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Also by Amy Stewart
From the Ground Up: The Story of a First Garden The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable A hievements of Earth!orms Flo!er "onfidential: The Good# the $ad# and the $eautiful in the $usiness of Flo!ers %i ked &lants: The %eed That 'illed (in oln)s Mother * Other $otani al Atro ities
THE LAST BOOKSTORE IN AMERICA
This novel is being released in a digital edition by the author as a beta version. Readers are invited to submit feedback for the novel’s final draft, and to join a discussion about the issues raised in the book, at www.lastbookstoreinamerica.com. For more information, contact Amy Stewart !" #o$ %&' (ureka, )A *++&% www.amystewart.com
)over design by Roni ,ocan at www.rj-studio.com
. Amy Stewart, /&&*. All rights reserved.
A Note From the Author This is the story of an anti0uarian bookstore in the final days of the demise of the book. 1t takes 2lace not in the future, but in a slightly different version of the 2resent day, one in which electronic books read on little hand-held devices re2laced the 2rinted 2age 0uickly and trium2hantly, with hardly a whim2er of regret from book lovers. 1m2ossible3 4ot at all. #ooks sim2ly vanished, and 2eo2le were not 2articularly sorry to see them go. There was no whining about how a 2ocket-si5ed com2uter could never re2lace the delicious sensation of holding a real book. 4o eulogies were s2oken on the occasion of the death of the 2ublishing industry.
Re2orters filed 2erfunctory re2orts as bookstores closed, but no one mobili5ed to save them. #efore you summon your outrage, consider this the book had a nice long run com2ared to, say, recorded music. 1t only took a century to get from wa$ cylinders to digital downloads. #y that standard, books have seriously overstayed their welcome. So for the 2ur2oses of our story, try to imagine that 2eo2le loved reading on a little hand-held com2uter. They didn6t mind ridding their homes of bookshelves7 most 2eo2le didn6t have bookshelves anyway, and those who did found that they gained, on average, an e$tra fifty s0uare feet of living s2ace, which seemed like a smart move in today’s real estate market.
As for bookstores, they went the way of vinyl record stores. A few survived, and hardcore collectors dro22ed by to 2ick over the ever-dwindling su22ly. #ooksellers had been banking on the belief that no one would ever im2rove u2on ink and 2a2er, but when a kid from )u2ertino finally did it, everyone but the booksellers were 2erfectly delighted. 8ow was this 2ossible3 A Silicon 9alley start-u2 rolled out the one brilliant device that did everything 2hone, camera, music, books, web, e-mail. 1t acted as your credit card, your home security alarm system, and it unlocked your car. :ou could use it as a blood 2ressure monitor, calorie counter, tire gauge, mos0uito 5a22er and a hand warmer on cold mornings. 1f
consider this the . which was a charming name. The screen was as easy to read as 2a2er and worked at all light levels. #efore you 2rotest that books themselves are intuitively sim2le to use. it would direct you back to safety and read you a story on the way. And they called it a . so there didn’t seem to be any reason to call it anything s2ecial. without re0uiring batteries or software u2dates. elegant. The . 1t was the only kind of 2hone 2eo2le had anymore. and intuitively sim2le to use.i5mo ran on a combination of solar energy and body heat and had a nearly unlimited storage . but over time most 2eo2le just started referring to it as their 2hone.i5mo.i5mo was lightweight. and that 2a2er itself is as easy to read as 2a2er.you got lost.
and even )hoctaw. shatter2roof. "lder 2eo2le 2articularly loved the . grandchild or #roadway actor. )hinese. !eo2le all over the world were united in their adoration for this highly literate gadget.i5mo because they could enlarge the ty2eface to suit them as their eyesight failed. and even theft-2roof it identified you by your finger2rints and wouldn’t res2ond to anyone else’s touch. or they could ask the . The .i5mo s2oke fluent S2anish. for instance. but that’s not all. man or woman. allowing one to. so .i5mo to read books to them in their choice of voices (nglish or American. take all of <avid =ivingstone’s voluminous writings into the most remote African jungles without ever re0uiring an electrical outlet.ca2acity. The . "h.i5mo was water2roof.
"h. and . which meant that you could 2ick u2 a new device anytime and it would instantly recogni5e you.i5mo. And to those of you who are inclined to bellyache about the romance of dim old financially and seismically unsound bookstores7 . no setu2 fees. :ou wouldn’t miss books either if you had one of these. 4o 2assword. 1t backed u2 all your data seamlessly and constantly.*+ and it was made entirely of recycled materials. from ancient )hinese scrolls and shattered bits of 2a2yrus to back issues of T+ Guide and all ?.oogle scanned every last scra2 of 2a2er. 1t cost >/*. So everything was available on the .there was no 2oint in stealing it. no data transfer.**' 8arle0uin romance titles. Admit it you want one.
2laces. )alifornia. do you3 "f course not. and 2rints. (ureka #ooks sells nothing but books. all 2rinted . Ahile it bears some resemblance to the endangered bookstore in this story. or things described in this book are used fictitiously. ask yourselves this :ou don’t miss chamber 2ots and ether anesthesia. ma2s. So let’s move on. any actual 2ersons. @ "ne more thing.to those of you who wa$ rha2sodic over the scent of dust mites and the te$ture of tree 2ul2 between your fingers. #ut 2lease be assured that unlike the bookstore in this story. The author of this book is the owner of an anti0uarian bookstore in (ureka. and the rest is entirely fiction.
on glorious old 2a2er. and intends to continue on that basis for generations to come. .
PART ONE .
and (mily and =ewis didn6t miss them. They were . 4o. the 2onderous leather-bound and gilt-edged classics with red ribbons sewn into the bindings. There would always be 2lenty of those. the tattered 2a2erbacks. 4ot BbooksB in the sense of novels or 2residential biogra2hies or nonfiction narratives that e$2lore the hidden side of everything. The shelves in the study. (mily and =ewis thought they had seen the last of the dead tree variety of book. Those had all but vanished.one (mily Short and =ewis 8artman thought they had seen the last of books. The stack on the nightstand. The slim volumes of 2oetry.
or what was left of them in their 2ost-2rint incarnation. Sometimes. Aell.e! -ork Times. And they did read. 0uite frankly. and there were always restaurant reviews and weather re2orts and stock ti2s and video cli2s. And they always read the San Fran is o "hroni le and the . ca2tivated the nation.2erfectly ha22y to read books on a little electronic device that had. . 4ot to mention e-mail and Twitter. even if they didn6t get around to reading them. and they were very good at kee2ing u2 with all of their friends’ blogs and u2dating their Facebook 2ages. they certainly downloaded a lot of books before their last vacation.
Ahich is ironic. =ewis had a number of momentous. he once s2ent a summer working in his Encle Sy’s bookstore in (ureka. e$2eriences. 1t’s true that (mily and =ewis didn6t read many of those anymore.aked (un h# (olita. and 2ossibly life-changing.well. but not before taking an enormous. no. considering that when =ewis was a boy. )alifornia. 8e read . which he did. shockingly bitter gul2 himself7 he got . 1n just three short months. and any number of other books his 2arents wouldn’t have a22roved of7 he was once asked to fetch a cold beer for Aallace Stegner.#ut if by CbooksD you mean eighty or ninety thousand words strung together into some kind of sustained narrative meant to be read as a cohesive whole -. That was surely the ha22iest summer of his youth.
#ut Sy was not the sort of uncle to call or show u2 at )hristmas or remember your . 1t was a very interesting summer. Encle Sy had no children of his own and no understanding of the level of su2ervision that children re0uired. :oung =ewis went seventeen days without a bath. and once ate nothing but olives and cocktail sausages for an entire weekend. 1t was glorious.to ride in a 2olice car Fwhich had nothing to do with Aallace Stegner or (olita--he just got lost and needed a ride homeG7 and he managed to stand u2 in front of a grou2 of twelve mildly into$icated adults and read a derivative but nonetheless brave little 2oem about 2readolescent malaise at The Firebreathing <ragon’s weekly 2oetry reading.
a gra2hic designer who earned more than he did for what seemed like much less work. 8e rarely thought about uncle Sy at all. =ewis sim2ly said . 8e married (mily. when #illy <alton called to talk to him about the 2robate of Sylvester !orter’s estate. So =ewis went on to business school. After =ewis’ 2arents found out what had gone on that summer. which e$2lains why.birthday. inhabiting Sy’s dusty and never-0uite-al2habeti5ed world. and it never occurred to =ewis to call or show u2 on his own. they never let him s2end another vacation with Sy. and from there he embarked u2on a disa22ointing career as a 2harmaceutical sales re2resentative. you might as well not e$ist. 1f you weren’t in (ureka.
2ressing his thumb into the sesame seeds that had dro22ed onto his na2kin. 8e was adding this to a list he6d been kee2ing of irritating traits that. 1 think you have the wrong number. Also on the list were thinks it)s funny to talk to the at about urrent events. animated .C1’m sorry. B:ou heard me. said. C:ou didn’t get a name3D =ewis 2ut his seed-encrusted thumb into his mouth and thought# insists on dis ussin. now that he and (mily were married. he would have to learn to tolerate.D he said. !ron. BAhat was that3B =ewis looked u2 with sur2rise. who was sitting across from him at the bagel sho2. numbers. points hopsti ks in people)s fa es durin.D and hung u2. (mily. Arong number.
B1t6s about your uncle Sy. (mily was still waiting for an answer.B he said. su ks on his thumb/ The 2hone bu55ed again. (mily had her good 0ualities -.B . (mily 2ressed her li2s together and thought. B<on6t hang u2. . B1 didn6t catch the name.oofy photos in Santa hats on summer va ations for future use on "hristmas ards. and insists on takin. which to be honest made her faster than =ewis most daysHbut lately the list of irritating traits was beginning to weigh on him.onversations in "hinese restaurants.B #illy said when =ewis answered.she never s2ent more than half an hour getting ready to go anywhere. 8e 2ulled his thumb out of his mouth and shrugged.
#illy thoughtG. have a law office. in fact.two Although it would have sur2rised many of his clients to learn this. and a man who sold blue-green algae ca2sules through a multilevel marketing scheme called 9ita=ife. A secretary named )onnie Slack showed u2 every morning at eight to sit in a kind of . a husband-and-wife 2sychologist team Fa miserable idea. a real estate agent. #illy <alton did. 8e rented two dingy rooms in a warren of such rooms on the third floor of what used to be the most 2o2ular hotel in town. 8e shared the s2ace with three other lawyers.
but if he had been there. )onnie never missed a day of work. #illy had failed to attend the meeting where the decision to hire )onnie was made. That left )onnie with the res2onsibility of caring for a ficus tree and making sure the fire e$tinguisher 2assed ins2ection once a year. and even billed their clients through a nifty mobile banking a2 on their . res2onded to their own e-mail. and she did anything her em2loyers asked her to doH although there wasn’t much to do. if any showed u2. #ut having a rece2tionist was one of the benefits of this shared office arrangement. and most 2eo2le felt .i5mo.makeshift rece2tion area at the to2 of the stairs and greet clients. #ut as it turned out. !eo2le took their own calls. he would have insisted that they not hire a secretary named Slack.
8e 2referred to do his lawyering out on the streets. there would be no reason to have an office at all.that without )onnie. #illy agreed that offices didn’t have much of a 2oint. Sy was #illy’s best friend. "ver the last twenty years #illy must have crossed the <ragon’s threshold thousands of times. he believed. dro22ing into a chair across from the counter where he could observe the theatrics that seemed to surround Sy the unwanted and often alarming advice he delivered to children about the advantages of . a fi$ed 2oint in his life that #illy had assumed would never move. (s2ecially in bookstores. 1t had been a miserable si$ months since Sy’s death. 1t ha22ens in bars and alleys and even in bookstores. The law doesn6t ha22en in an office.
#illy 2icked u2 some of his best cases by lingering around the <ragon’s counter. There was always something ha22ening at the <ragon.dro22ing out of school and 2ursuing their own education on their own terms7 the lengthy and 2ointless investigations into 2etty crimes like graffiti and sho2lifting that ke2t the (ureka 2olice de2artment’s foot 2atrol engaged in a genial and long-running dialogue with sho2kee2ers7 the literary debates that ended with Sy shouting down and e$2elling anyone who disagreed with him. #illy continued to hang around the store. listening in on Sy’s harangues of his customers for some hint of an im2ending divorce or a winnable lawsuit. #illy never missed a day of it. 8e had not gotten over the . After Sy died.
This feeling. but #illy 2referred to e$2erience it as a sort of transitional 2hase. orH worseHwould be ri22ed away from him all at once one day. would fade eventually. shocking friends and lovers who had grown accustomed to the idea that the dead were not really dead. a friendly haunting. There was another reason to s2end so much time at the bookstore. This could be called denial. lingering long after the funeral and then one day just vanishing. just unusually 0uiet and non-cor2oreal. #illy knew. 8e believed that sometimes the dead had a way of sticking around.feeling that Sy might rea22ear at any time. knocking him off his feet with the force of its de2arture. might materiali5e in his s0ueaky old chair behind the counter as if he had never left at all. Sy’s will had gone .
8e was doing wills for free back then in the ho2es of drumming u2 some clients. and 2robate was ho2elessly hung u2 while #illy searched for it. but nobody remembered the ne2hew’s name. #ut it eventually turned u2 in a bo$ of old 2am2hlets on 9ictorian medicinal remedies that Sy must have bought the same year he and #illy wrote out the will. and that he6d need to 2roduce a co2y of the will and act u2on its instructions. which gave him access to file . 1t never occurred to him that the clients would actually die someday.missing. 8e knew Sy had left the store to a ne2hew. 1t had been over twenty years since he’d drafted the will7 #illy wasn6t even sure he’d 2assed the bar at that 2oint. #illy located it by lying flat on his back and sliding under the bookstore6s massive oak desk.
B said #illy. when he 2ulled out the 2am2hlets advertising Ayer’s )herry !ectoral and Sarsa2arilla Tonic. since the days when Sy actually cared about sorting 2a2ers into file bo$es. B8ow long have these been here3B BAre they 2riced3B asked . who had come in on her day off because )rawford had failed to show u2 again. She had scaled a ladder to reach some volume on the wall of books behind the counter.well.B said #illy. 8e slid out from under the desk and looked u2 at .inger.bo$es that had been stashed there since --. but ever . She6d taken to wearing these 2leated schoolgirl skirts that she found at a thrift store. BIesus. There was sort of a 2ost)atholic school 2unk irony to the look. B4o.inger.
crou2. 4ow he dared confront her with a 2am2hlet. showing her a handful.D she said. As if the weight of all the unsold books around her weren’t bad enough. hea2ing e$tra scorn on the word.D CReally3D he said. C:ou’re getting rid of these3D CAhat’s anybody going to do with a 2am2hlet3D she said. colds. influen5a. C8ow would you 2rice them3D C1 wouldn’t. CToss them. bronchitis. C#ut these are cool. #illy had lost interest. 8e didn6t even bother sliding over a cou2le of feet to try to get a look u2 her skirt.inger started dying her hair green to cover u2 the gray. inci2ient consum2tion. and for the . for the cure of coughs.B he said B=isten to this. JAyer6s cherry 2ectoral with o2ium.since . hoarseness.
They’re yours.inger was unmoved.D .D CAhat did he leave me3D C. C8e 2robably signed it the same day all this stuff came into the store.D C:ou should have never let him do that.inger. climbing down from the ladder and holding the second volume of a Tibetan-)hinese dictionary over his head like . 8e didn’t even know you then. CFine.’ :ou’re going to take o2ium for hoarseness3 That’s fantasticKD . <id you find the will3D C1t6s right here.relief of consum2tive 2atients in advanced stages of the disease.D C1s it really all going to that kid3 The house and everything3D C1f the kid wants it.B he said. #illy.inger said.
inger said. C8e’s got to be over thirty by now. CAhat kind of lawyer lets his client leave everything to a ten year-old3D C8e’s not ten anymore.D said #illy. slamming the dictionary on the desk. C.D 8e groaned and 2ulled himself to his feet. !robably married.inger.D CLids3D .ive it a rest. !lease.D #illy said. Lids.inger. 8e took a dee2 breath and his vision cleared. the buckling 2lywood shelves looking as though they might finally give way. The store swam dangerously around him. C8asn’t anybody thought about what we’re going to do when little =ewis finds out thatH D C. .she intended to dro2 it on him. .
inger said.D he said.D . C8and me the 2hone. with something that 2assed for concern in her voice. which he ke2t tied in a forlorn wis2 of a 2onytail. Ae’re running a store here. had finally gone entirely grey.inger asked.C:ou all right3D .D CEse your own 2hone. CAnd get out from behind the counter. C1’m fine. .D #illy fished his 2hone out of his 2ocket and settled into Sy’s old chair to deliver the news to =ewis. 8is eyes were 2ermanently bloodshot7 his skin was turning to tissue. The last si$ months had aged #illy7 his hair.
She watched him and waited.three =ewis 2ut the 2hone down and stared at some 2oint in the air above (mily6s head. . having figured that much out from =ewis’s side of the conversation. right3B BThe one who didn6t come to our wedding3B B:eah. C=ewis3 Ahat is it3D 8e tried again. B:ou remember my uncle Sy. B8e --B 8e couldn6t bring himself to say it. B<id he die3B (mily asked.B 8e 2laced both of his 2alms on the table as if he was trying to steady himself. Finally he s2oke.
B8e left me the bookstore. B8oney. that has to be --B B"ne of the last bookstores in America. 1 know.B .B BThe bookstore3 8e still has the bookstore3D (mily leaned forward and took =ewis6s hands.
1t was like kee2ing a list of the last surviving veterans of some distant war. like that teenage soldier. .four For the last several years. re2orters had been tracking the dwindling number of bookstores in America. a fluke. then lived an unusually long life afterward. (ventually the only survivors were the 2eo2le who had lied about their age and enlisted as teenagers just before victory was declared. An outlier. The odd bookstore that stayed o2en was. (very time one closed they would trot out a list of the few stores that remained o2en around the country.
but even they were not faring well. as 2ublishers sim2ly sto22ed 2rinting new books and the bookstores were left with nothing to sell. . Stores that sold new books were the first to go.Re2orters. attached as they were to the days of 2a2er and ink and steady 2aychecks. #ut a used 2a2erback3 Iust to read3 8ardly anyone wanted those anymore. loved to s2eculate about which store would be the last bookstore in America. Autogra2h collectors 2icked u2 signed co2ies7 art lovers would sometimes buy an old volume for the engravings. 1t then fell to used bookstores and dealers of rare anti0uarian books to kee2 the tradition of 2rinted books alive. and handsome hardcovers sometimes went to interior decorators who wanted to furnish a room in some old-fashioned style.
#oth seemed much more secure than the <ragon. The last few holdouts were . es2ecially now that its erratic and ill-tem2ered founder was gone. .The Firebreathing <ragon was generally believed to be too remote and too obscure to last much longer. as was "ut of !rint in #rooklyn. They were each fine old institutions rooted in affluent.ackey6s had owned its own building since %*%?. 2rotecting it against rent increases. #ut the sad fact was that the rate at which bookstores were closing seemed to be accelerating. and "ut of !rint was recently 2urchased by a wealthy real estate attorney indulging his daughter6s literary fantasies. nostalgic neighborhoods. .ackey6s #ooks in )hicago was a more likely candidate.
by the end of the summer. 8e noticed those stories when they came across the screen7 he just never read 2ast the first cou2le of lines. =ewis should have known that the <ragon was on the bookstore death watch list. like those elderly war veterans who were only hanging on long enough to attain the rank of oldest living survivor. 8e assumed that Sy’s bookstore had faded away years ago. . 4ow the last few bookstores were closing at the rate of two or three 2er month and it actually seemed 2ossible that. they could finally let go.to22ling 0uickly. leaving Sy to shuffle around his weird old house on a hillto2 overlooking 8umboldt #ay. there might not be a single bookstore left. "nce they saw their names in the 2a2er.
"ut of the blue. 1 guess we6ll find out when we get there. 1 didn6t even think to ask.B B.et where3B . Ahen did you say he died3B (mily said that night as she got into bed. BSi$ months ago. BThat’s what 1 thought.B she said. 8eart attack. staring at his toes. BSo how is it that the store is still o2en3 Aho6s been running it all this time3B B"h.five CAait a minute. a sure sign that he was 2ondering something.B =ewis was 2erched on the edge of the bed.
those 2erfectly manicured feet =ewis loved to wra2 his hands around when she s2rawled across from him on the giant sectional sofa they installed in their living room after their wedding.issionstyle bed made of warm cherry. right3D Still he didn’t look u2 at her. The sectional was the first of many 2ieces of e0ui2ment that married life seemed to re0uire after s2ending nearly fifty thousand dollars on the wine country wedding and the honeymoon in 8awaii. 8e heard her slide out of bed and walk over to him. C:ou are kidding. a wine .D =ewis did not look at her as he said this. 4ow her feet were right ne$t to his. it hardly seemed right to come home to a house full of 2oorlyassembled 1kea furniture. A handsome .B(ureka.
long-term investments in their own 2ros2erous future. )ar 2ayments. And (mily didn’t. always choosing the toaster with the best re2utation.refrigerator to store the bottles that arrived by mail from each of three wine clubs they’d joined. (mily wasn’t a bad 2erson7 she wasn’t shallow or vain7 she wasn’t s2oiled or unreasonable. She just wanted a comfortable. )redit cards. the numbers roiling in his head. Student loans. like smart 2urchases. and a whole-house media system with integrated controls in every room seemed. 4ow =ewis awoke almost every night in a sweat. She sho22ed with serene confidence. 8e wanted out. 1t was overwhelming and sickening. urban life filled with good things. the sneakers that . at the time.
And she most certainly did not want to move to (ureka and take 2ossession of a failing bookstore. (mily’s was a comfortable and orderly world.could cure bad 2osture and burn more calories. She felt that the best way to live a life filled with good things and e$otic vacations was to just start living it. 1t would come. And she never worried about the money. the handwoven sli2covers that she changed with the seasons celery green in s2ring. The time to get what she wanted was now. a warm sunflower in summer and an icy blue in winter. 2um2kin in fall. . She wasn’t about to wait until she was old to see #uda2est or hang her clothes in a cedar-lined closet.
what good would it do him3 That bookstore was already dead. So why should she be the one to tell him no3 8e would . C)an’t we just go look3D (mily knew that she should have refused to go. She 2ut her hand on to2 of =ewis’ head and let it rest there.CIust drive u2 with me and see it. meeting her eyes at last. She should have insisted that they have nothing to do with his uncle Sy’s cra5y old enter2rise on the 4orth )oast. and even if he did.D =ewis said. #ut she didn’t refuse to go. 8e wra22ed his arms around her waist and leaned his head against her. =ewis knew nothing about books or bookstores. 8e was unha22yHshe knew that. She could feel his heart 2ounding against her. 1t just didn’t know it yet.
CAe should at least go have a look.take one look at his inheritance and reali5e that there was nothing to do but sell it off and 2ocket what little money they could get for it.D 8e let out a long. 8e looked u2 at her in sur2rise. slow breath. This would be nothing but a weekend out of town. "f course he would.D she said. Ahat was the harm in that3 C:ou’re right. C:ou’ll love it. :ou’re finally going to get me to go to (ureka.D he said. .
which was the most lively street in this booming 2ort town. 1t was the only 2lace in town to get whi2s and saddles. bridles and bits. was mounted on a 2latform and wheeled onto the wooden-2lank sidewalk in decent weather. made of leather and stuffed with horsehair. .six A hundred years ago. cou2lers and a$les and steel wheel rims and rain a2rons. A life-si5ed re2lica of a horse. the Firebreathing <ragon’s building housed a carriage sho2. :ou could buy an entire carriage and roll it right out the front of the store onto Second Street.
0uite suddenly. and on sunny days. and sus2ended from those hooks were bridles and lines and saddles. .A long and skinny structure with thirty foothigh ceilings and a second-floor me55anine. )arriages sat on a 2olished showroom floor in the middle of the building. light 2oured down on them from two skylights in the ceiling. whi2 sockets and shaft ti2s. Things that became useless. the building lent itself 2erfectly to the business of carriages. 1ron hooks hung from the elegant 9ictorian banister. thanks to 8enry Ford and his bright ideas. bells and rein rails. each of which were framed in the kind of florid 2lasterwork common to buildings in those days. E2stairs the walls were lined with racks of wooden bo$es holding all manner of obsolete technology iron cli2s and leather coils.
"ld Town became a red-light district for loggers and fishermen. after being boarded u2 for a few years. who framed a %*&+-era 2hotogra2h of the store in its horse-and-carriage glory and hung it behind the counter. Sy fell into the habit of talking to the 2icture as if he was addressing the store’s long- . where they could catch the eyes of motorists 2assing through on their way to San Francisco or the gold mines in Trinity )ounty. )ar dealershi2s o2ened on the edge of town. reo2ened as a saloon.The sho2 suffered the fate of all horse-andbuggy sho2s. and the horse-and-buggy sho2. Ahen the 2ossibility emerged that an electronic gadget might actually re2lace the book. The irony of this was not lost on Sy.
D Aalter.i5mo’s lurid 2leasures. that they would always return to the solid comfort of a real book. C8ow does a horse-and-buggy man know when to give it u2. 8e even gave the owner a name Aalter. s2ent his broken and dis2irited days in the saloon that re2laced his failed carriage sho2. "r. C=ook where it got him. lamenting the downfall of the solid and reliable horse and 2redicting that . Aalter3D he used to shout as he watched 2eo2le walk 2ast his sho2 without giving it a glance. Sy would just shake his head and 2oint to the 2hotogra2h.dead owner. according to Sy’s mythology. when his long-time customers would come in and tell him that they would never surrender to .D he would holler. CThat’s what you 2eo2le told Aalter.
arriving in (ureka in %*'M in a school bus filled with books and just enough cash for a down 2ayment on the largest vacant building in "ld Town. and soon "ld Town’s chea2 real estate made it 2ossible for these new arrivals to o2en a coffee sho2 or an art gallery or a bookstore. A 2erson with no great ambition or financial obligations could o2erate a little business of their own and get by for years. along with the other bars along Second Street. when the timber industry fell into decline. Adventurous back-to-the-landers moved u2 to 8umboldt )ounty from the #ay Area.2eo2le would soon tire of the chea2 and risky thrills offered by the automobile. That’s e$actly what Sy did. 8e even anne$ed the remains of an old bank . The saloon closed in the early si$ties.
a massive oak desk served as a sort of encam2ment for the staff.building ne$t door. and then continued on the second floor. books sat on tables and faded under the bright skylights. #ookshelves climbed u2 the walls to the me55anine. running from the sunlit front to the very dim and chilly rear of the building. 1n the center of the building.ismatched bookcases formed cram2ed and narrow stacks around the edges of the former buggy showroom. . where carriages had once gleamed on their 2edestals. and near the entrance. where they could kee2 . taking over its vault as a storeroom and 2artitioning off the front of the building so that it could be sold as a se2arate storefront. To most 2eo2le the <ragon looked like it had always been a bookstore.
and was known to a22ear on Sunday mornings in his bathrobe and cook scrambled eggs on a hot 2late behind the counter. the town’s first meeting hall . accessible through a service door in the alley. An old cannery became a seafood restaurant. 1t was Sy’s firm belief that 2eo2le should be allowed to wander through a bookstore unmolested.one eye on "ld Town and one eye on each other. F4o one watched the customers. The rest of "ld Town came together in more or less the same way.G For a few years Sy lived in an a2artment on the roof. (ventually he bought a broken-down 9ictorian on a generous 2arcel of land outside of town and moved into it. and the rest of his life was devoted to running the small retail and real estate enter2rise he’d created for himself.
There was not even a walking 2ath for tourists who wanted to watch the 2elicans dive for their dinner or see the sun set over the water. The fisherman had left.eanwhile. First Street. Ahile most towns along the !acific )oast face the water. The town’s civic life started on Second Street and continued through to Si$th. . and the string of bars on either side of the <ragon re-o2ened as cafes and record stores and little sho2s that sold beads and wind chimes. was deserted. "nly the waterfront remained vacant. which ran along the waterfront. where )ity 8all and the jail were situated. and the old sawmill that once 2rocessed the logs that floated down the river had long ago shut down. . (ureka had turned its back on its harbor.became a thrift store.
. and if they tried to track her down. sharing his narrow bed in the old a2artment above the store and moving with him to what they liked to call their Jcountry home’ on a hill overlooking the bay. She had family back in #ostonHa father and four brothers who all served on #oston’s 2olice forceHbut she never s2oke of them.seven 1t was not until after Sy died that anyone reali5ed that he and (dith had not been married. The lawlessness and disorder of )alifornia in the si$ties drew her to 8umboldt. This was her home now. (dith had sim2ly been with him since the beginning. they didn’t succeed.
a massive man with a booming voice. Sometimes she seemed too delicate to kee2 u2 with Sy. who she addressed constantly the way Sy used to talk to Aalter the carriage-sho2 owner. on this sunny day in early summer. no one e$2ected him to go first. and no one had taken res2onsibility for (dith.Although Sy was older than (dith. She’d been 0uite alone over the last si$ months. (dith was outside in her work clothes yanking on the blackberry vine that had taken . (dith was small and 0uiet and self-assured. but she was also the one with the bad heart and the brush with cancer. rarely s2eaking to anyone but Sy. 1n 2rivate Sy’s friends often wondered who would take res2onsibility for him when (dith died. And now. #ut now he was gone.
B<ammit. 4ot that she had anything against s2iders. SyKB she shouted. and discovered a lum2 in the 2rocess. a doctor in Redding confirmed that it was cancer.root under Sy’s 2orch. leaving the roots intactHthe force of it knocked her into the grass. Two weeks later. C1 am not crawling under that 2orch again. as if even this was his fault. "ne night several years ago she was getting undressed for bed when she noticed a brown s2ider crawling out of her bra.D #ut she did crawl under. She tore off the bra. . snaking through the fine dusty earth on her stomach and ho2ing that the old flannel shirt she wore in the garden would be enough to kee2 the s2iders out. brushed it away. She 2ulled so hard that when it broke looseHsna22ing cleanly off at the base.
She’d had no choice but to acce2t a ride to the a22ointment from a well-meaning middle aged woman who lived down the street.od would 2ut a lum2 in your breast. until it took on an air of s2iritual mysticism far beyond what (dith had intended. she scra2ed away as much of loose dirt as she could -. like flour. B:ou know what3 . . she ke2t saying things like. This woman turned out to be someone who thrived on other 2eo2le6s cancer diagnoses7 on the way home.D (dith got so irritated by this that she finally sna22ed.od 2ut the s2ider in my bra. "nce she reached the base of the blackberry vine.wondering why the dirt under a house was always so fine and dry.B That line was re2eated around town for years. B:ou6re 2robably wondering right now why a loving .aybe .
"f course. followed her meekly out from under the 2orch. <own it went to join the rest of the bramble. an im2ressive level of decay for a house that had only been vacant for si$ months. grabbing the vine by its roots the way you’d haul a dog around by the collar. even when Sy was alive. Then. she made her way to the ditch at the end of Sy6s 2ro2erty that they used as a green waste dum2. 4ow the entire thicket of vines.com2ared to the clay in the garden around it -and 2ulled the mess of roots out of the ground. a good fifty feet in all. She dusted herself off. but the blackberries were snaking under the house and growing through the floorboards. he 2referred to let his s2rawling . (dith wouldn6t normally bother with these kind of 2reventative maintenance chores.
the better it worked as a greenhouse. receiving nothing but 2alliative care to ease the sym2toms. Ahen the roof leaked . The more an outbuilding fell a2art. Sy went into the attic and 2atched it with mud from the inside. which made him feel vindicated. Ahen (dith 2ointed out that moss was accumulating on the roof of his ramshackle Nueen Anne. Another ten years went by and suddenly green roofs were in vogue. The idea that things should be allowed to gradually fall a2art. Sy brought home a book that had recently come into the <ragon about thatched roof cottages in Scotland and argued that he was merely carrying on centuriesold tradition. And when the mossroof s2rung a leak. worked in the bookstore as well.2ro2erty settle into a state of natural decline.
4ew books were never shelved7 they were sim2ly stacked somewhere near the section where they belonged. he sus2ended buckets from the ceiling and threw a 2lastic tar2 over the endangered bookshelves until the storms receded in s2ring.reat #ooks Series. Foreign =anguage had been engulfed by #ritain and France. which were subse0uently taken over by several do5en com2lete sets of TimeO=ife6s . the bookshelves themselves were more or less obscured by the 2recarious stacks of books in grocery bags and old bo$es from the li0uor store.there. The children6s section was only accessible to 2eo2le short and skinny enough to crawl under a table 2iled nearly to the ceiling with automotive . Some sections were com2letely im2assable. "ver time. which often did.
settling into one of his rentals instead. usually involving 2a2er cli2s. and often told adults who came in looking for children6s books that if they were over four feet tall they couldn6t get on the ride. Sy loved a good mess. . which is why she stayed out of the bookstore and refused Sy’s re2eated re0uests to move in with him. Sy liked the logic in this. 2ennies.re2air manuals. and a case of acidfree binding ta2e that he bought back when he thought he might seriously attem2t to be a bookseller. coat hangers. (dith could never tolerate his sort of mess. 8e loved to watch it grow and im2ose its own strange order on the world. 8e never tried to intercede when a mess was brewing7 he merely constructed his own odd ada2tations. 1n short.
There were about a half-do5en old buildings on the 2ro2erty. 4ow everyone had moved out but (dith. they wouldn6t have any money coming back to them. This allowed the musicians to indulge their aversion to day jobs. each one cho22ed into a2artments and rented out to musicians whose tenure lasted decades. She used to be able to count on a burly . 8e also ke2t the rents low. Sy had figured out the 2erfect a22roach to kee2ing long-term tenants he never charged them a security de2osit. 1t was lonely at the end of this old logging road. which meant that if they moved. and created the e$2ectation that they had no right to ask him to fi$ anythingHnot that he would have anyway. with nothing but scrubby second growth forest behind her and the nearest neighbor a half mile away.
. The fragrance was strong enough to discourage deer and make sure that no one else could follow their nose into (dith’s garden. The shrubs covered the fence com2letely. The fence was overgrown with rosemary and an enormous redflowering 2inea22le sage.bass 2layer to roll out of bed around noon and haul bags of 2otting soil around or fi$ a break in the irrigation system. even that would be over. 4ow she was looking after her enormous garden by herself. (dith made her way from the ditch to the fence that ke2t deer out of the broad. and for a moment (dith wondered if young =ewis and his wife would notice it at all. southern facing slo2e of her garden. And once Sy’s ne2hew got into town.
as she sli22ed through the gate and locked it behind her. . "r. 1t could go either way. maybe =ewis would have her arrested. CAhat’s the kid going to make of this.aybe she could get by for a few more months.. Sy3D she asked.
and it was a wonder nobody ever did. but the <ragon was im2ossible to move.ei ht Ahen Sy was alive. "n the day that #illy <alton found Sy’s will. he had refused to 2artici2ate in the endless series of town hall meetings over the future of (ureka’s abandoned waterfront. councilwoman Ale$is Trevino was sitting . A jewelry store or a dress sho2 might be able to move a few blocks down and inhabit one of the new retail sho2s along the harbor develo2ers 2romised to build. C:ou’ll have to burn the 2lace down to get us off Second StreetKD Sy used to say.
#ut the condos aren’t the 2roblem. The . where contractors drank free as long as they brought their own cu2.D <on was saying. and it made her even more im2atient with her contractor than she usually was. C1 can redraw these 2lans and fit another studio above the retail. which just ha22ened to be a 2arcel of land that was once occu2ied by her grandfather’s sawmill. <on )antrell. =e$. CAll right. <on still held the cu2 of coffee he’d 2icked u2 at the hardware store. in his best 1’m-gonna-level-with-you voice. 8e’d been the low bidder on the 2roject she’d 2ro2osed for the waterfront. Ale$is was drinking her second chai.across the street from the <ragon at )ontra )offee with her contractor. The caffeine made her leg shake.
one who was in touch with something he liked to call reality. C1t’s my damn 2roject. . !eo2le like =e$ imagined that (ureka would one day wake u2. And even if you do. reali5e that it was a seaside )alifornia town. 1’ll 2ut a fence around that 2arcel and sit on it for another ten years if they don’t let me build. :ou still don’t know if you’re going to get any of these stores to move down there and 2ay these rents just to be on the water.D <on sighed and looked around the room as if he was ho2ing he’d find another client to talk to. There was no way this 2roject was getting off the ground.D =e$ hissed.retail’s your 2roblem. the 2lanning commission’s 2robably going to kick you off the 2roject over conflict of--D C<on’t you say that. <on.
it just wasn’t that kind of 2lace. =e$ had a vision of sleek bistros overlooking the water. even with the granite counterto2s and the co22er range hoods. <on thought.and start acting like one. and you might . <on didn’t know any artists. but he was 2retty sure they wouldn’t be dro22ing four hundred grand for a studio with a concrete floor and e$2osed ductwork. Esed to be you could come u2 here and work in the sawmills or 2ull crab out of the water. (ureka wasn’t a bad 2lace to live. bouti0ues that sold something other than dusty old books. Rent a room for a cou2le hundred bucks. 1t didn’t e$ist to entertain other 2eo2le. and tourists with nothing better to do than buy 2aintings of sailboats from the artists who would occu2y her live-work studios on the harbor.
back-to-thelanders. (ureka never did get im2roved. burned-out activists. !eo2le like =e$ thought they could 2ut condos on the waterfront and change all that. so (ureka had more than its share of drifters. but <on .endocino or )armel-by-theSea. !eo2le like <on 2ocketed fifty grand every time 2eo2le like =e$ came u2 with another scheme for im2roving (ureka and needed 2lans drawn u2. (ven though real estate 2rices went u2 after the highway de2artment decided not to run a freeway through the middle of town. A certain cross-section of )alifornia’s 2o2ulation was attracted to that idea. (ureka never did become .just slide by without doing much of anything at all. 2ot smokers. and 2eo2le who just didn6t fit in anywhere else.
=e$ blew on her chai and s0uinted at the 2lans <on had s2read out on the table. 1 want to make it clear from day one that we6re not going to tolerate it anymore. BSomething like that wouldn6t really go on the 2lans. and 1 ran on a 2romise that 16d run those kids off the wharf.B he said. These 2lans are .built a deck and a 2arking s2ace for his R9 last summer. B<id you 2ut the skate blocks in3B she asked. 1f only he didn’t have to sit through these damn meetings. BThat6s more of a cosmetic thing. 16m a 2ublic official. BThese skateboarders come down here and 2o2 wheelies or whatever the hell you call it and run off the tourists.B =e$ said. <on. so it was working out all right for him. like ---B B1t6s not cosmetic.
going to have skate blocks on them if 1 had to draw them in myself.B <on 2ulled a 2encil out of his shirt 2ocket and leaned across the table.B B"hKB =e$ said in an uncharacteristically girly voice. and that’s how he did it. B1s that what those are3B BThat6s what those are. She’d 2ay it. BThere you go.B <on said. !eo2le always asked <on how he could 2ut u2 with =e$. . and he’d 2ut new tires on his truck. 8e gave her imaginary skate blocks. 8e6d bill her si$ hundred bucks for that modification ne$t time he sent her a change order. and she gave him steelbelted radials. 8e made seven hatch marks along a length of sidewalk in front of the retail.
he should take it u2 with =e$. C. CAe’re done anyway. CAhen do you break ground3D .D =e$ said. and rolled u2 <on’s 2lans. sto22ed at the table and 2icked u2 <on6s em2ty coffee cu2 gingerly.uillermo . 1f . and at that moment she saw #illy <alton . She’s the one who insisted on meeting here. as if it was something he6d found on the sidewalk and wasn6t sure he wanted to touch.oreQahQ3D <on shook his head and waved him away..artPn.uillermo didn’t like him drinking hardware store coffee in his sho2.uillermo asked.D =e$ said. 8e leaned over to try to get a look before the 2lans disa22eared. )ontra )offee’s owner. She stood u2 to leave. C4ot u2 to me.
D she said. C1’m not here. and ste22ed behind the counter.D she said to . .oddamn city attorney.walk out of the <ragon with a bo$ under his arm. She turned around to <on. C.uillermo. but he was already gone. following <on out the back door.
he was sur2rised to find the <ragon’s door unlocked. 8e s2un his key around in the lock a cou2le of times and 2eered in the windows. And there was . the lights were on.inger.D . Some of us work. )rawford. C1’m working.nine Ahen )rawford showed u2 for work at eleven. unbo$ing cookbooks and shelving them in what was once the 2sychology section. Sure enough. CAhat the hell are you doing here3D )rawford said as he shoved the door o2en.
BAs the manager of this store ---B . noticing that things had changed back there. 8e marched over to . #ack in Sy’s day. too.inger and stood between her and the bookcase she was organi5ing. em2loyees undertook cleaning 2rojects at their own risk. e$2osing bare wood for the first time in years. This outraged )rawford. . 1t felt like sacrilege to see the store drift so far from its original values. )rawford saw an o22ortunity to take a 2rinci2led stand.inger had hauled out eight bags of old cardboard and news2a2ers and then swe2t the floor. .)rawford rolled his eyes and dro22ed his back2ack behind the counter. which was a s2ecialty of his.inger might as well have hauled Sy’s s2irit out to the recycling bin along with the cardboard.
1’ve been here the longest. )rawford. C4ot much.C:ou are not the manager.B she said. . B8e found the will. 1 think we should at least talk to #illy before we ---B B#illy was already here.D CThey3D C8e6s got a wife.D CAell. They’re coming u2 here in a week or two. CAell. (mily. 8e called =ewis.B BShitK 8ow much time do we have3D )rawford o2ened a second bo$ of cookbooks and started loading them onto a shelf.et out of my face.inger had regretted 2ost2oning the start date of her job at the <ragon until after =abor <ay.D For over a decade .D C#y four days.B .
D They worked in silence.BAhat6s her deal3B . #ut )rawford took an uncharacteristic interest in them. . The cookbooks themselves were nothing s2ecial mundane collections of casserole reci2es and easy su22ers for busy moms. and facing out three books with cu2cakes on the cover. filling a section and breaking down the em2ty bo$es. to 2ut on the rare books shelf. all 2urchased from the Iunior =eague when their charity booksho2 closed its doors.inger shrugged. C:ou now know everything 1 know. 1t was sur2risingly satisfying work. shelving books alongside each other. 2ulling out an early 0oy of "ookin.
raphi s off the chair and dro22ed into it. .uillermo brushed a stack of . .uillermo 2ushed o2en the front door and kicked the doorsto2 into 2lace.uillermo. There was always someone )rawford wasn’t s2eaking to7 this week it was . 8e had the lean frame of someone who subsisted mostly on coffee and cigarettes.his . BAe’re o2en.inger thought he wore the look of a weathered old activist well -.inger said. )rawford ignored him. without looking u2.D . CAre you guys o2en or what3B . Iust then . 2ro22ing his feet u2 on the counter.uillermo said.inger said.C)u2cakes.D . with the su2erior attitude of a man who6d been at work since five.ational Geo. Aren’t you cute.
After Sy’s death . .B .uillermo3 This kid6s going to 0uit his cushy job in San Iose to move u2 to 8umboldt )ounty and just ---B She couldn’t finish.uillermo had ke2t a 2articularly close eye on the store. She ri22ed another bo$ of books o2en and glared down into its contents.et used to it.inger said. .B she said.face was all interesting angles and salt and 2e22er stubble. what do you think. dro22ing in with the air of someone who had the ability to re2ort directly back to Sy if anything was amiss. BThink so3B BAell.B B. B<amnK 16m getting low. B8aven6t seen her. B8as (dith been in this week3B he asked.
D . BAbsentee landlord. .inger.uillermo jum2ed u2 as if he’d forgotten all about the coffee sho2.uillermo shrugged. BAre you sure he even has to know3B B8ow can he not know3B )rawford said. what does he care3B CThat’s insane. not if you 2ut it that way. C. As long as the checks clear the bank. dro22ing onto the floor and wi2ing his brow as if he had e$erted himself in this first half hour of the day. BAell.D .et back to your coffee sho2. Ahat a cou2le of drama 0ueens. . C)all me when she gets here. C(verybody in town knows..uillermo sighed.B he said.D he said.D )rawford said.
turning to )rawford.D )rawford said. she added. Then.C<on’t count on it.D C<on’t say it.inger called after him.D . C<on’t even think it.D . C1 think we’ve seen the last of (dith.
The air2ort task force held its eleventh meeting of the year. leaving the farmer with nothing to do but walk along behind them and fend off 0uestions from the growing crowd of onlookers 2arked on the shoulder. the calves ambled over to the nearest e$it ram2 of their own accord. That would be today’s to2 story.ten 1t was another slow news day at the 1umboldt 1erald. this one convened to draw . Four 8olstein calves had esca2ed their 2en just south of Fortuna. and a 2hotogra2her had been dis2atched to grab a 2hoto of the farmer shooing them off the freeway. As it ha22ened.
. and authorshi2 of a blog called C8um#i5D that offered u2beat 2rofiles of new sandwich sho2s and art galleries in "ld . where he was su22osed to drum u2 story ideas.et a Face =iftD was the best headline the 1erald could come u2 with on short notice.alway <aniels. but they’d get another shot at it tomorrow after there was time to get citi5en reactions and run a follow-u2. CAir2ort #ags .u2 a 2lan for moving the baggage claim area out of an abandoned car wash ne$t door to the air2ort and into the terminal itself. having refused the buy-out once again. was not assigned to cover either of these breaking stories. which meant a free dinner of chicken wings and chea2 wine once a month at the )hamber mi$er. 8e’d been 2ut on the business desk.
1t was a comfortable and 2redictable news cycle.Town. downtown. s2arring with local merchants who would give almost anything to have twenty 2eo2le living and. along with re2ur2osed 2ress releases from the Small #usiness Administration. a declaration that was usually good for a weeks’ worth of reaction 2ieces featuring fishermen. even as they re2eated their refusal to move into the new over2riced sho2s that would be built along the harbor. who resented the dwindling availability of actual docking facilities along the waterfront. 2resumably. From time to time =e$ Trevino would lean into her mike at the council meeting and revive her threat to build condos on the waterfront. sho22ing and dining. 2unctuated by )hristmas retail sales .
. .alway couldn’t com2lainHhe was 2aying the rent and making a dent in his bar tab.alway’s boss #etsy . #ut today wasn’t one of those days. then it was time for )hristmas again.2rojections FCThere’s 4o !lace =ike "ld Town For the 8olidays.erchantsDG. a 2erennial "ctober crowd-2leaser about the influ$ of cash into the local economy when the outdoor marijuana cro2 was harvested. . which is more than most of his former coworkers could say. back-to-school ti2s for fall. behind-the-scenes stories of flower sho2s on 9alentine’s <ay FCFlorist !lays )u2id on February %RDG.iers had . and tales of harried )!As during ta$ season FCA Ta$ing Time for AccountantsDG.ost days it was fine. Say =ocal . Then came interviews with summer tourists.
but managing a loosely-knit confederacy of disgruntled re2orters-turnedbloggers was beyond her. arts and culture. environmental issues. food.been by his desk twice this morning. CSee meKD read one. #etsy might have run a tight newsroom at one 2oint. leaving 2ink sticky notes on his com2uter monitor both times. Ahile . had been demolished and turned into a 2arking lot. The 1erald’s s2rawling brick building in "ld Town. The news2a2er’s staff had been reduced to a handful of freelancers covering business. They o2erated out of an old house near the courthouse that had been divided into offices. C4owKD the second one said. and local 2olitics. which had once housed a 2rinting 2ress as well as a large editorial staff.
#etsy hated e-mail. 8e was usually in the office by ten. Around lunchtime his brain caught u2 with his body. 2articularly . and skimming the news online. but he wasn’t awake until noon. . a notion soundly rejected by almost everyone at the 1erald.the more august news organi5ations managed to kee2 a robust staff and do old-school investigative re2orting.i5mo but refused to use it. and nobody was inclined to make a donation to the 1erald. She believed that her staff should show u2 by nine and stay 2ast five. She carried a .alway. they de2ended on donations through their charitable foundations to make it ha22en. checking email. which meant that he s2ent a cou2le of hours each morning drinking coffee.
alwayKD she called from the cracked and 2eeling leather chair she inhabited all day. 1t was a museum of late twentieth-century relics stacks of faded 2hone books. 1t was like a ta$idermied version of a newsroom. C. CSitKD #etsy’s office smelled of dandruff and 2encil shavings. and a bin of uno2ened junk mail that had to go back five years. holding them u2 and raising his eyebrow in greeting. accordion files stuffed with news2a2er cli22ings.making him coherent enough to make the rounds of "ld Town in search of a story. #ut today #etsy had a story all 2icked out for him. . and #etsy sat among it as if she was 2reserved in wa$. 8e 2eeled the notes off his monitor and carried them to her office.
