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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
i5mo was lightweight. And they called it a . #efore you 2rotest that books themselves are intuitively sim2le to use. 1t was the only kind of 2hone 2eo2le had anymore. and that 2a2er itself is as easy to read as 2a2er.i5mo. without re0uiring batteries or software u2dates. The screen was as easy to read as 2a2er and worked at all light levels. consider this the . but over time most 2eo2le just started referring to it as their 2hone. elegant.you got lost. so there didn’t seem to be any reason to call it anything s2ecial. The . it would direct you back to safety and read you a story on the way. and intuitively sim2le to use. which was a charming name.i5mo ran on a combination of solar energy and body heat and had a nearly unlimited storage .
!eo2le all over the world were united in their adoration for this highly literate gadget. and even theft-2roof it identified you by your finger2rints and wouldn’t res2ond to anyone else’s touch.ca2acity. and even )hoctaw.i5mo was water2roof. allowing one to.i5mo to read books to them in their choice of voices (nglish or American. man or woman. The . grandchild or #roadway actor. The . "lder 2eo2le 2articularly loved the . "h. for instance. or they could ask the . )hinese. but that’s not all. shatter2roof.i5mo s2oke fluent S2anish. so .i5mo because they could enlarge the ty2eface to suit them as their eyesight failed. take all of <avid =ivingstone’s voluminous writings into the most remote African jungles without ever re0uiring an electrical outlet.
1t backed u2 all your data seamlessly and constantly. from ancient )hinese scrolls and shattered bits of 2a2yrus to back issues of T+ Guide and all ?. And to those of you who are inclined to bellyache about the romance of dim old financially and seismically unsound bookstores7 . :ou wouldn’t miss books either if you had one of these.oogle scanned every last scra2 of 2a2er. 1t cost >/*. 4o 2assword. no setu2 fees. "h. no data transfer. Admit it you want one.*+ and it was made entirely of recycled materials. which meant that you could 2ick u2 a new device anytime and it would instantly recogni5e you. So everything was available on the .there was no 2oint in stealing it. and .**' 8arle0uin romance titles.i5mo.
and the rest is entirely fiction. #ut 2lease be assured that unlike the bookstore in this story. (ureka #ooks sells nothing but books. or things described in this book are used fictitiously. 2laces. @ "ne more thing. Ahile it bears some resemblance to the endangered bookstore in this story. )alifornia. do you3 "f course not. and 2rints. So let’s move on. ask yourselves this :ou don’t miss chamber 2ots and ether anesthesia. The author of this book is the owner of an anti0uarian bookstore in (ureka. any actual 2ersons.to those of you who wa$ rha2sodic over the scent of dust mites and the te$ture of tree 2ul2 between your fingers. ma2s. all 2rinted .
and intends to continue on that basis for generations to come. .on glorious old 2a2er.
PART ONE .
the 2onderous leather-bound and gilt-edged classics with red ribbons sewn into the bindings. 4o. They were . the tattered 2a2erbacks. The slim volumes of 2oetry. and (mily and =ewis didn6t miss them. (mily and =ewis thought they had seen the last of the dead tree variety of book. The shelves in the study. Those had all but vanished.one (mily Short and =ewis 8artman thought they had seen the last of books. The stack on the nightstand. There would always be 2lenty of those. 4ot BbooksB in the sense of novels or 2residential biogra2hies or nonfiction narratives that e$2lore the hidden side of everything.
or what was left of them in their 2ost-2rint incarnation. and there were always restaurant reviews and weather re2orts and stock ti2s and video cli2s.e! -ork Times.2erfectly ha22y to read books on a little electronic device that had. they certainly downloaded a lot of books before their last vacation. 4ot to mention e-mail and Twitter. And they did read. even if they didn6t get around to reading them. ca2tivated the nation. . And they always read the San Fran is o "hroni le and the . Sometimes. 0uite frankly. and they were very good at kee2ing u2 with all of their friends’ blogs and u2dating their Facebook 2ages. Aell.
)alifornia. 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. but not before taking an enormous.#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. he once s2ent a summer working in his Encle Sy’s bookstore in (ureka. no. e$2eriences. considering that when =ewis was a boy. Ahich is ironic. 1n just three short months. 1t’s true that (mily and =ewis didn6t read many of those anymore.well. which he did. =ewis had a number of momentous. and 2ossibly life-changing. 8e read .aked (un h# (olita. shockingly bitter gul2 himself7 he got .
:oung =ewis went seventeen days without a bath. 1t was a very interesting summer.to ride in a 2olice car Fwhich had nothing to do with Aallace Stegner or (olita--he just got lost and needed a ride homeG7 and he managed to stand u2 in front of a grou2 of twelve mildly into$icated adults and read a derivative but nonetheless brave little 2oem about 2readolescent malaise at The Firebreathing <ragon’s weekly 2oetry reading. and once ate nothing but olives and cocktail sausages for an entire weekend. #ut Sy was not the sort of uncle to call or show u2 at )hristmas or remember your . 1t was glorious. Encle Sy had no children of his own and no understanding of the level of su2ervision that children re0uired.
a gra2hic designer who earned more than he did for what seemed like much less work. inhabiting Sy’s dusty and never-0uite-al2habeti5ed world.birthday. they never let him s2end another vacation with Sy. =ewis sim2ly said . when #illy <alton called to talk to him about the 2robate of Sylvester !orter’s estate. 1f you weren’t in (ureka. and it never occurred to =ewis to call or show u2 on his own. After =ewis’ 2arents found out what had gone on that summer. So =ewis went on to business school. and from there he embarked u2on a disa22ointing career as a 2harmaceutical sales re2resentative. 8e rarely thought about uncle Sy at all. you might as well not e$ist. 8e married (mily. which e$2lains why.
B:ou heard me. 8e was adding this to a list he6d been kee2ing of irritating traits that.D he said. BAhat was that3B =ewis looked u2 with sur2rise. he would have to learn to tolerate. points hopsti ks in people)s fa es durin. 2ressing his thumb into the sesame seeds that had dro22ed onto his na2kin. said.D and hung u2. Also on the list were thinks it)s funny to talk to the at about urrent events. (mily. Arong number. C:ou didn’t get a name3D =ewis 2ut his seed-encrusted thumb into his mouth and thought# insists on dis ussin. !ron.C1’m sorry. who was sitting across from him at the bagel sho2. animated . numbers. now that he and (mily were married. 1 think you have the wrong number.
(mily had her good 0ualities -. su ks on his thumb/ The 2hone bu55ed again.B he said. (mily 2ressed her li2s together and thought.onversations in "hinese restaurants.B #illy said when =ewis answered. (mily was still waiting for an answer. 8e 2ulled his thumb out of his mouth and shrugged. . B1 didn6t catch the name.oofy photos in Santa hats on summer va ations for future use on "hristmas ards.B .she never s2ent more than half an hour getting ready to go anywhere. B1t6s about your uncle Sy. which to be honest made her faster than =ewis most daysHbut lately the list of irritating traits was beginning to weigh on him. and insists on takin. B<on6t hang u2.
#illy <alton did. and a man who sold blue-green algae ca2sules through a multilevel marketing scheme called 9ita=ife. in fact. have a law office. a husband-and-wife 2sychologist team Fa miserable idea. #illy thoughtG. A secretary named )onnie Slack showed u2 every morning at eight to sit in a kind of . a real estate agent. 8e shared the s2ace with three other lawyers. 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.two Although it would have sur2rised many of his clients to learn this.
i5mo. !eo2le took their own calls. #ut as it turned out. and even billed their clients through a nifty mobile banking a2 on their . )onnie never missed a day of work. he would have insisted that they not hire a secretary named Slack. That left )onnie with the res2onsibility of caring for a ficus tree and making sure the fire e$tinguisher 2assed ins2ection once a year. res2onded to their own e-mail. #illy had failed to attend the meeting where the decision to hire )onnie was made. #ut having a rece2tionist was one of the benefits of this shared office arrangement. but if he had been there. and most 2eo2le felt . if any showed u2.makeshift rece2tion area at the to2 of the stairs and greet clients. and she did anything her em2loyers asked her to doH although there wasn’t much to do.
there would be no reason to have an office at all. "ver the last twenty years #illy must have crossed the <ragon’s threshold thousands of times. a fi$ed 2oint in his life that #illy had assumed would never move. 1t had been a miserable si$ months since Sy’s death. (s2ecially in bookstores. 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 . 8e 2referred to do his lawyering out on the streets. Sy was #illy’s best friend. #illy agreed that offices didn’t have much of a 2oint. 1t ha22ens in bars and alleys and even in bookstores.that without )onnie. he believed. The law doesn6t ha22en in an office.
8e had not gotten over the . #illy 2icked u2 some of his best cases by lingering around the <ragon’s counter. 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. There was always something ha22ening at the <ragon. #illy continued to hang around the store.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. After Sy died.
knocking him off his feet with the force of its de2arture. orH worseHwould be ri22ed away from him all at once one day. would fade eventually. but #illy 2referred to e$2erience it as a sort of transitional 2hase. a friendly haunting. might materiali5e in his s0ueaky old chair behind the counter as if he had never left at all. 8e believed that sometimes the dead had a way of sticking around. Sy’s will had gone . This feeling. just unusually 0uiet and non-cor2oreal. #illy knew. shocking friends and lovers who had grown accustomed to the idea that the dead were not really dead. There was another reason to s2end so much time at the bookstore. This could be called denial.feeling that Sy might rea22ear at any time. lingering long after the funeral and then one day just vanishing.
#illy located it by lying flat on his back and sliding under the bookstore6s massive oak desk. and 2robate was ho2elessly hung u2 while #illy searched for it. 1t had been over twenty years since he’d drafted the will7 #illy wasn6t even sure he’d 2assed the bar at that 2oint.missing. 8e knew Sy had left the store to a ne2hew. which gave him access to file . and that he6d need to 2roduce a co2y of the will and act u2on its instructions. 1t never occurred to him that the clients would actually die someday. #ut it eventually turned u2 in a bo$ of old 2am2hlets on 9ictorian medicinal remedies that Sy must have bought the same year he and #illy wrote out the will. 8e was doing wills for free back then in the ho2es of drumming u2 some clients. but nobody remembered the ne2hew’s name.
B4o. B8ow long have these been here3B BAre they 2riced3B asked . She6d taken to wearing these 2leated schoolgirl skirts that she found at a thrift store.inger. but ever .bo$es that had been stashed there since --. since the days when Sy actually cared about sorting 2a2ers into file bo$es. There was sort of a 2ost)atholic school 2unk irony to the look. when he 2ulled out the 2am2hlets advertising Ayer’s )herry !ectoral and Sarsa2arilla Tonic. BIesus.inger.well. who had come in on her day off because )rawford had failed to show u2 again.B said #illy.B said #illy. She had scaled a ladder to reach some volume on the wall of books behind the counter. 8e slid out from under the desk and looked u2 at .
inger started dying her hair green to cover u2 the gray. crou2. 8e didn6t even bother sliding over a cou2le of feet to try to get a look u2 her skirt.D CReally3D he said. hea2ing e$tra scorn on the word. As if the weight of all the unsold books around her weren’t bad enough. inci2ient consum2tion. showing her a handful. CToss them. hoarseness. and for the .D she said. JAyer6s cherry 2ectoral with o2ium.B he said B=isten to this. C:ou’re getting rid of these3D CAhat’s anybody going to do with a 2am2hlet3D she said.since . C#ut these are cool. bronchitis. #illy had lost interest. 4ow he dared confront her with a 2am2hlet. C8ow would you 2rice them3D C1 wouldn’t. colds. influen5a. for the cure of coughs.
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.’ :ou’re going to take o2ium for hoarseness3 That’s fantasticKD . They’re yours.B he said.D C1s it really all going to that kid3 The house and everything3D C1f the kid wants it. #illy.relief of consum2tive 2atients in advanced stages of the disease. CFine.D C:ou should have never let him do that.inger was unmoved. <id you find the will3D C1t6s right here. C8e 2robably signed it the same day all this stuff came into the store.inger said.D CAhat did he leave me3D C.D .
.inger.D #illy said. The store swam dangerously around him. . the buckling 2lywood shelves looking as though they might finally give way. !lease. !robably married. Lids.she intended to dro2 it on him.D 8e groaned and 2ulled himself to his feet. C. C8e’s got to be over thirty by now. slamming the dictionary on the desk.inger said.ive it a rest. CAhat kind of lawyer lets his client leave everything to a ten year-old3D C8e’s not ten anymore. C8asn’t anybody thought about what we’re going to do when little =ewis finds out thatH D C. 8e took a dee2 breath and his vision cleared.D said #illy.inger.D CLids3D .
inger said. C8and me the 2hone.C:ou all right3D . which he ke2t tied in a forlorn wis2 of a 2onytail. CAnd get out from behind the counter.D #illy fished his 2hone out of his 2ocket and settled into Sy’s old chair to deliver the news to =ewis. The last si$ months had aged #illy7 his hair.inger asked.D . 8is eyes were 2ermanently bloodshot7 his skin was turning to tissue. Ae’re running a store here. with something that 2assed for concern in her voice. .D he said. C1’m fine. had finally gone entirely grey.D CEse your own 2hone.
right3B BThe one who didn6t come to our wedding3B B:eah. C=ewis3 Ahat is it3D 8e tried again.three =ewis 2ut the 2hone down and stared at some 2oint in the air above (mily6s head. Finally he s2oke. B:ou remember my uncle Sy.B 8e 2laced both of his 2alms on the table as if he was trying to steady himself. B<id he die3B (mily asked. having figured that much out from =ewis’s side of the conversation. She watched him and waited. . B8e --B 8e couldn6t bring himself to say it.
B8oney.B BThe bookstore3 8e still has the bookstore3D (mily leaned forward and took =ewis6s hands. 1 know.B . that has to be --B B"ne of the last bookstores in America.B8e left me the bookstore.
a fluke. like that teenage soldier. (ventually the only survivors were the 2eo2le who had lied about their age and enlisted as teenagers just before victory was declared. re2orters had been tracking the dwindling number of bookstores in America. (very time one closed they would trot out a list of the few stores that remained o2en around the country. 1t was like kee2ing a list of the last surviving veterans of some distant war. The odd bookstore that stayed o2en was. then lived an unusually long life afterward. . An outlier.four For the last several years.
#ut a used 2a2erback3 Iust to read3 8ardly anyone wanted those anymore. as 2ublishers sim2ly sto22ed 2rinting new books and the bookstores were left with nothing to sell.Re2orters. Stores that sold new books were the first to go. Autogra2h collectors 2icked u2 signed co2ies7 art lovers would sometimes buy an old volume for the engravings. attached as they were to the days of 2a2er and ink and steady 2aychecks. and handsome hardcovers sometimes went to interior decorators who wanted to furnish a room in some old-fashioned style. but even they were not faring well. 1t then fell to used bookstores and dealers of rare anti0uarian books to kee2 the tradition of 2rinted books alive. loved to s2eculate about which store would be the last bookstore in America. .
They were each fine old institutions rooted in affluent. 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.ackey6s had owned its own building since %*%?. . and "ut of !rint was recently 2urchased by a wealthy real estate attorney indulging his daughter6s literary fantasies.ackey6s #ooks in )hicago was a more likely candidate. 2rotecting it against rent increases. . #ut the sad fact was that the rate at which bookstores were closing seemed to be accelerating. The last few holdouts were . as was "ut of !rint in #rooklyn. #oth seemed much more secure than the <ragon. nostalgic neighborhoods.
to22ling 0uickly. 4ow the last few bookstores were closing at the rate of two or three 2er month and it actually seemed 2ossible that. . by the end of the summer. there might not be a single bookstore left. =ewis should have known that the <ragon was on the bookstore death watch list. 8e noticed those stories when they came across the screen7 he just never read 2ast the first cou2le of lines. 8e assumed that Sy’s bookstore had faded away years ago. they could finally let go. like those elderly war veterans who were only hanging on long enough to attain the rank of oldest living survivor. "nce they saw their names in the 2a2er. leaving Sy to shuffle around his weird old house on a hillto2 overlooking 8umboldt #ay.
five CAait a minute. 8eart attack. a sure sign that he was 2ondering something. 1 didn6t even think to ask. BSi$ months ago.et where3B .B =ewis was 2erched on the edge of the bed.B she said. BSo how is it that the store is still o2en3 Aho6s been running it all this time3B B"h. BThat’s what 1 thought. "ut of the blue. 1 guess we6ll find out when we get there. staring at his toes. Ahen did you say he died3B (mily said that night as she got into bed.B B.
right3D Still he didn’t look u2 at her. 8e heard her slide out of bed and walk over to him.D =ewis did not look at her as he said this. 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. 4ow her feet were right ne$t to his. A handsome .issionstyle bed made of warm cherry.B(ureka. it hardly seemed right to come home to a house full of 2oorlyassembled 1kea furniture. The sectional was the first of many 2ieces of e0ui2ment that married life seemed to re0uire after s2ending nearly fifty thousand dollars on the wine country wedding and the honeymoon in 8awaii. C:ou are kidding. a wine .
4ow =ewis awoke almost every night in a sweat. And (mily didn’t. like smart 2urchases. the numbers roiling in his head. 1t was overwhelming and sickening. and a whole-house media system with integrated controls in every room seemed. long-term investments in their own 2ros2erous future. urban life filled with good things. She just wanted a comfortable. always choosing the toaster with the best re2utation. (mily wasn’t a bad 2erson7 she wasn’t shallow or vain7 she wasn’t s2oiled or unreasonable. )ar 2ayments. 8e wanted out.refrigerator to store the bottles that arrived by mail from each of three wine clubs they’d joined. the sneakers that . )redit cards. Student loans. at the time. She sho22ed with serene confidence.
a warm sunflower in summer and an icy blue in winter. (mily’s was a comfortable and orderly world. She wasn’t about to wait until she was old to see #uda2est or hang her clothes in a cedar-lined closet.could cure bad 2osture and burn more calories. The time to get what she wanted was now. She felt that the best way to live a life filled with good things and e$otic vacations was to just start living it. 2um2kin in fall. . the handwoven sli2covers that she changed with the seasons celery green in s2ring. 1t would come. And she most certainly did not want to move to (ureka and take 2ossession of a failing bookstore. And she never worried about the money.
She 2ut her hand on to2 of =ewis’ head and let it rest there. 8e was unha22yHshe knew that. 1t just didn’t know it yet. meeting her eyes at last.CIust drive u2 with me and see it. So why should she be the one to tell him no3 8e would . =ewis knew nothing about books or bookstores. #ut she didn’t refuse to go. C)an’t we just go look3D (mily knew that she should have refused to go. and even if he did. She could feel his heart 2ounding against her. what good would it do him3 That bookstore was already dead.D =ewis said. 8e wra22ed his arms around her waist and leaned his head against her. She should have insisted that they have nothing to do with his uncle Sy’s cra5y old enter2rise on the 4orth )oast.
"f course he would. . This would be nothing but a weekend out of town. slow breath. Ahat was the harm in that3 C:ou’re right. C:ou’ll love it.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 she said. CAe should at least go have a look.D he said. 8e looked u2 at her in sur2rise.D 8e let out a long. :ou’re finally going to get me to go to (ureka.
:ou could buy an entire carriage and roll it right out the front of the store onto Second Street. 1t was the only 2lace in town to get whi2s and saddles. made of leather and stuffed with horsehair. .six A hundred years ago. which was the most lively street in this booming 2ort town. the Firebreathing <ragon’s building housed a carriage sho2. cou2lers and a$les and steel wheel rims and rain a2rons. was mounted on a 2latform and wheeled onto the wooden-2lank sidewalk in decent weather. bridles and bits. A life-si5ed re2lica of a horse.
the building lent itself 2erfectly to the business of carriages. each of which were framed in the kind of florid 2lasterwork common to buildings in those days. 0uite suddenly. thanks to 8enry Ford and his bright ideas. whi2 sockets and shaft ti2s. Things that became useless. )arriages sat on a 2olished showroom floor in the middle of the building. and sus2ended from those hooks were bridles and lines and saddles. .A long and skinny structure with thirty foothigh ceilings and a second-floor me55anine. 1ron hooks hung from the elegant 9ictorian banister. E2stairs the walls were lined with racks of wooden bo$es holding all manner of obsolete technology iron cli2s and leather coils. light 2oured down on them from two skylights in the ceiling. and on sunny days. bells and rein rails.
"ld Town became a red-light district for loggers and fishermen. Sy fell into the habit of talking to the 2icture as if he was addressing the store’s long- . Ahen the 2ossibility emerged that an electronic gadget might actually re2lace the book. )ar dealershi2s o2ened on the edge of town. The irony of this was not lost on Sy. after being boarded u2 for a few years.The sho2 suffered the fate of all horse-andbuggy sho2s. reo2ened as a saloon. who framed a %*&+-era 2hotogra2h of the store in its horse-and-carriage glory and hung it behind the counter. and the horse-and-buggy sho2. where they could catch the eyes of motorists 2assing through on their way to San Francisco or the gold mines in Trinity )ounty.
8e even gave the owner a name Aalter. Aalter3D he used to shout as he watched 2eo2le walk 2ast his sho2 without giving it a glance. lamenting the downfall of the solid and reliable horse and 2redicting that .D Aalter. C8ow does a horse-and-buggy man know when to give it u2.dead owner. when his long-time customers would come in and tell him that they would never surrender to . that they would always return to the solid comfort of a real book.D he would holler. "r. Sy would just shake his head and 2oint to the 2hotogra2h. CThat’s what you 2eo2le told Aalter.i5mo’s lurid 2leasures. C=ook where it got him. according to Sy’s mythology. s2ent his broken and dis2irited days in the saloon that re2laced his failed carriage sho2.
when the timber industry fell into decline.2eo2le would soon tire of the chea2 and risky thrills offered by the automobile. Adventurous back-to-the-landers moved u2 to 8umboldt )ounty from the #ay Area. 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. 8e even anne$ed the remains of an old bank . The saloon closed in the early si$ties. along with the other bars along Second Street. That’s e$actly what Sy did. A 2erson with no great ambition or financial obligations could o2erate a little business of their own and get by for years. and soon "ld Town’s chea2 real estate made it 2ossible for these new arrivals to o2en a coffee sho2 or an art gallery or a bookstore.
where they could kee2 . To most 2eo2le the <ragon looked like it had always been a bookstore.ismatched bookcases formed cram2ed and narrow stacks around the edges of the former buggy showroom. and then continued on the second floor.building ne$t door. running from the sunlit front to the very dim and chilly rear of the building. a massive oak desk served as a sort of encam2ment for the staff. books sat on tables and faded under the bright skylights. where carriages had once gleamed on their 2edestals. 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. #ookshelves climbed u2 the walls to the me55anine. 1n the center of the building. . and near the entrance.
F4o one watched the customers.one eye on "ld Town and one eye on each other. 1t was Sy’s firm belief that 2eo2le should be allowed to wander through a bookstore unmolested. An old cannery became a seafood restaurant.G For a few years Sy lived in an a2artment on the roof. the town’s first meeting hall . accessible through a service door in the alley. and the rest of his life was devoted to running the small retail and real estate enter2rise he’d created for himself. and was known to a22ear on Sunday mornings in his bathrobe and cook scrambled eggs on a hot 2late behind the counter. (ventually he bought a broken-down 9ictorian on a generous 2arcel of land outside of town and moved into it. The rest of "ld Town came together in more or less the same way.
. and the old sawmill that once 2rocessed the logs that floated down the river had long ago shut down. Ahile most towns along the !acific )oast face the water. "nly the waterfront remained vacant. which ran along the waterfront. The fisherman had left.eanwhile. where )ity 8all and the jail were situated. First Street.became a thrift store. (ureka had turned its back on its harbor. 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 town’s civic life started on Second Street and continued through to Si$th. . and the string of bars on either side of the <ragon re-o2ened as cafes and record stores and little sho2s that sold beads and wind chimes. was deserted.
(dith had sim2ly been with him since the beginning. they didn’t succeed. sharing his narrow bed in the old a2artment above the store and moving with him to what they liked to call their Jcountry home’ on a hill overlooking the bay. . The lawlessness and disorder of )alifornia in the si$ties drew her to 8umboldt. She had family back in #ostonHa father and four brothers who all served on #oston’s 2olice forceHbut she never s2oke of them. and if they tried to track her down.seven 1t was not until after Sy died that anyone reali5ed that he and (dith had not been married. This was her home now.
#ut now he was gone. a massive man with a booming voice. She’d been 0uite alone over the last si$ months. rarely s2eaking to anyone but Sy.Although Sy was older than (dith. who she addressed constantly the way Sy used to talk to Aalter the carriage-sho2 owner. Sometimes she seemed too delicate to kee2 u2 with Sy. 1n 2rivate Sy’s friends often wondered who would take res2onsibility for him when (dith died. (dith was outside in her work clothes yanking on the blackberry vine that had taken . but she was also the one with the bad heart and the brush with cancer. And now. no one e$2ected him to go first. (dith was small and 0uiet and self-assured. on this sunny day in early summer. and no one had taken res2onsibility for (dith.
She tore off the bra. . C1 am not crawling under that 2orch again. and discovered a lum2 in the 2rocess. B<ammit. She 2ulled so hard that when it broke looseHsna22ing cleanly off at the base. 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. as if even this was his fault. a doctor in Redding confirmed that it was cancer.D #ut she did crawl under. brushed it away.root under Sy’s 2orch. SyKB she shouted. leaving the roots intactHthe force of it knocked her into the grass. 4ot that she had anything against s2iders. Two weeks later. "ne night several years ago she was getting undressed for bed when she noticed a brown s2ider crawling out of her bra.
B That line was re2eated around town for years. B:ou know what3 . she scra2ed away as much of loose dirt as she could -. This woman turned out to be someone who thrived on other 2eo2le6s cancer diagnoses7 on the way home.aybe .od 2ut the s2ider in my bra.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.wondering why the dirt under a house was always so fine and dry.D (dith got so irritated by this that she finally sna22ed. . B:ou6re 2robably wondering right now why a loving .od would 2ut a lum2 in your breast. like flour. she ke2t saying things like. until it took on an air of s2iritual mysticism far beyond what (dith had intended. "nce she reached the base of the blackberry vine.
but the blackberries were snaking under the house and growing through the floorboards. a good fifty feet in all. grabbing the vine by its roots the way you’d haul a dog around by the collar. "f course. She dusted herself off. 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. Then. he 2referred to let his s2rawling . (dith wouldn6t normally bother with these kind of 2reventative maintenance chores. followed her meekly out from under the 2orch. she made her way to the ditch at the end of Sy6s 2ro2erty that they used as a green waste dum2. even when Sy was alive. <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.
the better it worked as a greenhouse. worked in the bookstore as well. Another ten years went by and suddenly green roofs were in vogue.2ro2erty settle into a state of natural decline. Sy went into the attic and 2atched it with mud from the inside. 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. Ahen the roof leaked . The more an outbuilding fell a2art. which made him feel vindicated. Ahen (dith 2ointed out that moss was accumulating on the roof of his ramshackle Nueen Anne. receiving nothing but 2alliative care to ease the sym2toms. The idea that things should be allowed to gradually fall a2art. And when the mossroof s2rung a leak.
