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The Fires by Alan Cheuse

By Alan Cheuse

Finely-honed photos of desire and alter, those two novellas are associated so skillfully that they achieve the depth of a unmarried novel during which a few characters be triumphant and others fail on separate yet both compelling quests. In "The Fires," Gina Morgan makes a pilgrimage to Uzbekistan to hold out her husband's ultimate wish—to be cremated—only to discover herself entirely at sea within the unusual new fact of the previous Soviet republic, whereas in "The Exorcism," Tom Swanson starts to make feel of his life when he retrieves his indignant daughter from her particular New England university after her expulsion for atmosphere fireplace to a grand piano.

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She said to Goldstein as he sat down beside her. “I wouldn’t,” he said. “Maybe we should go now,” Gina said, staring over at the small conflagration atop the platform. “We’re supposed to wait until sunset,” Goldstein said. “I guess we’ll wait then,” Gina said. She felt so odd, chilled again, despite her proximity to the flames and the smoky odor of her clothing. And then, after a few minutes, feverish again. Maybe I should climb up there and go with him, she was saying to herself. But she knew it was too late for that, even if she were crazy enough to try.

Oh, depths of desire and the soaring of birds in air, fish that swim beneath the waves—but where else do they swim? They leap above the waves, some of them do, dolphins and flying fish, any others? He awoke in the night to find her legs entwined around him, and he lay still, so that finally the sound of his breathing subsided almost to nothing and he could listen to her slight even sounds the way a mother might watch over a small child in the night, sorting out the various musics in its breathing.

Return? Paul, dear Paul, goes back to the whirl from whence he came. But don’t you believe in reincarnation? Where to then? And will he be himself? Eye don’t know, who can say? But he will come back, whether as cricket or leafy palm or a drop of rain or a sunset, one way or another. Thus it is, always. Everyone rose, and Gina discovered that with a little effort she could stand with them and then walk with them— they moved purposefully, though not at all in a hurry—outside to the courtyard. —lay swathed in white, covered with flowers, the feet pointed toward the south.

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