Head hanging, Rana struggled to breath through a choking tide of scent. Jasmine, sandalwood, cedar, rosewater, swirled in the humid air, wrapping around his throat like fingers. One side of the bar was crowed with a chattering flock of exotic birds. Light refracted from jewelled throats, fingerings stabbing his retina. Weddings were almost unheard of at the hotel, stuck as it was on an industrial swathe of the Clyde riverbank. The current honour was due to Mr Bhatia, the bride’s second-cousin. She was marrying a surgeon from a very good family. There would be several medical professionals in attendance, some bankers, and an Uncle who owned a furniture emporium.
Dear Mr and Mrs Landlord I spotted your advert in Country Life and my lady wife has urged me to get a wriggle on and throw our hats in the ring to bag this plum of a rental. We are very eager to arrange a viewing at your charming sounding house with its position on the ring road and handy access to Middlesbrough Junction. And it is even more exciting that our potential new landlords (aka your lovely selves!) would be living right next door, so we are keen to make a good impression!
I had been looking for a lover for over a year. It was harder to find one than I expected. It probably had something to do with me having a boyfriend, Dirk, who I lived with and couldn’t imagine leaving. I didn’t want to leave; I was in love with him. But I was jealous. And I needed more sex, more than twice a week especially since I didn’t feel satisfied after we had sex. It ended too fast.
The Sheriff of Lincoln County and I happened to be in the Wortley Hotel Lincoln NM at the same time. He came into the breakfast room shortly after me. A big man, well into his 60s I guessed, but he moved lightly. He pulled up a chair at the table next to mine. ‘Howdy’ he said. ‘What brings you to Lincoln?’ I told him my business was antiques and art works and gave him my card to prove it. Rural county sheriffs like to know who’s around. He ordered steak and eggs. Some small talk was made.
The large yellow and black tiered box is rimed with dust. Ruth wipes a finger along its ridged top and sniffs the grey residue of dead skin, cobwebs and time. All it evokes is a sneeze. Getting herself a tissue, she grabs a wet cloth from the top of the kitchen sink and sets-to cleaning the outside of the layered toolbox. She wishes to erase the grime, and to polish and polish till it shines like – like what? A plastic container can’t shine, of course, but it can be cleansed and freed from the memories it might retain. She scrubs hard.
The first time Willa appeared to Stephen he thought he was dreaming. She slid shivering under the blankets. She felt as cold as ice and her flesh was almost the color of ice as she pressed into him. Any second he would awaken to an empty bed. But this was when his power over his dreams was at its peak. He would be able to make her want everything he wanted.
Abe remembered as he pulled into the rest area. Too late. Sixteen years of habit die slow. He rested his right palm on the frayed Navajo-style passenger seat-cover, feeling the faint prickle of Geordie’s short, coarse hair trapped in the rough weave. It felt like the spiky-soft tips of grass sprouting on the grave beneath the ash tree. Killing the engine, Abe shut his eyes. Geordie always smelled like swamp water. For the first weeks Abe was convinced the pup snuck into things: drains, garbage cans, trash heaps. But patient stalking revealed no miscreance. The goofy mutt was just an eventual 97 pounds of slobbering, soft-hearted, small-bladdered stinker. Picked a winner, Hazel would tease.
Does anyone – other than M. Bertillon from a seminal 1987 GCSE French textbook – still say ‘zut alors! ’? It is the sort of thing this icon of beret-wearing contrivance used to exclaim when stung by Kiki La Guêpe, prevented, as he was, from shouting the more realistic ‘Fuck me, that hurt!’
Hannah Pye had been with us about five years. She rented a small holding on the land side of the highway that ran through the township. She was a pleasant person, about 5’ 4’’, with an open, smiling face and a ruddy complexion. She dressed in the sort of determinedly outdoor clothing you can only get from specialist catalogues.
Ruth Adler had been my expert consultant and moral support when I wrote the book that elevated me to full professor, Newark Unbound: Place and Identity in the Fiction of Philip Roth. “The only place Philip Roth has ever found his identity is between a woman’s legs,” Helen would say. Ruth helped me laugh it off. But, threatening divorce, Helen had left. (Her departure had nothing to do with the book, by the way. That had been a gentle bump in the road for a marriage that ultimately developed potholes the size of craters.) Ruth’s husband, Joel, had died, and her only child had died in her teens a decade earlier. It was time to shed grief and assume new identities, or at least try. And I’d been in love with Ruth’s mind forever. It was easy to forgive her for being smarter than me because she was so much smarter than me. The truth is that she was out of my league.