On a temperate stormy night
Last December a woman entered my apartment who looked exactly
like my wife. This woman casually closed the door behind her.
In an oversized pale blue purseRemas purseshe was carrying
a russet puppy. I did not know the puppy. And the real Rema, she
doesnt greet dogs on the sidewalk, she doesnt like dogs at all.
The hayfeverishly fresh scent of Remas shampoo was filling the
air and through that brashness I squinted at this woman, and at
that small dog, acknowledging to myself only that something was
She, the woman, the possible dog lover, leaned down to de-shoe. Her hair obscured her face somewhat, and my migraine occluded the edges of my vision, but still, I could see: same unzipping of wrinkly boots, same taking off of same baby blue coat with jumbo charcoal buttons, same tucking behind ears of dyed cornsilk blonde hair. Same bangs cut straight across like on those dolls done up in native costumes that live their whole lives in plastic cases held up by a metal wire around the waist. Same everything, but it wasnt Rema. It was just a feeling, thats how I knew. Like the moment near the end of a dream when I am sometimes able to whisper to myself, I am dreaming. I remember once waking up from a dream in which my mother, dead now for thirty-three years, was sipping tea at my kitchen table, reading a newspaper on the back of which there was the headline Wrong Man, Right Name, Convicted in Murder Trial. I was trying to read the smaller print of the article, but my mother kept moving the paper, readjusting, turning pages, a sound like a mess of pigeons taking sudden flight. When I woke up I searched all through the house for that newspaper, and through the trash outside as well, but I never found it.
Oh! the simulacrum said quietly, seeming to notice the dimmed lights. Im so sorry. She imitated Remas Argentine accent perfectly, the halos around the vowels. You are having your migraine? She pressed that lean russet puppy against her chest; the puppy trembled.
I held a hushing finger to my lips, maybe hamming up my physical suffering, but also signing truly, because I was terrified, though of precisely what I could not yet say.
You, the simulacrum whispered seemingly to herself, or maybe to the dog, or maybe to me, can meet your gentle new friend later. She then began a remarkable imitation of Remas slightly irregularly rhythmed walk across the room, past me, into the kitchen. I heard her set the teakettle to boil.
You look odd, I found myself calling out to the woman I could no longer see.
Yes, a dog, she singsonged from the kitchen, still flawlessly reproducing Remas foreign intonations.
Excerpted from Atmospheric Disturbances by Rivka Galchen Copyright © 2008 by Rivka Galchen. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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