Decades of avian companionship had raised a fuzz of claw marks at the shoulders of Mr. Jones’s green leisure suit, tussocks on the padded polyester lawn.*His wife, though no doubt she loved him, was the latest in a long line of experts and connoisseurs, reaching back through the army and high school to his aunties, to underrate the rarity and condition of Archy’s soul.*[She] found herself blown off course by an unbearable craving into the cumin-scented gloom of the Queen of Sheba. Steeled by a lifetime of training in the arts of repression, like Spock battling the septenary mating madness of the pon farr, Gwen had resisted the urges and surges of estrogen and progesterone for each of the first thirty-four weeks of her pregnancy, denying all cravings, battened down tight against hormonal gusts.*She flung aside the beaded strands with a left hand that could splinter pine planks and reduce cinder block to gray dust. Strings snapped. Hundreds of brown and tan beads rattled down, darting and pinging and scattering in whorls, mapping, like particles in a cloud chamber, the flow of qigong from her black-belt hand.*
Her hair was a glory of tendrils for the snaring of husbands.
The girl looked up. In those ibex eyes, Gwen saw guilt and mockery; but above all: contempt.*A small black Buddha greeted her from a low table by the front door, where it kept company with a photograph of Lydia Frankenthaler, the producer of an Oscar-winning documentary film about the neglected plight of lesbians in Nazi Germany;*The fog had burned off, leaving only a softness, as tender as a memory from childhood, to blur the sunlight that warmed the sprawl of rosemary and purple salvia along the fragrant sidewalk and fell in shifting shafts through the branches of the monkey-puzzle tree.*He had to this day never forgotten the strange horror of glimpsing one of Mr. Oliveira’s many tattoos, like something out of Nathaniel Hawthorne, consisting of a ragged rectangle, a bar of black ink scrawled across the cordovan hide of the old sailor’s upper arm in order to blot out, like the pen of a censor, some underlying name or image whose memory, for mysterious reasons, was abhorrent.*A lamentable lamentation of the door hinges, sounding like the gate on a crypt filled with vengeful dead folks being thrown open, and Valletta Moore got out of the car. Big-boned, shapely, on the fatal side of fifty, high-waisted, high-breasted, face a feline triangle. Beer-bottle-brown eyes, skin luminous and butterscotch, as if she herself had come fresh from the spray gun of Sixto Cantor....The architecture of her ass was something deeper than a memory to Archy, something almost beyond remembrance, an archetype, the pattern of all asses forever after, wired into the structure of reality itself.*...the lady most definitely giving off that heavy 1978 Spencer’s smell of love candles and sandalwood incense but, laid over top of it, the stink of cigarette, the instant-potatoes smell you might find in the interior of a beat-to-shit Toronado.