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An excerpt from'The Wedding Cake'

Joseph sat across from the others. He was a stocky man whose every movement seemed sudden and whose nickname, Abu Victor, with Victor pronounced in the French way, had come to him when his son was born 25 years ago just as, 50 years ago, his own father had become Abu Joseph when Joseph, himself, came into this world. It was common.

The four men sat around the patio table. It was late afternoon and sunlight sliced a line through the wedding cake, cutting a diagonal shadow from the its decorative roses to its perimeter, reminding Abu Victor of a sundial. The deck creaked, the whole patio had been declared structurally unsound but the owner was too poor to fix it. Finally, last year, the owner had sold the whole building to a developer. Abu Victor and his wife, Nadia, would be moving at the end of month to a smaller apartment in a different neighbourhood. The timing was right. Unlike their neighbours, they were not fighting the eviction.

But what about the cake? Abu Victor had wondered, waking suddenly two nights ago. Nadia had been away, visiting her sister in Vancouver and in her absence, their bed had felt wide and uneven, it had seemed to tilt and slide him onto the floor. He had gotten up. The room was a furnace. In a daze, Abu Victor went to fridge and opened the freezer door. How long he stood there, he couldn't say. Chilly air washed against his surface. At last, he removed the cake, which was encased in plastic wrap and had been in the freezer since 2011. He set it on the counter.

He waited until 5 am to call his best friend, George.

“Catastrophe,” was all Abu Victor could say at first. He feared that different words might pull the imaginary knife out of his gut, cause him to bleed imaginary blood, and die an imaginary death. “Catastrophe.”

“What happened?”

“We can't move the cake into the new apartment. But we can't throw it out either.”

“What does your wife say?”

“She doesn't say anything. Nadia says nothing.” He was crying now and he hoped George couldn't tell. “She won't be back until the weekend.”

His friend had proposed a solution. On Friday, George would bring Tony and Elias to Abu Victor's house, and together they would eat the wedding cake.

A little bit about Madeleine Thien

MADELEINE THIEN

Madeleine Thien is the author of three books of fiction, including a collection of stories, Simple Recipes (2002). Her most recent novel, Dogs at the Perimeter (2012), set in the aftermath of the civil war in Cambodia, was shortlisted for Germany’s 2014 International Literature Prize. A new novel, Awake Now and Cross Towards Her, is forthcoming.


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