D he said. always with her brassy blonde hair 2iled on to2 of her head and s2rayed into 2lace.always in her black wool sweater. C#ets. ho2ing that the 1erald2s local angle on what she called Cthe bookstore crisisD would get 2icked u2 nationally. Ahat’s u23D C:eah. 8e 2referred to lean in the doorway. C1 want you to get down to the <ragon. you’re like a week late to that Rotary lunch. . .D #etsy said. #etsy made him write one every time a bookstore closed.D 4ot another =ast #ookstore in America story. C1’m late to a Rotary lunch.alway had cranked out a do5en of these stories since the 8um#i5 blog launched two years ago. 8e didn’t .alway hadn’t ste22ed in her office in years.
e$ce2t #etsy.uillermo telling somebody that the new owners were coming into town. #ut that’s not it. The whole thing was such a ruse anyway everybody in town knew that the <ragon didn’t kee2 itself afloat selling books. (veryone. yeah. 1 was getting my coffee this morning and 1 overheard . a22arently. who insisted on flaunting (ureka’s uni0ue status as one of the only small towns to still su22ort a real bookstore.D CSomebody bought that 2lace3D . CAhat ha22enedHdid another bookstore close3D he asked. 2robably.think he had another one in him. C8uh3 "hHwell.
i5mo for .D C#illy <alton should be disbarred. 4ile.D <alton said. the woman widely blamed for the downfall of the book. 8e could also call . CArite that u2.C4o.D #ut . 8e already had his small-town cheerleader headline C#reathing 4ew =ife 1nto the Firebreathing <ragon.com. a cou2le of customer reactions. 1t took #illy <alton all this time to find the will. delivered a Criver of readingD to the .D 4ow all he needed was a 2hoto. 8er com2any. C. this is the guy who inherited it from Sy.a$ine Rogers.D she said. and a statement from #illy. feel-good small business 2iece lined u2. too.ood idea.alway wasn’t going to write a messy attorney misconduct article when he had an easy.
even the more obscure serials like (ittle 3orrit and The Mystery of Ed!in 3rood.D followed by a high-minded riff on the advantages of the electronic book. allowing you to finally indulge your love of com2arative literature. .a$ine could usually be counted on for a sym2athetic cluck over the fate of what she called Cdusty old bookstores. :ou can switch effortlessly between the .arnett and 9olokhonsky translations of Anna 'arenina and the original Russian. :ou can carry <ickens’ com2lete works with you. if you were willing to watch the ads.twenty bucks a monthHor for free. :ou can fit 4nfinite 0est in your 2ocket. . and most 2eo2le were.
a$ine and let her smart and silky voice float into his ear. in fact. was that he got to 2hone u2 . .a$ine knew how to give a great 0uote.alway ke2t writing these bookstore articles. and that was never easy. .She said this in a coolly confident voice that suggested that com2arative literature was. a 2assion you dared not deny. She said it in a way that im2lied that the two of you might someday get together in a dimly-lit hotel lounge and confess your shared love of the obscure little serials of )harles <ickens. #ut first he had to track down #illy <alton. aside from the fact that #etsy would fire him if he didn’t. The only reason .
8e was more like 2art-time hel2 for the city attorney’s office. hired on to hel2 with the more time-consuming and 2ointless cases. and 2erfunctory legal reviews of harebrained ballot initiatives to legali5e and regulate . although as far as =e$ Trevino was concerned.e!even #illy wasn’t actually (ureka’s city attorney. )ases that would otherwise bog down the attorney’s office. disgruntled e$-em2loyees a22ealing their dismissals on the grounds that they were in jail and therefore ouldn2t show u2 to work. Freedom of 1nformation re0uests from high school journalism students. he might as well be.
And of course. 4o council member was targeted as much as Ale$is Trevino. and the glorious or terrifying 2ossibilityHde2ending on your 2ers2ectiveHof 8umboldt )ounty turning into a high-end cannabis tourist destination. a common 2roblem for any 2roject the cannabis community chose to undertake. a . it fell to #illy to review a steady stream of conflict-of-interest investigations brought by angry citi5en grou2s against council members. com2lete with smoking bars downtown and 2ot farms modeled after Sonoma )ounty’s wineries.marijuana. the dro2 in law enforcement e$2enses. Some novice council member floated the idea every few years. These initiatives usually died of their own inertia. arguing for the increased sales ta$ revenue.
4o one was . sat on boards and councils around town. They were not a wellloved family. =e$’s father 2ublished a conservative news2a2er in the late si$ties.woman whose family had dee2 roots in 8umboldt )ounty. Still. and 2artici2ated in enough shady deals to kee2 them under investigation from cradle to grave. funding it out of his own 2ocket and using it as a 2latform to slam the burgeoning environmental movement that was restricting the 4orth )oast fishing season and sto22ing the flow of logs into the sawmills o2erating on the water’s edge. =e$ ran uno22osed for city council and won every time. Four generations of Trevinos had run the waterfront. 8er grandfather bragged about his role in the %*&M e$2ulsion of )hinese immigrants from (ureka.
#illy’s investigations were ha2ha5ard and dangerous.willing to take her on 2ublicly. his style ran toward e-mailing the financial statements of 2ublic officials to all his friends. 8e never submitted formal re2orts to the mayor’s office. .et a cou2le drinks in him and he could deliver an im2ressive s2eech about the nefarious back-door dealings of !ort Authority sub-committee members. and now he was after =e$ Trevino. <alton had the dirt on everyone. 4o. and he certainly never called council members aside to gently caution them about certain matters a22earing before the council that afternoon. 8e had a knack for stumbling across the wrong 2iece of information at the wrong time and blurting it out in a crowded room. . or reading aloud from them in a bar late at night.
#ut everybody knew the meetings with <on were about her develo2ment. Today #illy was hanging around "ld Town. 8e 2referred these long.The rest of the city attorney’s office just sat back and watched. safe in the knowledge that #illy <alton was wrecking no one’s career but his own. always making the e$cuse that the land was in a family trust over which she had no control. She’d sat in on three votes that had im2lications for her waterfront deal already. waiting to see if =e$ would show u2 for another meeting with her contractor. drawn-out commercial 2rojects. She claimed she was meeting with him to discuss a remodel of her house. <on )antrell. but <on hadn’t done residential work in a decade. with their never-ending revisions and .
!eo2le who decide to make over their house always want to start immediately.B #illy said. Ask me for a cu2 of coffee. . BThat6s nice.B B8ey. B:ou6ve got a real touch.uillermo. C"rder something. 8e made most of his money in the lengthy 2re-develo2ment 2hase.uillermo said.delays. C:ou know what 1’ll have3D . #illy sat at his table in the corner and waited.D #illy said. Seriously. a 2hase that didn’t e$ist in the residential remodels he used to get tangled u2 in. This is not your office.B B#illy. <on never found CimmediatelyD to be 2articularly 2rofitable.D .
B #illy drank his coffee in silence. She6s 2icking u2 some visiting dignitary at the air2ort. That6s all 1 heard.B B<o you know who it is3B BSome guy named Richmond. B:ou’ve seen her3B B:eah.ood boy. BAhat6s gotten into her3B . .B B1 have no idea who that is.inger emerged from the <ragon with a broom in her hand and started swee2ing the sidewalk. She left here about an hour ago.B.B B1 didn6t think you would.B 8e leaned across the counter and 2oured a cu2 of coffee for #illy. Lee2 this u2 and 16ll even tell you where =e$ is. Across the street.
D #illy said.inger knelt down to 2ick u2 the dam2 leaves that clung to the sidewalk. (ureka was a strangely secretive town you might know everybody. BAants to im2ress the boss.BShe6s trying to act like a sho2kee2er.B #illy just shook his head. . CThere’s that re2orter. . 8e leaned back in his chair to see who it was.B .uillermo ste22ed aside to allow #illy to duck under the counter and out the back door. C1t’s the end of an era. . !eo2le were forever ducking out of rooms .uillermo said.D he said.alway.uillermo wi2ed down #illy’s table and stuffed the bills in his 2ocket. #illy watched her stand u2 and wave to somebody. but you didn’t want to see most of them. 8e sla22ed three bucks on the table and .
.uillermo had considered 2utting a lock on his back door. e$ce2t that he knew how fidgety his customers could get without an esca2e route. .to avoid a conversation they’d just as soon avoid.
;alway was as sur2rised to see ;inger swee2ing the sidewalk as #illy had been. B(verything okay3B he asked as he a22roached. The <ragon had always been deliberately unkem2t, but without Sy it was starting to look abandoned. Something had to be seriously wrong if she was cleaning the 2lace u2. C:eah, everything’s fine,D ;inger said. C:ou looking for )rawford3D 8e and )rawford 2layed 2oker on Thursday nights. C4ah, just uhQD he looked around uneasily. C1t’s not time for another dead bookstore story, is it3D ;inger asked.
BAell, 1 don6t know. 1 heard a rumor about you guys.B BAhat kind of rumor3B C1 was going to ask #illy.D B8e was across the street a minute ago.B They both swiveled around to look. B1 guess he just left.B ;inger swe2t the last of the leaves into the gutter. B:ou can ask me.B ;alway was still looking across the street as if #illy might rea22ear in the window. BAell, okay,B he said, kee2ing his eyes on the coffee sho2. B:ou guys figured out who Sy left the bookstore to3B B:eah. Some ne2hew from the #ay Area.D C:ou think he wants to come u2 here and run the store3B
;inger rolled her eyes toward the sky as if she was conferring with Sy. B,y sources say no,D she said, giving ;alway a tight half-smile. C4o3D ;alway asked. C#ut it’s the family business.D CSome family,D ;inger said. C1’ve never even met the kid. #esides, just because he6s related to Sy doesn6t make him cra5y enough to do what Sy did.B CSo what are you going to do3D She shrugged. CFake it. Act like a bookseller.D C:ou’re kidding, right3 :ou think he’s actually going to believe that this 2lace is still a bookstore3D ;inger sighed and leaned her broom against the door. C;alway. 1f you can make 2eo2le
believe you’re still a re2orter, 1 think 1 can make 2eo2le believe 1’m still a bookseller. ;o file your damn story, whatever it’s going to be.D ;alway stood in front of the <ragon’s enormous 2icture window for a minute while ;inger finished swee2ing. She’d filled the window with the <ragon’s entire inventory of the O5ford En.lish 3i tionary. There was a good-looking blue leather edition from %*M* in twenty volumes7 a four-volume %*S/ su22lement, and a handsome /&&' set of twenty volumes, the last edition to be 2rinted on 2a2er. She had stacked them in uneven towers like skyscra2ers. They resembled some lost city, dense and intricate and unknowable.
)rawford sat behind the desk at the <ragon, as he did most afternoons. Ahen Sy was alive it was )rawford’s habit to rise around noon with the intention of getting to the store by one. 8e usually made it by two. 8e and Sy would sit behind the counter together, trading jokes and insults until the last customers left around dinnertime. Sometimes they’d kee2 the store o2en into the evening, di22ing into a bottle of good Scotch Sy ke2t behind the counter. C,y advice to booksellers is to kee2 the gun in the left-hand drawer and the whiskey in the righthand drawer, and don’t get Jem mi$ed u2,D Sy
loved to say on those nights. And in fact, he did kee2 an old, unloaded revolver in the cash drawer. 4o one who worked at the <ragon had ever fired a gun, but just knowing it was there made )rawford feel like a badass. 1f anybody came in the store and made him nervous, he’d just glance down at its dull black butt for fortitude. 1n the old days )rawford worked most afternoons, and ;inger worked most mornings, and Sy was there all the time. 8e never left. 8e didn’t have anywhere else to be. !eo2le came to the <ragon to see Sy. 8e was the reason the store had survived as long as it had. 4ow that he was gone, )rawford and ;inger were 2ulling e$tra shifts, 2aying themselves out of the cash drawer, and waiting to see what would ha22en
ne$t. Today, knowing that the store’s new owners could show u2 anytime, )rawford was es2ecially aware that his days at the <ragon were 2robably coming to a close. C<o you know how much air is sitting above your head right now3D came a voice in the doorway. A guy with a red face and a shock of white hair was looking down at )rawford. C4ot really,D )rawford said, without looking u2 from the stack of 2a2erbacks he was 2ricing. C"ne ton,D he said. CReally3D said )rawford. CThat’s a lot of air.D C<o you know what it would feel like if a ton of air came down on your head at once3D 8e stood beaming down at the desk until )rawford was forced to dro2 his 2encilHslam it on the
desk, reallyHand issue a loud sigh, and look u2 to give the <ragon’s newest customer his full attention. C4o,D said )rawford. C=ike one thousand 2ounds of airKD he said. CThat is a ton,D )rawford said, going back to his books. CIust like that. And it could ha22en, too. All you have to do is move some of the air that’s underneath you out of the way, and the air that’s on to2 of you would fall down on your head. That’s gravity.D C8uh,D said )rawford. C1t’s just 2hysics, that’s all 1’m saying. #ut Hyou know what3 4obody’s talking about 2hysics. They don’t want you to know.D
C8ey, actually, we have a 2hysics section,D )rawford said, ho2ing the guy would head back there and get lost. CRichard Feynman3D CAell, yeah, there’s 2robably some Richard Feynman,D )rawford said. CFeynman’s a 2ussy,D he said, but he wandered back there anyway. )rawford went back to 2ricing books. The <ragon hadn’t actually bought books to fill its shelves in years. After the ;i5mo came out, 2eo2le started dro22ing off bo$es of books at the store, asking no money in return, e$2laining that they couldn’t bring themselves to take them to the dum2 but had no reason to kee2 them anymore. As bookstores and libraries in northern )alifornia closed, Sy 2icked u2 their
inventory, usually for free, and shoveled it into the <ragon’s cavernous storage room. All over the country, the inventory of closed bookstores sat in warehouses. The few remaining o2en sho2s had an ine$haustible su22ly to choose from. C1t’s retail in reverse,D Sy used to say. CStores get the merchandise for free, and then nobody wants to buy it. 1t’s like having a store that sells chicken feathers, or sand.D Then one day a woman who had grown weary of his diatribe told him that landsca2e contractors actually do sell sand. CThey do3D Sy shouted, rising u2 from his chair. CAhat do you know about it3D Too frightened to s2eak, the woman just shook her head.
C1 thought so,D Sy said. 8e dro22ed back into his chair to continue berating his customer, but she was gone. )rawford thought about Sy every day. Sy was the guy who took him in when his life blew u2. 8e needed a 2lace to sulk, a 2lace to construct elaborate, bitter rationali5ations for everything that had ha22ened to him, and a 2lace to go bankru2t. The Firebreathing <ragon was 2erfect for that. 4o one knew bankru2tcy and bitterness better than Sy. 8e didn’t just shelter )rawford7 he egged him on. 8e even gave him an official job title, Unemployed and A..ravated ,ovelist, and had it 2rinted on a nametag, which )rawford wore until re2orters started showing u2 to write =ast #ookstore articles. They all wanted a 2icture of him with
his nametag. 8e was starting to feel like a cartoon character. So eventually he sto22ed wearing it. #ut maybe he was a cartoon character. After the une$2ected success of his first novel, The Retriever, )rawford went on a real estate and travel binge, buying a two-bedroom in ,anhattan and flying to #uenos Aires every time he wasn’t in the mood to write in 4ew :ork. 8e thought he had all the time in the world to write his much-antici2ated second novel, but the ;i5mo dro22ed into his life like a bomb. 1n two years, his readers went from lining u2 around the block to get a signed co2y of his book, to 2romising they would download the ne$t one, but never 0uite getting around to it. Ahen )rawford was a cou2le of months late
turning in the first draft of his new novel, his 2ublisher took the o22ortunity to 2ull out of the contract. There were no more advances, no more ambitious first 2rintings, no more book tours and satellite radio interviews. 1f he wrote something 2eo2le might like to read, he was free to make it available through 4ile.com. 8e could charge money for it or not. !eo2le could buy it Hor not. Ahich sucked, because mostly 2eo2le decided not to buy )rawford’s second novel. 1t was astonishing to )rawford that a handheld device could kill not just the book in 2rinted form, but the very idea of a book. The notion that a story should unfold over the course of two or three hundred 2ages was as anti0uated as the idea that a band6s musical out2ut should
<igital music changed all that. A 0uote-un0uote album could now hold two m2?s or two hundred. And there used to be these hea2s of eighty to a hundred thousand words that 2eo2le would s2end about a week reading. The technologyH2rinted 2ages. too. and those hea2s of words used to hang together as a body of work. and then four or five slightly more e$2erimental and intelligent songs on the other side. and this had something to do with the fact that vinyl records could only hold eight or ten songs. bound together between 2asteboard covers. Albums used to make sense7 they used to hang together as a body of work.consist of four or five songs on one side of a 2iece of vinyl. in a si5e that could be easily held in the handHdemanded .
)rawford could 2retend that he still had some kind of 2lace in the world. and he hadn6t had any Argentinean beef in the longest time. 4ow they downloaded Twitter feeds. The bookstore was like a nest he could settle in with the scra2s of his 2revious e$istence and construct a kind of shelter out of sarcasm and remorse. As long as the bookstore stayed o2en. and bestow awards u2on them. They had to figure out how to tell their story and fit it within the confines of that thing called a book.something s2ecific of authors. )rawford was understandably irritated. #ut without Sy. 8is . !eo2le used to go buy those books. the whole thing seemed kind of 2ointless. And talk about them. 4ot any more. And 2lace them on bestseller lists. .anhattan a2artment was gone.
Sy used to make him feel like that was an accom2lishment. Running a cash-based business was trickier than it seemed. #ut he didn’t have much time to think about it today. (dith had dro22ed by this morning. too. and where would she go3 For that matter. Sy de2osited just enough into the bank to make the business look . he wasn’t so sure. )rawford thought. Sy’s ne2hew would surely sell the 2ro2erty. =ately.8e was washed u2 at the age of thirty-four. but she walked straight to the back with a fragrant bundle under her arm and left without saying a word. (mily and =ewis were driving u2 from the #ay Area. She must be worried. where would any of them go3 4one of them had managed to save any money.
:ou couldn’t 2ut it under the mattress without risking a break-in. and )rawford and . And it seemed like a waste to leave money sitting around when there was always more to be had. and you couldn’t 2ut it in the bank without attracting the attention of the 1RS. but the rest of their salaries. was cash. Sy used to say that money was also like a 2ile of sand. . And cash had to be s2ent.inger each got a legit 2ayroll check for something just above minimum wage. 1t shifted around and blew away. and everything else Sy took home.res2ectable.
she awoke in a foul mood. She still wasn’t sure she even wanted to see this bookstore. but =ewis insisted on driving. stuffed . much less 2artici2ate in =ewis’ fantasy of moving to (ureka to run it. "n the day they left.ake a day of it. .D #ut (mily was in no mood to make a day of it.fourteen 1t took =ewis and (mily a cou2le of weeks to arrange for some time away from work so that they could get to (ureka and have a look at the bookstore.D =ewis said. CAe’ll take our time. (mily had ho2ed to fly u2 and rent a car at the tiny commuter air2ort outside (ureka. C1t’s a beautiful drive.
ate #ridge was mostly obscured by fog. The drive from San Iose to (ureka took them through changes in geogra2hy that. all 2ale blues and white lights. For years (mily had been trying to 2ersuade =ewis that they should give u2 their comfortable two-bedroom in San Iose and move into a little studio in San Francisco. and settled into the 2assenger’s seat with hardly a word to =ewis. San Francisco6s skyline shimmered above the bay. The rent would be .olden . resembled stages of grief. like a mirage of a city. giving the im2ression that the city floated just out of reach. The .a few changes of clothes into a suitcase. First came the wide swee2 of the city to their left as they drove 2ast "akland and #erkeley. to (mily.
and anything could ha22en. that hour just after the sun goes down when the sky turns 2ur2le and yellow lights come u2 in the sho2s and the fragrance of e$2ensive cologne and steaks on the grill drifts around the streets. Ahat was the 2oint of clawing your way into the #ay Area real estate market. At those moments the city vibrates with 2ossibility. She6d never had an evening that lived u2 to the 2romise of that blue moment. but at least they would be living in a real city.higher. Actually. but just standing on !owell and . she came here for a 2articular moment in San Francisco. only to end u2 in a neighborhood that could just as easily be in north <allas3 She came here for San Francisco. An evening is starting. the commute would be longer.
There it is. the first stage <enial. She wanted to e$2erience that moment every night.watching the daylight recede was enough for her. Surely she was not agreeing to a move that would take her even further from San Francisco. Surely this was just a weekend tri2. Anger. The ne$t 2hase. 4o good could come from a . came as she and =ewis sat in traffic for two hours from the Richmond #ridge to Santa Rosa. not just a cou2le times a month when she and =ewis took the train into the city. That6s why she wanted to live in San Francisco. There was no good way to leave San Francisco e$ce2t by sea drive in any direction and you6d be stuck on a freeway staring at the backs of self storage units and office 2arks.
and off in the distance. that of a comfortable 2ost-San Francisco lifestyle devoted to barrel tastings and bidding on chevre futures at bouti0ue goat farms. =ewis was cra5y to think she’d 0uit her job and move to (ureka to run. a bookstore. this kind of life in the country. she could breathe again. This time of year the gnarled old vines were just starting the im2robable act of 2roducing fruit. She could get by in a 2lace like this. "nce they got through Santa Rosa.journey that began like this. She leaned her head against the window and watched a row of auto malls slide 2ast. of all things. the chTteaus of the nouveau-riche offered another kind of 2romise. The wine country was hardly rural7 it felt e$2ansive and lu$urious. This wasn6t so bad. .
!hrases like Bthis great country of oursB rise unbidden to the li2s on a drive like this. Ancient redwood forests usually ins2ire a sense of awe7 the mountains dra2ed in mist and the tree trunks as wide as your college a2artment and the stomach-churning views of the rivers crashing and frothing below the highway would bring anyone else to a 2lace of 2rofound gladness and une$2ected 2atriotism. for anyone but (mily. She would trade the city for a 2lace like this. !eo2le call this 2assage to the northwest the Jredwood curtain7’ (mily felt like less like she was sli22ing behind a curtain and more like someone . would not necessarily be called <e2ression. After two hours of #argaining. the landsca2e gave way to what.That6s called #argaining.
8e s2oke of Cthe bookD as a Ccultural artifactD and 2raised it as a Cremarkable 2iece of technology.was locking a gate behind her. (mily knew that Encle Sy’s bookstore meant something to =ewis once. but that was no reason to dro2 everything and move u2 there. she’d grown irritated with his new-found interest in books and bookselling. "ver the last few days. <e2ression.D re2eating those 2hrases so often to their friends and family that it was starting to sound like a stum2 s2eech. . The fourth stage of grief. The trees glared down at her. She and =ewis hadn’t s2oken much on the drive. The forests were gloomy and menacing. Suddenly owning a bookstore was the only thing he’d ever really wanted to do with his life.
hly Effe tive &eople# and he’d only read that because it was re0uired reading at a sales re2 retreat several years ago. The news that he had inherited a bookstore had transformed him from a vaguely dissatisfied sales re2 who might have toiled alongside her to 2ay off the mountain of student loan and credit card debt that ke2t them from ever scra2ing together a down 2ayment for . This in s2ite of the fact that the only book (mily could find in their house was an old =onely !lanet travel guide from a college tri2 to )hina that they used to 2ro2 u2 a wobbly desk.This in s2ite of the fact that the last 2rinted book he’d actually read was a co2y of Ste2hen )ovey’s The 6 1abits of 1i. #ut there was no 2oint in confronting =ewis with this evidence.
C)an’t we delete that message3D 4o. She reali5ed that she had made a tactical error by o22osing the bookstore idea before . they could not. CThere’s a message in this for us. reaching over to smooth his hair. C"h. then worked another twenty or thirty years and retired with a house that was mostly 2aid for and a 0uarter-share in a condo at Tahoe. honey. 8e knew what effect those eyes had on (mily. unbeknownst to his wife and his friends.a house. 8e had the soulful brown eyes of a 2u22y.D (mily had said. =ewis sighed and rolled over. to a guy who had.D he had told (mily last night as they lay in bed and faced each other. been lost for years and had just found his way.
the more you get behind them.B (mily6s father said. BAhen are you leaving3B she said. 8er father had once wanted to climb .B .they6d even arrived in (ureka. sur2rised by how 0uickly things were moving along. She had forgotten the only trick her mother had taught her about marriage the more im2ractical your husband’s ideas are. and rather than tell him that there was no way in hell she was going to let him risk his life to climb a mountain. (mily6s mother threw her arms around him and told him that she thought that was a wonderful idea. 1t was entirely 2ossible that he would take one look at the bookstore and reali5e that there was no way they could afford to kee2 it o2en.ount (verest. B1t6s kind of e$2ensive. CAell.
into a jar that she labeled C!aul’s (verest Fund. CAe’re never going to get that kind of money. <on6t you see how this works3 :ou al!ays su22ort the . And your father’s never going to get into sha2e for (verest. 1 think. seeing this. beaming. 1’ll 2ut in the first twenty dollars.C8ow much3D CEmHabout seventy thousand dollars. we can do thatKD her mother said. honey.D And she took out a twenty and dro22ed it. 8e’s not even in sha2e. And how are you going to get that kind of money3D 8er mother smiled and took (mily’s face in her hands. C=et’s start saving right now. 2ulled her aside later.D (mily. CAell.om.D he said. are you cra5y3 8e can’t climb (verest. C. sweetie.
D She 2atted (mily on the cheeks and smiled. and then you don’t have to be the bad guy. CThat’s a little marital advice from your mom. <on’t bother fighting with your husband over something he’s never actually going to do. 8e’ll give u2 on his own eventually.cra5y stuff. and (mily wishing she could grab the steering wheel and turn them around. the more you get behind it. The more im2ossible it is. The redwoods gave way to cow 2astures. actually. They were almost to (ureka now. (mily wished she’d remembered it in time. #ut now they were locked into 2osition =ewis driving them resolutely into their dim and dusty future.D 1t was good advice. where black and white 8olsteins gra5ed in the .
1n the shadow of the mills were little com2any towns. waiting for logs that didn6t show u2 anymore. rows of run-down bungalows that were once 2ainted bright green.etting away from the trees calmed her down somewhat. . She felt calmer than she had in days. . She rolled down her window to smell the ocean. and blue to give the workers the illusion that they were living in a seaside resort. She was relieved to be here. if only because it meant that the si$-hour drive was over. "ld sawmills sat alongside the freeway. Soon the road swerved close to a flat e$2anse of ocean and (mily reali5ed she was looking at 8umboldt #ay. 2ink.com2any of egrets.
. but maybe it was something likeHwellHthe final stage of grief. Acce2tance.1t wasn’t ha22iness e$actly.
She might be in the garden. 4o res2onse. B(dith3B he shouted one more time. and then slammed his car door. .fifteen C(dithKD #illy called out from the driveway. it’s just meKD he called again. 8e walked around to the back of Sy6s house. (dith didn’t like visitors. loud. 8e unlocked Sy’s back door and let himself in. B1t6s #illyKB 8e6d given her enough of a warning. and she really didn’t like sur2rise visitors. There were no lights on in (dith6s cottage. ho2ing she’d hear. C(dith.
had been ignored in favor of a small and orderly ceremony at the house and a scattering of ashes into the forest at the edge of his 2ro2erty.to be cremated inside the bookstore so that he and the <ragon would go u2 in flames together --. The dead man’s long-standing and fre0uently-announced wish regarding the dis2osition of his body in the event of his death --.#illy hadn’t been to Sy6s house since the memorial service. card tables. and 2icnic benches had to be swe2t clear of cobwebs and tested for sturdiness before guests sat in them7 and the house had to be cleared of decades’ worth of old maga5ines . 1t had taken a cleaning crew a week to get the 2lace tidied u2 for the ceremony great hulking rhododendrons had to be hacked away to make the sidewalks 2assable7 mismatched chairs.
o. For the film ada2tation of Smoke. filled with strangely detailed articles about the murders that s2elled out intricate sub2lots never revealed in the movie itself. broken a22liances. Sy loved these literary 2ro2s as much as he loved to 2oint out literary mistakes in films.and news2a2ers. and the more dila2idated and useless remnants of Sy6s collection of movie 2ro2s. 8e6d gotten into buying 2ro2s years ago when he found out that some filmmakers actually had com2lete books 2rinted when one was called for in a movie. an actual dust jacket was created for Ailliam 8urt6s character !aul #enjamin. . Real news2a2ers were 2rinted for the movie "hi a. com2lete with an author 2hoto of 8urt himself.
and decanters filled with diluted )oke instead of brandy.ational Treasure. CAhy don’t these 2eo2le call me3D he asked his fellow moviegoers.D someone called out from the darkness. #illy didn6t want to throw too much of it out. . Sy.BThat would6ve been a handwritten manuscri2t. Sy wanted a job advising the movie industry about anti0uarian books. you illiterate fuckKB he shouted to the screen during . #ut he continued to collect 2ro2s. 2hones that didn6t ring. knowing that eventually he would locate the heirs and it would be their job to sort through it. refrigerators that didn6t stay cold. C#eats me. and his house was filled with them clocks that didn6t kee2 time. 8e was furious that 8ollywood never called.
only to reali5e that the 2ower had been turned off. Enderneath it all was the smell of something dead a rat. S2eaking of mildew. . #illy sim2ly hadn6t . cat 2iss. the house was a horror of offensive smells. or a 2ossum. and the rank stench of a bottle of wine that must have s2illed somewhere in the house during the memorial. A dead blackberry vine had somehow worked its way through a weak s2ot in the floorboards.old. There was no e$cuse for letting Sy6s house fall into ruin like this. maybe. And he was afraid to o2en the refrigerator. A window 2ane above the kitchen sink was cracked.but anything that stank or s2routed mildew got tossed. #illy fli22ed a switch.
e$2ected it to take so long to find the will. 1t was a strange-looking house that managed to come across as both old and not0uite-finished at the same time. e$2osing wide 2lanks of old-growth . evenHreminded him to sto2 by once a month and check on things3 #illy walked through the house with the e$aggerated ste2 of someone who thought the wrong move would cause the whole thing to colla2se. 8e had ri22ed u2 the car2ets and three layers of asbestos-laden linoleum below them. Sy was obsessed with the idea of stri22ing the house down to its bare bones. Time was sli22ery in 8umboldt )ounty7 this wasn6t the first time that si$ months had just gotten away from him. #ut why hadn’t (dith said anything3 Ahy hadn’t someoneHhis useless rece2tionist )onnie.
"nce he 2unched a hole through the floor to vent a hot water heater and 2ulled out a kind of core sam2le of his house’s undercarriage. There were actually two of these hefty subfloors made from the trunks of the world6s tallest trees. CThis is the most overbuilt house in 8umboldt )ounty. wood that would only be used as a subfloor.redwoodHtrashy wood a hundred years ago.B So he sanded the wood and rubbed it down with natural beeswa$. =ate at night he used to lay down on the floor and 2ress his face into the wood. C=ook at these boardsKD he would shout into the wide beams. And in fact. one on to2 of the other. the boards were e$traordinary forty .B Sy had said. BThe least we can do is 2ay tribute to all the trees they cut u2 to build this damn thing.
with the tight grain of an ancient arboreal creature. As much as he hated to see these old 9ictorians demolished. To make the floorboards feel at home. #illy couldn6t imagine =ewis and (mily wanting to move in or fi$ it u2 . dee2 2ur2le from the si$ties.feet long and a foot wide. he cut a hole in the 2laster and ran new rome$. and an awful tobacco brown from the seventies. never bothering to 2atch the holes. Sy had sanded most of the 2aint off the wainscoting and the trim around the doors. so 2sychedelic streaks of 2aint were left mint green from the fifties. 1t was im2ossible to remove it all. Ahenever the ancient knob and tube wiring failed. The house was always seminaked.
enough to 2ut on the market. C(dithKD he shouted. Ahere are you3D . Surely it would be sold as a tear-down and 2riced to move. C(dith3D CAho’s that3D came a voice from the general direction of a hedge down the hill. threadbare "riental rugs. 4o movement. 9incent’s 2robably wouldn’t takeH #efore he could finish his inventory. C1t’s #illy. not a sound. and then a scream. sagging couches that even St. 4othing. he heard a crash outside. running to the back door. And who would want all this stuff3 #attered desks and bookcases.
(dith was trying to decide whether or not to let him into her garden. 8e saw nothing but shrubs and vines and an occasional metal fence 2ost. maybe more. (dith.B she said at last. BAll right. circumnavigating the hedge and looking for a gate. #illy knew what was going on.B 8e closed the back door behind him and jogged down the hill. Finally he saw an o2ening in the greenery. BAre you hurt3B . B16m here.o around the corner and you6ll see the gate about halfway down the hill.B he called out before he lifted the latch. 8ow big was this garden3 Sy had never allowed him anywhere near it. but now that he was circling it closely he reali5ed that it must be nearly an acre.Another long 2ause. #illy. B.
ine$2licably. Aelcome to Shangri-=a. as if she was talking to herself. hefty stalks of corn. And in between it all.B And truly. B)ome on in. #illy. #illy forgot why he was there. 8e’d seen 2ot farms before. the e$traordinary biodynamic strain of cannabis that only (dith could grow. but those 2lants grew in the most artificial . For a minute. but nothing like this.B she said in a low voice. Lum0uat trees and jasmine. it was beyond anything #illy had imagined. =emongrass and Thai basil. Almost everybody in 8umboldt )ounty had switched to indoor hydro2onic o2erations after !ro2osition /%+ made medical marijuana legal.B1 just fell. Tiny )ham2agne gra2es and. Iac0ueminot roses and morning glory.
of conditions. #ut (dith was growing something else entirely. made much more sense. This was gourmet 2ot. the incessant whirring of fans. 2rotected by a medical marijuana license 2osted at the door. and a wretched diet of chemical concoctions fed intravenously through dri2 irrigation. 2lanted in careful combination with a selection of e$otic beauties that she believed gave it the de2th and com2le$ity of a forty-year 2ort. She adhered to . A nice indoor grow-o2.arberville were still tucking 2lants in between the redwoods. A few back-to-the-landers in . 2ummeled by blindingly bright light. but growing 2ot outdoors on timber com2any 2ro2erty or national forest land only invited trouble. cultivated outdoors as nature intended it.
burying a cow6s horn in the garden in fall. . 8e wanted to kiss it. #illy had heard all of this over the years. brewing herbal remedies in the bladders of wild animals. 8e heard that she had 2lanted some kind of uto2ian. #ut no one but Sy had been allowed in the garden. 8e wanted to embrace it. 8er methods had been the subject of gossi2 and s2eculation for over a decade.even the most wacky tenets of biodynamic farming. A cannabis 2lant the si5e of a small magnolia tree stood in front of #illy. and s2rinkling cow urine mi$ed with the ashes of weeds around the garden by the light of the full moon. almost tro2ical garden of illicit delights. stuffing 2owdered 0uart5 in another horn in s2ring. a nearim2ossibility on )alifornia6s chilly north coast.
B #illy tried to kee2 his eyes on the ground as he skidded down the hill in the direction of (dith6s voice. #illy.BSto2 screwing around. 1HB #illy offered his hand. 8e sat down ne$t to her. and two bags of 2otting soil had s2lit o2en at her feet. you didn6t try to lift those by yourselfKB CAell. . B(dith. but she didn6t take it. B.B (dith6s voice drifted u2 to him from somewhere at the base of the garden’s slo2e. She seemed to just be resting there in the dirt. An arsenal of garden tools were scattered on the ground around her.et down here and give me a hand. They had to weigh forty 2ounds each. 8e found her under a wildly overgrown hibiscus vine.
C(dith.BAre you hurt3B he said.B (dith didn6t take her eyes off the branches above her. 1’ve got a bad heart. She shook her head. 1’ve got a bad knee. )ome on. 1 think 1 twisted my ankle. B1 don6t want to find out. =et’s get you out of here and get this looked at. C:ou know what3 1’m old.D .B she said. #ut 1 like it here. 1’ll take you to urgent care.B she said.B BAell. 1’ve got scars in 2laces you don’t even want to know about. try to move around and see if it hurts. B1 don6t know. 1’m through with doctors.D She smiled fondly u2 at the sky. B1 got di55y and everything just sort of fell out of my arms.
B8ow much longer do you think 1’ve got3B she said. C(dithK )ome on. 1t was more like light. B:eah.They sat ne$t to each other in silence for a little while. 1t was a smell that #illy associated with his childhood.D . although he couldn6t say why. too. or clarity. :ou’re not that old. 1t wasn6t a flavor or fragrance.B (dith said. BThis 2lace is incredible. A bree5e moved through the garden. turning to face him at last. bringing with it the sweet clear fragrance of honeysuckle. 8e reali5ed that there was something about honeysuckle that made its way into (dith6s 2ot. e$actly.B #illy said.
CThat’s not what 1 meant. 1t6s not like 1 can just 2ull u2 some 2lants and move into a warehouse and grow the same cro2.B She didn’t say anything. After a few minutes he added. how much longer do you think 1’ve got before the kids show u2 and kick me out of my house3D #illy just shook his head. B:ou gonna 2ull u2 these 2lants and move on3B C1t6s not really the 2lants. That6s what makes it. anyway. 1 meant. 4ot that 1’d want to.B (dith said. B:eah.B A hummingbird dove right in front of #illy to go after a fuchsia down the hill. B1t6s this garden. B1 can see that.B he said. And the soil and the strange little microclimate 16ve got right here. BThey6re on their way to (ureka right now.B .
1t would be =ewis.D he said.They sat together until the last shadows of the afternoon started to move across the garden. 8e held her hand for a minute and tried to see into her 2ale blue eyes through the semidarkness. 8e stood u2 and e$tended his hand again to (dith. A chorus of crickets rose u2 from the grass. This time she took it and 2ulled herself to her feet. #illy6s 2hone bu55ed in his 2ocket. She nodded. . The night-blooming angel trum2ets unfurled. calling to say that he was in town. C1’ll try to kee2 them out of here. 8e led her u2 the hill to the gate. sending waves of shar2 lemon 2erfume to the bats that 2ollinated them.
a grou2 of (arth Firsters came in to 2ick u2 su22lies for the weekend. "ne guy stood out he was wearing a track suit with a 2rice tag still attached. 8e must have just bought it at Target on the way into town. #efore )rawford had a . They were all similarly attired ancient jeans faded almost to yellow or cargo 2ants that looked like they’d been wadded u2 in the back of somebody’s car for si$ months7 t-shirts with slogans like CES "ut of 8umboldt )ounty. Iust before five.sixteen The <ragon enjoyed its usual rush of lastminute customers on Friday night. knit ca2s made of hem2.D dreadlocks.
Ieffrey.inger had been working so hard to organi5e. e$tended his hand.D Ieffrey wandered around the store. not wanting to e$2lain anything if he didn6t have to. 1’ve been in a tree for the last two years. B:eeeesssssssQD )rawford said. B1s that 1 2ick out a book--D . C8ello. the way this worksHD he said. CAelcome back.ood to be back. CSo. scanning the shelves that )rawford and .chance to ask what had ha22ened to his last outfit. without taking his eyes off the books.D C. CShe’ll manage. 1’m Ieffrey. and said.D )rawford shook his hand.D C8ow’s the tree3D )rawford asked. the guy a22roached the desk.
D said )rawford. looking nervously at Ieffery’s (arth First friends. )rawford nodded encouragingly. B:es.B Ieffrey said. you do. BAnd you will sell it to me.B BThat6s how it works. all of whom had already chosen their books.B )rawford said.D Ieffrey 2ulled a book off the shelf and held it u2 as if to demonstrate. B<o 1 take the book home3B Ieffrey said. CAe 2refer that you do.CThat’s right.B )rawford said. BAnd 1 bring this book to you. CAnd it could be any bookHD CAny book you want.D CAlong with--D .D said )rawford. C:es.
uys3D "ne of Ieffrey6s friends moved in and 2ut his hand on Ieffrey6s shoulder. B=ike thisKB he said. So 1 need like a twenty dollarHB he walked the aisles for a few more minutes before choosing a book on Ia2anese flower arranging. B!ick out a book and let6s get going.)rawford sighed and turned to the (arth First crowd. reaching for a si$ties-era re2rint of a 8ardy #oys mystery called The 1idden Theft.B B<oes it matter how much it costs3B Ieffery said. C. B"h "kay.B he said. making a collective hissing sound intended more to shut him u2 than answer his 0uestion. . B)ome on. 8e o2ened it to check the 2rice. holding it out to his friends. man. 1 get it. B:esKB several of them said at once.
Ieffrey o2ened it. Ieffrey. CSorry. A guy in dark jeans and a starched . and then ran it dramatically under his nose. A few cou2les came in and 2icked u2 2a2erbacks from the rack outside on their way to dinner. and that was how )rawford liked it. @ The rest of the Friday night rush was more businesslike. and they lined u2 at the desk to 2ay. and sli22ed each book into a 2a2er bag. )rawford collected their money.D one of the (arth Firsters said over his shoulder as they left. man. wrote out recei2ts.B one of his friends said. Ahen he handed Ieffrey his bag. rising halfway out of his chair. C"utKD )rawford said. 2eered inside.B!retty much like that.
CAe really---D C1t’s all right. )rawford sli22ed it into a bag. and asked for a two hundred dollar book. then 2ulled the Twain out of the bag and set it back on the counter. taking only a minute to run his thumb over the gilt fore-edge before setting it on the counter. a cou2le of tourists came in and ga2ed at the teetering stacks of books. )rawford 2ut the book back on the shelf. Iust before close. )rawford 2ulled a decent #ritish edition of Twain’s More Tramps Abroad off the shelf. CLee2 it. .D he said.D he said.stri2ed shirt came straight to the desk. 1t was the third time he’d sold it in a month. 8e was out the door with the crum2led bag in his hand. 8e turned to leave. The guy nodded without 2icking it u2. jingling his keys.
C!eo2le have really su22orted us. . )rawford heard that 0uestion every weekend. flashing them his best )hamber of )ommerce smile.wondering aloud how a store like this managed to stay in business. BThis is a very uni0ue community.B he said.D They left without buying anything.
D C#ut couldn’t weHD =ewis sighed. They had just s2ent si$ hours in the car together and (mily had hardly said a word. . C1 don’t understand why we can’t go straight to the store. CThe lawyer wanted to go over a few things with us first. 4ow she was going to argue with them about how they s2ent their evening. 8e could tell she had already made u2 her mind about the bookstore.D (mily said.seventeen (mily and =ewis got to town as the sun was setting over the 2ul2 mill.
D A few boarded-u2 9ictorians sat between the auto re2air sho2s and the self-storage units. the bowling alley was closed. The movie theater at the sho22ing mall was offering dollar tickets for second-run movies. Somewhere along this street was #illy’s office.D She almost sounded like she meant it.D she said.C"kay. CSorry. A banner in a used car lot offered 2ayday loans to get 2eo2le Cback on the road and back to work. (ureka was looking a little worse for wear since the last time he’d been through town. looking more like shi2wrecks than abandoned houses. and most of the motels on the edge of town were e$tended-stay a2artments for 2eo2le whose luck had run out. .
D .y whole memory of that summer is just going back and forth between uncle Sy6s house and the bookstore. C.D he said. =ewis could tell she was trying to be a good s2ort about this thing. 8e just assumed that everybody would want to orbit it the way he did. e$actly. B4o way. That bookstore was like a 2lanet.CAhat was this like when you were a kid3D (mily asked.B BSy never took you out on a little boating e$cursion in the harbor3 "r a hike in the redwoods or anything like that3B =ewis laughed. Encle Sy wasn6t selfish. but it would never occur to him to go do some touristy thing when 2eo2le came into town. C1 don’t remember any of this. 1 don6t think we ever did one other thing in (ureka.
1t was after five. She reali5ed right away that . but it was more than she usually got out of a day behind the desk here. which was enough to get everybody talking. but #illy had 2ersuaded her to stay until he got there. The 1erald had 2osted a few short 2ieces about the change in ownershi2 at the <ragon. #eing the first 2erson in town to meet =ewis and (mily didn6t make for very e$citing gossi2.B @ )onnie Slack greeted them at the to2 of the stairs. C:ou don’t look like Sy.B8ow do you think he ke2t it o2en all this time3B B1 have no idea. anyway.D she said as =ewis came u2 the stairs. She was curious about them.
=ewis leaned against the wall and crossed his arms over his chest. 8ave a seat.B she said. B16m just his ne2hew.B She led them down a wood2aneled hallway to an unmarked office door. but she was out of 2ractice. B#illy6s on his way.B =ewis said.that might not be a very rece2tionist-like thing to say. three of which had signs ta2ed to them that read C#roken.D BSorry.B )onnie said. #illy should have been here by now. B:ou can wait in his office. (mily stood ne$t to him . wondering if she could go home now or if she was obligated to sit out there until #illy arrived. 1nside was a metal desk and a gathering of five chairs.B Aith that she went back to her desk. BAe6ve been storing a few things in here.
1n addition to the metal desk and the collection of broken chairs. he never had. BThese are e$actly the 2eo2le he was hanging out with twenty years ago.and whis2ered at him out of the corner of her mouth. there was a stack of file bo$es in the corner that looked like it hadn’t moved in ten years. or some coffee. in fact. 16m so sorry to hear about your loss’ ---B =ewis grinned and looked down at his feet. 1t looked like he had thought at one time about setting u2 an office but then decided against it. 1t6s like she6s never even watched a movie that had a rece2tionist in it.B he said. CShe6s not going to get us a bottle of water. a 2lastic 2lant in a .and.B There was nothing in #illy6s office to indicate that he ever worked there -. BThis is so uncle Sy. no Jhow was your tri2.
=ewis was getting im2atient. Ahy a bookstore3 That still wasn’t clear. Encle Sy must have known something about =ewis that even =ewis didn’t know. and at first. 8e had come to believe that he no longer had to worry about what to do ne$t with his life. This had been a very unsettling time for him. A door o2ened into a small bathroom that was 2rimarily used to store cleaning su22lies. All =ewis . it had been e$citing to get instructions from beyond the grave. and a set of chea2 dresser drawers that could have been left over from the days when the building was still a hotel. what with the su2ernatural forces that had joined together to de2osit a bookstore in his 2ath.wicker basket. Sy6s decision to leave him the bookstore felt like instructions from beyond the grave.
a wis2 of gray hair tied . and going on with his life. #ut now. and he would follow them. checkered shirt.had to do was show u2 in (ureka and find out what that was. 8e had refused to consider sim2ly selling the 2ro2erty. C=ewisKD #illy burst into the room with the bustling air of a doctor who had ke2t his 2atients waiting too long. 2utting the money in the bank. This was a very comforting way to imagine the rest of his life instructions would be issued by dead relatives. he began to wonder if that was the only smart thing to do. 8e looked about as lawyer-like as any attorney in 8umboldt )ounty khaki 2ants. as he sat in the small rented room that 2assed for #illy <alton’s office.
who gave him one of those 0uick non-smiles that indicated that she was understandably nervous. 1 just wanted to let you know a little bit about the situation at the bookstore before you head over there. BAe . too. and 2erched on the edge of his desk instead. B=ook. and they’re understandably nervous about what6s going to ha22en to their jobs. (mily3D 8e held out his hand. and (mily took it.into a 2onytail. =ewis decided to overlook the grass stains on his knees. CSitKD They settled into the two chairs that weren’t marked B#roken. thought better of it.B =ewis looked over at (mily.B #illy reached for one of the remaining chairs. :ou’ve got two em2loyees who have been running the 2lace by themselves all this time. CSorry 1’m late.
#illy. 8e had a few renters.B #illy said. right3B B:eah. BAell. for summer.B =ewis said. 1 think you remember the house -. That6s the bookstore.B B. Sy drafted this will long time ago. as you know. including the building. B<o you remember (dith3B CShe was his -.B #illy said.haven6t made any decisions. and he made it very sim2le. 8e left everything to you.what3 Aife3 .you stayed there.irlfriend3B . but they6ve mostly moved out. 1 actually stayed in one of those little cabins out back.ostly3B B(dith’s still there. BAe6re just here to find out what6s going on.B BThat6s right.B BSure. and his house.
looking down at his desk.irlfriend. 1 guess you would say.B. 1 didn6t want to 2ut her out if 1 didn6t have to. CAnything else3D B1 guess 1 can give you a set of keys to the bookstore.D #illy said. B1 guess if he had married her. =ewis felt that he should say something in honor of this life-changing moment.B (mily shifted around in her seat. CThat6s why 1 let her stay in her 2lace.B CAll right. They never got married.B A ring of keys dro22ed heavily into =ewis’s hand. but before . fishing around in his 2ockets.D said =ewis. she would6ve inherited all of this3B BThis has been really hard on her.B #illy said. B1t6s yours now.
BThat6s what everybody says.D #illy said. isn6t it3B CAell. but #illy interru2ted him. #ut this is a 2retty out-of-the-way 2lace. B)an you tell us anything about how the store’s managed to stay o2en all this time3 1t6s 2retty much over for bookstores. so his overhead’s low. choosing his words carefully. (mily leaned forward. 1t6s kind of like ---B B9inyl records3B (mily said. . 8ow much was Sy taking in every year3B C(milyHB =ewis said. CSy bought the building a long time ago. And there are still 2eo2le out there who collect books because that6s just what they6re into. and 1 guess 1 could see that in a big city.he could 2ut a sentence together.
almost in unison.D #illy said. but . okay.CThat’s okay. There6s not much money in the bank. BThe store’s 2robably closed by now. Bbut you could let yourself in and look around.B B)losed3 1t’s Friday nightKD (mily said.B .B he said.D he said. 1t was after si$. but 1 know he made enough to get by and to cover 2ayroll. BAell.inger and )rawford are 2retty good at watching the e$2enses. #illy and =ewis turned to her and said.B =ewis stood u2 and 2ut the keys in his 2ocket. B:ou coming over there with us3B #illy checked the screen on his 2hone. BAelcome to (ureka. C1 don6t know e$actly.
