Jed’s mother had been a greasy plume of black smoke. She’d raised nine children in a wasteland pocked with shell-craters. When the sour wind blew from the north, dust swirled around derelict gantries and junkyards full of fine old DeSotos and Studebakers. A strong gust once blew Jed’s mother to hell-and-gone. For several days the children foraged amid the scrap iron and the cornflowers. When Jed’s mother returned, she was very sorry. She cried sooty tears that peppered Jed’s upturned cheeks.
We had to poke Alaric with fondue spears to get him to share. Alaric had been an only child, raised in a cave full of owls. Alaric’s mother had cared only for the owls, and nothing for her son. “There there, Too-Too, and how is my Mr. Hoots today?” Young Alaric owned no toys except a clock. He’d move the hands and pretend it was six o’clock, move them again and pretend it was half-past nine. When Alaric was fourteen, Mother had presented him with a scale model of Versailles. Years later, Alaric saw the real Versailles and wept when he realized the gilded columns were not crusted with owl scat.