Last Updated on January 12, 2017, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1312
"Fame would strike someone, usually the kind that healthy-minded people would not wish upon themselves, such as being kidnapped and kept prisoner for years, humiliated in a sex scandal, or surviving something particularly fatal. These survivors needed someone to help write their memoirs, and their agents might eventually come across me." —from "Black-Eyed Women"
"Looking back, however, I could see that we had passed our youth in a haunted country. Our father had been drafted, and we feared that he would never return. Before he left, he had dug a bomb shelter next to our home, a sandbagged bunker whose roof was braced by timber. Even though it was hot and airless, dank with the odor of the earth and alive with the movement of worms, we often went there to play as little children. When we were older, we went to study and tell stories. I was the best student in my school, excellent enough for my teacher to teach me English after-hours, lessons I shared with my brother. He, in turn, told me tall tales, folklore, and rumors. When airplanes shrieked overhead and we huddled with my mother in the bunker, he whispered ghost stories in my ear to distract me. Except, he insisted, they were not ghost stories. They were historical accounts from reliable sources, the ancient crones who chewed betel nut and spat its red juice while squatting on their haunches in the market, tending coal stoves or overseeing baskets of wares… I shivered with delight in the gloom, hearing those black-eyed women with my own ears, and it seemed to me that I would never tell stories like those." —from "Black-Eyed Women"
"Stories are just things we fabricate, nothing more. We search for them in a world besides our own, then leave them here to be found, garments shed by ghosts." —from "Black-Eyed Women"
"In truth he had no other refuge but Parrish's hospitality, just as there was nowhere else for him to go at the end of the day in Saigon but a crowded room of single men and boys, restless of reed mats as they tried to sleep while breathing air humidified with the odor of bodies worked hard… Liem's eyes were closed by then, but he couldn't help seeing the faces of men he knew casually or had watched in the tea bar, even though of his own roommates. In the darkness, he heard the rustle of mosquito netting as the others masturbated also. The next morning, everyone looked at each other blankly, and nobody spoke of what had occurred the previous evening, as if it were an atrocity in the jungle better left buried." —from "The Other Man"
"My parents kept some of their profits in the bank, donated a portion to the church, and wired another percentage to the relatives in vietnam, who periodically mailed us thin letters thick with trouble, summed up for me by my mother to the tune of no food and no money, no school and no hope. Their relative experiences and their own had taught my parents to believe that no country was immune to disaster, and so they secreted another percentage of the profits at home, just in case some horrendous calamity wiped out the American banking system." —from "War Years"
"Overhead the moon was shining through a tear in a curtain of clouds, a perfect round bulb of white light reminding Arthur of the first thing he had seen upon awakening from his operation, a luminous orb floating in the darkness that he dimly understood to be heaven's beacon, telling him that he had crossed over to God's side. The orb grew steadily, its edges becoming hazy until it was a whiteness that filled his vision, a screen from behind which something metallic rattled and indistinct words were murmured. Someone was saying his name, a person, and not, as he first thought, God, for arthur was alive, a fact he knew both from the spear of pain thrust through his side, pinning his body to the bed, and from the...
(The entire section contains 1312 words.)
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