B4o. jingling his keys and looking at the building. .ei hteen #y the time they got to the store the lights were off and )rawford was gone. 1 don6t remember it being so --B BRun down3B (mily said. Small. =ewis stood outside for a minute. B"h. 1t was in the middle of the block and it leaned slightly to the left. giving the im2ression that it had shriveled considerably since the days when it had been large and sturdy enough to fill the s2ace. somehow.B The building did seem a little shrunken. man.
in a voice choked with emotion. ThresholdK They weren’t s2ending the night here. were they3 CIust go figure out the alarm. CAnd now. She tried to stifle a laugh.D (mily whis2ered. C1 feel like 1 should carry you over the threshold. . the dim windows 2iled with stacks of hardcovers. the faded sign with its wooden cutout of a dragon breathing fire across a 2ile of books. =ewis. all this is yours. too. 8e was entranced. in a voice that suggested that she.(mily stood with =ewis and took it in the rotting columns in front.D #ut =ewis wasn’t laughing. 8e wra22ed an arm around (mily and led her closer to the door. couldn’t wait to get inside.D he said.
(mily remembered what it felt like to walk into a bookstore and savor the 2ossibility of getting lost somewhere in the back. !lywood bookshelves. #ut here the 2ossibility of getting lost-. bolted to the wall in case of an earth0uake.8e unlocked the door and fumbled with the alarm. and more books were stacked in between the shelves in 2a2er bags and bo$es. (mily sli22ed in behind him. ran around the room from floor to ceiling. . A series of tables and bookcases formed a kind of ma5e through the store. (very chair was 2iled high with books.was real and frightening. (verything about the 2lace said creaky old bookstore.and tra22ed under an avalanche of old encyclo2edias -. She didn’t dare venture too far in.
but now it was an elegant wreck. B!retty much. the mismatched trim around the doors and windows. mildew.something green and bitter. B1s it what you remember3B she asked. B1t even smells like one.B Ahat made u2 that dam2 and 2ul2y bookstore smell3 )rumbling 2a2er. The weight of this 2lace was on her. The creaky floorboards. . BAhat do you think3B he said.D (mily leaned against the desk. dust. This might have been a grand old building once.=ewis was standing behind her in the dark.B she said. CSy wasn’t big on change. 1 think some of these books were here when 1 was a kid. B1t6s an old bookstore.B he said. mothballs. the ancient beams. and something else she couldn’t identify-.
1’m calling for .D =ewis said. Ratner3D CAho3D C.=ewis was walking around the store running his hands along the shelves.D CAait. CShould 1 answer it3D she asked.a’am. Ratner.o ahead. C8ello3D C1s thisH. 1 meanHyou’ve got the wrong number. She felt around in the dark for the 2hone. She was trying to decide how long to let that go on when the 2hone rang.D CEhHno. my name is Richmond Tate. ma’am3 1s this---D . C.rs.rs.
e$ican or 1talian3D he said as he set the alarm code. )lear enough. C4o. "rder me dinner or 1 may have to kill someone. C1’m starting to get homicidal. like a southerner. C:eah. keys in hand.#ut before he could finish. Some guy who talks like Tommy =ee Iones. Te$as or . .D she said. shivering in the summer fog. (mily 2ut the 2hone down. 1t was .D They stood on the sidewalk.D C)ool. "nce nice thing about (mily she never made him guess about what she wanted.D C1 meant dinner.D =ewis hustled over to the door. CArong number3D =ewis said.ississi22i or some2lace like that. C=et’s go eat.
CAhatever’s o2en3D C. looking around at the darkened storefronts.D he said. .ood call. and "ld Town was em2ty. and they went looking for whatever that might be.com2letely dark by now. CEh--D she said.
so the ability to . allowing him to search through thousands of books on management or sales techni0ues for the 2articular bit of wisdom he thought he’d read somewhere once.i5mo was 2erfect for an inattentive reader like Richmond. 8e was not much of a reader himself7 he di22ed into the business books his colleagues were reading and 2icked u2 the occasional 2a2erback thriller for a long 2lane ride. there was nothing worse than getting stuck on a 2lane with a novel you didn’t like. The . As for air2lane reading.nineteen Richmond Tate had given little thought to the demise of the book until now.
Relics of the twentieth century that would disa22ear entirely unless something was done about it. #ecause there are some things you can’t digiti5e. #ut now. something he hadn’t even considered until he hung u2 from his call to the Firebreathing <ragon. 8e hadn’t been in a bookstore in years. as he stood on the sidewalk on a chilly summer evening in (ureka. it occurred to him that his business had something in common with the book business. They were both selling 2roducts that had gone out of fashion.discard a book after a few 2ages and choose something else suited him just fine. . ($ce2t that he would have an easier time of it than the booksellers would.
D he said. and went back to looking at her menu. See if you can’t find another number and call me back. 1t was after eight in Lentucky7 she 2robably wouldn6t check her work messages until . . CAhat’s good here3D he said.onday. 1’m out here in )alifornia. C8ey. Are you sure you got the right name on that (dith woman3 1 called over there to the bookstore and they didn6t know who 1 was talking about.#efore he went back into the restaurant. where =e$ was waiting for him.D Then he made his way back to his table. CSorry about that. Richmond dialed his secretary.D she said. CIust trying to return a cou2le of calls before it got too late.D C1t’s all right.
This 2lace is okay. She closed her menu and set it down on the table.D BAhat6s in season now3B . they’re going to order it in Iuly even if the season doesn’t start until <ecember.C4ot much. most of it’s fro5en. 8e laughed and nodded at the waitress as she brought him his beer. !eo2le come here for the fish. it is.D she said. C1 thought your job was to show off this fine city.D BThis close to the water and all they’ve got is fro5en fish3B B:eah. The thing is. it6s one of those familyrun restaurants that cater to 2eo2le who have only ever eaten one kind of fish in their life3 So if they like crab. C:ou6re right. but to tell you the truth.D he said.
She shrugged. 8e was just good-looking enough. She would6ve taken him to (ureka6s one hi2 bistro. he was overdressed. Esually somebody at the )hamber handled these dinners. The only 2lace to take a guy in a suit was the "s2rey. #ut Richmond had asked for her s2ecifically. but when she 2icked him u2 at the air2ort she changed her mind. a 2retentious seafood restaurant that catered to .B =e$ wasn6t often called u2on to entertain visiting dignitaries. to make 2eo2le gossi2. in a generic broadshouldered. BIust get the 2asta. :ou6ll be fine. clean-shaven way. And besides. a 2lace near )ity 8all where she usually met her friends on Friday night. Richmond was one of those men who looked like he had been born wearing a suit.
D Richmond said. CActually. 8e 2ronounced it C=ouville. 4obody she knew would be there.B =e$ said.tourists.D =e$ had to remind herself that falling for men with interesting accents had never worked out for her. B16m really out here to work on a business deal.y family trust owns the land. BSo.onday. 1’m just on the board. . Byou6re with the convention and visitors bureau back in --B C=ouisville.D he said. 16m not actively involved in the waterfront. . so she wouldn6t have to answer any 0uestions about her dinner date when she got to work on . Ae6ve been reading about your 2lans for the waterfront --B CAe3 Actually.
8umboldt )ounty has some-. B1 do resource develo2ment for them. but that sounded like a line from a movie. 8e took a breath. CAhat6s the waterfront got to do with tourism in Lentucky3B she asked.s.B he said.interesting resources we’d like to take a look at.but as a city council member. B.B She thought about telling him that he could call her =e$. she liked the way he said her name. you6re off the record tonight. B16m really here on behalf of the com2any 1 work for.D BAho do you work for3B =e$ asked. #esides. Trevino. all 1 can do is vote on whatever 2lan comes before the council.well -.D Richmond smiled down into his beer. .
now.D CAhat could Sumner 2ossibly want in 8umboldt )ounty3D she whis2ered. C(verybody’s got to work for somebody. BSumner Tobacco.Their dinners arrived. then he s2eared a 2iece of rigatoni with his fork and said. There6s one cam2aign in this town that you and your family have given money to every single year. Trevino.s.B =e$ 2ushed away from the table. Ae did a search of cam2aign finance records over the last ten years. Richmond waited for the waitress to leave. Richmond lowered his voice. too. BAre you kidding me3B CSettle down.D Richmond said with a little laugh. B. 1 believe . B:ou work for a tobacco com2any3B she said.
=egali5e marijuana and you’ve finally got something to sell to the tourists u2 here. Ask her mother.D B1 don6t know.D BAhat are you talking about3B =e$ asked. (very few years it funds another 2ro-legali5ation candidate or a ballot initiative.D =e$ laughed and shook her head. legali5ation is a non-starter. #ut beyond medical marijuana. =et me guess.B B16m talking about 8umboldt =egal. C(ven your little si$-year-old niece donated the ma$imum allowable by law. The tooth fairy must be good to her. but she already knew.the Trevino family combined makes u2 ninety 2ercent of the donations. BThat cam2aign goes nowhere.B B#ut you kee2 2ro22ing it u2. They6re . even here.
tobacco is not e$actly working out anymore. She leaned across the table. 8er eyes got wide. and then she figured out. are they3 :ou gonna 2ut some kind of bouti0ue down there on the waterfront and sell over2riced bong hits to yu22ies3D #oo-ti0ue.not e$actly coming for the fish. That was cute.B Richmond said. #ut 2ublic o2inion has turned . we can’t figure out why we’ve gotten away with it as long as we have. B:ou guys are going to grow 2otKB BAell. 8onestly. B1t’s only a matter of time before the F<A regulates us the same way they do candy bars or as2rin. (ven if he was a cor2orate evildoer. BAnd a tobacco com2any would be interested in this because ---B she said.
(ven the co2s are on our side. They want to live out there in the woods and grow their . CEhHD C($actly. we6ve got the money to do this right. do it right3D C:ou think these 8umboldt growers are going to cater to a bunch of tourists from !asadena3 They don6t care about that.s. well. why not come u2 with something else we can grow that 2eo2le won’t object to so much3D CAnd you really think that is--3D C. do you know what the annual death toll from marijuana smoking is in this country3D She laughed. Trevino.against us for good at this 2oint. They’d rather go after hard drugs anyway. So we figured.D CAhat do you mean. So we figured.
Aho better than us to take non-smokers and make them smokers again3D BThat’s cra5y.B =e$ 2ictured fields of !ur2le 8a5e flourishing in Lentucky’s long. steamy summers. C(verybody here’s growing it indoors or hiding it in the redwood forest.do2e and count their money. the marketing 2lans. the ca2ital. #ut you guysHB BAe6ve got the farms. the 2ersonnel.D she said. CAnd don’t count on . C1t’s 2robably a lot chea2er to grow outside in the sun like that.D =e$ said. They’re not going to come into town and o2en u2 a Starbucks for 2ot smokers. although she was already calculating what she could charge in rent to a Starbucks that sold fifteen-dollar joints instead of five dollar lattes.
remember3B C"h yeah.D .D =e$ said. BAe own )ongress.our little cam2aign to make it ha22en for you. and smiled back at him. 1t6s not going anywhere.B Richmond said with a half smile. trust me. C8ow nice for you.B BAe don6t need your little cam2aign.
twent" At si$ a. staring at the ceiling and listening to (mily’s dee2. 8e couldn’t slee2 on a good night7 the combination of the strange bed and the 2revious day’s events had ke2t him awake for hours.m. . Finally he couldn’t stand it anymore. the ne$t morning =ewis was wide awake in his motel room. A diner was o2en ne$t door. untroubled breathing beside him. 8e dressed in the dark and sli22ed outside. where he sat drinking coffee and scrolling through the news on his 2hone. 8e crossed the 2arking lot and slid into an em2ty booth inside.
the !age Turner #ookstore is closing its doors. according to owner Iack Ailliams. the loss of this store is 2articularly significant.Another bookstore had closed. As one of only eight remaining bookstores in the Enited States. 8e had been ski22ing 2ast these articles for years. AEST14’S !A. 1 would have said no way. 4ot any more.D he . 2rom2ting yet another story about the demise of bookstores nationwide. TUG After thirty-seven years on )ongress Avenue. B1f you had asked me ten years ago whether a handheld com2uter would ever re2lace books.( TER4(R S(T T" )="S( FAustin.
because . B1 thought that 2eo2le who grew u2 with books would not give them u2 so easily.i5mo was introduced. "nce 2ublishers made the decision to sto2 issuing new releases on 2a2er. he felt he had no choice. and even the obscure titles had all been digiti5ed. BAe could have transitioned to high-end books that are meant to be collected rather than .said.D #ut once the .B he said. B1 couldn6t get in the new books 2eo2le wanted.oogle was scanning rare books faster than he could ac0uire them for the store. the store’s sales dro22ed ten to twenty 2ercent a year. said Ailliams. A shift to used and hardto-find books didn6t hel2.
but what6s the 2oint in that3 1 didn6t get into this business to sell thousand dollar books to 2eo2le who aren’t going to read them.B Aith the closure of The !age Turner. "wner Anita 8awkins concedes that her selection of anti0ue leather-bound volumes of horror stories and witchcraft tales are used more as decoration than as bedside reads. only one bookstore remains in the south 9oodoo #ooks in 4ew "rleans. #esides. B4obody is going to 2ay si$ thousand dollars for a first edition of The +ampyre and then read it on the . 1 don6t have the ca2ital to start over. which s2eciali5es in e$actly the kind of rarities Ailliams described.read.
or because they want them around for atmos2here. C!eo2le buy our books because they6re collectors. agreed. The fact that the .air2lane. videos.D Ahen asked about 4ile’s latest 0uarterly earnings re2ort showing that downloads of book-length works have declined relative to music.B .com. so to s2eak.i5mo came along just in time to make reading easier and more accessible to 2eo2le around the world just 2roves that books have moved on to their ne$t cha2ter. They’ll always be a wonderful 2art of our culture. )(" of 4ile.a$ine Rogers. and . C!eo2le love the comfort and connection to real books.B she said.
no matter what the format. Ahen asked to e$2lain the success of his store.D and hung u2. C)ould be something in the air u2 here. )hicago. answered the 2hone in the middle of a bustling Friday afternoon and said that he was too busy ringing u2 customers to take time out for an interview.blog 2osts. Richard )rawford. and <enver could not be reached for comment. )alifornia. Rogers said. interim manager of the Firebreathing <ragon in (ureka. he said. . CThere will always be an audience for good content.D #ookstore owners in #rooklyn.
B she said. 1 do my reading on my 2hone.Ailliams said he 2lans to retire at the end of the year and -. C<on’t you remember The Retriever3D C8uh3D . Bbut like everybody else. B1s that really the Richard )rawford3B BAho3B he said.B he said.D @ C(milyKD =ewis said when she walked into the coffee sho2 to join him for breakfast. B<id you see that article3B B:eah.what else3 -catch u2 on his reading. B1 wish 1 could say that 1 had a stack of books on the nightstand 16m eager to get through.
B CSo the guy who works in our store is a famous author3D =ewis said. what e$actly is your 2lan here3 Ae’re going to 0uit our jobs and sit u2 here in (ureka and wait to find out if we’re the fifth or the seventh-to-last bookstore to close in America3D .D She slid into the booth and nodded at the waitress. 8e went on "2rah. C<o 1 have it on here3D he asked. 1 think 1 read it on 2a2er. he won a bunch of awards. C=ook. 1t must6ve been a while ago.C1t was a huge book several years ago. who brought her a cu2 of coffee and a menu. C1t sounds like it. =ewis. and then his ne$t novel was a total failure. B1 don6t know. :ou don6t remember that book3B =ewis scrolled through his 2hone.
daring the logging trucks to take him out as they barreled down #roadway with their 2ayload of fallen redwoods. a four-lane road that was also the only freeway through town. 8e didn’t look over his shoulder to see where he was going. 1t was a bleak morning in (ureka.len with geraniums in the window bo$es.=ewis looked out the window. the 2aint 2eeled off a store that sold used medical su22lies. kicking himself into traffic. The fog was so dense that it left the 2avement dam2. Across the street. =ewis thought about their favorite breakfast 2lace in San Iose. A guy in a wheelchair used his feet to 2ro2el himself backwards across #roadway. 1t looked as if he had traveled this way his whole life. a cheerful yellow cottage in Aillow . !eo2le lined u2 around the block to get .
C=et’s just find out what the deal is. (ventually the buildings would sell. A unsettling weekend. and the owner walked down the street 2ouring coffee while they waited. and go see uncle Sy6s house. and we6ll figure out what to do after that. they’d use .D he said at last. =et6s have a look at them. BThe bookstore has to kee2 some kind of financial records.B She could see that he was already losing interest in the business of books. This was turning out to be nothing more than a weekend getaway. 8e couldn’t imagine any of that ha22ening here. locate a real estate agent in the afternoon. butHjust a weekend. They could get to the bookstore and to Sy’s house before lunch.in there for Sunday brunch. and be on the road tomorrow morning.
D he said. C=et’s go. remember3D she said.the 2roceeds to 2ay off some bills.D she said. CAe have the keys. and get on with their lives.D CThey’re 2robably not o2en yet.D . C=et’s get over to the bookstore. still looking out the window as if he was hy2noti5ed by the fog. CAll right. dro22ing a twenty on the table to cover =ewis’s breakfast. then.
twent"#one .uillermo said.D .D . mugs.D . they’ll buy anything. CAs long as 1’m the only one o2en. CThat’s money walking down the street. T-shirts.alway said. Tell these sho2kee2ers to get their asses out of bed and get down here.alway sat at his usual table at )ontra )offee and watched tourists walk 2ast "ld Town’s closed sho2s. CAnd you’re the only guy o2en before noon.D C<on’t do that.D .uillermo said as he refilled .alway’s coffee. whatever 1’ve got. C1 should do a story about that.
The <ragon 2robably took in five thousand bucks before close. somebody’s gonna buy a t-shirt to remind them of that great cu2 of coffee they had in (ureka3D C8a22ens all the time.D . 8ey. CToo much clean living.uillermo said.uillermo said.alway said. =ewis walked u2 to the <ragon and unlocked the door as if he owned the 2lace.CAhat. on Friday afternoon. CAhy don’t you get over there and interview them3D CThey look young. did you see the Times called )rawford3D C:eah. C1t’s got to be the new owners. Across the street.D . (mily followed him inside.alway said. too.D . CAho was that3D .D .
4either one of them looked like they belonged at the . but he knew they would. C:ou think so3 Five grand in an afternoon3D CAbsolutely.D They sat for a minute and watched (mily and =ewis move around inside the store.D . CAhy not3 They’re running the 2lace.uillermo dro22ed into the seat across from .alway and stared at him.uillermo traced a little s0uare on the table as if he was calculating something. 1’ve sat in there and watched it ha22en. 1 ho2e.uillermo said. 8ow is that stealing3 They need to get 2aid.D C:ou don’t think they’d steal from the store. C<amnK Ahat are they doing with all that cash3D C4ow that Sy’s gone3 !utting in their 2ockets.D ..
And =ewis3 8e would need to sto2 shaving for a week before he looked like he belonged at the <ragon. why don’t you do a story about the .glossy.uillermo said. C=ook.D . They had locked the door behind them and they hadn’t turned on any lights inside the store. CThey’re looking for something. man. (mily was too-. with straight brown hair that fell cleanly to a 2oint just above her shoulders and finely-cut features that looked like they hadn’t weathered much of anything. C!robably looking for that five grand )rawford took in yesterday. (mily ducked behind the counter and =ewis disa22eared into the back.<ragon. so obviously they weren’t 2lanning on o2ening for business. somehow.alway said.D .
CAait a minute.uillermo didn’t look away from the store.D .uillermo hadn’t taken his eyes off the <ragon. there’s 2lenty of time.D . The 2olice can only ignore what’s going on over there if nobody’s rubbing it in their face. CAhy do you care whether or not 1 do a story3 :ou know that would shut them down.alway said. CThe <ragon’s not going anywhere. :ou going to wait for the .e! -ork Times to show u2 and do it instead3D C4ah.D .<ragon3 #low the lid on that 2lace.alway said. And if those two are just here to close it down and sell the building. . There was no movement inside. it’ll be u2 to them to decide what to tell the re2orters.D .
C:ou don’t think (dith’s going to start working for you after the <ragon closes3D C1 don’t know.D . CAll 1 know is that somebody’s going to end u2 with those 2lants.D .CAw.D .uillermo said. meeting . man.alway’s glance at last.alway said.
D C1 don’t want to just show u2 over there. 1t’s a few years old.D he said. C1 guess it would be too much to ho2e that she still had a land line out there3D C<oesn’t look like it. CThat’s the only 2hone number 1 have for (dith Ratner. though.twent"#two Richmond’s secretary checked her voice mail over the weekend after all. slowing down in front of a wash-and-fold that didn’t look like it would know what to do with a suit.D .D she told him as he drove around downtown looking for a 2lace to get his suit dry-cleaned. C1 do have an address.
CAll right. send me the address. it’s your fault.D . #ut if she 2ulls a rifle on me.
have something to eat. get dressed. Take a shower.et u2 in the morning. #illy had called late last night to say that (mily and .o ba k to bed after breakfast. ($ce2t that today it wasn’t working.twent"#three After Sy died. of course. 1t was a trick. (ight magical words -ou an . a friend of (dith’s who was also a widow gave her this advice about getting through the first year . there wasn6t much 2oint in going back to bed. you can s2end the rest of the day in bed if you want to. #ut that little lie was what sustained her. After that. "nce you’d gotten yourself u2 and 2ulled yourself together.
1 told them you had been staying on as a kind of a caretaker. She hadn’t been in Sy’s house once . maybe a little dustingHand she hadn’t volunteered. She asked him what he thought of Sy6s heirs. 1t was true that she didn’t have any claim to this 2lace. BThey don6t look like bookstore material to me.=ewis would 2robably be by this weekend. B4ot much. B1 don6t know. so she shouldn6t be sur2rised if somebody drove u2 to the house.D )aretaker.B he said.B BAhat did they say about the house3B she asked. #illy had never actually asked her to do any of the things a caretaker of a vacant house might doHair the 2lace out. run the faucets and click the lights on once in a while.
:ou toss a bag of grit and dust into the wind and you’re left with no one to talk to but the wind itself. =ater she wished she had just called his friends over to bury him in the backyard. . She would have set the couch on to2 of his grave and let the grass grow around it. They could have carried him from the couch to the garden and set him to slee2 in the dirt. she reali5ed now. had its downsides. 8e looked so comfortable in death that she had considered leaving him there for the night.since the afternoon she found him dead on the couch. )remation. 4othing about his 2osture suggested that he had been in 2ain or even gas2ed for air. 8e seemed to have just slum2ed into it. giving her a 2lace to go when she wanted to talk to him.
C1 can’t kee2 doing this. And it was that thought that was kee2ing her in bed all morning. it would be as if her decades with Sy had just been erased. She couldn’t. They had no children together. her livelihoodHand after that.D she said to Sy. nothing but each other. either. Cbut 1 can’t do anything else. She could walk away from (ureka and never hear Sy’s name again. her garden.That’s what was bothering her this morning. She was going to lose this 2laceHher house. #ecause she wasn’t about to start over. no shared 2ossessions. She rolled over and looked out the window at the corner of Sy’s house and her garden beyond. So where does that leave me3D .
Stuck. @ (dith awoke a cou2le hours later to the sound of tires in the driveway. A car door slammed. Slee2 rolled into the room at last and 2ulled her back into the darkness. that’s where. and then she heard someone walking around the house to the back. Stuck in bed. She sat u2 in bed. anyway. Today the task seemed 2ointless Hnone of the 2lants would make it to harvest. . At least for today. Esually she s2ent Saturday in her 2ro2agation room starting new cuttings. There was no bree5e outside.radually the sunlight swung around the room and hit the wall o22osite. . The whole world seemed to have sto22ed.
At that moment. There was that third o2tion. The gate was locked7 surely he hadn’t found a way in already. she saw a man in a suit ste2 onto Sy’s back 2orch and look into a window. 4o knock. 8e headed around the corner and down the hill toward her garden. but she couldn’t see him. She waited. she remembered that she wasn’t stuck between staying here and leaving (ureka forever.=ewis would be knocking on her door in a few minutes. . but she was in no mood to see him. 1n a minute she was out of the house and running down the hill. The man in the suit should have been right in front of her. from her bedroom window. Then. That got her out of bed. Iail.
following the hedge along its broad southern s2an and then climbing back u2 the hill on the other side. 1t was much stee2er on this side7 she was out of breath before she made it halfway u2 the hill. 4obody was in there.C8ello3D she called. her heart 2ounding dangerously in her chest. She continued down the hill. he looked older than (dith thought he would be. . C=ewis3D She got to the gate and checked the lock. (ven from some distance. Then she saw him. 8e had doubled back to her cottage after she left7 now he was walking away from her front door and back to his car. C=ewis3D she called again. and more 2uttogether than anyone who shared genes with Sy.
CAre you sure he’s related to you3D . #ut she let him get back to his car and drive away before she untangled herself from the shrub.She sli22ed into the branches of a thorny 2yracantha. CAhat a strange kid.D she said to Sy as she brushed stray leaves off her 2ants. She wasn’t sure why she didn’t want him to see her7 they were going to have to talk eventually.
CEhHD =ewis said. uhHD . CAho the fuck are you3D . backing away from him. and went to check the 2anel. C"h. )rawford.inger stood and waited to see if he could com2lete a sentence.D he said.inger unlocked the <ragon’s front door. 8e could not. So she said CThe new owner3D . She heard a shuffle of 2a2ers behind her and she s2un around. standing u2 behind the counter.D she muttered. C1’m =ewis.twent"#four Ahen . she was sur2rised not to hear the alarm bee2ing. C1’m.inger said.
C1t’s your store. Then he looked back down at the bo$es of 2a2ers and old maga5ines he’d scattered all over the floor behind the counter.D C8ey.D he said.D she said. C1’ll just go turn on the lights.D Shit.C:eah.inger said. Ae couldn’t find them. C"h. C1 guess so.D CAell.inger said. CAhat3D . C. looking down at his feet.D .D . C1 was justHuhHD C1t’s okay. trying to sound calm.inger. good.D he said.D she said. 1s your wife here3D C:eah. that makes me your em2loyee.D C(gy2tology and !arenting. She’s in the back.D CThanks.
C1 just met your husband. C"hHhi.inger.D she said.D she said. (mily3D she said as she rounded the corner into the <ragon’s storage room. C8i.D #ut . then (mily came around the corner.D C"h.inger didn’t turn on the lights. She reali5ed how bi5arre the ma5e of unsold books must look to anyone else. She headed straight to the back.D . C1’m . These two were obviously looking for something. From the other end of the room came the sound of cardboard bo$es getting shifted around. Right behind the books in the (gy2tology and !arenting sections. Thanks. 1 work here.CThat’s where the lights are.
1 never did get a chance to meet him. C"h.inger said.D C8e was something.inger asked. butQD That didn’t take long. coming toward her to shake her hand. but =ewis has told me a lot about him. 1 was looking forH1 don’t knowH recei2ts.D C<id you know him3D .D . C1’m so sorry about Sy. CAhat are you looking for3D C"hHwell.inger said. following (mily’s ga5e back to the ancient bank . hi. we just thought we’d get here early and try to get a handle on how the store is doing. 8e must have been a great guy. or something like that3 1 thought they might be in that vault back there. or ledgers.D .D (mily said.C.ingerK Aow. C4o.
CThanks. CThat’s been here forever. She reali5ed that she had no idea how this was going to work with (mily and =ewis in the store. C8ey. Fortunately.D (mily said.inger back into the store. She ke2t her eyes on the vault.D She following . 1 can hel2 you out. .D she said. A cou2le of customers walked in immediately.inger needed to distract her. the first batch of customers . as far as 1 know.D C:eah.D (mily said. 1t doesn’t o2en. looking away from the vault at last. it seems to be locked. CAhy don’t we go back u2 front3D C"hHgreat. if you’re looking for financial records and stuff. and waited while she fli22ed on the lights and 2ro22ed the door o2en.vault in the back of the room.
(mily laughed when she saw it. CAow.D . 1’ll do it. C:ou did3D =ewis said. CThat’s all right. .inger decided that the best thing to do would be to get them out of there 0uickly.inger to show us the financials.D (mily said. C1 asked .D =ewis said. in her best imitation of a hel2ful em2loyee. C1’ll clean it u2. looking alarmed. There were 2a2ers and broken books and file folders everywhere.looked like tourists who didn’t know what they were doing. CSorry. 2a2er really isn’t dead here.D she said. is it3D she said. =ewis had made a mess behind the desk.
#ut your uncle Sy liked to kee2 a 2a2er ledger.D . and then we add it u2 at the end of the month.inger said in a low voice so the customers wouldn’t hear. C1t’s 2retty sim2le. C:eah.D =ewis o2ened the ledger.C1t’s "L. handing it over. too. C1t’s your store.D She o2ened the desk drawer and 2ulled an old green ledger book out from under the cash bo$. 8e fli22ed through it for a minute. 8e can give you a 2assword to the bank account. <id you meet the lawyer yet3D C#illy3D =ewis asked. All the bills come straight out of our account.D she said. Ae just write down the total sales for the day. and then turned back to . That’s where all the monthly statements are.
CThis bookstore makes over a million dollars a year.inger. Ae don’t really buy any books anymore. =ewis looked u2 at (mily. 1sn’t that what you wanted3 Sales figures3 There’s not much else to show you. who was still standing on the other side of the counter. 8e looked at it blankly for a minute and then looked back u2 at . CAellHyeah. 1s something wrong3D .D . so there’s no rent to 2ay. CEmHit’s our ledger.the front. CAhat is this3D he asked. 8e didn’t 0uite know how to tell her. Sy owned the building. and--D CThese are sales3D =ewis asked in a whis2er.inger said.
;inger 2icked u2 the 2hone as soon as they left. B)rawford. They fli22ed out when they saw the ledger.B B:ou showed them the ledger3B )rawford said as he struggled to wake u2. B1 thought they already knew. They met with #illy when they got to town. 1 just thought --B BAll right. <on6t worry about it. They would6ve found out sooner or later. Are they still there3B B4o. They went out to the house.B BAny idea what they6re going to do3B
;inger wedged the 2hone against her shoulder and counted out change to a guy who came in every Saturday morning for 2a2erback and a smoke. )rawford rolled these small, tight joints for their budget customers. 8e left with a nice old !enguin edition of The Murder at the +i ara.e. B;reat book,B ;inger said to the guy with a smile. BAhat was it3B )rawford asked. BAgatha )hristie,B ;inger said. BThe first ,iss ,ar2le.B B4ice.B )rawford said. BAhen 1 was eleven 1 s2ent one whole summer in a hammock reading Agatha )hristies.D BAhat are there, like, eighty3B
BSomething like that. 1 read them all. Anyway, to answer your 0uestion, 1 don6t know what they6re going to do. 1 thought about just telling them ---B B<on6t tell them. The smartest thing they could do is go back to San Iose and let us run the bookstore. They could just sit back and cash the checks. =et6s see if they figure that out.B B"kay, but what ha22ens if 1 have to ring u2 customers while they6re in the store3B BIust be low-key about it. !re-stuff some bags or something. 1f they come back, call me and 16ll come in and try to kee2 them distracted.D A broad-shouldered guy in a dark suit walked in and stood at the counter. ;inger couldn6t remember the last time she6d seen a man
in a suit at the <ragon. 8e looked like )lark Lent. #ut he was 2robably a federal agent. 1n one stomach-churning moment, ;inger saw it all (mily s2otted something sus2icious in the back room, =ewis freaked out when he saw the ledger, and they headed straight back to San Iose, calling the co2s as they drove away. She said goodbye to )rawford 2ut the 2hone down. The man s0uinted at her and smiled. B8ow6s this work3B he said. ;inger6s mother would have said that he had an accent that could melt butter. ;inger tried not to think about melting butter as she smiled back at him and said, B8ow does what work3B
8e turned and looked u2 at the bookcases running straight u2 to the ceiling. A onceelegant balcony ran around the building’s u22er me55anine, which housed a second story of books that seemed to run on forever. BAell, he said, laughing and shaking his head, BAll this. Any of it.B She6d been through this before. There were two ways to answer this 0uestion the first was com2lete denial, and the second was a series of subtle hints that could be abandoned at the first sign of trouble. ;inger usually decided which answer to give based on the haircut of the 2erson asking the 0uestion. Someone had shaved the back of this man6s neck very recently. 8e was getting the first answer.
B:ou6ve seen a bookstore before, haven6t you3B <id that sound flirtatious3 1t didK Ahat was wrong with her3 B1t6s been a while,B he said, looking her straight in the eye. BAell, you 2robably remember how it works,B ;inger said, hardly able to believe that she was talking to him like this. BIust go 2ick u2 a book and turn the 2ages. 1t6ll all come back to you.B B16ll try that. <o you recommend any 2articular one3B BThey6re all good.B
Richmond left the bookstore and called his boss from the car. BTom, it6s Rich. This is not going to be as easy as we thought.B B<id you make the old lady an offer3B B1 haven6t even gotten to her. And the Firebreathing <ragon isn6t e$actly what we thought it was, either.B BAhat do you mean3B BAell, it6s not e$actly an o2en bar. 1t’s actually a bookstore.B BAhat, like a ---B
B:eah,B said Richmond. B=ike a 2lace that sells books. :ou know, like actual books on 2a2er.B CAnd that’s all they sell3D CFar as 1 can tell. 1 mean, they don’t make it obvious. 1 was just in there and the only thing they’d sell me was a book.D C#i5arre. =ook, just get this done. Anybody who can’t buy 2ot in 8umboldt )ounty--D Richmond leaned his head against the steering wheel. 8e used to have a res2ectable job. 8ad it come to this3 Ariting the legislation that would bring an end to the tobacco industry was one thing7 flying to ;od-knows-where )alifornia to buy drugs was another.
BTom, have you thought about how 16m gonna get those 2lants home3B Richman said. BTurkey bags.B BAhat3B B1t6s a 2lastic bag you 2ut a turkey inside to cook it on Thanksgiving. Lee2s it juicy.D CSo3D CSo3 :ou can6t smell anything through one of those. (ven a trained dog can’t find 2ot inside a turkey bag.B BAhere am 1 going to get a turkey bag in the middle of summer3B CAnywhere. Turns out 8umboldt )ounty has the highest year-round 2er ca2ita sales of turkey bags in the whole country.B
B8ow do you know that3B ,ost of Tom’s stories were bullshit. Richmond had learned to ask these kinds of follow-u2 0uestions. BFunny story. Turns out we own the turkey bag com2any. Ten years ago our marketing guys sent a re2 out there to get some reci2es from this community of turkey-loving citi5ens, only to find out that they stash do2e in them.D B:ou6ve got to be kidding. Ahose idea was that3B B,ine. #ut you know what3 That6s where 1 first got the idea for the 8ealthy Smoking 1nitiative. That’s where it all began.D Richmond was 2arked outside a warehouse just down the road from "ld Town, in what used to be (ureka’s commercial fish 2rocessing district. 8e watched three guys with dreadlocks
unload cartons of fluorescent lights from the back of a 2icku2 truck. 1t was ama5ing to think that an agricultural cro2 that was worth thirtyfive times more than the tobacco cro2 could be run by guys like that. CRich3 :ou there3D C:eah. 1’ll call you later, Tom.D 8e hung u2 and slum2ed back into his seat. This 2iece of legislation was a risky move, and Sumner Tobacco was going it alone, without involving the other big tobacco com2anies. 1f it 2assed, the 8ealthy Smoking 1nitiative would give the F<A new authori5ation from )ongress to regulate Bany and all 2lant-based materials intended to be sold for the 2ur2ose of smoking or inhaling.B The government would be able to a22ly more or less the same safety standards to
tobacco that it already did to, say, beer or wine or coffee. 1t could make you rela$ or it could make you jittery, it just couldn’t give you cancer. Ahich meant that cigarettes would be doomed. And marijuana would be legal. At least, that was the 2lan. Sumner’s attorneys had gone over the legislation word for word and assured them that it was watertight. The te$t would be sli22ed into the F<A6s a22ro2riations bill with little fanfare. Sumner6s com2etitors would wake u2 the ne$t morning to find themselves out of business, and Sumner would have a new cro2 for the tobacco farmers to grow. #ut first they had to 2atent as many strains of cannabis as they could. And this 8umboldt
was going to be Sumner6s 2remium 2roduct. known as <ragon. The guys across the street were still unloading their truck. :ou could smoke it on a coffee break at the office or at your in-laws’ house after Thanksgiving dinner and it would leave little more than the faint scent of burning 2a2er behind. This would be im2ortant if they wanted to lure what Tom was calling Bmainstream smokers. if only they could get hold of it.best of all --free of that skunky 2ot odor. deliciously into$icating. sweet. unlike most of the newer strains that only flourished in a hydro2onic system. Twenty bags of .B All those clean-living non-smokers who would have to be 2ersuaded to light u2 again. And it hel2ed that <ragon grew easily outdoors.strain. and --. 1t was rumored to be light.
a duct blower. well-run 2lantations in the South. they could charge almost anything for their 2roduct. or com2etition from large.horticultural-grade 2erlite. and three cases of li0uid fertili5ers. These guys had no idea what they were asking for. wages. They were bouti0ue growers who could 2lay around with fancy e0ui2ment and over2riced fertili5er mi$tures all they wanted. "nce Sumner rolled out its . tinkering with the dosages and injecting a different 2otion into their irrigation system every day. "ne of the guys who was carrying e0ui2ment into the warehouse wore a B=egali5e 1tB T-shirt. and they didn6t have to worry about ta$es. Richmond just watched him and shook his head. These guys were like mad scientists. 1t was the Aild Aest out here. regulations. After all.
.2roduct. 2rices would dro2 like a stone and these growers would all be 2ut out of business over ta$ evasion. labor and safety violations. 4ot to mention 2atent lawsuits. and that was 2roving to be trickier than he’d e$2ected. and allround flakiness. because Sumner would own all the strains in circulation. #ut first Richmond had to figure out how to buy some 2ot.
but eager--to buy. . And they also had customers.twent"#seven 1n the old days. a million dollars in annual sales would not have been 2articularly im2ressive for a bookstore. making annual sales of three or four million seem 2erfectly reasonable. and a hefty rent to 2ay at the end of the month. A busy sho2 in a big city might do twenty-five grand on a good Saturday. They sold a 2roduct that 2eo2le were willingHnot just willing. and they had a large staff to su22ort. #ut those stores had to actually buy the books they offered for sale.
whatever small salaries )rawford and . Subtract out 2ro2erty ta$es.#ut now3 1n a town this si5e3 A million dollars seemed im2ossible. As =ewis drove out to Sy’s 2lace. 2retty close to a million dollars. the ledger closed in her la2. )ould that be right3 Surely not. The idea that Sy had left =ewis anything of value was an unsettling one. =ewis had imagined that he would be taking 2ossession of a few dila2idated buildings and a collection of moldy books. 4either of them said a word.inger were 2aid. utilities. insurance. he wondered if somebody was 2laying a joke on him. all of which would cost more to dis2ose of than they were worth. "ne million dollars. and you still hadHwell. (mily sat ne$t to him. 8e liked the . They were both chewing over that number in silence.
it was just there to be scoo2ed u2. knowing just how far he could go in delivering 2i55as to the (R on a Saturday night.idea that taking over Sy’s bookstore would be difficult. 8e could sit with them and let them buy their own dinners. Aorking in 2harmaceuticals had taught him that there was 2lenty of money sloshing around out there. 2erha2s im2ossible. Ruinous. 8e had mastered the delicate art of bribery. watching a grou2 of doctors devour the lobsters and steaks he was 2aying for. The truth was that he didn6t trust easy money. and sitting across the restaurant after a 2ain management sym2osium. or he could eat in the bar . footing the bill for karaoke night after a 2harmacists’ in-service training. 1f you were willing to wade through a certain amount of muck. even.
8e rarely took a drink. 8e fell into this job almost by accident.and let them dine on his em2loyer’s tab. and he wasn’t at all sure that a 2ill was the answer to de2ression or an$iety or chronic aches and 2ains. For someone who sold mood-altering drugs and 2ain 2ills for a living. 8e knew which o2tion would work. These guys didn’t want to talk to him anyway. =ewis was a sur2risingly straight-laced guy. They were going to 2rescribe his drugs regardless7 all he had to do was stand in the middle and take his cut. =et them eat their dinner in 2eace. encouraged by a college roommate who had . and he had hardly ever smoked so much as a cigarette. 8e didn’t like the idea of an increasingly do2ed-u2 American society.
#efore the news of Sy’s death. The work was easy. #lacksmithing. #ookselling seemed to fit into that category. debt-fueled lifestyle by working with his hands cabinet-making. no merchandising.been recruited by the com2any. no inventory to buy3 4o author events or staff 2ick lists orHwell--effort of any kind3 Ahat sort of business was that3 . Ahat had he 2lanned to do with his life3 8e couldn’t say. e$actly. maybe. but a million dollars in sales3 Aith only two em2loyees and no real strategy3 4o marketing. but buying martinis for medical 2ractitioners was not on the list. he’d been fantasi5ing about some job that re0uired him to dig his way out of his foolish. A medieval trade with humble rewards. 8is wages felt ill-gotten. and somehow it stuck.
There wouldn’t be anything for him to do but stand in the way of the money and catch a little bit of it as it went by. (ven from the road =ewis could see that a s2rawling. second-growth forest. =ewis took the back way out of (ureka. 1t wasn’t fair. Encle Sy6s 2lace sat at a 2rime location at the to2 of the ridge. . s2litlevel home built on Sy’s lot would face s2ectacular sunsets over the !acific. and along that ridge were the new. A few timber com2any e$ecutives lived out here alongside doctors and wealthy retirees from the #ay Area. custom-built homes that re2resented the last of (ureka6s wealth. A narrow mountain ridge skirted the bay. following a road that led around the bay and through a scrubby.
1 guess it is. but now it was mostly gray.B (mily said.B =ewis couldn’t imagine this 2lace without Sy. BAell. . 8e leaned over the steering wheel to look through his windshield at the sagging 2orch and layers of 2eeling 2aint. but the 2roject had been abandoned before even one side of the house could be 2ainted. Surely he was still here. The house was once green. yeah. Someone had attem2ted to go after the trim with a coat of maroon 2aint. BThis looks like a haunted house. slamming doors and 2ushing gusts of wind down the hallway and whatever else it was that ghosts did.8e followed the rutted road u2 to Sy6s 2lace and 2arked in the driveway that ran alongside the house. and later it was sky blue.
=ewis and (mily ti2toed among them. the door flew o2en. gray-haired woman in a flannel shirt and brown. and then back at him. 1 am. A tangle of 2ower lines led from one to the ne$t.sheds. As =ewis ste22ed u2 onto the 2orch. A tiny.that had all been converted to rentals over the years. They circled back and a22roached the cottage closest to Sy6s house. This is my wife ---B . Around back were a grou2 of outbuildings -. All em2ty. ste22ing carefully through the tall grass. BActually.They got out of the car and walked around the house. B:ou aren6t the ne2hew. looking in a few windows. dirt-stained 2ants stood in front of them. B(dith3B =ewis said. little cottages -. (dith looked 2ast =ewis at (mily.B she said. garages.
B:ou6ve got to figure out what to do with this 2lace.(dith leaned in the doorway and s0uinted at =ewis. <o you want to come inside3 .B She stood looking u2 at them. And what to do about me. She wasn6t going to offer any suggestions. BAe just got here. BAe6re not going to do anything right away.B =ewis said. BAe6re just here for the weekend to look around. BThen who was that other man3B CEhHB B:ou weren6t here earlier this morning3B she said.you know --. 1 was going to take a 0uick look at Sy6s house.B (mily said. BAe just wanted to take a look at the 2lace to --.B (dith said.figure out --B B1 know.aybe you can show us the 2lace.B .
but if she ke2t them busy. 1’ll show it to you.B she said. She didn6t want to go inside. C1 bet it hasn’t changed much since you were a boy. . )ome on. it might not occur to them to go for a little nature walk down the hill.She looked 2ast them at the house. and followed them to the back door.
)rawford wasn6t ha22y about ;inger waking him u2 on a Saturday morning, but now that (mily and =ewis were in town, he thought he should try to get to work on time. Sure enough, he was only there for fifteen minutes before they returned from their tour of Sy’s house. BAre you Richard )rawford3B (mily said when she saw him behind the counter. )rawford rose slowly from his chair. 8e didn6t get recogni5ed much anymore. BAell, ahQB BThe Richard )rawford3 1t is youK :ou really work here3B
She said it as if working here would be beneath a writer of his stature. This ha22ened to be a belief that he always held, but until now no one had agreed with him. ,aybe (mily wouldn6t be such a bad boss, after all. B(verybody calls me )rawford. 1 went to high school here for a few years after my 2arents got divorced, so 1 moved back when V uh-- 1 mean -- after --B 8e reali5ed that he didn6t actually want to review the series of failures and bad decisions that landed him back in (ureka. BAnd you6re (mily3B B:es, and this is =ewis,B she said. =ewis nodded to )rawford and headed to the back of the store with a ta2e measure in his hand. B<id ;inger go home3
BAell, yeah,B )rawford said. B1 ho2e that’s okay. Ae’re usually both here for a little while in the afternoon, but she had some things she wanted to do today so 1 told her she could just take off.D C"h. Thanks,B (mily said. B,aybe you can show me around a little. Show me how things work around here.D )rawford could hear =ewis moving furniture around back in the history section. Ahat were they u2 to3 BSure. #ut, look, 1 think we6re all kind of curious. 8ave the two of you decided what you6re going to do with the store3B (mily walked around behind the counter and dro22ed into a chair. BTo tell you the truth, )rawford, 1 wasn6t at all sure 1 wanted anything
to do with this 2lace when we got here. #ut =ewis has a lot of fond memories of the summer he s2ent here --B B:eah, 1 heard he got to 2arty with Stegner,B )rawford said. (mily laughed. BThat6s the story, anyway. #ut you know, bookstores are 2retty much going e$tinct. 1 didn6t really see how we can make this work. #ut we6ve seen the sales figures. :ou guys must be doing something right. There6s not really any money in the bank, but the building’s 2aid off. So, 1 don’t know. At this 2oint, we haven’t totally ruled out the 2ossibility of moving u2 here and giving it a try. =ewis wants to try to rearrange things a little and kind ofHD she looked around and 2aused, choosing her wordsHCstraighten things u2.D
"ne of the <ragon6s regulars walked in with a bargain 2a2erback she’d 2icked u2 from the rack outside. She was an older woman )rawford didn6t know by name. Sort of a grandmotherly ty2e, with just a touch of bag lady thrown in. )rawford didn6t think that she sle2t outside, but it wouldn6t sur2rise him to see her going through the trash bins in the alley, either. Ahen she saw (mily behind the counter, she sto22ed short. B:ou the new owner3B she said. (mily stood u2 and e$tended her hand. B:es, 1’m VB #ut the woman was having none of it. She handed her 2a2erback to )rawford -- a thriller set in northern )alifornia called ,e essary Evil -- and )rawford sli22ed it into a 2a2er bag, running his hand 0uickly around the inside of
the bag to make sure ;inger had stuffed it the night before. "ne skinny joint in a 2lastic sleeve. 8e smoothed her wadded-u2 bills and 2ut them in the cash drawer. B<oes she know3B she said over her shoulder as she was walking out the door. She didn6t wait for an answer. (mily looked at )rawford, 2u55led. B"h,B he said. BShe meant --- about me. :ou know. About my novels.B B"hK :ou6ve got a little following around town, don6t you, )rawford3B C:eah, kind of,D he said, with what he ho2ed looked like embarrassment. BAell, look. #efore we get interru2ted again, do you want to show me how to ring u2 customers3 1 mean, you don6t seem to have a
cash register or anything, so it all looks 2retty straightforward, but is there anything 1 should know3B )rawford knew he would have to deal with this sooner or later. 8e had worked out an answer last night. BThere6s not much to it. #ut if you don6t mind me making a suggestion ---B B4o, 2lease, go ahead.B BAell, it6s just that since Sy’s been gone, there6s been this real hole in how the store runs. The way he set it u2 was that ;inger and 1 would be the only ones who rang u2 customers, and Sy was always out in the store, talking to 2eo2le and setting u2 new dis2lays and stuff like that. 8e was kind of like the heart of the store.B )rawford swallowed as if he was having difficulty controlling his emotions.
(mily reached out and 2ut a hand on his. B"h, )rawford. 1’m sure this has been so hard for you guys.D )rawford looked away and blinked. BAell, you can see how much it6s fallen into disarray over the last few months. Ae6ve tried to kee2 it u2 the way Sy liked it, but it hasn6t been easy. 1 think the best thing you guys could do would be to carry on the tradition and let us work behind the counter while you run the store. 1t would kind of be like honoring his memory.B B16ll talk to =ewis about that. And you know, 1 should 2robably go see if he needs any hel2.B BAnything 1 can do3B BIust do your job.B (mily stood u2 to go look for =ewis. Iust then an older man came in. )rew cut, ironed shirt, khaki 2ants. 8e looked
like an e$-,arine. 4ot a ty2ical <ragon customer. BAhat kind of books are these3B he said to (mily as she came out from behind the counter. (mily looked to )rawford for hel2, but )rawford just smiled. She might as well learn to handle it. BEm-- all kinds of books,B (mily said. BAre you looking for something in 2articular3B B1 want to bring my son to the =ord. 1 want him to receive the Aord through a real book, not a com2uter. The book.B (mily wi2ed her 2alms on her jeans. This was not a situation she had ever e$2ected to find herself in. BSo, you are looking for ---B She turned again to )rawford, and this time he decided to hel2 her out.