Some sections were com2letely im2assable. 4ew books were never shelved7 they were sim2ly stacked somewhere near the section where they belonged.reat #ooks Series. he sus2ended buckets from the ceiling and threw a 2lastic tar2 over the endangered bookshelves until the storms receded in s2ring. The children6s section was only accessible to 2eo2le short and skinny enough to crawl under a table 2iled nearly to the ceiling with automotive .there. which often did. "ver time. 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.
8e never tried to intercede when a mess was brewing7 he merely constructed his own odd ada2tations. . 1n short. settling into one of his rentals instead. coat hangers. Sy liked the logic in this.re2air manuals. 2ennies. usually involving 2a2er cli2s. 8e loved to watch it grow and im2ose its own strange order on the world. (dith could never tolerate his sort of mess. which is why she stayed out of the bookstore and refused Sy’s re2eated re0uests to move in with him. Sy loved a good mess. and a case of acidfree binding ta2e that he bought back when he thought he might seriously attem2t to be a bookseller. 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.
which meant that if they moved. they wouldn6t have any money coming back to them. each one cho22ed into a2artments and rented out to musicians whose tenure lasted decades. Sy had figured out the 2erfect a22roach to kee2ing long-term tenants he never charged them a security de2osit. 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.There were about a half-do5en old buildings on the 2ro2erty. She used to be able to count on a burly . This allowed the musicians to indulge their aversion to day jobs. 1t was lonely at the end of this old logging road. 8e also ke2t the rents low. 4ow everyone had moved out but (dith.
The shrubs covered the fence com2letely.bass 2layer to roll out of bed around noon and haul bags of 2otting soil around or fi$ a break in the irrigation system. The fence was overgrown with rosemary and an enormous redflowering 2inea22le sage. The fragrance was strong enough to discourage deer and make sure that no one else could follow their nose into (dith’s garden. (dith made her way from the ditch to the fence that ke2t deer out of the broad. southern facing slo2e of her garden. even that would be over. 4ow she was looking after her enormous garden by herself. And once Sy’s ne2hew got into town. and for a moment (dith wondered if young =ewis and his wife would notice it at all. .
"r. 1t could go either way. CAhat’s the kid going to make of this. as she sli22ed through the gate and locked it behind her.aybe she could get by for a few more months.. Sy3D she asked. . maybe =ewis would have her arrested.
"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. and it was a wonder nobody ever did. councilwoman Ale$is Trevino was sitting . but the <ragon was im2ossible to move. A jewelry store or a dress sho2 might be able to move a few blocks down and inhabit one of the new retail sho2s along the harbor develo2ers 2romised to build.ei ht Ahen Sy was alive. C:ou’ll have to burn the 2lace down to get us off Second StreetKD Sy used to say.
CAll right. The . where contractors drank free as long as they brought their own cu2. C1 can redraw these 2lans and fit another studio above the retail. =e$.D <on was saying. <on still held the cu2 of coffee he’d 2icked u2 at the hardware store. 8e’d been the low bidder on the 2roject she’d 2ro2osed for the waterfront. <on )antrell. The caffeine made her leg shake. in his best 1’m-gonna-level-with-you voice. which just ha22ened to be a 2arcel of land that was once occu2ied by her grandfather’s sawmill. and it made her even more im2atient with her contractor than she usually was. Ale$is was drinking her second chai. #ut the condos aren’t the 2roblem.across the street from the <ragon at )ontra )offee with her contractor.
:ou still don’t know if you’re going to get any of these stores to move down there and 2ay these rents just to be on the water. .D =e$ hissed. And even if you do. the 2lanning commission’s 2robably going to kick you off the 2roject over conflict of--D C<on’t you say that.D <on sighed and looked around the room as if he was ho2ing he’d find another client to talk to. !eo2le like =e$ imagined that (ureka would one day wake u2. <on. C1t’s my damn 2roject. There was no way this 2roject was getting off the ground. 1’ll 2ut a fence around that 2arcel and sit on it for another ten years if they don’t let me build.retail’s your 2roblem. one who was in touch with something he liked to call reality. reali5e that it was a seaside )alifornia town.
1t didn’t e$ist to entertain other 2eo2le. it just wasn’t that kind of 2lace. and you might . Rent a room for a cou2le hundred bucks. <on thought. even with the granite counterto2s and the co22er range hoods. <on didn’t know any artists. bouti0ues that sold something other than dusty old books.and start acting like one. but he was 2retty sure they wouldn’t be dro22ing four hundred grand for a studio with a concrete floor and e$2osed ductwork. Esed to be you could come u2 here and work in the sawmills or 2ull crab out of the water. =e$ had a vision of sleek bistros overlooking the water. 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. (ureka wasn’t a bad 2lace to live.
(ureka never did become . !eo2le like <on 2ocketed fifty grand every time 2eo2le like =e$ came u2 with another scheme for im2roving (ureka and needed 2lans drawn u2. but <on . so (ureka had more than its share of drifters. back-to-thelanders.endocino or )armel-by-theSea. and 2eo2le who just didn6t fit in anywhere else. !eo2le like =e$ thought they could 2ut condos on the waterfront and change all that. (ureka never did get im2roved.just slide by without doing much of anything at all. (ven though real estate 2rices went u2 after the highway de2artment decided not to run a freeway through the middle of town. burned-out activists. 2ot smokers. A certain cross-section of )alifornia’s 2o2ulation was attracted to that idea.
16m a 2ublic official. BSomething like that wouldn6t really go on the 2lans. BThat6s more of a cosmetic thing. so it was working out all right for him.built a deck and a 2arking s2ace for his R9 last summer. 1 want to make it clear from day one that we6re not going to tolerate it anymore. B<id you 2ut the skate blocks in3B she asked. These 2lans are . 1f only he didn’t have to sit through these damn meetings.B he said. and 1 ran on a 2romise that 16d run those kids off the wharf. <on. =e$ blew on her chai and s0uinted at the 2lans <on had s2read out on the table. like ---B B1t6s not cosmetic.B =e$ said. BThese skateboarders come down here and 2o2 wheelies or whatever the hell you call it and run off the tourists.
B1s that what those are3B BThat6s what those are.B B"hKB =e$ said in an uncharacteristically girly voice. and she gave him steelbelted radials. and that’s how he did it. .B <on said. and he’d 2ut new tires on his truck.B <on 2ulled a 2encil out of his shirt 2ocket and leaned across the table.going to have skate blocks on them if 1 had to draw them in myself. !eo2le always asked <on how he could 2ut u2 with =e$. 8e gave her imaginary skate blocks. She’d 2ay it. 8e made seven hatch marks along a length of sidewalk in front of the retail. BThere you go. 8e6d bill her si$ hundred bucks for that modification ne$t time he sent her a change order.
CAe’re done anyway.uillermo . CAhen do you break ground3D .D =e$ said.uillermo didn’t like him drinking hardware store coffee in his sho2. sto22ed at the table and 2icked u2 <on6s em2ty coffee cu2 gingerly.D =e$ said. 8e leaned over to try to get a look before the 2lans disa22eared.oreQahQ3D <on shook his head and waved him away. as if it was something he6d found on the sidewalk and wasn6t sure he wanted to touch.. She stood u2 to leave. he should take it u2 with =e$. She’s the one who insisted on meeting here.artPn. C4ot u2 to me. C.uillermo asked. 1f . )ontra )offee’s owner. and rolled u2 <on’s 2lans. and at that moment she saw #illy <alton .
C. . but he was already gone.oddamn city attorney. and ste22ed behind the counter. C1’m not here.D she said.walk out of the <ragon with a bo$ under his arm. following <on out the back door.uillermo.D she said to . She turned around to <on.
inger. CAhat the hell are you doing here3D )rawford said as he shoved the door o2en.D . unbo$ing cookbooks and shelving them in what was once the 2sychology section. he was sur2rised to find the <ragon’s door unlocked. C1’m working. Sure enough. the lights were on. 8e s2un his key around in the lock a cou2le of times and 2eered in the windows. And there was .nine Ahen )rawford showed u2 for work at eleven. Some of us work. )rawford.
. 8e marched over to . e$2osing bare wood for the first time in years. too. em2loyees undertook cleaning 2rojects at their own risk.inger had hauled out eight bags of old cardboard and news2a2ers and then swe2t the floor. which was a s2ecialty of his. #ack in Sy’s day.inger might as well have hauled Sy’s s2irit out to the recycling bin along with the cardboard. This outraged )rawford. )rawford saw an o22ortunity to take a 2rinci2led stand.)rawford rolled his eyes and dro22ed his back2ack behind the counter. . BAs the manager of this store ---B .inger and stood between her and the bookcase she was organi5ing. noticing that things had changed back there. 1t felt like sacrilege to see the store drift so far from its original values.
1 think we should at least talk to #illy before we ---B B#illy was already here.inger had regretted 2ost2oning the start date of her job at the <ragon until after =abor <ay.B BShitK 8ow much time do we have3D )rawford o2ened a second bo$ of cookbooks and started loading them onto a shelf. 1’ve been here the longest.C:ou are not the manager. )rawford. (mily. CAell.D CAell.et out of my face.D CThey3D C8e6s got a wife.B she said. 8e called =ewis. C4ot much.D For over a decade .B . B8e found the will. .D C#y four days. They’re coming u2 here in a week or two.
BAhat6s her deal3B . C:ou now know everything 1 know.D They worked in silence.inger shrugged. shelving books alongside each other. . 2ulling out an early 0oy of "ookin. The cookbooks themselves were nothing s2ecial mundane collections of casserole reci2es and easy su22ers for busy moms. filling a section and breaking down the em2ty bo$es. all 2urchased from the Iunior =eague when their charity booksho2 closed its doors. and facing out three books with cu2cakes on the cover. #ut )rawford took an uncharacteristic interest in them. 1t was sur2risingly satisfying work. to 2ut on the rare books shelf.
his .D .inger thought he wore the look of a weathered old activist well -. BAe’re o2en. )rawford ignored him. There was always someone )rawford wasn’t s2eaking to7 this week it was .uillermo brushed a stack of . 2ro22ing his feet u2 on the counter. 8e had the lean frame of someone who subsisted mostly on coffee and cigarettes. Iust then .uillermo 2ushed o2en the front door and kicked the doorsto2 into 2lace. .raphi s off the chair and dro22ed into it.C)u2cakes.inger said. Aren’t you cute. .inger said. without looking u2.ational Geo.D . with the su2erior attitude of a man who6d been at work since five.uillermo. CAre you guys o2en or what3B .uillermo said.
. BThink so3B BAell. .B . She ri22ed another bo$ of books o2en and glared down into its contents. B<amnK 16m getting low. After Sy’s death .uillermo had ke2t a 2articularly close eye on the store.inger said.B B.B she said.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.et used to it. B8aven6t seen her. dro22ing in with the air of someone who had the ability to re2ort directly back to Sy if anything was amiss. B8as (dith been in this week3B he asked.face was all interesting angles and salt and 2e22er stubble. what do you think.
As long as the checks clear the bank. BAbsentee landlord.uillermo shrugged.uillermo sighed.D .D he said.. .B he said. BAre you sure he even has to know3B B8ow can he not know3B )rawford said. C.D )rawford said.D . BAell.et back to your coffee sho2. Ahat a cou2le of drama 0ueens. not if you 2ut it that way.inger. C)all me when she gets here. . what does he care3B CThat’s insane.uillermo jum2ed u2 as if he’d forgotten all about the coffee sho2. C(verybody in town knows. dro22ing onto the floor and wi2ing his brow as if he had e$erted himself in this first half hour of the day.
C1 think we’ve seen the last of (dith.D C<on’t say it. turning to )rawford.D . C<on’t even think it.inger called after him.D .D )rawford said. she added.C<on’t count on it. Then.
the calves ambled over to the nearest e$it ram2 of their own accord. this one convened to draw .ten 1t was another slow news day at the 1umboldt 1erald. The air2ort task force held its eleventh meeting of the year. and a 2hotogra2her had been dis2atched to grab a 2hoto of the farmer shooing them off the freeway. 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. That would be today’s to2 story. Four 8olstein calves had esca2ed their 2en just south of Fortuna. As it ha22ened.
but they’d get another shot at it tomorrow after there was time to get citi5en reactions and run a follow-u2. 8e’d been 2ut on the business desk.u2 a 2lan for moving the baggage claim area out of an abandoned car wash ne$t door to the air2ort and into the terminal itself. was not assigned to cover either of these breaking stories. and authorshi2 of a blog called C8um#i5D that offered u2beat 2rofiles of new sandwich sho2s and art galleries in "ld . . where he was su22osed to drum u2 story ideas.et a Face =iftD was the best headline the 1erald could come u2 with on short notice. which meant a free dinner of chicken wings and chea2 wine once a month at the )hamber mi$er. CAir2ort #ags .alway <aniels. having refused the buy-out once again.
a declaration that was usually good for a weeks’ worth of reaction 2ieces featuring fishermen. along with re2ur2osed 2ress releases from the Small #usiness Administration. 2resumably. sho22ing and dining. downtown. even as they re2eated their refusal to move into the new over2riced sho2s that would be built along the harbor. 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. 2unctuated by )hristmas retail sales . 1t was a comfortable and 2redictable news cycle. who resented the dwindling availability of actual docking facilities along the waterfront.Town. s2arring with local merchants who would give almost anything to have twenty 2eo2le living and.
back-to-school ti2s for fall. behind-the-scenes stories of flower sho2s on 9alentine’s <ay FCFlorist !lays )u2id on February %RDG. and tales of harried )!As during ta$ season FCA Ta$ing Time for AccountantsDG.iers had . . which is more than most of his former coworkers could say. a 2erennial "ctober crowd-2leaser about the influ$ of cash into the local economy when the outdoor marijuana cro2 was harvested. #ut today wasn’t one of those days.erchantsDG. .2rojections FCThere’s 4o !lace =ike "ld Town For the 8olidays.ost days it was fine. . Say =ocal . Then came interviews with summer tourists. then it was time for )hristmas again.alway’s boss #etsy .alway couldn’t com2lainHhe was 2aying the rent and making a dent in his bar tab.
The 1erald’s s2rawling brick building in "ld Town. #etsy might have run a tight newsroom at one 2oint. but managing a loosely-knit confederacy of disgruntled re2orters-turnedbloggers was beyond her. The news2a2er’s staff had been reduced to a handful of freelancers covering business. CSee meKD read one. arts and culture. C4owKD the second one said. which had once housed a 2rinting 2ress as well as a large editorial staff.been by his desk twice this morning. food. Ahile . leaving 2ink sticky notes on his com2uter monitor both times. and local 2olitics. environmental issues. They o2erated out of an old house near the courthouse that had been divided into offices. had been demolished and turned into a 2arking lot.
8e was usually in the office by ten. #etsy hated e-mail. a notion soundly rejected by almost everyone at the 1erald. which meant that he s2ent a cou2le of hours each morning drinking coffee. and skimming the news online. and nobody was inclined to make a donation to the 1erald. checking email.i5mo but refused to use it. She believed that her staff should show u2 by nine and stay 2ast five. they de2ended on donations through their charitable foundations to make it ha22en. She carried a . . Around lunchtime his brain caught u2 with his body. but he wasn’t awake until noon. 2articularly .the more august news organi5ations managed to kee2 a robust staff and do old-school investigative re2orting.alway.
holding them u2 and raising his eyebrow in greeting.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. #ut today #etsy had a story all 2icked out for him. 8e 2eeled the notes off his monitor and carried them to her office. accordion files stuffed with news2a2er cli22ings. 1t was like a ta$idermied version of a newsroom.making him coherent enough to make the rounds of "ld Town in search of a story. . and a bin of uno2ened junk mail that had to go back five years. C. and #etsy sat among it as if she was 2reserved in wa$. CSitKD #etsy’s office smelled of dandruff and 2encil shavings.
D he said. always with her brassy blonde hair 2iled on to2 of her head and s2rayed into 2lace.alway hadn’t ste22ed in her office in years.D 4ot another =ast #ookstore in America story. you’re like a week late to that Rotary lunch. #etsy made him write one every time a bookstore closed. C1 want you to get down to the <ragon.alway had cranked out a do5en of these stories since the 8um#i5 blog launched two years ago. . . ho2ing that the 1erald2s local angle on what she called Cthe bookstore crisisD would get 2icked u2 nationally. C1’m late to a Rotary lunch.D #etsy said. C#ets. Ahat’s u23D C:eah.always in her black wool sweater. 8e didn’t . 8e 2referred to lean in the doorway.
e$ce2t #etsy. who insisted on flaunting (ureka’s uni0ue status as one of the only small towns to still su22ort a real bookstore. The whole thing was such a ruse anyway everybody in town knew that the <ragon didn’t kee2 itself afloat selling books. C8uh3 "hHwell. CAhat ha22enedHdid another bookstore close3D he asked.think he had another one in him.uillermo telling somebody that the new owners were coming into town. a22arently. 1 was getting my coffee this morning and 1 overheard . #ut that’s not it. 2robably. yeah. (veryone.D CSomebody bought that 2lace3D .
D 4ow all he needed was a 2hoto. too. CArite that u2.ood idea.C4o. 1t took #illy <alton all this time to find the will.alway wasn’t going to write a messy attorney misconduct article when he had an easy. this is the guy who inherited it from Sy.a$ine Rogers. 8er com2any.D C#illy <alton should be disbarred.com. C. delivered a Criver of readingD to the . 8e already had his small-town cheerleader headline C#reathing 4ew =ife 1nto the Firebreathing <ragon. 8e could also call .D #ut . 4ile. feel-good small business 2iece lined u2. a cou2le of customer reactions.D she said.i5mo for .D <alton said. the woman widely blamed for the downfall of the book. and a statement from #illy.
if you were willing to watch the ads. :ou can fit 4nfinite 0est in your 2ocket. :ou can carry <ickens’ com2lete works with you. . even the more obscure serials like (ittle 3orrit and The Mystery of Ed!in 3rood. :ou can switch effortlessly between the .twenty bucks a monthHor for free.D followed by a high-minded riff on the advantages of the electronic book. and most 2eo2le were.a$ine could usually be counted on for a sym2athetic cluck over the fate of what she called Cdusty old bookstores. allowing you to finally indulge your love of com2arative literature.arnett and 9olokhonsky translations of Anna 'arenina and the original Russian. .
. She said it in a way that im2lied that the two of you might someday get together in a dimly-lit hotel lounge and confess your shared love of the obscure little serials of )harles <ickens. in fact.a$ine knew how to give a great 0uote. aside from the fact that #etsy would fire him if he didn’t.a$ine and let her smart and silky voice float into his ear. .alway ke2t writing these bookstore articles. #ut first he had to track down #illy <alton. The only reason . a 2assion you dared not deny.She said this in a coolly confident voice that suggested that com2arative literature was. and that was never easy. was that he got to 2hone u2 .
disgruntled e$-em2loyees a22ealing their dismissals on the grounds that they were in jail and therefore ouldn2t show u2 to work. and 2erfunctory legal reviews of harebrained ballot initiatives to legali5e and regulate . 8e was more like 2art-time hel2 for the city attorney’s office. )ases that would otherwise bog down the attorney’s office. he might as well be. although as far as =e$ Trevino was concerned. hired on to hel2 with the more time-consuming and 2ointless cases.e!even #illy wasn’t actually (ureka’s city attorney. Freedom of 1nformation re0uests from high school journalism students.
a common 2roblem for any 2roject the cannabis community chose to undertake. com2lete with smoking bars downtown and 2ot farms modeled after Sonoma )ounty’s wineries. it fell to #illy to review a steady stream of conflict-of-interest investigations brought by angry citi5en grou2s against council members. 4o council member was targeted as much as Ale$is Trevino. These initiatives usually died of their own inertia. And of course. arguing for the increased sales ta$ revenue. the dro2 in law enforcement e$2enses. and the glorious or terrifying 2ossibilityHde2ending on your 2ers2ectiveHof 8umboldt )ounty turning into a high-end cannabis tourist destination. a . Some novice council member floated the idea every few years.marijuana.
sat on boards and councils around town. They were not a wellloved family. =e$ ran uno22osed for city council and won every time. Still. 4o one was .woman whose family had dee2 roots in 8umboldt )ounty. 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$’s father 2ublished a conservative news2a2er in the late si$ties. Four generations of Trevinos had run the waterfront. 8er grandfather bragged about his role in the %*&M e$2ulsion of )hinese immigrants from (ureka. and 2artici2ated in enough shady deals to kee2 them under investigation from cradle to grave.
. or reading aloud from them in a bar late at night. and now he was after =e$ Trevino. 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. <alton had the dirt on everyone. 8e had a knack for stumbling across the wrong 2iece of information at the wrong time and blurting it out in a crowded room. #illy’s investigations were ha2ha5ard and dangerous.willing to take her on 2ublicly. and he certainly never called council members aside to gently caution them about certain matters a22earing before the council that afternoon.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. . 4o.
safe in the knowledge that #illy <alton was wrecking no one’s career but his own. 8e 2referred these long. She claimed she was meeting with him to discuss a remodel of her house. waiting to see if =e$ would show u2 for another meeting with her contractor. always making the e$cuse that the land was in a family trust over which she had no control. Today #illy was hanging around "ld Town. <on )antrell. but <on hadn’t done residential work in a decade. #ut everybody knew the meetings with <on were about her develo2ment. with their never-ending revisions and .The rest of the city attorney’s office just sat back and watched. She’d sat in on three votes that had im2lications for her waterfront deal already. drawn-out commercial 2rojects.
Ask me for a cu2 of coffee.D #illy said.D . . This is not your office. !eo2le who decide to make over their house always want to start immediately.B B8ey. <on never found CimmediatelyD to be 2articularly 2rofitable. BThat6s nice. B:ou6ve got a real touch.B B#illy. 8e made most of his money in the lengthy 2re-develo2ment 2hase.B #illy said. Seriously. C"rder something. a 2hase that didn’t e$ist in the residential remodels he used to get tangled u2 in. #illy sat at his table in the corner and waited.uillermo said. C:ou know what 1’ll have3D .uillermo.delays.
B B1 have no idea who that is. B:ou’ve seen her3B B:eah.B B1 didn6t think you would.B #illy drank his coffee in silence. . That6s all 1 heard. BAhat6s gotten into her3B .B.inger emerged from the <ragon with a broom in her hand and started swee2ing the sidewalk.B B<o you know who it is3B BSome guy named Richmond. Lee2 this u2 and 16ll even tell you where =e$ is. She left here about an hour ago.B 8e leaned across the counter and 2oured a cu2 of coffee for #illy. Across the street.ood boy. She6s 2icking u2 some visiting dignitary at the air2ort.
.BShe6s trying to act like a sho2kee2er. 8e sla22ed three bucks on the table and . #illy watched her stand u2 and wave to somebody. !eo2le were forever ducking out of rooms .inger knelt down to 2ick u2 the dam2 leaves that clung to the sidewalk. C1t’s the end of an era.D #illy said.B . . 8e leaned back in his chair to see who it was. (ureka was a strangely secretive town you might know everybody.B #illy just shook his head. but you didn’t want to see most of them.uillermo ste22ed aside to allow #illy to duck under the counter and out the back door. .uillermo wi2ed down #illy’s table and stuffed the bills in his 2ocket. CThere’s that re2orter.alway. BAants to im2ress the boss.uillermo said.D he said.
e$ce2t that he knew how fidgety his customers could get without an esca2e route. .uillermo had considered 2utting a lock on his back door.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
and then four or five slightly more e$2erimental and intelligent songs on the other side.consist of four or five songs on one side of a 2iece of vinyl. too. Albums used to make sense7 they used to hang together as a body of work. <igital music changed all that. and those hea2s of words used to hang together as a body of work. and this had something to do with the fact that vinyl records could only hold eight or ten songs. bound together between 2asteboard covers. And there used to be these hea2s of eighty to a hundred thousand words that 2eo2le would s2end about a week reading. A 0uote-un0uote album could now hold two m2?s or two hundred. The technologyH2rinted 2ages. in a si5e that could be easily held in the handHdemanded .
something s2ecific of authors. 8is . and bestow awards u2on them. And 2lace them on bestseller lists. and he hadn6t had any Argentinean beef in the longest time. They had to figure out how to tell their story and fit it within the confines of that thing called a book. And talk about them. 4ot any more. The bookstore was like a nest he could settle in with the scra2s of his 2revious e$istence and construct a kind of shelter out of sarcasm and remorse. )rawford could 2retend that he still had some kind of 2lace in the world.anhattan a2artment was gone. !eo2le used to go buy those books. . As long as the bookstore stayed o2en. #ut without Sy. )rawford was understandably irritated. 4ow they downloaded Twitter feeds. the whole thing seemed kind of 2ointless.
but she walked straight to the back with a fragrant bundle under her arm and left without saying a word. too. #ut he didn’t have much time to think about it today. (dith had dro22ed by this morning. (mily and =ewis were driving u2 from the #ay Area. )rawford thought. he wasn’t so sure. Sy’s ne2hew would surely sell the 2ro2erty.8e was washed u2 at the age of thirty-four. =ately. She must be worried. and where would she go3 For that matter. Sy de2osited just enough into the bank to make the business look . where would any of them go3 4one of them had managed to save any money. Sy used to make him feel like that was an accom2lishment. Running a cash-based business was trickier than it seemed.
and everything else Sy took home. 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. Sy used to say that money was also like a 2ile of sand. 1t shifted around and blew away. but the rest of their salaries. :ou couldn’t 2ut it under the mattress without risking a break-in. And cash had to be s2ent. .inger each got a legit 2ayroll check for something just above minimum wage. and )rawford and . was cash.res2ectable.
stuffed . "n the day they left.ake a day of it. but =ewis insisted on driving. .D =ewis said.D #ut (mily was in no mood to make a day of it. C1t’s a beautiful drive. She still wasn’t sure she even wanted to see this bookstore. (mily had ho2ed to fly u2 and rent a car at the tiny commuter air2ort outside (ureka. CAe’ll take our time. she awoke in a foul mood.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. much less 2artici2ate in =ewis’ fantasy of moving to (ureka to run it.
The rent would be .olden .ate #ridge was mostly obscured by fog. First came the wide swee2 of the city to their left as they drove 2ast "akland and #erkeley. all 2ale blues and white lights. resembled stages of grief. like a mirage of a city. and settled into the 2assenger’s seat with hardly a word to =ewis.a few changes of clothes into a suitcase. The drive from San Iose to (ureka took them through changes in geogra2hy that. 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. to (mily. San Francisco6s skyline shimmered above the bay. giving the im2ression that the city floated just out of reach. The .
An evening is starting. but at least they would be living in a real city. but just standing on !owell and . she came here for a 2articular moment in San Francisco. 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. She6d never had an evening that lived u2 to the 2romise of that blue moment. Actually. the commute would be longer. At those moments the city vibrates with 2ossibility. and anything could ha22en.higher. Ahat was the 2oint of clawing your way into the #ay Area real estate market. only to end u2 in a neighborhood that could just as easily be in north <allas3 She came here for San Francisco.
