Simon Marshall (interning tour guide, Art History, ABD) stands in the empty gravel yard of Donald Judd’s museum in Marfa, Texas. The sun dips below the high walls of the compound, illuminating a perfect half of the courtyard. Behind Simon a wide expanse stretches, interrupted only by Donald’s outdoor dining table, still holding two copper pots, as if the artist has just stepped inside to catch a call and has not been dead for decades. Simon, having shooed away the final tourist of the day, crosses the courtyard to lock the gates. The gate rears far above his head, solid wood aged to black and buttressed by iron. He feels medieval whenever he does this—who else but a feudal lord would need such protection? Tonight, there’s a moment of resistance before the door shuts and a figure, shadowed and slightly blurred around the edges, pushes through him. Literally right through him.
The first time Caleb said it, Mitch vaulted the arm of the couch and was on the telephone in an instant, faster even than he’d cut on the field. Cindy remembered when her son moved purely for the joy of movement. Not today. Today it was all about the draft. How high he would go, where he would go, and how much money he would get. Cindy watched him listening, bug-eyed, the receiver to his ear, and thought to herself, Dallas—okay, yes, I could live in Dallas. They’d just won the Super Bowl.
Neither pretty nor homely, fat nor thin, Bernice Gardener was a middling girl, all her fenders straight but no chrome or pinstripes. With a few ounces of vinegar, some colored powders or a curling iron, she might have done well with boys. Bernice, though, didn’t alter her pale skin and left her brown hair straight, aside from an occasional colored hairband. She wore jeans and print blouses or modest dresses her mother constructed from dime-store patterns. Though she tripled the outside reading assignment and earned the highest score in her English class, her teachers dismissed her as a mind of no consequence because she read The Thorn Birds, Peyton Place, and Gone with the Wind. She had pondered the term “making love” until she bought Valley of the Dolls in a used bookstore because she wondered why the girl on the cover seemed so pleased to be in a martini glass.
The motorized chair arrived, and Berger left it unwrapped in the middle of the living room. He circled it—keeping to the walls and the furniture to recover his balance—as if the chair was prey. He almost needed it, but he had the walker for the moments he grew tired. He imagined these new fixtures—the oxygen tank, the shower stall, the protein shakes—as gifts. Every day something new arrived on a delivery truck. He wanted the boxes to come wrapped in paper and ribbon, but then again, the boxes didn’t represent a future, and so he no longer turned his head at the sound of the doorbell.
In the early morning, when pink Oklahoma dawn crept over the sturdy single-family bungalows and strip malls, Abu Khaled al Shimeri wrapped his left arm around the taut belly of his pregnant wife, Fatima, and had a troubled dream.
A dimly lit maze of unpaved streets ended in front of a tall limestone wall. The sky above the wall was luminescent blue, but no sunshine reached the crepuscular base where he was standing barefoot. Behind the wall were the sacred streets of al Quds. Abu Khaled knew that the gilded dome of al Aqsa Mosque was only a few hundred paces away. He could hear a busy market on the other side, peddlers hawking live chickens and honey, women bargaining over the price of lamb. But no matter how hard he looked, he could not see a gate, not even a crack in the wall through which he could squeeze his wilting, middle-aged body.
“God!” he pleaded. “Please let me into the blessed city!”