Chapters 5–6

Set during the Harlem Renaissance, this follow-up to the Pulitzer Prize-winning Beloved explores a love triangle that ends violently.
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definitions & notes only words
  1. artful
    marked by skill or cunning in achieving a desired end
    It’s the time of year when the City urges contradiction most, encouraging you to buy street food when you have no appetite at all; giving you a taste for a single room occupied by you alone as well as a craving to share it with someone you passed in the street. Really there is no contradiction—rather it’s a condition: the range of what an artful City can do.
  2. saunter
    walk leisurely and with no apparent aim
    Whether stooping to remove a pile of horse flop or sauntering off to his swank hotel, his hat had to be just so.
  3. sheik
    a man who is much concerned with his dress and appearance
    And if that virtue is unappreciated, and nobody jumps up to congratulate him on it, his self-pity turns to resentment which he has trouble understanding but no trouble focusing on the young sheiks, radiant and brutal, standing on street corners.
  4. borough
    one of the administrative divisions of a large city
    I tracked my mother in Virginia and it led me right to her, and I tracked Dorcas from borough to borough.
  5. ramble
    move about aimlessly or without any destination
    I was rambling, just rambling all through the City. I had the gun but it was not the gun—it was my hand I wanted to touch you with.
  6. galosh
    a waterproof overshoe that protects shoes from water or snow
    And when I looked back at where I’d walked, saw myself standing there in street shoes, no galoshes, wet to the ankles, I knew.
  7. endear
    make attractive or lovable
    It was nowhere as blond as Vera Louise’s hair once was, but its sunlight color, its determined curliness, endeared him to her.
  8. suffragette
    a woman advocate of women's right to vote
    It was a renegade, almost suffragette thing to do, and the neighbors and would-be women friends surrounded Vera Louise with as polite a distance as they could manage.
  9. headstrong
    habitually disposed to disobedience and opposition
    The out-of-state newcomer, rich and headstrong, contented herself with luxury and even less of their company.
  10. vie
    compete for something
    Simply startled each morning by the look of him, they vied with each other for the light he shed on them.
  11. indulgence
    the act of gratifying a desire
    He was given a fussy spoiling by Vera Louise and complete indulgence by True Belle, who, laughing, laughing, fed him test cakes and picked every single seed from the melon before she let him eat it.
  12. repulsion
    intense aversion
    Her mother, however, had the final cut: her eyebrows were perfectly still but the look she gave Vera Louise as the girl struggled up from the floor was so full of repulsion the daughter could taste the sour saliva gathering under her mother’s tongue, filling the insides of her cheeks.
  13. contempt
    open disrespect for a person or thing
    And the lingerie case full of money that lay on Vera’s pillow the following Wednesday was, in its generosity, heavy with contempt.
  14. fastidious
    giving careful attention to detail
    So the yellow curls covered his coat collar like a farmer’s, although the rightness of its length in fastidious Baltimore came from the woman who lied to him about practically everything including the question of whether she was his owner, his mother or a kindly neighbor.
  15. sprawl
    sit or lie with one's limbs spread out
    She is still sprawled there.
  16. anecdote
    short account of an incident
    The scene becomes an anecdote, an action that would unnerve Vera Louise and defend him against patricide.
  17. modest
    low or inferior in station or quality
    He sets it down on the dirt floor and examines the house. It has two rooms: a cot in each, table, chair, fireplace, cookstove in one. Modest, lived in, male, but otherwise no indication of the personality of its owner.
  18. gingerly
    in a manner marked by extreme care or delicacy
    Gingerly he retrieves his coat and covers the woman with the strange-smelling dress.
  19. mortification
    strong feelings of embarrassment
    “But he’s golden. Completely golden!” So they named him that and didn’t take him to the Catholic Foundling Hospital, where white girls deposited their mortification.
  20. wallow
    delight greatly in
    A vision that, at the moment when his scare was sharpest, looked also like home comfortable enough to wallow in?
  21. unfathomable
    impossible to come to understand
    But who could live in that leafy hair? that unfathomable skin?
  22. furlong
    a unit of length equal to 220 yards
    He passes it by and then sees the roof of a cabin not five furlongs ahead.
  23. frock
    a one-piece garment for a woman; has skirt and bodice
    And in that room, the second one, is a box and a woman’s green frock folded on top of its contents.
  24. brandish
    exhibit aggressively
    Can you see the fields beyond, crackling and drying in the wind? The blade of blackbirds rising out of nowhere, brandishing and then gone?
  25. accentuate
    stress or single out as important
    The odor of the invisible animals accentuated in the heat mixing now with out-of-control mint and something fruity needing to be picked.
  26. impressionable
    easily influenced
    Carry yourself the way you would if you were always under the reviewing gaze of an impressionable but casual acquaintance.
  27. qualm
    uneasiness about the fitness of an action
    How he was driving along, saw and saved this wild black girl: No qualms.
  28. errant
    moving in an uncontrolled, irregular, or unpredictable way
    He wants to brag about this encounter, like a knight errant bragging about his coolness as he unscrews the spike from the monster’s heart and breathes life back into the fiery nostrils.
  29. irrevocable
    incapable of being retracted
    If she should rise up and claw him it would satisfy him even more and confirm True Belle’s warning about the man who saved the rattler, nursed the rattler, fed the rattler only to discover that the last piece of information he would have on earth was the irrevocable nature of the rattler.
  30. astride
    with one leg on each side
    Floating toward him parallel to the fence is a black boy astride a mule.
  31. lurch
    move suddenly or as if unable to control one's movements
    He would have said, “Morning,” although it wasn’t, but he thought the man lurching down the steps was white and not to be spoken to without leave.
  32. sunder
    break apart or in two, using violence
    Before, I thought everybody was one-armed, like me. Now I feel the surgery. The crunch of bone when it is sundered, the sliced flesh and the tubes of blood cut through, shocking the bloodrun and disturbing the nerves.
  33. writhe
    move in a twisting or contorted motion
    They dangle and writhe.
  34. plod
    walk heavily and firmly, as when weary, or through mud
    Even his horse had understood and borne Golden Gray along with just a touch or two of the whip. Steadily it had plodded, through valleys without trails, through streams without bridges or ferries for crossing.
  35. sodden
    wet through and through; thoroughly wet
    I want him to stand next to a well dug quite clear from trees so twigs and leaves will not fall into the deep water, and while standing there in shapely light, his fingertips on the rim of stone, his gaze at no one thing, his mind soaked and sodden with sorrow, or dry and brittle with the hopelessness that comes from knowing too little and feeling too much (so brittle, so dry he is in danger of the reverse: feeling nothing and knowing everything).
Created on April 30, 2018 (updated September 10, 2018)

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