Surely this was just a weekend tri2. She wanted to e$2erience that moment every night. came as she and =ewis sat in traffic for two hours from the Richmond #ridge to Santa Rosa. 4o good could come from a . Surely she was not agreeing to a move that would take her even further from San Francisco.watching the daylight recede was enough for her. That6s why she wanted to live in San Francisco. the first stage <enial. Anger. The ne$t 2hase. 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. There it is. not just a cou2le times a month when she and =ewis took the train into the city.
This time of year the gnarled old vines were just starting the im2robable act of 2roducing fruit. =ewis was cra5y to think she’d 0uit her job and move to (ureka to run.journey that began like this. This wasn6t so bad. the chTteaus of the nouveau-riche offered another kind of 2romise. that of a comfortable 2ost-San Francisco lifestyle devoted to barrel tastings and bidding on chevre futures at bouti0ue goat farms. She leaned her head against the window and watched a row of auto malls slide 2ast. "nce they got through Santa Rosa. she could breathe again. and off in the distance. . a bookstore. this kind of life in the country. The wine country was hardly rural7 it felt e$2ansive and lu$urious. of all things. She could get by in a 2lace like this.
She would trade the city for a 2lace like this.That6s called #argaining. !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 . the landsca2e gave way to what. would not necessarily be called <e2ression. for anyone but (mily. !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. After two hours of #argaining.
<e2ression. 8e s2oke of Cthe bookD as a Ccultural artifactD and 2raised it as a Cremarkable 2iece of technology.D re2eating those 2hrases so often to their friends and family that it was starting to sound like a stum2 s2eech. she’d grown irritated with his new-found interest in books and bookselling. (mily knew that Encle Sy’s bookstore meant something to =ewis once. She and =ewis hadn’t s2oken much on the drive.was locking a gate behind her. "ver the last few days. The forests were gloomy and menacing. Suddenly owning a bookstore was the only thing he’d ever really wanted to do with his life. but that was no reason to dro2 everything and move u2 there. . The trees glared down at her. The fourth stage of grief.
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.hly Effe tive &eople# and he’d only read that because it was re0uired reading at a sales re2 retreat several years ago.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. 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 . #ut there was no 2oint in confronting =ewis with this evidence.
been lost for years and had just found his way. they could not.D (mily had said.a house.D he had told (mily last night as they lay in bed and faced each other. to a guy who had. C)an’t we delete that message3D 4o. She reali5ed that she had made a tactical error by o22osing the bookstore idea before . reaching over to smooth his hair. 8e had the soulful brown eyes of a 2u22y. =ewis sighed and rolled over. 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. C"h. unbeknownst to his wife and his friends. 8e knew what effect those eyes had on (mily. CThere’s a message in this for us. honey.
(mily6s mother threw her arms around him and told him that she thought that was a wonderful idea. B1t6s kind of e$2ensive.B (mily6s father said. She had forgotten the only trick her mother had taught her about marriage the more im2ractical your husband’s ideas are. CAell. sur2rised by how 0uickly things were moving along. the more you get behind them. BAhen are you leaving3B she said. 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. 8er father had once wanted to climb .B .they6d even arrived in (ureka. 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.
om. into a jar that she labeled C!aul’s (verest Fund. C=et’s start saving right now. 1’ll 2ut in the first twenty dollars. And your father’s never going to get into sha2e for (verest.D (mily. C. honey.D he said. seeing this. we can do thatKD her mother said. And how are you going to get that kind of money3D 8er mother smiled and took (mily’s face in her hands. sweetie. 2ulled her aside later. 8e’s not even in sha2e.D And she took out a twenty and dro22ed it. 1 think. beaming. <on6t you see how this works3 :ou al!ays su22ort the . CAe’re never going to get that kind of money. are you cra5y3 8e can’t climb (verest.C8ow much3D CEmHabout seventy thousand dollars. CAell.
CThat’s a little marital advice from your mom. and (mily wishing she could grab the steering wheel and turn them around.D She 2atted (mily on the cheeks and smiled. The redwoods gave way to cow 2astures. They were almost to (ureka now. <on’t bother fighting with your husband over something he’s never actually going to do. the more you get behind it. where black and white 8olsteins gra5ed in the . actually. and then you don’t have to be the bad guy. 8e’ll give u2 on his own eventually. The more im2ossible it is.D 1t was good advice. #ut now they were locked into 2osition =ewis driving them resolutely into their dim and dusty future.cra5y stuff. (mily wished she’d remembered it in time.
"ld sawmills sat alongside the freeway.etting away from the trees calmed her down somewhat. and blue to give the workers the illusion that they were living in a seaside resort.com2any of egrets. if only because it meant that the si$-hour drive was over. She felt calmer than she had in days. She rolled down her window to smell the ocean. . rows of run-down bungalows that were once 2ainted bright green. . 1n the shadow of the mills were little com2any towns. 2ink. She was relieved to be here. waiting for logs that didn6t show u2 anymore. Soon the road swerved close to a flat e$2anse of ocean and (mily reali5ed she was looking at 8umboldt #ay.
but maybe it was something likeHwellHthe final stage of grief. Acce2tance.1t wasn’t ha22iness e$actly. .
loud. ho2ing she’d hear. and she really didn’t like sur2rise visitors.fifteen C(dithKD #illy called out from the driveway. 8e unlocked Sy’s back door and let himself in. and then slammed his car door. 4o res2onse. 8e walked around to the back of Sy6s house. . C(dith. There were no lights on in (dith6s cottage. (dith didn’t like visitors. it’s just meKD he called again. B1t6s #illyKB 8e6d given her enough of a warning. She might be in the garden. B(dith3B he shouted one more time.
#illy hadn’t been to Sy6s house since the memorial service. card tables. The dead man’s long-standing and fre0uently-announced wish regarding the dis2osition of his body in the event of his death --. 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. 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 .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 --.
filled with strangely detailed articles about the murders that s2elled out intricate sub2lots never revealed in the movie itself. broken a22liances. and the more dila2idated and useless remnants of Sy6s collection of movie 2ro2s. . For the film ada2tation of Smoke. Sy loved these literary 2ro2s as much as he loved to 2oint out literary mistakes in films.and news2a2ers. com2lete with an author 2hoto of 8urt himself. an actual dust jacket was created for Ailliam 8urt6s character !aul #enjamin. Real news2a2ers were 2rinted for the movie "hi a. 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.o.
Sy wanted a job advising the movie industry about anti0uarian books. and his house was filled with them clocks that didn6t kee2 time.ational Treasure. refrigerators that didn6t stay cold. CAhy don’t these 2eo2le call me3D he asked his fellow moviegoers.D someone called out from the darkness. knowing that eventually he would locate the heirs and it would be their job to sort through it. 8e was furious that 8ollywood never called. and decanters filled with diluted )oke instead of brandy. #ut he continued to collect 2ro2s. C#eats me. you illiterate fuckKB he shouted to the screen during . 2hones that didn6t ring. . Sy.BThat would6ve been a handwritten manuscri2t. #illy didn6t want to throw too much of it out.
cat 2iss. And he was afraid to o2en the refrigerator. maybe. only to reali5e that the 2ower had been turned off. A dead blackberry vine had somehow worked its way through a weak s2ot in the floorboards. and the rank stench of a bottle of wine that must have s2illed somewhere in the house during the memorial. S2eaking of mildew. Enderneath it all was the smell of something dead a rat.but anything that stank or s2routed mildew got tossed. There was no e$cuse for letting Sy6s house fall into ruin like this. the house was a horror of offensive smells. A window 2ane above the kitchen sink was cracked. #illy fli22ed a switch. #illy sim2ly hadn6t . or a 2ossum.old. .
1t was a strange-looking house that managed to come across as both old and not0uite-finished at the same time. Sy was obsessed with the idea of stri22ing the house down to its bare bones. e$2osing wide 2lanks of old-growth . 8e had ri22ed u2 the car2ets and three layers of asbestos-laden linoleum below them. evenHreminded him to sto2 by once a month and check on things3 #illy walked through the house with the e$aggerated ste2 of someone who thought the wrong move would cause the whole thing to colla2se. #ut why hadn’t (dith said anything3 Ahy hadn’t someoneHhis useless rece2tionist )onnie. Time was sli22ery in 8umboldt )ounty7 this wasn6t the first time that si$ months had just gotten away from him.e$2ected it to take so long to find the will.
BThe least we can do is 2ay tribute to all the trees they cut u2 to build this damn thing.B So he sanded the wood and rubbed it down with natural beeswa$. =ate at night he used to lay down on the floor and 2ress his face into the wood.redwoodHtrashy wood a hundred years ago. "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. C=ook at these boardsKD he would shout into the wide beams. the boards were e$traordinary forty . CThis is the most overbuilt house in 8umboldt )ounty.B Sy had said. wood that would only be used as a subfloor. one on to2 of the other. And in fact. There were actually two of these hefty subfloors made from the trunks of the world6s tallest trees.
Sy had sanded most of the 2aint off the wainscoting and the trim around the doors. Ahenever the ancient knob and tube wiring failed. #illy couldn6t imagine =ewis and (mily wanting to move in or fi$ it u2 . and an awful tobacco brown from the seventies. he cut a hole in the 2laster and ran new rome$. dee2 2ur2le from the si$ties. 1t was im2ossible to remove it all. The house was always seminaked. so 2sychedelic streaks of 2aint were left mint green from the fifties. with the tight grain of an ancient arboreal creature. never bothering to 2atch the holes. As much as he hated to see these old 9ictorians demolished. To make the floorboards feel at home.feet long and a foot wide.
C(dithKD he shouted. not a sound. Surely it would be sold as a tear-down and 2riced to move. 4othing. C1t’s #illy. and then a scream. 9incent’s 2robably wouldn’t takeH #efore he could finish his inventory. And who would want all this stuff3 #attered desks and bookcases. he heard a crash outside. sagging couches that even St.enough to 2ut on the market. C(dith3D CAho’s that3D came a voice from the general direction of a hedge down the hill. threadbare "riental rugs. 4o movement. running to the back door. Ahere are you3D .
(dith. #illy. maybe more.B 8e closed the back door behind him and jogged down the hill. B16m here. B. 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.B she said at last. Finally he saw an o2ening in the greenery. BAll right. #illy knew what was going on. 8e saw nothing but shrubs and vines and an occasional metal fence 2ost. BAre you hurt3B .o around the corner and you6ll see the gate about halfway down the hill. circumnavigating the hedge and looking for a gate.Another long 2ause. (dith was trying to decide whether or not to let him into her garden.B he called out before he lifted the latch.
#illy. Almost everybody in 8umboldt )ounty had switched to indoor hydro2onic o2erations after !ro2osition /%+ made medical marijuana legal. the e$traordinary biodynamic strain of cannabis that only (dith could grow. B)ome on in. #illy forgot why he was there. =emongrass and Thai basil.B she said in a low voice. it was beyond anything #illy had imagined. Tiny )ham2agne gra2es and. 8e’d seen 2ot farms before.B1 just fell. but nothing like this. ine$2licably. as if she was talking to herself. Aelcome to Shangri-=a. hefty stalks of corn. For a minute.B And truly. Lum0uat trees and jasmine. Iac0ueminot roses and morning glory. And in between it all. but those 2lants grew in the most artificial .
made much more sense. This was gourmet 2ot. but growing 2ot outdoors on timber com2any 2ro2erty or national forest land only invited trouble. the incessant whirring of fans. A nice indoor grow-o2. and a wretched diet of chemical concoctions fed intravenously through dri2 irrigation. 2lanted in careful combination with a selection of e$otic beauties that she believed gave it the de2th and com2le$ity of a forty-year 2ort. cultivated outdoors as nature intended it. 2ummeled by blindingly bright light.of conditions. A few back-to-the-landers in . She adhered to . 2rotected by a medical marijuana license 2osted at the door.arberville were still tucking 2lants in between the redwoods. #ut (dith was growing something else entirely.
a nearim2ossibility on )alifornia6s chilly north coast. 8e heard that she had 2lanted some kind of uto2ian.even the most wacky tenets of biodynamic farming. 8e wanted to kiss it. stuffing 2owdered 0uart5 in another horn in s2ring. #illy had heard all of this over the years. 8er methods had been the subject of gossi2 and s2eculation for over a decade. 8e wanted to embrace it. and s2rinkling cow urine mi$ed with the ashes of weeds around the garden by the light of the full moon. brewing herbal remedies in the bladders of wild animals. . A cannabis 2lant the si5e of a small magnolia tree stood in front of #illy. almost tro2ical garden of illicit delights. #ut no one but Sy had been allowed in the garden. burying a cow6s horn in the garden in fall.
An arsenal of garden tools were scattered on the ground around her. you didn6t try to lift those by yourselfKB CAell. B(dith. 8e found her under a wildly overgrown hibiscus vine.B (dith6s voice drifted u2 to him from somewhere at the base of the garden’s slo2e.B #illy tried to kee2 his eyes on the ground as he skidded down the hill in the direction of (dith6s voice. 1HB #illy offered his hand. but she didn6t take it. and two bags of 2otting soil had s2lit o2en at her feet. She seemed to just be resting there in the dirt.BSto2 screwing around. . 8e sat down ne$t to her. They had to weigh forty 2ounds each. B.et down here and give me a hand. #illy.
She shook her head.B (dith didn6t take her eyes off the branches above her. 1’ve got a bad knee.BAre you hurt3B he said.D She smiled fondly u2 at the sky. try to move around and see if it hurts. )ome on. B1 don6t know. 1’ve got scars in 2laces you don’t even want to know about. =et’s get you out of here and get this looked at. #ut 1 like it here.B she said. 1 think 1 twisted my ankle. 1’ll take you to urgent care.B BAell. C(dith. 1’ve got a bad heart.D . B1 got di55y and everything just sort of fell out of my arms. 1’m through with doctors. B1 don6t want to find out. C:ou know what3 1’m old.B she said.
D . B8ow much longer do you think 1’ve got3B she said.B (dith said. 1t wasn6t a flavor or fragrance. although he couldn6t say why. 1t was a smell that #illy associated with his childhood. bringing with it the sweet clear fragrance of honeysuckle. BThis 2lace is incredible. A bree5e moved through the garden. turning to face him at last. C(dithK )ome on.They sat ne$t to each other in silence for a little while. too. 1t was more like light. B:eah. 8e reali5ed that there was something about honeysuckle that made its way into (dith6s 2ot. e$actly. :ou’re not that old.B #illy said. or clarity.
B1 can see that.B A hummingbird dove right in front of #illy to go after a fuchsia down the hill.B (dith said. 4ot that 1’d want to.B .B he said. 1t6s not like 1 can just 2ull u2 some 2lants and move into a warehouse and grow the same cro2. how much longer do you think 1’ve got before the kids show u2 and kick me out of my house3D #illy just shook his head. BThey6re on their way to (ureka right now. After a few minutes he added. B:ou gonna 2ull u2 these 2lants and move on3B C1t6s not really the 2lants. 1 meant. That6s what makes it.B She didn’t say anything. B:eah. anyway. And the soil and the strange little microclimate 16ve got right here. B1t6s this garden.CThat’s not what 1 meant.
C1’ll try to kee2 them out of here. #illy6s 2hone bu55ed in his 2ocket. 8e led her u2 the hill to the gate. She nodded. A chorus of crickets rose u2 from the grass. 8e stood u2 and e$tended his hand again to (dith.D he said. 1t would be =ewis. This time she took it and 2ulled herself to her feet. sending waves of shar2 lemon 2erfume to the bats that 2ollinated them. The night-blooming angel trum2ets unfurled. . 8e held her hand for a minute and tried to see into her 2ale blue eyes through the semidarkness. calling to say that he was in town.They sat together until the last shadows of the afternoon started to move across the garden.
knit ca2s made of hem2. Iust before five. #efore )rawford had a . "ne guy stood out he was wearing a track suit with a 2rice tag still attached. 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. 8e must have just bought it at Target on the way into town.D dreadlocks.sixteen The <ragon enjoyed its usual rush of lastminute customers on Friday night. a grou2 of (arth Firsters came in to 2ick u2 su22lies for the weekend.
D C.ood to be back. e$tended his hand.inger had been working so hard to organi5e.chance to ask what had ha22ened to his last outfit. and said. without taking his eyes off the books. the guy a22roached the desk. Ieffrey. not wanting to e$2lain anything if he didn6t have to. CShe’ll manage. scanning the shelves that )rawford and . B:eeeesssssssQD )rawford said.D C8ow’s the tree3D )rawford asked. the way this worksHD he said.D )rawford shook his hand. C8ello. B1s that 1 2ick out a book--D . 1’ve been in a tree for the last two years.D Ieffrey wandered around the store. CSo. CAelcome back. 1’m Ieffrey.
BAnd you will sell it to me.D CAlong with--D .D Ieffrey 2ulled a book off the shelf and held it u2 as if to demonstrate. all of whom had already chosen their books.D said )rawford. you do. B:es. B<o 1 take the book home3B Ieffrey said. CAnd it could be any bookHD CAny book you want.B )rawford said. )rawford nodded encouragingly.B BThat6s how it works.B Ieffrey said.B )rawford said.CThat’s right. C:es. looking nervously at Ieffery’s (arth First friends. CAe 2refer that you do.D said )rawford. BAnd 1 bring this book to you.
B)ome on.B he said. holding it out to his friends. making a collective hissing sound intended more to shut him u2 than answer his 0uestion. man.uys3D "ne of Ieffrey6s friends moved in and 2ut his hand on Ieffrey6s shoulder. . 1 get it. B=ike thisKB he said. B"h "kay.)rawford sighed and turned to the (arth First crowd. C. B!ick out a book and let6s get going. 8e o2ened it to check the 2rice. reaching for a si$ties-era re2rint of a 8ardy #oys mystery called The 1idden Theft.B B<oes it matter how much it costs3B Ieffery said. 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:esKB several of them said at once.
CSorry. C"utKD )rawford said. man. Ahen he handed Ieffrey his bag. wrote out recei2ts. A guy in dark jeans and a starched .D one of the (arth Firsters said over his shoulder as they left. Ieffrey.B one of his friends said. @ The rest of the Friday night rush was more businesslike. Ieffrey o2ened it. )rawford collected their money.B!retty much like that. and then ran it dramatically under his nose. rising halfway out of his chair. and sli22ed each book into a 2a2er bag. 2eered inside. and that was how )rawford liked it. and they lined u2 at the desk to 2ay. A few cou2les came in and 2icked u2 2a2erbacks from the rack outside on their way to dinner.
8e turned to leave. . jingling his keys. then 2ulled the Twain out of the bag and set it back on the counter.D he said. CLee2 it. )rawford sli22ed it into a bag. Iust before close. 8e was out the door with the crum2led bag in his hand.stri2ed shirt came straight to the desk. a cou2le of tourists came in and ga2ed at the teetering stacks of books.D he said. 1t was the third time he’d sold it in a month. The guy nodded without 2icking it u2. )rawford 2ulled a decent #ritish edition of Twain’s More Tramps Abroad off the shelf. taking only a minute to run his thumb over the gilt fore-edge before setting it on the counter. and asked for a two hundred dollar book. CAe really---D C1t’s all right. )rawford 2ut the book back on the shelf.
C!eo2le have really su22orted us.B he said. BThis is a very uni0ue community. )rawford heard that 0uestion every weekend.D They left without buying anything. flashing them his best )hamber of )ommerce smile. .wondering aloud how a store like this managed to stay in business.
D C#ut couldn’t weHD =ewis sighed. 8e could tell she had already made u2 her mind about the bookstore. CThe lawyer wanted to go over a few things with us first.D (mily said. 4ow she was going to argue with them about how they s2ent their evening. C1 don’t understand why we can’t go straight to the store.seventeen (mily and =ewis got to town as the sun was setting over the 2ul2 mill. . They had just s2ent si$ hours in the car together and (mily had hardly said a word.
Somewhere along this street was #illy’s office. and most of the motels on the edge of town were e$tended-stay a2artments for 2eo2le whose luck had run out. looking more like shi2wrecks than abandoned houses. CSorry. The movie theater at the sho22ing mall was offering dollar tickets for second-run movies.D A few boarded-u2 9ictorians sat between the auto re2air sho2s and the self-storage units.C"kay. (ureka was looking a little worse for wear since the last time he’d been through town.D she said. . the bowling alley was closed.D She almost sounded like she meant it. A banner in a used car lot offered 2ayday loans to get 2eo2le Cback on the road and back to work.
D . =ewis could tell she was trying to be a good s2ort about this thing. Encle Sy wasn6t selfish.D he said.CAhat was this like when you were a kid3D (mily asked. e$actly.y whole memory of that summer is just going back and forth between uncle Sy6s house and the bookstore. That bookstore was like a 2lanet. C1 don’t remember any of this. but it would never occur to him to go do some touristy thing when 2eo2le came into town.B BSy never took you out on a little boating e$cursion in the harbor3 "r a hike in the redwoods or anything like that3B =ewis laughed. C. 1 don6t think we ever did one other thing in (ureka. 8e just assumed that everybody would want to orbit it the way he did. B4o way.
1t was after five.B @ )onnie Slack greeted them at the to2 of the stairs. She reali5ed right away that . C:ou don’t look like Sy. #eing the first 2erson in town to meet =ewis and (mily didn6t make for very e$citing gossi2.D she said as =ewis came u2 the stairs. 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. but it was more than she usually got out of a day behind the desk here. which was enough to get everybody talking.B8ow do you think he ke2t it o2en all this time3B B1 have no idea. She was curious about them. anyway.
BAe6ve been storing a few things in here. 8ave a seat.B =ewis said. #illy should have been here by now.D BSorry. but she was out of 2ractice. (mily stood ne$t to him .B She led them down a wood2aneled hallway to an unmarked office door. 1nside was a metal desk and a gathering of five chairs. B16m just his ne2hew. B:ou can wait in his office. three of which had signs ta2ed to them that read C#roken.B Aith that she went back to her desk.that might not be a very rece2tionist-like thing to say.B she said. =ewis leaned against the wall and crossed his arms over his chest.B )onnie said. B#illy6s on his way. wondering if she could go home now or if she was obligated to sit out there until #illy arrived.
he never had. 1t looked like he had thought at one time about setting u2 an office but then decided against it. 16m so sorry to hear about your loss’ ---B =ewis grinned and looked down at his feet. or some coffee. BThis is so uncle Sy. 1t6s like she6s never even watched a movie that had a rece2tionist in it. there was a stack of file bo$es in the corner that looked like it hadn’t moved in ten years. 1n addition to the metal desk and the collection of broken chairs.B There was nothing in #illy6s office to indicate that he ever worked there -. in fact. a 2lastic 2lant in a . CShe6s not going to get us a bottle of water.B he said.and. no Jhow was your tri2.and whis2ered at him out of the corner of her mouth. BThese are e$actly the 2eo2le he was hanging out with twenty years ago.
wicker basket. it had been e$citing to get instructions from beyond the grave. Encle Sy must have known something about =ewis that even =ewis didn’t know. Sy6s decision to leave him the bookstore felt like 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. This had been a very unsettling time for him. Ahy a bookstore3 That still wasn’t clear. 8e had come to believe that he no longer had to worry about what to do ne$t with his life. and at first. All =ewis . A door o2ened into a small bathroom that was 2rimarily used to store cleaning su22lies. =ewis was getting im2atient. what with the su2ernatural forces that had joined together to de2osit a bookstore in his 2ath.
8e looked about as lawyer-like as any attorney in 8umboldt )ounty khaki 2ants. he began to wonder if that was the only smart thing to do. 8e had refused to consider sim2ly selling the 2ro2erty. checkered shirt. #ut now. as he sat in the small rented room that 2assed for #illy <alton’s office. C=ewisKD #illy burst into the room with the bustling air of a doctor who had ke2t his 2atients waiting too long. This was a very comforting way to imagine the rest of his life instructions would be issued by dead relatives. and he would follow them. 2utting the money in the bank.had to do was show u2 in (ureka and find out what that was. and going on with his life. a wis2 of gray hair tied .
who gave him one of those 0uick non-smiles that indicated that she was understandably nervous. and they’re understandably nervous about what6s going to ha22en to their jobs. CSitKD They settled into the two chairs that weren’t marked B#roken. BAe . =ewis decided to overlook the grass stains on his knees. too. (mily3D 8e held out his hand. thought better of it. and (mily took it. B=ook. CSorry 1’m late. and 2erched on the edge of his desk instead.into a 2onytail. :ou’ve got two em2loyees who have been running the 2lace by themselves all this time.B #illy reached for one of the remaining chairs.B =ewis looked over at (mily. 1 just wanted to let you know a little bit about the situation at the bookstore before you head over there.
B =ewis said. #illy. 8e left everything to you.haven6t made any decisions. 1 actually stayed in one of those little cabins out back.B BThat6s right. That6s the bookstore.B #illy said. B<o you remember (dith3B CShe was his -.you stayed there. including the building. but they6ve mostly moved out. BAell.ostly3B B(dith’s still there. 8e had a few renters. right3B B:eah. and his house. and he made it very sim2le. for summer. as you know. Sy drafted this will long time ago.B B.B BSure. 1 think you remember the house -. BAe6re just here to find out what6s going on.irlfriend3B .B #illy said.what3 Aife3 .
irlfriend.B A ring of keys dro22ed heavily into =ewis’s hand. B1t6s yours now. B1 guess if he had married her. but before . CThat6s why 1 let her stay in her 2lace.D #illy said. fishing around in his 2ockets. she would6ve inherited all of this3B BThis has been really hard on her. They never got married. 1 guess you would say. =ewis felt that he should say something in honor of this life-changing moment. CAnything else3D B1 guess 1 can give you a set of keys to the bookstore.D said =ewis. looking down at his desk.B #illy said. 1 didn6t want to 2ut her out if 1 didn6t have to.B (mily shifted around in her seat.B.B CAll right.
1t6s kind of like ---B B9inyl records3B (mily said. 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. B)an you tell us anything about how the store’s managed to stay o2en all this time3 1t6s 2retty much over for bookstores. but #illy interru2ted him. BThat6s what everybody says. isn6t it3B CAell. (mily leaned forward. choosing his words carefully.D #illy said. 8ow much was Sy taking in every year3B C(milyHB =ewis said. #ut this is a 2retty out-of-the-way 2lace.he could 2ut a sentence together. . CSy bought the building a long time ago. so his overhead’s low.
D #illy said. Bbut you could let yourself in and look around.B B)losed3 1t’s Friday nightKD (mily said. but . BAell.inger and )rawford are 2retty good at watching the e$2enses. There6s not much money in the bank.CThat’s okay. but 1 know he made enough to get by and to cover 2ayroll. BThe store’s 2robably closed by now.D he said. B:ou coming over there with us3B #illy checked the screen on his 2hone. C1 don6t know e$actly.B =ewis stood u2 and 2ut the keys in his 2ocket. okay. almost in unison. 1t was after si$.B . #illy and =ewis turned to her and said. BAelcome to (ureka.B he said.
