dominant gene. He imagines thousands of abandoned cars, tanks loaded
with petrol, sitting and deflating as the tires gave out, husks and
skeletons, and yet the fuel tanks would persist, the fuel inside them
The mosquitoes are out in force; he swats at them with a lazy hand.
He recalls that back in Texas, mosquitoes are gigantic, all drowsy
with their giant wings, but here they are small and maddening, never
resting for even an instant. Around the corner is an all-night restaurant,
tables set up outside for the evening, miniature fans oscillating
and keeping the insects away from the food. He can smell the beef
shank noodles, the rotten cabbage and trash collected out back.
Twenty minutes ago Allen called him: Operation Smoke-out is in
effect, he announced with the lilt of a carnival barker. I
put in the call to Mrs. Chen just now.
Progress reports every half-hour, understood?
Understood, he replied. Carol's giggle was in his head. He
couldn't stop thinking of her in that tight swimming suit. She was
probably at the bar, lined up with three identical women in swimsuits
at the front door to greet visitors, each of them holding up a photographic
cut-out of Lucky Star beer, the words Lucky Star emblazoned
on ribbons that crisscrossed their bodies, labeling them like beauty
pageant contestants. And maybe once or twice, when no one was looking,
she would reach down and spread her fingers over her belly, contemplating
Georgia and a child, what it would feel like to be pregnant, how much
her skin would swell to accommodate. And she would relax into an unplanned
smile that no one would see.
Still no sign of movement or commotion from within the Chen residence.
Only the same living room light burning,