Excerpt of Small Damages by Beth Kephart
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O N E
The streets of Seville are the size of sidewalks, and there
are alleys leaking off from the streets. In the back of the cab, where I sit by myself,
I watch the past rushing by. I roll the smeary
window down, stick out my arm. I run one finger
against the crumble-down of walls. Touch them for
you: Hello, Seville.
At the Hotel de Plaza de Santa Isabel, the old lady
in the vestibule is half my height, not even. She has
thick elephant legs and opaque stockings, and maybe
the sun banged her awake when I opened the door, or
maybe the look of me disturbs her, but whatever it is,
she's bothered. She puts her hand out for my deposit,
finds a key, and knocks it down on the table between
us. She thrusts her chin sky high, and I turn and take
the marble stairs, where there are so many smashedin
footsteps before mine. Smashed in and empty and
My room is long and thin, like a hallway corked on
either end by a door. The first door takes me in from
the stairs and the second one takes me back out, past a
bed, a toilet, a porcelain sink, toward a tall and thickglass
window. Outside, three stories down, a man is
sitting on a bench, and a nun and then another nun are
dragging their black skirts across the plaza tile. There
are orange trees cracking the concrete.
"You'll be home in five months," my mother said
at the airport terminaltwelve hours ago, just twelve.
"Five months is forever," I told her.
"You made your choices," she said, and I said,
"No." Because the only thing I chose was you.
T W O
When I wake it is already tomorrow.
I change, brush out my hair, and slip down
the steps, where Elephant Legs has gone missing.
When I open the door, a nun blackbirds by, and I keep
walking out into the air, which smells like fruit and
sun and the color blue; it smells like blue in Seville.
Down one street I walk and then another, getting lost
and not even caring. Later this morning, Miguel will
come for me, and I will belong to him and to his cortijo,
which is an island of dust in a land of dust, or at
least that's how I dreamed it in flight, high in the sky,
higher than birds, above the plunging deep Atlantic.
Miguel has friends, my mother said. Friends who will
help me forget this.
"If Dad were alive, he wouldn't let you," I told my
mother, who had packed for me, arranged for me, exchanged
dollars for pesetas for me, never asked me.
My mother, the Main Line party planner.
"Don't kid yourself, Kenzie. And don't accuse. Someday you'll be grateful."
"It was different," I said, "when you went to Spain."
"I was different," she said. "I was responsible."
I don't know what time it iscan't do the math
off my watch, which still reads Philadelphia. At every
corner there is a bar, and in every window a dead
pig dangles from its hard black socks, and past the
ham, on oiled counters, there are sugar rolls heaped
on bright trays. I yank at a door and head inside. I take
a seat at the counter. The waiter slides me a coffee in a
thick porcelain mug. I choose a pastry from the tray
raisins, white frosting, a rising yellow marmalade, and
then I'm back out on the streets, thinking of you, tiny
as a finger curled, and fed.
Excerpted from Small Damages
by Beth Kephart. Copyright © 2012 by Beth Kephart.
Excerpted by permission of Philomel. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.