1t was in the middle of the block and it leaned slightly to the left.B The building did seem a little shrunken. somehow. =ewis stood outside for a minute. B"h. man. giving the im2ression that it had shriveled considerably since the days when it had been large and sturdy enough to fill the s2ace. B4o. Small. 1 don6t remember it being so --B BRun down3B (mily said. jingling his keys and looking at the building. .ei hteen #y the time they got to the store the lights were off and )rawford was gone.
D (mily whis2ered. CAnd now.D he said.D #ut =ewis wasn’t laughing. all this is yours.(mily stood with =ewis and took it in the rotting columns in front. C1 feel like 1 should carry you over the threshold. 8e was entranced. the dim windows 2iled with stacks of hardcovers. ThresholdK They weren’t s2ending the night here. in a voice choked with emotion. =ewis. were they3 CIust go figure out the alarm. . too. the faded sign with its wooden cutout of a dragon breathing fire across a 2ile of books. 8e wra22ed an arm around (mily and led her closer to the door. She tried to stifle a laugh. couldn’t wait to get inside. in a voice that suggested that she.
A series of tables and bookcases formed a kind of ma5e through the store. !lywood bookshelves. (mily sli22ed in behind him.and tra22ed under an avalanche of old encyclo2edias -. . bolted to the wall in case of an earth0uake. She didn’t dare venture too far in. (mily remembered what it felt like to walk into a bookstore and savor the 2ossibility of getting lost somewhere in the back.8e unlocked the door and fumbled with the alarm. #ut here the 2ossibility of getting lost-. (verything about the 2lace said creaky old bookstore. (very chair was 2iled high with books.was real and frightening. ran around the room from floor to ceiling. and more books were stacked in between the shelves in 2a2er bags and bo$es.
B1t6s an old bookstore.=ewis was standing behind her in the dark. mildew. This might have been a grand old building once.something green and bitter. and something else she couldn’t identify-.B he said.B Ahat made u2 that dam2 and 2ul2y bookstore smell3 )rumbling 2a2er. mothballs. CSy wasn’t big on change.B she said. BAhat do you think3B he said. dust. but now it was an elegant wreck.D (mily leaned against the desk. the mismatched trim around the doors and windows. B1t even smells like one. 1 think some of these books were here when 1 was a kid. . The weight of this 2lace was on her. B1s it what you remember3B she asked. The creaky floorboards. B!retty much. the ancient beams.
my name is Richmond Tate. 1 meanHyou’ve got the wrong number. She felt around in the dark for the 2hone. Ratner3D CAho3D C.D =ewis said. 1’m calling for .D CEhHno.rs.rs. C8ello3D C1s thisH.=ewis was walking around the store running his hands along the shelves.a’am. She was trying to decide how long to let that go on when the 2hone rang.D CAait. ma’am3 1s this---D . CShould 1 answer it3D she asked. C.o ahead. Ratner.
D she said. C=et’s go eat. keys in hand. . C1’m starting to get homicidal. like a southerner.D =ewis hustled over to the door. Some guy who talks like Tommy =ee Iones.e$ican or 1talian3D he said as he set the alarm code. CArong number3D =ewis said.D C)ool. C4o. "nce nice thing about (mily she never made him guess about what she wanted. "rder me dinner or 1 may have to kill someone. )lear enough.D They stood on the sidewalk.ississi22i or some2lace like that.#ut before he could finish. shivering in the summer fog. 1t was . C:eah.D C1 meant dinner. (mily 2ut the 2hone down. Te$as or .
ood call. looking around at the darkened storefronts. . CAhatever’s o2en3D C.com2letely dark by now. and "ld Town was em2ty.D he said. CEh--D she said. and they went looking for whatever that might be.
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. The . so the ability to . there was nothing worse than getting stuck on a 2lane with a novel you didn’t like. As for air2lane reading.nineteen Richmond Tate had given little thought to the demise of the book until now. 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.
discard a book after a few 2ages and choose something else suited him just fine. #ecause there are some things you can’t digiti5e. They were both selling 2roducts that had gone out of fashion. 8e hadn’t been in a bookstore in years. something he hadn’t even considered until he hung u2 from his call to the Firebreathing <ragon. Relics of the twentieth century that would disa22ear entirely unless something was done about it. it occurred to him that his business had something in common with the book business. #ut now. . ($ce2t that he would have an easier time of it than the booksellers would. as he stood on the sidewalk on a chilly summer evening in (ureka.
#efore he went back into the restaurant.onday.D Then he made his way back to his table. See if you can’t find another number and call me back. where =e$ was waiting for him. Richmond dialed his secretary.D he said. 1’m out here in )alifornia.D she said. CAhat’s good here3D he said.D C1t’s all right. 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. . and went back to looking at her menu. C8ey. CSorry about that. CIust trying to return a cou2le of calls before it got too late. 1t was after eight in Lentucky7 she 2robably wouldn6t check her work messages until .
most of it’s fro5en. This 2lace is okay. 8e laughed and nodded at the waitress as she brought him his beer. it is. The thing is. but to tell you the truth. !eo2le come here for the fish. She closed her menu and set it down on the table.D he said. they’re going to order it in Iuly even if the season doesn’t start until <ecember. 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.C4ot much. C:ou6re right.D BThis close to the water and all they’ve got is fro5en fish3B B:eah.D BAhat6s in season now3B . C1 thought your job was to show off this fine city.D she said.
:ou6ll be fine. in a generic broadshouldered. clean-shaven way. but when she 2icked him u2 at the air2ort she changed her mind.B =e$ wasn6t often called u2on to entertain visiting dignitaries.She shrugged. The only 2lace to take a guy in a suit was the "s2rey. Esually somebody at the )hamber handled these dinners. 8e was just good-looking enough. he was overdressed. a 2retentious seafood restaurant that catered to . And besides. BIust get the 2asta. She would6ve taken him to (ureka6s one hi2 bistro. #ut Richmond had asked for her s2ecifically. Richmond was one of those men who looked like he had been born wearing a suit. to make 2eo2le gossi2. a 2lace near )ity 8all where she usually met her friends on Friday night.
so she wouldn6t have to answer any 0uestions about her dinner date when she got to work on . 4obody she knew would be there. Ae6ve been reading about your 2lans for the waterfront --B CAe3 Actually.D he said. . 8e 2ronounced it C=ouville. BSo.y family trust owns the land.B =e$ said. CActually.onday. 16m not actively involved in the waterfront. . 1’m just on the board.tourists. B16m really out here to work on a business deal. Byou6re with the convention and visitors bureau back in --B C=ouisville.D =e$ had to remind herself that falling for men with interesting accents had never worked out for her.D Richmond said.
you6re off the record tonight. Trevino.B he said.but as a city council member.D Richmond smiled down into his beer. B1 do resource develo2ment for them. B. #esides.interesting resources we’d like to take a look at.B She thought about telling him that he could call her =e$.well -. 8umboldt )ounty has some-.s.D BAho do you work for3B =e$ asked. she liked the way he said her name. but that sounded like a line from a movie. CAhat6s the waterfront got to do with tourism in Lentucky3B she asked. . all 1 can do is vote on whatever 2lan comes before the council. B16m really here on behalf of the com2any 1 work for. 8e took a breath.
Their dinners arrived. BSumner Tobacco. Richmond lowered his voice. then he s2eared a 2iece of rigatoni with his fork and said. BAre you kidding me3B CSettle down.B =e$ 2ushed away from the table. too. 1 believe . Ae did a search of cam2aign finance records over the last ten years. C(verybody’s got to work for somebody. Trevino.s. Richmond waited for the waitress to leave. now.D Richmond said with a little laugh. B. B:ou work for a tobacco com2any3B she said.D CAhat could Sumner 2ossibly want in 8umboldt )ounty3D she whis2ered. There6s one cam2aign in this town that you and your family have given money to every single year.
legali5ation is a non-starter. =egali5e marijuana and you’ve finally got something to sell to the tourists u2 here. BThat cam2aign goes nowhere. Ask her mother. C(ven your little si$-year-old niece donated the ma$imum allowable by law.B B#ut you kee2 2ro22ing it u2.D BAhat are you talking about3B =e$ asked. =et me guess. (very few years it funds another 2ro-legali5ation candidate or a ballot initiative.B B16m talking about 8umboldt =egal. The tooth fairy must be good to her. They6re .the Trevino family combined makes u2 ninety 2ercent of the donations. #ut beyond medical marijuana. even here.D =e$ laughed and shook her head. but she already knew.D B1 don6t know.
B:ou guys are going to grow 2otKB BAell.not e$actly coming for the fish. (ven if he was a cor2orate evildoer. #ut 2ublic o2inion has turned . BAnd a tobacco com2any would be interested in this because ---B she said. are they3 :ou gonna 2ut some kind of bouti0ue down there on the waterfront and sell over2riced bong hits to yu22ies3D #oo-ti0ue. and then she figured out. 8onestly. we can’t figure out why we’ve gotten away with it as long as we have. She leaned across the table. That was cute. 8er eyes got wide. tobacco is not e$actly working out anymore.B Richmond said. B1t’s only a matter of time before the F<A regulates us the same way they do candy bars or as2rin.
They want to live out there in the woods and grow their . 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. we6ve got the money to do this right. (ven the co2s are on our side. They’d rather go after hard drugs anyway. So we figured. CEhHD C($actly. well.s. do it right3D C:ou think these 8umboldt growers are going to cater to a bunch of tourists from !asadena3 They don6t care about that. do you know what the annual death toll from marijuana smoking is in this country3D She laughed.against us for good at this 2oint.D CAhat do you mean. So we figured. Trevino.
They’re not going to come into town and o2en u2 a Starbucks for 2ot smokers. C(verybody here’s growing it indoors or hiding it in the redwood forest. Aho better than us to take non-smokers and make them smokers again3D BThat’s cra5y. #ut you guysHB BAe6ve got the farms. although she was already calculating what she could charge in rent to a Starbucks that sold fifteen-dollar joints instead of five dollar lattes. CAnd don’t count on .do2e and count their money. the 2ersonnel. the marketing 2lans.B =e$ 2ictured fields of !ur2le 8a5e flourishing in Lentucky’s long. steamy summers. C1t’s 2robably a lot chea2er to grow outside in the sun like that.D she said.D =e$ said. the ca2ital.
B Richmond said with a half smile.D . BAe own )ongress. and smiled back at him.our little cam2aign to make it ha22en for you. 1t6s not going anywhere. remember3B C"h yeah.D =e$ said.B BAe don6t need your little cam2aign. trust me. C8ow nice for you.
8e crossed the 2arking lot and slid into an em2ty booth inside. Finally he couldn’t stand it anymore. untroubled breathing beside him. . where he sat drinking coffee and scrolling through the news on his 2hone. A diner was o2en ne$t door. staring at the ceiling and listening to (mily’s dee2. 8e couldn’t slee2 on a good night7 the combination of the strange bed and the 2revious day’s events had ke2t him awake for hours. 8e dressed in the dark and sli22ed outside.twent" At si$ a.m. the ne$t morning =ewis was wide awake in his motel room.
Another bookstore had closed.D he . the loss of this store is 2articularly significant.( TER4(R S(T T" )="S( FAustin. TUG After thirty-seven years on )ongress Avenue. AEST14’S !A. 2rom2ting yet another story about the demise of bookstores nationwide. 1 would have said no way. 4ot any more. B1f you had asked me ten years ago whether a handheld com2uter would ever re2lace books. As one of only eight remaining bookstores in the Enited States. 8e had been ski22ing 2ast these articles for years. according to owner Iack Ailliams. the !age Turner #ookstore is closing its doors.
the store’s sales dro22ed ten to twenty 2ercent a year.said. he felt he had no choice.B he said. A shift to used and hardto-find books didn6t hel2.i5mo was introduced. because . "nce 2ublishers made the decision to sto2 issuing new releases on 2a2er. BAe could have transitioned to high-end books that are meant to be collected rather than .oogle was scanning rare books faster than he could ac0uire them for the store.D #ut once the . B1 thought that 2eo2le who grew u2 with books would not give them u2 so easily. B1 couldn6t get in the new books 2eo2le wanted. and even the obscure titles had all been digiti5ed. said Ailliams.
read. B4obody is going to 2ay si$ thousand dollars for a first edition of The +ampyre and then read it on the . "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.B Aith the closure of The !age Turner. #esides. only one bookstore remains in the south 9oodoo #ooks in 4ew "rleans. which s2eciali5es in e$actly the kind of rarities Ailliams described. but what6s the 2oint in that3 1 didn6t get into this business to sell thousand dollar books to 2eo2le who aren’t going to read them. 1 don6t have the ca2ital to start over.
)(" of 4ile.air2lane. videos. They’ll always be a wonderful 2art of our culture. so to s2eak.i5mo came along just in time to make reading easier and more accessible to 2eo2le around the world just 2roves that books have moved on to their ne$t cha2ter. C!eo2le love the comfort and connection to real books. The fact that the .D Ahen asked about 4ile’s latest 0uarterly earnings re2ort showing that downloads of book-length works have declined relative to music. and .a$ine Rogers. agreed.B . or because they want them around for atmos2here.B she said. C!eo2le buy our books because they6re collectors.com.
and <enver could not be reached for comment.blog 2osts.D #ookstore owners in #rooklyn. CThere will always be an audience for good content. no matter what the format. )alifornia. interim manager of the Firebreathing <ragon in (ureka. Richard )rawford. )hicago. Rogers said. 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. Ahen asked to e$2lain the success of his store. .D and hung u2. he said. C)ould be something in the air u2 here.
C<on’t you remember The Retriever3D C8uh3D . Bbut like everybody else.what else3 -catch u2 on his reading. 1 do my reading on my 2hone. B<id you see that article3B B:eah.Ailliams said he 2lans to retire at the end of the year and -. B1 wish 1 could say that 1 had a stack of books on the nightstand 16m eager to get through.B he said.D @ C(milyKD =ewis said when she walked into the coffee sho2 to join him for breakfast. B1s that really the Richard )rawford3B BAho3B he said.B she said.
8e went on "2rah. =ewis. C=ook. he won a bunch of awards. B1 don6t know. what e$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 .C1t was a huge book several years ago. who brought her a cu2 of coffee and a menu. :ou don6t remember that book3B =ewis scrolled through his 2hone. and then his ne$t novel was a total failure. C<o 1 have it on here3D he asked. 1t must6ve been a while ago. C1t sounds like it.D She slid into the booth and nodded at the waitress.B CSo the guy who works in our store is a famous author3D =ewis said. 1 think 1 read it on 2a2er.
a cheerful yellow cottage in Aillow . !eo2le lined u2 around the block to get . The fog was so dense that it left the 2avement dam2. kicking himself into traffic. 1t looked as if he had traveled this way his whole life.=ewis looked out the window.len with geraniums in the window bo$es. 8e didn’t look over his shoulder to see where he was going. Across the street. =ewis thought about their favorite breakfast 2lace in San Iose. 1t was a bleak morning in (ureka. the 2aint 2eeled off a store that sold used medical su22lies. a four-lane road that was also the only freeway through town. A guy in a wheelchair used his feet to 2ro2el himself backwards across #roadway. daring the logging trucks to take him out as they barreled down #roadway with their 2ayload of fallen redwoods.
B She could see that he was already losing interest in the business of books. and we6ll figure out what to do after that. C=et’s just find out what the deal is. =et6s have a look at them. BThe bookstore has to kee2 some kind of financial records. locate a real estate agent in the afternoon. 8e couldn’t imagine any of that ha22ening here. They could get to the bookstore and to Sy’s house before lunch. (ventually the buildings would sell. butHjust a weekend. A unsettling weekend. This was turning out to be nothing more than a weekend getaway. and the owner walked down the street 2ouring coffee while they waited. and go see uncle Sy6s house. they’d use .D he said at last.in there for Sunday brunch. and be on the road tomorrow morning.
D . and get on with their lives.the 2roceeds to 2ay off some bills. dro22ing a twenty on the table to cover =ewis’s breakfast. C=et’s get over to the bookstore. still looking out the window as if he was hy2noti5ed by the fog. C=et’s go.D he said. then.D she said.D CThey’re 2robably not o2en yet. CAe have the keys. remember3D she said. CAll right.
D C<on’t do that.D . CThat’s money walking down the street.alway said.D .D . C1 should do a story about that. CAnd you’re the only guy o2en before noon. T-shirts.alway’s coffee.uillermo said. Tell these sho2kee2ers to get their asses out of bed and get down here. mugs. they’ll buy anything.D . whatever 1’ve got.uillermo said as he refilled .alway sat at his usual table at )ontra )offee and watched tourists walk 2ast "ld Town’s closed sho2s.twent"#one . CAs long as 1’m the only one o2en.
D . The <ragon 2robably took in five thousand bucks before close.alway said. CToo much clean living. somebody’s gonna buy a t-shirt to remind them of that great cu2 of coffee they had in (ureka3D C8a22ens all the time. on Friday afternoon. CAho was that3D .D .uillermo said. Across the street.CAhat. C1t’s got to be the new owners.D . =ewis walked u2 to the <ragon and unlocked the door as if he owned the 2lace.alway said. (mily followed him inside. too. 8ey. did you see the Times called )rawford3D C:eah. CAhy don’t you get over there and interview them3D CThey look young.uillermo said.D .
D . 4either one of them looked like they belonged at the .uillermo traced a little s0uare on the table as if he was calculating something.D .D They sat for a minute and watched (mily and =ewis move around inside the store. C:ou think so3 Five grand in an afternoon3D CAbsolutely.alway and stared at him. 8ow is that stealing3 They need to get 2aid. CAhy not3 They’re running the 2lace. 1’ve sat in there and watched it ha22en. C<amnK Ahat are they doing with all that cash3D C4ow that Sy’s gone3 !utting in their 2ockets.uillermo said.uillermo dro22ed into the seat across from ..D C:ou don’t think they’d steal from the store. 1 ho2e. but he knew they would.
C=ook. 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 was too-. (mily ducked behind the counter and =ewis disa22eared into the back.D . man.glossy.alway said.uillermo said. And =ewis3 8e would need to sto2 shaving for a week before he looked like he belonged at the <ragon. They had locked the door behind them and they hadn’t turned on any lights inside the store. CThey’re looking for something. why don’t you do a story about the .D . somehow.<ragon. so obviously they weren’t 2lanning on o2ening for business.
D . CThe <ragon’s not going anywhere. .<ragon3 #low the lid on that 2lace.D . it’ll be u2 to them to decide what to tell the re2orters. there’s 2lenty of time.D . CAait a minute. The 2olice can only ignore what’s going on over there if nobody’s rubbing it in their face.uillermo hadn’t taken his eyes off the <ragon. CAhy do you care whether or not 1 do a story3 :ou know that would shut them down. And if those two are just here to close it down and sell the building. There was no movement inside.e! -ork Times to show u2 and do it instead3D C4ah. :ou going to wait for the .D .alway said.alway said.uillermo didn’t look away from the store.
D . man.alway said. CAll 1 know is that somebody’s going to end u2 with those 2lants.CAw.uillermo said.alway’s glance at last.D .D . meeting . C:ou don’t think (dith’s going to start working for you after the <ragon closes3D C1 don’t know.
D .D he said.D she told him as he drove around downtown looking for a 2lace to get his suit dry-cleaned. slowing down in front of a wash-and-fold that didn’t look like it would know what to do with a suit.twent"#two Richmond’s secretary checked her voice mail over the weekend after all. though.D C1 don’t want to just show u2 over there. C1 do have an address. 1t’s a few years old. CThat’s the only 2hone number 1 have for (dith Ratner. C1 guess it would be too much to ho2e that she still had a land line out there3D C<oesn’t look like it.
CAll right.D . #ut if she 2ulls a rifle on me. it’s your fault. send me the address.
a friend of (dith’s who was also a widow gave her this advice about getting through the first year . After that. #illy had called late last night to say that (mily and . there wasn6t much 2oint in going back to bed.o ba k to bed after breakfast. have something to eat. #ut that little lie was what sustained her.twent"#three After Sy died. ($ce2t that today it wasn’t working. (ight magical words -ou an . "nce you’d gotten yourself u2 and 2ulled yourself together. get dressed. of course.et u2 in the morning. you can s2end the rest of the day in bed if you want to. Take a shower. 1t was a trick.
D )aretaker. so she shouldn6t be sur2rised if somebody drove u2 to the house. 1t was true that she didn’t have any claim to this 2lace. 1 told them you had been staying on as a kind of a caretaker. run the faucets and click the lights on once in a while. She hadn’t been in Sy’s house once . B4ot much. #illy had never actually asked her to do any of the things a caretaker of a vacant house might doHair the 2lace out. She asked him what he thought of Sy6s heirs. B1 don6t know. maybe a little dustingHand she hadn’t volunteered.B BAhat did they say about the house3B she asked. BThey don6t look like bookstore material to me.B he said.=ewis would 2robably be by this weekend.
8e looked so comfortable in death that she had considered leaving him there for the night. 4othing about his 2osture suggested that he had been in 2ain or even gas2ed for air. . She would have set the couch on to2 of his grave and let the grass grow around it. she reali5ed now. )remation. giving her a 2lace to go when she wanted to talk to him. :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.since the afternoon she found him dead on the couch. had its downsides. 8e seemed to have just slum2ed into it. They could have carried him from the couch to the garden and set him to slee2 in the dirt.
her garden. So where does that leave me3D . And it was that thought that was kee2ing her in bed all morning. She was going to lose this 2laceHher house. She rolled over and looked out the window at the corner of Sy’s house and her garden beyond. either. her livelihoodHand after that.That’s what was bothering her this morning. no shared 2ossessions. C1 can’t kee2 doing this. She could walk away from (ureka and never hear Sy’s name again. They had no children together. She couldn’t. nothing but each other. Cbut 1 can’t do anything else. it would be as if her decades with Sy had just been erased. #ecause she wasn’t about to start over.D she said to Sy.
radually the sunlight swung around the room and hit the wall o22osite. Slee2 rolled into the room at last and 2ulled her back into the darkness. Esually she s2ent Saturday in her 2ro2agation room starting new cuttings. . Stuck in bed. and then she heard someone walking around the house to the back. At least for today. There was no bree5e outside. that’s where. A car door slammed.Stuck. Today the task seemed 2ointless Hnone of the 2lants would make it to harvest. . @ (dith awoke a cou2le hours later to the sound of tires in the driveway. She sat u2 in bed. anyway. The whole world seemed to have sto22ed.
. but she couldn’t see him. Iail. At that moment. 4o knock. but she was in no mood to see him. from her bedroom window. 8e headed around the corner and down the hill toward her garden. 1n a minute she was out of the house and running down the hill. There was that third o2tion. Then. She waited. The gate was locked7 surely he hadn’t found a way in already.=ewis would be knocking on her door in a few minutes. That got her out of bed. The man in the suit should have been right in front of her. she remembered that she wasn’t stuck between staying here and leaving (ureka forever. she saw a man in a suit ste2 onto Sy’s back 2orch and look into a window.
following the hedge along its broad southern s2an and then climbing back u2 the hill on the other side.C8ello3D she called. C=ewis3D She got to the gate and checked the lock. (ven from some distance. Then she saw him. 4obody was in there. and more 2uttogether than anyone who shared genes with Sy. C=ewis3D she called again. . he looked older than (dith thought he would be. her heart 2ounding dangerously in her chest. 1t was much stee2er on this side7 she was out of breath before she made it halfway u2 the hill. She continued down the hill. 8e had doubled back to her cottage after she left7 now he was walking away from her front door and back to his car.
CAhat a strange kid.She sli22ed into the branches of a thorny 2yracantha.D she said to Sy as she brushed stray leaves off her 2ants. 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 wasn’t sure why she didn’t want him to see her7 they were going to have to talk eventually.
CEhHD =ewis said.twent"#four Ahen . CAho the fuck are you3D .inger unlocked the <ragon’s front door. uhHD . So she said CThe new owner3D . C1’m.inger said. and went to check the 2anel. 8e could not. standing u2 behind the counter. backing away from him. she was sur2rised not to hear the alarm bee2ing. )rawford.D she muttered.D he said. She heard a shuffle of 2a2ers behind her and she s2un around. C"h.inger stood and waited to see if he could com2lete a sentence. C1’m =ewis.
CAhat3D . 1s your wife here3D C:eah.D she said.inger said. C1’ll just go turn on the lights.inger.D CThanks.D CAell. She’s in the back. looking down at his feet. that makes me your em2loyee. C"h.D he said.D he said.D she said. C.D .D Shit. good. C1t’s your store.inger said.D . trying to sound calm. C1 guess so.C:eah. Then he looked back down at the bo$es of 2a2ers and old maga5ines he’d scattered all over the floor behind the counter. C1 was justHuhHD C1t’s okay.D C8ey. Ae couldn’t find them.D C(gy2tology and !arenting.
From the other end of the room came the sound of cardboard bo$es getting shifted around. 1 work here. (mily3D she said as she rounded the corner into the <ragon’s storage room. C1’m . Thanks.inger didn’t turn on the lights. These two were obviously looking for something.D she said.D C"h.inger.D . She reali5ed how bi5arre the ma5e of unsold books must look to anyone else.D #ut . She headed straight to the back.D she said. C8i. C"hHhi. Right behind the books in the (gy2tology and !arenting sections. then (mily came around the corner. C1 just met your husband.CThat’s where the lights are.
C"h. hi.inger asked. following (mily’s ga5e back to the ancient bank .D . CAhat are you looking for3D C"hHwell. coming toward her to shake her hand. or ledgers.D . 1 was looking forH1 don’t knowH recei2ts.inger said. C4o. or something like that3 1 thought they might be in that vault back there.D (mily said. 1 never did get a chance to meet him. butQD That didn’t take long.D C8e was something. but =ewis has told me a lot about him.ingerK Aow. C1’m so sorry about Sy.C.D C<id you know him3D . 8e must have been a great guy. we just thought we’d get here early and try to get a handle on how the store is doing.inger said.
A cou2le of customers walked in immediately.vault in the back of the room. as far as 1 know. She ke2t her eyes on the vault. 1 can hel2 you out. She reali5ed that she had no idea how this was going to work with (mily and =ewis in the store.inger back into the store.D C:eah. it seems to be locked. . CThanks. the first batch of customers .D (mily said.D She following . CAhy don’t we go back u2 front3D C"hHgreat. C8ey. looking away from the vault at last. CThat’s been here forever. if you’re looking for financial records and stuff. 1t doesn’t o2en.D she said. Fortunately.D (mily said.inger needed to distract her. and waited while she fli22ed on the lights and 2ro22ed the door o2en.
in her best imitation of a hel2ful em2loyee. C1’ll clean it u2. 1’ll do it.D =ewis said.D she said. 2a2er really isn’t dead here.looked like tourists who didn’t know what they were doing. CAow. looking alarmed. (mily laughed when she saw it. .inger to show us the financials.D . =ewis had made a mess behind the desk. C:ou did3D =ewis said.inger decided that the best thing to do would be to get them out of there 0uickly.D (mily said. C1 asked . There were 2a2ers and broken books and file folders everywhere. is it3D she said. CSorry. CThat’s all right.
