: We Are Family :

an excerpt by Askold Melnyczuk


They were in the middle of a late supper when the bomb went off.

Everything stopped.  Forks froze, eyes widened, even the candle flames stood taut.

Welcome to Beirut,” their host said with a tight smile.

The explosion pricked the balloon of conviviality.  Oliver, a journalism professor on his first visit to the Middle East, felt the energy leaking out of the room, replaced by the nervous awareness you feel walking through a dangerous neighborhood or driving too fast.  A latecomer to caution at forty-one, Oliver had covered countless urban crime scenes.  Talked his way into, and out of, many hostile rooms.  Brooklyn wasn’t Disneyland.  Neither was it Beirut.  Once a sign he was on the right track, his racing heart now gave him pause.

I am scared, he thought, because I will die here.  That’s why he’d come.  If he wanted fun he’d have gone to Paris or Patagonia.