Excerpt from Pomegranate Soup by Marsha Mehran, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Pomegranate Soup

By Marsha Mehran

Pomegranate Soup

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He slyly got her behind the door, and gave her kisses over and o'er .
Fa la la lero liddle lie day ,fal la la lero li gee whoa!

This clan of caravan dwellers, having survived centuries of famine and the follies of wigged Englishmen, no longer traveled in horse-drawn trains. Instead, they opted for mobile homes topped with shiny roofs of chrome, peach and Tipperary gold.

No matter how colorful they may have seemed to the outsider, Dervla told herself, she had little patience for the train of itinerants who took hold of road and field alike. Maybe she couldn't change Ireland's ridiculous bylaws, which allowed travelers to squat in any open field, but it didn't stop the old gossip from trying. Dirty, disgusting things, those tinkers, Dervla muttered. Dirty, disgusting things. She picked up the telephone and dialed the town council office. Someone had to tell Padraig Carey about those filthy beasts. If she wasn't around to look after things, just imagine what sort of scum could come cruising down her beloved Main Mall!

What
came in the form of a bright green van, Sunday morning, 4 a.m. sharp. Dervla awoke to acrid exhaust fumes billowing into her open bedroom window. Annoyance turned to gratitude when she spotted the peculiar vehicle, for Dervla knew a juicy bit of news when she saw one. The van ambled around the corner into the back alley, its bright orange peace sign reflecting in the moonlight. She might be sixty-two, Dervla thought to herself, but she was well aware of what went on in backs of those hippie vans: lewd animal acts and drug use, that was what. No two ways about it.

Dervla sat frozen with anticipation, waiting for the shadowy driver (some sort of heathen hippie no doubt) to park and saunter into view, but nobody came. She waited an hour, then two, hobbling out of her bedroom only for an urgent toilet run. No one was out on the street at that time of morning; it was too late for pub crawls and too early for the delivery vans, so any suspicious footsteps could be heard easily. Dervla waited and waited, but nobody came.

The foggy light of morning brought Dervla little relief. There was the usual pedestrian bustle of Sunday bests parading toward the church; the same penitent drunks peeling themselves out of roadside ditches with warbled promises to do better next time. No mysterious hippie, though; no details of back alley dealings, no chugging exhaust fumes. Hours of sitting and watching, and all she had to report back to the hungry beaks of Ballinacroagh's ten o'clock parishioners was a sinful Benny Corcoran and a bunch of dirty tinkers. It was simply not good enough for a week's work.

Monday would prove to be much more rewarding. Not only did Dervla spot a light beaming through the cracks in the newspapered windows of the old Delmonico pastry shop but her sharpened ears detected murmuring voices coming from behind its red door. She couldn't understand what was being said, but it didn't sound like English, that was for sure. Italian, more than likely. No doubt a version of Latin the Pope himself wouldn't have approved of. Had Estelle Delmonico lost her marbles altogether and decided to start up that sad excuse for a shop again? Hadn't she learned her lesson the first time around?

Dervla sniffed the air outside her bedroom window.

Yes, a nasty reek of foreignness was definitely in the air. It was a different smell than what she remembered coming from Papa's Pastries all those years ago. She recognized the same unyielding yeasty scent of rising bread and perky almond intonations, but there was also a vast and unexpected array of under and overtones she could not name. The wicked, tingling sensation taunted Dervla's sense of decency, laughing at her as if it knew her deep, dark secrets; as though it had heard all about her dead husband's wanton ways.

Excerpted from Pomegranate Soup by Marsha Mehran. Copyright © 2005 by Marsha Mehran. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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