BAe have a whole section of #ibles right back here, sir,B )rawford said, walking him back to the Aestern religion section. 1t was actually a beautiful collection of #ibles a 2ocket-si5ed %M'M Ling Iames with the original brass clas2, a lovely old %M+R edition with a modern fore-edge 2ainting on three sides, and a number of nice rebound volumes dating back to the turn of the century. )rawford had been ama5ed that 2eo2le 2arted with their heavy, leather-bound #ibles so easily in favor of the digital version. #ut here they all were, an entire community’s collection of holy te$ts, waiting at the <ragon for their resurrection. C1 wish =ewis could have seen that,D (mily said after the man left with his #ible. She looked around again for her husband, but he
seemed to have disa22eared into the back room. C1 guess you just never know what 2eo2le are going to say when they walk in the door. :ou have to be ready for anything.D C:ou’ll get the hang of it,D )rawford said.
(mily had ho2ed they would stay the weekend, figure out what to do about selling the store, and then go home on ,onday. #ut the store’s startling financial success had changed her mind. She couldn’t walk away from that kind of money without at least considering the unlikely 2ossibility that bookselling was, after all, a lucrative enter2rise. #esides, =ewis was enchanted with the 2lace. So a weekend turned into a week, and one week turned into another, and they each invented e$cuses for staying away from work just a few days longer, knowing that their jobs
were becoming ever more 2recarious as they neglected them. 1t hardly mattered, though. The bookstore was strangely addictive they both found the act of cleaning and sorting and organi5ing to be sur2risingly satisfying, and they enjoyed the notoriety of being small-town sho2kee2ers. !eo2le came in just to meet them and to tell them stories about uncle Sy. Their activities became a regular feature on ;alway’s local business blog. They felt almost obligated to stay, as if it would be bad manners to leave so 0uickly. They worked in the store every day, dusting, washing windows, clearing the aisles downstairs and shoveling 2iles of books and old maga5ines into the back room to be sorted. (mily walked around with a garbage bag, 2icking u2 half-
and he carried it around the store. They knew what the store must look like to its new owners.inger had to admit. )rawford and . A catastro2he.most customers didn6t s2end enough time in the store to notice --. . A bookish wreck. 1t was a little embarrassing to watch them work. =ewis found a ladder in the bathroom -. )rawford and .em2ty coffee cu2s that had been stashed in outof-the-way 2laces for weeks or. changing light bulbs and knocking s2ider webs out of the corners.but it didn’t have to be in this kind of disarray.it had been used as a kind of bookshelf to store a collection of old high school yearbooks that Sy never could decide what to do with -. either. 2ossibly months. The store didn6t need to be 2articularly clean --.inger felt obligated to 2itch in.
they washed the unused glass cases near the counter and cleaned off the desk. They were going to have to be much more careful. The <ragon’s regular customers had a hard time adjusting to the new owners. 1t was a good thing they did. because every corner and crevice was filled with bits of sus2icious dried green material. Soon they fell into . There was enough illegal detritus to 2ut them in jail in a less 2ermissive county. This was intimidating to the customers. ready to ste2 u2 with a book recommendation or offer to hunt down a 2articular title. (mily and =ewis were always hovering nearby. who for the most 2art had no 2articular title in mind and just wanted to find a book in their 2rice range and get out as 0uickly as 2ossible.so in between customers.
They gave 2eo2le a blank look when they held out their cash.the habit of walking straight u2 to the desk and mumbling their re0uests to )rawford or . who was changing the light bulb in the doorway. B)an 1 hel2 you find a book3B . "ne day a skateboarder with a shaved head and a row of 2iercings u2 both ears walked 2ast =ewis. loud enough for =ewis to hear. and handed )rawford a wad of twenties. This was not good. forcing them to go find a book on their own. #ut )rawford and . )rawford gave the guy a small shake of the head and said. in the ho2es of by2assing the 2retense of buying a book altogether and thus avoiding a bookish chat with the owners.inger.inger were not ready to change the rules of the game.
the kid said. C=ikeHa 2hiloso2hy book3D BSure. BSure. )rawford. BEm. BThat6s what Sy would6ve done. got himself into this mess and was going to have to get himself out. =ewis. )rawford tilted his head toward the 2hiloso2hy section.B The kid followed =ewis reluctantly into the de2ths of the store.B he said. "ur 2hiloso2hy section’s over here.D #efore he could say anything else. right3B )rawford smiled at the skateboarder who. 1 don’t know. 1n a voice that suggested that he wasn6t used to talking to grown-u2s.=ewis jum2ed down from his ladder. BAhat were you looking for3B =ewis said. let me take this one. just aHB 8e looked around des2erately. B8ey. he figured. the kid .
CThat was odd. CAe might have that in 2a2erback. 1 like this one. 1t came to just over a hundred bucks. o2ening the book 0uickly to check the 2rice. then fled the store with a bag containing his 9oltaire and his bud. 2ractically racing back to the counter to hand it to )rawford.B he said. . BAre you sure3B =ewis asked. =ewis had been standing right by the desk watching him. CAhat3D asked )rawford. 8e handed his twenties to )rawford and told him to kee2 the change.B the kid said.reached down and grabbed a nice old co2y of 9oltaire6s letters rebound in contem2orary 2aneled calf with gilt lettering on the s2ine. BThis looks good.B B4o.D =ewis said.
es2ecially on a minor and. what3D )rawford said. C1 mean. you know what 1 mean3D C4o.BAell. summoning a little mock indignation. entirely inconse0uential issue. you know3 4obody seems to have the money to 2aint their house or wash their car.B C:eah. !eo2le love books. butHit’s hardly #erkeley. kind of working class town. but they’re going to come in here and buy a hundred-dollar 9oltaire3D )rawford loved nothing more than taking a 2rinci2led stand. he hardly even looked around. BThat6s the ama5ing thing about this town. . in this case. it’s just this small. And where does a kid like that get that kind of money3B )rawford shrugged. C8ey.
man. after you’ve only been here a little while. And if you don6t think that skateboarder kid can a22reciate 9oltaire. :ou’re the one who’s hel2ed make this store what it is. C8ey. (mily walked into the store with another load of cleaning su22lies and a stack of em2ty bo$es. . =ewis rushed to the door to hel2 her. then you don6t know this community.D =ewis said. 1 just got here.D #efore the moment got any more sentimental than it already was. :ou’re right. 1 know what (ureka must look like to you. C1’m sorry.B 8e wi2ed his eyes and got busy straightening the desk as if to distract himself from a sudden rush of outraged tears. #ut 2eo2le who live here ha22en to think this is a 2retty s2ecial 2lace.
books that have clearly been wet . CThe entire reference section is mildewed. CAhere are you taking them3D (mily 2ressed her li2s together and headed to the back room. CSome of these books areH wellHdirty. )rawford had the im2ression that he’d caught them at something. choosing his words. CEhHthey’re for the books we’re not going to kee2. books with coffee stains.CAhat are the bo$es for3D )rawford asked. C4ot going to kee23D )rawford asked.D =ewis said slowly. Ae’ve found books with the covers torn off.D =ewis said. (ven the shelves. still wound u2 over his im2assioned defense of (ureka as a cultural institution. They turned and looked at him with matching e$2ressions of startled fright.
D .D he said to =ewis. but it was easy to forget that the store didn’t even really sell books anymore.D )rawford said.D CSome of these books really should be recycled.D =ewis said. 4obody’s bought them.ational Geo. 1t’s just that nobody wants these books.raphi sHD C1 see. not to mention all the old .D )rawford knew that =ewis was right. They’ve been sitting here for years. CFine. C1t’s your store. refusing to look u2. <efending old and mildewed books came much more naturally to him. C1’m not the bad guy. CSo you’re just going to throw books away. 8e went back to rearranging su22lies on the desk.and dried out again.
)rawford reali5ed that the tri2s to the dum2 would at least get them out of the store long enough to let him 2erfect a new skill he and .inger needed now that the owners were here all the time rolling joints under the desk.=ewis didn’t argue that 2oint. 8e followed (mily to the back. .
sometimes showing u2 just after dawn to move bookcases around before the store o2ened. 1t was im2ossible to kee2 track of where they were or how long they might be out of the store.inger and )rawford to kee2 the <ragon o2erating the way it used to. and fre0uently staying late into the evening.thirt" 1t was not easy for . The store’s em2loyees had to take any o22ortunity . (mily and =ewis came and went at all hours. They were also cleaning out Sy’s house and trying to make it habitable7 one of them was always running off to the hardware store or dro22ing by the house to meet a contractor.
and the <ragon’s account was still tied u2 in 2robate. They had not yet bothered to establish a new bank account. so there were no mi$-u2s behind the counter. new clothes to tide them over until they could get back to San Iose. (mily and =ewis were charmed by their em2loyees’ insistence on ringing u2 all customers themselves. Fortunately.they could to dash to the back and stuff sho22ing bags with the ne$t day’s su22ly of joints and one-gram bags and tightly 2acked 0uarter-ounces. So they fell into the dangerous habit of s2ending the cash in the till on whatever they needed take-out meals. not to mention cleaning su22lies and tools and 2ayments to the handymen they’d hired to do . And the new owners s2ent the money as 0uickly as it came in.
in his semi-literate way. And what !ould ha22en once 2robate was over and the money was sorted out3 )rawford and . reorgani5ing the store and attem2ting. #ut .odd jobs.inger had heard (mily . )rawford thought that =ewis was settling into his role as a bookseller.inger had sto22ed asking the new owners what their long-range 2lans were7 it seemed as if they were still trying to decide whether they should move to (ureka 2ermanently and run the <ragon. or just fi$ it u2 and sell it. The idea of all this unaccounted-for cash made them a little nervous. to recommend books to the <ragon’s nervous customers. but )rawford assured them that they could save their recei2ts and take it all to an accountant to sort out once 2robate was finished.
inger and )rawford would have to make some changes to the way the <ragon o2erated. As long as the new owners were sticking around. which he had outfitted with blowers. She s2oke longingly of their condo in San Iose. the unheated and uninsulated bedrooms. .com2lain about the many shortcomings of Sy’s house on the hill the fragile 2lumbing. Then again. the unreliable electrical wiring. she didn’t seem to be in any hurry to leave. dehumidifiers. (dith used to bring her cro2 directly to the store in big black garbage bags. 1t was the 2erfect hiding 2lace most 2eo2le had long ago forgotten that a bank once stood where the . 1t didn’t seem like she was entirely settled in. and drying lines. and Sy would hang it u2 to dry in the old bank vault.
inger used to s2end a little time every day trimming and bagging and rolling. )rawford and . that was im2ossible. So they had to find another 2lace to 2rocess (dith’s cro2. They each ruled out the 2ossibility of setting u2 the o2eration at home. .<ragon’s stockroom was.inger lived with a roommate who didn’t want her bringing her work home. and it was only a matter of time before somebody s2otted them coming and going at odd hours. making it earth0uake-2roof and im2ervious to the noses of drug-sniffing dogs. For a while they came in late at night to get ready for the ne$t day’s customers. but the lack of slee2 was wearing on them. #ut with the owners in the store. and the vault was lined in steel and concrete. and )rawford said he didn6t .
"nce he was gone.have the s2ace for it. There had always been a lot of 2eo2le around. 1t was strangely isolating. bags. the scales. #ut lacking any other o2tion. This had its own risks =ewis and (mily were living ne$t door. and eventually they might wonder why their em2loyees s2ent so much time with (dith. too.inger and (dith never s2ent much time alone when Sy was alive.inger volunteered to 2ut in a shift a few nights a week. and (dith had considered them to be her friends. Sy was like the s2ider in the middle of the web everyone in his world was interconnected. . and other e0ui2ment moved to (dith6s kitchen table. but only through him. but in fact they were always in orbit around Sy. they dis2ersed. (dith reali5ed in hindsight. 1t would have to ha22en at (dith6s house. . where .
1t was the kind of 2recise work (dith loved se2arating seeds and stems from her harvest was like 2ulling burrs out of a cat’s fur. 1t satisfied some 2rimitive grooming instinct of hers. And (dith liked having someone around again7 it gave her a reason to straighten u2 the house and make a real su22er. the new arrangement was working. 1n fact.#ut now the two women were in the habit of 2assing 2leasant evenings at the kitchen table.inger’s car in the driveway. there was no reason for them to believe that there was anything unusual in two old friends getting together in the evening. 1f =ewis or (mily noticed . cli22ing and cleaning with a cou2le 2airs of narrow scissors better suited to manicures than gardening. . they didn’t mention it. So far.
Rolling joints was a little like knitting. or 2laying cards it gave you something to do with your hands while you sat and talked. .
having made the decision initially that he was too clean-cut to buy anything but books from the <ragon. Ahat he really needed was a 2lant. a2art from 2ick it a2art in search of seeds that Sumner’s botanists could germinate. wasn’t about to reverse her 2osition. 8is attem2ts to buy marijuana had failed utterly7 the street dealers sus2ected he was a co2 and . 8e had no idea what he would do with dried 2lant matter even if he was able to buy some.inger. and he wasn’t any closer to getting one of those .thirt"#one Richmond fell into the habit of visiting the bookstore every day to chat with .inger and 2urchase a book.
he liked s2ending time in a bookstore again. 1t was strange. 8e remembered what it used to feel like to walk into one and catch 2eo2le in sur2risingly 2rivate moments teenagers sitting cross-legged on the floor reading to themselves. in such a short time. women carrying on hushed conversations at the end of an aisle. and the <ragon was behaving like the bookstore Richmond knew it wasn’t. sometimes just running their hands along the covers. 8ere at the <ragon. Richmond thought. so foreign.the dealers wouldn’t talk to him. even the regular customers . (dith wouldn’t answer her door. 2eo2le gathered in com2lete silence around a table of new arrivals. that the act of hanging out in a bookstore had grown so unfamiliar. 4onetheless.
!eo2le marched u2 and down the aisles the way they’d walk through a su2ermarket. 4obody carried books around with them7 when it was time to leave. and a few of them were making some minimal effort to act like actual bookstore customers. hastily checked the 2rice. and then set them carefully back down. The effect. They 2icked u2 books and e$amined them on all sides. however. as if they were mysterious objects that re0uired further study. was more like that of an amateur acting class im2rovising a bookstore scene.seemed not to know how 2eo2le used to act in a bookstore. they grabbed a book near the counter. and shoved it across the desk along with a few crum2led bills. They obviously knew that the owners believed they were running an actual bookstore. eager to get out .
Finally . some s2ecial hand gesture or wink or word muttered under the breath that would signal what the buyer was really after.B he said. For while it was a steady stream of ten-dollar 2a2erback sales.as 0uickly as they could. B:ou6re back. #ut he saw nothing.B she said. B1 couldn6t stay away. which was unusual in an era when refusing a bag was a sign of virtue.B . 8e noticed that everyone left with a 2a2er bag. "ne day he 2ulled u2 a chair in the cookbook section and watched . B:6all are one of the last bookstores in the country.inger work.inger looked over and recogni5ed him. :ou’re famous. 8e watched for some secret code.
s2icy fragrance.B B1 believe it.inger drifted a little closer to him.that seemed to come out of her 2ores. 8e was out of his league and far from his . and black boots.B"h. . straightening books and 2icking u2 a stack of 2rints in glassine sleeves that had slid off a table.artens. ginger -. a tattered cashmere sweater that had been 2atched together with safety 2ins around the neck and at the elbows. She was dressed in her usual 2ost2unk schoolgirl outfit a 2laid skirt.B Richmond said.well. we6re gonna turn this whole book thing around. Soon she was so close that Richmond could 2ick u2 the dark. almost like licorice or --. :eah. and now was no time to start. you heard about that. Richmond told himself that he had never so much as flirted with a girl who wore <oc .
why not3 B:ou out here on business3B . as if he was trying to make it sto2.D . B:ou just -look like business.natural habitat. Richmond had traded his suit for a 2air of jeans. B8ow’d you guess3B She shook her head and smiled. 8e looked nervous one leg shook and he ke2t 2utting his hand on it. C1 guess that’s a bad thing around here.inger was making conversation.inger was distracted by a guy who was waiting for her at the counter. B8ey. . As long as he was stuck in this town. 8e couldn6t even imagine what the rules for dating might be out here.inger a22roached. #ut . do you know this book3B the guy said as .B she said. but a22arently he wasn6t fooling anybody.inger asked.
and on the back is a big 2icture of the author.B he said.inger asked. more like a Roman nose.B and he grabbed a 2en from the desk and started drawing a cartoonish outline of a man in 2rofile with a big nose. 8e worked on it for a minute and then handed it to . 8e6s got a Roman nose. indicating with his hands that the book was -.reek nose.well. B<o you have that one3B he asked.inger. B1t6s got a 2icture of a castle on the cover. roughly the si5e of the book. B<o you remember what it6s about3B . B1 don6t know.BAhat book is that3B . holding the 2a2er delicately between two fingers.B . B1t6s about this big.inger said. you know what 1 mean3 4ot a . =ike this.
but they won’t let me check it out anymore.B She looked at the drawing again. BSorry. 1 think the jail closed their library. 1 read it in jail one time. :ou6re welcome to look around and see if it’s here. 1 just don6t know if we have it or not. man. glancing across the aisles of books downstairs and the walls lined with books u2stairs. :eah. They had it in the library over there. . 1 think that6s why.B B#ecause you6re not in jail3B B!retty much.B4ot really.B 8e turned his back to the counter and took a long look around the building. And you know. Ae 2robably ended u2 with all their books.
inger said. 8e was holding a battered clothbound cookbook with the title stam2ed in black on the cover.D he said.inger watched the doorway for a few minutes as if she was e$2ecting an encore from him.inger. no. taking the book out of his hand. Richmond was standing at the counter.B Richmond said.C"h. B8ow old is this book3B . C"h my god. . CAhere did you find this3D C:ou actually have a section right over there called )ookbooks.D 8e took his drawing out of .B . The "hildren2s %ard Guild "ook $ook.inger6s hand and left.D said . C1’ve fallen for that one before. Ahen she turned around. B1 think these are real food stains on the cover.
1 think it got a lot of use there at the -. B+ lum2s of ammonia. sugar. BAell. And 1 thought theseHwait.D She smiled at him. a single man needs to know how to cook.inger6s hands and o2ened it to the title 2age.B%*%+. let me find it HB he said as he fli22ed to the dessert section. a cu2 of lard. Ammonia cookies.B BAhat are you going to do with this3B she asked.uhHB he took the book out of . B#eaver 9alley .D B4oKB 8e held out the book. Bammonia cookies sounded 2retty good. 8e figured he better kee2 going. .eneral 8os2ital. eggs. milk. and a little flour and lemon.
BThere is also a 2igeon 2ie that 1’d like to try.B he said. and 2igeons. B16ll work on it. 2ork fat.B Richmond close the book and handed it to her. if a man were to offer to make you his s2ecial Fried )ream for dinner. that should be easy to remember. JAhat was that other thing 1 needed for 2igeon 2ie3’D Richmond fli22ed through the book one more time. 8e’d have to come u2 with something better than that. . what would you --B . B"h.B he said. B4ow. B:ou6re not going to get to the grocery store and go.B she said.inger shook her head. no. B1t6s just got 2otatoes.B BAell. That6s it. 1 eat fried cream all the time.
CAith ta$. B(ight bucks.D .She checked the inside front cover. Richmond 2eeked into the bag.inger said.inger took his money and slid the book into a bag. eight-fifty.D . . CThat’s all you bought. C1s this all 1 get3D he asked. where the 2rice was written in 2encil.B she said. There was nothing in there but a book.
#illy answered the 2hone. 1t was =ewis. regardless of the hour.B BAell. #ut =ewis didn’t give him a chance.D #illy said. 1t looks like we6ve got ourselves bookstore. clearing his throat and trying to sound lawyerly. . when it could be 2ro2erly toasted. ready to deliver a little s2eech about the im2ortance of saving good news for the afternoon. that6s right. C#illy.thirt"#two #illy <alton’s 2hone was ringing much too early for a Sunday morning. =ewis. 8e rolled over in bed and s0uinted at the screen. and kee2ing bad news to yourself.
Ae6re going to do it.CThat6s what 16ve been telling you.B =ewis said. That’s why we wanted to give it a little time. Ae6re going to live at Sy6s house and run the bookstore.D C1 know. BAre you sure about this3 1t seems like (mily’s been a little reluctant to jum2 into this thing. that6s not what 1 mean. see what it was like to live u2 here and be in the store every day. what with bookstores closing the way they have.B #illy sat u2 in bed. 1 think she’s been a little nervous. but now she’s seen for herself how well this store does.B B4o. BAe6ve been u2 talking most of the night. :ou own a bookstore now. <o you know we had someone come in and 2ay five hundred dollars for a first edition of Mrs/ 3allo!ay with a torn .
C"kay. #ut even if you just look at the 2eo2le who come in and 2ick u2 a hardcover for twenty bucksHC C=ewis3D #illy interru2ted.D #illy said. This store’s making a ton of money with . :ou6ve seen the numbers. C1 just called and 0uit my job.D CAow. come on. And 1 sent off a notice to our landlord.cover and a stain on the back3 1t’s unbelievable. 1 left a voice mail. C<on’t you guys have jobs and a house andHD C4ot really. but--1 meanH are you really sure about this3D B"h.D =ewis said cheerfully.D C:ou 0uit at this hour3 CAell. Ae were month-tomonth at the condo anyway.
B B1deas3B BTo hel2 kee2 it going. not at all. :ou know. BToday3B #illy asked. 1’ve got a meeting with the San Fran is o "hroni le this afternoon. Aow. And we6ve got some ideas of our own. make it into more of a draw for tourists. #illy. )lean it u2.B BAhy.2ractically no overhead. is something wrong3D C4o. Sounds like you6ve got a lot of work ahead of you.D B"h. take it to the ne$t level. .B CAe’re already working.D That got him out of bed. give it a national 2resence. They’re sending a re2orter and a 2hotogra2her u2 to interview us about the store. Ae’ve sent out our first 2ress release. :eah.
Ae’re going to make this 2lace famous. #ut attorney #illy <alton was 2ersistent and eventually convinced 8artford that he had inherited an unusual legacy one of the last bookstores in the country. )AG Ahen =ewis 8artford got a call from an attorney about an inheritance from a long-lost uncle.1==1"4-<"==AR #""LST"R( A A(==-L(!T S()R(T "4 ="ST )"AST F(ureka.D @ . C1 remember s2ending a summer in my uncle Sy’s . #illy.C:ou should get down here. he thought the call was a 2rank and hung u2.
D Soon 8artman and his wife (mily Short were on their way to (ureka to have a look at the Firebreathing <ragon. Sylvester !orter. After 8artman’s uncle. CAe assumed that the <ragon was a failing bookstore. died. they knew they would face a difficult decision about the future of the bookstore.bookstore when 1 was a kid. it took si$ months to locate the will and contact the heirs.D 8artford said. but another sur2rise awaited them. Cbut 1 had no idea the store had stayed in business all this time. a store that has s2eciali5ed in used and rare books for over forty years. given the rate at . Ahen they arrived in (ureka.
C1 was sure that the store would be on the brink of going out of business.D 8artman said. CThe commitment to books shown by this community is astonishing. the store earned over >%.D 8artman said. 1 had forgotten how the 2eo2le of a small town can rally around a beloved institution like the Firebreathing <ragon.D #ut in fact.which other stores are closing these days./ million. making it an e$traordinary success in the digital age. the store’s handwritten ledger told a different story last year. but now 1 reali5e that this store . C)oming from the big city. 1 came u2 here e$2ecting to close the bookstore down and sell the building.
a$ine Rogers.com. C1 want them to come to the <ragon and reconnect with what they loved about books. C.has a future.ost 2eo2le don’t have a bookstore in their own hometown anymore. and transform the <ragon into a destination bookstore for tourists. )(" of 4ile.D 8artman 2lans to renovate the store’s dila2idated interior. CAe’re glad to see such diversity in the market2lace. 1t even gives me ho2e that the book itself has a future. said that she was C2leasantly sur2risedD to learn of one bookstore that wasn’t on life su22ort.D Rogers . hold book signings and 2oetry readings.D 8artman said.D .
1 wish the Firebreathing <ragon and its new owners well.D he said. C1 never thought 1’d be running a bookstore. C<igital media got off to a strong start and o2ened a world of books to 2eo2le who might not otherwise have access to the world’s libraries. C. they will survive. #ut we’ve always believed that as long as brick-and-mortar bookstores offer something of value to their customers.said.aybe the <ragon’s success will ins2ire other 2eo2le to take the lea2.D The Firebreathing <ragon is one of only seven bookstores remaining in the Enited States. 8artman said that he ho2es to reverse that trend.D .
C"ne 2oint two million dollars a year in that shithole you call a town3D C4ice to hear from you. over there3B .alway said. Three were from #etsy. BAhat the fuck are they doin.a$ine Rogers.a$ine said when she answered the 2hone. have you been . who 2robably wanted to know why the "hroni le had scoo2ed the 1erald on the million-dollar bookstore story.alway had four messages waiting for him when he got to work the ne$t morning. BSeriously.a$ine. and one was from .D . 8e called .alway.a$ine first. . CAre you shitting me3D .a$ine said. . leaning back in his chair.thirt"#three .
i5mo3 There6s not even a do5en bookstores left in this country. owns a .alway. 1n a town that si5e3 Ahen everybody. dammit. . 16ve been in th"se stores. And if you ask them why they bought it. and most of them aren’t clearing a hundred grand a year. .holding out on me all these years3 Ahat kind of 2lace is that3B B1t’sH1 don’t know. good locationH why are you so sur2rised that they’re doing well3D C<on’t screw with me. you find out that they6re not even 2lanning on . 1t’s a bookstore. and 1 do mean everybody.a$ine. There6s like three 2eo2le who come in every day to bitch about 2olitics or talk about &ro7e t Run!ay# and then maybe one 2erson comes in and buys a book. 4eat old building.
The book was a wonderful 2iece of technology for . that woman had a mouth.D she said. C1 didn6t 2ut anybody out of business.a$ine3 The <ragon’s different. what do you care3 :ou 2ut three thousand bookstores out of business and it really matters if one of them survives3D .alway wasn’t really interested in defending the <ragon.D . re2eating her mantra in a sing-songy voice.reading it.alway said.D CAhat do you want me to say. . . #esides. 8e just loved arguing with . 1t6s for a school 2lay or a time ca2sule or some shit. !eo2le will migrate ---B B1 know.od. C!eo2le will migrate to the technology that works best for them. C:ou make it sound like 1’m out for blood.a$ine.
ot any recommendations about where 1 can stay3B BThere’s room at my 2lace. 1t’s a great basement.D .D C1’ll 2ass.B A long shot. :ou can slee2 on the 2ool table.two thousand years. . 16m a blogger now. he thought.B B1 thought you were a re2orter. though.B BRight.a$ine said. 16m thinking of making a tri2 to your charming little seaside village. Aell anyway. (tc.B B1 was. B1 thought bloggers all lived in their 2arents’ basements. 1’ll see you soon. but worth a try. etc. CAe do.B . . Save it for the re2orters. :ou can buy me a drink.a$ine.
She had founded 4ile.thirt"#four .a$ine Rogers would never go so far as to suggest that the electronic book had killed the novel. 1t was. a revolutionary and utterly democratic conce2t. that river seemed to be dwindling to a stream. She took the river meta2hor seriously she believed that she was tearing down the dams and finally letting literature flow. they would reach drought . 1f 4ile’s numbers were right. #ut lately.com with a noble goal to encourage the digiti5ation of every library in the world and 2ut those libraries in the 2ocket of every 2erson in the world. and then to a trickle. she thought.
making headlines both times and winning even the begrudging 2raise of their critics. They had such a huge market share that they had actually been able to lower their 2rices twice. Ahile both dro2s in 2rices were 2lanned.conditions in a cou2le of years. 4ile waited for some slight hiccu2 in the economy before announcing the new rates. They won awards7 their subscriber base grew dramatically. For the last several years the com2any had enjoyed robust growth. 1t had been an astonishing few years. streaming literary content as well as music and movies in a subscri2tion format that 2roved incredibly successful. This made them look like they were kee2ing literature alive even in hard times. .ore Americans had a 4ile.com subscri2tion than had cable T9. .
you counted on a certain 2ercentage of members 2aying their dues but not showing u2. they could get the rest of theirH. The 2roblem was that if too many 2eo2le sto22ed using 4ile’s service. And if 2eo2le weren’t into the books.a$ine hated this termH ontent elsewhere. they just weren6t using it as much. . They could get music and movies elsewhere. 1f you ran a health club. "ver the last cou2le of years. The only real benefit to 4ile’s stream was that it included books. they’d eventually sto2 2aying for it.#ut then something changed. They were still 2aying for the service. 4ile noticed a significant dro2off in the number of 2eo2le who actually downloaded and read the Briver of readingB they had access to. At first this seemed like good news.
So now . they became unmoored from the very notion of a book. A digital file stored on an electronic device didn’t call to you the way a book did. Ahat they found was this once 2eo2le were reading short streams of te$t on a small screen. that eighty or a hundred-thousand word te$t that hung together in a cohesive narrative and took a cou2le of weeks to get through. And even worse than the fact that 2eo2le weren’t reading books3 Ariters sto22ed writing them. .a$ine had given her marketing staff the job of figuring out why readershi2 dro22ed off so 2reci2itously. That thing that sat on the nightstand and waited for you to come back to it. that three-hundred 2age tome.
1t made for books riddled . B4ow the books never come.B he said.There was no reason to fill three hundred 2ages anymore. and writers who couldn’t stand to see their 2recious 2rose tam2ered with in the first 2lace decided to ski2 the editing 2rocess altogether. the job of editing a book fell to freelance editors. as 2ublishing houses colla2sed. say a cou2le of 2aragra2hs. 1f an idea could be fleshed out in. why not just do that3 "ne well-loved novelist went so far as to admit that the 2ros2ect of that bo$ of newly2rinted books arriving on his doorste2 had been the only thing kee2ing him going during his lengthy and award-winning writing career. BAhy am 1 writing now3 To see my name a22ear on my tele2hone3B To make matters still worse.
with foolish errors and long-winded digressions. 4ot a bookstore e$actly -that would be taking it too far -. when she read the article. And writers who did hire editors were always free to ignore their advice and 2ublish anyway. o2en s2aces where bookish accessoriesH reading glasses. 4o one was left to 2rotect writers from their own worst instincts. that maybe 2eo2le needed some 2hysical reminder of the culture of literature. fountain 2ens. Then . .but some2lace that felt bookish.a$ine heard about the unlikely success of the Firebreathing <ragon. Amalfi 2a2er. She 2ictured a store with walls lined with leather-bound books and comfortable. 1t occurred to her. old etchings in silver framesHwould be dis2layed.
com grab headlines for rolling out a chain of brick-and-mortar stores3 .The kind of merchandise that made 2eo2le feel literary. too. And wouldn’t 4ile. .aybe if the tra22ings of books came back. the urge to read would return. she reasoned.
They just des ended on this 2lace.D . who was busy cleaning and bagging (dith’s early-morning delivery. but she showed u2 to work in a rage the morning the story ran. she had to admit . although. C1t was something to see. and in one day--D C1’m not talking about that. 1 mean. as she looked around. CAhat the hell ha22ened here3D she shouted at )rawford.inger said. they’d been cleaning for weeks.inger had been off work for a few days. but at the last minute they hired a whole crew to get the 2lace ready for the 2hotogra2her.thirt"#five . recovering from a nasty summer cold.
we could have the 2olice--D . Sy had uncovered the redwood 2lanks here just like he did at his house. Thanks to their efforts. cra5y. the long. the base of a set of 2osts that once held saddle racks.illion-<ollar #ookstore3 <o you know what kind of attention that’s going to draw to our finances3 Ae could have the 1RS in here. :eah. C)ra5y3 The . C"h.D )rawford said. uninterru2ted stretches of floorboards were visible again. the scratches of tables and chairs. and those 2lanks held the foot2rints of every 2ast life this building ever had the outline of the old bar from its days as a saloon.that the 2lace looked bigger and brighter. you mean the re2orter.
Already she could feel a fever returning. you know3 1t comes in. kind of.oney around here as been kind of like the tide. She6d only been at work for five minutes and already she was e$hausted.inger colla2sed into a chair behind the counter. unbelieving.CAell. They each took home 2lenty of cash in addition to their modest little 2aychecks. it’s not our finances. it sloshes around. it goes out. 4ever occurred to me to try to hold on . CAell. They6re in charge now. C.B she said. .D C:ou broke3D )rawford asked. BThis isn’t really u2 to us anymore. She reali5ed she shouldn’t have gotten out of bed so soon.B .inger.B he said. C1’ve been such an idiot about this.D she admitted. B1’m about to lose my job.
because =ord knows they deserved it. #ut it’s not just that.to any of it.inger and )rawford watched in silence as she headed to the children’s section. 1 don6t know how to do anything but sell books. a white-haired woman with a /%+ card who 2referred (dith’s organic cro2 to the synthetic. She made her own mind-blowing butter. 1t6s --B She looked around. which went into a batch of cookies for the hos2ice nurses to either distribute to their 2atients or kee2 for themselves. ga5ing across the stacks u2 at the ceiling and out the window. hydro shit they sold at the dis2ensary. . B1t6s this 2lace.B )rawford laughed and sli22ed his scale behind the counter as the first customer of the day walked in. 1t6s this life. where she .
. with the 2rices still written inside.inger. and when they were re-shelved she would buy them again.et real. CThis sto22ed being about books a long time ago.D )rawford said as he watched the woman make her selection. she would return them all to the store. B.B .usually 2icked out a vintage Tale of &eter Rabbit or %onderful %i8ard of O8/ "nce every few months.
set out slightly from the building in a wood frame that would have been 2ainted on the sides to look like the edges of a book.D he said. =ewis had envisioned a giant book-sha2ed door.thirt"#six <on )antrell stood on the sidewalk with =ewis and shook his head. <on . on the building’s e$terior walls. he wanted to create a kind of shallow wooden scul2ture of fau$ books on shelves. Around it. C<on’t even think about it.D 8e handed back the scra2 of 2a2er on which =ewis had scribbled a new design for the <ragon’s front door. C:ou’re never going to get that 2ast design review.
And 1’ll get one of my guys u2 on the roof to see what we can get done before winter. See those rust stains around the windows3 That’s a gutter leak. CAhat we could do.thought it looked like the entrance to a ride at <isneyland. There was no way the historic 2reservation committee would let him get away with a stunt like that. and maybe blast out this old concrete around the door and 2ut in a new tile entryway.D . but that’s really what it needs. :ou could also use new gutters. but he didn’t say so.D <on said. :ou don’t want to be down here 2utting buckets under leaks at three o’clock in the morning. Sy never did want to just tear the roof off and start over. Cis get you a 2aint job and a new sign. 8e didn’t have to.
his wife had just found a flat screen television that fit 2erfectly in the one available s2ot they had for it in the R9. 8e liked the kid. BTell you what. and he didn6t want to see him waste his money on a 2roject that was doomed from the start. Then again.B <on said. 8e hated for her hard work to go unrewarded. 16ll just . <on thought about this for a minute. 1--D C1 thought you had friends on the city council.D =ewis said. BAhy don6t 1 draw u2 some 2lans and we6ll see what the design review committee has to say. CAell.CSoHyou don’t think we could make the door into a book3D =ewis said with the mournful whine of a little boy who had just been told he couldn’t kee2 the 2u22y he’d found.
unless you’d rather do it yourself. CAhat are you going to do about these old 2lywood shelves3D <on asked. or ---B 1t was official. casting his eyes across what seemed like acres of mismatched fi$tures. . 8ow does that sound3D That sounded fine to =ewis. This kid had money to burn. <on stuffed it in his 2ocket.B =ewis said. you can handle the whole thing3 <o you need me to 2ay you now.D C4o. that would be great. 8e was liking this kid better all the time.charge you for my time to do the 2lans. BReally. 8e went inside and 2ulled cash out of the drawer. and 1 can have the gal down at my office fill out the a22lication. C=et’s do half now and half when we deliver the 2lans to the city.
<on. C"ak.D =ewis said. those ladders that slide along the wallHD C"hK 1 love those laddersKD C1t’s a nice look.D . 8e looked ho2efully at <on. 1’ll get to work on those 2lans. #ut for now.D C"ak3D CSeems like you’re going for more of a classy look.D <on said.C1 don’t know. =ewis. CThink about it. C4ice to meet you. right3 :ou 2ut in some custombuilt oak bookcases.D CAelcome to town.D =ewis shook his hand. who said.
Richmond wondered how much longer he’d get away with it. and went by the bookstore whenever .thirt"#seven Richmond was settling into the cor2orate suite he’d rented at (ureka’s only decent hotel. but he wasn’t e$actly making the connections he’d been sent here to make. .inger was working to try to strike u2 a conversation with her. 1t was an easy life. So he worked from the hotel’s business center for a few hours every morning. 8e had not 2lanned to stay so long. s2ent a great deal of each day on the 2hone with his colleagues.
"ne . but a road crew working on 8ighway %&% had cut the only fiber o2tic cable 2roviding 1nternet access to 8umboldt )ounty.onday morning he ran his weekly legislative meeting from his hotel room. 4o one in town could get online today. . 8e’d been 2romised video conference facilities when he booked the room. and a few gas stations had to close down because their 2um2s wouldn6t work.ost 2eo2le didn6t seem bothered by it like a 2ower failure or snow day. the sudden disa22earance of the 1nternet seemed more like an e$cuse to take a day off than an im2ediment to 2roductivity. Stores and restaurants 2ut u2 signs a2ologi5ing for their inability to acce2t credit cards. Richmond had already dressed for the meeting by the time he found out about this .
2layed the same game of golf on the weekends. he was already starting to see himself as too s0uare. 8e’d had the same haircut since college. . so even though he was alone in his hotel room. so he mostly found himself staring at his own image in the mirror. Enrecogni5able. For two years he6d been married to a legislative aide in Sumner Tobacco’s <) office. he stood stiffly in his suit while he waited for Tom to come on the line. worn the same class ring and the same #rooks #rothers suits. and watched a double row of wrinkles grow gradually dee2er across his forehead over the years. There was nothing in the room to look at. too generic.0uirk in 8umboldt )ounty6s communication system. 1n the time he’d s2ent 8umboldt )ounty.
.where he was stationed half-time. She 2ersuaded him to grow sideburns and even got him to buy a more fitted. he reali5ed that he looked like he’d been kidna22ed by the guys on 9ueer Eye and then dum2ed in =ouisville to see if he could avoid being killed before he made it home. (uro2ean-style suit and an array of trim dress shirts in 2lum and 2ur2le. and she had tried to break him out of his res2ectable Southern image. Their marriage was a tug-of-war that ended when she reali5ed that she would never get him out of =ouisville or out of his old ways. 8e thought he looked good in the fitting room in .anhattan. but when he got back to =ouisville. 8e donated the suits to a thrift store and shaved off the sideburns.
And here he was. 8e knew that he was becoming less interesting to women around =ouisville all the time. 1’m here. drinking bourbon on his front 2orch in the mornings because there was no one around to tell him not to.etting older and 2ossibly odder the way 2eo2le do when their habits are allowed to go unconfronted for too many years. Single. . 8e was going to end u2 an old Southern bachelor. BRich3 :ou still there3D C:eah. 8is last attem2t at a relationshi2 with someone from out of town had failed so miserably that he didn’t dare try it again. Finally Tom came on the line. Enchanged.D .
od damn. are you any closer to finishing things u2 out there3D C1 don’t know.D . 1 knew 1 should have sent Levin out there. Short of ho22ing the fence and grabbing a 2lant in the middle of the night--D C. Ae’re still rounding everybody u2.C. 1 sent my kid to Amsterdam for his senior tri2 and he came back with a whole garden in his suitcase. it’s--D C1t’s what3 1t’s 8umboldt )ounty. This is the one 2lant 1 really want. =isten. so 1 send my to2 guy. Tom. RichK 1’ve had guys buying u2 2lants all over the world this yearK 8ell. for chrissakes.ood. and what ha22ens3D CAell. 1 can’t get anybody to talk to me.
ood lord.D . even though they were 2rinted two weeks ago in )hina and shi22ed to Targets all over this great nation. while somehow looking like every other kid they’d ever hired in the 1T de2artment. Tom. Ahy they hadn’t shi22ed the whole 1T o2eration to #angalore years ago was something Richmond would never understand.Levin. who showed u2 to work in deliberately distressed jeans and t-shirts that were su22osed to look like they came from seventies-era rock concerts. The 2othead webmaster from )hicago. 1 will get this done and be home as soon as 1 can. Levin. :ou don’t need to send Levin. C. Levin was one of those hi2sters who went out of his way to make it look like he didn’t fit in.
(verybody’s here. =et’s get going. 1t’s not that smoking would become illegal7 it’s that the F<A would have the 2ower to regulate !hat 2eo2le smoked. Richmond’s 2eo2le were 2re2ared with a mostly-honest answer they knew they were fighting a losing battle over tobacco. wondering why Sumner would Cgo rogueD rather than 2ush the legislation through in 2artnershi2 with the rest of #ig Tobacco.D Richmond’s staff each gave their u2dates. A few staffers had been sus2icious. Toss in a cou2le of tragic tales of lung cancer and em2hysema 2laguing . and they were working on a new 2roduct that would easily 2ass F<A review. re2orting on the calls they’d 2aid to senators and on the roundtable sessions with staff members on the 8ill.CFine.
the coalition was willing to kee2 the 8ealthy Smoking 1nitiative under wra2s in the ho2es of 2ushing it through so 0uickly that the other tobacco com2anies wouldn’t have time to mount a major cam2aign against it. 4ot so 2lausible that the legislators who re2resented tobacco country would buy it. So far. . Richmond’s staff had ti2toed around their old friends on the 8ill from 9irginia and Lentucky. and it became a 2lausible story. instead forming a coalition of anti-tobacco crusaders and rookie legislators who were looking to attach their name to a 2iece of landmark legislation.long-time Sumner staffers.
A silent 2artner.D The staff left the room and Tom 2icked u2 the 2hone. 1f she can get you to the growers. that’s all we care about. Ahat is it3D C. Trevino. There’s one more thing.D CAhat does she want3D CShe’s a real estate develo2er. She wants the same thing they all want. some good news. Arite the .D Richmond said. Iust something to get a 2roject off the ground. C1 forgot to tell you the good news. a long-term lease. stick around for a minute. whatever.s. CFinally. CTom. Richmond said.#efore the meeting finished. The city councilwoman3 1 think she’ll 2lay ball. Tom.D CFine with me.
Levin might know how to buy 2ot. but the kid was just here trying to fi$ my 2rinter and 1 didn’t understand a damn thing he said. Ae want to lock u2 as many 8umboldt strains as we can. you’re going to have to find a way to get to her. Iust knock on her damn door with a wad of cash if you have to. That’s why we sent you.D CThat’s what 1 thought. 1’ll meet with her and her contractor and get it going. 1 can’t have him talking to her.D CShe friends with the old lady3D C1 don’t think so. Ae want her growing methods.check. Remember. and a soil sam2le. :ou go out there and have your little garden club meeting with the . we don’t just want the 2lant.D CAell. (dith Ratner doesn’t seem to 2al around with the rest of the growers.
(njoy your vacation.D As Tom hung u2. Ae’ve got a boatload of 2atents to 2ush through before )ongress goes back into session. #ut come to think of it. . #e sure and get in some surfing while you’re out there.lady. that’s great.D C1 told you. Richmond could hear him laughing at the idea of a Lentucky tobacco e$ecutive on a surfboard. and get your ass back here. Richmond.ight not be such a bad idea to catch some waves before he left )alifornia. This hasn’t been as easy as we thought it would be. Iust take your time.D CAell. . he hadn’t set foot on the beach since he got there.
B 1 hate the beach. BAith 2icnic tables and barbecue 2its3 1 thought this was )alifornia.D .D B:ou do know that 2eo2le come here on vacation just to go to the beach.thirt"#ei ht =e$ was not e$actly entranced by Richmond6s invitation to meet him at the beach. BAren’t there beaches around here3B Richmond said.B CSo what.B B1t6s not that )alifornia. you 2eo2le don’t go to the beach3D he asked. BAhat beach3B she asked with scorn in her voice.
D Richmond said. 16m buying. Todd was one of the latest in a cro2 of young 2rogressives that got elected on a 2latform that favored indoor agriculture over timber. Todd =arson. all right. :ou can eat over2riced seafood and look at the beach.D =e$ hung u2 just as one of her fellow councilmembers. C)an you bring your contractor3B B8e’ll come as long as you6re buying. 1t6s cold out there. and regularly called for articles of im2eachment . if you want to see water. dro22ed by her office.B BSounds good. sought to ban chain stores from the city. =ook. 16ll take you to the other tourist tra2.C4ot here they don’t.B B"h. The !acific "cean is like a giant air conditioner that never shuts off.
and there was always some young activist who would have no trouble living on the so-called sti2end offered to councilmembers in lieu of a real salary for a few years. Todd had stuck around longer than most. Todd . making the election about the number of 2lants the <A should allow medical marijuana 2atients to grow. easily winning re-election against a retired 2olice officer who thought that getting his friends at Rotary out to vote would be enough of a mandate to swee2 him into office.or charges of war crimes to be drawn u2 against the !resident. This 2latform was an easy 2ath to victory in 8umboldt )ounty. Todd stuck to the scri2t. This 2ut the retired co2 in the uncomfortable 2osition of staking out the conservative 2osition at ten 2lants.
Re0uiring that twenty-five 2ercent of all city e$2enditures be made with community currency. She didn’t just funnel money to them through her bundled donations to 8umboldt =egal7 she also acted as a kind of den mother. advising them on 2rocedural matters and encouraging them to 2ursue their more farfetched 2ro2osals. a system of wooden nickels that was su22osed to function as an alternative economy3 Sure. and a solid two-thirds of the electorate agreed with him.insisted that no fewer than a hundred 2lants 2er 2atient would do. .aking 2ro2erty ta$es voluntary3 )ould work. why not3 . =e$ liked these kids. #anning all military flights in and out of 8umboldt )ounty3 Aorth a try.
allowing little or no time for discussion of 5oning changes. revisions to ordinances. budgets. or other dry business that no one but her and a cou2le of other grown-u2s on the council understood anyway. meaning that little or no investigative journalism got done. They also ke2t the media entertained.She liked these kinds of initiatives because they consumed the entire 2ublic comment 2eriod during council meetings.B . :ou6ve been working on this deal as long as 16ve known you. B1 know better than that. So she was sur2rised when Todd leaned in her doorway and said that he wanted to talk to her about real estate. C4ot e$actly my area of e$2ertise. Todd.D she said.
B1t6s a family 2roject. :ou and your friends came into office on an anti-develo2ment 2latform.B Todd said. #ut don6t worry about it. and 1 know better . 1t6s a little row of condos with tiny little retail s2aces on the ground floor. that6s why 16m here. 16m about as far out of the loo2 on this deal as anybody could get. There’s a wooden dock. B:ou6re going to need the whole council behind you on this 5oning thing. And so far our little 2rogressive slate hasn6t e$actly rallied around the idea of 2utting a sho22ing center on the waterfront.B =e$ reali5ed that she was giving him her standard media talking 2oints.B B1t6s not a sho22ing center. and 1 can6t vote on the 5oning changes. 1t’s cute. BAell. 1 can6t be involved in the 2lans. A sidewalk cafW.
1t6s just that 16ve s2ent si$ years on the council.D =ately. This 2roject will either ha22en or it won6t. B1 don6t mean it to sound like that. She reached around him and 2ushed her door closed. =e$ was starting to reali5e that it 2robably wasn6t going to ha22en. B"kay.than to try to change your mind. 16ve got to get a real . astonished. :ou6ve always been really good to me. and 1 kind of forgot to finish u2 college before 1 ran that first time. well let6s just say it did ha22en. BTodd3 1s this what 1 think it is3B 8e looked down at his feet. right3 Somebody to get the 2lans through design review and 2ush some 2a2ers around3B =e$ looked u2 at Todd. 1 can’t afford to kee2 doing this forever. :ou6re going to need a 2roject manager.
but ---B .1 don6t know. but what e$actly am 1 0ualified to do3 So 1 thought maybe if 1 could get on a 2roject like this. and 16m sure they6ll watch the vote closely and remember who their friends are.D C<oes that mean you’re not running again3D =e$ asked. so Todd3 :ou understand that 1 can’t 2romise you a job in e$change for a vote. IustHanything. 1’ll finish out my term.B B"kay. )onsulting or -. and then 16ve got to come u2 with something else. it6s nice of you to want to su22ort my family6s 2roject in which 1 have no role whatsoever. right3 1 mean.job eventually. C!robably not. it might lead to something else.
B1 know what you6re trying to say. =e$.D .B CTook you long enough. 1 get it. <on6t worry. 16m starting to figure out how things work around here. 1t6s all right.
#ut a22arently reservations were out of vogue in 8umboldt )ounty.thirt"#nine The Shoreline .rill was unusually busy for a . She motioned to <on. who was nursing a beer in the bar while he waited for a familiar face. Richmond was in the habit of making dinner reservations every time he ate out. . said the magic words. even if he had to call from the car on the way over. =e$ joined him a few minutes later. and was seated immediately.onday night. A crowd of 2eo2le waiting near the entrance for their tables watched with astonishment as Richmond walked u2 to the hostess stand.
