The Return

I did not see the man who stole my shoes.

It was the day of All Souls, and I was crouching by my sister’s grave, trying to rid it of moss. In the giant graveyard of Olšany, half of Prague’s dead are buried. The other half are somewhere in the suburbs, or wandering unburied, screeching into the chimneys of the breweries or prowling on the gilded theatre roof. (A few celebrities are on the hill where the fortress looms, of course, and the Jews are enclosed in their separate stones.)

It was a dim, foggy day, dark even at two in the afternoon, and the ground was as sodden and spongy as a lung. As I imagine a lung. I had remembered to bring a pair of old boots for gardening, and when I reached the grave, I stepped out of my smart shoes and left them at the edge of the paved path, a few feet from the headstone.

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The worst Thanksgiving dish I ever had was a lemon and lavender cauliflower cheese baked by my Aunt Bristol.

She was an excellent cook. People always said so. In fact, what they said was: “Whatever else they say about your Aunt Bristol, she’s certainly an excellent cook.”

I remember that her cauliflower cheese looked very inviting, just like all the delicious dishes she’d brought in the years before. The cheese on top appeared to be browned to perfection, and although I have never loved cauliflower in the way I love broccoli or chard, I was certain that she had created another “pièce de résistance”. That is what my mother always called Aunt Bristol’s dishes, though she pronounced “pièce” in such a way that it sounded like “piss”.

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