slip of the steering wheel will send a car crashing into the bedroom, killing the occupants of the house. You are there on a date with the man who lives there, a man named Oswald. He complains that the highway was built too close to his house, taking away his front yard—you see the tiny blades of grass that are left of it, so few you can count them, but he does admit that he has an exciting view from his bed. […]
The gravedigger was a woman. Tall, broad-shouldered, her cheeks flushed red from the cold. Or from shame. She hadn’t done the job we’d hired her to do: dig our mother’s grave. Father David, the priest from Gibraltar who looked and spoke like Michael Caine, had told her and the groundskeeper that the family would not be leaving until our dead was in the ground. It didn’t matter if the hole she had dug couldn’t contain her. “Enlarge it,” Father David said. […]
Widowed and childless, the man yearned to visit his mother’s Anatolian village. It would be his first journey out of Egypt, squeezed between two deserts, and his dreams had become filled with snow-dusted pines. Collecting his savings from a life working the land, he boarded a rattletrap bus to Alexandria, goats and straw baskets tethered to the roof. In the ancient port, he scanned the ships on the horizon, specks trailing threads of smoke. The ancient Library of a million scrolls, the Pharos that stood high among the Seven Wonders of the World—now rubble on the harbor floor—seemed alien to his purpose. […]
It is your luck to be the brother of three fat girls.
They have insisted on the moniker. “We are fat girls,” Elsie has told you. “If you don’t accept it, who will?”
“Don’t say that,” you have replied, hopelessly. “You’re beautiful,” and she has kissed your forehead wetly, like an aunt—she is thirteen years your senior; she relishes that word girls—and said, “Exactly.” […]