<on. This is 2retty much the only restaurant in town that o2ens on . C. Bthat6s just fine with me.ondays. this is where they end u2B BAell.<on e$tended his hand as he sat down.D Richmond said. 8e decided that he didn6t care. looking down at the menu. too. B1 forgot it was .D =e$ frowned.D he said. . so if anybody wants to go out to eat. C<on )antrell. C!o2ular 2lace.onday night. 8e liked his fish fried.lad you could join us.B 8e wondered if =e$ was going to tell him that all the fish was fro5en here. and it didn6t 2articularly matter to him what ha22ened to the creature before it landed in the dee2 fryer.D said Richmond.
=e$ leaned across the table. <on.D <on said with mock seriousness.B Richmond said. .B B1t6s all right. CThe pro7e t.D C"hhhhh. but 1 had to leave my 2lans in the car.B =e$ said. That6s all we need. B16m not really the 2lans guy anyway. :ou can shi2 a co2y back to =ouisville before we close the deal. CRichmond’s interested in coming in on the 2roject. B1 can6t really go flashing them around with so many 2eo2le in here.B:eah.D she said 0uietly. C)lose the deal3D he said. C1 didn’t get a chance to fill you in today.B <on looked u2 from the role he was buttering.D CThat’s right.D =e$ said.
. =e$ asked <on to describe the 2roject to Richmond7 <on muttered about s0uare footage and infrastructure im2rovements and 2arking s2aces and roofing materials until their dinner arrived.<on looked at both of them for a minute and then leaned in as =e$ had done.Bapproval for the 2roject3B BAe had some very good news about that earlier today. B<o we have B --he 2aused as if he was searching for the right word --.B =e$ said. so 0uietly that she was almost mouthing each word. A waiter arrived and they ordered their dinner. and Richmond nodded as if he cared about any of this. 8e waited until they had each made reasonable 2rogress on the slabs of marine life 2laced in front of them before he brought u2 the issue that was really on his mind.
BSome 2eo2le like to kee2 their s2ending off the record. And there was an astounding amount of actual cash Richmond was sur2rised to see how often 2eo2le still resorted to 2a2er money in (ureka. 8e asked the guy who owned the coffee sho2 across the street about it. (verybody in (ureka knew that the bookstore was ke2t afloat by something other than the sale of anti0uarian books. and the man just said. but no one had sto22ed to consider e$actly how much money must be running through the <ragon6s cash drawer.illion <ollar #ookstore article in the "hroni le with ama5ement. he had read that the so-called . =ike everybody else in town.B .D he said.B8ey. 1 went into that famous bookstore today. That 2lace was driving him cra5y.
B he said. Ahat were they thinking3 BThey breathing a lot of fire down there today3B <on said. All these kids had to do was lay low and cash the checks. and for what3 The store was 2rofitable. . they had told the re2orter that they were going to s2ark a national revival in reading and return the book to its rightful 2lace on the shelf. Richmond laughed. B:ou know.#ut why would the new owners want to send out a 2ress release and broadcast their store’s unusual financial 2osition3 A business like the <ragon usually tried to kee2 a low 2rofile. 1nstead. 1 didn6t even get that until just now. The owners ran the risk of attracting auditors and co2s.
aybe you can e$2lain something else. BAhat is it.od6s name do those 2eo2le stay o2en3 Ahere 1 come from we6ve got co2s 2ulling ditch weed out of the gullies. 16ll tell you.BAell. that6s why you got me. B16m here to e$2lain things tonight. . <on.B Richmond said. 1t was a lot easier to deal with =e$ when there was another man at the table. and those are just old wild hem2 2lants that can6t do anything to anybody. BAell Rich. why don6t the co2s close them down3B <on dro22ed his na2kin on the table and leaned back in his chair. B.B <on said. Rich3B B8ow in . 1f everybody around here knows what6s going on.B 8e was on his second beer and starting to enjoy himself.
Rich3B <on said. B1 don6t know if you6re aware of this. BAnd the other thing. she6d be in trouble. . it occurred to her that if he ever thought about running for city council. . 1n fact. but the 2roducts that the <ragon sells is a little unusual. "ur co2s had to go begging to the state just to get a little money to set u2 a sobriety check2oint on a Saturday night.There6s a cou2le of things going on. drunk drivers.e$ican drug cartels setting u2 o2erations in the redwoods and leaving guns and tanks of fertili5er and diesel out there. (ntire a2artment com2le$es turned over to indoor grow o2s. . The first is that the co2s have bigger 2roblems. 8ell.B =e$ stayed 0uiet during all of this. even. <on was doing just fine on his own.eth labs.
B she said. . The <A that 2rosecutes the <ragon will never get re-elected in this town. Aho is this woman3 (dith3B =e$ jum2ed in.D CAell.1t6s very 2o2ular. B(dith Ratner is an e$traordinary gardener.B he said. B:ou now.D Richmond said. B1t6s interesting that you bring that u2. 1 wonder what e$actly makes the <ragon6s 2roduct so unusual. C#ut you must have heard something. CAe wouldn’t know.D <on said.B <on and =e$ looked at each other over their water glasses. summer solstice. Jcourse not.D Richmond saw his o22ortunity. BAe’re res2ectable citi5ens here. 1 work for a com2any that sells smoking 2roducts. BShe and Sy used to hold all these ama5ing 2arties in that garden. (aster egg hunts.
i5mo came along. 1 sus2ect somebody shi22ed it to her with an orchid from Thailand or something like that. .B =e$ said. leaning back so the waiter could clear his 2late and hand him a dessert menu. B"h. :ou could get lost in the garden. She grew things nobody could grow. All kinds of tro2ical 2lants and rare flowers from the 8imalayas. you name it. you know3 #ut when the . one just started to re2lace the other. it was a real bookstore. B(dith and Sy used to just share the harvest with their friends.8alloween. 4obody knows how she does it.B BSo the <ragon never really was a bookstore3B Richmond said. but she6s friends with 2lant hunters all over the world. And nobody knows where she got that 2articular 2lant but she6s so famous for.
the less anybody sees of her.B 4ormally Richmond would have a 2iece of 2ie for dessert. "ne day we looked around and reali5ed books had gone straight to hell.B . 8e and <on each ordered a glass of bourbon7 at the last minute =e$ decided to join them. "ver time we all just acce2ted that they had found another way to stay in business.B =e$ said. but he noticed that nobody in )alifornia ate dessert7 they drank it.B Richmond said. BShe and 1 are kind of in the same business. B1 sure would like to meet (dith.:ou almost didn6t notice it ha22ening. She6s not a fool. but the <ragon still ke2t the lights on somehow.B B.ood luck with that. BThe more she grows.
B . #ut the 0uestion is.B <on said. 8is wife was 2robably in bed by now. 1 guess she’s even friends with Sumner Tobacco now.<on was leaning back in his seat. <on. 8e raised his glass to =e$ and drank it down. BIust like you. wishing he had a cigar. 8ell. 8e yawned and looked at his watch. B16m here to make a deal. =e$ie here will set you u2. CShe’s got all kinds of friends. B:ou want to meet some growers. Richmond looked at him evenly for a minute.B Richmond said. 8e took the last si2 of his own drink and set it on the table. why are you friends with her. Rich3 Ahat on earth does a guy like you want with a little condo 2roject like this3D <on was drunk and feeling a little 2rotective of =e$.
fort" . )rawford sat behind the counter with a stack of inde$ cards. writing recommendations for the half-do5en staff 2icks =ewis told him to choose. 8e was working on a window dis2lay to celebrate the author6s birthday. knee-dee2 in a 2ile of Iohn <. =ewis stood just inside the front door. Sy had some 2retty nice 2ieces of anti0ue furniture in the store7 once they6ve .ac<onald 2a2erbacks. .artPn walked across the street to see how the <ragon was faring under its new regime. .uillermo looked around the 2lace with amusement.uillermo . 1t was starting to look like a real bookstore again.
book-binding. The ends of each bookcase had once been blanketed with the curling the remnants of yellowed news2a2er cli22ings lamenting the demise of bookstores. 2robablyH had scra2ed them off and re2laced them with framed 2rints from the <ragon’s e$tensive collection of 0ueer old engravings. =ike wood 2olish and clean 2a2er. SomeoneH=ewis. blood-letting. B=ooks nice. all 2rinted shortly before the demise of news2a2ers.B .been cleared of junk and 2olished. honey-gathering. they actually gave the 2lace a kind of nostalgic glow.uillermo said to no one in 2articular. (ach one de2icted some obscure and long-lost 2rofession mead-making. . 1t even smelled better.
Sure. !eo2le are always going to need their caffeine fi$. <id you see our article in the "hroni le3D B1 did. their coffee.D =ewis said.ade me think maybe 1 was in the wrong business.B said .B .CThanks. alarmed.B C"h. CAe’re 2retty e$cited about seeing what we can do with this 2lace.B B"h yeah.uillermo. . B:ou’re turning into 0uite a celebrity. 8e looked at )rawford. C!eo2le are always going to need their fi$. Surely =ewis wasn6t in on it already.D CTheir what3D .ac<onald 2a2erbacks.uillermo said. . B8ow much are these3B . 1 don’t know.uillermo 2icked through the Iohn <. B:ou know.D =ewis said.
uillermo said.B .B =ewis said. yeah a while ago. trying out his new role as bookseller.B BAell. =ewis. =ooks like we’ve got a com2lete set.B . we6ve got a whole stack of signed )arl 8iaasens 16m about to bring out. 1 think . without taking his eyes off )rawford. so if you like him---D C16ll check that out. :ears ago.BFive bucks.ac<onald was one of his influences. BAe must have had some real collectors u2 here. 2robably. followed him to the counter.uillermo 2icked two off the floor and took them over to )rawford. once you6ve worked your way through those. 8e was fascinated . B8ave you read his stuff before3B =ewis asked. B"h ---uh.
B(s2ecially those vintage 2a2erbacks. B1t6s kind of nice to read them on 2a2er again. .D =ewis said. They were both ignoring =ewis. BThere you go. There it was that faintly herbal smell that meant that (dith was still in business. =ewis stood right ne$t to him.B )rawford took ten bucks from . . C8uh.uillermo held the bag u2 to his nose and breathed dee2ly. That’s what everybody says.B he said.B he said to =ewis as he 2ulled his nose out of the bag. isn6t it3B =ewis said. man.uillermo slid his books into a bag.by the kind of sleight-of-hand involved in o2erating the <ragon under its new ownershi2. B1 love the smell of old books. They6ve got such great covers.
he couldn’t honestly say whether anyone was actually going home and reading them. 8e was trying to be a good bookseller by remembering his customers’ tastes and looking for books they might enjoy based on their 2ast 2urchases. wondering if she might also enjoy Lent 8aruf’s trio of novels about a small town in )olorado. 8e 2ulled out obscure histories of )alifornia’s gold rush and set them out alongside =arry .fort"#one Although =ewis was enjoying the business of 2utting books into 2eo2le’s hands. 8e’d sent a woman home with an Anne Tyler novel and asked how she liked it ne$t time she came in.
. figuring someone would go for them.c. ho2ing to create some kind of synergy between readers of Aestern fiction and Aestern history. so he 2ut them all out on dis2lay together. and (mily was an avowed techie who read incessantly. in the store. There were a do5en co2ies of "at h:.urtry and Annie !roul$. but =ewis had never once seen her get through an entire cha2ter of anything. So really. but only in small doses. =ewis wasn’t much of a reader himself7 he hadn’t gotten lost in a book since that summer he s2ent with Sy as a 2reteen.. neither of them were suited for the job of selling books to book lovers. a novel he’d always meant to read.. #ut no one did. She could s2end hours catching u2 on email and Twitter and the blogs she read.
#ut =ewis never actually heard them talk about the books they were reading. So although =ewis had abundant evidence that books were still in demandHthe <ragon’s sales were humming along at a steady hundred thousand 2er monthHhe saw no sign of the kind .i5mos as anyone else.i5mo had caused books to sim2ly eva2orate. and )rawford took one home occasionally under the store’s liberal em2loyee lending 2olicy. And although )rawford railed against the way the .)rawford and . =ewis also noticed that both )rawford and . erasing them from 2eo2le’s lives and allowing most 2eo2le to sim2ly forget about them entirely.inger were as tethered to their .inger were a little better7 he’d see them 2aging through a book from time to time.
uillermo to bring over an urn every morning. Soon =ewis arranged for . 8e thought that 2erha2s he just didn’t understand bookish 2eo2le. no book clubs were forthcoming. that he had not yet learned to s2eak their language. urging his em2loyees to 2ost handwritten recommendations in every section. So far. #ut he 2ersisted in his attem2ts to make the <ragon o2erate more like a real bookstore. and 2osting a sign in the window encouraging book clubs to use the <ragon as their meeting s2ace. That seemed to be 2o2ular . collecting names and e-mail addresses for a newsletter he intended to write.of robust literary community he’d e$2ected to find. with com2limentary coffee and scones from )ontra )offee. but 2eo2le did come in and ask for the coffee.
And =ewis floated with it. The store just seemed to float along. real estate attorney . The few remaining bookstores around the country. "ET "F !R14T A4< "ET "F #ES14(SS TA" #""LST"R(S . she . Aith su22ort from her father. but =ewis couldn’t tell whether free coffee was hel2ing to sell books or not." #EST F#rooklyn. as if electronic books never e$isted. however. 8e could not believe his good fortune.eorge Alvare5. were not so fortunate.with the regulars. 4:G Alma Alvare5 2icked the wrong time to buy a bookstore.
took over the 2o2ular neighborhood bookstore "ut of !rint in #rooklyn6s . #ut after five years under new ownershi2. "ut of !rint has gone the way of bookstores everywhere. B1 think 2eo2le just assumed that 16d kee2 the 2lace afloat with family money. but it was never about that. B1 .reen2oint neighborhood just as the 2ublishing world was entering the digital age. working long hours in the store and founding a literacy 2roject in 2artnershi2 with neighborhood schools. Although the 2urchase was widely rumored to be a vanity 2roject for a wealthy society girl. Alvare5 2roved herself to be a dedicated bookseller.B Alvare5 said.
believed that there would always be a 2lace in #rooklyn for a bookstore. they’d better get used to it. 1 wasn6t going to kee2 it o2en for my own entertainment. #ut if the community wasn6t behind me. B!eo2le tell me they can6t imagine #oston without a bookstore.B 1f Iacobs sounds bitter.B #oston #ook )om2any’s )raig Iacobs also announced that he was closing his venerable old bookstore on 8arvard S0uare.B Iacobs said. BAell. Ahen 8arvard closed its libraries and reo2ened them as Cdigital learning centers.D Iacobs led a . it6s because he was one of the most ardent critics of the digiti5ation of books.
which aimed to demonstrate that the digiti5ation 2rocess resulted in the omission of 2ages. Iacobs also e$2ressed frustration over the failure of his <ead Tree Scholar 2roject. 1n the end.fund-raising effort to 2urchase and store the hundreds of thousands of volumes that would otherwise be recycled. only about R&.&&& books were saved. we’re losing valuable te$t. as well as the loss of multi2le editions of a book or 2eriodical which could contain significant differences.D he said. B1n the rush to digiti5e. and those may be headed to the landfill as well unless a donor comes forward to continue 2aying the storage fees. .
B =ewis 8artman.C#ut that seems to be a trade-off 2eo2le have been willing to make in favor of the enormous cost savings. . 16m just one 2erson7 1 can6t carry this myself any longer. e$2ressed dismay over the loss of the last two bookstores on the (ast )oast. owner of Seattle6s #lack and Ahite #ooks.ordon. only five bookstores remain o2en in the Enited States.B Aith the closure of #oston #ook )om2any and "ut of !rint. (laine . but said that she Bho2es that Aest )oast readers would kee2 the tradition of 2rinted books alive. the new owner of The Firebreathing <ragon in (ureka.
recently stunned the literary world with his recent announcement that his store was bringing in over one million dollars a year in book sales. BAe6re just a small store in a workingclass mill town. .B he said.D The other bookstore owners were not available for comment. Ae’re doing better than ever. Bbut 2eo2le here are still attached to the 2rinted 2age.)alifornia.
And that wife of his was obviously looking for an e$cuse to bail out. Ahy hadn’t she caught on3 !eo2le see what they want to see. but surely it couldn’t last much longer.inger. Sy’s ne2hew was not the brightest young man she’d ever met. (mily wanted money.fort"#two The news that two more bookstores had closed bothered (dith. She had 2ut u2 with this charade for the sake of )rawford and . =ewis wanted a bookstore. but even he would eventually figure out that the <ragon could not 2ossibly be succeeding as a real bookstore when all the others were failing. As .
inger climbed u2 into the crawl s2ace above her living room to string u2 some drying lines. C1’m sorry this has gone on so long. )rawford and 1 were talking about renting a s2ace somewhere.long as they were getting what they wanted. Ae can figure out a way for the store to 2ay for it--D . "ne sli2 was all it would take. . =ewis and (mily were getting to know 2eo2le in town. after (dith and . "ne night. looking down into (dith’s living room from the ladder. And (dith didn’t want to be around when they found out. they weren’t asking many 0uestions.D .inger finished their work. 1 2romise. C1t’s tem2orary. #ut surely this couldn’t last. (ventually someone would tell them.inger said.
D . Aithout Sy and his renters around here. And who do they go after3 The growers. it’s too much work for me. and 1 was lucky to have a sur2lus going when (mily and =ewis showed u2.D (dith said.C. do you3D . C:ou don’t really think you can kee2 this going. yeah. CThose kids could go to the feds. honey.D CAell.inger. #esides. a little crabbily. in case you hadn’t noticed. 1 could barely kee2 u2 with demand when 1 had hel2. This has become kind of a large-scale o2eration. 1 guess 1 thoughtH1 thought we were going to try to.inger climbed down and leaned the ladder against the wall. #ut this is all getting to be too much for me. CAell. nobody asked me.D (dith said. anyway.
what are you saying3D .inger asked. That was going to be his big accom2lishment. 8e used to always talk about how the <ragon would be the last bookstore in America.She eased down onto the couch. Sy felt like he was 2laying a trick on everybody. She hadn’t looked this bad since the funeral.inger reali5ed that she looked very tired and sort of shrunken.B she said. 1t was a lark. as if 2art of her had worn away. BAhen this thing started. . C1 don6t love doing this. sitting down ne$t to her. it was just me 2utting a cou2le of 2lants in the garden. (dith couldn’t bring herself to look at her. C(dith. She looked down at her hands as she s2oke. 1 don6t think it even bothered him that he wasn6t e$actly . And then it became the thing that ke2t the bookstore o2en.
1’ve enjoyed having your com2any these days. B16m out.inger asked. C<on6t you think it would be kind of cool to give Sy what he wanted3 . Ae could get you some hel2.ive the <ragon another si$ months. BAhat3 Ahen were you going to tell us3B . That made it a bookstore.inger. 2eo2le were 2aying him money and taking books home.B CSo isn’t that enough of a reason to kee2 it u2 a while longer3D .B (dith shook her head. .selling books anymore. "nce these are gone. As far as he was concerned. but-B She couldn6t bring herself to look u2 at . .inger. and it might just be the last bookstore. 1’m sure we could hire somebody you could trust.B she said.inger was stunned. B1 haven6t started any new 2lants. that6s it.
D . 4ow.D CAellHwhat are we going to do. #esides. 8er eyes were wet and gray.B (dith finally looked at . CAe ke2t this u2 much longer than we should have. Sy found it in the bookstore shortly after he bought the building7 it was most likely a holdover from the . The last thing 1 want is some college kid messing around in my garden.inger.inger.B1 guess 16m telling you right now. before they find out.D she said. C!lease tell me you6ve got something else to do besides this. And don’t tell me to hire somebody to hel2.inger 2ut her chin in the 2alm of her hand and looked u2 at the enormous oak-framed mirror that hung on the wall o22osite. . 1t’s time to go. 1’m tired and my heart doesn’t work right anymore. then3D C"h.
two ho2eless and de2ressed 9ictorian-era s2insters.<ragon’s days as a saloon in the fifties. . neither of whom had any idea what they might do ne$t with their lives. The mirror was so tarnished and yellowed that she and (dith looked like figures from another era.
=ewis e$2ressed no interest in seeing their old home one more time7 he was already . As a sort of com2romise. She was still not convinced that =ewis was ca2able of running a bookstore.fort"#three 1t was with great reluctance that (mily agreed to drive back to San Iose and 2ack u2 their things. for a while at least. Something like that might work. #ut eventually she’d want to get back to the city. she had been eying the new condominiums that were 2ro2osed for the waterfront. She couldn’t imagine living in (ureka forever. or that Sy’s run-down old house was the right 2lace for them.
she needed a little time by herself. The lease was u2 on their townhouse anyway7 they might as well give it u2 and look for something better after this bookstore situation was resolved.ado2ting Sy’s mindset that nothing outside (ureka mattered. As (mily got closer to civili5ation. And she was looking forward to getting back to the city for a few days. she found herself shrugging off the s2ell of 8umboldt . The truth was. This worried (milyHwould they ever take another vacation3Hbut she had agreed to collect their furniture and set u2 cam2. at least tem2orarily. 1t was a si$-hour drive back to the #ay Area. She took a handful of bills from the cash drawer and told =ewis she’d hire movers to hel2 her 2ack their things. in (ureka.
nothing seemed to have been 2asted in from some mysterious time in the dim 2ast. with curbs and kiosks and doorways that formed shar2 right angles. the .)ounty as if it had been a dream. As she leaned against the car and waited for her tank to fill. 1t was all of a 2iece. 1t was so bright and clean. she looked with wonder at the sho22ing center across the street. nothing leaned im2robably to the left. The sun was getting low in the west7 as she watched. this sho22ing center. Aere they really going to give u2 their condo and 0uit their jobs for a bookstore3 And live in that run-down old house among all the dusty old movie 2ro2s that =ewis refused to throw away3 She sto22ed for gas in San Rafael. built to suit and functioning e$actly as it was intended. 4othing crumbled.
1t was as if they were pretendin. The closer she got to San Iose. she was sur2rised at the lack of browsing and bookish talk. (mily smiled. to be customers in a bookstore. They would just 2ull something off the shelf and take it to the counter. (mily had the unsettling feeling that she was watching a 2lay. . barely even glancing inside. 1t was magical. 8ow on earth could a 2lace like that bring in the kind of money that was recorded in the ledger3 =ike =ewis. Several times over the last few weeks. 2eo2le at the <ragon seemed not to know how to buy books. the less the bookstore made sense to her. 1n fact.signs in the drugstore and the su2ermarket and the dry cleaner and the Thai restaurant all lit u2 at once.
on the other hand. 8e’d juggle his books along with the remote . and then the 3aily Sho!. bringing stacks of 2residential biogra2hies and 2o2ular histories back to Sy’s house at night.=ewis. There was the news to watch. 8e acted as if he had taken u2 reading again. and then a movie or an e2isode of The %ire or a research 2roject on the 1nternet concerning the handling of author events or merchandising or inventory control. and that the <ragon was destined to survive des2ite the neartotal annihilation of books from the culture. (mily had never known him to sit u2 in bed and read. in all his bookish fervor. he never made it through more than a 2age or two at a time. and even now. seemed to be taking it on faith that his uncle Sy was somehow uni0ue among bookstore owners.
1t needed a 2aint job. but she knew it amounted to several hundred thousand dollars. a new sign. each com2eting for his attention until he fell aslee2 among his distractions.control and the la2to2. The store was bringing in some money. but both the building that housed the <ragon and Sy’s house were so run-down that it would be im2ossible to borrow . some high-end fi$tures and lights. and 2ossibly a new roof. a national ad cam2aignH (mily couldn’t kee2 track of everything on his list. =ewis believed that if the store was raking in over a million dollars in its 2resent disheveled state. it could bring in twice that after he fi$ed it u2. a renovated children’s section com2lete with toys and a 2lay structure. Then would come a com2uter system.
and. not to mention the fact that they were sim2ly dro22ing out of their careers. 8e wouldn’t hear . to tell the truth. And they still had their own debtHinsane debt fueled by 2ricey vacations and over2riced furniture. even with the <ragon’s substantial income. #ut she was trying not to mention her doubts to =ewis. She couldn’t e$2lain it to her friends.money against them. 4one of this would bother (mily if she had any idea why the <ragon was so insanely successful. she didn’t 0uite believe it herself. how much trouble they’d managed to get in financially since college. Add to that the loss of their health insurance. cars that died before they were 2aid offHit was ridiculous. They were 2utting themselves out on a limb financially. deferred student loans. really.
for a little electronic bee2 to greet her when she got home. com2lete with a knob that re0uired no s2ecial trick to o2en it and an alarm that chimed 2leasantly when she entered. it seemed so civili5ed. 2erfectly-sealed front door. Their condo looked like a museum dedicated to the 2reservation of their former life an oversi5ed Fand not-yet-2aid-forG media center . #y the time (mily got to their condo it was dark. but after just a few days away. 1t was im2ossible to talk to him about it. that heavy. and finally. the car2et of grass. She never thought she’d miss that chime. the well-lit car2ort Fshe missed arportsKG.any criticism of the store. 8ere were all the comforts that seemed so alien in (ureka the gated entryway. so wellmannered.
recessed lighting. 8ow’s the store3D C)ra5y.D C(verything "L there3D =ewis asked. a wine refrigerator and cocktail cart in the dining room. and a Aolf range. =ewis had asked her to call when she got there.that ran the length of the living room. C:eah. but before she could. 1t was all so shockingly new and orderly andHshe hated to think thisHno longer theirs. Ae did almost ten thousand dollars today. fine.D she said. C8ey. a kitchen loaded with develo2er’s e$tras granite counterto2s.D C%hat3D . co22er range hood. her 2hone bu55ed in her 2ocket. =ong drive. C1 just walked in.
aybe they were being bought as dWcor. CAho s2ends that kind of money on an encyclo2edia. a lawyer3 A judge3D C4o.D (mily 2ictured a bookshelf filled with matching sets of leather-bound books. CAhat was he. )an you believe that3D . Ae’ve got seven more sets in the back room. .D (mily sat down on the edge of their bed. )rawford had him meet him in the alley to load it into his car. =ewis3 Are they that rare3D C1 don’t think so. "ne guy bought a three thousand dollar encyclo2edia set from %M*M. he was a college student.C1’m serious.
D C1 don’t understand. 8e said 2eo2le actually say that a lot. but here’s the strange 2art. )rawford told me later that it was a sur2rise for his girlfriend and he didn’t have a 2lace to hide it. Cthat’s what 1 wondered.D C)rawford went to get a bo$ and he said not to bother. After he bought them3 8e wanted to leave them in the store.She traced the geometric 2attern on their beds2read with her finger as she thought about this.D =ewis said.D CAhy would he do that3D CAell. )rawford 2ractically had to beg him to take the books. CAnd that doesn’t seem strange to you3D C4o. 1f they’re buying a really . too.
they’ll ask us to hold onto it for a while. . She couldn’t say why. All these 2eo2le buying booksK )an you believe it3D (mily stretched out on the bed. JAhat have you got for about two hundred dollars3’ Turns out )rawford kee2s a whole bookcase just organi5ed by 2rice because so many 2eo2le come in looking for gifts like that. huh3 16ve seen 2eo2le come in and just ask for a book in a 2articular 2rice range.D CA college kid is going to sur2rise his girlfriend with a three thousand-dollar encyclo2edia set.D (mily felt ill. She loved this )alifornia king with its cris2 sheets and down 2illows and leather-covered headboard. C:eahHcra5y. like.e$2ensive book as a gift.
BAhat the hell is wrong with you.She bought it back in the days when life made sense to her. =ewis. Also. She wasn’t about to slee2 in Sy’s old bed. C1 can’t believe it. she was starting to reali5e that she was more attached to her whirl2ool tub and her granite counterto2s than she thought she was. She regretted the tone in her voice as soon as she said it. Tomorrow the movers would take it a2art and load it into the van she was renting. Ahat more could you want3B . She was tired and sarcastic and bitter. (mily3B CAhat3 1HB CAhy can’t you just be ha22y about this3 =ook at what’s ha22ened to usK This 2lace is a gold mine. And it just dro22ed into our la2s. 1 really can’t.D she said.
. and that was not easy to do.B=ewisK 4ot too long ago we lived here. <o you remember here3 1’m giving u2HB #ut that was it. 1t would cost her >/*.*+ and a tri2 to the . . 8e hung u2. The bright. Iust thinking about it made her feel better.i5mo store. (mily threw her 2hone across the room hard enough to crack the screen. shiny. 8e had never hung u2 on her before.i5mo store in the morning.
She ate lunch at her favorite 2lace . unnecessary accessories. because she wasn6t entirely sure that she was going back to (ureka. first to re2lace her 2hone.fort"#four (mily and =ewis had never fought like this before. she made two tri2s to the . She took an e$tra day to 2ack.i5mo store. although she didn’t really think of it as 2acking. She just wasn6t sure where. At first she enjoyed the silence.ostly she cleaned and organi5ed and 2ut some of her favorite things into bo$es with the e$2ectation that she would be taking them somewhere. and then to buy it a few shiny. Ahile she was in town. .
1f she was being 2erfectly honest. A day that would be im2ossible in (ureka.in =os . (mily would admit that although she loved =ewis when he was awake. She was doing 2retty well until she got into bed that night. and dro22ed in on a cou2le of design clients. She needed a warm body in bed with her more than she needed air to breathe. a day filled with mindless errands and small lu$uries. 1t was.atos. got her hair cut. She was a light slee2er who s2ent at least an hour or two every night awake and worrying over some 2etty fear -.that her com2uter would crash before she turned in her . She hated slee2ing alone. where there just didn6t seem to be any o22ortunity to fritter away money or time. in other words. one of his best 0ualities was his sim2le 2resence in bed at night.
she 2assed a terrible night alone. The only thing that got her back to slee2 was =ewis’s steady breathing ne$t to her.ne$t 2roject. She would never slee27 she would lose her mind7 she would fall to 2ieces. leaving her with an im2ossible choice to make. 8e was slee2ing. At some 2oint just before dawn. She had to call back three times before =ewis answered. she 2icked u2 the 2hone. she wouldn’t survive. damn him. or that she would find out that coffee causes cancer. (mily genuinely believed that if she ever had to live alone again. that she had left a candle burning in the bathroom. She would roll over and butt her head against his back. feeling the reassuring rise and fall of his rib cage. . And in fact.
D C1 did.o back to slee2. They’re 2acked.ackey’s in )hicago.B she said.B B16m sorry. Aait.D . See you soon. #ut first3 .D CIesus. That leaves four.B =ewis said when he answered. BSay it.B BAhich one3B B.BSay you6re sorry.B CSee if you can find those other shoes before you leave. =ewis.D C8ey. 16m sorry. <id you hear3D BAhat3B BAnother bookstore closed.D C:eah. She laughed.D C"kay. 16m sorry. B1 am.
8e was already meeting with contractors to start renovations at . back to whatever awaited her behind the redwood curtain and the blanket of fog beyond it. "nce she made the decision to go backHand had she ever really considered not going3Hshe had a lot of 2acking to do. she reali5ed that even stronger than her desire to be with =ewis was her desire to kee2 an eye on =ewis. As she drove. 2ast the sho22ing malls and the self-storage units. .D #ut she didn’t slee2. Soon she was once again driving northHacross the bridge. through the wine country.CAe’ll be fine. "ver the ne$t cou2le of days she 2icked u2 a moving van and enlisted the hel2 of a neighbor to load her bed and 2ack the remaining s2ace with bo$es.o to slee2.
. and just the 2lans were going to cost a fortune. The only 0uestion was how disastrously broke they would be when it all fell a2art.the store. This thing was not going to end well. she knew that.
She saw him sli2 a necklace into his .alway slid out of the bench in the back of the courtroom. The merchants in "ld Town were u2 in arms about this guy. C:ou live here3D .alway on her way out of the air2ort.a$ine Rogers landed in (ureka and called . where he had been live-blogging the trial of an unem2loyed auto mechanicturned-sho2lifter. The 2olice had been unable to sto2 him. C=ook at this 2laceKD she shouted into the 2hone. but he had finally been brought to justice by a s2irited young woman working in a dress sho2 around the corner from the <ragon.fort"#five .
Actual cowsKB BAell.D .alway said when he got out into the hallway. BThey like to hang out with the cows.alway. B!robably egrets. yeah. BThere are cows on the side of the road. BAhat were you e$2ecting3B . B1 don6t know. jum2ing on him hard enough to knock him down and shatter his kneeca2.B CThis is unbelievable. it6s dairy country u2 here. 1t was the most e$citement "ld Town had seen in months.a$ine said. BAnd what are those big white birds3B she said.2ocket and she chased him down the street.B he said.B he said. but not thisKB . .
BAell.D .B he said. anyway3D C1’ll tell you when 1 see you.eet me at the hotel tonight.alway said. 16m talking about a 2lace like this being the book ca2itol of the country. Ahich way to the bookstore3D .B she said. so the egrets ---B B4ot that.D CAhat are you doing here. CThe cows kick u2 a lot of bugs when they gra5e. C<inner’s on me.C4ot really.B he said. B. BAhere are you3B she said. you 2robably just drove through it. judging from how long we6ve been on the 2hone. B16m at the courthouse. There better be some thriving cosmo2olitan downtown 1 just haven6t seen yet.D she said.
a$ine kind of liked the 2lace.CRight on Fifth. The fog had rolled in and settled over (ureka. #ut something about this 2ersistent marine layer suggested unem2loyed mill workers with meth labs in the basement. 4othing like low-hanging grey clouds to make a town looked discouraged.a$ine thought. not second home buyers with cash to burn on obsolete technology.D . Sunshine seems to invite 2ros2erity. she could see million-dollar beachfront cottages occu2ied by 2eo2le who bought books just to have them around for character. . 1f this 2lace were brighter and warmer. #ut for some reason.ost of the town6s original 9ictorian .a$ine found her way into "ld Town and 2arked a cou2le of blocks from the store.D C.ot it. . .
The kind of ashtray a 2erson owned used to say something about them. for life of her. She stood and looked fondly at them for a long time through the window. like books. Around the corner. for some reason. which .architecture was still intact. There was a yarn sho2 that also sold vintage buttons and sewing machines and. a sign written in faded black Shar2ie in the window of a coin sho2 .a$ine found sur2risingly com2elling. old ty2ewriters and colorful 2lastic ashtrays. which gave the bakeries and the beauty 2arlors a little more charm than they would have otherwise had. but . remember what.a$ine could not. reali5ing that ashtrays. had left 2eo2le6s homes so 0uietly that no one even noticed they were gone.
She headed for an armchair in the 2sychology section. (very store in this town seemed to sell little everyday objects that 2eo2le no longer used. ringing 2eo2le u2 0uickly and 0uietly. A guy who looked vaguely familiar to her stood behind the counter. .ost of them looked around for . 8ow long had it been since she6d been in a coin sho23 1nside. hundreds of coins were encased in their cardboard and mylar sleeves as if they had been 2reserved in wa$. .a$ine sli22ed into the <ragon without making eye contact with anyone.aybe it wasn6t so far-fetched that a bookstore could stay o2en here. where she could watch how the store o2erated without calling attention to herself. She noticed that most 2eo2le didn6t venture very far into the store. .offered to 2ay to2 dollar for gold.
She remembered an e$ecutive from a big bookstore chain telling her once that most of the books on the shelves were just there as decoration.just a few minutes.B he told her as a way of e$2laining why he wasn6t too worried about 2eo2le downloading classic literature onto their 2hones. (verything else is just wall2a2er. B Ae sell the books in the center aisle. she thought most retailers 2ut their most 2o2ular sections within easy reach. This wasn6t too sur2rising. bought it. BAe never did actually sell Shakes2eare. .B 8e was laid off two weeks later. 2icked u2 a book near the counter. A scruffy-looking woman in her early twenties came in dragging an e0ually scruffylooking child. and got on their way.
D the woman said.D said the guy behind the desk.D The kid looked at them both in astonishment. at the same time the guy behind the counter said. C:ou don’t. CAhat3D the kid asked.CAhat is this 2lace3D the kid asked. C#ookstore.D the guy said again. but you have to bring them back. where she whis2ered something to the . not moving from the entryway. CTo read. At a library. C1t’s a library. CThese books are all for sale. looking u2 at the woman who brought him here. C#ookstore. The woman dragged him to the counter.D BAhy do we have to take them home3B the kid wailed.D the woman said im2atiently. you can take books home.
Then he looked over and noticed . but she couldn’t hel2 herself.a$ine sitting in the chair.clerk.D the guy behind the desk called after her. and wrote u2 a ticket. And she didn’t even glance at the book. She smiled. and 2ull the kid out of the store. 8e turned around. CSee you ne$t week.lan e at it. stuff it in a sort of woven !eruvian bag she wore on one shoulder.a$ine watched her take the bag. <idn’t even .D he said. She hadn’t intended to say anything. . Two hundred dollars. Ahat was a woman like that doing buying a two hundred dollar book every week3 . C8ey. CRegular customer3D she asked. 2ulled a book off a shelf behind him.
8e straightened a stack of 2a2ers on the desk and then looked u2 again. . CIust reading.D .a$ine had the strange feeling that she had caught him doing something he wasn’t su22osed to do. holding u2 a tattered book of affirmations for alcoholics that she’d 2ulled off the shelf at random.D she said.e3 4o. CAre you looking for anything in 2articular3D C.8e looked 0uickly back down at the counter.
BSince you6ve become newly educated on the benefits of back door 2olitics.or. 16m sorry about that. She and Todd =arson sat on a 2ublic safety subcommittee together7 before the meeting she 2ulled him aside.B she said. B"h man. on the 2romise that <on )antrell made on her behalf -. =e$. 16ve got a favor to ask.to arrange a meeting with some growers for Richmond. 1 shouldn6t have said anything to you. .fort"#six 1t didn’t take long for =e$ to make good on her 2romise -.B he said. rather. 16ve been feeling bad about that whole thing.
B:ou6re in. Todd. 8e still had this boyish curly hair and big brown eyes that managed to look sincere when he was a2ologi5ing. don6t worry about that. BReally3B he whis2ered.Ahat a cute kid.B Todd looked over his shoulder as if he was worried that a security camera was 2icking u2 this conversation. knocking over a chair in the hallway outside the council chambers. 1t6s fine.B he said when his ga5e finally returned to hers. =e$ just smiled and waited for him to settle down.B she said. Ae6ll 2ut you on the 2ayroll. B"f course.B . B"h. BSorry. =e$ thought.B 8e took an awkward ste2 back. B1 guess 16m a little 2aranoid.
B16ve got a friend who would like to meet some of your friends. And you know that my 2lans for develo2ing the waterfront de2end u2on the idea that tourists are going to come u2 here to do something that they can’t do right . BThis guy is behind a big legali5ation effort.B Todd eased into a chair. 1 don6t know. B1 have a friend in town who is a botanist.B B"h. =e$.B"kay. in a low voice. 1t occurred to =e$ that this might be more 2olitical intrigue than the kid could handle. 8e wants to meet some growers.B =e$ said. .B B=ook. She sat down ne$t to him and said.uch bigger than what we can do here in 8umboldt. 1t6s hard to get close to those guys. S2eaking of kee2ing things 0uiet.B she said.
Iust then. against his better judgment. called a few of the slightly less 2aranoid growers he knew and arranged for them to sit down and answer a few 0uestions from a man he knew only as Richmond the botanist. 4o names. . B=et6s set this u2. just a conversation.B =e$ said as she stood u2. B1t6s just a bunch of friends getting together.now. This guy can hel2 us get there. their committee was called into session.B So Todd.D Todd 2ressed his li2s together and looked down at his hands. no 2hotos. 8e just wants a meeting.
halfdreadlocked hair. there wasn’t much to be afraid of all five of the growers who had agreed to meet with him were soft. but he didn’t want to make it seem like he was afraid of these guys. And in fact. There seemed to be a dress code for 2ot growers. The growers Fand he didn’t even try to remember their names. with matching manes of curly. the easier it was getting to s2ot them. The more time he s2ent in town. overweight and 2ale.fort"#seven Richmond wanted to ask =e$ to go with him to the meeting. which all seemed to be . he reali5ed. 2asty young men.
They had been unable to agree on a meeting 2lace. and that got them e$cited enough to loosen u2 even more. The fact that Richmond was able to . Finally they settled on a 2ark near the waterfront. Richmond knew just enough about the science of growing 2lants to get a conversation going. They sat awkwardly on a 2icnic bench. 8e s2un a few tall tales of the legali5ation effort that would make them all rich. Richmond in his neatly-ironed dress shirt and the rest of them in their baggy sweats and old jeans. which made for an uneasy meeting.fake anyway7 names like Fire and !hoeni$ and Sky and RiverG were as frightened of Richmond as he was of them. rejecting various hamburger joints as too visible and refusing to host the meeting at any of their own grow houses.
he would have seen that the maroon car2et was just about threadbare and all the woodwork was fake. Richmond called his boss from the bar. but not so shabby that it de2ressed him to sit for hours and drink alone. he doubled it. windowless bar for killing time on a business tri2 just bland enough not to attract the locals. 1t was the 2erfect kind of dark. but the lights wouldn’t be turned u2. There were no obno$ious beer 2osters and . with the air of kids who had each been given a dollar and sent to the candy store. not ever. 1f the lights had been turned u2. #ack at the hotel.2ay whatever it took to get hold of a few 2lant sam2les didn’t hurt7 when they named their 2rice. casually. which meant that it was mostly em2ty. and the growers grinned at each other as they stuffed the cash in their 2ockets.
1’ve been talking to growers all afternoon. .y friend on the city council came through for me.no cocktail menus 2rinted by vodka distributors with e$otic names for the same si$ or seven mi$ed drinks 2eo2le had been drinking for a hundred years. Richmond felt entirely at home here.B he said when his boss answered the 2hone. BTom. did you3D Tom said. but the volume was off and the closed-ca2tion was on. A television above the bar was tuned to )44.D C:ou made some new friends. CAhat ha22ened3D C. this has 0uite 2ossibly been the longest day of my life.
and that just about got me killed.B BAell. 1t was stout and cold and there was not near enough of it. 1 will never understand how any of them manage to stay in business.B4ot e$actly. that6s about right. 8e reached for the bar menu. it6s not e$actly a business. 8e was going to be here a while.B B:eah. 1t6s more like a very lucrative obsession.B The bartender brought Richmond his beer. Rich. :ou know one of these kids uses twelve different kinds of nitrogen fertili5er in one grow cycle3 1 tried to tell him that the 2lant can6t tell the difference between one nitrogen molecule and another. . Those guys are cra5y.
Richmond couldn’t hel2 but si5e her u2 a little too skinny. no wedding ring. 1 want to hear about this.B:ou need to watch it.B B4o. Some . isn6t it3 1 should call you tomorrow.B Tom said. Iust let me close the door. no. These are actual drug dealers we’re talking about.B A woman slid onto a stool a cou2le of seats down from him. sleek black hair that hung artfully into her eyes. it6s late there. buddy. They were the kind of eyes you6d s2end a lot of money trying to frame with a good haircut iceblue !aul 4ewman eyes. Richmond could hear a baby crying in the background. B"h. She dra2ed her suit jacket across the stool ne$t to her and started digging around in her bag for a 2hone.
B BAell. These guys are convinced 16ve got the inside track on legali5ation ---B . everything’s for sale. B=ooks like 16ll be bringing back about a do5en strains.B Richmond said. B<id you get anything from these guys3B B1 got some 2lants. if that6s what you mean. B"kay.B Tom said. B1 didn6t think they6d give u2 their 2lants like that. either. after a muffled negotiation with his wife over bathtime. 8e could tell she didn6t belong in (ureka.B BReally3B Tom said.fragrance drifted over to RichmondHsomething cris2 and e$2ensive. more like the non-s2ecific but into$icating smell of new cars and new clothes than anything Richmond could 2articularly identify.
using reflective film .ood.B BAhich it isn6t.B C. So what are their grow o2s like3B BThey didn6t e$actly invite me over. Tom.B C($actly. Anyway.and that legali5ation is their ticket to 2ros2erity. all indoors.BAhich you do.B Tom said. #ut you know these 2eo2le. and that we needed some of the really high octane strains to 2lay around with in the laboratory so that we could come u2 with some high-but-reasonable limits that )ongress would sign off on. 1 told them that any legal 2roduct was going to have limits on T8) levels. They6re s2ending a hundred bucks on a single sodium light bulb. They6re into this cra5y mad scientist stuff. 1t6s all hydro2onic. B--. They want to hel2.
aybe it was the beer. BThey just burn twenty-dollar bills to kee2 the greenhouse warm3B Tom said. The woman at the end of the bar si22ed her )abernet and scrolled through e-mails on her 2hone. all that. 1f they ever had to kee2 track of their e$2enses and run a !X=HB B"h. 2um2ing the 2lace full of )"/.like wall2a2er. . that6s their strategy. BSoon enough. but Richmond was starting to think that he had seen her somewhere before.s. they will. Ratner3B .B Richmond gestured for another beer and 2ointed to the chicken wings on the bar menu. :eah. 1t6s what ha22ens when you run a cash business. B!retty much. Any 2rogress with .B Tom said cheerfully.
1t6s not e$actly Thailand u2 here. orHD C4o.B Richmond said. They don6t even try to kee2 u2. And they say it’s an everblooming strain. They all agree that she’s 2laying a com2letely different game. So the growers 2retty much leave her alone and let her do her thing. not that 1 can tell. her 2roduction is really limited. and the only thing they know about her techni0ue is that it should be im2ossible.D CThere’s no rivalry. These guys just worshi2 her from afar. 4obody has any idea where she got her 2lants. BThe thing is. She gets incredible yields for an outdoor o2eration in this kind of weather.B4ot really. kind of like a rose that . 1t6s very e$2ensive and there6s not much of it.
Tom. :ou managed to get hold of any of it yet3B Richmond 2aused and took a long drink of his second beer. 8er 2lants don’t wait until fall to 2roduce a cro2. There must be a secret 2assword.blooms all year.B B)ould be. 1 am headed back to (dith Ratner6s house tomorrow and 1 will get this done one way or another. "ur friends on the . 16ve been down at that bookstore every day.B B:eah.ood.B B. that’s what we kee2 hearing. Anyway. 1 can6t figure it out.aybe they figured you out.B B. B1 don6t know. 1 would just as soon not s2end another week here if 1 can avoid it. Turns out your legislative staff is a little too good at their jobs.
com. BAll right. disheveledlooking guy in a tattered leather jacket came u2 behind her. Ae need to get going on those 2atents now. B. a lean.a$ine Rogers.8ill are ready to move. CThis is going to sound like a line.D he said.B Richmond said distractedly.alway <aniels. C1umboldt 1erald. C.D . 4ile. holding out his hand to Richmond. but do 1 know you from somewhere3B She gave a little nod and held out her hand like a woman who was used to being recogni5ed.D he said. Tom. CAorking late3D she asked.B The woman at the end of the bar answered a call on her 2hone and then stood u2 to 2ay her tab.B #efore he could re2ly. CLind of. B16ll call you tomorrow.B She looked over at Richmond as he set his 2hone down.
B16m sorry. B1 was just introducing myself. C1’m nobody.D .a$ine jum2ed and turned around.D he said. C(njoy your dinner.B They looked each other over like e$-lovers and then turned back around to face Richmond. B..a$ine said. :ou are ---B A re2orter and a high-2rofile )(".B . 4ot e$actly the kind of 2eo2le Richmond should be talking to on the way to his third beer.alwayK At last.
8e was charming in that scruffy. garrulous way that long-time disgruntled re2orters could be.alway. C:ou’ve got to have a theory. 1 was just as sur2rised as you were. the downtown businesses are your beat. CAhen 1 saw that article in the "hroni le. right3D 8e shook his head.a$ine.fort"#ei ht . C)ome on.D she said. .alway. after warming him u2 with a scotch before dinner. but he had sur2risingly little to say about the newly-famous bookstore. 1 mean. A lot of 2eo2le love that store. . but 1’ve always sus2ected that they really just .a$ine was disa22ointed by her dinner with .
rural counties. #ut let me ask you why do 2eo2le out here still buy books3 1’ve got the data on rates of . <id you know that3D C8uh. #efore it was even on the list of last bookstores in America.love the idea of the store. you know3 =ike we’re su22osed to be this out2ost of art and literature.i5mo ownershi2 in this county. Sy always used to like to brag on the fact that it was the westernmost bookstore in the Enited States. 8e wanted to rail against the demise of the . 2eo2le treated it like it was something e$ce2tional. Aould 2eo2le here really rather sit around and read a book on 2a2er3D #ut . "kay.alway didn’t have any answers. 8umboldt’s not substantially different than a lot of other big.
com2lain about the ram2ant 2lagiarism in the news blogos2here. . as he always was in the 2resence of someone who looked like . as if she’d invited him to a strategy meeting instead of dinner.alway to be 2re2ared for this conversation. (ventually she dro22ed her line of 0uestioning . #ut . She e$2ected him to be da55led by her wealth or intimidated by her 2ower. rambling. which is to say that he was self-absorbed.alway treated . long-term investigations they used to.a$ine had been )(" long enough to have forgotten what it was like to talk to someone who wasn’t utterly deferential to her.news2a2er.a$ine. mildly flirtatious. She e$2ected . and. and worry over the inability of news organi5ations to conduct the kind of meaty.a$ine like he treated anyone else.
