Caspian Rain

09/14/2007 12:22 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Excerpt from my new novel, Caspian Rain, published by MacAdam/Cage:

SHE'S SIXTEEN YEARS OLD -- a young woman in a city with blue mountains.

She's walking to school with her books in her arms. She has on a faded gray uniform, a pale lipstick that she has had to hide from her parents and put on only after she has left the house. It's a golden spring morning, the light as clear as polished glass, the air imbued with the scent of poet's jasmine that blooms on slender vines everywhere in the city. The sun is just rising behind the tall maple trees that line both sides of the Avenue of the Departed, creating a gallery of light and shadows where the girl's image is by turns eclipsed and illuminated and eclipsed again -- until she turns the corner onto the Square of the Pearl Canon and emerges into a sea of brightness.

As she steps off the edge of the sidewalk she feels a breeze, looks up in time to see a cloud of cherry blossoms rain down on her like a blessing. She lets out a cry of joy, opens her arms and turns full circle amid the flowers. Her books fall to the ground and her papers fly into moving traffic but she's laughing because she knows this is a good omen, a sign from the heavens that her luck has turned for the better. Any moment now, she thinks, providence will sweep toward her with a
flap of its giant wings, land on her shoulder, and transform her life.

Once upon a time in a land of miracles.

When she looks down again, she's inches away from the shiny bumper of a car. A dark, angry man in a chauffeur's cap and uniform is leaning out the window and yelling that she should look where she's going, get herself killed under someone else's car if she wants, just don't mess up his tires. He doesn't frighten the girl at all. From where she's standing, she can see her own image reflected in the tinted black windshield of the car, see the flowers that have been caught in her hair, in the folds of her skirt, on top of her books that lie around her feet. The driver is still livid -- hurry up and get off the road, you're holding up the boss people have work to do -- but instead of moving out of the way, the girl leans closer to the car, peers through the glass at the passenger in the back seat. She has blocked the entire lane now, and cars are honking from every direction, but she takes her time picking up her books. God damn it girl, you're just a kid, you have no business causing a nuisance for people bigger than yourself, don't you know how to behave in civilized society? the driver yells again, but the answer is obvious.

This is what my father sees as my mother stands before him that early spring morning in the city of my dreams: he sees a girl of limited means and abundant spirit.

OF ALL THE STORIES I will tell about my mother, this is the one I cherish most. I like to see her at the point of inception, the moment that would set the course for all our lives and all the stories that followed. And though I always know the end even before I have said the first word, I like the possibility, the promise inherent in each new telling, of a different finish.