in a sincere and serious manner
“I bring my home with me wherever I go,” he’d told Suraya’s mother
earnestly as he left.
move unobtrusively or furtively
But she didn’t answer; she was too busy
sidling up against the walls of the camper, stretching on her tiptoes to peek into its streaky windows.
hasty and without attention to detail; not thorough
cursory glance through the contents of the cupboards revealed a small space dedicated to basic cookery ingredients—a little carafe of canola oil, glass jars with salt and sugar beached along the sides, bottles of sauces in every shade and spice variant, from the caramel darkness of sweet soy sauce to the flaming red of a sauce made with tiny, dangerously hot bird’s-eye chilis.
a bottle with a stopper
A cursory glance through the contents of the cupboards revealed a small space dedicated to basic cookery ingredients—a little
carafe of canola oil, glass jars with salt and sugar beached along the sides, bottles of sauces in every shade and spice variant, from the caramel darkness of sweet soy sauce to the flaming red of a sauce made with tiny, dangerously hot bird’s-eye chilis.
decay with an offensive smell
There were no photographs or ornaments to provide some insight into his solitary life, and no little messes; no papers strewn carelessly over tabletops, no crumpled piles of dirty clothes left to
fester on the floor.
a person employed to keep watch for some anticipated event
There were so many of them, lined up along each shelf like
sentinels, tall jars, thin jars, fat jars, each made of clear glass with a silver top screwed on tight.
a bounded scope
Row upon row of jars, row upon row of dark shapes that had begun to move restlessly against their glass
righteousness by virtue of being religiously devout
You will find, child, that there are many monsters in this world who hide their darkness beneath a mask of
piety. Call yourself a religious man and nobody will question you; do it well enough and you can stab them in the back, again and again and again, while they nod and say it is all for their own good.
harsh or corrosive in tone
“Who can that be? Nobody ever comes around this time of day.”
Or at all, mumbled Pink
caustically, rubbing his aching head.
beyond normal limits
Inside, Jing spent an
inordinate amount of time walking around Suraya’s small room, running her hands and eyes over everything, from the little bookshelf beneath the window, to the bed with its faded floral sheets, to the wooden desk covered in pots of pens and pencils, though the notebook was now firmly locked away in a drawer.
capable of being perceived
The nervousness in Suraya’s voice was
a slender tower with balconies, especially on a mosque
And we were close enough to the mosque to see the blue dome and the
minarets from the kitchen window, and to mark time by the call to prayer.
the entrance for passing through a room or building
And then she stepped over the
lacking embellishment or ornamentation
Suraya hadn’t been sure what to expect, but if anything, she thought Mama’s room might be
spare and painfully neat, much like Mama herself. But this room was nothing like that at all. Instead, every inch of available space was covered in piles of...stuff.
glaringly vivid and graphic; marked by sensationalism
They found all sorts of things—romance novels with
lurid covers that Suraya would never have expected her mother to read, clothes with outsized shoulder pads like relics of a bygone era, several pairs of high heels in bright colors—reds and blues and yellows and purples—covered in dust, their faux leather peeling off in strips and scraps.
a large quantity of written matter
The first three drawers held nothing but
reams of paper—bills; cuttings from old newspapers, soft and yellowing; catalogues that had come in the mail still in their plastic wrappers, their covers promising unbelievable deals on Tupperware, dresses you could wear five different ways, and amazingly absorbent cleaning cloths; empty junk food wrappers stuffed in the spaces in between as if Mama was ashamed of consuming their contents.
resistant to physical force or pressure
Suraya pulled and tugged, but all it did was reveal a couple of dark, tantalizing centimeters of itself before refusing to move any further, stubborn and
scold or reprimand; take to task
“Don’t swear,” Suraya
admonished her automatically, still staring at the marble in her hands.
the rapid and continuous delivery of communication
Mama no longer looked irritated, just slightly shell-shocked at this
barrage of words.
bring up a topic for discussion
It was dinnertime when she decided to
broach the subject, and even then, she ran over five possible conversation starters before she decided on the best one.
fill, as with a certain quality
“I’m feeling much better,” Suraya said, trying to
infuse her voice with as much enthusiasm as she could.
capacity to produce strong physiological or chemical effects
Suraya could smell the familiar scent of Tiger Balm wafting gently from where Mama had massaged it into her neck and shoulders to take away the accumulated aches of the day; the
potency of it made her sneeze.
consisting of a haphazard assortment of different kinds
Instead of heading for the
sundry shop, where brightly colored bouncy bells in net bags hung suspended from hooks over the entryway and all sorts of sweets clothed in lurid packaging were displayed in a way calculated to tempt even the most levelheaded child into parting with her pocket money, they slipped into the little-used alleyway behind the shophouses and pressed their bodies close against the wall, just as the school bell rang in the distance.
beg or request earnestly and urgently
Suraya’s voice was
following standards of propriety in conduct or appearance
It’s a sign of respect to the dead to be dressed
secret or hidden
A random Tuesday morning, as it turned out, was an excellent day for
covert missions involving bus travel, because aside from an impeccably dressed gray-haired couple holding hands and a polished wooden cane each, a young man with headphones that sat atop an impossibly shaggy head of hair, and three girls in headscarves who went to sleep as soon as they settled into their seats, they had the entire bus to themselves.
showing a brooding ill humor
Not for the first time, Pink cursed the emotions he was trying so hard not to feel. That’s what you get, being around them for so long, he thought
dourly. Humanity is contagious.
decorate or adorn
“Relax lah,” Jing said, taking a swig from a water bottle
festooned with tiny Wookiees.
sudden shock or dismay that causes confusion
Jing definitely hadn’t; she was too busy rubbing her rear, a look of
consternation on her face.
characterized by a rebellion against authority
He dragged his feet as he walked, kicking at pebbles, his mouth twisted into a
deeply filled or permeated
Instead it was an upmarket café, complete with an extensive menu of specialty coffee written in an overly fancy font on a massive chalkboard, an interior
replete with wood and chrome and exposed brick, and hipsters in tight jeans and horn-rimmed glasses.
feeling or showing little interest or enthusiasm
And so here it was, their demise, in the form of overpriced coffee, free Wi-Fi, and too-loud folk covers of
tepid pop songs.
wishing or appearing to wish evil to others
And then Pink remembered the rows and rows of ghosts and spirits, with their
malevolent stares and their restless movements, and he looked at the two girls and the throngs of hipsters and thought: I cannot let him unleash his monsters here.
in a manner that is difficult to discern
He hadn’t expected that; she could tell from the way his little body stiffened, almost
old and twisted and covered in lines
She paused beneath the spreading boughs of a tree so
gnarled with age that she couldn’t even tell what fruit it might have once borne, and wiped the sweat off her brow.
ornaments; embellishments to or characteristic signs of
Then she reached into her pocket, where the marble lay snug in its cloth
in a secretive manner
surreptitiously rubbed it with her fingers, the way Aladdin rubbed the lamp, in case there was even the slightest chance a genie would appear.
the trait of being rude and inclined to take liberties
“Insolent little thing,” he sniffed. “When I was alive, the likes of you would have been taken to task for such
able or tending to extend in one or more directions
“Well, then, Miss Suraya, what brings you to our neck of the woods?” Hussein gestured
expansively around the cemetery.
walk in an emphatic or exaggerated way
Without another word, she
flounced off and sank back into the earth where she’d emerged from.