“I sold the book.” Penn felt it come out of his mouth like a bubble.

Just as she was catching her breath finally, she lost it again. “Oh. Penn. My love.”

“Can you believe it?”

“No. I mean yes. I mean how?”

“How do you mean how?” She could see him. Penn in jeans and a T-shirt and bare feet, a notebook in one hand, a pencil in the other, floating around in space, over the moon. She was sorrier than Sorry Ralph she was not there to witness, to share in, this joy. “I’m a genius author is how. I’m a prose rock star. I’m a soon-to-be-published novelist.”

“I should go away more often. You get so much accomplished. I had no idea the DN was even close to done.”

“Not the DN. The fairy tale. The Adventures of Grumwald and Princess Stephanie. Next fall, Rosie. At a bookstore near you.”

“The Adventures of Grumwald and Princess Stephanie? Is it a children’s book?”

“No. I mean yes. I mean sort of. They’ll cross-market it. They think parents will read it to kids. They think parents will read it themselves. They like its nuances and metaphor. They think it appeals and applies to everyone.”

“But it doesn’t have an ending.”

“It does now.”

“It does?” She was surprised to find herself, at once, heartbroken. She had been there at Grumwald’s inception. She had followed him through years of saga and setback, trial and triumph, palace and seashore, home and Away. She had seen him through transformations great and small. She had seen all his selves and loved him more than anyone. “I missed the end?”

“How could you miss the end?” Penn wondered. “Grum couldn’t end without you. It has an ending, not the end, a stopping point, no more than a pause really. You know how much of Grumwald’s story made the book? One percent. One percent of one percent. Most of Grumwald is only yours. Only a tiny, tiny bit is anyone else’s. Grumwald and Stephanie got an ending for the moment, an ending for everybody else. That’s all.”

“What is it?”

“What is what?”

“How does it for-the-moment end?”

“You’ll have to buy the book.”

“I live with the author.”

“Not at the moment you don’t. Come home. I’ll tell you the whole story.”


A few hours later, the five-year-old girl who’d presented with diarrhea, weight loss, and terrible stomach cramping was throwing up a foot-long worm into a bucket and looking very pleased with herself. She spoke not a word of English but kept pointing to herself then the worm then herself and grinning. Her mother, who also spoke not a word of English, was doing the same, gesticulating wildly back and forth between daughter and worm, but her face wore the opposite expression. She was not screaming in a language Rosie knew, but she understood clear as lagoons anyway the mother’s horror of this worm that had lately come out of her little girl. If they’d spoken the same language, Rosie would have laid her hand on the woman’s shoulder to commiserate: Oh the things that hide secretly in our children, lying in wait, doing untold damage, yearning to be free. Alarming us beyond all measure.

Rosie listened to K mediate an argument between the mother, who longed to put this incident behind her, and the girl, who apparently wanted to take the worm home as a pet, and then watched as K mimed, with great dignity, the need to wear shoes while defecating in bushes designated for doing so and to wash hands as well as food that came from the same patch of ground. Rosie’s eyes welled. How could she give all this up?

The woman who had given birth to twins the night before was meeting with the monk. Apparently, monks in the hills were something like pubs in small towns in the English countryside—there was one main one which served everyone and in all capacities. Because the second baby had taken so long being born, the twins actually had different birthdays, one born late Friday night, the other early Saturday morning. The mother was weepy and weak, and Rosie was standing by to reassure her—and the monk—that both babies were healthy and that their mother, though she had lost a lot of blood, would be back on her feet after a few days of spinach and red meat. From what she could gather, however, via K’s UN-style simultaneous translation, this was not the woman’s concern.

“I will keep the baby born on Friday,” the mom wept to the monk, “but I am giving the Saturday one to you. Saturday babies are stubborn. They don’t listen. I have three more children at home. I can only take one more. I can only have ones who are well behaved.”

“I understand.” The monk nodded kindly then added, to Rosie’s shock, “This baby is mine now.”

“Thank you,” the mom wept, clasping his hand to her forehead. “Thank you, thank you.”

The monk dipped a bundle of twigs in a pan of water and sprayed it over both babies and their mother. He said a great many things Rosie did not understand, which caused the mother to cry even harder and to which K merely nodded along. Then the monk told the mother, “I have blessed this baby and spoken with him. He will be a good baby and well behaved always. I wonder if you would take care of him for me? I promise he will be a good boy.”

“Yes, oh yes,” the mother sobbed. “Thank you, thank you. I would be honored to take care of him for you. We will take him into our family as our own.”