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Please pass the scrolls—I mean the rolls.

A triclinium is a Roman dining room named for its three couches. Each couch accommodates three diners who use the throw pillows to recline on their left side. The surface of each couch tilts about 10 degrees away from the table in the center. The fourth side is left free, without a couch, to allow for serving.

In THE DEADLIEST LIE, Miriam prepares the triclinium for Shabbat dinner every Friday night. She tells us how:

Positioning the room’s three purple dining couches in an arc facing the courtyard, I center them around a low ivory table, its legs carved in the figure of a squatting griffin. Then, measuring the distances with my forearm to get the symmetry just right, I flank each couch with a pair of enameled ebony lamp stands.

In Miriam’s home, as in the picture here, the fourth side of the triclinium faces the courtyard. She tells us what her family’s guests would see:

Frescoed streaks of purple tint the triclinium’s ceiling and western wall to suggest the cooling fingers of dusk and match the color of the opium poppies along the perimeter of the courtyard. Their beds along the street are framed by a lattice fence and beyond the fence by a thicket of thistle and acacia.

A pleasant description you say? Watch out! You’ve just gotten the first clue to how the scrolls were stolen from her home that Shabbat evening. Want more clues?

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