of first rank or importance or value
The neighborhood committee has voted her little brick-and-cement house by the sea as the
primary lookout for Santa Teresa del Mar. From her porch, Celia could spot another Bay of Pigs invasion before it happened.
a hypothesis that has been formed by speculating
A radio announcer barks fresh
conjectures about a possible attack and plays a special recorded message from El Li'der: “Eleven years ago tonight, companeros, you defended our country against American aggressors.
a musical interval of eight tones
Celia played the piano once and still exercises her hands, unconsciously stretching them two notes beyond an
worn away or tattered along the edges
She nestles her grandson beneath a
frayed blanket on her bed and kisses his eyes closed.
the power to foresee the future
Jorge’s letter arrived that morning, as if his
prescience extended even to the irregular postal service between the United States and Cuba.
intense feeling of love
Celia is astonished by the words, by the disquieting
ardor of her husband’s last letters.
characterized by liveliness and lightheartedness
Her Jorge did not resemble the huge,
buoyant man on the ocean, the gentleman with silent words she could not understand.
an unexpected and inexplicable change in something
She considers the
vagaries of sports, the happenstance of El Li'der, a star pitcher in his youth, narrowly missing a baseball career in America.
They feared that the Frenchman’s restless style might compel her to rashness, but Celia hid her music to La Soiree dans Grenade and played it
incessantly while Jorge traveled.
relating to an elaborately ornamented style of art and music
Felicia set aside pails of them but selected only one, a mother-of-pearl shell, a
baroque Spanish fan with which later to taunt her suitors.
turn pale, as if in fear
When they returned, it was like an undersea cave,
blanched by the ocean.
the configuration of a surface and its features
Dried algae stuck to the walls and the sand formed a strange
topography on the floors.
a person suffering from paralysis
toasted corn, pennies, and an aromatic cigar for Saint Lazarus, protector of
paralytics; coconut and bitter kola for Obatala, King of the White Cloth; roasted yams, palm wine, and a small sack of salt for Oggun, patron of metals.
state in which the conditions of life are extremely bad
“Herminia has told us of your
implied though not directly expressed
Lourdes is pleased with her uniform’s
implicit authority, with the severity of her unadorned face and blunt, round nose.
relating to deposits carried by rushing streams
She imagines her footprints sinking invisibly through the streets and the sidewalks, below the condensed archaeology of the city to underground plains of rich
having a strong pleasant odor
They multiplied prodigiously, hung abundantly from the trees, crowded the skies until they were
redolent of yeast.
a person's manner of walking
Now the extra weight did not alter her rhythmical
gait, but men’s eyes no longer pursued her curves.
someone who walks about in their sleep
Lourdes did not battle her cravings; rather, she submitted to them like a
somnambulist to a dream.
giving careful attention to detail
Her father had been a
fastidious man, impeccable, close-shaven, with razor-sharp creases pressed into his trousers.
without fault or error
Her father had been a fastidious man,
impeccable, close-shaven, with razor-sharp creases pressed into his trousers.
For her father, conquering the microbios required unflagging
a radical supporter of political or social revolution
subversives, red to the bone!”
suggesting the horror of death and decay
Mom thinks they’re
unrestrained by convention or morality
She said that artists are a bad element, a
profligate bunch who shoot heroin.
not transmitting or reflecting light or radiant energy
Soon she was a fragile pile of
opaque bones, with yellowed nails and no monthly blood.
embellished with a raised pattern created by pressure or embroidery
They examined her through monocles and magnifying glasses, with metal instruments that
embossed her chest and forearms, thighs and forehead with a blue geometry.
deficient in color suggesting physical or emotional distress
They prescribed vitamins and sugar pills and pills to make her sleep, but Celia diminished, ever more
pallid, in her bed.
the act of calling down a curse that invokes evil
They dug up the front yard for buried
maledictions but found nothing.
notched like a saw with teeth pointing toward the apex
Their driver, a balding man with gently
serrated teeth, shakes Celia’s hand with fingers the texture of cork.
having branches or flower heads that bend downward
Her mother-in-law, who had a fleshy-tipped nose and a
pendulous, manly face, snatched the flower from Celia’s ear and crushed it in her hand.
cause to be more favorably inclined
During the first months of their marriage, he called Celia every night, his gentle voice
lacking vitality or spirit; lifeless
“You won’t be needing this anymore,” she said, clutching a cream linen suit, which hung better on the wire hanger than on her
the study of the structure of animals and plants
She would not abandon a daughter to this life, but train her to read the columns of blood and numbers in men’s eyes, to understand the
morphology of survival.
dark and gloomy
She cannot persuade Felicia to take off her nightgown, to allow light in the
pass into or through by filtering or permeating
a small Hispanic shop selling wine and groceries
She sends the twins to the
bodega with an empty can and the last of her monthly coupons.
someone who cannot sleep
I think of everyone who might be awake with me—
insomniacs, thieves, anarchists, women with children who drowned in their baths.
striking change in appearance or character or circumstances
My vision is so accustomed to a shifting horizon, to the
metamorphoses of ocean and clouds, that to see such a mass of rock, immovable against the sky, was astonishing.
so extremely old as seeming to belong to an earlier period
antiquated, like the five-and-dime counters in New York.
shrewdness shown by keen insight
The next day, Lourdes works extraconscientiously, determined to prove to herself that her business
acumen, at least, is intact.
a large entrance or reception room or area
She twisted free from his grip and charged him so abruptly that he fell back against the
censure severely or angrily
Jorge del Pino
equipment consisting of miscellaneous articles
Felicia remembers how when she was in grammar school the
paraphernalia of faith had proved more intriguing than its over-wrought lessons.
an underground tunnel with recesses where bodies were buried
She marveled over how he’d been shot through with arrows and left for dead, how he’d survived his murder only to be beaten to death by the Roman Emperor’s soldiers and buried in the
a structure that has a roof and walls
Felicia went with Hugo Villaverde to the Hotel Inglaterra, an ornate wedding cake of an
edifice opposite the Parque Central.
straying from the right course or from accepted standards
Instead, she scolds the coconuts one by one as if they were
a very sleepy state
Sometimes nothing will rouse her from her bed, from a
somnolence that coats the very air she breathes.
pouring in abundance
During his presentation, a
torrential rainstorm fell and the black sounds of the duende shivered in the air with mystery and anguish and death.