D she said. and then we add it u2 at the end of the month. and then turned back to . Ae just write down the total sales for the day.D She o2ened the desk drawer and 2ulled an old green ledger book out from under the cash bo$. C:eah.D .C1t’s "L. 8e fli22ed through it for a minute. #ut your uncle Sy liked to kee2 a 2a2er ledger. <id you meet the lawyer yet3D C#illy3D =ewis asked. C1t’s 2retty sim2le.D =ewis o2ened the ledger. All the bills come straight out of our account. too. handing it over. That’s where all the monthly statements are.inger said in a low voice so the customers wouldn’t hear. 8e can give you a 2assword to the bank account. C1t’s your store.
who was still standing on the other side of the counter. CEmHit’s our ledger. CThis bookstore makes over a million dollars a year. 1s something wrong3D . 1sn’t that what you wanted3 Sales figures3 There’s not much else to show you. CAellHyeah.D .inger. CAhat is this3D he asked. 8e looked at it blankly for a minute and then looked back u2 at . =ewis looked u2 at (mily. Sy owned the building.inger said. and--D CThese are sales3D =ewis asked in a whis2er. so there’s no rent to 2ay. Ae don’t really buy any books anymore. 8e didn’t 0uite know how to tell her.the front.
;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
strain. sweet. 1t was rumored to be light.B All those clean-living non-smokers who would have to be 2ersuaded to light u2 again.best of all --free of that skunky 2ot odor. And it hel2ed that <ragon grew easily outdoors. deliciously into$icating. if only they could get hold of it. This would be im2ortant if they wanted to lure what Tom was calling Bmainstream smokers. :ou could smoke it on a coffee break at the office or at your in-laws’ house after Thanksgiving dinner and it would leave little more than the faint scent of burning 2a2er behind. The guys across the street were still unloading their truck. and --. Twenty bags of . known as <ragon. was going to be Sumner6s 2remium 2roduct. unlike most of the newer strains that only flourished in a hydro2onic system.
regulations. These guys had no idea what they were asking for. well-run 2lantations in the South. tinkering with the dosages and injecting a different 2otion into their irrigation system every day. wages.horticultural-grade 2erlite. After all. they could charge almost anything for their 2roduct. They were bouti0ue growers who could 2lay around with fancy e0ui2ment and over2riced fertili5er mi$tures all they wanted. "ne of the guys who was carrying e0ui2ment into the warehouse wore a B=egali5e 1tB T-shirt. and three cases of li0uid fertili5ers. "nce Sumner rolled out its . These guys were like mad scientists. 1t was the Aild Aest out here. a duct blower. and they didn6t have to worry about ta$es. Richmond just watched him and shook his head. or com2etition from large.
#ut first Richmond had to figure out how to buy some 2ot.2roduct. and that was 2roving to be trickier than he’d e$2ected. because Sumner would own all the strains in circulation. . and allround flakiness. 2rices would dro2 like a stone and these growers would all be 2ut out of business over ta$ evasion. 4ot to mention 2atent lawsuits. labor and safety violations.
making annual sales of three or four million seem 2erfectly reasonable. And they also had customers. . and they had a large staff to su22ort.twent"#seven 1n the old days. They sold a 2roduct that 2eo2le were willingHnot just willing. #ut those stores had to actually buy the books they offered for sale. a million dollars in annual sales would not have been 2articularly im2ressive for a bookstore. 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. but eager--to buy.
whatever small salaries )rawford and . 8e liked the . The idea that Sy had left =ewis anything of value was an unsettling one. 4either of them said a word. They were both chewing over that number in silence. 2retty close to a million dollars. =ewis had imagined that he would be taking 2ossession of a few dila2idated buildings and a collection of moldy books. )ould that be right3 Surely not. the ledger closed in her la2. all of which would cost more to dis2ose of than they were worth. Subtract out 2ro2erty ta$es.inger were 2aid. he wondered if somebody was 2laying a joke on him. (mily sat ne$t to him. "ne million dollars. As =ewis drove out to Sy’s 2lace. insurance. utilities. and you still hadHwell.#ut now3 1n a town this si5e3 A million dollars seemed im2ossible.
The truth was that he didn6t trust easy money. watching a grou2 of doctors devour the lobsters and steaks he was 2aying for. 8e had mastered the delicate art of bribery. it was just there to be scoo2ed u2. or he could eat in the bar . Ruinous. 2erha2s im2ossible. footing the bill for karaoke night after a 2harmacists’ in-service training. and sitting across the restaurant after a 2ain management sym2osium.idea that taking over Sy’s bookstore would be difficult. 1f you were willing to wade through a certain amount of muck. even. Aorking in 2harmaceuticals had taught him that there was 2lenty of money sloshing around out there. knowing just how far he could go in delivering 2i55as to the (R on a Saturday night. 8e could sit with them and let them buy their own dinners.
=et them eat their dinner in 2eace. =ewis was a sur2risingly straight-laced guy. These guys didn’t want to talk to him anyway. 8e rarely took a drink. 8e fell into this job almost by accident. They were going to 2rescribe his drugs regardless7 all he had to do was stand in the middle and take his cut. and he wasn’t at all sure that a 2ill was the answer to de2ression or an$iety or chronic aches and 2ains. 8e knew which o2tion would work. encouraged by a college roommate who had . For someone who sold mood-altering drugs and 2ain 2ills for a living. and he had hardly ever smoked so much as a cigarette.and let them dine on his em2loyer’s tab. 8e didn’t like the idea of an increasingly do2ed-u2 American society.
been recruited by the com2any. no merchandising. no inventory to buy3 4o author events or staff 2ick lists orHwell--effort of any kind3 Ahat sort of business was that3 . The work was easy. A medieval trade with humble rewards. he’d been fantasi5ing about some job that re0uired him to dig his way out of his foolish. e$actly. #ookselling seemed to fit into that category. debt-fueled lifestyle by working with his hands cabinet-making. #lacksmithing. #efore the news of Sy’s death. 8is wages felt ill-gotten. maybe. but a million dollars in sales3 Aith only two em2loyees and no real strategy3 4o marketing. Ahat had he 2lanned to do with his life3 8e couldn’t say. and somehow it stuck. but buying martinis for medical 2ractitioners was not on the list.
second-growth forest. custom-built homes that re2resented the last of (ureka6s wealth. (ven from the road =ewis could see that a s2rawling. s2litlevel home built on Sy’s lot would face s2ectacular sunsets over the !acific. . A few timber com2any e$ecutives lived out here alongside doctors and wealthy retirees from the #ay Area. Encle Sy6s 2lace sat at a 2rime location at the to2 of the ridge. following a road that led around the bay and through a scrubby. 1t wasn’t fair. =ewis took the back way out of (ureka. A narrow mountain ridge skirted the bay.There wouldn’t be anything for him to do but stand in the way of the money and catch a little bit of it as it went by. and along that ridge were the new.
yeah.B =ewis couldn’t imagine this 2lace without Sy.B (mily said. . slamming doors and 2ushing gusts of wind down the hallway and whatever else it was that ghosts did. 8e leaned over the steering wheel to look through his windshield at the sagging 2orch and layers of 2eeling 2aint. but now it was mostly gray. Someone had attem2ted to go after the trim with a coat of maroon 2aint. BThis looks like a haunted house. 1 guess it is. Surely he was still here. The house was once green. BAell. but the 2roject had been abandoned before even one side of the house could be 2ainted.8e followed the rutted road u2 to Sy6s 2lace and 2arked in the driveway that ran alongside the house. and later it was sky blue.
=ewis and (mily ti2toed among them. B(dith3B =ewis said. 1 am. B:ou aren6t the ne2hew. All em2ty. As =ewis ste22ed u2 onto the 2orch. dirt-stained 2ants stood in front of them.They got out of the car and walked around the house. BActually. gray-haired woman in a flannel shirt and brown. and then back at him. looking in a few windows. A tangle of 2ower lines led from one to the ne$t. (dith looked 2ast =ewis at (mily. ste22ing carefully through the tall grass.that had all been converted to rentals over the years. They circled back and a22roached the cottage closest to Sy6s house.sheds. This is my wife ---B . the door flew o2en. Around back were a grou2 of outbuildings -. A tiny. garages. little cottages -.B she said.
B She stood looking u2 at them.B (dith said. BAe6re not going to do anything right away.figure out --B B1 know.aybe you can show us the 2lace.B =ewis said.B (mily said. 1 was going to take a 0uick look at Sy6s house. BAe just wanted to take a look at the 2lace to --. BAe6re just here for the weekend to look around.you know --. She wasn6t going to offer any suggestions. BThen who was that other man3B CEhHB B:ou weren6t here earlier this morning3B she said. And what to do about me.(dith leaned in the doorway and s0uinted at =ewis. <o you want to come inside3 . BAe just got here.B . B:ou6ve got to figure out what to do with this 2lace.
She looked 2ast them at the house. C1 bet it hasn’t changed much since you were a boy. 1’ll show it to you. it might not occur to them to go for a little nature walk down the hill. and followed them to the back door. but if she ke2t them busy. She didn6t want to go inside. )ome on. .B she said.
)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-
but it didn’t have to be in this kind of disarray.most customers didn6t s2end enough time in the store to notice --. =ewis found a ladder in the bathroom -. The store didn6t need to be 2articularly clean --.and he carried it around the store. )rawford and . 1t was a little embarrassing to watch them work.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 -. .inger had to admit. They knew what the store must look like to its new owners.em2ty coffee cu2s that had been stashed in outof-the-way 2laces for weeks or.inger felt obligated to 2itch in. either. )rawford and . changing light bulbs and knocking s2ider webs out of the corners. A bookish wreck. A catastro2he. 2ossibly months.
The <ragon’s regular customers had a hard time adjusting to the new owners. they washed the unused glass cases near the counter and cleaned off the desk. This was intimidating to the customers.so in between customers. ready to ste2 u2 with a book recommendation or offer to hunt down a 2articular title. 1t was a good thing they did. because every corner and crevice was filled with bits of sus2icious dried green material. There was enough illegal detritus to 2ut them in jail in a less 2ermissive county. 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. They were going to have to be much more careful. (mily and =ewis were always hovering nearby. Soon they fell into .
loud enough for =ewis to hear. #ut )rawford and . )rawford gave the guy a small shake of the head and said. This was not good.inger were not ready to change the rules of the game. "ne day a skateboarder with a shaved head and a row of 2iercings u2 both ears walked 2ast =ewis. They gave 2eo2le a blank look when they held out their cash. in the ho2es of by2assing the 2retense of buying a book altogether and thus avoiding a bookish chat with the owners. and handed )rawford a wad of twenties. B)an 1 hel2 you find a book3B .inger.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. forcing them to go find a book on their own.
D #efore he could say anything else.B he said. BThat6s what Sy would6ve done. the kid said. )rawford tilted his head toward the 2hiloso2hy section. BEm. 1n a voice that suggested that he wasn6t used to talking to grown-u2s. BAhat were you looking for3B =ewis said. =ewis. let me take this one. 1 don’t know. he figured. "ur 2hiloso2hy section’s over here. B8ey. BSure. C=ikeHa 2hiloso2hy book3D BSure. the kid . got himself into this mess and was going to have to get himself out. )rawford. just aHB 8e looked around des2erately.=ewis jum2ed down from his ladder.B The kid followed =ewis reluctantly into the de2ths of the store. right3B )rawford smiled at the skateboarder who.
BThis looks good. . 2ractically racing back to the counter to hand it to )rawford. 1t came to just over a hundred bucks. CThat was odd. CAhat3D asked )rawford.B the kid said. 8e handed his twenties to )rawford and told him to kee2 the change. then fled the store with a bag containing his 9oltaire and his bud. 1 like this one.reached down and grabbed a nice old co2y of 9oltaire6s letters rebound in contem2orary 2aneled calf with gilt lettering on the s2ine.B he said. o2ening the book 0uickly to check the 2rice.B B4o. BAre you sure3B =ewis asked. =ewis had been standing right by the desk watching him. CAe might have that in 2a2erback.D =ewis said.
BAell. And where does a kid like that get that kind of money3B )rawford shrugged. es2ecially on a minor and. summoning a little mock indignation. .B C:eah. he hardly even looked around. it’s just this small. C1 mean. butHit’s hardly #erkeley. you know what 1 mean3D C4o. C8ey. !eo2le love books. BThat6s the ama5ing thing about this town. but they’re going to come in here and buy a hundred-dollar 9oltaire3D )rawford loved nothing more than taking a 2rinci2led stand. what3D )rawford said. in this case. you know3 4obody seems to have the money to 2aint their house or wash their car. kind of working class town. entirely inconse0uential issue.
1 know what (ureka must look like to you. #ut 2eo2le who live here ha22en to think this is a 2retty s2ecial 2lace.D #efore the moment got any more sentimental than it already was.B 8e wi2ed his eyes and got busy straightening the desk as if to distract himself from a sudden rush of outraged tears.D =ewis said. :ou’re right. 1 just got here. :ou’re the one who’s hel2ed make this store what it is. And if you don6t think that skateboarder kid can a22reciate 9oltaire. after you’ve only been here a little while. C1’m sorry. .man. (mily walked into the store with another load of cleaning su22lies and a stack of em2ty bo$es. C8ey. then you don6t know this community. =ewis rushed to the door to hel2 her.
CAhat are the bo$es for3D )rawford asked. (ven the shelves. CThe entire reference section is mildewed. books that have clearly been wet . choosing his words. books with coffee stains. CEhHthey’re for the books we’re not going to kee2.D =ewis said. CAhere are you taking them3D (mily 2ressed her li2s together and headed to the back room. C4ot going to kee23D )rawford asked. Ae’ve found books with the covers torn off. CSome of these books areH wellHdirty.D =ewis said slowly. They turned and looked at him with matching e$2ressions of startled fright. still wound u2 over his im2assioned defense of (ureka as a cultural institution. )rawford had the im2ression that he’d caught them at something.
not to mention all the old .and dried out again. refusing to look u2.D )rawford said. C1t’s your store. CSo you’re just going to throw books away.D CSome of these books really should be recycled.D he said to =ewis. CFine.D =ewis said. but it was easy to forget that the store didn’t even really sell books anymore.ational Geo. They’ve been sitting here for years. 8e went back to rearranging su22lies on the desk. 1t’s just that nobody wants these books.D )rawford knew that =ewis was right. 4obody’s bought them. C1’m not the bad guy. <efending old and mildewed books came much more naturally to him.raphi sHD C1 see.D .
=ewis didn’t argue that 2oint.inger needed now that the owners were here all the time rolling joints under the desk. . )rawford reali5ed that the tri2s to the dum2 would at least get them out of the store long enough to let him 2erfect a new skill he and . 8e followed (mily to the back.
sometimes showing u2 just after dawn to move bookcases around before the store o2ened.thirt" 1t was not easy for . They were also cleaning out Sy’s house and trying to make it habitable7 one of them was always running off to the hardware store or dro22ing by the house to meet a contractor. and fre0uently staying late into the evening. (mily and =ewis came and went at all hours. The store’s em2loyees had to take any o22ortunity .inger and )rawford to kee2 the <ragon o2erating the way it used to. 1t was im2ossible to kee2 track of where they were or how long they might be out of the store.
And the new owners s2ent the money as 0uickly as it came in.they could to dash to the back and stuff sho22ing bags with the ne$t day’s su22ly of joints and one-gram bags and tightly 2acked 0uarter-ounces. and the <ragon’s account was still tied u2 in 2robate. not to mention cleaning su22lies and tools and 2ayments to the handymen they’d hired to do . So they fell into the dangerous habit of s2ending the cash in the till on whatever they needed take-out meals. They had not yet bothered to establish a new bank account. (mily and =ewis were charmed by their em2loyees’ insistence on ringing u2 all customers themselves. new clothes to tide them over until they could get back to San Iose. Fortunately. so there were no mi$-u2s behind the counter.
or just fi$ it u2 and sell it. The idea of all this unaccounted-for cash made them a little nervous. #ut .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. to recommend books to the <ragon’s nervous customers.inger had heard (mily . but )rawford assured them that they could save their recei2ts and take it all to an accountant to sort out once 2robate was finished. in his semi-literate way. reorgani5ing the store and attem2ting.odd jobs. And what !ould ha22en once 2robate was over and the money was sorted out3 )rawford and . )rawford thought that =ewis was settling into his role as a bookseller.
inger and )rawford would have to make some changes to the way the <ragon o2erated. She s2oke longingly of their condo in San Iose. As long as the new owners were sticking around. and Sy would hang it u2 to dry in the old bank vault. the unheated and uninsulated bedrooms. 1t didn’t seem like she was entirely settled in. which he had outfitted with blowers. she didn’t seem to be in any hurry to leave. 1t was the 2erfect hiding 2lace most 2eo2le had long ago forgotten that a bank once stood where the . (dith used to bring her cro2 directly to the store in big black garbage bags. Then again. . dehumidifiers.com2lain about the many shortcomings of Sy’s house on the hill the fragile 2lumbing. the unreliable electrical wiring. and drying lines.
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. For a while they came in late at night to get ready for the ne$t day’s customers. but the lack of slee2 was wearing on them. So they had to find another 2lace to 2rocess (dith’s cro2. )rawford and . #ut with the owners in the store. .<ragon’s stockroom was.inger used to s2end a little time every day trimming and bagging and rolling. and the vault was lined in steel and concrete. and )rawford said he didn6t . that was im2ossible. They each ruled out the 2ossibility of setting u2 the o2eration at home. making it earth0uake-2roof and im2ervious to the noses of drug-sniffing dogs.
the scales.inger volunteered to 2ut in a shift a few nights a week. and eventually they might wonder why their em2loyees s2ent so much time with (dith. and (dith had considered them to be her friends. but in fact they were always in orbit around Sy. and other e0ui2ment moved to (dith6s kitchen table. . too. where . "nce he was gone.inger and (dith never s2ent much time alone when Sy was alive. There had always been a lot of 2eo2le around. 1t was strangely isolating.have the s2ace for it. #ut lacking any other o2tion. they dis2ersed. (dith reali5ed in hindsight. bags. . Sy was like the s2ider in the middle of the web everyone in his world was interconnected. 1t would have to ha22en at (dith6s house. but only through him. This had its own risks =ewis and (mily were living ne$t door.
cli22ing and cleaning with a cou2le 2airs of narrow scissors better suited to manicures than gardening.inger’s car in the driveway. 1n fact. . So far. the new arrangement was working.#ut now the two women were in the habit of 2assing 2leasant evenings at the kitchen table. 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. there was no reason for them to believe that there was anything unusual in two old friends getting together in the evening. they didn’t mention it. 1f =ewis or (mily noticed .
. or 2laying cards it gave you something to do with your hands while you sat and talked.Rolling joints was a little like knitting.
8is attem2ts to buy marijuana had failed utterly7 the street dealers sus2ected he was a co2 and . and he wasn’t any closer to getting one of those . having made the decision initially that he was too clean-cut to buy anything but books from the <ragon.inger and 2urchase a book. a2art from 2ick it a2art in search of seeds that Sumner’s botanists could germinate.thirt"#one Richmond fell into the habit of visiting the bookstore every day to chat with . wasn’t about to reverse her 2osition. Ahat he really needed was a 2lant.inger. 8e had no idea what he would do with dried 2lant matter even if he was able to buy some.
(dith wouldn’t answer her door. and the <ragon was behaving like the bookstore Richmond knew it wasn’t. Richmond thought. 2eo2le gathered in com2lete silence around a table of new arrivals. women carrying on hushed conversations at the end of an aisle. even the regular customers . sometimes just running their hands along the covers. so foreign. 8ere at the <ragon. 4onetheless. in such a short time. 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. 1t was strange.the dealers wouldn’t talk to him. that the act of hanging out in a bookstore had grown so unfamiliar. he liked s2ending time in a bookstore again.
and a few of them were making some minimal effort to act like actual bookstore customers. They obviously knew that the owners believed they were running an actual bookstore. as if they were mysterious objects that re0uired further study. they grabbed a book near the counter. They 2icked u2 books and e$amined them on all sides. was more like that of an amateur acting class im2rovising a bookstore scene. !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 then set them carefully back down.seemed not to know how 2eo2le used to act in a bookstore. hastily checked the 2rice. and shoved it across the desk along with a few crum2led bills. The effect. however. eager to get out .
Finally . "ne day he 2ulled u2 a chair in the cookbook section and watched .as 0uickly as they could.inger work. B:ou6re back.B . which was unusual in an era when refusing a bag was a sign of virtue. 8e watched for some secret code. B:6all are one of the last bookstores in the country.B she said.inger looked over and recogni5ed him. 8e noticed that everyone left with a 2a2er bag. #ut he saw nothing. :ou’re famous. B1 couldn6t stay away. For while it was a steady stream of ten-dollar 2a2erback sales. some s2ecial hand gesture or wink or word muttered under the breath that would signal what the buyer was really after.B he said.
8e was out of his league and far from his .inger drifted a little closer to him. :eah. a tattered cashmere sweater that had been 2atched together with safety 2ins around the neck and at the elbows.well. ginger -. Soon she was so close that Richmond could 2ick u2 the dark. s2icy fragrance. . you heard about that. Richmond told himself that he had never so much as flirted with a girl who wore <oc . and black boots.artens. and now was no time to start.B Richmond said. almost like licorice or --. we6re gonna turn this whole book thing around.B B1 believe it.that seemed to come out of her 2ores. She was dressed in her usual 2ost2unk schoolgirl outfit a 2laid skirt.B"h. straightening books and 2icking u2 a stack of 2rints in glassine sleeves that had slid off a table.
B she said. 8e couldn6t even imagine what the rules for dating might be out here.inger was making conversation. . C1 guess that’s a bad thing around here.inger asked. B:ou just -look like business. do you know this book3B the guy said as .natural habitat. as if he was trying to make it sto2.inger was distracted by a guy who was waiting for her at the counter. but a22arently he wasn6t fooling anybody. #ut .inger a22roached. As long as he was stuck in this town.D . Richmond had traded his suit for a 2air of jeans. 8e looked nervous one leg shook and he ke2t 2utting his hand on it. B8ey. why not3 B:ou out here on business3B . B8ow’d you guess3B She shook her head and smiled.
B1t6s got a 2icture of a castle on the cover. roughly the si5e of the book. =ike this. B<o you remember what it6s about3B . 8e6s got a Roman nose.inger.BAhat book is that3B . indicating with his hands that the book was -. B1 don6t know.inger asked.B . more like a Roman nose. holding the 2a2er delicately between two fingers.well. 8e worked on it for a minute and then handed it to . and on the back is a big 2icture of the author. B<o you have that one3B he asked.B he said.B and he grabbed a 2en from the desk and started drawing a cartoonish outline of a man in 2rofile with a big nose. you know what 1 mean3 4ot a .inger said.reek nose. B1t6s about this big.
B B#ecause you6re not in jail3B B!retty much. but they won’t let me check it out anymore. :ou6re welcome to look around and see if it’s here.B 8e turned his back to the counter and took a long look around the building. . BSorry. Ae 2robably ended u2 with all their books. And you know. glancing across the aisles of books downstairs and the walls lined with books u2stairs.B She looked at the drawing again. :eah. 1 read it in jail one time. 1 just don6t know if we have it or not. 1 think that6s why. They had it in the library over there. 1 think the jail closed their library. man.B4ot really.
inger watched the doorway for a few minutes as if she was e$2ecting an encore from him.inger6s hand and left.inger said.B .C"h. CAhere did you find this3D C:ou actually have a section right over there called )ookbooks. taking the book out of his hand. C"h my god. no. 8e was holding a battered clothbound cookbook with the title stam2ed in black on the cover.inger. B1 think these are real food stains on the cover. Ahen she turned around. . The "hildren2s %ard Guild "ook $ook. B8ow old is this book3B .D he said.D 8e took his drawing out of .B Richmond said.D said . Richmond was standing at the counter. C1’ve fallen for that one before.
inger6s hands and o2ened it to the title 2age. a cu2 of lard. milk. let me find it HB he said as he fli22ed to the dessert section. B#eaver 9alley .D She smiled at him. B+ lum2s of ammonia. Bammonia cookies sounded 2retty good. Ammonia cookies. And 1 thought theseHwait. sugar.D B4oKB 8e held out the book. and a little flour and lemon. 1 think it got a lot of use there at the -.B%*%+. BAell. .uhHB he took the book out of .eneral 8os2ital. 8e figured he better kee2 going.B BAhat are you going to do with this3B she asked. eggs. a single man needs to know how to cook.
what would you --B . JAhat was that other thing 1 needed for 2igeon 2ie3’D Richmond fli22ed through the book one more time. 2ork fat. 8e’d have to come u2 with something better than that. . and 2igeons. B16ll work on it. no. That6s it.BThere is also a 2igeon 2ie that 1’d like to try. 1 eat fried cream all the time. B1t6s just got 2otatoes. B4ow.B Richmond close the book and handed it to her.B he said.B BAell. that should be easy to remember.inger shook her head. B"h.B he said. B:ou6re not going to get to the grocery store and go.B she said. if a man were to offer to make you his s2ecial Fried )ream for dinner.
B she said. where the 2rice was written in 2encil. CAith ta$.D . eight-fifty. C1s this all 1 get3D he asked.She checked the inside front cover. There was nothing in there but a book.inger took his money and slid the book into a bag.inger said. Richmond 2eeked into the bag. CThat’s all you bought. .D . B(ight bucks.
. C#illy.D #illy said. 1t was =ewis. 1t looks like we6ve got ourselves bookstore.thirt"#two #illy <alton’s 2hone was ringing much too early for a Sunday morning. and kee2ing bad news to yourself. 8e rolled over in bed and s0uinted at the screen. when it could be 2ro2erly toasted.B BAell. that6s right. clearing his throat and trying to sound lawyerly. #ut =ewis didn’t give him a chance. #illy answered the 2hone. =ewis. ready to deliver a little s2eech about the im2ortance of saving good news for the afternoon. regardless of the hour.
That’s why we wanted to give it a little time. BAre you sure about this3 1t seems like (mily’s been a little reluctant to jum2 into this thing. see what it was like to live u2 here and be in the store every day. <o you know we had someone come in and 2ay five hundred dollars for a first edition of Mrs/ 3allo!ay with a torn . that6s not what 1 mean. but now she’s seen for herself how well this store does. 1 think she’s been a little nervous.D C1 know.B =ewis said.B B4o. :ou own a bookstore now.CThat6s what 16ve been telling you. Ae6re going to do it.B #illy sat u2 in bed. what with bookstores closing the way they have. Ae6re going to live at Sy6s house and run the bookstore. BAe6ve been u2 talking most of the night.
come on.cover and a stain on the back3 1t’s unbelievable.D =ewis said cheerfully.D C:ou 0uit at this hour3 CAell.D CAow. 1 left a voice mail. but--1 meanH are you really sure about this3D B"h.D #illy said. C<on’t you guys have jobs and a house andHD C4ot really. C"kay. C1 just called and 0uit my job. #ut even if you just look at the 2eo2le who come in and 2ick u2 a hardcover for twenty bucksHC C=ewis3D #illy interru2ted. Ae were month-tomonth at the condo anyway. :ou6ve seen the numbers. And 1 sent off a notice to our landlord. This store’s making a ton of money with .
