First paragraphs from three stories:
“Sue Lin Anandaran liked to clean kitchens and bathrooms. She liked to pick up the mess, scrub the surface, and leave the room smelling of lemon or lavender. She also liked listening when people talked on their cell phones in bathroom stalls. More than anything, Sue Lin liked to please other people.
From the beginning, Sue Lin’s parents had a clear idea about the kind of a woman she would become. Her mother, Joan, was a neurologist who wished she were a schoolteacher and her father, Norman, was a physicist who wished he were a master chef. Joan liked to play Scrabble, but she liked to lose more than she liked to win. Norman liked to walk in the wind with an umbrella so that it turned inside out. ”
“When Leonard first arrived, he imagined he saw a white cat running along the overgrown railroad tracks. People were always complaining about black cats, but he, like everyone in his family, knew that real trouble wore white.
His sister was ill and soon after he arrived, she died, and there was Leonard left with a devil child to bring up. The girl may not have appeared especially devilish to most people, but Leonard could hardly manage all her running and question asking. She was quite literally full of energy. He knew this was far from a good sign, that it might even be a mark of the devil – which is why he sometimes thought of her as a devil child. But he also acknowledged that whatever beset her came from without, and he knew better than to condemn what lay within. At least, not right away. She ate like a horse, too, which was a real shame because Leonard himself preferred light meals. The girl was called Lily and she had just turned 8 years old.“
“When I was young, I slipped into houses late at night, or on hazy afternoons, occasionally pilfering beads or a magnet, maybe a Buddha figurine. But I was never a common thief.
It was during high school, when people in my life were unreliable and everything was a blur of distraction and a failure – or an inability – to focus. Inside other people’s houses, I felt liberated. The first steps inside were the best part. To be there suddenly, to become a secret witness to mysterious lives. I narrated those lives as I walked through the house, inventing wild trysts and ugly divorces, child geniuses, or the odd addled uncle who locked himself in rooms or wandered listlessly. I imagined the lovemaking and violence of the everyday, but the unusual intrigued me. Once there was a stained glass window in the middle of an upstairs room with no furniture. Another time scissors were stabbed into the wall along a staircase. Sometimes I took things. It was an opportunity, I felt, to be fascinated, to choose trinkets no one would miss or treasures that surely prompted fierce searches.”