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During the night a cold mountain rain fell, turning the dusty cobblestones of Atabekyan Street into a long, quaggy blotch, so that when the three-legged dog with the pepper-stump and heavy teats hobbled over to the front gate to meet the young foreigner once he finally staggered out into the chill morning air, skull throbbing with a grievous hang-over his neighbors had good-willingly inflicted upon him the night before, she was already soaked up to her haunches in mud.

Despite the protests of his landlady he had been leaving out dishes of cold cuts bought at the outdoor shuka-market for the dog, for he figured that she must have pups hidden away somewhere in the hollows of the nearby rubble that was all that was left of the neighborhood, house-fronts spilling out into the street in huge piles of pink stones.

“Ah, Mama Shun, dear, stay warm while I’m gone,” he said, bending down to pet her worn nape, hastily brushing away the fleas that rose up in a black mist to coat his hand.  

Far down the earthquake-rippled street the local children were out, shrieking, playing some sort of game of tag. He knew most of their names — Mayranush, Little Aram, Jbduhi, Takavor, Arpi, Isahag — and, off to one side, the small twisted girl that the rest of them shunned, Lusine-jan. She wavered in the morning air with her shaven skull and wide, unblinking eyes as the others kicked up spurts of mud in the numerous potholes. Unlike the others, in their summer dresses and raffish vests, Lusine was clothed for the on-coming winter, with heavy tights and a quilted, stained skirt. Like the three-legged dog she moved slowly through the street, weirdly jerkily, her downcast eyes avoiding his eyes as he passed by.

from Ghost City: a memory