B B1deas3B BTo hel2 kee2 it going. )lean it u2. . 1’ve got a meeting with the San Fran is o "hroni le this afternoon. Sounds like you6ve got a lot of work ahead of you. BToday3B #illy asked. is something wrong3D C4o. take it to the ne$t level.B CAe’re already working. Ae’ve sent out our first 2ress release. make it into more of a draw for tourists. :ou know.D B"h. And we6ve got some ideas of our own. #illy. Aow.B BAhy. not at all. :eah. They’re sending a re2orter and a 2hotogra2her u2 to interview us about the store.D That got him out of bed. give it a national 2resence.2ractically no overhead.
#ut attorney #illy <alton was 2ersistent and eventually convinced 8artford that he had inherited an unusual legacy one of the last bookstores in the country. Ae’re going to make this 2lace famous.C:ou should get down here.1==1"4-<"==AR #""LST"R( A A(==-L(!T S()R(T "4 ="ST )"AST F(ureka. #illy. he thought the call was a 2rank and hung u2. C1 remember s2ending a summer in my uncle Sy’s . )AG Ahen =ewis 8artford got a call from an attorney about an inheritance from a long-lost uncle.D @ .
CAe assumed that the <ragon was a failing bookstore. but another sur2rise awaited them. After 8artman’s uncle.D 8artford said.D Soon 8artman and his wife (mily Short were on their way to (ureka to have a look at the Firebreathing <ragon.bookstore when 1 was a kid. Ahen they arrived in (ureka. a store that has s2eciali5ed in used and rare books for over forty years. it took si$ months to locate the will and contact the heirs. they knew they would face a difficult decision about the future of the bookstore. Cbut 1 had no idea the store had stayed in business all this time. Sylvester !orter. given the rate at . died.
which other stores are closing these days. C1 was sure that the store would be on the brink of going out of business. the store earned over >%. CThe commitment to books shown by this community is astonishing.D #ut in fact. but now 1 reali5e that this store . 1 came u2 here e$2ecting to close the bookstore down and sell the building.D 8artman said.D 8artman said. 1 had forgotten how the 2eo2le of a small town can rally around a beloved institution like the Firebreathing <ragon. the store’s handwritten ledger told a different story last year. C)oming from the big city. making it an e$traordinary success in the digital age./ million.
D 8artman 2lans to renovate the store’s dila2idated interior. said that she was C2leasantly sur2risedD to learn of one bookstore that wasn’t on life su22ort.D 8artman said.a$ine Rogers. C1 want them to come to the <ragon and reconnect with what they loved about books. and transform the <ragon into a destination bookstore for tourists.D . hold book signings and 2oetry readings. CAe’re glad to see such diversity in the market2lace. 1t even gives me ho2e that the book itself has a future. C. )(" of 4ile.has a future.com.D Rogers .ost 2eo2le don’t have a bookstore in their own hometown anymore.
they will survive.aybe the <ragon’s success will ins2ire other 2eo2le to take the lea2. #ut we’ve always believed that as long as brick-and-mortar bookstores offer something of value to their customers. C.said. C1 never thought 1’d be running a bookstore. 8artman said that he ho2es to reverse that trend.D he said.D The Firebreathing <ragon is one of only seven bookstores remaining in the Enited States. 1 wish the Firebreathing <ragon and its new owners well.D . C<igital media got off to a strong start and o2ened a world of books to 2eo2le who might not otherwise have access to the world’s libraries.
a$ine said when she answered the 2hone. C"ne 2oint two million dollars a year in that shithole you call a town3D C4ice to hear from you. CAre you shitting me3D .a$ine Rogers.alway.a$ine said. Three were from #etsy.alway said. 8e called . BAhat the fuck are they doin. BSeriously. leaning back in his chair. and one was from . . have you been .D . .thirt"#three . who 2robably wanted to know why the "hroni le had scoo2ed the 1erald on the million-dollar bookstore story. over there3B .a$ine.a$ine first.alway had four messages waiting for him when he got to work the ne$t morning.
And if you ask them why they bought it. you find out that they6re not even 2lanning on . There6s like three 2eo2le who come in every day to bitch about 2olitics or talk about &ro7e t Run!ay# and then maybe one 2erson comes in and buys a book. and 1 do mean everybody. . .a$ine. good locationH why are you so sur2rised that they’re doing well3D C<on’t screw with me. and most of them aren’t clearing a hundred grand a year. dammit.i5mo3 There6s not even a do5en bookstores left in this country.holding out on me all these years3 Ahat kind of 2lace is that3B B1t’sH1 don’t know. 16ve been in th"se stores.alway. owns a . 4eat old building. 1n a town that si5e3 Ahen everybody. 1t’s a bookstore.
!eo2le will migrate ---B B1 know. C1 didn6t 2ut anybody out of business. C!eo2le will migrate to the technology that works best for them.D she said.a$ine. .D . #esides.reading it. re2eating her mantra in a sing-songy voice. The book was a wonderful 2iece of technology for . what do you care3 :ou 2ut three thousand bookstores out of business and it really matters if one of them survives3D . C:ou make it sound like 1’m out for blood. . 1t6s for a school 2lay or a time ca2sule or some shit. 8e just loved arguing with . that woman had a mouth.alway wasn’t really interested in defending the <ragon.D CAhat do you want me to say.alway said.od.a$ine3 The <ragon’s different.
B A long shot. though.D C1’ll 2ass.B B1 was.ot any recommendations about where 1 can stay3B BThere’s room at my 2lace. . 1’ll see you soon.a$ine. etc. (tc.D . but worth a try.B BRight. 1t’s a great basement. 16m a blogger now. Save it for the re2orters.B .a$ine said. :ou can slee2 on the 2ool table.two thousand years. he thought.B B1 thought you were a re2orter. :ou can buy me a drink. 16m thinking of making a tri2 to your charming little seaside village. B1 thought bloggers all lived in their 2arents’ basements. Aell anyway. CAe do. .
they would reach drought . a revolutionary and utterly democratic conce2t. she thought. 1t was. that river seemed to be dwindling to a stream. 1f 4ile’s numbers were right. She took the river meta2hor seriously she believed that she was tearing down the dams and finally letting literature flow. #ut lately.thirt"#four .a$ine Rogers would never go so far as to suggest that the electronic book had killed the novel.com with a noble goal to encourage the digiti5ation of every library in the world and 2ut those libraries in the 2ocket of every 2erson in the world. and then to a trickle. She had founded 4ile.
com subscri2tion than had cable T9. They won awards7 their subscriber base grew dramatically. Ahile both dro2s in 2rices were 2lanned. For the last several years the com2any had enjoyed robust growth.conditions in a cou2le of years. This made them look like they were kee2ing literature alive even in hard times. making headlines both times and winning even the begrudging 2raise of their critics.ore Americans had a 4ile. streaming literary content as well as music and movies in a subscri2tion format that 2roved incredibly successful. . 1t had been an astonishing few years. They had such a huge market share that they had actually been able to lower their 2rices twice. 4ile waited for some slight hiccu2 in the economy before announcing the new rates. .
you counted on a certain 2ercentage of members 2aying their dues but not showing u2. "ver the last cou2le of years. The 2roblem was that if too many 2eo2le sto22ed using 4ile’s service. 1f you ran a health club.#ut then something changed. They could get music and movies elsewhere.a$ine hated this termH ontent elsewhere. They were still 2aying for the service. And if 2eo2le weren’t into the books. The only real benefit to 4ile’s stream was that it included books. they just weren6t using it as much. At first this seemed like good news. 4ile noticed a significant dro2off in the number of 2eo2le who actually downloaded and read the Briver of readingB they had access to. . they’d eventually sto2 2aying for it. they could get the rest of theirH.
that eighty or a hundred-thousand word te$t that hung together in a cohesive narrative and took a cou2le of weeks to get through.a$ine had given her marketing staff the job of figuring out why readershi2 dro22ed off so 2reci2itously. that three-hundred 2age tome. That thing that sat on the nightstand and waited for you to come back to it.So now . they became unmoored from the very notion of a book. Ahat they found was this once 2eo2le were reading short streams of te$t on a small screen. And even worse than the fact that 2eo2le weren’t reading books3 Ariters sto22ed writing them. . A digital file stored on an electronic device didn’t call to you the way a book did.
as 2ublishing houses colla2sed. why not just do that3 "ne well-loved novelist went so far as to admit that the 2ros2ect of that bo$ of newly2rinted books arriving on his doorste2 had been the only thing kee2ing him going during his lengthy and award-winning writing career. the job of editing a book fell to freelance editors. say a cou2le of 2aragra2hs.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.B he said. BAhy am 1 writing now3 To see my name a22ear on my tele2hone3B To make matters still worse. 1t made for books riddled . B4ow the books never come. 1f an idea could be fleshed out in.
4o one was left to 2rotect writers from their own worst instincts.a$ine heard about the unlikely success of the Firebreathing <ragon. 4ot a bookstore e$actly -that would be taking it too far -. when she read the article.but some2lace that felt bookish. 1t occurred to her. old etchings in silver framesHwould be dis2layed. She 2ictured a store with walls lined with leather-bound books and comfortable. fountain 2ens. that maybe 2eo2le needed some 2hysical reminder of the culture of literature. Then . Amalfi 2a2er. And writers who did hire editors were always free to ignore their advice and 2ublish anyway. .with foolish errors and long-winded digressions. o2en s2aces where bookish accessoriesH reading glasses.
And wouldn’t 4ile. too.The kind of merchandise that made 2eo2le feel literary. the urge to read would return. .aybe if the tra22ings of books came back. she reasoned.com grab headlines for rolling out a chain of brick-and-mortar stores3 .
but at the last minute they hired a whole crew to get the 2lace ready for the 2hotogra2her.inger had been off work for a few days. although.D . she had to admit . as she looked around. They just des ended on this 2lace. who was busy cleaning and bagging (dith’s early-morning delivery. 1 mean. but she showed u2 to work in a rage the morning the story ran. they’d been cleaning for weeks.thirt"#five . and in one day--D C1’m not talking about that. recovering from a nasty summer cold. C1t was something to see.inger said. CAhat the hell ha22ened here3D she shouted at )rawford.
the base of a set of 2osts that once held saddle racks. :eah. Thanks to their efforts. Sy had uncovered the redwood 2lanks here just like he did at his house. the scratches of tables and chairs. uninterru2ted stretches of floorboards were visible again.D )rawford said. C)ra5y3 The . you mean the re2orter. 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. C"h. we could have the 2olice--D .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.that the 2lace looked bigger and brighter. cra5y. the long.
They each took home 2lenty of cash in addition to their modest little 2aychecks. it sloshes around. . unbelieving.D C:ou broke3D )rawford asked. She reali5ed she shouldn’t have gotten out of bed so soon. 4ever occurred to me to try to hold on . B1’m about to lose my job.inger colla2sed into a chair behind the counter. it goes out. C1’ve been such an idiot about this. They6re in charge now.B she said.B he said. She6d only been at work for five minutes and already she was e$hausted. you know3 1t comes in. C.oney around here as been kind of like the tide. Already she could feel a fever returning. it’s not our finances.B .D she admitted. BThis isn’t really u2 to us anymore. CAell.inger. kind of.CAell.
inger and )rawford watched in silence as she headed to the children’s section. ga5ing across the stacks u2 at the ceiling and out the window. 1t6s this life. . She made her own mind-blowing butter. 1 don6t know how to do anything but sell books. B1t6s this 2lace. because =ord knows they deserved it. where she .to any of it. #ut it’s not just that. a white-haired woman with a /%+ card who 2referred (dith’s organic cro2 to the synthetic.B )rawford laughed and sli22ed his scale behind the counter as the first customer of the day walked in. hydro shit they sold at the dis2ensary. 1t6s --B She looked around. which went into a batch of cookies for the hos2ice nurses to either distribute to their 2atients or kee2 for themselves.
B. and when they were re-shelved she would buy them again.B . with the 2rices still written inside. CThis sto22ed being about books a long time ago.usually 2icked out a vintage Tale of &eter Rabbit or %onderful %i8ard of O8/ "nce every few months.et real. .inger. she would return them all to the store.D )rawford said as he watched the woman make her selection.
D 8e handed back the scra2 of 2a2er on which =ewis had scribbled a new design for the <ragon’s front door. <on . he wanted to create a kind of shallow wooden scul2ture of fau$ books on shelves. Around it.D he said. C:ou’re never going to get that 2ast design review. 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. C<on’t even think about it. on the building’s e$terior walls.thirt"#six <on )antrell stood on the sidewalk with =ewis and shook his head. =ewis had envisioned a giant book-sha2ed door.
but that’s really what it needs. And 1’ll get one of my guys u2 on the roof to see what we can get done before winter. and maybe blast out this old concrete around the door and 2ut in a new tile entryway. CAhat we could do.D <on said. Sy never did want to just tear the roof off and start over. See those rust stains around the windows3 That’s a gutter leak. Cis get you a 2aint job and a new sign. but he didn’t say so.D . There was no way the historic 2reservation committee would let him get away with a stunt like that. 8e didn’t have to.thought it looked like the entrance to a ride at <isneyland. :ou could also use new gutters. :ou don’t want to be down here 2utting buckets under leaks at three o’clock in the morning.
BAhy don6t 1 draw u2 some 2lans and we6ll see what the design review committee has to say. 8e hated for her hard work to go unrewarded. 1--D C1 thought you had friends on the city council. and he didn6t want to see him waste his money on a 2roject that was doomed from the start. BTell you what.B <on said. his wife had just found a flat screen television that fit 2erfectly in the one available s2ot they had for it in the R9. <on thought about this for a minute. CAell. Then again.D =ewis said.CSoHyou don’t think we could make the door into a book3D =ewis said with the mournful whine of a little boy who had just been told he couldn’t kee2 the 2u22y he’d found. 16ll just . 8e liked the kid.
. 8e went inside and 2ulled cash out of the drawer. or ---B 1t was official. and 1 can have the gal down at my office fill out the a22lication. unless you’d rather do it yourself. casting his eyes across what seemed like acres of mismatched fi$tures.B =ewis said.charge you for my time to do the 2lans. BReally. 8ow does that sound3D That sounded fine to =ewis. C=et’s do half now and half when we deliver the 2lans to the city. CAhat are you going to do about these old 2lywood shelves3D <on asked. <on stuffed it in his 2ocket.D C4o. that would be great. you can handle the whole thing3 <o you need me to 2ay you now. This kid had money to burn. 8e was liking this kid better all the time.
D CAelcome to town. <on. 8e looked ho2efully at <on. C4ice to meet you.D C"ak3D CSeems like you’re going for more of a classy look.C1 don’t know.D =ewis said. who said. right3 :ou 2ut in some custombuilt oak bookcases.D .D <on said. 1’ll get to work on those 2lans. CThink about it. C"ak. those ladders that slide along the wallHD C"hK 1 love those laddersKD C1t’s a nice look. =ewis. #ut for now.D =ewis shook his hand.
.inger was working to try to strike u2 a conversation with her. 1t was an easy life. but he wasn’t e$actly making the connections he’d been sent here to make. 8e had not 2lanned to stay so long. Richmond wondered how much longer he’d get away with it. and went by the bookstore whenever . So he worked from the hotel’s business center for a few hours every morning. s2ent a great deal of each day on the 2hone with his colleagues.thirt"#seven Richmond was settling into the cor2orate suite he’d rented at (ureka’s only decent hotel.
. 8e’d been 2romised video conference facilities when he booked the room."ne . the sudden disa22earance of the 1nternet seemed more like an e$cuse to take a day off than an im2ediment to 2roductivity. and a few gas stations had to close down because their 2um2s wouldn6t work. Stores and restaurants 2ut u2 signs a2ologi5ing for their inability to acce2t credit cards.onday morning he ran his weekly legislative meeting from his hotel room.ost 2eo2le didn6t seem bothered by it like a 2ower failure or snow day. but a road crew working on 8ighway %&% had cut the only fiber o2tic cable 2roviding 1nternet access to 8umboldt )ounty. Richmond had already dressed for the meeting by the time he found out about this . 4o one in town could get online today.
and watched a double row of wrinkles grow gradually dee2er across his forehead over the years. worn the same class ring and the same #rooks #rothers suits. Enrecogni5able.0uirk in 8umboldt )ounty6s communication system. 1n the time he’d s2ent 8umboldt )ounty. There was nothing in the room to look at. he stood stiffly in his suit while he waited for Tom to come on the line. too generic. . For two years he6d been married to a legislative aide in Sumner Tobacco’s <) office. 2layed the same game of golf on the weekends. he was already starting to see himself as too s0uare. so he mostly found himself staring at his own image in the mirror. 8e’d had the same haircut since college. so even though he was alone in his hotel room.
but when he got back to =ouisville.where he was stationed half-time. 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.anhattan. 8e thought he looked good in the fitting room in . . She 2ersuaded him to grow sideburns and even got him to buy a more fitted. and she had tried to break him out of his res2ectable Southern image. (uro2ean-style suit and an array of trim dress shirts in 2lum and 2ur2le. 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. 8e donated the suits to a thrift store and shaved off the sideburns.
BRich3 :ou still there3D C:eah. 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. . 1’m here. Enchanged. 8e knew that he was becoming less interesting to women around =ouisville all the time.And here he was. Single. Finally Tom came on the line. 8is last attem2t at a relationshi2 with someone from out of town had failed so miserably that he didn’t dare try it again. 8e was going to end u2 an old Southern bachelor.D .
D . Tom. and what ha22ens3D CAell.ood. it’s--D C1t’s what3 1t’s 8umboldt )ounty. are you any closer to finishing things u2 out there3D C1 don’t know.od damn. so 1 send my to2 guy. Short of ho22ing the fence and grabbing a 2lant in the middle of the night--D C. =isten. 1 sent my kid to Amsterdam for his senior tri2 and he came back with a whole garden in his suitcase. 1 can’t get anybody to talk to me. Ae’re still rounding everybody u2. for chrissakes. This is the one 2lant 1 really want. 1 knew 1 should have sent Levin out there.C. RichK 1’ve had guys buying u2 2lants all over the world this yearK 8ell.
The 2othead webmaster from )hicago.Levin.D . Levin was one of those hi2sters who went out of his way to make it look like he didn’t fit in. 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. C. Ahy they hadn’t shi22ed the whole 1T o2eration to #angalore years ago was something Richmond would never understand. even though they were 2rinted two weeks ago in )hina and shi22ed to Targets all over this great nation. Tom. Levin.ood lord. :ou don’t need to send Levin. while somehow looking like every other kid they’d ever hired in the 1T de2artment. 1 will get this done and be home as soon as 1 can.
re2orting on the calls they’d 2aid to senators and on the roundtable sessions with staff members on the 8ill. A few staffers had been sus2icious.D Richmond’s staff each gave their u2dates. wondering why Sumner would Cgo rogueD rather than 2ush the legislation through in 2artnershi2 with the rest of #ig Tobacco. (verybody’s here. 1t’s not that smoking would become illegal7 it’s that the F<A would have the 2ower to regulate !hat 2eo2le smoked. and they were working on a new 2roduct that would easily 2ass F<A review. Toss in a cou2le of tragic tales of lung cancer and em2hysema 2laguing .CFine. Richmond’s 2eo2le were 2re2ared with a mostly-honest answer they knew they were fighting a losing battle over tobacco. =et’s get going.
So far. . 4ot so 2lausible that the legislators who re2resented tobacco country would buy it. 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. Richmond’s staff had ti2toed around their old friends on the 8ill from 9irginia and Lentucky. 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.long-time Sumner staffers.
that’s all we care about. She wants the same thing they all want. stick around for a minute. Trevino. some good news. A silent 2artner. There’s one more thing. CFinally. Tom. Ahat is it3D C.#efore the meeting finished.D Richmond said.D CAhat does she want3D CShe’s a real estate develo2er. The city councilwoman3 1 think she’ll 2lay ball. 1f she can get you to the growers. CTom. Iust something to get a 2roject off the ground.D CFine with me.s.D The staff left the room and Tom 2icked u2 the 2hone. Arite the . Richmond said. C1 forgot to tell you the good news. a long-term lease. whatever.
D CAell. Ae want to lock u2 as many 8umboldt strains as we can. That’s why we sent you. we don’t just want the 2lant. you’re going to have to find a way to get to her. Levin might know how to buy 2ot. and a soil sam2le. Ae want her growing methods. 1 can’t have him talking to her.D CShe friends with the old lady3D C1 don’t think so.D CThat’s what 1 thought.check. Remember. :ou go out there and have your little garden club meeting with the . Iust knock on her damn door with a wad of cash if you have to. (dith Ratner doesn’t seem to 2al around with the rest of the growers. but the kid was just here trying to fi$ my 2rinter and 1 didn’t understand a damn thing he said. 1’ll meet with her and her contractor and get it going.
ight not be such a bad idea to catch some waves before he left )alifornia. he hadn’t set foot on the beach since he got there. . Iust take your time.D C1 told you.lady. Richmond could hear him laughing at the idea of a Lentucky tobacco e$ecutive on a surfboard. #ut come to think of it. This hasn’t been as easy as we thought it would be. #e sure and get in some surfing while you’re out there. .D CAell. Richmond. (njoy your vacation.D As Tom hung u2. Ae’ve got a boatload of 2atents to 2ush through before )ongress goes back into session. that’s great. and get your ass back here.
thirt"#ei ht =e$ was not e$actly entranced by Richmond6s invitation to meet him at the beach. BAhat beach3B she asked with scorn in her voice. B 1 hate the beach. BAith 2icnic tables and barbecue 2its3 1 thought this was )alifornia.D B:ou do know that 2eo2le come here on vacation just to go to the beach.B CSo what.D . BAren’t there beaches around here3B Richmond said.B B1t6s not that )alifornia. you 2eo2le don’t go to the beach3D he asked.
D Richmond said. 1t6s cold out there.B B"h. =ook. and regularly called for articles of im2eachment .C4ot here they don’t. all right. Todd =arson. Todd was one of the latest in a cro2 of young 2rogressives that got elected on a 2latform that favored indoor agriculture over timber. 16ll take you to the other tourist tra2.B BSounds good. 16m buying. if you want to see water.D =e$ hung u2 just as one of her fellow councilmembers. The !acific "cean is like a giant air conditioner that never shuts off. :ou can eat over2riced seafood and look at the beach. C)an you bring your contractor3B B8e’ll come as long as you6re buying. sought to ban chain stores from the city. dro22ed by her office.
Todd had stuck around longer than most. Todd stuck to the scri2t.or charges of war crimes to be drawn u2 against the !resident. 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 . This 2latform was an easy 2ath to victory in 8umboldt )ounty. 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. This 2ut the retired co2 in the uncomfortable 2osition of staking out the conservative 2osition at ten 2lants.
=e$ liked these kids. Re0uiring that twenty-five 2ercent of all city e$2enditures be made with community currency. and a solid two-thirds of the electorate agreed with him. #anning all military flights in and out of 8umboldt )ounty3 Aorth a try. She didn’t just funnel money to them through her bundled donations to 8umboldt =egal7 she also acted as a kind of den mother.aking 2ro2erty ta$es voluntary3 )ould work. why not3 . a system of wooden nickels that was su22osed to function as an alternative economy3 Sure. advising them on 2rocedural matters and encouraging them to 2ursue their more farfetched 2ro2osals. .insisted that no fewer than a hundred 2lants 2er 2atient would do.
or other dry business that no one but her and a cou2le of other grown-u2s on the council understood anyway.B . revisions to ordinances. :ou6ve been working on this deal as long as 16ve known you. allowing little or no time for discussion of 5oning changes.She liked these kinds of initiatives because they consumed the entire 2ublic comment 2eriod during council meetings. budgets.D she said. C4ot e$actly my area of e$2ertise. So she was sur2rised when Todd leaned in her doorway and said that he wanted to talk to her about real estate. B1 know better than that. Todd. They also ke2t the media entertained. meaning that little or no investigative journalism got done.
B =e$ reali5ed that she was giving him her standard media talking 2oints. There’s a wooden dock.B1t6s a family 2roject. B:ou6re going to need the whole council behind you on this 5oning thing. 1t’s cute. BAell. And so far our little 2rogressive slate hasn6t e$actly rallied around the idea of 2utting a sho22ing center on the waterfront. that6s why 16m here. and 1 can6t vote on the 5oning changes. #ut don6t worry about it. and 1 know better . 16m about as far out of the loo2 on this deal as anybody could get. 1t6s a little row of condos with tiny little retail s2aces on the ground floor. 1 can6t be involved in the 2lans.B B1t6s not a sho22ing center. :ou and your friends came into office on an anti-develo2ment 2latform.B Todd said. A sidewalk cafW.
She reached around him and 2ushed her door closed. BTodd3 1s this what 1 think it is3B 8e looked down at his feet. and 1 kind of forgot to finish u2 college before 1 ran that first time. right3 Somebody to get the 2lans through design review and 2ush some 2a2ers around3B =e$ looked u2 at Todd.D =ately. 1 can’t afford to kee2 doing this forever. This 2roject will either ha22en or it won6t. :ou6ve always been really good to me. :ou6re going to need a 2roject manager. =e$ was starting to reali5e that it 2robably wasn6t going to ha22en. B1 don6t mean it to sound like that. B"kay. well let6s just say it did ha22en. astonished.than to try to change your mind. 1t6s just that 16ve s2ent si$ years on the council. 16ve got to get a real .
1’ll finish out my term.B B"kay. C!robably not.job eventually. so Todd3 :ou understand that 1 can’t 2romise you a job in e$change for a vote. )onsulting or -. and then 16ve got to come u2 with something else.D C<oes that mean you’re not running again3D =e$ asked.1 don6t know. it6s nice of you to want to su22ort my family6s 2roject in which 1 have no role whatsoever. IustHanything. but ---B . it might lead to something else. but what e$actly am 1 0ualified to do3 So 1 thought maybe if 1 could get on a 2roject like this. and 16m sure they6ll watch the vote closely and remember who their friends are. right3 1 mean.
<on6t worry.B1 know what you6re trying to say. 1t6s all right. =e$. 1 get it.D . 16m starting to figure out how things work around here.B CTook you long enough.
onday night. and was seated immediately. Richmond was in the habit of making dinner reservations every time he ate out. =e$ joined him a few minutes later. who was nursing a beer in the bar while he waited for a familiar face. A crowd of 2eo2le waiting near the entrance for their tables watched with astonishment as Richmond walked u2 to the hostess stand. even if he had to call from the car on the way over. said the magic words. #ut a22arently reservations were out of vogue in 8umboldt )ounty. . She motioned to <on.rill was unusually busy for a .thirt"#nine The Shoreline .
too.D he said.lad you could join us. so if anybody wants to go out to eat. <on.<on e$tended his hand as he sat down. Bthat6s just fine with me. C.ondays.D =e$ frowned. looking down at the menu. this is where they end u2B BAell.D Richmond said. C<on )antrell. . C!o2ular 2lace. and it didn6t 2articularly matter to him what ha22ened to the creature before it landed in the dee2 fryer.onday night.B 8e wondered if =e$ was going to tell him that all the fish was fro5en here. This is 2retty much the only restaurant in town that o2ens on . 8e liked his fish fried. 8e decided that he didn6t care. B1 forgot it was .D said Richmond.
