Part 1

Eighteen-year-old Hằng makes a difficult journey to America to find the brother from whom she was separated during the Vietnam War.
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Explore the Words

definitions & notes only words
  1. incensed
    angered at something unjust or wrong
    In his prime at twenty-nine, he sits on an incensed bronco like he’s on a swing.
  2. halting
    proceeding in a fragmentary, hesitant, or ineffective way
    That same morning, using halting English aided by scratchy illustrations, Hằng persuaded her cousin En-Di (illogically spelled “Angie”) to risk her own father’s fury and drive her to the bus station.
  3. livid
    furiously angry
    Dad would never let you go. But then he says no to everything. You have to do this alone? He’s going to be livid, and I guess I can say you insisted and cried and were going to drive off and wreck my Mustang.
  4. minute
    characterized by painstaking care and detailed examination
    There are steps that must be done, and once done, another step awaits. The last step, after six years of minute planning by her grandmother, is a bus ride away.
  5. naive
    lacking information or instruction
    It shocks her that six years ago she was that naive and silly.
  6. gumption
    fortitude and determination
    Since junior high, he’s been Lee. This morning he bunched Lee to Roy and gave himself some on-the-road gumption.
  7. induce
    cause to arise
    Hằng hides behind a standing picture of a sugar-glazed cake the size of her torso. The image alone induces a swollen tongue and a stomachache.
  8. lilt
    a jaunty rhythm in music or speech
    The man has an easy, slow, understandable lilt.
  9. indulgence
    the act of gratifying a desire
    Ripened-papaya hair, speckled face, pillow middle, puffy cheeks, and those eyes, those beaming eyes belong to someone who has received a sky size of indulgence.
  10. contour
    a feature of anything having a complex structure
    He does love the sensation of words buzzing inside his throat, especially loves to wrap them around a Texas contour. He spent all last year in the library looking up cowboy slangs.
  11. enthralling
    able to capture and hold one's interest or attention
    Hằng leans out the window, real air enthralling despite being whipped and hot.
  12. immaculate
    completely neat and clean
    How the immaculate cowboy talks.
  13. concise
    expressing much in few words
    Three concise words, without any fat.
  14. lariat
    a long looped rope used to catch animals
    While driving, LeeRoy keeps having to wrangle an unruly map and repeat “Mesquite,” “Street,” “Amarillo,” and “Texas” until his tongue knots into a lariat loop.
  15. ubiquitous
    being present everywhere at once
    But they were spared the ubiquitous snaky sounds of English and so loved this word most.
  16. cadence
    a recurrent rhythmical series
    “A-ma-ri-lo” rang out in a singsong cadence, hinting that their little boy might be finding reasons to sing.
  17. coerce
    cause to do through pressure or necessity
    “I got coerced into being a taxicab. The most trying ten dollars I ever did earn. Now if you’ll pardon me, I’ve got an urgency.”
  18. decrepit
    worn and broken down by hard use
    LeeRoy lifts the girl, light as a doll, carries her fire-rescue style to a swing as decrepit as the porch it occupies.
  19. coy
    affectedly shy especially in a playful or provocative way
    “Don’t play coy with me, I know you’re busting with stories. Might as well be me you tell it all to. Your brother?”
  20. mar
    cause to become imperfect
    No other sound marred the desert night, and the quiet sang in my ears.
  21. ashen
    pale from illness or emotion
    The dimmer the evening turns, the more her face glows ashen.
  22. poised
    in full control of your faculties
    It was always the poised, tearless patients that worried Mrs. Brown the most.
  23. glutinous
    having the sticky properties of an adhesive
    In their last year, when a new quadrant Communist leader began a forceful courting of Mother, Bà knew to appease him with his favorite glutinous rice and fatty sausages, along with rice wine.
  24. divan
    a long backless sofa, usually with pillows
    Bà smiled while propped against pillows on the mosquito-netted divan.
  25. monstrosity
    something hideous or frightful
    Sitting straight, her skeletal hands massaged the blue-purple monstrosity inside her leg.
  26. ebullient
    joyously unrestrained
    On each flower, a center cone springs up like a tiny thumb while red petals outlined in yellow point to the ground, as if reminding the ebullient thumb to stay centered.
  27. ornery
    having a difficult and contrary disposition
    So relieved the money is accounted for, he almost thanks Mrs. Brown then remembers he has cause to be downright ornery.
  28. vie
    compete for something
    Yet how he talked, all the more once they were away from the airport and driving alongside clogs of cars, each vying to go fastest.
  29. appease
    overcome or allay
    She must focus on the new address and on swallowing spit to appease stomach growls.
  30. vigor
    active strength of body or mind
    She hopes the meaning in English carries more vigor, the way Vietnamese boys’ names translate to Bravery, Brightness, Intelligence, Prosperity, Strength.
  31. forlorn
    marked by or showing hopelessness
    Dynamites must have exploded inside his nose bridge, releasing a red flood that left his caterpillar mustache matted and forlorn.
  32. high horse
    an attitude of arrogant superiority
    I ain’t thanking you for nothing, so don’t go getting on your high horse and yelling ‘You’re welcome’ in my face.
  33. trounce
    defeat in a competition, race, or conflict
    His nose throbs and his entire back is put out from getting trounced at the Lone Star, but at least LeeRoy has gotten to shoot off his mouth for a good long while.
  34. convoluted
    highly complex or intricate
    Her words stretch and regroup, bypassing her usual convoluted way of pronouncing things and sending forth clear syllables in a down-right, upbeat rap.
  35. sinewy
    possessing physical strength and weight; rugged and powerful
    She holds out her arms. He’s not flinging himself into them, not yet. Still she prepares for skin-to-skin, for simultaneous sobs, for his shaved hair to tickle her chin, for his sinewy biceps to squeeze her like metal pipes.
  36. bona fide
    not counterfeit or copied
    “I’d give anything to start yesterday all over. She’s a bona fide pain in the neck.”
  37. divulge
    make known to the public information previously kept secret
    Hằng doesn’t care about their tempers or her own queasiness or how her uncle was able to get Mrs. Brown to divulge this new address.
  38. admonish
    scold or reprimand; take to task
    Hằng admonishes herself for such carelessness.
  39. endowed
    provided or supplied or equipped with
    He’s not just alive, his body pumps rich blood beneath glossy skin and is endowed with enough protein to twist sinews tight.
  40. fleeting
    lasting for a markedly brief time
    Everyone but the real cowboy is talking at once. Her uncle the loudest. Hisses, fleeting as fireflies, dot the air.
Created on August 11, 2020 (updated August 14, 2020)

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