Imaginary Cities

by

Algiers

The ashfall hasn’t reached the city, and yet the sky at noon is pitch-black. Children in the Casbah huddle on the steps, shopkeepers pull down their shutters, and a visiting pensioner from the defeated army scans the crowd outside the cinema for the daughter of the man he persuaded to reveal the hiding place of his best friend. As the water rises in the harbor, a geography teacher sets his basket down and picks through the garbage heaped below the sea wall, wishing he had obeyed his father’s order to study medicine. A fisherman, weighing anchor, gazes at the couples strolling on the beach and a disconsolate young man who reads too much. Everything—everything!—fires his nerves. The pensioner marches toward the quay, sidestepping a colony of feral cats, which have their eyes on something. Black and white, he thinks. It was all in black and white. What do the cats see? A dead rat.

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