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In a room upstairs the boy listened to the floor. "She talks like a baby, barely French at all." His nostrils were full of the smell of the rug, which was the smell of the house. "She’s like a doll."

Across the hallway on the floor under the window in the toilet room, two doves in a cage were calling into the narrow nighttime courtyard, warbling like deep-space sirens.

He would creep down before dinner to see the delicious things the Americans had to eat, how they would share with him without seeming to care, without monitoring his intake, delicacy plates of fries, sushi, pizza, cookies... He would fill his mouth and run and hide in the apartment and the parents seemed not to care, to encourage the running, even, chasing the children like children themselves, red faced, crawling after him and the beautiful doll-girl wherever they would hide together, slipping and falling, all of them together, careening into the large empty walls, moving furniture, slamming doors!

He rested his head on the worn rug. He heard his enormous father strike a match. The doll-girl stopped crying and it was silent except for the doves and the sound of Mo-Mo stacking the chairs on the sidewalk across the street. A scooter sputtered and then buzzed loudly in the distance. In the morning she would find him again "like a bundle" on the floor, hounding him all through the dressing and breakfast and down the stairs past the apartment door, where all would be quiet inside, until he broke free of her hand and rang the bell!

27 July 2006