1f only he’d been a little less des2erate. he clutched it in a frantic. the night ended with an awkward. you-don’t-get-a-kiss-goodnight 2arting. To make things worse. clammy way and moved in for a hug. 8e had the ragged look of an aging rock star. 4o useful information. #ut when she offered her hand to say goodnight. 8e was one of those men who seemed oddly a22ealing if you didn’t get too close. That did it for her. it might have gone differently. and he smelled like leather and some old after-shave nobody wears anymore. which she managed to thwart by 2atting him on the shoulder while 2ushing him gently away. and a bad .and surrendered to the fact that she was stuck having dinner in a small town with a malcontented but talkative re2orter.
. Finally it was morning and there was a si$ a. she was feeling good. and now she was on her way to the bookstore. a reversible fleece in shades of charcoal and oatmeal. Ahat little interest she had in him eva2orated. Then breakfast.handshake. 8ood. For her tri2 into town.t. So she went to bed alone and s2ent a restless night wondering if anything would come of this tri2.a$ine wore what she ho2ed would be her most convincing =ost )oast tourist outfit a 2air of ultra-lightweight cargo 2ants that she usually only wore when she was hiking . 8er 2lan was to browse . 1n s2ite of the restless night. She was ready to make a deal. and her dressiest 2air of Tevas. yoga class in the hotel’s fitness center.m.
a stroll that took her 2ast a dila2idated mobile home 2ark held together with honeysuckle vines. then call the new owners and set u2 a meeting. and a string of low-rent motels. 1t was a da55ling morning on (ureka6s waterfront warm and windless. a metal fabricator. faintly redolent of seaweed.not much more than a swimsuit cover-u2 V and a 2air of gold high heels. with the sun hitting the side of every warehouse along the wharf and illuminating the wide 2lanks with their 2eeling 2aint. She didn’t want to a22roach them too 0uickly.the store one more time like a regular customer. !rostitutes3 1n . . because she still wasn’t sure e$actly what made the <ragon work.a$ine decided to walk from the hotel to the bookstore. A woman walked 2ast in a short black dress -.
4ot that she was judgingHshe told herselfHbut she was growing increasingly convinced that (ureka was an unlikely s2ot for what was soon to be the country’s last surviving bookstore.D 8e held out his hand. )rawford remembered her. The <ragon was com2letely em2ty when she walked in e$ce2t for the two em2loyees behind the counter.a$ine shook her head. That6s why he looked familiarK BAre you Richard )rawford3D she asked. She rounded a corner. and she was in "ld Town. too. C8ey. 2assed a cou2le of coffee sho2s. CThe writer3 :ou work here3 :ou’re a 2art of this thing3D .this little town3 . weren’t you in here yesterday3 1’m )rawford. one of whom she recogni5ed from the last time she was there.
The woman behind the counter laughed and walked off. but 1 don6t know if 1 want to take the blame for all this. Richard )rawfordK 8e came around the counter and stood with his hands in his 2ockets. She wasn’t sure green hair was becoming for a woman of any age.a$ine watched her go. 1 couldn6t believe it didn6t win the 4ational #ook Award.a$ine said.B C1 can6t believe it’s you.B he said. Aho was this mysterious and beautiful woman3 8e reali5ed that he might be in love with her. Bthat6s me. BAell. .B . never mind. trying to look modest. 1 loved The Retriever.B )rawford was too stunned to say anything. you were robbed. 1n my o2inion. but once you hit fortyHwell. B1 always wondered what ha22ened to you. .
or what3B )rawford stared at . oblivious to the effect she was having on him.a$ine continued. .. because 1 read the article about the new owners. one in which he behaved like the reclusive literary star she clearly believed he was.a$ine as she reeled off this alternative version of his life. right3 So you must have a lot to do with the fact that this 2lace is still around. or teach writing worksho2s. <o 2eo2le come in here to meet you3 <o they want to get their books signed3 <o you run some kind of literary series for the store. BSo 1 know you don6t own this 2lace. but they just got here. Finally he reali5ed that she was waiting for an answer.
=ewis had been in the store every day clearing the aisles and reorgani5ing.inger was not there to catch him lying to this woman. we6ve done --. you must be so 2roud of the success of this store. 8e knew that he sounded like an idiot. taking in the walls covered in books.C"h. 1t was now 2ossible to see the molding and other architectural details that had once been obscured.B )rawford said. B:eah.a$ine said. Ahat ha22ened3 . BAell. the aging chandeliers.B )rawford said.a$ine looked around again. the 2recarious banister. 8e used to know how to talk like a famous author. yes. it6s 2retty ama5ing.B . AhHwell. The building looked like an .things like that. glad that .
BSo. !eo2le bring all these needs and e$2ectations to a bookstore. which are like 2ro2s. B16m curious. Ahy do you think this 2lace has survived3 Ahat’s the secret3B 8e assumed this woman didn6t want to know the real secret. and everybody in the store is acting out a 2art. 1f .that6s this building --. B"ver the years 16ve learned that a bookstore is like a 2iece of theater. Surely he could come u2 with a 2lausible lie.old man who had been reminded to stand u2 straight. B1 think it6s the whole 2ackage. and maybe even get a date out of the deal.y secret3B B:eah.B he said.and you have the books. :ou have the set -. Ahat6s your secret3D )rawford had a lot of secrets.B she said. B.
She wasn6t really looking at him7 she was looking at the glow. 8e had forgotten all about the glow. you know. B"h.D . Somebody comes in looking for a do-it-yourself divorce book. you have to figure out how to be the kind of 2erson they want you to be.you6re working behind the desk. BAhat do you mean. )rawford had forgotten what it was like to have 2eo2le look at him like this. :ou 2ut on a little 2erformance.a$ine looked at him with wonder. 1t had been a long time. 2eo2le bring in their needs and e$2ectations3B she asked. and the 2erformance is different for every 2erson who walks in. and . That6s what he used to call the faint halo that a successful novel could give a 2erson.
Somebody comes in wanting to be treated like a big shot.D B<on6t some 2eo2le just want a good book to read3B )rawford shifted from one foot to the other and summoned a 2ained e$2ression to his face. . and you have to find a way to tell them that it6s only like a ten-dollar book.they can barely even whis2er it to you because they don6t want anyone to know. Somebody brings in an old book that6s been in the family forever and they think it6s worth a fortune. and they have to get all stoic and tell you they’d never want to sell it anyway. wanting the owner to take them in the back and 2our them some sherry and give them a thirty 2ercent discount on the rare first edition they’re 2robably not going to buy anyway.
This guy was brilliant. And if they do.B:ou mean --. 2eo2le come in here to feel bookish. somehow. . Ahat a marketerK BSo that6s what these books are.literary.inger returned from the back room and )rawford reali5ed that he’d better cut the conversation off before she heard him.B 1t was . She lived for the moments when she could sabotage )rawford in the act of trying to im2ress a woman. .aybe they buy a book because it6s a souvenir of this e$2erience they had where they came in here and felt --. A souvenir of their e$2erience in the store. So yeah.B BAell -.anymore3 4ot much. it6s about nostalgia.a$ine6s turn to stare.what else could they be3B .1 don6t know --.
C1’d better get back to work. B4ice meeting you. sure.B he said. C1’m sorry.D She held out her hand.B )rawford shook her hand.a$ine. taking one last look around the store.D )rawford said. )rawford. too. <o you want me to call them3D CThat’s okay.D She smiled and left before he could ask for her last name. C1’ll get in touch with them. Are the owners going to be back anytime soon3B CThey’re in the middle of moving. B1 should get going.D she said. C1 think the moving van arrives today. :ou areH3D C. . C"h.D she said.
Iust being around her reminded him how lonely and isolated he was.fort"#nine <uring their dinner. .a$ine was treating him like staff. She ran hot and cold friendly when she thought it would get her somewhere. e$actly.a$ine had the 2olish and luster of a big city about her7 a kind of bright e$2ectation about the world and its 2ossibilities. but distant and distracted the rest of the night. She wasn’t 2retentious. Ahen she ordered wine by the glass. she asked if she could taste the .alway had the uncomfortable feeling that . . she just o2erated by a set of rules that hadn’t made it to this 2art of the world.
After a few too many drinks he’d decided to try to salvage the night by making a 2ass at her. As if the waitress cared whether the herbal notes in the wine would com2ete with the fennel in the salad or whether it would overall. but she was too 0uick for him. And the evening ended badly. still be the best accom2animent to the salmon. she e$2lained her choice to the waitress in some detail. "kay. And when she decided to go with the sauvignon blanc instead.alway felt himself shrinking in his seat7 it was 2robably the first time any waitress in (ureka had ever been asked to 2rovide a 2review of a si$-dollar glass of wine before serving it. 8e was out on the sidewalk and on his own . . maybe she was a snob.malbec and the sangiovese for com2arison.
leaving a message asking him to kee2 an eye on the store and Cre2ort back. .a$ine was smart enough7 he knew she’d figure out what was going on if she hung around a while. 8e stood in the fog under the yellow light of a street lam2 and watched a family of raccoons dash across the street and disa22ear into the sewer.D as if he’d agreed to hel2 her.before he knew e$actly what ha22ened. She finally called from the air2ort. 8e deleted the message.a$ine was no longer intriguing7 she was just bossy. . 1n the end he decided not to divulge the <ragon6s secrets. e$ce2t to say that it was a business model that intrigued her. She never would tell him e$actly why she was so interested in the <ragon. . At least they had somewhere to go together. And he already had a boss.
fift" (mily got into town just as the store was closing. C1s =ewis here3D she asked. =ewis had been working at Sy’s house all day.inger in charge7 they were hastily stuffing bags and restocking what they called the Cbig buyD shelves the high-end books organi5ed by 2rice for 2eo2le who didn’t have time to fool around. (mily rushed in just as )rawford was turning off the lights. . clearing s2ace so they could unload the moving van. C8e’s already gone. 8e left )rawford and .D )rawford said.
#ut what3 She looked around blankly for a minute. 1t had occurred to her that she should buy him a gift to make u2 for it.B she said.B . And of course. She would 2ut the . that gift should be a book. good. and then she noticed )rawford and . Some rare and wonderful volume that showed that she believed in him. B8ow was your tri23B BFine.inger staring at her.inger said carefully.D She was still feeling guilty about their fight. )rawford looked nervously at . continuing to look around. Then she had an idea. B1 heard you had a lot of big s2enders in the store lately. who was trying to stash their assortment of 2restuffed sho22ing bags behind the counter. B1t6s been a 2retty good few days.C"h.B (mily said.inger.
who was fro5en in 2lace. so she added. B8ey. She walked slowly over to the counter and let her ga5e travel across the shelf of rare books )rawford had just re-stocked behind the counter. B1 want to get a 2resent for =ewis. remembering how =ewis had described the big s2enders who had been in the .inger.booksellers to the test.inger said.D B4o. (mily seemed to be waiting for . B1t6s your store.D And.B . maybe you can hel2 me.B B"h. smiling. that6s nice. They knew what they were doing.B (mily said.B she said to . Take something home.inger to say something more. She looked over (mily’s shoulder at )rawford. B16m a 2aying customer.
who looked like he was about to e$2lode. So you can think about . this is seven hundred.B . She stared at the row of books in front of her. C16m looking for something in the five hundred dollar range. B1t6s a first edition of The Old Man and the Sea. but it’s 2retty ama5ing. 1t6s been rebound in . Finally she 2ulled one off the shelf. turning it over as if she was afraid to o2en it.oroccan leather. B"kay. )rawford s2oke u2 behind her. she added.store lately. but the cover was 2robably damaged by the time it fell into the hands of the bookseller.inger turned her back to )rawford. BAhat is it3B (mily said. 1t6s kind of a 2retentious thing to do. They stam2ed 8emingway’s signature on the cover.B she said. and handed it to (mily.
BFine.inger. <id he even know it was in the store3D CEh---1 don’t think so.B 8e gave that s2eech with an air of resignation. as if he might never deliver it again. taking (mily’s credit card and running it through the terminal.inger handed her the book.inger said. (mily signed the credit card sli2 and . 1t’s 2erfect. She was trying not to look at )rawford. .D . B<on6t 1 get a bag for my seven hundred dollars3B (mily asked.it this way it goes back to the days when there were rare book dealers who knew how to rescue a really valuable book and give it another life.B (mily smiled at . C=ewis isn’t going to believe this. 16ll take it.
grabbing the book and stuffing it into a bag.D . you guys.C"f course. 8ave a good night. C8ere you go.ood night.inger said.D (mily clutched the bag to her chest. Ae’ll go ahead and close u2. CThanks. .D .
D She stood u2 and 2lanted her feet right where they had been when she was talking to (mily.fift"#one CT(== . C1 was standing just like this.inger was on her knees behind the counter. BAnd 1 handed her the credit card sli2 with my right hand ---B She 2antomimed this . )rawford. .D she said.( :"E <1< 4"TKD )rawford shouted a few minutes later. don’t yell at meKD She sat back on her heels and 2ut her hands over her mouth. 2awing through the bags she’d been restocking when (mily walked in. Ahat just ha22ened3 C"kay. C<ammit. wait.
while )rawford watched im2atientlyHCand then when she asked for the bag. 1t’s been great working with you.inger.inger was too stunned to say anything. B8uh. no. CAnd then you gave her one tightly-2acked ounce of marijuana along with her 8emingway. This did not just ha22en. B1 shorted her half an ounce. She stood for a long time and stared down the stack of bags at her feet. 1 would have reached down with my left hand ---B "h. Thanks. .B . !lus a com2limentary 2ackage of rolling 2a2ers for being such a good customer.B she said at last. .D 8e grabbed his jacket and stormed out the door.
she was elated for two reasons. The twentieth century contributed skyscra2ers and ty2ewriters and automobiles and tele2hones to the world. workable objects. First. 1t was a sure winner a fine American classic. a manly book done u2 in manly navy blue leather. a warm and delicious relic from another century. the book felt solid and real under her arm. a century that she suddenly missed for its bulk and 2resence.fift"#two Ahen (mily left the bookstore with her rebound-but-still-0uite-nice first edition of The Old Man and the Sea. (very innovation of the twenty-first century could be erased by a . Solid.
"wning a book felt good. although she could feel its heft in the dim 2ast. her income unstable. (mily felt like the store was actually hers. she’d send off an invoice and wait for an . 1t reminded her of a more sensible. She’d been a freelancer for years7 her work life always felt unsettled. For the first time. a time she couldn’t remember clearly herself. She was often struck by how e2hemeral it all was a client would sent her an email. She could see why 2eo2le would still buy real books on 2a2er. and after a few more e$changes.2ower failure. she’d mock u2 some designs and email them back. And the second reason she was elated3 "wning a bookstore that offered such a thing for sale also felt goodHand this was something new. 2ractical time.
in a way that her freelance design work never really did.oods for sale. what would be left of her work3 #ut the <ragon was so tan. . Ahere would it all go3 Aithout it. All at once. This valuable little book tucked under her arm .electronic transfer to hit her bank account. the store fit. 1t made sense to her. A building. the bank de2osits and the bills that got 2aid automatically. And the seven hundred dollars she just s2ent on =ewis6s book3 That made her feel important. suddenly. 4one of it seemed real. En2lug the 1nternet and it would all vanish the clients. Something moved and clicked and locked inside of her.ible. like a deadbolt sliding into 2lace.oney in the cash drawer. the design work. .
=ewis collected coins and stam2s when he was a kid. She had never been a collector of anything. she mattered. And now that she owned it. too. and she had friends who collected Fiestaware or Art <eco vases or old toys. 1magine a room full of books like this oneK 1magine who she would be if she owned original Steinbecks and Fit5geralds and dusty old volumes of !oe. 4ow she could see the attraction. 8e was waiting for her at Sy’s houseHtheir house. She got back to her moving van and stashed the bag in her suitcase so =ewis wouldn’t see the book until she was ready to give it to him. The idea of it was into$icating.mattered. #ut (mily was a dabbler7 she’d buy one thing and grow bored with it and never think to buy another one. .
. rutted road to meet him.she reali5ed at last. She drove out of town 2ast the marshy lowlands where egrets fished for their su22er and u2 the long.
waiting to com2lete her ha22iness like a 2eriod at the end of a sentence. he was a more rugged. B8ey. =ewis even looked a little different in a battered work shirt and old jeans. 2ractically bouncing out of the car.fift"#three =ewis was waiting for her on the 2orch when she got there.B she said. more handy version of himself. sitting on the ste2s. And now here was =ewis. She was just about to instigate a generalcontractor-home-remodel se$ual fantasy that . She had worked herself into a state of eu2horia during the short and scenic drive from the bookstore to the house.
)hairs were u2ended. 2utting his hands awkwardly on her shoulders as if he had never touched her before.B (mily said. Something was very wrong.B he said. but more carefully a . B1 just figured that out. leading her robotically into the house. (mily thought the house had been broken into. BSomething is very wrong.would ignite the kind of make-u2 se$ they hadn’t had since before the weddingHwhen she got a look at =ewis’s face. tables knocked over. At first. drawers 2ulled from bureaus. their contents scattered on the floor. BAhat6s going on3B B)ome with me. Then she reali5ed that Sy’s collection of movie 2ro2s had also been dismantled.B =ewis said.
2hony grandfather clock was neatly taken a2art. Finally she managed to shake off her sur2rise and say. staring at the ruins of Sy6s 2ossessions as if he could not believe what he had accom2lished. a fake bank safe unscrewed and left in 2ieces. =-sha2ed room at the back of the house that might have been a 2orch at one time. She reali5ed that =ewis must have done this. =ewis had gathered all the cardboard bo$es that #illy had managed to 2ack u2 after the funeral . 1t had been used for storage since Sy6s death. a cardboard television sliced a2art with a bo$ cutter. 8e stood ne$t to (mily. 8er mouth formed the sha2e of a 0uestion but fro5e there. BAhat is this3B 8e took her by the hand and led her u2stairs to an awkward.
they had ended u2 with two or three enormous jars of change. 4ot just a little 2ile of money. everything she had heard about him suggested that he was the kind of man who would stick a little cash under the mattress. And on to2 of those bo$es was a 2ile of money. and even a cou2le of fat envelo2es of twenties. after going through Sy6s house. This was a close-the-curtains-and-don’t-answer- . a handful of foreign currency left over from some tri2 to )anada or .e$ico. #ut this was not that kind of 2ile of money. an old coffee can filled with crum2led dollar bills.and stacked them in the center of the room to form a kind of table. Although she had never met Sy. (mily would not have been sur2rised if.
CAho else knows about this3D =ewis e$haled dee2ly. the way they might look Hagain. 1t was the kind of 2ile of money that would make anyone say what (mily said ne$t. BAs far as 1 know3 4obody. A se2arate 2ile held battered fifties and twenties rolled together and bound by rubber bands. the way you’d see them in bank heist movies. glad to finally have the secret out.the-2hone 2ile money.B 8e slid 2ast (mily and walked around to the other . (mily had nothing to draw u2on but the movies hereHwhen they came out of a drug dealer’s 2ocket. A 2ile of money staggering for its very com2actness how could so many hundred-dollar bills occu2y a s2ace not much larger than a microwave oven3 They were cleanly bundled and banded.
After that 1 just kind of went nuts and started tearing .B =ewis said. B8ow much is here3B (mily asked. And then there was a duffel bag filled with rolls of bills in that fake bank safe he had in the kitchen. B"ne of those steel briefcases.B CA8AT3D She backed u2 into the wall and reached for the door. C)ount it yourself. just 2acked with bundles of cash. CAhat is this3 Ahere did it come from3D BFirst 1 found a briefcase under the bed. CSeven hundred thousand dollars. They both stood looking down at it as if they were studying a 2iece of scul2ture in a museum. e$actly like something you’d see in the movies. C1 don’t even want to touch itKD (mily said.side of the 2ile.D =ewis said.
actually. BAho are we giving it to3B (mily 2lanted her hands on the moving bo$es and leaned over the 2ile of money. but it wasn6t from selling books. though.B They both looked at it a while longer. Ae could. Then =ewis said. 1 don’t even think 1’ve found it all. She studied it carefully for a minute.B BLee2 it3 Are you cra5y3 1 don6t know where he got this money. Sy was involved in something . BAell. Ae can6t kee2 it. to tell you the truth. we can6t kee2 this.the 2lace u2.B =ewis was ready to carry out what ever decision someone else wanted to make about this money. 1 don6t know. B"kay.B she said.D B=ewis. BShit.
unless you count the coffee sho2. we are involved in it. B1 don6t know. but he hid it from the 1RS. (mily.D C"kay.else. !art of her wanted nothing to do with =ewis or his cra5y uncle or whatever this hea2 of bills . maybe. 8e never ate out. =ewis3 This money is just ours. like the furniture3D =ewis walked back around the room and stood behind (mily.B =ewis shook his head. 8e 2robably hadn’t bought a new shirt in ten years. That store threw off a lot of 2rofit for a lot of years. Sy wasn6t s2ending it. She leaned into him.D CSo what are you saying. And as far as 1 can tell. too. And if we kee2 the money.B CThat’s not our 2roblem.
CSo.aybe we 2ut it in the attic under a floorboard. #ut 2art of her was kind of interested in hearing what he had to say. 1t6s not inconceivable that we could live in this house for years and never find his stash. Sy had some 2retty good hiding 2laces. he had a 2oint. . !eo2le were always going on Anti<ues Roadsho! with some treasure that had been hidden away in the false bottom of a drawer for decades.re2resented.D Aell.ake it look like Sy stashed it there years ago where nobody would ever think to look. 8e whis2ered in her ear like he was seducing her. . B16m saying we 2ut the money back. =et6s say somebody comes looking for it down the road. we wouldHD .
BAe would just di2 into it a little at a time. Ae dro2 some cash when we go out to eat.D (mily wasn6t sure about that.B C1 don’t know. but she was sure that bank robber se$ would be even better than general-contractorhome-remodel se$. Ae just nibble at it around the edges. 1t was e$actly the sort of 2lace a fugitive from justice would hide. . Ae take some with us when we go on vacation.B =ewis said. They turned the light out on the 2ile of money and (mily. Ae don6t make it obvious. =ewis. B:ou 2ay cash for a haircut every now and then. his voice still low and gravelly in her ear. allowed herself to be led to the makeshift 2allet of blankets =ewis had assembled last night in the attic. still refusing to lay down in Sy’s bed.
CThis could be my last night of freedom. They were all right.=ewis knew her well enough to recogni5e the half-smile on her li2s as she stoo2ed to follow him through the attic.D he said. you know. BAs soon as the co2s come looking for that money --B (mily giggled and stumbled into him. . at least for now.
D She wra22ed a blanket around . but what bird would land there at night3 An owl3 BThey sound like reindeer. 8e had seen seagulls and ravens u2 there during the day.fift"#four At midnight they were still awake and listening to the house shift and settle.B =ewis whis2ered. C1 forgotK 1 have a 2resent for you. =ewis had discovered that birds liked to land on the 2eak of the roof to look out across the valley below. They scratched and 2icked at the shingles. making a 0uiet but distracting racket if you were trying to slee2 right under them. C1s it )hristmas3D C"hKD (mily said.
=ewis turned on a desk lam2 he’d set u2 near his makeshift bed. "ut came a delu$e. She sat cross-legged across from him. leather-bound first edition of The Old Man and The Sea with 8emmingway’s signature stam2ed . Ahen she got there. CIustHcongratulations.D CAhat’s this for3D he said. She 2ulled out the 2a2er bag and dashed back u2stairs. but 1 want you to have it now.her shoulders and ran down two flights of stairs.D 8e leaned over and kissed her and then reached into the bag. To mark the start of our new life with the bookstore. 8er suitcase was still sitting just inside the front door where she’d left it. taking the bag from her. B1 haven6t had time to wra2 it.
1t’s just--D #ut then his hand came out of the bag. turning it over in his hands and o2ening it just a crack to 2eer inside. C. C=ook at this.in gold on the cover. and in it was a tightly-wra22ed ounce of (dith’s su2remely sweet. organic. sliding his hand back into the bag. nothing. =ewis held it carefully. floral.D he said. For a long time .D CAnd what else is in here3D he asked. intricately com2le$ and highly sought-after bud. 1t sat between them on Sy’s old 0uilt. 1t’s the start of our library.inger hel2ed me 2ick it out. 8e dro22ed it like it was on fire. earthy. C<id this come from the store3D C1t did. CAell. and matching gold gilt on the fore-edge.D she said.
2erha2s. believing.they just watched it. that it might e$2lain itself if they would just let it s2eak. .
8e nodded and led them silently down the hall. standing tight-li22ed in the atrium. .inger was waiting for him. )rawford looked at her and didn’t say a word.fift"#five The ne$t morning. )rawford shuffled u2 the stairs to #illy <alton’s office like a kid who already knew he was grounded.inger could agree u2onHbut they didn’t dare confide in anyone else. #illy wasn’t much of a lawyerHthis was one thing )rawford and . Finally they heard his ste2s behind them on the stairs. .
o2ening the door to what might have once been a corner suite in the building’s days as a hotel. BSit. BShe had no fucking idea what she was doing.B )rawford said. sit.B1n here. sitting as far a2art from each other as they could.inger said.B .B #illy said.inger and )rawford eased into it.B he said. BAhen did this ha22en3B #illy asked. . BAnd she actually came in and asked for ---B B4o. gesturing to the couch.B . in his best cross-e$amination voice. 8e 2ulled out a folding chair and sat across from them. She thought it was some 0uaint little custom to come in and ask for rare book by 2rice. There was a couch under the window and a dining room table covered in bo$es. right before close. B=ast night.
so what were they su22osed to think3B BThis is not the 2oint. #illy. They didn6t know what was really going on. She knows. B4obody6s heard from her3B B4ot yet. they know.B )rawford said. B4e$t 0uestion.inger said.B .inger said. So come on. the 2oint is.B .B )rawford said. #y now. . :ou6re the goddamn lawyer. nearly shouting. she left with a bag that had an ounce of 2ot in it. don6t be such an asshole. B(mily and =ewis had seen other 2eo2le making big buys like that.B B)rawford. B1t6s not. BAhether it was an accident or not. Ahat are we su22osed to do3D #illy sighed and shook his head.BAhy is that 0uaint3B #illy asked.
it would have to be her. . B.inger. 1f someone was going to take the fall for this. B4obody.ine3 Are you kidding3D )rawford said. !ack u2 all the shit and stick it in the vault.et over there and clean out the store.D C. <oesn’t matter now. 8e looked 2ointedly at .B #illy said.inger looked down at her 2hone to check the time.D CThen what3D )rawford said. BAho6s at the store3B . more to get their attention than because he had anything im2ortant to say. Ae don’t o2en for another hour.#illy stood u2. 1f there’s any left. that is.B BFine. C1f (mily asks3 Tell her it6s yours.
16ll tell her it was mine. of ourse you go out of business.B BAnd then what3B )rawford said.inger said. )rawford.B he said. BAe go back to being a regular bookstore3 Ae just go out of business3B #illy sat back down so he could look both of them in the eye.B1t6s only an ounce. 16ll do it. and that 1 was trying to stash it away when she walked into the store. C<on6t worry about it. BAell. 1’ll say 1 got flustered when she bought the book.B . B8ow did you think this was going to end3B . and 1 handed her the bag 16d hidden it in.
. And all the sho22ing bags had been em2tied of their merchandise. unbleached hem2 fiber. There were. molasses infused. The 2ile of joints and dime bags in a 2ile behind the counter looked like the haul from a drug raid. clearing out a stash of alternative rolling 2a2ers that the store’s staff had considered over the years but decided against clear cellulose. of course. stray joints and even a long-lost shoe bo$ stuffed with what would have been called dime bags back in the days when a dime was still a dime. (mily was under the desk.fift"#six #y the time they got to the store it was too late.
C=ook at this. but in fact.D she said. she didn6t know what to conclude. She was leading u2 to some kind of conclusion about what was going on at the <ragon. CIesus )hrist. To think this has been back here all this time.D )rawford did as he was told. 4either . They hadn6t had time to 2re2are a back-u2 story if . CAe’re closed. That’s why we’re here. sur2rised.inger’s e$cuse failed. C(mily. And 2ull u2 a chair. =ewis 2ut a hand on her shoulder. )rawford.C=ock the door behind you. and we didn’t onceHD 8er voice trailed off. (mily emerged from under the desk with her 2ile of contraband. =et them talk.inger looked at each other. which she dum2ed on the counter.D =ewis said.D )rawford and .
that’s what ha22ened. B=ook. he talked. So maybe this is something like that. And when he got nervous. and they weren6t sure what kind of 2lausible lie the other would be willing to back u2. yeah. so outraged that he forgot to 2lay it cool. . so you guys ---B C"h.D )rawford said. you hear in the news about some fast food restaurant that gets busted for selling drugs out the drive-through window. and it turns out that it6s one or two em2loyees who always work on Friday night when the manager is off-duty. Their silence made =ewis nervous. there wasn6t really anybody around watching the store. After Sy died. So they sat in silence a little longer than they 2robably should have.one of them wanted to lead off with the truth.
D (mily’s slee2less night was catching u2 with her. e$ce2t that her bed was still in the truck. .CAe just couldn’t wait to get rid of Sy so we could start our little drug dealing o2eration.inger on the other. Ahat utter misery. Ahat did ha22en3D They stared each other down. C)rawford. She wanted des2erately to get through this conversation and crawl into her own bed. =ewis and (mily on one side of the counter and )rawford and . Sto2 it. Finally .i5mo and books went e$tinct 0uicker than ty2ewriters did7 the <ragon’s fearful lurch from faltering but solvent bookstore to re2ository of unwanted books.inger sighed and rolled her eyes and told them the whole story the gradual dro2-off in sales7 the way the culture suddenly turned a corner after the introduction of the .
we didn6t even know what was going on.B (mily had forgotten her anger and her e$haustion. BAt first. :ou come in. BAe didn6t decide. The first time he sold somebody a book and a joint. we take care of you right here at the counter. This thing was just cra5y enough to . Sy was always taking 2eo2le into the back room or walking around the block with them.B )rawford said. you 2ick out a book in the right 2rice range. CSy couldn’t turn them away.CThis is where books came to die.D )rawford said.D CSoHyou decided toHD =ewis was trying to move this along. #ut somehow word got out. it was kind of a joke. Ae were like a book or2hanage.
.B . BSo.o somewhere else if you don’t like it.inger said. you know3 This is the 2rice you 2ay if you don6t want any hassle and you don6t want to buy from some guy on the street. C(verybody calls it the Starbucks 2rice. 4obody forces you to 2ay five bucks for a cu2 of coffee.intrigue her.D . C4ever. Cthis is the only 2lace you can get (dith’s 2ot. how do 2eo2le know how much to 2ay3B B.B B!eo2le don6t mind that3 They never com2lain about what they’re getting for their money3D (mily said.B C#esides.D .ost 2eo2le just know. 1t6s kind of like --. BAe are e$2ensive.D )rawford said.this is the retail 2rice. really e$2ensive.inger said.
C"h. C(dith is involved in this3D )rawford shot an angry glance at . CThat’s the 2art 1 wasn’t su22osed to say anything about. looking down at her hands. e$amining them the way you6d look at . which were 2icking nervously at each other. we6re done with this. "r better yet.inger.C(dithKD =ewis said.D she said.inger. don6t.D B=ook. She knows this thing is over. BTalk to (dith yourself. 8alf of (ureka was going to end u2 in jail if she didn6t shut u2.B )rawford said like a lawyer who didn6t want his client interrogated anymore.B =ewis ste22ed out from behind the counter and walked a half circle around )rawford and .
BThese 2eo2le aren6t actually reading the books.e$otic animals in a cage. BAhat6s he going to do with a bunch of encyclo2edias3B BAnd all those cou2les who come in on Friday night and get a 2a2erback before dinner3B BThat6s a joint. are they3B .B BAnd he didn6t want to take the encyclo2edias home. That6s a 2ound.B =ewis walked a cou2le more half circles around them. almost to himself.D )rawford shrugged. Finally he sto22ed and looked u2. looking mostly at his feet. C8e wanted to leave them here. B:eah.D =ewis said. BSo. the kid who came in and bought the encyclo2edia set for three thousand dollars3B )rawford grimaced and rubbed his forehead.
And then you showed u2 and we didn’t know what would ha22en if we told you. #esides.inger said. so we just got used to running the store the way it had always run.B )rawford said. forgetting that she wasn6t su22osed to be talking.ost 2eo2le bring them back after a while. 1 meanHthey just take them home andHwhat3 !ut them on a shelf3D B. =ewisKB (mily said. C1t took so long to find the will.B . #illy .B CSo how long were you 2lanning on kee2ing this u23B (mily said. B1 don’t know. BSome of our regulars buy the same books over and over. C!ay attentionKD C1 am 2aying attention. 2ounding her hands on the counter.B4o.
inger. CThe lawyer kne!3D CAell. C(verybody knew about it.D said . with the unnatural calm of someone whose fate was already decided.thought that as long as the store was making moneyHB B#illy <alton knew about this3B =ewis said.D . ($ce2t you.
em2ty coffee cu2s and 2i55a bo$es on every surface.fift"#seven Richmond awoke with a sour stomach and a tongue covered in moss. An irrational craving for fruit forced him to sit u2 in bed and consider 2ulling himself . The 2lace was a disaster clothes strewn across the floor. 1t was time to wra2 things u2 and go home. 8e could only imagine what his friends in =ouisville would say if they could see him living like this. and a do5en 2ot 2lants sitting on a windowsill. 8e didn6t remember getting back to his hotel room after yet another dinner in the bar the night before.
but he had been dreaming of strawberries and 2inea22les and melons. Richmond wasn6t much of a fruit eater normally. The fruit was not nearly as satisfying as he e$2ected it to be.just thinking about it made him feel more human. 8e checked his e-mail while he ate. coffee --. 8e worked his way through a few bites of astringent melon and 2ithy strawberry before he went back to his standard breakfast of warmed-over 2otatoes and rubbery scrambled eggs smothered in hot sauce. 1n a few minutes he was u2 and showered and on his way downstairs. 8is colleagues at Sumner were working 0uickly while the . A 2late of fruit. a 2iece of toast. (very cell in his body was de2leted and dehydrated.together before they closed the breakfast buffet downstairs.
and a 2ub serving a mildly herbal macaroni and cheese. The idea was to a22eal to wellheeled #aby #oomers who were all too willing to revert to their old habits in a more legitimate and better-lit environment. a bakery selling the usual brownies and cookies. Richmond6s boss Tom called the conce2t a CcafW-meets-brew2ub model. a meatball sub. a committee of retail consultants and marketing gurus were 2utting conce2tual drawings and business 2lans together for a chain of retail outlets. the research division was 0uietly getting strains ready for 2atent. and other reci2es under develo2ment back .eanwhile. .legislative team 2aved the way for )ongress to take action.D a more res2ectable version of an Amsterdam coffeehouse. There would be a smoke sho2 in the corner.
and the fictional . And the first of those cafW-meets-brew2ubs would o2en here in 8umboldt )ounty.which would anchor =e$ Trevino6s new develo2ment -. grainy black-and-white 2hotogra2hs would be taken. but the marketing team e$2ected it to take on an im2ortant symbolic role as the flagshi2 store. A fau$ backstory would be written about the chain’s humble origins. The 8umboldt location --.would not be their largest outlet or their most 2rofitable. Sumner6s marketing team confirmed that 8umboldt had the best brand recognition among adventurous u2scale consumers who had 2leasant memories of their 2ast recreational drug use. a decision that had been u2 in the air until Tom’s e-mail made it official it this morning.in a rented test kitchen in =ouisville.
and book a flight back to Lentucky. 8e would 2ack a lunch. 8e would s2end the day.com2any founder would 2romise to remain true to his 8umboldt roots. The . get those 2lants from (dith. he wondered how far he would be willing to go to get the 2lants. #ut nobody seemed to know where this woman was. As he drove to (dith’s. 8e was frustrated by his inability to get through to (dith he had been to her house several times and had found neither the garden nor the gardener7 he had snoo2ed around the bookstore7 he had tried to 2ry information out of the growers. So Richmond had his orders from =ouisville wra2 u2 a few details with =e$. Today he was going to go to her house and cam2 out on her 2orch if he had to.
#ut really. The fact that her 2lants survived outside also intrigued Sumner6s agricultural scientists. something com2letely different from the overbred and overhy2ed strains the indoor growers had been breeding.e$ecutives at Sumner had come to believe that (dith was in 2ossession of some e$traordinarily marketable strain. how did anyone at Sumner know that this strain would be the one to win over a new generation of marijuana smokers3 8ow hard would it be for Sumner6s geneticists to cook something u2 in the laboratory that would work just as well3 . who had already confirmed that the strains they6d obtained from hydro2onic growers needed too much 2am2ering and wouldn6t survive in Lentucky6s former tobacco fields.
8e would try one more time with (dith. 8ell. and even that was ditchweed that couldn’t get a jaybird high. !oint is. and then he was heading home.The truth was that Richmond didn6t have the stomach for intimidating old ladies or sneaking around on wooded lots. he didn’t belong in the middle of this mess. A car and a moving van were 2arked in (dith6s driveway and he got there. 8e 2ulled 0uickly 2ast it and drove down the hill to 2ark alongside the road. Aas (dith moving3 This might be his last chance. he hadn6t even smoked 2ot since he was in high school. 8e signed on for a nice desk job in =ouisville. . selling cigarettes to smokers. 8e wasn6t cut out to be a drug dealer.
8e ti2toed 2ast his car and finally found an o2ening in the bramble he thought he could sli2 through. he heard voices. and it was an angry confrontation. 8e stood and listened for a minute. #efore he got to the driveway. The voices seem to be coming from the other side of the hedge. carefully. but there was at least one man and one woman. "n the other side. 8e could not make out what they were saying. They were outside and down the hill. 0uietly. And so he went back down the hill. he could see an e$2anse of unmown grass and a long hedge beyond it.Richmond followed a tangle of blackberry vines back u2 the hill. near where he 2arked the car. . sto22ing every minute or two to listen to those voices rise and fall.
B That had to be (dith.B came a 0uiet but clear voice. 16m done. There was an enormous holly tree halfway between where he was hiding in where the voices were coming from. and stood in the dwindling late morning shadows. 8e decided to take a risk and get closer. Another woman6s voice followed. . CAnd you were going to let this go on for how long3D said the man. BThis is it. B1 told you. too low for him to hear. suffering only a few scratches. he ste22ed carefully to avoid sna22ing a twig or crunching dead leaves.8e sli22ed through the blackberry vines. 1 don6t have anything left to 2lant. 8is heart 2ounding as he walked. listening.
B said the man. (mily.B B4obody is going to jail.B the first woman said irritably. As he crossed the field and ducked under the hedge that. Aere they coming this way3 8e listened as the footste2s traveled down the hill and away from him. Richmond stood u2 so 0uickly that the to2 of his head was im2aled by the shar2 s2ines of the leaves of the holly tree. he wondered how this situation would . B4ot only do 1 not think we should own this --. that6s an understatement. Ae could all go to jail for this thing. he figured.1 wish we didn6t even kno! about this.ight as well. 8e had to get closer. B<o you want to see the rest of the 2lants or not3B B. must surround (dith6s garden.BAell.B the man said.
su22osedly the most marijuanafriendly county in the country. #ut when the feds brought their cho22ers in for a raid. 8e was in 8umboldt. #ut he wasn6t in =ouisville.look to law enforcement. They were on friendly terms with the =ouisville !olice <e2artment. they e$2ected coo2eration from local 2olice and they usually got it. !eo2le around the office had grown 2retty cavalier about the whole thing. Sumner had been ac0uiring marijuana strains and 2ro2agating them in greenhouses alongside tobacco 2lants for over a year now. and the cor2orate attorneys were always ready to arrange bail and craft a 2lausible e$2lanation if anyone was discovered around an illegal 2lant. So who could say what might .
And then he reali5ed that he couldn’t see the way back to the car. 4othing could get through it. There had to be a gate somewhere. 2ainful mess.ha22en if he was caught sneaking around one of 8umboldt6s most notorious outdoor grows3 The voices inside the garden had faded com2letely. 1t curved so gradually that he had no real sense of how large this garden might be. . The overgrowth of shrubs and vines surrounding it were better than any security fence Sumner had ever erected around its tobacco fields. and climbing over it would be a thorny. never 0uite feeling that he had turned a corner or reached the other side. Richmond cre2t around the hedge.
#ut heH C1 have to admit. And there’s something about this garden-.Ahat an idiot.D C(milyKD said the man. who he had seen in the store from time to time.D came a woman’s voice. They were checking out their su22lier. before setting out like this. Richmond reali5ed that the voices belonged to (mily and =ewis. 4ow it was starting to make sense. rising out of nowhere and cutting off Richmond’s thoughts. 16m just saying it’s kind of interesting. CAhat3D (mily said. C16m not saying we should become 2ot growers. he thought. like a tele2hone 2ole or even an overturned log. CThese 2lants are kind of fascinating. Anyone else would have 2icked a landmark. :ou don6t e$2ect to see .
we only started with one or two 2lants. Ahy do you do it this way3B B"h. and if you6re just growing one 2lant over and over again in a garage under lights. BAe have this interesting little microclimate right here. and just high enough to sit .D B1sn6t it harder to get them to grow outside like this3B (mily asked. 1t was easier to tuck them into the garden.B said the woman Richmond had identified as (dith. C1t just wasn6t interesting to me any other way. 1t6s sunny and warm.B (dith said. B4ot really. Things just sort of grew from there.marijuana growing in the garden like this. it gets boring. it was really just an accident. 1 like to mess around in a garden. Remember. with roses and a22le trees and all these other flowers around.
C!ot’s 2ractically the state flower u2 here.D (mily said. CAhat3D . right3 Aren’t they kind of e$2osed.B CAnd it all goes to the <ragon.D (dith said. of course. CAell. 1 usually 2ick a few 2lants to nurse through the winter. 1 2ut a kind of cold frame around them. a smile in her voice. yes. 8is way of kee2ing the store o2en after 2eo2le sto22ed buying books. Ahy do 2eo2le come to you3 They can get it anywhere.B CSo here’s what 1 don’t understand. This was your uncle Sy’s idea. walking into a store and just 2lacing their order3D CAe’ve got something nobody else has. and it6s almost like they6re in a greenhouse.D =ewis said.above the fog.
B (dith said.B =ewis said. :ou ever sell to kids3B B1 don6t sell to anybody. CAell. 1 don’t see why not. #ut this is a really different 2roduct. .B B:ou make it sound like we6re the bad guys.B =ewis said. B:eah. 1t’s an unusual strain. that6s right. different3D =ewis asked. :ou should know what you’re destroying before you do it.CThese 2lants. BAe6re not the ones dealing drugs. C8aven’t you tried it3D C4oKD (mily and =ewis shouted in unison. :ou6re just the gardener.D CAhat do you mean. maybe even a different s2ecies. Some 2eo2le think there’s also something about the soil u2 here or the way they’re allowed to grow.
and that’s fine.D (dith said. 1HD C=ewis3 :ou’re u2set.D (dith said. C1’ll get rid of all the offensive 2lants before 1 go. <on’t worry. 1’m 2acking u2. <o whatever you’re going to do.(dith sighed.D Richmond listened as they scrambled u2 the hill toward what must be the entrance to the garden. C:ou mean--D C"h. C1t’s yours now. lord.D C#utHwhat’s going to ha22en to thisH 2lace3D (mily asked. but don’t take it out on me. Richmond could hear her walking away. That’s enough. 1f (dith was really 2lanning on getting . BAll right. :ou two are the ones calling the shots here.D C=ook. =et6s go.
guaranteeing that he would only disturb them again. They chattered and scolded him and landed a few yards away. There was no noise from inside. he didn6t have much time. 8e continued to inch around the hedge. although from the tone in her voice he didn’t think she’d be interested in striking a deal with a stranger. 8e could try to get (dith alone and make her an offer. As he moved he startled a flock of s2arrows that had settled into the shrubs. 1f he could just find the entrance in the daylight. he could come back tonight and take some 2lants.rid of the 2lants. And sneaking into the garden while =ewis and (mily were around seemed like too much of a risk. 8e watched them jockey for 2osition among the bramble and .
2reen their tiny feathers. from some distance.B =ewis shouted back. 8e dro22ed to his knees and ducked into the shrubs. but she sounded weak.B Richmond heard someone fumbling with a latch just u2 the hill from him.B (dith said in a firmer voice. A few of them fi$ed their bright black eyes on him. walked u2 the hill and . BIust a little di55y is all. BAhat ha22ened3B shouted (mily. 8e watched as (dith.D (dith said. C(dithK Aatch out. a slight woman with short grey hair in comfortable disarray.D C1’m all right. )omes and goes. closer than he e$2ected and 2lainly irritated. B(dith fell. Iust then he heard =ewis’s voice. B16m fine.
She held on to =ewis as she walked. both (mily and =ewis looked so comfortably middle-class and res2ectable that even Richmond could see. that they would never fit in here. 1n fact. . after only a short time in 8umboldt )ounty. 1n his carefullyironed khaki 2ants and navy blue sweater. (dith looked like a wild bird caught between them. he looked like he could have been her beloved grandson home on a break from medical school.back to the house with (mily and =ewis.
inger sold the last of what they had in the store to a few long-time customers. figuring that it was one way to make sure they got a final 2aycheck.D they told 2eo2le as . but by the afternoon they were making it clear that they were sold out 2ermanently. A cou2le of regular customers had seen (mily and =ewis storm out of the store7 they came in and tried to make one last 2urchase before o2erations were shut down for good. )rawford and . CAe’re done.fift"#ei ht 1t didn’t take long for word to get around that the <ragon had been busted by its new owners.
D 4obody did. so really. #illy <alton decided that the wisest course of action would be to sto2 answering his 2hone. 8e knew he should drum u2 a few new clients. :ou want to buy something. why bother3 #esides. no one would bother showing u2 to govern. buy a book. C1t’s over. . but his fees for handling Sy’s will would get him by for a while. as he liked to say.uillermo told him he’d seen an angry . local government is nothing but a conflict of interests. Aithout it. There wasn’t much going on right now anyway the city attorney’s office had told him to back off his investigations of conflict-of-interest charges among council members.the news s2read. =ewis was calling every cou2le of hours. which was fine with him because. his ne$t client might just be himself.
#illy had ho2ed he would get out of this relationshi2 with =ewis and (mily before they discovered that they had unwittingly become drug dealers instead of booksellers. !robate was always easy in a town this si5e. and minor thefts. all of which involved the same 2otent brew of downand-out 2etty criminals with distant ties to 8umboldt’s 2ower elite. and =ewis and (mily were finding out what it would take to kee2 their million-dollar bookstore in business. and he almost made it.confrontation at the store. #y now the whole thing had blown u2. Iudges lined u2 for the chance to handle a nice dry financial transaction instead of another day of messy child custody hearings. drunk driving charges. The mayor’s daughter’s e$-boyfriends gets into a dis2ute with .
Aith any luck. #y com2arison. The business. the ra2idly-dwindling bank accountHit would all be officially theirs as soon as the 2a2erwork finished snaking its way through the courthouse. #illy wouldn’t see or hear from the heirs until it was all over. a genuine slum lord who ha22ens to have a brother on the 2lanning commission. 8e had other . the disa22earance of (dith6s sweet herb from his daily routine would surely be one of the major tragedies of his life. a clean and easy will was a joy.his landlord. #ut he did want to get back to the bookstore one last time in the ho2es that the em2loyees had set a little something aside for him. So the work on the will was nearly com2lete. the 2ro2erty. That sort of thing. 4e$t to losing Sy.
. a funhouse of creativity and color that left nothing behind but mild elation. on the other hand. but even he had to admit that the <ragon’s house blend delivered the same gentle e$ultation and wisdom that Leats and <ickinson once did. 1t made 2eo2le feel light and bright and beautiful. (dith.he had re2resented half the growers in town at one time or another -.sources. Sy used to com2lain that the death of the book had thrown him from the lofty 2ost of bookseller. 1n his worst moments.but the tri2le-crossed hydro strains they grew induced levels of hallucination and 2aranoia that should never be inflicted u2on an attorney. forcing him to become a common drug dealer. had 2roduced a botanical wonder. of course -.
C1 think we’re done with business as usual. C!robably back at the house yelling at (dith.D CAhere are they3D #illy asked. C1 think you’re clear.uillermo said with a hint of irritation. #illy walked to "ld Town.After taking care of a cou2le of details at the courthouse. C1s it business as usual over there3D C4o. .uillermo was dum2ing coffee grounds into a recycling bin in the alley7 without looking u2.uillermo inside and 2oured himself a cu2 of coffee behind the counter.D CShit. giving the <ragon a wide berth and sli22ing into the back door of )ontra )offee.D #illy followed . he said. :ou mean--D . it is not business as usual.D .
