"What, Mamo? What do you want me to say? It's four in the morning. You caught me off guard"
"Well, I'm sorry if this isn't a convenient time to tell you that your best friend's husband was just murdered"
"She was my best friend. She was."
"Oh, Jezus, Anka, really?"
"It's horrible. It's horrible, but I thought you were . . ."
"Nothing. How did you find out?"
"Her dad called me from Poland. I have to go now. Their poor mother is turning over in her grave. Please call Justyna. When you stop crying, call her." There are tears running down Anna's face, her neck. How can that be? she asks herself again, and then the dial tone signals her to hang up the phone and ask stupid questions later.
They call it Downriver, these clustered neighborhoods of southern Detroit. It is below zero right now, frozen over, iced down. The snow is no longer fluffy or crunchy; it is rock solid, piled high along the road like glaciers. It's only a few days after Thanksgiving, and already merry fools are dragging Christmas trees along the curb. Kamila can't help but think that they look like corpses. America is a strange place.
"´Sniadanie!" Her mother barks from downstairs, but Kamila can't eat breakfast so she ignores her mother. Kamila has other things on her mind today, things that can no longer be put off. She's been here for weeks, and now she's ready.
The house is quiet. The modest little yellow house that her parents scrounged for is a two-story, gated little piece of the American dream, just off Spruce Street. Kamila's parents have lived here since 1997, and five years after they left Poland for good, Kamila, their only daughter, has finally come for a visit.
When Lech Wa?e?sa won and the world changed, Kamila's parents, W?odek and Zofia Marchewski, took full advantage of their nation's newfound freedom. They flew from Poland to Ankara for Easter, spent Christmas in Crete, and then, one summer, W?odek visited his second cousin who lived in a sleepy, leafy suburb of Detroit. And W?odek kept visiting, each time for longer periods, until finally his wife, Zofia, allowed him the courtesy and joined him, first for two weeks, then for good. Why exactly he fell in love with Michigan as opposed to Rome or London, nobody knew, least of all Kamila. But fall in love he did, and that love eclipsed all fear of laws and impunities, and so her parents became, like countless other Poles in the States, illegal aliens.
Excerpted from The Lullaby of Polish Girls by Dagmara Dominczyk. Copyright © 2013 by Dagmara Dominczyk. Excerpted by permission of Spiegel & Grau. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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