From Heron Cliff, published by Signature Editions in 2007.
The machine-gun bullet left a ragged hole the span of a hand ripping through the curtain, imploding in the living-room wall. We awoke on the battlefield— our chests—amplifiers reverberating, volume turned too high— to jagged rhythms of mortars and Kalashnikovs. Lebanese in armoured cars surrounded our apartment block, Palestinian guerrillas holed up in the stadium across the street though we didn’t know that night we rushed into the living room, entranced by flares soaring past the windows, hovering, soaring, hovering. My husband crawled about on marble floors eliminating targets— lamps we’d just turned on. My knees were sore for days. Neighbours’ shouts echoed in the stairwell. Our six-year-old in my arms, I raced down seven flights of stairs. Where were you? I looked everywhere. In the basement the concierge pointed the way to a bomb shelter we didn’t know was there— a cement chamber with steel door, no windows, a dirty toilet for nine families. One neighbour slipped upstairs, grabbed a shaker of vodka martinis, Valium, blankets, a radio— the newscaster knew less than we did (and diplomatic immunity wasn’t worth a damn). The khamsin blew that night— the hot Saharan wind that carries sand and burns your eyes with grit. We curled up like animals, hot bodies spooned together on the cement floor— my husband, son, the maid and me. Overhead, morning thunder of jets. Whoosh and thud of rockets. When the pandemonium bled into silence we climbed into the car, everyone hunkered down but the driver, foot to the floor as he headed for town. Out of ammunition, the Palestinians retreated to their shanties in Bir Hassan, to their sloe-eyed women and kids who played in the mud. Every Christmas we’d driven into that refugee camp near us though we never spoke to anyone, just drove in, dropped a turkey and a big bag of rice in the middle of the road and backed out again.