"r maybe they took it home as severance 2ay.D .D CAhat does this have to do with me3D C:ou’re their lawyer. C<on’t you care what ha22ens to the store3D . fishing a cou2le bucks out of his 2ocket and swa22ing them for a scone from the 2latter on the counter.uillermo said.CThey’re sold out. C:ou’re the store’s lawyer. 2lease. :ou’re in no 2lace to critici5e them. After everything they’ve been through.D #illy said.D CThey took it home3 They can’t do thatKD C"h. or so they claim. #illy. )ouldn’t you have 2rotected them3 Aho knows what those kids are going to do3D C1 am not their lawyer.
oney laundering. Through the storefront’s wavy glass they looked as though they had been sus2ended in amber. Ta$ evasion. C4ow you decide that3 4ow3 After all this time3D #illy 2ut a lid on his coffee cu2 and walked across the street to the <ragon. 8e could see )rawford and .inger standing 2erfectly still behind the counter.D . 1 shouldn’t even be seen in that 2lace.C=et’s see.D #illy said. C<rug dealing.uillermo laughed and 2ushed #illy out from behind the counter. . .
on her front 2orch. to ever kick u2 much of a fuss over the <ragon’s agricultural enter2rise. something she didn’t think he was ca2able of. shaking. Ahen she first met him she thought he was too docile. but she never e$2ected such fury from him. too ha2less. everyone has an ugly side. !ush a 2erson far enough. . She hadn6t let many 2eo2le inside over the years.fift"#nine (dith sat. Then again. and they will let you see it. She knew he wouldn’t a22rove of it. =ewis had left in a rage. Ahat unsettled (dith the most was his res2onse to her garden. but when she did.
They were -. 8e backed away from the tall. a re2tilian conifer from the age of dinosaurs that became a 9ictorian curiosity. fleshy stalks of cannabis as if they were . Tro2ical flowers were so out of 2lace here that they looked almost 2sychedelic. the grassy dierama s2routing wands of 2ink 2endulous blooms.they usually res2onded the way #illy did. with its sticky buds and dee2 2ur2le veins. Add to that the s2ectacle of this forbidden 2lant. there6s no better word for it V into$icated. #ut not =ewis. The giant monkey 2u55le tree in the center. The bright 2ur2le tibouchina with its magenta stamens. and even the least horticulturally-minded visitor would be entranced.well. the e$otic fuchsias ri2ening into luscious dark hi2s that were sweet enough to eat.
smaller and less showy than . 8e seemed to regard the garden not as her creation. 8e got tangled in a floribunda and swatted at it. not the . somehow. 1t was an es2ecially fine day to be out on the hillto2 where (dith’s cottage sat. A chorus of tiny was2s and dragonflies bu55ed through the tall grass. Their wings were sturdy and functional. like honey7 you could almost taste it. but that made them seem tougher. attacking back and getting even more ensnared rather than delicately 2ulling himself away.2oison. The western 2ainted ladies had just recently arrived. S2iders terrified him7 dirt offended him. but as a kind of botanical cons2iracy 2er2etrated u2on him by everyone at the <ragon.onarchs. The air was warm and sweet and faintly golden.
slee2y and startled. "n a day like today Sy would leave the store in the hands of his em2loyees and sit right here with her.elegant and fragile 2anes of stained glass that trans2orted . but in the middle of it they had a feeling of being watched. "nce they’d made love right there on the 2orch. just watching the light move across the roofline of his house. They had disturbed a family of skunks slee2ing under the 2orch. (ventually he’d take her hand and 2ull her to her feet.onarchs from here to . and stood fro5en in 2lace. saying nothing. which was. a 2retense for something far more interesting. . leading her inside for a na2. The four of them had emerged. watching Sy and (dith from not ten feet away. from a ga2 under the 2orch ste2s. just where (dith was sitting now.e$ico. of course.
Sy seemed like the kind of man who would never die. Some of them even s2oke about their 2lans for widowhood.The sight of those four fat black tails aloft in the grass was enough to diminish Sy’s ardor7 they’d 2ulled their clothes on and s2ent the rest of the morning 2ounding boards around the foundation. old fi$er-u22ers held together with wire and ta2e but not e$2ected to last. These women saw their husbands as 2rojects. wondering aloud whether they would 2refer to be close to the grandchildren in !hoeni$. . So many of the women her age e$2ected to outlive their husbands. and if the daughter in Seattle would mind a long visit in the summer to get away from the heat.
1t seemed im2ossible that time could just move on. settling into bartending gigs or auto re2air work and acce2ting Sy’s vision of the world that there was no one to 2lease but themselves. (dith e$2ected the world to sto2 turning when Sy died. and s2irited like a teenager. he went to their art o2enings in a warehouse at the edge of town. and nothing that absolutely had to be done.Sy was never like that7 he was salty and tenacious. They grew into wayward adults. he hung out with skateboarders and back2ackers and surfers. The collection of outbuildings he’d assembled on his 2ro2erty functioned as a kind of home for wayward youth. 8e 2referred the com2any of kids he knew what music they were listening to. that the sun would rise and .
. 2utting as many of the 2ieces back into 2lace as 2ossible. At first she was outragedHwhat did they think she was. And in a few weeks. that 2eo2le would get u2 in the morning and make the bed and go to work as if nothing had ha22ened. The 2lants had to go by the end of the day. #ut she could hold a 2lace for him no longer. She didn’t even reali5e that the <ragon had continued to o2erate until )rawford had called. a farm hand3Hbut soon she succumbed to the rhythm of her old life. she would need to be out. too. and ste22ing carefully around the holes Sy left in her world as if he might be back anytime to fill them u2 again.set. a week or so after Sy’s death and asked if there would be any more 2roduct. nervously.
she scoo2ed a handful of trail mi$ out of a bag in the 2antry and ate it as she went back down the hill. sixt" (mily refused to let =ewis drive.The trembling in her hands hadn’t sto22ed. She’d 2ull them out with her bare hands. 8e’d worked himself into a full-blown 2anic at . 4ever mind. Rather than choke down a miserable little sandwich in her kitchen. She was almost to the garden’s gate when she reali5ed that she didn’t have any tools with her. She knew she should eat something before she went back to the garden. #ut 2utting it off would only make her feel worse.
he left one of those take-thisjob-and-shove-it messages that every em2loyee . :ou can 2robably get your old job back. but then she reali5ed that taking him back to the bookstore might not be the wisest move. She was afraid to touch him. =ewis. C1 can’t believe 1 0uit my job. She backed out of the driveway and headed into town. CThat’s what you’re worried about3 :our job3 :ou can get another job. 8e was sitting with his head in his hands.D =ewis hadn’t told (mily that he when he 0uit by voice mail. e$haling loudly every few seconds the way a horse snorts in frustration through its nostrils. Finally he lifted his head and s2oke. and she didn’t trust him behind the wheel.’ She laughed and turned to stare at him.(dith’s garden.
or you just do what you were 2lanning on doing.D (mily asked. justHthe whole lea2. 1t’s everything. #ut we can’t stay here. The job. :ou’re out of a job.aybe the contractors will take cash. =ewis. 1 don’t know. even if we can’t use it to 2ay our credit cards and all that. 1’ve already lost a cou2le of clients. and we’ve got bills to 2ay. at the <ragon.fantasi5es about.D . . we’ve got to do something. CAhat3 At the <ragon3D C:es. C1t’s not just that. #ut either we go back to the #ay Area and get to work. 1 don’t think 1 can go back. #ut never mind7 the 2oint was that he could. )lean it u2 and run it like a bookstore. That cash will smooth things over.D BAell. get another job. the a2artment. of course.
CAhat3 (mily. 1t is not a bookstore.D 8e dro22ed his head back into his hands. C1t hasn’t been a bookstore in years.D They drove along in silence for a minute. The stretch of land between (ureka and the hills behind it had its own odd a22eal there was a feed store that sold baby chicks and ducklings in s2ring, a western wear and tackle sho2, a bait stand, and a dingy bar called the Road 8ouse that looked inviting in the way that a worn-down bar could. 1t seemed to offer u2 the 2ossibility of dro22ing out of life and taking u2 a regular s2ot in the corner, no 0uestions asked. :ou could 2robably smoke in there, =ewis thought, although he’d only smoked four cigarettes in his life and had never been tem2ted to smoke a fifth. 1t was the idea that a22ealed to him a 2lace
where nobody would sto2 you from wrecking yourself. ,ost of the homes out here were something between a farmhouse and a 2ostwar ranch house. The lots were large and uneven7 some yards held a horse or a donkey, others served as long-term R9 2arking for some relative who had 2ersuaded the family to let them 2ull around back and run some orange e$tension cords into the house. 4obody had bothered to 2ut in sidewalks. :ou could walk in the tall weeds by the side of the road. CAhere do you want to go3D (mily said. BTo the 2olice,B =ewis said. B=ewisK Are you cra5y3D C1t’s the only way we can 2rotect ourselves. =ook at all the laws that have been broken. The
only way we could 2ossibly kee2 our hands clean is if we go to the 2olice right away.D C;o to them !hy3 As you 2oint out, this 2lace has been o2erating like this for years. 1f they haven’t been busted yet, they’re not going to be.D CAe don’t know that,D =ewis said. C1 can’t have this hanging over me. 1’ll never be able to sto2 looking over my shoulder.D CSo you want to turn these 2eo2le in.B C4o,D he said, fi$ing his eyes on her. CAe’re turning ourselves in.D
#ut they did not turn themselves in. 1gnoring =ewis’s 2rotests, (mily turned the car north when they got to the edge of town. 1nstead of going back to (ureka, she took him u2 the coast. She wasn6t sure where she was going. #ut soon they left behind the smattering of small towns that surrounded the county seat, 2assed the last of the dairy farms with their bucolic emerald fields and silent stands of cows and egrets, and 2lunged into the redwoods. The sight of those immense trees had a sobering effect on =ewis, as she ho2ed it would. (verything about a redwood forest was
2rehistoric the ancient trees themselves, each growing on the rootstock of some much older s2ecimen, many of them hollowed out by lightning but still rising, stretching hundreds of feet into the sky. (ven the ferns were oversi5ed, s2anning the width of a small car. :ou could imagine dinosaurs walking among these trees. They seemed to e$ist outside of ordinary time, which may e$2lain why all of 8umboldt seemed to be one or two ste2s out of synch with the rest of the world. !eo2le here had redwood trees in their backyards. :ou were never far from the infinite. After about an hour, (mily found a rest sto2 on the side of the road. A sign advertised For warned ofG the 2resence of a large herd of Roosevelt elk nearby7 visitors were encouraged
to sto2, but told to stay away from the males, which were easy to identify by their mossy racks of antlers. #efore they even reached the 2arking lot, they saw the elk, standing serenely in a meadow, 2osing for a grou2 of tourists who had sto22ed in the middle of a low bridge to take 2ictures. (mily and =ewis got out, too. (veryone in the grou2 was silent, even the children, who clung to their 2arents’ legs and ducked every time the bulls took a ste2. The only sounds were the crunching of dry grass as the elk ate, and the bee2s and clicks of digital cameras. =ewis stood behind (mily and 2ut an arm around her. The elk were une$2ectedly majestic. )oming across them here was like s2otting a 2od of whales7 it seemed miraculous
that such creatures could e$ist at all. They were as large as horses but more solid, somehowH woollier and wilder, more sure of themselves and their 2lace in the world. The females moved slowly, bending to eat and turning away from the tourists when their cameras went off, e$2osing their cream-colored rum2s. The bulls rubbed their antlers against any tree or shrub large enough to take the abuse. 1t was easy to imagine how satisfying it must feel to scratch the soft skin off the antlers, scra2ing them down to a smooth and 2olished rack. A 2erson could breathe in a 2lace like this. To 2rove it, (mily took a dee2 breath, and when she did she inhaled what was becoming a familiar smell. =ewis noticed it, too. They
turned to look at the tourists, who had 2ut their cameras away and were 2assing a joint around. C1n front of their kids3D whis2ered =ewis. C1n a redwood forest3D said (mily. That made =ewis rest his forehead against the to2 of (mily’s head and sigh. CAell. 1f not in a redwood forest, then where3D They went back to the car and drove around to the 2arking lot, where another sign 2ointed them toward a trail that led through the redwoods to a waterfall. =ewis had been too terrified to hide or flush or burn or bury the evidence that had dro22ed into their la2s in the middle of the night. 8e’d been carrying it in his messenger bag all this time. (mily sat in the driver’s seat while he fumbled around and eventually rolled a clumsy but serviceable joint.
She started the car again so he could use the lighter. And then they walked, hand in hand, into the dam2 and loamy forest, two tiny 2eo2le and a fire so small it could ignite nothing but their minds.
1t was hard work, destroying those cannabis 2lants. (dith wrestled them out of the ground and they fought back. Some of the taller stalks had the heft of young trees. She could only imagine what their root systems must be like trees themselves, but in reverse, winding through the loam in a graceful arboreal sha2e that 2ointed to the center of the earth. The younger 2lants relin0uished their hold more easily. She decided to go after them first, yanking them u2 with one hand and stom2ing on them, crushing the stems. She dragged them to a 2ile near the gate7 when she was finished, she’d
haul them to the ravine and throw them over the edge. She worked 0uickly, ignoring her hunger and the tight, dry thirst in her throat. She wasn’t used to handling the 2lants with her bare hands. The sticky brown resin was im2ossible to brush off7 the more she rubbed her 2alms against her 2ants, the more ingrained it became. Soon the youngest 2lants were nothing more than a 2ile of weeds, already lim2 in the afternoon sun. She turned her attention to the older generation, the sturdy sa2lings that fought to stay. "ne 2articularly fine s2ecimen grew near a 2ink honeysuckle that was always on the verge of getting out of control. A few tendrils of the vine were already working their way u2 the cannabis stalk, as if it, too, wanted the 2lant to remain. (dith dug her feet into the ground
tugged as hard as she could. The u22er leafy cano2y broke a2art in her hands, sending her flying backwards and 2ro2elling the 2lant right into her eyes. She sat u2, her head 2ounding, her eyes stinging from the une$2ected assault by leaves and stems. 8er heart rattled in her chest. She was di55y and e$hausted7 she couldn’t be sure if it was the e$ertion, the stress, or the sticky into$icating mess on her hands and arms. The only sensible thing to do would be to head back down the hill, wash u2, eat some lunch, and return with tools and gloves. This wasn’t much of a chore, but she was foolish to go about it the way she was. She 2ushed herself to her feet and everything went black. "ne dee2 breath and her
vision cleared and faded and cleared again. 1f Sy was here, he would send her to her bed, but dammit, he wasn’t here. Something came over herHrage3 Fear3 Ahatever it was, it 2ushed her down to the bottom of the garden, as far away from the gate as she could get. She stom2ed on her towering cannabis 2lants as she went, 2ushing the stalks to the ground and jum2ing on them. A few of them broke, but most were just crushed and bruised. 1t didn’t matter7 she was on a tear. She 2ounded and 2ulled and ri22ed a2art branches. The enormous starry leaves came down on her, sla22ing the to2 of her head. So much green everywhereHdense and chloro2hyllic and still growing, even as she tore into it. 1t became too much, the 2etioles and trichomes and tiny male stamens shedding
For a minute.2ollen. the 2lants were her whole world. She fought for a breath but couldn’t get one. . They blocked out the light. they used u2 all the air. and then they were gone and there was nothing but sky. 8er hands shook and lost their gri2. The leaves trembled on their stems.
This is what he came here to do. maybe she would be ready to entertain . which was almost hidden by brush. #esides. but he didn’t dare go in.sixt"#three Richmond saw no reason to go back to his car em2ty-handed. 1nching his way slowly around the garden. so he might as well get it over with. 8e listened as (mily and =ewis took leave of (dith and drove away. 8e waited for what seemed like a very long time before he moved. he came at last to the gate. 1f =ewis and (mily were 2utting her out of business. he should at least try to talk to her first. 4o sound came from the to2 of the hill. (dith could be back any time.
sitting on her front 2orch. 1t seemed to take an eternity to get back to the gate. if he could find a way to a22roach without making it look as though he was sneaking u2 on her. . 8e could have cash by the end of the day. staring at the grass. 8e moved slowly again.aybe he should make his way back to the car and 2ull into the driveway. 1t would be a good time to talk to her. That 2ost would be easy to s2ot . and then he could see her there. The corner of (dith’s cottage came into view. This time he 2aused and looked around for a landmark a fence2ost across the meadow leaned so far to the left that it threatened to 2ull the fence down.an offer. afraid that any sound he made would carry on such a still and 0uiet day.
#ack u2 the hill he went. 8e was halfway back to his car when he heard footste2s. of all 2eo2le. 4o sur2rises. Richmond stood at the gate and tried to collect himself. The thing to do would be to walk in like any other visitor and call out her name. no intrusions. For the hundredth time. SomeoneHit must be (dithH walked down the hill and 2ushed the gate o2en. just walk in and announce yourself.again. 1t would guide him back to the gate if he was in a hurry. Aas she 2ulling out 2lants already3 8e had to move. retracing his ste2s and 2ausing just outside the gate to listen for her. had been sent . 8e ke2t moving. Richmond wondered why he. 8e heard it clang shut behind her. 8e could hear her rustling around.
She came straight to the gate with a 2ile of something. 8e could hear her tugging at 2lants and bashing them down. 1nstead. he’d been here all this time and his nerve had failed him over and over. still nervous. 8e couldn’t even get close to this woman. not that he had tried very hard. grabbed the 2lants.aybe Sumner should have rounded u2 some hired thugs who could have come in under cover of darkness. still gathering his resolveHhe reali5ed . And now he had no choice but to march in and wrestle 2lants away from her.on this ridiculous mission. 8er breath was high and ras2y7 the leaves shuffled like 2a2ers around her. After several minutesHstill waiting. and gone. . then turned and walked away again.
he couldn’t hear her anymore. She must have gone dee2er into the garden. 1t wasn’t a garden in any ordinary sense there was no lawn. lord. no fountain or scul2ture or deck. 1f only Tom could see this. "h. and (dith’s sweet delicious cro2 was made all the more sweet and delicious by its unconventional surroundingsHthen Sumner didn’t stand a chance. 1f the rumors were true. 8e didn’t even know how he would describe this 2lace to their cro2 scientists. ducked under the thorny burgundy canes of a blackberry in fruit. Richmond thought about the e$2ansive estate gardens in =ouisville with their dee2 herbaceous borders flanking . and took a ste2 inside. At last he lifted the latch. no network of flagstone 2aths. and no sense of order.
by com2arison. There was no sign of (dith. was a jungle. Tobacco growers would be 2ersuaded to 2ut in cannabisHhell. 8e treaded carefully. There.wide swaths of neatly-mown bluegrass. 8e also bent down and scoo2ed a handful of soil into his 2ocket. their grandfathers had grown hem2 right through Aorld Aar 11. they’d want to analy5e the nutrients in the soil and try to match them in the laboratory. 1f this was really the strain Sumner needed. he sli22ed his 2hone out of his 2ocket and sna22ed a few 2ictures of the garden for Tom. #ut they would not be talked into turning their fields into a tro2ical wilderness like this one. following the foot2aths (dith had worn through the garden. #efore he went looking for her. not . This.
iss Ratner3 8elloKD The trail led him down to the bottom of the garden.far from the gate. She was ri22ing them out. And then he saw another. and here they were. The 2lants his com2any was staking its future on. 1t looked like a cyclone had come through the garden and targeted only cannabis for its destruction. was the 2ile of young 2lants she had ri22ed out. And another. C. but not u2rooted. remembering that he had intended to announce himself at the gate. <own the trail he saw a beefy. si$-foot tall s2ecimen that had been knocked over and crushed. as 2ale and lim2 as wilted lettuce. 1t was easy to follow the 2ath she had taken7 there were 2lants knocked down on both . C(dithKD he called.
C(dithKD he called again. 1t seemed to stretch and move.D 4othing. an illegal 2lant stood out. like the arms of an octo2us.iss Ratner. 1’ve come here with a business offer for you. )ould she be out of earshot3 "r was she hiding3 C. (ven in this overgrown tangle. and just a few healthier s2ecimens remained off in the distance. my name is Richmond Tate. C1’m from =ouisville. he still couldn’t tell how big her garden was. 1 just want to talk. 4o answer. Richmond could see the s2iky leaves from here. C. Ahere was she3 8e reali5ed that after all the time he’d s2ent lurking around this 2lace today.iss Ratner3 8ello3D . Lentucky. ho2ing she was listening nearby.D he called.sides.
.And then he saw her.
and already cold. Richmond thought. but he could imagine that this would be how a gardener . bending over (dith as if she was a turtle shell or a butterfly wing. unri2e fruit.sixt"#four The skin of a dead 2erson was more like the skin of an onion. the s2iky and surreal blossoms of the 2assionflower vine. 8er cheek was as fragile as tissue. 8e sat back on his heels and looked out at the botanical wonder around her the a22le tree bearing small. Richmond was no gardener. and the towering cannabis 2lants she had wrestled to the ground. some natural curiosity he had found in the grass.
4ot even in bed. 4ot in a hos2ital. 4ot alone by the side of the road. against the living earth. on a warm and fragrant afternoon.would want to go. . but here. She seemed so still and so far away. 1t would be the middle of the night before Richmond would reali5e that he could have attem2ted to revive her.
which. surrounded by the evidence of her illegal activity.sixt"#five (dith’s death 2osed a 2roblem for Richmond. 1f he took the 2lants --. 8e could carry her back to her house and leave the garden out of it. they would find the two of them here. 1f he called the 2olice. #ut he6d seen enough crime shows to know that moving a body always looked sus2icious.then he would have to flee with them. . after all. were what he came here for --. 8e couldn6t very well wait for the 2olice to show u2 when he had a car stuffed full of recently-harvested marijuana.
8e grabbed all the marijuana he could carry. The 2lants wilted as he fretted and 2aced. Ahat Richmond did ne$t didn6t make anything better. either. There was no good way for this to end.And there was no telling how much time he had before (mily and =ewis came back. and he ran. . The cro2 was halfdestroyed. but it didn6t make anything worse. (dith was already dead.
the 2ack-and-shi2 sho2 near the air2ort was staffed by college students who knew all about shi22ing live 2lants in unmarked .sixt"#six Richmond didn’t like to fly on a good day. 4othing as heavy and awkward as an air2lane should be able to stay u2 in the air. Fortunately. #ut 2ut a cou2le do5en ra2idly wilting marijuana 2lants in his carry-on bag. So at the last minute he had ignored Tom’s orders and shi22ed the 2lants back to =ouisville in their turkey bags. and the an$iety would kill him long before the fiery crash over the Sierras. and it was only a matter of time before the one he boarded 2roved his 2oint.
and he made it . C#low into the bag and then seal it u2. which would not be im2ossible to trace to Sumner. Tri2le-wra2 that shit.D he said. but would at least re0uire some effort. but not investigated. CEse the 2rinter cubicle. :ou need another bag3D And he 2ulled a bo$ of turkey bags out from behind the counter and offered them. free of charge. Richmond didn’t even have to e$2lain his 2roblem7 when he looked around the cram2ed store for a 2rivate 2lace to 2ack the bo$. The 2ackage went off to a little-used maintenance yard in 4ew Albany. They kid assured Richmond that such a small 0uantity might be confiscated.bo$es. the kid behind the counter figured it out. So Richmond boarded his flight unencumbered by contraband and therefore slightly less afraid.
the rest of the way home on the wings of three slee2ing 2ills and just a little s2lash of jack and coke to wash them down. .
PART THREE .
sixt"#seven =e$6s least favorite official duties as a councilmember were ribbon-cutting ceremonies and funerals. these 2eo2le she barely knew. . The )hamber 2roduced the same 2re2osterous red bows and oversi5ed gold scissors at every ribbon-cutting. were further 2roof that her job carried all the weight of a school 2lay. She couldn6t 2ro2erly mourn her constituents. #ut funerals were worse. Those 2ro2s. along with the enormous checks s2rinkled with silver glitter that she sometimes had to 2resent at community fundraisers. She shuddered when grieving family members handed her the micro2hone.
The . 2referring to kee2 her distance in case (dith6s secret garden was ever raided. as a no-nonsense adult in a suit. There had been talk of holding the service at Sy’s 2lace.were so lost. as an elected leader. it didn6t seem right to invite 2eo2le to the scene of her mysterious death. but =ewis and (mily felt it was too unkem2t.asking her to say a few words about the de2arted. to make sense of it.these stricken 2arents and children and friends --. She was a small town elected official. (dith6s funeral was 2articularly difficult. 1 can fi$ a 2arking ticket. not a 2riest. and besides. she wanted to say. =e$ had not seen much of her in recent years. #ut these 2eo2le --. They looked out at her from the de2ths of their anger and confusion and e$2ected her. but 1 can6t fi$ this.
browsing the books. She saw <on )antrell walk in and shake =ewis’ hand before he headed for the food. but then again. 2icking u2 a 2rogram near the door. the default location for memorials in town. The store was closed for the day. so the regular customers came and went anyway. but the doors remained unlocked. and hel2ing themselves to the trays of refreshments as if it was an o2en house.community center at the marina. Todd =arson walked in right behind him. these two 2eo2le needed to get to know . was rejected as too sterile. (ventually it was decided that The Firebreathing <ragon would be the most fitting 2lace to say farewell to (dith. A funeral was no 2lace to do business.
<on straightened slightly and shook Todd6s hand. he had the air of someone who wasn’t used to tucking in his shirt. 2atting Todd awkwardly on the back.D <on 2ressed his li2s together and nodded. 8e was one of those young men who never managed to look like an adult7 even now. BSo. CTodd’s going to be our 2roject manager. BAnd what 2roject would that be. =e$3B .D Todd said. This is Todd. C<on. She hurried downstairs to make the introductions.D said =e$. C<on. Todd wore khaki 2ants and a tucked-in shirt.each other.D she said. in his best man-to-man voice.
The council is ready to move on the ne$t round of 2lans we submit. BAe are on. C. <on.ot it. CAnd who’s our tenant3D C:ou remember our new friend Richmond3D CAhat. 16ve got financing and 16ve got a tenant. CAhat3D he hissed. the tobacco e$ecutive3 8e’s going to sell cigarettes by the seashore3D Todd jum2ed.D =e$ said. knocking a stack of books off the shelf he had been leaning against. C:ou’re doing business with a tobacco com2any3 1 thought that guy was a botanist.D .=e$ leaned over to whis2er to him.D said <on.D CAnd Todd hereQD C1s not going u2 for reelection ne$t year.
There is not a brewery in town that will sign a five-year lease on a building that has not yet been built and 2ay !ortland rents for a (ureka location.D BA brew2ub3B Todd said. that’s all. This is a brew2ub.B =e$ said. BAhoa. and then gave u2 and set them back on the floor. s2eaking with e$aggerated care as if she was talking to a five . looking for the em2ty s2ot on the shelf they must have occu2ied. Sumner owns a lot of different com2anies.B Todd fumbled with the books. C8uh.=e$ held u2 her hands. BAith all the local breweries around here3 :ou’re going to bring in a national chain3D CTodd.D he said. CSo why did he want toHD B=isten to me. as if he didn’t 0uite buy it.
<on3D <on gave =e$ another tight. <on here draws u2 2lans. 2ained smile and turned with Todd to look out the window toward the vacant waterfront. Ae6re even going to have lofts for artists. 1 justHB CTodd.B Todd sighed. . C1 get it. 1 2ut the financing together.year-old. There will be lots of o22ortunities for local businesses on the waterfront. CAe each have our roles. 1t seemed like everybody was learning how the world worked this week. and you oversee the whole thing to make sure that the 2lans match u2 with what the 2eo2le who have the money want. Ahy don’t you tell him about the lofts.
or just --. like.sixt"#ei ht As 2eo2le gathered for the memorial =ewis stood behind the counter.B =ewis looked u2 and saw that 2eo2le were watching him. B<o you have any books on camels3B she asked =ewis.a book about camels3B BStories. we’re actually closed today. B)amels. A woman walked in. a kid6s book. oblivious to the event taking sha2e in the store. feeling awkward and out of 2lace. Ae6re in the middle of a ---B . B:ou mean. and leaned over the counter.B =ewis re2eated. B:ou know. 1 like to read stories about camels.
more to get her out of the store 0uickly than anything. feeling like an idiot.B<on6t you have any animal stories3B The woman headed to the back of the store. ratsHB B=et me see what you got on rats. =ewis followed. BAe do have a section on mammals. )rawford finally came to his assistance. ma6am. )rawford. giraffes. but we6re closed today to 2ay res2ects to a friend of ours who has died.B =ewis said. =ewis followed her. B16m sorry.B . 1 should6ve been able to handle that.B 8e took her by the elbow and steered her out the front door. Ae6ve got horses. 1 don6t see camels.B the woman said eagerly. BSorry. B1t6s right here.
BTy2e Two would be the 2eo2le who come in wanting to buy Vuh-.what we have for sale.B B"kay.B )rawford said.BForget it. so let me guess. but they6re not really sure how it works. folding his arms across his chest and leaning over to s2eak to =ewis in a low voice. BAell. and they knew how it worked. BTy2e "ne was the customer who came in here and understood what was going on.B . She’s what your uncle Sy used to call our Ty2e Four customer. and you6re not going to e$2lain it to them.B =ewis said.B B:ou mean ---B BThey were here to buy what we had to sell.B BAhat does that mean3B =ewis asked.
and they can6t believe they6re in an actual bookstore with actual books for sale.B )rawford said. e$actly.B BAnd then there’s Ty2e Four. Ahich they 2robably won’t buy. She just wants ---B )rawford 2ressed his li2s together and looked out at the little crowd of Sy and (dith6s friends milling around in the store.B BAell. BAnd Ty2e Three are the tourists who have no idea what6s going on. why is she cra5y just because she wants a book about camels3B BShe doesn6t want a book about camels. She wants to find a book that will make sense of whatever cra5y thing is rattling around inside her head.B C)ra5y 2eo2le. .CThat6s right. BAhat3B B1 don6t know. "rHno.
D came a voice at the door.aybe she just comes in here because we6re a ca2tive audience. She can6t very well go into a shoe store and strike u2 a conversation about camels. and we6re more or less obligated to go down that road with her. 4ow that the truth had come out. . 2eo2le were treating him like he was 2art of the family.maybe that6s not right. C=ewis.D .D =ewis made an uncomfortable half-smile and looked down at the floor. #ut she comes in here.B C#ehind you. C#een 0uite a week for you. 1t was .uillermo said. 8e set them on the counter and then joined =ewis and )rawford by the door. 4ever mind the fact that he had 2ut a halt to the <ragon’s nefarious . 2atting him on the back.uillermo with another tray of cookies.
CThe house needs a lot of work. it’sHwell. C:eah.uillermo said. C)rawford says you’re going to sell the 2lace3D . really. C1n light of everything that’s ha22ened. and the realtor says it’ll sell a lot easier if we clear out all the books. Ae have to do an earth0uake retrofit and fi$ the roof. it’s been 0uite a summer.activities7 they always e$2ected him to do that.D =ewis said. es2ecially now that (dith was gone and her cro2 was wrecked. 4ot that there was any alternative.D =ewis said. soQD 8e didn’t look at )rawford as he said that.D =ewis said. 1 guess so.D CSo is this good-bye3D C4ot yet. 1n s2ite of everything that had ha22ened. CAell. he still felt like .
CSounds e$2ensive. =ewis turned to )rawford. where #illy was hel2ing =e$ gather the s2eakers who had volunteered to eulogi5e (dith. #ut the realtor (mily talked to said that we’d never unload this building or Sy’s house in the condition they’re in.D C8uh. CAell. CAhat does he mean. CAow. not really. not wanting to mention the cash they’d found at the house.he was letting )rawford down by closing the store. C1t’s a little bit of a risk. 2ro2 money3D .uillermo said. did he3D C4o. 1 guess you could always s2end the 2ro2 money.D said . Sy didn’t leave much cash.D .D Aith that he laughed and 2ounded =ewis on the back again and walked u2stairs to the me55anine.D =ewis said.uillermo.
D CRight.C"h. They’re all over the house. your uncle Sy collected movie 2ro2s. :ou know those scenes in action movies where the armored truck gets blown u2 and the money goes everywhere3 Aell. because technically. right3 They use this fake cash called 2ro2 money. C:ou know.D CSo he also collected the fake money they use in films. Sy got a big kick out of hiding itHD . they’re counterfeit bills. 1t’s kind of an underground thing to collect. :ou knowHa guy o2ens a briefcase full of cashHit’s not real money. you haven’t found it3D )rawford asked. when 2ro2 money gets scattered all over the road 2eo2le will actually 2ick it u2 and try to s2end it.
"ne of them had to be (mily’s.D .D Iust then =e$ Trevino’s voice floated down from the me55anine.#ut =ewis left before he could finish. C4one of it’s real. C4o money. Finally he found her in a corner talking with one of Sy’s former tenants.D he re2eated. leaning against her so hard that she staggered back. CFriends and family. C=et’s begin. CThere is no money. the faces swimming around him.D he whis2ered. 8e walked through the crowd. knocking over a shelf of military history.D she said.
sorting the recycling and hauling the garbage into the alley. =ewis slum2ed in a chair behind the counter.B =ewis lifted his head. B1t never occurred to me that you would think all that was real. which really meant that she wanted to get out of the store before she said something she regretted. .sixt"#nine After the service.B )rawford said.inger was in the back. )rawford stood around nervously. (mily had gone for a walk. BAe should have told you. BAre you talking about the money or the bookstore3B .
but you6re right. he owed <on . 1t wasn6t fair to you. BAgain. C<on’t. 1f we had any idea you were racking u2 bills and 2aying contractors ---B C)rawford. the <ragon’s sales ta$ 2ayments were 2ast-due.B )rawford said.D =ewis said. shaking his head. IustHjust let me think.BAell. Ae should never have ke2t any of it from you. really sorry about that. B:eah.D =ewis was looking not at )rawford. really. 8e was in a da5e. but at some middle 2oint in the air between them. 8e had to cover 2ayroll. B1 cannot believe 1 managed to get myself into so much trouble in such a short 2eriod of time.B he said. 1 was talking about the money.D #ut he couldn’t think. 8e owed everyone money. re2laying the events of the last several weeks.
the water stains around the windows. for the first time. That 8emingway that (mily had given3 8e hadn’t even looked at it. A building that was falling a2art. he could see how decre2it the 2lace really was the 2eeling 2aint. 4ow.)antrell moneyHand what did he have3 A bookstore that didn’t make sell books. (mily was rightHhe 2robably could get his old job back. The miserable truth was that =ewis’s coach was turning back into a 2um2kin. 1n another . A briefcase full of fake cash and a ma$ed-out credit card. the sagging shelves groaning under the weight of books that no one wanted. The da55ling and 2romising new life he had fashioned for himself was over. (ven =ewis didn’t want them.
They’d be a little dee2er in debt. to kee2 the <ragon going against all odds. 8is beloved uncle Sy had 2oured his life into this bookstore. And the <ragon would not be one of the last surviving bookstores in America anymore. but otherwise unhurt. but it was sim2ly not 2ossible. the store hadn’t made . =ewis had ho2ed to kee2 his memory alive. salvaging libraries and rescuing books that would otherwise have gone to the dum2. The building was run down. 8e was a man of another time.month. they could be back in their a2artment. and they’d have this story between themHthis interval of time in which their lives went right off the rails. =ewis was already imagining the story he would tell re2orters. The man had been a ho2eless literary romantic. or one just like it.
(mily. 1t was all very sad. #ut in the . 1t was nearly midnight when they got back from their visit to the elk. 8e and (mily ho2ed to set u2 a scholarshi2 fund in Sy’s honor. She was the one who discovered (dith’s body at the bottom of the garden. and we can all learn from that. #ut Encle Sy was a man with big dreams. =ewis would say to the re2orters. and neither of them had noticed that (dith had left a coffee cu2 and her garden gloves on the front 2orchHnot that a 2air of gloves would have made them sus2icious anyway. Ahere !as (mily3 8e wouldn’t be sur2rised if she didn’t come back at all.any money in years. That million-dollar ledger showing a history of record-breaking sales3 All a figment of an old man’s imagination.
She’d gone down to the garden. There was (dith.morning (mily wanted to find (dith and make sure she was all right. light as a leaf and covered in dew. and following the trail of destruction straight down to the bottom of the hill. and their drive u2 the coast. telling them the story of their recent discovery about the <ragon. their confrontation in the garden earlier today. which they were able to confirm later with credit card recei2ts at a gas station and at a restaurant in Trinidad. calling (dith’s name as she went. 4one of this came as a sur2rise to the officers. all of . and offer to let her stay until she and =ewis sold the house. (mily had been entirely forthcoming. The 2olice found no evidence that (dith had been murdered or even startled by an intruder. not that they looked very hard.
8e let them finish their 2a2erwork and hel2ed the ambulance driver find . against the <ragon. or their grandsons. They took a mild. =ewis. for that matter. who assured =ewis that they had more im2ortant things to do than go after little old ladies with herb gardens. 2rofessional interest in the garden. They were so clearly uninterested in finding a crime at the scene of (dith’s death.whom had known about (dith’s legendary cro2 and the real source of the <ragon’s 2rofits. This elicited a laugh from the officers. having seen every kind of grow o2 but this over the years. anything. had 2ractically begged them to file chargesHagainst him as (dith’s landlord. 8e didn’t bother correcting them about the grandson 2art. des2erate and terrified.
immersing herself in the task of cleaning out (dith6s cottage and getting Sy’s house fi$ed u2. that6s all. Surely they were to blame for this somehow. She had hardly s2oken to =ewis since (dith6s death. who also had no interest in blaming (mily or =ewis. too. to clear brush.a flat s2ot to 2ark near the garden so the little wheeled cart wouldn’t have far to go. She blamed herself anyway. #ut the coroner refused to go along with that. She had a weak heart and she overe$erted herself. had been engaging contractors. 1f they were going to sell the house. and 2our a new driveway. (mily didn6t care that she hadn’t been im2licated. Surely the stress must6ve triggered the attack. (dith had a heart attack. it needed a . cut the grass. according to the coroner. She.
C)rawford.D he called. ho2ing it was . 8e looked around for )rawford. C1’m going to look for (mily. 1f she comes back here. And now those contractors would have to be 2aid with something other than Sy’s fake money. 8e 2ulled the 2hone out of his 2ocket. who had wandered off to hel2 . =ewis could almost believe that his uncle Sy was 2laying a joke on him from the grave. a real heating systemHany number of e$2ensive renovations for which estimates were arriving daily.D @ As he left the store. tell her to wait for me. Ahat a ridiculous situation.inger with the clean-u2.new roof. his 2hone bu55ed.
1’m the )(" of 4ile. Ahat is it3D =ewis said. C:es. who is this3D C=ewis.a$ine Rogers. CAhHis this =ewis 8artman3D came a woman’s voice.D "h. CSeriously. CAhat3D he said.her. this is . it is.com. 8e was in no mood for more jokes. 8ave you got a minute3D . im2atient to get rid of this unwanted caller. C=ewis. 2lease. but it was the same unfamiliar number he’d been ignoring every day since (dith died. Aait. 1’ve been trying to reach you all week.
B<oes she remember that her com2any is the one that 2retty much did away with books3D .B BThat6s the idea. 8e couldn6t talk her into dinner out. Aith.B said =ewis. BActual bookstores.B (mily said. reluctantly.com wants to o2en a bookstore. B4ot just one. A whole bunch of them. to sit on the floor in Sy’s living room and s2lit a 2i55a and a bottle of wine with him. like. books.B =ewis said. 2icking the rubbery canned mushrooms off her 2i55a.sevent" BSo you6re saying that 4ile. but she had agreed.
everything. C<own. the floorboards. #ut they’d also have book clubs and writing classes. She6s really sorry about that.CAell. They’d have a lot fewer books. They’d sell coffee and writing 2a2er and fancy 2ens and 2robably e-books. And she thinks that stores like the <ragon would make 2eo2le feel literary again. of course. 1 guess. She says that sales of e-books are offVD C"ff3D (mily said. C<id you tell her that3D . yeah. She wants to re2roduce the whole thingHthe architecture. and she’s got all these ideas about doing webcasts and virtual events--D CThis is the stu2idest idea 1’ve ever heard. The books would be more like decoration. refilling her glass.D (mily said. and authors would come and read.
D =ewis said. CAait a minute. against all odds.B (mily said. CAnd you didn’t tell her3D CAellHno. BShe hasn’t heard about (dith3 She doesn’t know that the store’s basically out of business3D C4ot e$actly.D . not e$actly.CAell.D C!retty much. The bookstore that has survived. and gone on to sell a million dollars’ worth of books in the digital age. CShe’s got a very interesting offer for us. The last literary out2ost in the Aest.D =ewis said.D BFor us3 Ahy us3B =ewis didn6t say anything for a minute.D CSo she still thinks the <ragon is this wildly successful bookstore.
still standing over him.B =ewis said. For a minute.B BSo she6s going to find out. She doesn6t know that. (verybody . =ewisKB =ewis cleared his throat.D BThe <ragon3 The <ragon sold 2ot.B (mily said.That got (mily on her feet.D B4ot just jobs. CShe will know. =ewis thought she was going to throw it at him. CIobs3 Ae had 7obs. B:eah. Ae 0uit our jobs to do this. She stood over him with a 2iece of 2i55a in her hand. A develo2ment deal. A twoyear contract to hel2 them take the <ragon nationwide. B=ewisK Ahat are you doing3 Ahat do you 2ossibly e$2ect to get out of this3B BShe6s offering us jobs.
D (mily sat back down.D =ewis said. .D he continued. CShe does. She tucked her knees under her chin and looked at him. Ae were the only ones in the whole goddamn town who didn’t know. To think he used to seem boring. CShe’s going to send a cou2le 2eo2le down here to 2ut the deal together.B C1 don’t think that. 1 am married to a cra5y 2erson.knows. she thought. B1t doesn6t look like any of this is going to end u2 in the news e$ce2t for (dith’s obituary.B BSo you think you6re going to convince her that we run this ama5ingly successful bookstore and that she should co2y it all over the country. which really doesn’t say much about the <ragon.D B8ow is she going to find out3D =ewis said.
B B4o. 1 said 1 would have to talk to you and )rawford first. they6ll start with the <ragon3 1sn6t the <ragon already a bookstore3B BAell. BThey want to offer him a deal. of course not.B B.B BAhy )rawford3B B"h. :eah. too.B =ewis said.D CAnd you6ve already agreed to this.eaning whatHthey6d have writers working in the store3B . They want authors to be involved at each store. 1 forgot to tell you about that 2art. they6ll redo it. CEm.D BAhat you mean. 1t’ll be a 2rototy2e. Lind of.CThey’ll start with the <ragon. 1t6ll be more likeHB CA theme 2ark version of the <ragon3D (mily said.
A re2orter in <enver wanted a comment from him on the news that Tall Tales was closing.ascots3D (mily was right. C"kay. Sort of like--B C. =ewis closed the 2i55a bo$ so the last slice wouldn’t tem2t him. C)ould we 2ut them in cages and make them write for 2eanuts3D she said. not running the cash register or anything like that. Forget it. .D As he was 2icking u2 the em2ty wine bottle.BAell. Ae’re done here. 1t would be a theme 2ark. his 2hone rang. =ewis reali5ed. 1t6s more like the writers would lend their names to the whole thing. making the <ragon one of three bookstores left in America.
D he said.C4ot tonight.D . C4o comment.
sevent"#one =ewis reluctantly agreed that the only sensible thing to do was to find an e$cuse to turn down . had their belongings driven back to a storage unit in San Iose. 8e told (mily that he was getting ready to hold a going out of business sale. Ahile she worked. maybe even in San Francisco this time. but the fact was. then sell off Sy’s 2ro2erty and get out of town. She said that she was going to visit her . .a$ine’s offer. "ver the ne$t week (mily finished cleaning out Sy’s house.inger had left for =os Angeles after the funeral. =ewis hung around the bookstore. he just couldn6t stand to let it go. and made arrangements to look at some a2artments in the #ay Area.
the cra5y 2eo2leHwhat )rawford called the Ty2e Four customersHseemed to take u2 all their time. C4o. but =ewis sus2ected she was looking for a job.utenberg #ible3D he asked.D said )rawford.D CThat’s what everybody tells me. Aithout the store’s regular clients coming in and out. :ou’re not going to just find one in a bookstore. CThere’s only like forty-eight of them in the world. Cbut 1 kee2 lookingKD .D he said. That left him and )rawford to sit morosely in the store and wave away the few customers who hadn’t heard that the <ragon was selling nothing but books.family. C:ou got a . A gri55led old man hauling three bags of bottles and cans stuck his head in the door.
They leaned back in their chairs and listened to the ticking of the clock on the bookshelf behind them. )rawford was starting to wonder why =ewis was 2aying him to sit there.ood. =ewis loved this time of day in the bookstore the late afternoon. sending a long. orHD . slightly mussed. The dust danced in the light. low 2atch of sun across the entryway.B C.D =ewis said.B he said to =ewis after the man left. man. C1 could be cleaning out the back room. BThat6s a book we could sell to somebody. serene. CEhHhey. when the light shifted and hit the windows. 1t was everything a bookstore should be 0uiet.D he finally said. And un2rofitable.BThere you go.
1’ve had an offer from 4ile.com to sort of -. Yeroes and ones.B CAell. B1t6s all right.ac0uire the <ragon. 1 wasn6t even going to bring this u2. leaning toward =ewis.D .=ewis shook his head. BThose assholesK Are you kidding me3 They ruined my life. She sells digital media. but 1 think you6ve got a right to know. Ae6ll get to it. That bitch . )rawford. #ut she doesn6t sell books. then--B C=ook. =icense it. really. She doesn’t know what a book is.a$ine Rogers3 She goes around telling 2eo2le that she only wants to make books available to everybody.B )rawford’s feet had been 2ro22ed u2 on the desk. but he slammed them on the floor and sat u2.
=ewis was stunned. CAho do you know who actually reads novels on their stu2id little 2hone3 Ahat are you reading right now. 4ot to mention that my novel s2ent in nine months on the bestseller list. C<id you even read my books3B 4othing. Tonight. . Ahat6s the name of the book you6re in the middle of3D =ewis didn’t say anything. 8e had no idea he would set )rawford off like that. =ewis3 Right now. before you go to bed. CAell.ood friend of your uncle Sy. and it damn near won the 4ational . 1 think she knowsHD #ut )rawford wasn’t done. #ut you’re not even curious enough to read a single 2age 1’ve written. C1 am your em2loyee.
suddenly interested. And you. .B )rawford said. but he knew how ridiculous this would sound.#ook Award.a$ine. what3 She wants to buy the bookstore3 Ahat for3D =ewis tried to su22ress a smile.B BShe told you that3D )rawford said. She said she met you. wasn6t she3B B:eah. for chrissakes.D C4o. you can6t even bother --B Then it hit him. CAhat did she say about me3B B"h. That woman who had come into the bookstore and 2raised his novel. )rawford. Forget it. 8er name was . mister million-dollar bookseller. BShe was here. Aas that her3 BAait a minute. CShe’s im2ressed by the <ragon’s unlikely success.
B B)rawford. 8e fell out of his chair in mock astonishment and rolled around on the floor.She wants to take it nationwide. B"f course we can.D C:ou are talking like a cra5y 2erson. BThat6s brilliantKB Then he rolled over onto his back and looked u2 at =ewis. Take their money.D . B=et6s do it.D C:our uncle Sy would have jum2ed on this.D )rawford 2ulled himself back into his chair. BThe <ragon6s unlikely successKB he howled. And she wants to hire you. <on6t you see how 2erfect is this3 They’re the ones who did this to us. Ahat3 Ae can6t. )all her.B This was too much for )rawford. and now they will 2ay. <o the deal.
.D the guy said. looking nervously at )rawford. 2artially obscured by a swath of hair. then lifted his black =ed Ye22elin t-shirt and turned around. <o you still have that book3 1 want to get the rest of it on my chest. CAhHD =ewis said. C1t’s based on a 2icture from a book 1 found in this store. CThis tattoo.They were interru2ted by a mountain of a man in full motorcycle leather. e$2osing a tattoo of naked figures moaning and writhing.D )rawford wasn’t saying a word. 8e un5i22ed his jacket as he walked in the door. looking over his shoulder at them. 2ulling his shirt down and turning around to face them. C<o you have this3D he said.
D )rawford said. in his best erudite bookseller voice. unbelievable engravings. e$actly3D =ewis asked. C4oHwaitH1 mean. CSold it to one of our best customers last year.D C1 should have bought it. C4o. C8ow much did you sell it for3D CAbout five hundred bucks. do you remember the name of the book3D C<ante’s 4nferno. yes. CAh.D )rawford said. 1t was an ama5ing book. 1 remember it well. shooting =ewis a meaningful look.D C:ou still have it3D he said.CAhat was the tattoo. 2rom2ting the man to lift his shirt again.D )rawford said.D he said. . gilt edges. tooHbig folio si5e. CThe <orW engravings.D the man said.
C:ou know3D =ewis said. fuck that. =ewis thought.D After he left. CAell.D CAell.D C"nline3 :eah3D the guy said.D C1t grows on you. =ewis and )rawford just sat and grinned at the em2ty doorway.D =ewis said.D )rawford said.uy who used to own this 2lace loaned it to me. CSo how’d you get the tattoo if you didn’t have the book3D he asked. good luck finding it. C1’m sure you can find a scan of the engravings online. . C.!robably an ounce. C1 kind of like being a bookseller.
and then interviewing local .sevent"#two .alway’s boss had decided it was time for him to do some actual re2orting. And now .alway had been assigned the dreary task of gathering s2eculation from local 2ersonalities on the identity of this mystery tenant. some national chain that was also 2roviding ca2ital for the first 2hase of construction. #etsy had a daughter-in-law who worked at )ity 8all7 through her #etsy had learned that =e$ Trevino’s 2roject was finally u2 for a vote. The 2lans included a mysterious anchor tenant from out of the area.
uillermo had any information.uillermo said. BShe never brought anybody from out of town in here.D . 8e knew that =e$ took her off-site meetings at )ontra )offee. And 1 heard he was setting u2 a meeting with his friends. 4aturally.uillermo said.D . C4ow she’s having lunch with Todd =arson. #ut if . dro22ing into a chair across from . She6s got the 8umboldt =egal 2eo2le all involved. he started with .business owners and civic leaders for their reaction to the s2eculation. B#ut 16ll tell you one thing. he wasn’t talking to the 2ress.alway.B C4ot any more.B .B BAhat.uillermo. in this 2roject3 She usually stays as far away from them as she can.
