Family and Relationships
Basia watches her granddaughter, Lalka. No matter what else she does — digs in the garden, pulls weeds in the greenhouse, peels the potatoes — always she watches her granddaughter, who has a reddish-purple birthmark over her neck and jaw and part of her cheek. Her husband, Zbigniew, watches Lalka too.
There are four types of brick. I remember two of them: pavior and stock. Our row house was all brick with ledges near the roof, four stories up. Pigeons liked to make nests there, but it was stupid; the ledges were too shallow, and with the first strong gust of wind their nests blew down. Still, year after year, they did it. Optimists, those pigeons.
It was the year they found a dead toddler in the bushes, head bashed in, bite marks and cigarette burns all over his body. He was wearing a T-shirt with multicolored lollipops across the front. It was November 1990.
My sister Asia loved to kick my ass. The violence began when she was ten and I was eight, after our mother started dating Freddy, a tall, bulky, dark-skinned man who chewed his tongue between sentences and had a booming laugh that sounded like it could topple buildings and crush small boys.
I sit on the curb in the shade of the bay laurel, head and arms piled on my knees, and admire Dolores Wilde in her green bikini across the street. She is a slim girl with gold hair and large, hazy green eyes. Dipping a sponge into a bucket, she slops on figure eights of suds, then rinses and rubs till her stepdaddy’s turquoise Buick gleams like the abdomen of a bluebottle fly.
My name is Ramon. I am fifteen. One thing people don’t know about me is I saved one of the airplanes on September the eleven from hitting one of the towers. The south tower. No one knows this because I used my power to make everyone forget. There will be people who say I say it now to get credit for this paper due in school but that is not the reason, the reason is people should know what I can do so they don’t mess with me. People did mess with me before and that is how I develop my power. It is a strong power as you will hear now.
A noodle shop in central Burma, The Phil Donahue Show, the Tet Offensive
I met Laura for the first time at the Department of Human Services. The police picked me up from the domestic-violence-intervention agency where I was working and brought me to the squat cinder-block DHS building. Rain poured steadily from the gutters onto the cracked concrete sidewalk.