Part 2

Five cousins from an unconventional family try to reestablish ties while uncovering family secrets.
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definitions & notes only words
  1. contortionist
    an acrobat able to twist into unusual positions
    They juggle, not things but words. They dare to leap through the ring of fire that is TV news. They are contortionists of ideas.
  2. unconditional
    not qualified by reservations
    The preacher says, “The pool at the palace is filled with unconditional love. Your brothers and sisters will join you here and you can bathe together in His light.”
  3. momentum
    an impelling force or strength
    She gets her magnifying glass. Through it she can see Gerald working so hard to walk, he stumbles. He moves his head for momentum.
  4. heirloom
    something that has been in a family for generations
    “A bell?”
    “It’s like, an heirloom or something. I think it was a souvenir someone got down south. It’s a slave bell.”
  5. rivet
    a heavy metal pin used to fasten two pieces of metal
    The Freak finds herself back in the tunnel she was in more than two weeks ago. Gray, rivets, lit only where she stands, and the sound of someone writing.
  6. tether
    restraint consisting of a rope or chain
    Safety is a lie. I’m floating in space with no tether.
  7. compliant
    disposed to act in accordance with someone's wishes
    “No,” she says. “Maybe. I don’t know. They’re not all that bad. And this makes us look compliant.”
  8. petty
    small and of little importance
    The only word on my lips is shoplifting but it seems so petty.
  9. intrigue
    cause to be interested or curious
    He’s intrigued by the kid.
  10. tenuous
    lacking substance or significance
    Marla’s grasp on the afterlife and Hinduism is tenuous. “The Consciousness is all-inclusive,” I explain.
  11. resolute
    firm in purpose or belief
    Marla is resolute in this idea.
  12. rave
    praise enthusiastically
    From behind the door, there’s the sound of weeping. Loretta thinks the critics will give them a rave review. Never has an act been so convincing.
  13. thesis
    a treatise advancing a point of view resulting from research
    “That research paper. My thesis statement was all over the place. All my sources were lame. I stopped caring.”
  14. queue
    a line of people or vehicles waiting for something
    This is when my brain runway does its best work. The plane is in the queue, not taxiing yet.
  15. vibrant
    (of colors) bright and striking
    She’s pretty sure she’s in Ireland or Scotland or New Zealand or one of those places where the grass stays vibrant green all year and the sheep speak English.
  16. consignment
    the delivery of goods for sale or disposal
    She finally arrives at the place she needs to be—a small charity consignment shop in the city.
  17. maneuver
    direct the course of or determine the direction of traveling
    He’s got two paint-soaked towels in his hands and is maneuvering them into a black trash bag.
  18. debacle
    a sudden and complete disaster
    Only when I take a few more deep breaths do I see that my knees are yellow from the paint and my hands are covered and I realize there is no way to hide the whole stupid debacle from Marla when she comes in.
  19. improvisation
    a performance given without planning or preparation
    They replay it every night and the husband character is working on his improvisation.
  20. surreal
    resembling a dream
    There’s always a surreal moment before dialing 911. A moment when you think you should do something else. A moment when you think it’s all a joke or a mistake or maybe you’re just not seeing things right.
  21. afghan
    a blanket knitted or crocheted in strips or squares
    She puts it around her mother’s shoulders and grabs the new afghan Loretta gave her for Christmas and puts it overtop.
  22. mesmerized
    having your attention fixated as though by a spell
    She walks in front of the ambulance and they seem to be waiting for her, which is not an ambulance’s job, waiting. The driver is mesmerized, though, as if Loretta were already wearing her red-sequined gown.
  23. tulle
    a fine fabric net used for veils, tutus, or gowns
    There’s a rack of prom dresses in the back. Or dressy dresses. Formal things with tulle and satin, a pair of matching bridesmaid dresses.
  24. curtsy
    bend the knees in a gesture of respectful greeting
    “Thank you,” Loretta says, and curtsies once in each direction, bowing her head so she doesn’t get hit in the face with thrown roses.
  25. gaudy
    tastelessly showy
    She seems to be on the floor. There’s gaudy jewelry all around her.
  26. stickler
    someone who insists on something
    Marla and Gottfried were supposed to be home by now. It’s past dinnertime. Marla is a stickler for dinnertime.
  27. prelude
    something that introduces what follows
    If Jake knew how to use the word prelude in a sentence, he’d describe this invitation as a prelude to a gathering.
  28. triage
    sorting and allocating aid on the basis of need
    When Marla is called to be seen, Gottfried helps her walk to the triage area and smiles at the teacher man and his sons.
  29. demented
    affected with madness or insanity
    They’d call me demented and lock me up in a home.
  30. existentialism
    a philosophy that assumes that people are entirely free
    My superpower would be the Existentialism—a ray I could shoot out of my hand that renders people powerless to face anything but their own personal pointlessness in an absurd world.
  31. render
    cause to become
    My superpower would be the Existentialism—a ray I could shoot out of my hand that renders people powerless to face anything but their own personal pointlessness in an absurd world.
  32. diaphragm
    a muscular partition in the chest used in respiration
    His diaphragm is crushed with the weight of knowing that if his father is dead, then he will be the only one left.
  33. ratchet
    move by degrees in one direction only
    She moves her arm— ratchets it back and swings.
  34. hopper
    funnel-shaped receptacle
    I can hear the pellet hopper release another load into the stove.
  35. frolic
    play boisterously
    He only needs to read the first two letters of the last name and he catches the frontrunner in his memory and wins his own race. And then the robins are there, frolicking in the middle of the road in 1965, and he’s sadder than he’s ever been.
  36. unruly
    unable to be governed or controlled
    Running from his five kids who were too loud and unruly for him to handle because he was making money and needed to do that in a quiet place.
  37. garbled
    lacking orderly continuity
    So close Jake can’t avoid him, and he brings the coffeepot down on whatever he can reach and the glass breaks over Bill’s back. More blood. More groans and garbled words.
  38. ether
    a medium that was once thought to fill all space
    No one noticed because she was flickering between Borneo and Idaho, and she no longer has a device on which to receive email, so her parents’ ecard is lost in the ether somewhere if they sent one.
  39. transcend
    go beyond the scope or limits of
    The Freak has transcended Stuff.
    The Freak only has room for Experiences.
  40. leper
    a person afflicted with leprosy
    She thinks Jesus probably lived and probably hung out with lepers and prostitutes and cared for the poor.
Created on March 11, 2020 (updated March 17, 2020)

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