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The Keepby Jennifer Egan
Synopses & Reviews
The castle was falling apart, but at 2 a.m. under a useless moon, Danny couldn't see this. What he saw looked solid as hell: two round towers with an arch between them and across that arch was an iron gate that looked like it hadn't moved in three hundred years or maybe ever.
He’d never been to a castle before or even this part of the world, but something about it all was familiar to Danny. He seemed to remember the place from a long time ago, not like he'd been here exactly but from a dream or a book. The towers had those square indentations around the top that little kids put on castles when they draw them. The air was cold with a smoky bite, like fall had already come even though it was mid-August and people in New York were barely dressed. The trees were losing their leaves-Danny felt them landing in his hair and heard them crunching under his boots when he walked. He was looking for a doorbell, a knocker, a light: some way into this place or at least a way to find the way in. He was getting pessimistic.
Danny had waited two hours in a gloomy little valley town for a bus to this castle that never frigging came before he looked up and saw its black shape against the sky. Then he'd started to walk, hauling his Samsonite and satellite dish a couple of miles up this hill, the Samsonite’s puny wheels catching on boulders and tree roots and rabbit holes. His limp didn't help. The whole trip had been like that: one hassle after another starting with the red eye from Kennedy that got towed into a field after a bomb threat, surrounded by trucks with blinky red lights and giant nozzles that were comforting up until you realized their job was to make sure the fireball only incinerated those poor suckers who were already on the plane. So Danny had missed his connection to Prague and the train to wherever the hell he was now, some German-sounding town that didn't seem to be in Germany. Or anywhere else-Danny couldn’t even find it online, although he hadn’t been sure about the spelling. Talking on the phone to his Cousin Howie, who owned this castle and had paid Danny's way to help out with the renovation, he’d tried to nail down some details.
Danny: I'm still trying to get this straight-is your hotel in Austria, Germany, or the Czech Republic?
Howie: Tell you the truth, I’m not even clear on that myself. Those borders are constantly sliding around.
Danny (thinking): They are?
Howie: But remember, it's not a hotel yet. Right now it's just an old-
The line went dead. When Danny tried calling back, he couldn’t get through.
But his tickets came the next week (blurry postmark)-plane, train, bus—and seeing how he was newly unemployed and had to get out of New York fast because of a misunderstanding at the restaurant where he'd worked, getting paid to go somewhere else-anywhere else, even the fucking moon—was not a thing Danny could say no to.
He was fifteen hours late.
He left his Samsonite and satellite dish by the gate and circled the left tower (Danny made a point of going left when he had the choice because most people went right). A wall curved away from the tower into the trees, and Danny followed that wall until woods closed in around him. He was moving blind. He heard flapping and scut
Two decades after taking part in a childhood prank whose devastating repercussions changed their lives forever, two cousins are reunited to work on the renovation of a medieval castle in Eastern Europe, a remote, eerie site profoundly influenced by its bloody past, where the two are cut off from the outside world and doomed to reenact the horrific event from their past. Reprint.
Jennifer Egan is the author of Look at Me, The Invisible Circus, and the story collection Emerald City. Her stories have been published in The New Yorker, Harper's, GQ, Zoetrope, and Ploughshares, and her nonfiction appears frequently in The New York Times Magazine. She lives with her husband and sons in Brooklyn.
About the Author
Jennifer Egan is the author of Look at Me, which was a finalist for the 2001 National Book Award, The Invisible Circus, and the story collection Emerald City. Her nonfiction appears frequently in The New York Times Magazine. She lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York.
From the Hardcover edition.
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