C1 didn’t get a chance to fill you in today.B Richmond said. :ou can shi2 a co2y back to =ouisville before we close the deal.B:eah.B <on looked u2 from the role he was buttering. CRichmond’s interested in coming in on the 2roject.B B1t6s all right. . That6s all we need. C)lose the deal3D he said.D C"hhhhh. CThe pro7e t. B1 can6t really go flashing them around with so many 2eo2le in here.B =e$ said.D she said 0uietly.D CThat’s right.D <on said with mock seriousness. =e$ leaned across the table.D =e$ said. B16m not really the 2lans guy anyway. <on. but 1 had to leave my 2lans in the car.
B<o we have B --he 2aused as if he was searching for the right word --. =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. so 0uietly that she was almost mouthing each word. and Richmond nodded as if he cared about any of this.B =e$ said. . 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.Bapproval for the 2roject3B BAe had some very good news about that earlier today.<on looked at both of them for a minute and then leaned in as =e$ had done. A waiter arrived and they ordered their dinner.
BSome 2eo2le like to kee2 their s2ending off the record. 8e asked the guy who owned the coffee sho2 across the street about it.B . he had read that the so-called . and the man just said. (verybody in (ureka knew that the bookstore was ke2t afloat by something other than the sale of anti0uarian books. but no one had sto22ed to consider e$actly how much money must be running through the <ragon6s cash drawer. That 2lace was driving him cra5y. 1 went into that famous bookstore today.illion <ollar #ookstore article in the "hroni le with ama5ement. =ike everybody else in town.B8ey.D he said. And there was an astounding amount of actual cash Richmond was sur2rised to see how often 2eo2le still resorted to 2a2er money in (ureka.
#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. and for what3 The store was 2rofitable. All these kids had to do was lay low and cash the checks.B he said. Richmond laughed. The owners ran the risk of attracting auditors and co2s. 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. . Ahat were they thinking3 BThey breathing a lot of fire down there today3B <on said. B:ou know.
B Richmond said.BAell.B <on said. 16ll tell you. B16m here to e$2lain things tonight.B 8e was on his second beer and starting to enjoy himself. 1f everybody around here knows what6s going on. 1t was a lot easier to deal with =e$ when there was another man at the table. why don6t the co2s close them down3B <on dro22ed his na2kin on the table and leaned back in his chair. BAell Rich. Rich3B B8ow in .od6s name do those 2eo2le stay o2en3 Ahere 1 come from we6ve got co2s 2ulling ditch weed out of the gullies. B. BAhat is it.aybe you can e$2lain something else. that6s why you got me. and those are just old wild hem2 2lants that can6t do anything to anybody. <on. .
The first is that the co2s have bigger 2roblems. but the 2roducts that the <ragon sells is a little unusual. <on was doing just fine on his own. "ur co2s had to go begging to the state just to get a little money to set u2 a sobriety check2oint on a Saturday night. even. (ntire a2artment com2le$es turned over to indoor grow o2s. B1 don6t know if you6re aware of this. Rich3B <on said.e$ican drug cartels setting u2 o2erations in the redwoods and leaving guns and tanks of fertili5er and diesel out there. she6d be in trouble. . .There6s a cou2le of things going on.eth labs. it occurred to her that if he ever thought about running for city council.B =e$ stayed 0uiet during all of this. BAnd the other thing. 8ell. 1n fact. . drunk drivers.
BAe’re res2ectable citi5ens here. BShe and Sy used to hold all these ama5ing 2arties in that garden. summer solstice. 1 wonder what e$actly makes the <ragon6s 2roduct so unusual.B he said. B(dith Ratner is an e$traordinary gardener.D Richmond said. CAe wouldn’t know.1t6s very 2o2ular. B1t6s interesting that you bring that u2.D <on said.D CAell. C#ut you must have heard something. (aster egg hunts. The <A that 2rosecutes the <ragon will never get re-elected in this town. . 1 work for a com2any that sells smoking 2roducts.B she said.B <on and =e$ looked at each other over their water glasses. Aho is this woman3 (dith3B =e$ jum2ed in. Jcourse not. B:ou now.D Richmond saw his o22ortunity.
B"h. you name it. . All kinds of tro2ical 2lants and rare flowers from the 8imalayas. one just started to re2lace the other. And nobody knows where she got that 2articular 2lant but she6s so famous for. She grew things nobody could grow. :ou could get lost in the garden. you know3 #ut when the .i5mo came along. leaning back so the waiter could clear his 2late and hand him a dessert menu. but she6s friends with 2lant hunters all over the world. B(dith and Sy used to just share the harvest with their friends.8alloween. 1 sus2ect somebody shi22ed it to her with an orchid from Thailand or something like that. it was a real bookstore.B BSo the <ragon never really was a bookstore3B Richmond said. 4obody knows how she does it.B =e$ said.
ood luck with that.:ou almost didn6t notice it ha22ening. BThe more she grows. the less anybody sees of her.B Richmond said. but the <ragon still ke2t the lights on somehow. B1 sure would like to meet (dith.B =e$ said. but he noticed that nobody in )alifornia ate dessert7 they drank it.B B. "ver time we all just acce2ted that they had found another way to stay in business. 8e and <on each ordered a glass of bourbon7 at the last minute =e$ decided to join them.B .B 4ormally Richmond would have a 2iece of 2ie for dessert. BShe and 1 are kind of in the same business. "ne day we looked around and reali5ed books had gone straight to hell. She6s not a fool.
<on. B:ou want to meet some growers. 8ell.B Richmond said.B <on said.B . 8is wife was 2robably in bed by now. 8e yawned and looked at his watch. 8e raised his glass to =e$ and drank it down. 8e took the last si2 of his own drink and set it on the table. =e$ie here will set you u2. CShe’s got all kinds of friends. #ut the 0uestion is. wishing he had a cigar. B16m here to make a deal. Richmond looked at him evenly for a minute.<on was leaning back in his seat. why are you friends with her. 1 guess she’s even friends with Sumner Tobacco now. BIust like you. Rich3 Ahat on earth does a guy like you want with a little condo 2roject like this3D <on was drunk and feeling a little 2rotective of =e$.
8e was working on a window dis2lay to celebrate the author6s birthday.uillermo .uillermo looked around the 2lace with amusement. Sy had some 2retty nice 2ieces of anti0ue furniture in the store7 once they6ve . . =ewis stood just inside the front door.fort" . knee-dee2 in a 2ile of Iohn <. .ac<onald 2a2erbacks.artPn walked across the street to see how the <ragon was faring under its new regime. writing recommendations for the half-do5en staff 2icks =ewis told him to choose. )rawford sat behind the counter with a stack of inde$ cards. 1t was starting to look like a real bookstore again.
uillermo said to no one in 2articular. The ends of each bookcase had once been blanketed with the curling the remnants of yellowed news2a2er cli22ings lamenting the demise of bookstores. . book-binding. =ike wood 2olish and clean 2a2er. 2robablyH had scra2ed them off and re2laced them with framed 2rints from the <ragon’s e$tensive collection of 0ueer old engravings. B=ooks nice. (ach one de2icted some obscure and long-lost 2rofession mead-making.B .been cleared of junk and 2olished. 1t even smelled better. they actually gave the 2lace a kind of nostalgic glow. honey-gathering. all 2rinted shortly before the demise of news2a2ers. blood-letting. SomeoneH=ewis.
B said . Surely =ewis wasn6t in on it already.D =ewis said.CThanks.uillermo said.ade me think maybe 1 was in the wrong business. 1 don’t know.ac<onald 2a2erbacks. 8e looked at )rawford. B:ou know.uillermo. alarmed.B . !eo2le are always going to need their caffeine fi$.uillermo 2icked through the Iohn <.D =ewis said. C!eo2le are always going to need their fi$.B C"h. . <id you see our article in the "hroni le3D B1 did. Sure. . CAe’re 2retty e$cited about seeing what we can do with this 2lace. their coffee.B B"h yeah.D CTheir what3D . B:ou’re turning into 0uite a celebrity. B8ow much are these3B .
B . 1 think .ac<onald was one of his influences. =ewis. 2robably. 8e was fascinated . once you6ve worked your way through those. yeah a while ago.uillermo 2icked two off the floor and took them over to )rawford. :ears ago. B8ave you read his stuff before3B =ewis asked. =ooks like we’ve got a com2lete set. so if you like him---D C16ll check that out. without taking his eyes off )rawford.B . followed him to the counter. trying out his new role as bookseller.B =ewis said. we6ve got a whole stack of signed )arl 8iaasens 16m about to bring out.uillermo said. BAe must have had some real collectors u2 here. B"h ---uh.BFive bucks.B BAell.
isn6t it3B =ewis said. B1t6s kind of nice to read them on 2a2er again. BThere you go. They were both ignoring =ewis.uillermo slid his books into a bag. man.B )rawford took ten bucks from . C8uh.B he said. .B he said to =ewis as he 2ulled his nose out of the bag.by the kind of sleight-of-hand involved in o2erating the <ragon under its new ownershi2.D =ewis said. B1 love the smell of old books. . That’s what everybody says. There it was that faintly herbal smell that meant that (dith was still in business. =ewis stood right ne$t to him.uillermo held the bag u2 to his nose and breathed dee2ly. B(s2ecially those vintage 2a2erbacks. They6ve got such great covers.
fort"#one Although =ewis was enjoying the business of 2utting books into 2eo2le’s hands. he couldn’t honestly say whether anyone was actually going home and reading them. 8e 2ulled out obscure histories of )alifornia’s gold rush and set them out alongside =arry . wondering if she might also enjoy Lent 8aruf’s trio of novels about a small town in )olorado. 8e was trying to be a good bookseller by remembering his customers’ tastes and looking for books they might enjoy based on their 2ast 2urchases. 8e’d sent a woman home with an Anne Tyler novel and asked how she liked it ne$t time she came in.
=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..urtry and Annie !roul$.c. . There were a do5en co2ies of "at h:. neither of them were suited for the job of selling books to book lovers. in the store. ho2ing to create some kind of synergy between readers of Aestern fiction and Aestern history. but only in small doses. so he 2ut them all out on dis2lay together. She could s2end hours catching u2 on email and Twitter and the blogs she read. a novel he’d always meant to read. #ut no one did. So really. but =ewis had never once seen her get through an entire cha2ter of anything. and (mily was an avowed techie who read incessantly. figuring someone would go for them..
inger were a little better7 he’d see them 2aging through a book from time to time.i5mo had caused books to sim2ly eva2orate. 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 . =ewis also noticed that both )rawford and . #ut =ewis never actually heard them talk about the books they were reading.inger were as tethered to their . And although )rawford railed against the way the .i5mos as anyone else. and )rawford took one home occasionally under the store’s liberal em2loyee lending 2olicy. erasing them from 2eo2le’s lives and allowing most 2eo2le to sim2ly forget about them entirely.)rawford and .
no book clubs were forthcoming.of robust literary community he’d e$2ected to find. So far. and 2osting a sign in the window encouraging book clubs to use the <ragon as their meeting s2ace. Soon =ewis arranged for . urging his em2loyees to 2ost handwritten recommendations in every section.uillermo to bring over an urn every morning. but 2eo2le did come in and ask for the coffee. That seemed to be 2o2ular . 8e thought that 2erha2s he just didn’t understand bookish 2eo2le. collecting names and e-mail addresses for a newsletter he intended to write. that he had not yet learned to s2eak their language. with com2limentary coffee and scones from )ontra )offee. #ut he 2ersisted in his attem2ts to make the <ragon o2erate more like a real bookstore.
" #EST F#rooklyn. she .eorge Alvare5. 8e could not believe his good fortune. And =ewis floated with it. were not so fortunate. The few remaining bookstores around the country. "ET "F !R14T A4< "ET "F #ES14(SS TA" #""LST"R(S . however.with the regulars. 4:G Alma Alvare5 2icked the wrong time to buy a bookstore. as if electronic books never e$isted. but =ewis couldn’t tell whether free coffee was hel2ing to sell books or not. The store just seemed to float along. real estate attorney . Aith su22ort from her father.
took over the 2o2ular neighborhood bookstore "ut of !rint in #rooklyn6s . Although the 2urchase was widely rumored to be a vanity 2roject for a wealthy society girl. #ut after five years under new ownershi2. B1 think 2eo2le just assumed that 16d kee2 the 2lace afloat with family money. but it was never about that. "ut of !rint has gone the way of bookstores everywhere. working long hours in the store and founding a literacy 2roject in 2artnershi2 with neighborhood schools. B1 . Alvare5 2roved herself to be a dedicated bookseller.reen2oint neighborhood just as the 2ublishing world was entering the digital age.B Alvare5 said.
B 1f Iacobs sounds bitter.D Iacobs led a .B #oston #ook )om2any’s )raig Iacobs also announced that he was closing his venerable old bookstore on 8arvard S0uare. B!eo2le tell me they can6t imagine #oston without a bookstore. #ut if the community wasn6t behind me. Ahen 8arvard closed its libraries and reo2ened them as Cdigital learning centers. BAell.believed that there would always be a 2lace in #rooklyn for a bookstore.B Iacobs said. they’d better get used to it. it6s because he was one of the most ardent critics of the digiti5ation of books. 1 wasn6t going to kee2 it o2en for my own entertainment.
we’re losing valuable te$t.fund-raising effort to 2urchase and store the hundreds of thousands of volumes that would otherwise be recycled. B1n the rush to digiti5e. 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.D he said. . 1n the end. only about R&. and those may be headed to the landfill as well unless a donor comes forward to continue 2aying the storage fees. as well as the loss of multi2le editions of a book or 2eriodical which could contain significant differences.&&& books were saved.
B Aith the closure of #oston #ook )om2any and "ut of !rint. 16m just one 2erson7 1 can6t carry this myself any longer. owner of Seattle6s #lack and Ahite #ooks. only five bookstores remain o2en in the Enited States. (laine .B =ewis 8artman. . 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.C#ut that seems to be a trade-off 2eo2le have been willing to make in favor of the enormous cost savings.ordon. e$2ressed dismay over the loss of the last two bookstores on the (ast )oast.
Bbut 2eo2le here are still attached to the 2rinted 2age. Ae’re doing better than ever.)alifornia. BAe6re just a small store in a workingclass mill town. .B he said. recently stunned the literary world with his recent announcement that his store was bringing in over one million dollars a year in book sales.D The other bookstore owners were not available for comment.
but surely it couldn’t last much longer. And that wife of his was obviously looking for an e$cuse to bail out. She had 2ut u2 with this charade for the sake of )rawford and . Ahy hadn’t she caught on3 !eo2le see what they want to see. 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. Sy’s ne2hew was not the brightest young man she’d ever met. =ewis wanted a bookstore. As .fort"#two The news that two more bookstores had closed bothered (dith.inger. (mily wanted money.
looking down into (dith’s living room from the ladder. C1’m sorry this has gone on so long. =ewis and (mily were getting to know 2eo2le in town.D . Ae can figure out a way for the store to 2ay for it--D . they weren’t asking many 0uestions.long as they were getting what they wanted. And (dith didn’t want to be around when they found out.inger said. (ventually someone would tell them. "ne sli2 was all it would take. . #ut surely this couldn’t last.inger climbed u2 into the crawl s2ace above her living room to string u2 some drying lines.inger finished their work. C1t’s tem2orary. 1 2romise. after (dith and . "ne night. )rawford and 1 were talking about renting a s2ace somewhere.
CAell.inger. #ut this is all getting to be too much for me. honey. do you3D . 1 guess 1 thoughtH1 thought we were going to try to. in case you hadn’t noticed. CThose kids could go to the feds. a little crabbily. This has become kind of a large-scale o2eration. 1 could barely kee2 u2 with demand when 1 had hel2. nobody asked me.D (dith said.C. yeah. and 1 was lucky to have a sur2lus going when (mily and =ewis showed u2.D CAell.D (dith said.inger climbed down and leaned the ladder against the wall.D . Aithout Sy and his renters around here. anyway. And who do they go after3 The growers. C:ou don’t really think you can kee2 this going. #esides. it’s too much work for me.
inger reali5ed that she looked very tired and sort of shrunken. C(dith. . She looked down at her hands as she s2oke. as if 2art of her had worn away. She hadn’t looked this bad since the funeral. And then it became the thing that ke2t the bookstore o2en.She eased down onto the couch. 1t was a lark. 8e used to always talk about how the <ragon would be the last bookstore in America. (dith couldn’t bring herself to look at her. Sy felt like he was 2laying a trick on everybody.B she said.inger asked. BAhen this thing started. C1 don6t love doing this. That was going to be his big accom2lishment. what are you saying3D . sitting down ne$t to her. 1 don6t think it even bothered him that he wasn6t e$actly . it was just me 2utting a cou2le of 2lants in the garden.
and it might just be the last bookstore.B (dith shook her head. C<on6t you think it would be kind of cool to give Sy what he wanted3 .ive the <ragon another si$ months.inger asked. "nce these are gone.B CSo isn’t that enough of a reason to kee2 it u2 a while longer3D .inger was stunned. That made it a bookstore. but-B She couldn6t bring herself to look u2 at . BAhat3 Ahen were you going to tell us3B .B she said. B16m out. . As far as he was concerned.inger.selling books anymore. Ae could get you some hel2. 2eo2le were 2aying him money and taking books home. that6s it. . 1’ve enjoyed having your com2any these days. B1 haven6t started any new 2lants. 1’m sure we could hire somebody you could trust.inger.
then3D C"h. #esides. .D CAellHwhat are we going to do. before they find out. CAe ke2t this u2 much longer than we should have. 1’m tired and my heart doesn’t work right anymore. 1t’s time to go. 4ow. Sy found it in the bookstore shortly after he bought the building7 it was most likely a holdover from the .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.inger. 8er eyes were wet and gray.D . And don’t tell me to hire somebody to hel2. The last thing 1 want is some college kid messing around in my garden.D she said.B (dith finally looked at .inger.B1 guess 16m telling you right now. C!lease tell me you6ve got something else to do besides this.
. neither of whom had any idea what they might do ne$t with their lives. two ho2eless and de2ressed 9ictorian-era s2insters. The mirror was so tarnished and yellowed that she and (dith looked like figures from another era.<ragon’s days as a saloon in the fifties.
for a while at least. As a sort of com2romise. She was still not convinced that =ewis was ca2able of running a bookstore. #ut eventually she’d want to get back to the city. Something like that might work. or that Sy’s run-down old house was the right 2lace for them. she had been eying the new condominiums that were 2ro2osed for the waterfront. She couldn’t imagine living in (ureka forever.fort"#three 1t was with great reluctance that (mily agreed to drive back to San Iose and 2ack u2 their things. =ewis e$2ressed no interest in seeing their old home one more time7 he was already .
she needed a little time by herself. This worried (milyHwould they ever take another vacation3Hbut she had agreed to collect their furniture and set u2 cam2. at least tem2orarily. As (mily got closer to civili5ation. 1t was a si$-hour drive back to the #ay Area.ado2ting Sy’s mindset that nothing outside (ureka mattered. The truth was. She took a handful of bills from the cash drawer and told =ewis she’d hire movers to hel2 her 2ack their things. she found herself shrugging off the s2ell of 8umboldt . 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. in (ureka. And she was looking forward to getting back to the city for a few days.
the . As she leaned against the car and waited for her tank to fill. nothing leaned im2robably to the left. she looked with wonder at the sho22ing center across the street. this sho22ing center. built to suit and functioning e$actly as it was intended. nothing seemed to have been 2asted in from some mysterious time in the dim 2ast. The sun was getting low in the west7 as she watched.)ounty as if it had been a dream. 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. 1t was so bright and clean. 1t was all of a 2iece. 4othing crumbled. with curbs and kiosks and doorways that formed shar2 right angles.
she was sur2rised at the lack of browsing and bookish talk. 2eo2le at the <ragon seemed not to know how to buy books. (mily smiled. The closer she got to San Iose. the less the bookstore made sense to her. (mily had the unsettling feeling that she was watching a 2lay. Several times over the last few weeks. barely even glancing inside. 1t was magical. They would just 2ull something off the shelf and take it to the counter. 8ow on earth could a 2lace like that bring in the kind of money that was recorded in the ledger3 =ike =ewis. 1t was as if they were pretendin. to be customers in a bookstore. 1n fact.signs in the drugstore and the su2ermarket and the dry cleaner and the Thai restaurant all lit u2 at once. .
There was the news to watch. and even now. (mily had never known him to sit u2 in bed and read. seemed to be taking it on faith that his uncle Sy was somehow uni0ue among bookstore owners. in all his bookish fervor. 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. 8e acted as if he had taken u2 reading again. he never made it through more than a 2age or two at a time.=ewis. and that the <ragon was destined to survive des2ite the neartotal annihilation of books from the culture. 8e’d juggle his books along with the remote . and then the 3aily Sho!. on the other hand. bringing stacks of 2residential biogra2hies and 2o2ular histories back to Sy’s house at night.
it could bring in twice that after he fi$ed it u2. 1t needed a 2aint job. but both the building that housed the <ragon and Sy’s house were so run-down that it would be im2ossible to borrow . and 2ossibly a new roof.control and the la2to2. a renovated children’s section com2lete with toys and a 2lay structure. but she knew it amounted to several hundred thousand dollars. The store was bringing in some money. Then would come a com2uter system. a new sign. some high-end fi$tures and lights. a national ad cam2aignH (mily couldn’t kee2 track of everything on his list. each com2eting for his attention until he fell aslee2 among his distractions. =ewis believed that if the store was raking in over a million dollars in its 2resent disheveled state.
They were 2utting themselves out on a limb financially. #ut she was trying not to mention her doubts to =ewis. even with the <ragon’s substantial income.money against them. And they still had their own debtHinsane debt fueled by 2ricey vacations and over2riced furniture. really. and. Add to that the loss of their health insurance. she didn’t 0uite believe it herself. cars that died before they were 2aid offHit was ridiculous. not to mention the fact that they were sim2ly dro22ing out of their careers. deferred student loans. how much trouble they’d managed to get in financially since college. 8e wouldn’t hear . to tell the truth. 4one of this would bother (mily if she had any idea why the <ragon was so insanely successful. She couldn’t e$2lain it to her friends.
8ere were all the comforts that seemed so alien in (ureka the gated entryway. it seemed so civili5ed. 1t was im2ossible to talk to him about it. com2lete with a knob that re0uired no s2ecial trick to o2en it and an alarm that chimed 2leasantly when she entered. 2erfectly-sealed front door. the car2et of grass. #y the time (mily got to their condo it was dark. but after just a few days away. She never thought she’d miss that chime. that heavy. Their condo looked like a museum dedicated to the 2reservation of their former life an oversi5ed Fand not-yet-2aid-forG media center . so wellmannered. for a little electronic bee2 to greet her when she got home. the well-lit car2ort Fshe missed arportsKG.any criticism of the store. and finally.
her 2hone bu55ed in her 2ocket. but before she could. a wine refrigerator and cocktail cart in the dining room. and a Aolf range. C1 just walked in.that ran the length of the living room. a kitchen loaded with develo2er’s e$tras granite counterto2s. C:eah. =ewis had asked her to call when she got there. 1t was all so shockingly new and orderly andHshe hated to think thisHno longer theirs. recessed lighting.D C%hat3D . Ae did almost ten thousand dollars today. co22er range hood. C8ey. fine. 8ow’s the store3D C)ra5y.D C(verything "L there3D =ewis asked.D she said. =ong drive.
he was a college student. CAho s2ends that kind of money on an encyclo2edia. Ae’ve got seven more sets in the back room.D (mily 2ictured a bookshelf filled with matching sets of leather-bound books. )rawford had him meet him in the alley to load it into his car. a lawyer3 A judge3D C4o. =ewis3 Are they that rare3D C1 don’t think so.D (mily sat down on the edge of their bed. )an you believe that3D .C1’m serious. "ne guy bought a three thousand dollar encyclo2edia set from %M*M. . CAhat was he.aybe they were being bought as dWcor.
Cthat’s what 1 wondered.D =ewis said. After he bought them3 8e wanted to leave them in the store. )rawford told me later that it was a sur2rise for his girlfriend and he didn’t have a 2lace to hide it.D C1 don’t understand. 1f they’re buying a really . CAnd that doesn’t seem strange to you3D C4o.D C)rawford went to get a bo$ and he said not to bother. )rawford 2ractically had to beg him to take the books.D CAhy would he do that3D CAell. but here’s the strange 2art.She traced the geometric 2attern on their beds2read with her finger as she thought about this. 8e said 2eo2le actually say that a lot. too.
C:eahHcra5y.D (mily felt ill. huh3 16ve seen 2eo2le come in and just ask for a book in a 2articular 2rice range. 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. She couldn’t say why. All these 2eo2le buying booksK )an you believe it3D (mily stretched out on the bed.D CA college kid is going to sur2rise his girlfriend with a three thousand-dollar encyclo2edia set.e$2ensive book as a gift. . She loved this )alifornia king with its cris2 sheets and down 2illows and leather-covered headboard. they’ll ask us to hold onto it for a while. like.
=ewis. And it just dro22ed into our la2s. she was starting to reali5e that she was more attached to her whirl2ool tub and her granite counterto2s than she thought she was. 1 really can’t. (mily3B CAhat3 1HB CAhy can’t you just be ha22y about this3 =ook at what’s ha22ened to usK This 2lace is a gold mine. Also. She regretted the tone in her voice as soon as she said it. Tomorrow the movers would take it a2art and load it into the van she was renting. C1 can’t believe it. BAhat the hell is wrong with you.She bought it back in the days when life made sense to her. Ahat more could you want3B .D she said. She wasn’t about to slee2 in Sy’s old bed. She was tired and sarcastic and bitter.
i5mo store in the morning. (mily threw her 2hone across the room hard enough to crack the screen. .B=ewisK 4ot too long ago we lived here. The bright. <o you remember here3 1’m giving u2HB #ut that was it.i5mo store. Iust thinking about it made her feel better. 1t would cost her >/*. . 8e had never hung u2 on her before.*+ and a tri2 to the . and that was not easy to do. shiny. 8e hung u2.
fort"#four (mily and =ewis had never fought like this before. because she wasn6t entirely sure that she was going back to (ureka. Ahile she was in town. At first she enjoyed the silence. first to re2lace her 2hone. . she made two tri2s to the . unnecessary accessories.ostly she cleaned and organi5ed and 2ut some of her favorite things into bo$es with the e$2ectation that she would be taking them somewhere. She ate lunch at her favorite 2lace . She just wasn6t sure where. and then to buy it a few shiny. although she didn’t really think of it as 2acking. She took an e$tra day to 2ack.i5mo store.
one of his best 0ualities was his sim2le 2resence in bed at night. in other words. 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 . 1t was. She hated slee2ing alone. a day filled with mindless errands and small lu$uries. A day that would be im2ossible in (ureka. (mily would admit that although she loved =ewis when he was awake. where there just didn6t seem to be any o22ortunity to fritter away money or time. She was doing 2retty well until she got into bed that night.in =os .atos. got her hair cut. and dro22ed in on a cou2le of design clients. She needed a warm body in bed with her more than she needed air to breathe. 1f she was being 2erfectly honest.
