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Paddy’s Puzzle — Excerpt

‘Ambrose Johnson. She doesn’t know a great deal about him. He says there is nothing much to tell, that he has told her all there is to know. In a way this is probably true. She knows his mother’s and father’s names, Rose and Jacob, and the numbers of brothers and sisters he has, in just the same way as he knows such basic facts about her. She knows that he grew up in Harlem (don’t ever say brought up, he has told her, because that, Clara, would be a lie).
‘What is it like, Ambrose?’ she has asked him.
He has been silent then.
‘Try and tell me.’ She imagines it as a full and exciting life. He says it is not. His eyes with the sepia flecks in their whites narrow when he replies.
Only once has he volunteered any opinion on the place he has come from, and that is when the sewage has jammed the drains in Paddy’s Puzzle. His nostrils flared at the smell of shit, and he said ‘Harlem.’

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