D C8m.uillermo said. he’s been through a lot. !oor kid.D . that could mean--D C1 don’t know. C=ewis can’t seem to stay away. Sounds to me like she’s talking to growers. today they are.alway said. but they sure don’t seem to be 2acking u2. CShe took him to dinner a cou2le times.D C1 heard (dith’s garden was 2retty much destroyed. already regretting the .alway looked glumly out the window.D .CAell.uillermo said.D CAhat about this mystery man from out of town3D C1 never saw him. CAre they still o2en over there3D CAell.D . This was not turning into much of a story. 1 don’t know why. 1 guess they’ll shut it down.D . but she didn’t meet with him in here.
#ut by then the 2olice hadHyou knowHdone the minimum they had to do to clear the 2lace out.D said . :ou didn’t grow u2 here. Aell. anyway. CA lot’s changed over the years. when 1 was a kid. C:eah. right.D .loss of (dith’s horticultural contributions as much as the rest of the community.D C"h. did you3D C8ell. no. CSan Antonio. 1 heard that a few growers went out there to try to get hold of some 2lants.alway smiled and shook his head. C1t was a cou2le of days before anybody reali5ed that the garden was even involved.D .uillermo said. you know what they used to do with all the 2ot they confiscated3 They took it to the 2ul2 mill .uillermo.
D C.uillermo said admiringly. And we lived out there on this logging road that led right to the mill.once a month or so and had them burn it.alway said.ood times.uillermo said. The sheriff would drive by in this covered 2ick-u2 truck and 1’d follow along on my bike and 2ick u2 whatever fell off the truck. :ou could smell it all over the bay.D . C:eah.D .D C4o shit3D . CThey really were. .
sevent"#three =E)L RE4S "ET F"R 9""<"" #""LS F4ew "rleans.and she . witchcraft. 9oodoo #ooks owner Anita 8awkins 2acked u2 the last of the store6s inventory of rare and out-of-2rint books on vam2ires. and haunted houses-. one of the city6s most beloved institutions announced that it was closing its doors for good. =AG As 4ew "rleans residents once again leave their homes in antici2ation of the arrival of 8urricane )arla.
1 hate to close. B"ne of our favorite things to do is to come into 9oodoo #ooks and look at all .doesn6t intend to return to the French Nuarter after the hurricane threat 2asses.ontgomery. but 1 just don6t see how 1 can kee2 going. Alabama. and the owner wants to do some renovations after the evacuation.B 9isitors to the French Nuarter reacted with shock and disbelief to the news that 9oodoo #ooks was closing. BAe come here every year.y lease was u2 for renewal. And 1 was three months behind to begin with.reg <elgado of . B8e6s already told me to e$2ect a rent increase.B said . B.D she said from her mother6s home in Shreve2ort.
<elgado admitted that he had never 2urchased a book from the store. C1 do have all of Anne Rice’s books on my 2hone. The French Nuarter won’t be the same without 9oodoo #ooks. CShe created an evocative setting and hel2ed trans2ort her customers to another time.com )(" .r.D She added that .those cra5y witch books they have.B #ut .B Rogers said.a$ine Rogers said that she would be BhauntedD by the loss of 9oodoo #ooks.i5mo. CAnita 8awkins managed to do something with her bookstore that no digital media could do. 4ile. holding u2 his .D he added. 1t6s 2art of the whole e$2erience of the French Nuarter.
but 1 try not to think about that. 1t’s .D (laine . C1’m not sure how much longer 1 can hold out either.ordon now has the distinction of being one of the last two booksellers left in the Enited States.she took comfort in the knowledge that anyone could carry 9oodoo6s entire inventory around in their 2ocket.ordon.ordon said. C1’m surrounded by books every day.D . Cbut at least those books will live on.D . said that she Cwould mourn the 2assing of 9oodoo #ooks the way you’d mourn the loss of a friend.D she admitted. owner of Seattlebased #lack and Ahite #ooks. C1t’s not the same as being there.
was not available for comment.hard for me to believe that the rest of the country doesn’t want to e$2erience what 1 do. )A bookstore Firebreathing <ragon. .D =ewis 8artman. owner of the (ureka.
a$ine.com had bought and remodeled it. =ewis would reali5e that he was not forced to do what he did ne$t. That would have worked. claiming that he and )rawford . by a2ologi5ing and getting his old job back and doing the dishes more often than necessary and 2aying off their bills and whatever else (mily wanted --. "r even if he did insist on doing the deal with . a timeshare in Tahoe. a media room. 8e could have followed (mily back to San Iose and re2aired his marriage the easy way.a child.sevent"#four :ears from now. he could have closed the store and reo2ened it only after 4ile.
aybe their bestselling 2roduct was illegal. furious that =ewis was making no 2rogress toward closing the store and ho2ing that a dramatic gesture on her 2art would shake him u2. the <ragon had su22orted Sy and two em2loyees without doing anything terribly wrong. with books on the shelves and joints under the counter. too. There would have been no lies. he became even more fi$ated on the idea of kee2ing the store o2en and running it the way it had been running all this time. After all. After (mily left. That might have worked. . but so what3 1t was already for sale all over town.and no illegal activity. And his run-in with the 2olice at the scene of (dith6s . just a few omissions --. #ut that is not what ha22ened.needed a break before they began their new venture.
. they were still selling books. That was really the job of a bookstoreHto get 2eo2le to ac0uire the books.a$ine could send her 2eo2le down to the <ragon to observe the store in action. 1t was never the role of a bookseller to actually make a 2erson read a book once they6d bought it. #esides. =ewis and )rawford could sit behind the counter and sell over2riced books to enthusiastic customers all day long.death had convinced him that local law enforcement was all too willing to look the other way.a$ine’s 2eo2le would . weren6t they3 !eo2le were being e$2osed to books and they were taking them home. it made sense to just kee2 going. . was it3 So in a strange way.
(mily would come back.see what they wanted to seeHa busy bookstore that made a remarkably steady 2rofit. they would go legit.a$ine --was the very scenario made her decide to leave in the first 2lace. whatever she wanted. 1t never occurred to =ewis that this scenario --. but when =ewis asked him what they could do about getting a .com. she could 2aint. And when the money came through from 4ile. The only 2roblem was that (dith6s garden was 2roducing nothing but a22les and honeysuckle nectar. She could 0uit her job.the one in which he stayed in (ureka and clung to the 2ossibility of doing a deal with . she could travel. )rawford wasn6t o22osed to the idea of reviving the <ragon.
B he said. which was under the jurisdiction of the local 2olice. which. They 2assed the signs on the way to the jail. )rawford just shrugged. The officer was e$traordinarily nice about the whole thing.new su22lier. The officer slowed his cruiser down and 2ointed . BThis one6s on you. B:ou6re the boss.B And that is how =ewis found himself on the old cargo dock on (ureka6s waterfront. and the 2ort. was federally controlled. attem2ting to buy ten 2ounds of marijuana from an undercover officer of the <e2artment of 8omeland Security. as everyone but =ewis knew. even taking the time to identify the red and white signs marking the boundary between "ld Town.
the way you6d show the sights to a tourist. .them out 2olitely.
sevent"#five 1t took a week for #illy <alton to get in to see his client. being housed tem2orarily at the county jail. =ewis wasn6t allowed to sit with him in the usual visitation room7 federal 2rocedures re0uired that any meetings with his lawyer be held a2art from the other inmates. #illy had to get a new level of clearance and fill out a stack of unfamiliar 2a2erwork to get into the same building he’d visited a hundred times before. So the guards brought the two of them to a room that was not too different from #illy6s office an awkward and unused s2ace normally reserved . #ecause =ewis was a federal 2risoner.
and he was allergic to either the county-issued orange jum2suit or the laundry detergent it was washed in. looking around a22rovingly. That was a big buy for your first time out. B1t6s going to be a long 2rocess.B #illy said. BThis is nice. yeah. 8e obviously hadn6t sle2t. buddy.B B#illy. This is not the . B16ve never had a 2rivate meeting room over here before.arriott.B =ewis looked terrible. . !lease tell me you6ve been working on getting me out of here.for storage. Red welts ran u2 his arms and across his neck.B 8e looked grimly at =ewis and fiddled with a 2en. to which two folding chairs and a broken com2uter desk had been added.B said #illy. BEh.
BAren’t we going to work on my defense3D B:ou6ve got a defense3B #illy asked. sur2rised. 1 didn6t say what he thought 1 said. 1 was de2ressed or confused or --B B=ewis. They have video cameras down on the docks and the agent was wearing a wire. right3 1t was a misunderstanding. They6re 2retty sure you were trying to buy ten 2ounds of 2ot.what do you think is on that ta2e3B BAll right. Ahat about bail3B BAe6ve got a hearing ne$t week.we6ve got to tell them something. BAell -.1 mean -. but --. Ae6ll get a chance to see the video. 8ow much money have you got3B .B1s that all you got3B said =ewis.
B:ou didn6t think they were going to let me take you home. 8e felt like crying. did you3B B1 don6t know. B1 just have to stay here3B #illy laughed and tugged at his 2onytail. standing u2 and sla22ing =ewis on the back. there is one 2iece of good news. )an6t (mily come u2 with some money3B B(mily’s not e$actly taking my calls right now.B #illy said.B =ewis said. . Their time was u2. BAell. Ahat about the house and the store3B BThe feds will 2robably sei5e those. BSo that6s it3B =ewis said.B4ot much.B =ewis mumbled. The guard knocked on the door.
BAhat6s that3B BThere6s a rumor going around on the 1nternet that )ongress is about to outlaw cigarettes and legali5e marijuana. Aouldn6t that be cool3B .
B BAell. B4ice 0uote to the 2ress.aybe.B )rawford said. B1 was in your store a while ago --B B1 remember you. 1 was actually calling for =ewis. J8aunted.B she said brightly.a$ine called the <ragon the day after the story about 9oodoo #ooks broke.sevent"#six . listen.’ That6s cute. 1s he there3 16ve been trying him on his 2hone.B #efore )rawford could say anything. two little girls ran into the store and tore u2 the . but he6s not answering.B BAas that a little too cute3B B. B)rawfordK 1 don6t know if you remember me.
B1t6s this game that kids 2lay in here sometimes. B1t means you have all these young 2eo2le interested in books. BAhat3B . they6re not .D BSo have they found the oldest book in the store yet3B )rawford listened to the thudding of their footste2s overhead. jee5.B .B )rawford sighed. B%M*%KB "ne of them shouted. They6re interested in 2ulling them off the shelves and cracking the s2ines.B B:eah.stairs.a$ine said. but they6re not interested in reading them.a$ine said.B BAell. B%M'MKB the other one said. They come running in and they try to find the oldest book in the store. B"h. B"h no. that6s kind of cool.
no. Ahat. %R*?.alen. .D CAho’s he3D CAncient .a$ine said. you only have one 2age3B . There was a 2ause. in the store. B 4o. 1 have it right here on my 2hone.B )rawford said. #ut that’s not actually the oldest thin. And 1 have the com2lete volume.D BAhat6s the oldest thing --.a$ine.D CSeriously3 %R*?3D B1 guess you6re going to ask me what the 4uremberg )hronicle is. 1t6s a single sheet from the 4uremberg )hronicle. 1t’s a %+'? treatise by . The oldest book is down here. 1t6s a history of the world u2 to that time. BActually.reek 2hysician.anywhere close to it.the cobwebs3B .
16ll tell him you called.a$ine. Actually.B BAow. )rawford. 1 will show you a leaf from the 4uremberg )hronicle.B )rawford said. :ou try doing that on your 2hone.B. B4e$t time you come into the store. his voice warm and serious.B . 1 will 2ut a 2iece of 2a2er in your hand that dates to the voyage of )olumbus.D BAre you going to let me talk to =ewis3B B8e just ste22ed out.D C1t is. :ou make it sound so-seductive.
So he 2aid a visit to the 2ort authority office and wrote the kind of short. a long e$2osW seemed 2ointless. 8e6d been reluctant to blow the store6s cover when he himself was a regular customer. . #ut the arrest of an "ld Town merchant was news. and nobody else had re2orted it. regardless of the subject matter.iers finally had to threaten to fire .alway if he didn6t 2ost something on his blog about the situation at the <ragon. and after (dith’s sudden death.sevent"#seven #etsy . 2e22y blog 2ost that was e$2ected of him.
8artman entered the .8ere’s A Ti2 <on’t Re-E2 Aith the Feds 4ewbie bookstore owner-turned-2ot dealer =ewis 8artman was arrested after attem2ting to buy ten 2ounds of marijuana from a federal agent on (ureka6s waterfront.B said !ort Authority s2okes2erson #rian Anderson. but the bookstore itself was located outside our area of jurisdiction and we were unable to obtain coo2eration from local law enforcement.r. BAe6ve been monitoring the activity at the Firebreathing <ragon bookstore for some time now. BAe6ve known that it was a cover for a drug dealing o2eration. .
Ae intend to 2rosecute to the full e$tent of the law. @ .B So --.lessons learned3 Anyone3 "ne There is nothing for sale at the Firebreathing <ragon but books. Ae mean it this time. Two That area right around the water where boats 2ull u2 and unload their stuff3 That’s called the 2ort. Iust a cou2le ti2s for out-of-towners. Seriously. 1t’s where all the federal officers hang out and enforce their laws.2ort area voluntarily and attem2ted to solicit drugs from an undercover agent. "ur mission is to kee2 our nation6s 2orts safe and free of illegal and dangerous activity.
. :ou6ve known about this along..B C.alway6s 2hone rang five minutes after his 2ost went live. <oes this mean 16m not going to get a second date3D )lick. C:ou 2iece of shit.a$ine.
but there was no one to call but (mily. 2eanut butter at lunch. accom2anied by a mealy a22le and a sugary juice substitute. broadcasting a stream of talk shows and infomercials. and white bread and baked beans at dinner. 8e could have lined u2 to use one of the four 2hones available to inmates.sevent"#ei ht =ewis decided that his time in jail would be best s2ent reflecting u2on his 2ast mistakes. There wasn6t much else to do the television stayed on one channel all day. The meals were astonishingly bad V chea2 corn flakes for breakfast. and she had made it clear that she didn6t want to hear from him. 1t .
. and he had not so much as a sheet to muffle the light and noise.wasn6t the kind of meal you would linger over.ost of the 2rison library’s books had ended u2 at the <ragon over the years. Anyway. . 1nstead. and no 2rovisions had been made in the 2olicy for the machines’ inevitable system failures. there was no library. the jail had a digital media center that housed four broken com2uters. And slee2 was a thing of the 2ast the lights were on day and night. And of course. which made =ewis wonder if he could convince )rawford to bring a few of them back. #ut )rawford was so far not willing to visit =ewis in jail. visitors had been banned from bringing books to 2risoners after the com2uters had been installed.
although he found that most of the guys were sur2risingly easy to talk to. a hotbed of criminal activity. 1t was. "f course they did. They were charismatic in the way that smalltime criminals could be the ability to strike u2 a conversation with anyone seemed to be related to the ability to lift a wallet or move a little stolen merchandise. or biding their time until they were released and 2ut back under the su2ervision of their 2arole officers. most of whom were either 2assing through on their way to !elican #ay. =ewis tried to stick to himself. it was a trio of skinny white . And a few of them recogni5ed him from the bookstore. after all.So =ewis was on his own with his miserable thoughts. 1n fact. if he could be considered to be on his own in a dorm with si$ty other men.
C8e didn’t want to sell do2e to do2e dealers.B 8ank added.B Tim said. B4o resale market.guys in their twenties --.B B:ou can buy fucking 2ot brownies at the clinic in Arcata.D B1t’s getting harder to sell that shit anyway. Anybody who wants a medical card can get one. They just grow their own or buy it at the clinic. Aill. and Tim-who e$2lained the rationale for the <ragon6s high 2rices to =ewis. B!rices on the street are falling.B Tim said. 8e gave no volume discount and he 2riced his shit so high you couldn’t buy from him and sell it on the street.8ank. .B Aill added glumly. B:our uncle Sy wanted it that way.
that6s the first 2lace 16m going.D =ewis reali5ed that he wasn6t really too different from these guys. C8eadaches. Ahat landed him in here was greed and stu2idity.B<ude. CS2rained my ankle. have you had those brownies3B Aill said. turning to Tim. That was the difference between the 2eo2le out there and the 2eo2le in here. as he listened to the maddening . BAhen 1 get out of here.B C8ow’d you 0ualify for a /%+ card3D =ewis asked. Ahat had once seemed like fateHhaving a bookstore dro2 in his la2.D Aill said. C:ou3D =ewis asked. as if he was meant for a new lifeHnow seemed like the kind of trouble he should have known how to avoid. he thought.
4o one had any urgent business to discuss with him. Entil his arrest.uillermo being o2en for business across the street. and in fact. 8e was getting to know the teller at the bank and the cashier at the deli. 8e had a wife and em2loyees.sound of car radios rising u2 from the street that ran 2ast the jail. The 2eo2le out there knew how to kee2 their lives on course. and he sim2ly ceased to matter. 1t was ama5ing how 0uickly you dro22ed out of sight in jail. no one seemed . =ewis’s new life had a rhythm that seemed inse2arable from the 2eo2le around him. 8e had bills to 2ay and 2laces to be. 8is morning coffee de2ended on . !eo2le called him and sent him e-mails. no one seemed to care whether his bills got 2aid or his 2hone got answered. #ut then he got locked u2.
too. And maybe that was just as well. but he was wrong about that. =ewis had always assumed that he mattered a little. 8e hadn6t just been arrested7 he’d been erased.to wonder where he was or when he would be back. . and that his absence would cause some disru2tion in the world he inhabited.
#RA4<.AR(TT(S E4<(R 4(A AET8"R1T: FR"."L14.4(R A44"E4)(S 4(A JA.sevent"#nine After the signing ceremony. S"-)A==(< 8(A=T8: S.1A4T SE.A=1Y(S !"T A4< #A4S T"#A))" read the crawl. F<A (U!()T(< T" "ET=AA )1. 4ews of the legislation’s swift 2assage already dominated the tiny T9 screen in the back of the cab. Tom and Richmond ducked away from the re2orters at the Ahite 8ouse and caught a cab back to their hotel. barely .(R1)A4 8(.!’ )="T814. 14T1T1AT19( =(. )"4.R(SS Q T"#A))" . Two newscasters.
B1t6s not so bad.B Tom said.able to contain their mirth. BAe6ve got to make sure we stay ahead of this story. BThat tri2 to )alifornia must have been good for you.B Richmond shrugged. BAe were lucky to get a Friday afternoon signing. <oing what we do.B 1n fact. The media shitstorm will have died down by .B B1 don6t know how you can be so calm about this. Then we just go back to running our business. as if he .B said Tom. BIesus )hrist. fumbling around with the controls to turn off the sound. Richmond did miss 8umboldt )ounty. sat in front of a giant digital image of a marijuana leaf hovering above the Ahite 8ouse.onday morning.B he said. 8e felt strangely at home there.
he would have asked out the girl in the bookstore. The money for this alternative version of reality would have come from some unidentified source nobody in 8umboldt )ounty seemed to have an actual job.B Richmond could get used to that kind of lifestyle. BA little of this. but they all got by somehow.had caught u2 with some alternate version of his life that had been ticking by in northern )alifornia all this time. a little of that. they would just shrug and say. 1f you asked a 2erson in (ureka what they did for a living. 8e would have bought a house in the mountains and hired <on )antrell to build a deck around it. The idea to launch a line of hem2 2roducts . And it had been a 2rofitable tri2. not just because of the 2lants he managed to shi2 back alive. 1n this other life.
They could get a line of clothing out to the college market to start building their brand. once the kids had bought into the idea. which they were calling American . The cannabis would just be marketed as one more .rown name had been ins2ired by 8umboldt )ounty. back2acks. too as a nod to its 2ro-local farmer attitude. The American .rown. and notebooks. down to the name of the farmer who grew the ho2s for the beer and the name of the woman who jarred the 2ickles. the brew2ubs would be 2ositioned as a celebration of American farmers. and then roll out the chain of brew2ubs. with the source of every ingredient 2rinted on the menus.ahead of their more lucrative cro2 had come from his visits to all the little stores in "ld Town that sold hem2 sweaters.
#ut the real outrage would come a cou2le of days from now. of course. Esually #ig Tobacco stuck together.reen. Their com2etitors. were livid. Sumner had managed to get the legislation ready for 2assage 0uietly. 1t was considered a sacrilege to go it alone like this. after they were sure they had built enough acce2tance among consumers to e$2ect 2eo2le to sim2ly dro2 into a convenience store and ask for a 2ack of American . and made a backdoor deal with the Ahite 8ouse to arrange an immediate signing ceremony. when they found out that Sumner had 2atented every commercially available strain of . The other tobacco com2anies didn6t even have time to call their lobbyists.American-grown cro2. The retail smoking 2roducts would come last.
grabbing his briefcase and handing a twenty to the driver. smiling. B"h.D CAhy wouldn’t she be3D Richmond asked.B Tom said as they 2ulled u2 in front of their hotel.cannabis. buddy. and was in a 2osition to challenge 2atents on any other strains their com2etitors might dig u2. C:ou wanted to run the brew2ub 2rogram.B Richmond said. B8ave you called your new real estate 2artner out there3B B4ow she6s my real estate 2artner.B Tom said. and s2eaking of )alifornia. . it’s yours. B:ou6re in charge. Iust make sure your little friend in 8umboldt )ounty is ready to break ground.
Rich. She’s not going to be your best friend forever.Tom laughed. CSooner or later those 2eo2le are going to figure out what this means.D . but to the whole economy out there. 4ot just to the growers.
She got #illy <alton on the 2hone as he was s2rawled under the sink in the back room behind )ontra )offee. hel2ing . CSonofabitchKD he yelled as the 2i2e crumbled in his hand. CAhat3D . sending a shower of brown water and flakes of rust into his eyes.ei ht" (mily was the first 2erson to reali5e that the news from Aashington could hel2 get =ewis out of jail. 8e sat u2 and reached for his 2hone.uillermo wrestle out a rusted 2i2e and re2lace it with something that would meet code before the ins2ector came back at noon.
B#illy3 1t6s (mily.uillermo motioned for #illy to get out of the way so that he could slide under the sink and kee2 working. if that6s what you6re wondering.B B1t6s not that. <id 1 get you in the middle of something3B BLind of. but 16m sure he6ll be glad to know he at least got a 2hone call. 8e doesn6t get a lot of visitors. that6s very nice. CSto2 being such a smartass.B . B1 was trying to find out if =ewis was going to get out now that this legislation is 2assed. #illy wi2ed his face off with the tail of his shirt and stood in the doorway so he could kee2 an eye on the cafW. #ut 1 am calling about =ewis. Ahy3 16m not a divorce lawyer.B (mily said. not even from his wife.B BAell.B .
uillermo was still flat on his back under the sink.B #illy said.uillermo’s customers. like guns or ta$ evasion. your husband tried to buy shitload of 2ot from a federal agent well before it was legal. BThey6re going to have to issue some rules and work out the details first. #esides. This law isn6t going to hel2 him.#illy rolled his eyes. CSeriously3 She said that3D #illy 2oured a cou2le of refills for .D (mily said.B B:eah. . for what seemed like the four hundredth time that morning. he thought. . B!ot is not legal yet. #illy waved away their money7 he didn’t know how much to charge for refills anyway. (verybody6s a lawyer. but the attorney general says she isn6t going to 2rosecute any 2ending cases unless there6s some other crime involved.
Aas that (mily3B . BSee3 :ou didn6t even need me. #illy. for god’s sake.o be a lawyer. 1 am not coming back. 16ll look into it. C"h. #illy. BAhat a sur2rise. where .B BAell. . CRead the news once in a while. <o you want me to send you the article3B BThat6s okay.D #illy hung u2 and retreated to the back room. 4o. #ut 1 don6t like the idea of him sitting in that jail. Are you coming back anytime soon3B B:ou sound like =ewis.uillermo had managed to re2lace the 2i2e on his own.B #illy said. 8e6s going to have to work this out on his own. that6s real com2assionate of you.B #illy said.(mily sighed.
She had some interesting news.B .B BAhat6s that3B BAhole lot of 2eo2le are about to get out of jail.B:eah.
8e was clutching a stack of 2a2ers from whatever meeting he had just suffered through. CAe can’t . trying to figure out if they could 2our the foundation before the rainy season hit in "ctober. "n the back of the agenda she was sketching out a 2roject timeline. =e$ twirled around in her chair and saw Todd leaning in the doorway that led to the warren of council offices behind the stage. waiting for her finance subcommittee meeting to begin.ei ht"#one =e$ sat in the em2ty )ity )ouncil chambers. CThat2s your anchor tenant3D came a hushed voice behind her.
B . =e$. These 2eo2le got me elected. BThey are freaking out over at 8umboldt =egal. 9ery wholesome. B4ot e$actly.talk about this here.B she said in a low voice. Ahat are they going to 2ut in that big s2ace they6re leasing from you.D =e$ whis2ered. a smoke sho23B =e$ looked around to make sure they were alone. B1 told you. it’s more like a 2ub. 1t6s all a little sus2icious. C:ou knew all along that Sumner Tobacco was going to start growing 2ot. They are going to want to know how 1 can vote for your 2roject after Sumner has made this big announcement. Ae really should not talk about this here.D #ut Todd sat down ne$t to her anyway. C.D Todd leaned across the table and s2oke right into her ear.y thing starts in ten minutes.
=e$ and Todd sat back in their chairs and tried to look as if they were just killing time. fast. She followed him reluctantly into the hallway. Sumner’s going to make sure that all these small growers all over the country get 2rosecuted if they don6t 2ay their ta$es or follow the labor law or meet every building code or . B1 don6t see what 8umboldt =egal’s got to be u2set about. u2standing. BFirst of all.B =e$ muttered. all these growers just became fine. law-abiding businessmen. B"kay.B Todd said.!eo2le were starting to file in for the meeting. before =e$ could 2ull away. two things just ha22ened here. C1sn’t this what they wanted3 =egali5ation3D Todd grabbed =e$ by the arm and 2ulled her out of her chair.
And that doesn6t even get into the economics. There6s going to be no more diesel do2e in the woods for these guys. CThey would have even shut the <ragon down.B =e$ felt her stomach turn into a stone. yes it is. They6re going to 2ush the 2rice down right through the . Sumner is 2lanting thousands of acres right now.environmental regulation.B C1sn’t that good news3D =e$ said. That can6t be ---B B"h. including the ones your friend Richmond 2icked u2 while he was here.D Todd said. C4ot for them. if the <ragon hadn’t managed to shut itself down first. And the other thing3 Sumner 2atented every goddamned strain of cannabis they could get their hands on. 1t is now illegal for 8umboldt growers to grow their own 2ot. BAait.
1’m sorry. And there goes your cannabis tourism idea. 1 can’t vote for this waterfront thing. turning and leaning against the wall ne$t to her. you know3 This is so much more mainstream than anything they ever imagined. but still kee2 it kind of underground. :ou think 2eo2le are going to come all the way to 8umboldt to smoke the same shit Sumner’s selling at malls all over the country3D She sighed and slum2ed against the wall.floor. Aould they really sell 2ot at the mall3 CAell.D . what e$actly did your grower friends think was going to ha22en when marijuana was legal3D C1 don’t know. C1 think they e$2ected to chi2 away at the law little by little. So =e$3 Forget it. 1 just can’t. They’re going to own the whole market.D Todd said.
the civic boosters who had been trying for years to distance (ureka from its cannabis culture so that 2arents wouldn’t be afraid to send their kids to college here. they’d have to find a develo2er with more nerve than she had. She’d send them back their earnest money and find a way out of the develo2ment deal. but there was no 2oint. This 2roject was going to have everyone in an u2roar Hthe growers. They stood together and looked out the small window across the hall.D She should have marched back into her meeting and started thinking about how to turn Todd around. the downtown merchants.CShit. 1t framed the . 1f they wanted to o2en their so-called brew2ubs here in )alifornia. She didn’t have the energy for this fight. Sumner would have to figure something else out.
view of the county jail. Too much 2artici2ation in 2rison life made him nervous-. reminding 2eo2le to call him if they ever got too close to that basketball court. where =ewis had just reluctantly agreed to shoot hoo2s with Aill and Tim. The sounds from the basketball court could be heard all over "ld Town on a calm morning. . A bail bondsman even used the familiar noise as the soundtrack to his radio commercial.but he was getting tired of sitting all day.by joining them he might become one of them-.
if that’s what you read on the 1nternet. somehow.ei ht#two . which meant that he s2ent his days saying things like. )rawford continued to show u2 to work and 2reside over the store in =ewis6s absence. and most 2eo2le were willing to let it dro2 after a few evasive answers. still o2erating as a bookstore and were ama5ed and titillated to learn the truth. BAell.D #illy had advised him not to admit directly to anything. it must be true. .alway6s blog 2ost about the arrest caused a little ri22le of interest among that narrow slice of (ureka6s 2o2ulation that had believed that the <ragon was.
otes. with torn covers and unfortunate stains but breathtaking . BReally3 4ever once3B )rawford would answer wonderingly. trying to strike that balance between sarcasm and false cheer that was once the s2ecial talent of bookstore clerks everywhere. B16ve never been in here before. There were still a sur2rising number of good finds at the <ragon a cou2le of battered old editions of Alfred Stieglit5’s "amera . looking around in wonderment before finally making eye contact with )rawford.These new visitors to the store cre2t in slowly. A few 2eo2le would linger and look wistfully through the books.B they would say. as if this fact would be as astonishing to )rawford as it was to them.
2hotogravures nonetheless. all of them signaling the beginning of 2hotogra2hy as an art form7 one of those nice signed and numbered co2ies of 4n "old $lood that Random 8ouse issued in a sli2case in %*'+7 and an entire shelf of 9ictorian marriage guides that included the crowd2leasing title 1o! To $e 1appy Thou. Ahat novelties these books wereK A few 2eo2le 2unched the titles into their 2hones to download later. )rawford was sitting behind the desk 2ricing a stack of anatomy te$tbooks from the %*/&s that he found in the . "n one such day. nodding 2leasantly to )rawford on the way out the way you might smile a22reciatively at the curator of some historic home for letting you come in and have a look at their things.h Married. but they all left em2tyhanded.
The 2hone rang. 1t was the San Fran is o "hroni le.back room. There were fu55y black-and-white 2hotogra2hs of naked women and men in these books. their genitals so gently rubbed out that it looked like they had just forgotten to grow any. This only made the 2hotogra2hs more 2ornogra2hic. 8e had been ignoring calls from the media because =ewis. but it had been a slow afternoon and )rawford was . undoubtedly looking for a little local color to round out their story on the im2act of the new marijuana legislation behind the redwood curtain. )rawford thought he could at least sell the books to someone who wanted to cut the 2ictures out. had asked him to. 2assing the message by way of #illy. somehow.
B )rawford said. )an 1 hel2 you3B BAow. he didn6t have to answer their 0uestions. B1s this =ewis 8artman3B came a woman6s voice. is he still in jail3 This is #eth . B=ewis isn6t here right now.still a bookstore3B she asked. B:ou are not about to tell me ---B BAre you still o2en3 1 mean -.ardner from the "hroni le. . 8e could just take a message. #esides.getting bored.D he said when he 2icked u2 the 2hone. 1 was ho2ing to get a res2onse from =ewis on the news about #lack and Ahite #ooks in Seattle.are you -. no. C<ragon.D B"h.
B @ For a long time after he 2ut the 2hone down. Ae faced the s2ines out because that6s where the titles of the books were written.CAellHyeah.D )rawford said. :ou6re the last bookstore in America. BThen 1 think that6s it. 8ere is how we arranged the books. how handwritten volumes were . )rawford just stood and looked around the store. he could imagine himself saying brightly to a grou2 of schoolchildren on a tour. 8e thought of Sy and how he loved to issue declarations on the history of books and bookshelves. standing u2. already as still and 0uiet as a diorama in a museum. as if he needed to rise and face the news she was about to deliver.
getting u2 from behind the counter and running his hands along the . and the title inscribed there in 2en. And then movable ty2e came along and ruined everything for the monks with their 0uills. !eo2le think that the book never changed after that.once 2laced on their sides in cu2boards. And then came the monster steam 2resses that could make a thousand sheets in an hour. and what a strange and heartbreaking new develo2ment for 2ractitioners of hand-set ty2e. Ahat di55ying s2eed that must have been. back when a wealthy 2erson might only own four or five books and would have these 2ieces of furniture s2ecially built to hold them. Sy used to say. "r they might have stood u2 on a shelf with the edges facing out.
aybe they’d 2rint ads on them. C<ust jacketsKD Sy once roared at )rawford right after he started working there. huh3 A thousand dollar book if we had a collector who wanted to buy it.shelves the way =ewis did the first time he came into the store. they didn’t know. . #ut the book changes all the time. kiddo. right3 :ou’d bring a new book home and throw the dust jacket right out3D . #ut do you know what it would cost in a dust jacket3 A hundred thousand dollars. !eo2le took them off the books and threw them away. C:ou see this nice old first edition of Anne of Green Gables3 !retty book. Iust an e$2eriment. :ou know why3 #ecause dust jackets were so rare. That’s a ninety-nine thousand-dollar 2iece of 2a2er. :ou’re old enough to remember that.
the crumbling 2article-board cousin to .)rawford could almost hear the echo of Sy6s voice around the room. 4obody.D 8e knew the rest of the lecture by heart. of all thingsK !a2er went from silk to cotton to hem2 to mushy 2ressed 2ul2. Ahat about re2lacing grand old bindings with that awful leatherette. and that was not so long ago. . 1n the seventies you could be reading along and . rising to his feetG they brought out 2a2erbacks and everybody thought we6d gone straight to hell. The book changes constantly. C4obody has an Anne of Green Gables in a dust jacket.y god.oroccan leather3 And then they bound books in cardboard and cloth. Then FSy would say. kiddo. they used to bind cigarette ads right into science fiction novels.
whee5ing and coughing and choking on his own laughter. <idn’t that 2iss the authors offK And then Sy would colla2se into himself. . when he could s2eak again.there would be an ad for Lote$ or )anadian )lub. The utter absurdity of booksK he would say.
B1t was fake anyway.B =ewis told him.ei ht"#three BAelcome back. and he carried a 2lastic bag under his arm that contained his 2ersonal belongings wallet. 2hone.B #illy had decided to let that one go. and the crum2led back2ack that once held the cash he had offered to the undercover agent.B #illy had e$2lained when he was arranging =ewis’s release. 8e ho2ed that the feds and the local district attorney would both be so busy 2rocessing . BThat6s okay. 8e was wearing the clothes he had been arrested in. BThey6re kee2ing the money.B #illy said as =ewis came through the automatic door at the jail.
and a na2. taking =ewis6s bag from him the way you might grab your buddy’s suitcase when you met him at the air2ort.B B<one. a beer.B #illy said.re0uests for release from small-time marijuana criminals that they wouldn6t notice a bag of counterfeit bills. The 2ost-jail burger was actually his favorite 2art of being a lawyer. =ewis was a little disa22ointed that #illy was on foot he had been ho2ing for a 8ollywood-style release from jail. in that order.D =ewis said. a shower. C1 look like shit. BAhat 1 want is a burger. B:ou6re looking good. They walked across the street and down a cou2le of blocks to the brewery. com2lete with a guy in Ray-#ans and a suit .B #illy said.
striding determinedly across the 2arking lot and disa22earing into the neighborhood behind )ity 8all. but she didn’t even include a note. At least someone came to meet him.D =ewis said. hands in 2ockets. 1nstead he had #illy with his thinning 2onytail and his )rocs. C4o word from (mily3D #illy asked as =ewis turned his 2hone on and checked for messages.driving a big black =incoln. CShe sent me the link to the "hroni le story.D . C4othing.and they had each walked out on their own. just a cou2le of guys on their way somewhere. 8ank and Aill had been released as wellHTim was still locked u2 for a <E1-.
which was crowded and boisterous and slightly smoky from the heat coming off the grill. B:ou make it sound like it was a contest. how about that3D #illy said.B he said. B1 don6t think Sy would6ve been 2roud of a single thing 16ve done. BAhy do you say it like that3B he said to #illy. kind of. :ou made it.B BAell it was. =ewis headed straight for the two em2ty seats at the bar and signaled to the bartender. and everything he owned is going to be thrown away or sold off. B:our uncle Sy would be 2roud.D They walked into the brewery. who 2oured a cou2le of 2ints. B8is business is ruined. C=ast bookstore in America.C:eah. bitter si2 of beer. (dith is dead.B #illy said. 1 .B =ewis shuddered at the first foamy.
Reliving it in your mind and trying to figure out what you should have done differently. :our uncle Sy wasn6t like you. ordering burgers and fries for both of them.B 8e thought about that for a minute and then he turned and looked at #illy.inger.don6t know what he was thinking. leaving all this to me. 1 wish 1 had some kind of easy answer for you. :ou6re 2robably gonna s2end a lot of time over the years wondering why all this ha22ened the way it did. B8ere6s the thing. 8e didn6t dwell on the 2ast and he didn’t worry about the . but 1 don6t. #illy3 1t should’ve all gone to (dith. =ewis. "r at least to )rawford and . BAhy did he leave this 2lace to me. Ahy’d he 2ick me3D Their menus arrived and #illy waved them away.
J!ut down =ewis. =ewis decided to walk over to the bookstore and check in on )rawford before he went back to Sy’s to catch u2 on his slee2.’D @ #illy headed back to his office after lunch. and he looked around the store and said. . #illy shrugged. 8e only did it because 1 was just starting out as a lawyer and 1 needed a client. That kid’s going to need something to do.future. 8e didn6t think about dying. To tell you the truth. C:ou’d been u2 there not long before to s2end the summer. 8e made that will a long time ago. 1t was a gorgeous. he 2robably never gave that will another thought.B BSo you don6t remember why he 2icked me3B =ewis said. 1 asked Sy who he wanted to leave it to.
=ewis wondered. either from the <ragon or from his recent notoriety in the news. and the sidewalks were filled with 2eo2le drinking their coffee at the tables and chairs they’d dragged outside.uillermo waved from his storefront. as he always did. The seagulls circled high above "ld Town. 1t occurred to =ewis that it didn6t bother him in the least that all these 2eo2le knew his 2ersonal . . 8e rounded the corner and .ost of the 2eo2le he 2assed seemed to recogni5e him. The doors to every cafW were o2en.late summer afternoon in (ureka. everyone he knew had an eight-to-five job that didn6t 2ermit s2ending long stretches of the afternoon in a cafW. =ewis could hear the clanging of shi26s rigging in the harbor. #efore he came to 8umboldt )ounty. what these 2eo2le did for a living.
1t’s . #ut these 2eo2le seemed to just take him at face value. they 2robably knew that (mily had left him. not even checking to see who was calling. C"h.D =ewis sto22ed on the sidewalk in front of the store. =ewis. . 8is 2hone rang just before he reached the <ragon. C(mily3D he said. They knew that the <ragon had been a sham. C4o.D CThey let you out of jail3D . he could not have imagined s2ending time in jail and then having to face an entire community who knew what had ha22ened.a$ine.a$ine. they knew about his arrest. 8i. 8is life was 2laying out alongside theirs7 his situation was no more or less remarkable than anyone else’s. A year ago.business.
1 guess 1 killed the deal.D CActually. =ewis3 1’ve got another idea. Iust now. C1’m really sorry.D .C:eah.D 8e 2aused.
ONE %EAR LATER .
C8ow was your flight3D . Ahere are you3D CEm.ei ht"#four C8ave you landed3D C:eah. there’s a food court around .ate S'. <id you eat already3D C4o. She was making her way to the last 2air of em2ty seats in the food court when she felt an arm reach around her waist. 1’ll meet you there.D (mily ordered a sandwich and looked around for a table. 1 just got off the 2lane. B8eyKB she said. turning around and giving =ewis a kiss.
C=ong. dro22ing his overnight bag on to2 of (mily’s suitcase and sitting down ne$t to her.D CAe will. BAnd3B .D (mily said. BShe is so cra5y. Ae have got to hire somebody in #oston. C. <oesn6t she know they don6t allow smoking in the air2ort3D BThat6s what 1 told her. three stores already3D C4o. CSo have you checked your messages3D C4ot yet. C1n San Francisco3 Ae’ve got what.D =ewis said. 8ere. 1n the air2ort.a$ine wants to o2en u2 a location here.B (mily said.D =ewis laughed and 2ut his head in his hands.D she said.
B C"f course. C"h my godKD =ewis said when he rounded the corner at . 1n s2ite of the fact that it was illuminated by what seemed to be a hundred thousand =(< lights.D They took #ART to the !owell Street station and dragged their luggage across Enion S0uare. the sign managed . CAhat3D CThis is the first time 1’ve seen the sign. #""LS. Finish your sandwich and let6s go into the city.BShe said to let Richmond worry about that.D C1 know. 1 don6t want any more air2ort food. 8ow was =A3D CSucked. =ook. 1 hate =A.D Across the s0uare an enormous mar0uee read F1R(#R(AT814.eary.
D =ewis assured her.D They crossed Enion S0uare and walked through the store’s wide double doors. you do remember that your wife does all the design work for this com2any.acy’s sign. C1t’s just the biggest thing in Enion S0uare. Ahat does )rawford think3D C8e loves it.to look like the sort of hand-2ainted signboard that once hung above the <ragon. and floorboards from . C4o. (mily had 2ersuaded the architect to salvage banisters.D (mily said. trim. C1t’s hugeKD C4ow. 1 think it’s bigger than the . it’s great. Although =ewis would always like the (ureka store best. he had to admit that they did 2retty good job on Enion S0uare. 1t was his idea to go all the way across the building like that.
B1t makes more sense to have these little stations around the store. (ven though the bookshelves and furniture were the same at all twenty-eight stores around the country. the architectural salvage hel2 to give the stores the creaky old bookstore atmos2here she and =ewis wanted to 2reserve. The two of them stood just inside the doorway and looked around at the store.old buildings.D 1t was only noon. with four or five stools . and she even found a collection of brass light fi$tures that came out of the old San Francisco library.B =ewis said. Three 2olished mahogany bars were situated around the store. BSee. but already the 2lace was full. what 1 like about this one is that we don6t just have one big smoke sho2 in the back.
and chatting with the customers. and in fact most of their book sales were to collectors who were after a 2articular autogra2h or an unusual binding.at each. 2eo2le actually did 2ick u2 a book once they settled into a chair.com’s data showed that more than half of their customers downloaded a title after seeing it in the store. #ut 4ile. At first . but a 2owerful and sur2risingly 0uiet ventilation system ke2t the 2lace clean and smelling more likeHwell. if not an old bookstore. something close to it. of course.Richmond insisted on calling them cannabis sommeliers --. Someone worked behind the counter at each station --. 8ardly anyone bought one. And in s2ite of =ewis6s early doubts. refilling bowls. .dis2ensing joints.a$ine had worried that the 2lace would reek of stale smoke.
1t was here in San Francisco that he launched a series of writing worksho2s and author events. C1’ll get these sent over to your hotel. C8ey.D he said.That satisfied )rawford. And it was )rawford who a22roached them now. the fact was that the Enion S0uare location was so much bigger and busier that he was s2ending most of his time here. set u2 an old-fashioned 2rinting 2ress and bookbinding sho2 where artists could . taking (mily’s suitcase from her and shaking =ewis’ hand. )ome check it out.D Although )rawford had ho2ed to kee2 the original <ragon as the store where he could e$2eriment and launch new 2roducts. whose job it was to scour garages and warehouses for books to rotate through the shelves.
and manuscri2t 2ages. the letter 2ressed . which Thom2son had taken outside and shot.2ractice those lost arts. CThis is gorgeousKD RedoutW’s roses. all framed and 2riced and ready to hang on the wall. C)rawfordKD (mily e$claimed as she walked into the glass-enclosed gallery s2ace. A letter addressed to 8unter Thom2son from his editor. hand-colored ma2s. A ma2 dating back to %'+&. andHthis is what =ewis and (mily had come to seeHo2ened a gallery that sold botanical engravings. The charred edges around the bullet hole had been carefully 2reserved. engraved in 2ainstaking detail under orders from Iose2hine #ona2arte and colored by hand two hundred years ago. when cartogra2hers thought that )alifornia was an island.
D =ewis said. CThis stuff is ama5ing. 1t’s out there. )rawford had 2riced it at five hundred dollars. :ou just have to know where to look. but he was tem2ted to raise it to a thousand just to kee2 it in the store a while longer. C8ow do you find it3D )rawford shrugged. CSame way your uncle did.D .between glass.
but she’d refused. C1t was a shitty thing to do.D she said to her sister when the news broke about the 2artnershi2 between 4ile. They don’t owe me any favors.D . C1 walked out on them. And 1 can’t believe )rawford went along with it. 8er sister had been trying for months to convince her to call =ewis and ask for a job. #esides.inger wandered by the s2rawling new bookstore on Santa . =ewis is a sellout.ei ht"#five 1t was only a matter of time before . Sumner. and the <ragon.onica’s Third Street !romenade and found herself 2ulled inside. and 1’m not going to ask.
inger thought. drawn to the very memory of a bookstore. . and girls really did roller skate 2ast in bikinis. The Santa . essentially. "utside. only in Santa . . She didn’t even think she missed the <ragon much until she walked by and saw that they were hiring. =os Angeles had always been a caricature of itself. Soon she was standing at the counter filling out an a22lication for what was. her old job. but she had grown accustomed to it in the last year.#ut here she was.onica instead of (ureka. but it did look dark and warm and literary in a way that made it seem like a foreign land here in southern )alifornia. 2alm trees flanked the sidewalks. unable to stay away.onica store had none of the flavor of the original <ragon.
C:ou changed your hair.D CThis color’s called egg2lant. C:ou changed your wardrobe.She leaned over the counter.D he said. C1 liked it when it was green. then s2it it out. a grou2 of 2eo2le crowded around a set of architectural 2lans and talked about the final changes the store would need before it could o2en. At the other end of the counter. reali5ing that it wasn’t even hers. breaking away from the grou2.D . trying to decide how to describe her 2revious bookstore e$2erience.D she said. She dro22ed the 2en on the counter and stared at him. C:ou can kee2 that 2en. .D one of the men said.inger twirled the 2en nervously between her fingers and chewed on the ca2.
inger. C1 was ho2ing you might want dinner.D CAell hell.D CAhat else would 1 want3D Richmond swallowed hard and tried to sound casual.D . C1 thought 1’d a22ly. . are you3D C1 saw the sign. :ou’re not in here looking for a job.CTurns out nobody wears a suit in )alifornia. 1’ll give you a job if that’s what you want.D she said.
a cynical cor2orate maneuver aimed at co-o2ting the very literary culture it had killed.ei ht"#six Sometimes =ewis wondered if he6d done the right thing by cutting a deal with . when he conjured u2 his uncle Sy’s s2irit and tried to make his case to the old manG what was the . he heard from 2lenty of embittered former booksellers who accused him of jum2ing into bed with the enemy. "nce the news got out. late at night. calling it a sham. The re2orters who had covered the demise of bookstores across the country lined u2 to take shots at this new venture.a$ine. #ut F=ewis reasoned.
with sum2tuous bindings and creamy.a$ine saw a reason to get 2eo2le e$cited about books. that her stores would connect 2eo2le to literature in some concrete way. it wasHwhat3 A museum3 A charity3 A tourist attraction3 At least . and 2eo2le weren’t e$actly lining u2 to buy books there. Real books. She was sincere in her belief that the books themselves acted as a kind of touchstone. deckle-edge 2a2er and e$traordinary little engravings. either she also filled her sho2s with 2ul2 2a2erbacks and tattered children’s books and anything with interesting notations by the author or some long-ago reader.alternative3 The <ragon was the last bookstore left. And if they 2ersisted in doing most of their reading on their 2hones3 . And she wasn’t a snob about it. Aithout customers.
bred in bars and coffee houses and o2ium dens. like ja55 and 1m2ressionism. either.. was born out of into$ication. #ut he surely would have a22roved of that other thing they sold at Firebreathing #ooksHa slightly refined strain of (dith’s lovely cannabis. and meant to be shared at 2arties and in backyards and living rooms and out on the street. 8ealthy living. =ewis knew that Sy would have come roaring back at . and she didn’t see why anyone else would.a$ine could hardly object. he believed.a$ine with an im2assioned defense of the 2rinted 2age. was the enemy of literature. . 8e was sus2icious of writers who swore off boo5e and cigarettes and late nights in favor of a 2ot of tea and yoga at sunrise. Sy believed that literature.
D .CSo lighten u2. C<o whatever you want. kidKD =ewis could hear Sy saying during those late-night conversations. Sto2 asking me.
Ioin the discussion about this book at www. including the bestselling titles Flo!er "onfidential and %i ked &lants/ She and her husband Scott #rown are the co-owners of (ureka #ooks in (ureka.com.com. .com and www.A&out the Author Amy Stewart is the author of four books on the 2erils and 2leasures of the natural world.amystewart. visit www.lastbookstoreinamerica. )A. To find out more.eurekabooksellers.
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