The only thing that got her back to slee2 was =ewis’s steady breathing ne$t to her. feeling the reassuring rise and fall of his rib cage. she wouldn’t survive. She had to call back three times before =ewis answered. . 8e was slee2ing. She would never slee27 she would lose her mind7 she would fall to 2ieces. leaving her with an im2ossible choice to make.ne$t 2roject. she 2icked u2 the 2hone. that she had left a candle burning in the bathroom. At some 2oint just before dawn. She would roll over and butt her head against his back. damn him. And in fact. she 2assed a terrible night alone. or that she would find out that coffee causes cancer. (mily genuinely believed that if she ever had to live alone again.
B =ewis said when he answered. She laughed. BSay it.D C1 did.B she said.D C8ey. 16m sorry. That leaves four. They’re 2acked. See you soon.D C"kay.B B16m sorry. =ewis. #ut first3 . 16m sorry.B CSee if you can find those other shoes before you leave.B BAhich one3B B.ackey’s in )hicago.D . B1 am.D CIesus.o back to slee2.D C:eah.BSay you6re sorry. <id you hear3D BAhat3B BAnother bookstore closed. Aait.
o to slee2. Soon she was once again driving northHacross the bridge.CAe’ll be fine. through the wine country.D #ut she didn’t slee2. "nce she made the decision to go backHand had she ever really considered not going3Hshe had a lot of 2acking to do. 8e was already meeting with contractors to start renovations at . "ver the ne$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$es. . 2ast the sho22ing malls and the self-storage units. she reali5ed that even stronger than her desire to be with =ewis was her desire to kee2 an eye on =ewis. back to whatever awaited her behind the redwood curtain and the blanket of fog beyond it. As she drove.
The only 0uestion was how disastrously broke they would be when it all fell a2art. and just the 2lans were going to cost a fortune. . she knew that. This thing was not going to end well.the store.
The 2olice had been unable to sto2 him. The merchants in "ld Town were u2 in arms about this guy.a$ine Rogers landed in (ureka and called . C=ook at this 2laceKD she shouted into the 2hone.alway slid out of the bench in the back of the courtroom.alway on her way out of the air2ort. but he had finally been brought to justice by a s2irited young woman working in a dress sho2 around the corner from the <ragon. She saw him sli2 a necklace into his .fort"#five . where he had been live-blogging the trial of an unem2loyed auto mechanicturned-sho2lifter. C:ou live here3D .
.B he said.B he said. BThere are cows on the side of the road. BThey like to hang out with the cows. it6s dairy country u2 here. BAhat were you e$2ecting3B . BAnd what are those big white birds3B she said.alway.D .alway said when he got out into the hallway.a$ine said. 1t was the most e$citement "ld Town had seen in months. yeah. B1 don6t know.2ocket and she chased him down the street. Actual cowsKB BAell. jum2ing on him hard enough to knock him down and shatter his kneeca2.B CThis is unbelievable. but not thisKB . B!robably egrets.
B16m at the courthouse. 16m talking about a 2lace like this being the book ca2itol of the country. CThe cows kick u2 a lot of bugs when they gra5e.eet me at the hotel tonight. so the egrets ---B B4ot that. anyway3D C1’ll tell you when 1 see you.D she said.C4ot really. BAhere are you3B she said.alway said. C<inner’s on me. BAell.D . you 2robably just drove through it. Ahich way to the bookstore3D .D CAhat are you doing here. judging from how long we6ve been on the 2hone.B he said. B. There better be some thriving cosmo2olitan downtown 1 just haven6t seen yet.B he said.B she said.
a$ine found her way into "ld Town and 2arked a cou2le of blocks from the store. .ot it. #ut something about this 2ersistent marine layer suggested unem2loyed mill workers with meth labs in the basement. The fog had rolled in and settled over (ureka. not second home buyers with cash to burn on obsolete technology.a$ine thought. she could see million-dollar beachfront cottages occu2ied by 2eo2le who bought books just to have them around for character. Sunshine seems to invite 2ros2erity. #ut for some reason.CRight on Fifth.ost of the town6s original 9ictorian . 1f this 2lace were brighter and warmer. .D C.a$ine kind of liked the 2lace. 4othing like low-hanging grey clouds to make a town looked discouraged. .D .
a sign written in faded black Shar2ie in the window of a coin sho2 . There was a yarn sho2 that also sold vintage buttons and sewing machines and. remember what. which gave the bakeries and the beauty 2arlors a little more charm than they would have otherwise had. which . old ty2ewriters and colorful 2lastic ashtrays. reali5ing that ashtrays. for life of her.architecture was still intact. but . had left 2eo2le6s homes so 0uietly that no one even noticed they were gone. The kind of ashtray a 2erson owned used to say something about them. She stood and looked fondly at them for a long time through the window. Around the corner. like books.a$ine found sur2risingly com2elling.a$ine could not. for some reason.
a$ine sli22ed into the <ragon without making eye contact with anyone. ringing 2eo2le u2 0uickly and 0uietly. She noticed that most 2eo2le didn6t venture very far into the store. She headed for an armchair in the 2sychology section. (very store in this town seemed to sell little everyday objects that 2eo2le no longer used.offered to 2ay to2 dollar for gold. where she could watch how the store o2erated without calling attention to herself. . hundreds of coins were encased in their cardboard and mylar sleeves as if they had been 2reserved in wa$. A guy who looked vaguely familiar to her stood behind the counter. .aybe it wasn6t so far-fetched that a bookstore could stay o2en here. .ost of them looked around for . 8ow long had it been since she6d been in a coin sho23 1nside.
B he told her as a way of e$2laining why he wasn6t too worried about 2eo2le downloading classic literature onto their 2hones. She remembered an e$ecutive from a big bookstore chain telling her once that most of the books on the shelves were just there as decoration.B 8e was laid off two weeks later. (verything else is just wall2a2er. bought it. and got on their way. 2icked u2 a book near the counter. BAe never did actually sell Shakes2eare. B Ae sell the books in the center aisle. . A scruffy-looking woman in her early twenties came in dragging an e0ually scruffylooking child. This wasn6t too sur2rising. she thought most retailers 2ut their most 2o2ular sections within easy reach.just a few minutes.
D the guy said again. CTo read. C#ookstore. you can take books home. CAhat3D the kid asked. C1t’s a library. where she whis2ered something to the . C#ookstore. not moving from the entryway. looking u2 at the woman who brought him here.D The kid looked at them both in astonishment. The woman dragged him to the counter.D the woman said.CAhat is this 2lace3D the kid asked. but you have to bring them back.D BAhy do we have to take them home3B the kid wailed. At a library. CThese books are all for sale. C:ou don’t.D the woman said im2atiently. at the same time the guy behind the counter said.D said the guy behind the desk.
and 2ull the kid out of the store. <idn’t even . And she didn’t even glance at the book.D he said. Then he looked over and noticed . C8ey. CSee you ne$t week. 8e turned around.D the guy behind the desk called after her.a$ine sitting in the chair. Ahat was a woman like that doing buying a two hundred dollar book every week3 .lan e at it. Two hundred dollars.a$ine watched her take the bag. She smiled. but she couldn’t hel2 herself. She hadn’t intended to say anything. stuff it in a sort of woven !eruvian bag she wore on one shoulder. and wrote u2 a ticket. 2ulled a book off a shelf behind him. .clerk. CRegular customer3D she asked.
D she said. 8e straightened a stack of 2a2ers on the desk and then looked u2 again.a$ine had the strange feeling that she had caught him doing something he wasn’t su22osed to do.8e looked 0uickly back down at the counter. .D . holding u2 a tattered book of affirmations for alcoholics that she’d 2ulled off the shelf at random.e3 4o. CAre you looking for anything in 2articular3D C. CIust reading.
B"h man.B he said. .B she said. BSince you6ve become newly educated on the benefits of back door 2olitics. 16ve been feeling bad about that whole thing. rather.or. on the 2romise that <on )antrell made on her behalf -.fort"#six 1t didn’t take long for =e$ to make good on her 2romise -. 1 shouldn6t have said anything to you. She and Todd =arson sat on a 2ublic safety subcommittee together7 before the meeting she 2ulled him aside. =e$. 16m sorry about that. 16ve got a favor to ask.to arrange a meeting with some growers for Richmond.
B1 guess 16m a little 2aranoid.Ahat a cute kid. =e$ just smiled and waited for him to settle down. =e$ thought. don6t worry about that. 8e still had this boyish curly hair and big brown eyes that managed to look sincere when he was a2ologi5ing.B he said when his ga5e finally returned to hers. B:ou6re in. B"f course. knocking over a chair in the hallway outside the council chambers. BReally3B he whis2ered. BSorry. 1t6s fine.B 8e took an awkward ste2 back.B Todd looked over his shoulder as if he was worried that a security camera was 2icking u2 this conversation.B . Ae6ll 2ut you on the 2ayroll. B"h. Todd.B she said.
She sat down ne$t to him and said. B1 have a friend in town who is a botanist. 8e wants to meet some growers.B B=ook. B16ve got a friend who would like to meet some of your friends. in a low voice.B Todd eased into a chair.B B"h.B she said. 1t occurred to =e$ that this might be more 2olitical intrigue than the kid could handle.B"kay. 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 . =e$. .uch bigger than what we can do here in 8umboldt. 1 don6t know. S2eaking of kee2ing things 0uiet. BThis guy is behind a big legali5ation effort.B =e$ said. 1t6s hard to get close to those guys.
no 2hotos.D Todd 2ressed his li2s together and looked down at his hands. 8e just wants a meeting. B1t6s just a bunch of friends getting together.B So Todd. just a conversation.now. This guy can hel2 us get there. . Iust then.B =e$ said as she stood u2. against his better judgment. B=et6s set this u2. 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. their committee was called into session.
he reali5ed. There seemed to be a dress code for 2ot growers. The more time he s2ent in town. with matching manes of curly. overweight and 2ale. which all seemed to be . halfdreadlocked hair. And in fact. but he didn’t want to make it seem like he was afraid of these guys. there wasn’t much to be afraid of all five of the growers who had agreed to meet with him were soft. the easier it was getting to s2ot them. The growers Fand he didn’t even try to remember their names. 2asty young men.fort"#seven Richmond wanted to ask =e$ to go with him to the meeting.
They sat awkwardly on a 2icnic bench. The fact that Richmond was able to . rejecting various hamburger joints as too visible and refusing to host the meeting at any of their own grow houses. 8e s2un a few tall tales of the legali5ation effort that would make them all rich. Richmond knew just enough about the science of growing 2lants to get a conversation going. Richmond in his neatly-ironed dress shirt and the rest of them in their baggy sweats and old jeans. and that got them e$cited enough to loosen u2 even more.fake anyway7 names like Fire and !hoeni$ and Sky and RiverG were as frightened of Richmond as he was of them. which made for an uneasy meeting. Finally they settled on a 2ark near the waterfront. They had been unable to agree on a meeting 2lace.
which meant that it was mostly em2ty. #ack at the hotel. he doubled it. but the lights wouldn’t be turned u2. casually. but not so shabby that it de2ressed him to sit for hours and drink alone. and the growers grinned at each other as they stuffed the cash in their 2ockets. he would have seen that the maroon car2et was just about threadbare and all the woodwork was fake.2ay whatever it took to get hold of a few 2lant sam2les didn’t hurt7 when they named their 2rice. Richmond called his boss from the bar. windowless bar for killing time on a business tri2 just bland enough not to attract the locals. There were no obno$ious beer 2osters and . 1t was the 2erfect kind of dark. with the air of kids who had each been given a dollar and sent to the candy store. 1f the lights had been turned u2. not ever.
Richmond felt entirely at home here. 1’ve been talking to growers all afternoon. but the volume was off and the closed-ca2tion was on.no cocktail menus 2rinted by vodka distributors with e$otic names for the same si$ or seven mi$ed drinks 2eo2le had been drinking for a hundred years. BTom. this has 0uite 2ossibly been the longest day of my life. .D C:ou made some new friends. did you3D Tom said.B he said when his boss answered the 2hone.y friend on the city council came through for me. A television above the bar was tuned to )44. CAhat ha22ened3D C.
1 will never understand how any of them manage to stay in business. 8e was going to be here a while. and that just about got me killed.B BAell. that6s about right.B The bartender brought Richmond his beer. . Rich. 8e reached for the bar menu. 1t was stout and cold and there was not near enough of it.B B:eah. :ou know one of these kids uses twelve different kinds of nitrogen fertili5er in one grow cycle3 1 tried to tell him that the 2lant can6t tell the difference between one nitrogen molecule and another. it6s not e$actly a business.B4ot e$actly. 1t6s more like a very lucrative obsession. Those guys are cra5y.
no. isn6t it3 1 should call you tomorrow. These are actual drug dealers we’re talking about. 1 want to hear about this. Richmond could hear a baby crying in the background.B A woman slid onto a stool a cou2le of seats down from him. buddy. Iust let me close the door.B Tom said. it6s late there. Some . B"h. Richmond couldn’t hel2 but si5e her u2 a little too skinny. sleek black hair that hung artfully into her eyes.B B4o. They were the kind of eyes you6d s2end a lot of money trying to frame with a good haircut iceblue !aul 4ewman eyes.B:ou need to watch it. no wedding ring. She dra2ed her suit jacket across the stool ne$t to her and started digging around in her bag for a 2hone.
if that6s what you mean. B=ooks like 16ll be bringing back about a do5en strains. 8e could tell she didn6t belong in (ureka. everything’s for sale.B BAell.B Richmond said. B"kay. B1 didn6t think they6d give u2 their 2lants like that. These guys are convinced 16ve got the inside track on legali5ation ---B . B<id you get anything from these guys3B B1 got some 2lants. either. after a muffled negotiation with his wife over bathtime.B Tom said.fragrance drifted over to RichmondHsomething cris2 and e$2ensive.B BReally3B Tom said. more like the non-s2ecific but into$icating smell of new cars and new clothes than anything Richmond could 2articularly identify.
ood. all indoors. using reflective film .BAhich you do. They6re into this cra5y mad scientist stuff. Tom. 1 told them that any legal 2roduct was going to have limits on T8) levels.B C($actly.B Tom said.B C. Anyway. So what are their grow o2s like3B BThey didn6t e$actly invite me over.B BAhich it isn6t. They want to hel2. 1t6s all hydro2onic. B--. 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. They6re s2ending a hundred bucks on a single sodium light bulb.and that legali5ation is their ticket to 2ros2erity. #ut you know these 2eo2le.
The woman at the end of the bar si22ed her )abernet and scrolled through e-mails on her 2hone. they will. Any 2rogress with . . B!retty much.aybe it was the beer. that6s their strategy. but Richmond was starting to think that he had seen her somewhere before. 2um2ing the 2lace full of )"/. :eah.like wall2a2er.B Tom said cheerfully.s.B Richmond gestured for another beer and 2ointed to the chicken wings on the bar menu. BThey just burn twenty-dollar bills to kee2 the greenhouse warm3B Tom said. all that. 1t6s what ha22ens when you run a cash business. BSoon enough. Ratner3B . 1f they ever had to kee2 track of their e$2enses and run a !X=HB B"h.
and the only thing they know about her techni0ue is that it should be im2ossible. They don6t even try to kee2 u2. orHD C4o. So the growers 2retty much leave her alone and let her do her thing. These guys just worshi2 her from afar. They all agree that she’s 2laying a com2letely different game. kind of like a rose that . And they say it’s an everblooming strain. She gets incredible yields for an outdoor o2eration in this kind of weather. not that 1 can tell. 1t6s very e$2ensive and there6s not much of it. 1t6s not e$actly Thailand u2 here.B Richmond said.D CThere’s no rivalry. BThe thing is.B4ot really. her 2roduction is really limited. 4obody has any idea where she got her 2lants.
B B:eah. B1 don6t know. that’s what we kee2 hearing.B B)ould be.blooms all year. "ur friends on the .aybe they figured you out. Turns out your legislative staff is a little too good at their jobs. 1 would just as soon not s2end another week here if 1 can avoid it. Tom.B B.ood. 1 can6t figure it out.B B. :ou managed to get hold of any of it yet3B Richmond 2aused and took a long drink of his second beer. 1 am headed back to (dith Ratner6s house tomorrow and 1 will get this done one way or another. There must be a secret 2assword. Anyway. 8er 2lants don’t wait until fall to 2roduce a cro2. 16ve been down at that bookstore every day.
8ill are ready to move.D he said. CThis is going to sound like a line. Ae need to get going on those 2atents now.B #efore he could re2ly. disheveledlooking guy in a tattered leather jacket came u2 behind her. 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. CLind of. B16ll call you tomorrow. 4ile. BAll right.B Richmond said distractedly.B She looked over at Richmond as he set his 2hone down.D he said. holding out his hand to Richmond.alway <aniels.com. a lean.D .B The woman at the end of the bar answered a call on her 2hone and then stood u2 to 2ay her tab.a$ine Rogers. C. Tom. C1umboldt 1erald. B. CAorking late3D she asked.
D he said..a$ine jum2ed and turned around. B1 was just introducing myself. C1’m nobody. :ou are ---B A re2orter and a high-2rofile )(". B. B16m sorry.a$ine said.D .B They looked each other over like e$-lovers and then turned back around to face Richmond. C(njoy your dinner.alwayK At last. 4ot e$actly the kind of 2eo2le Richmond should be talking to on the way to his third beer.B .
fort"#ei ht . C)ome on.D she said.alway. the downtown businesses are your beat. but 1’ve always sus2ected that they really just . garrulous way that long-time disgruntled re2orters could be. 1 was just as sur2rised as you were.a$ine.a$ine was disa22ointed by her dinner with . but he had sur2risingly little to say about the newly-famous bookstore. . 8e was charming in that scruffy.alway. 1 mean. after warming him u2 with a scotch before dinner. right3D 8e shook his head. CAhen 1 saw that article in the "hroni le. C:ou’ve got to have a theory. A lot of 2eo2le love that store. .
8e wanted to rail against the demise of the . 2eo2le treated it like it was something e$ce2tional. you know3 =ike we’re su22osed to be this out2ost of art and literature. 8umboldt’s not substantially different than a lot of other big. "kay. #ut let me ask you why do 2eo2le out here still buy books3 1’ve got the data on rates of . #efore it was even on the list of last bookstores in America. Aould 2eo2le here really rather sit around and read a book on 2a2er3D #ut . rural counties.love the idea of the store. Sy always used to like to brag on the fact that it was the westernmost bookstore in the Enited States.alway didn’t have any answers. <id you know that3D C8uh.i5mo ownershi2 in this county.
rambling. #ut .a$ine. (ventually she dro22ed her line of 0uestioning .a$ine like he treated anyone else.alway to be 2re2ared for this conversation. She e$2ected . as he always was in the 2resence of someone who looked like . com2lain about the ram2ant 2lagiarism in the news blogos2here. She e$2ected him to be da55led by her wealth or intimidated by her 2ower.alway treated . as if she’d invited him to a strategy meeting instead of dinner. mildly flirtatious. and worry over the inability of news organi5ations to conduct the kind of meaty. . and. long-term investigations they used to.news2a2er. which is to say that he was self-absorbed.a$ine had been )(" long enough to have forgotten what it was like to talk to someone who wasn’t utterly deferential to her.
and he smelled like leather and some old after-shave nobody wears anymore. it might have gone differently. That did it for her. you-don’t-get-a-kiss-goodnight 2arting. 8e had the ragged look of an aging rock star. #ut when she offered her hand to say goodnight. To make things worse. clammy way and moved in for a hug. 1f only he’d been a little less des2erate. 8e was one of those men who seemed oddly a22ealing if you didn’t get too close. which she managed to thwart by 2atting him on the shoulder while 2ushing him gently away. the night ended with an awkward. and a bad . 4o useful information.and surrendered to the fact that she was stuck having dinner in a small town with a malcontented but talkative re2orter. he clutched it in a frantic.
a reversible fleece in shades of charcoal and oatmeal. So she went to bed alone and s2ent a restless night wondering if anything would come of this tri2. 8er 2lan was to browse . and now she was on her way to the bookstore. 8ood. Finally it was morning and there was a si$ a. For her tri2 into town.handshake.m. Then breakfast.t. She was ready to make a deal. 1n s2ite of the restless night. Ahat little interest she had in him eva2orated.a$ine wore what she ho2ed would be her most convincing =ost )oast tourist outfit a 2air of ultra-lightweight cargo 2ants that she usually only wore when she was hiking . and her dressiest 2air of Tevas. she was feeling good. yoga class in the hotel’s fitness center. .
She didn’t want to a22roach them too 0uickly.the store one more time like a regular customer. !rostitutes3 1n . . a metal fabricator. with the sun hitting the side of every warehouse along the wharf and illuminating the wide 2lanks with their 2eeling 2aint.a$ine decided to walk from the hotel to the bookstore. A woman walked 2ast in a short black dress -. because she still wasn’t sure e$actly what made the <ragon work. and a string of low-rent motels. then call the new owners and set u2 a meeting.not much more than a swimsuit cover-u2 V and a 2air of gold high heels. a stroll that took her 2ast a dila2idated mobile home 2ark held together with honeysuckle vines. faintly redolent of seaweed. 1t was a da55ling morning on (ureka6s waterfront warm and windless.
one of whom she recogni5ed from the last time she was there. The <ragon was com2letely em2ty when she walked in e$ce2t for the two em2loyees behind the counter. CThe writer3 :ou work here3 :ou’re a 2art of this thing3D . and she was in "ld Town.a$ine shook her head. too. She rounded a corner. 4ot that she was judgingHshe told herselfHbut she was growing increasingly convinced that (ureka was an unlikely s2ot for what was soon to be the country’s last surviving bookstore. weren’t you in here yesterday3 1’m )rawford.D 8e held out his hand. )rawford remembered her.this little town3 . That6s why he looked familiarK BAre you Richard )rawford3D she asked. C8ey. 2assed a cou2le of coffee sho2s.
but once you hit fortyHwell. 1 loved The Retriever. She wasn’t sure green hair was becoming for a woman of any age.B C1 can6t believe it’s you.B )rawford was too stunned to say anything. never mind. 1n my o2inion. Richard )rawfordK 8e came around the counter and stood with his hands in his 2ockets. Aho was this mysterious and beautiful woman3 8e reali5ed that he might be in love with her. B1 always wondered what ha22ened to you. trying to look modest. . 1 couldn6t believe it didn6t win the 4ational #ook Award. .B . BAell.The woman behind the counter laughed and walked off.B he said. Bthat6s me. but 1 don6t know if 1 want to take the blame for all this. you were robbed.a$ine watched her go.a$ine said.
a$ine as she reeled off this alternative version of his life. Finally he reali5ed that she was waiting for an answer.a$ine continued. or what3B )rawford stared at . oblivious to the effect she was having on him. <o 2eo2le come in here to meet you3 <o they want to get their books signed3 <o you run some kind of literary series for the store.. but they just got here. right3 So you must have a lot to do with the fact that this 2lace is still around. because 1 read the article about the new owners. BSo 1 know you don6t own this 2lace. or teach writing worksho2s. one in which he behaved like the reclusive literary star she clearly believed he was. .
C"h. yes.B )rawford said. 1t was now 2ossible to see the molding and other architectural details that had once been obscured.things like that. it6s 2retty ama5ing. 8e knew that he sounded like an idiot. =ewis had been in the store every day clearing the aisles and reorgani5ing. taking in the walls covered in books. the aging chandeliers.a$ine said.a$ine looked around again.B . 8e used to know how to talk like a famous author. AhHwell. The building looked like an .inger was not there to catch him lying to this woman. BAell. you must be so 2roud of the success of this store.B )rawford said. Ahat ha22ened3 . B:eah. glad that . the 2recarious banister. we6ve done --.
B16m curious. B1 think it6s the whole 2ackage.old man who had been reminded to stand u2 straight. B"ver the years 16ve learned that a bookstore is like a 2iece of theater. BSo.B she said.that6s this building --. which are like 2ro2s. 1f . and maybe even get a date out of the deal.and you have the books. and everybody in the store is acting out a 2art. :ou have the set -. !eo2le bring all these needs and e$2ectations to a bookstore.y secret3B B:eah.B he said. Ahy do you think this 2lace has survived3 Ahat’s the secret3B 8e assumed this woman didn6t want to know the real secret. Ahat6s your secret3D )rawford had a lot of secrets. B. Surely he could come u2 with a 2lausible lie.
)rawford had forgotten what it was like to have 2eo2le look at him like this. you know.a$ine looked at him with wonder. :ou 2ut on a little 2erformance. She wasn6t really looking at him7 she was looking at the glow. 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. 1t had been a long time. 8e had forgotten all about the glow. and the 2erformance is different for every 2erson who walks in. and . 2eo2le bring in their needs and e$2ectations3B she asked. BAhat do you mean. That6s what he used to call the faint halo that a successful novel could give a 2erson. B"h.D .you6re working behind the desk.
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. Somebody brings in an old book that6s been in the family forever and they think it6s worth a fortune.they can barely even whis2er it to you because they don6t want anyone to know. .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 they have to get all stoic and tell you they’d never want to sell it anyway. and you have to find a way to tell them that it6s only like a ten-dollar book. Somebody comes in wanting to be treated like a big shot.
She lived for the moments when she could sabotage )rawford in the act of trying to im2ress a woman.literary.aybe they buy a book because it6s a souvenir of this e$2erience they had where they came in here and felt --.what else could they be3B . .a$ine6s turn to stare.B 1t was . This guy was brilliant.B:ou mean --. Ahat a marketerK BSo that6s what these books are.1 don6t know --. somehow.inger returned from the back room and )rawford reali5ed that he’d better cut the conversation off before she heard him. . And if they do.B BAell -. A souvenir of their e$2erience in the store. it6s about nostalgia. So yeah. 2eo2le come in here to feel bookish.anymore3 4ot much.
.D )rawford said. C1’ll get in touch with them.D she said.D She held out her hand.B )rawford shook her hand. C1’m sorry. C"h.D She smiled and left before he could ask for her last name. )rawford. B4ice meeting you. taking one last look around the store. :ou areH3D C. sure. Are the owners going to be back anytime soon3B CThey’re in the middle of moving.a$ine. <o you want me to call them3D CThat’s okay. too.B he said. B1 should get going.D she said. C1 think the moving van arrives today.C1’d better get back to work.
Ahen she ordered wine by the glass.alway had the uncomfortable feeling that . e$actly.a$ine had the 2olish and luster of a big city about her7 a kind of bright e$2ectation about the world and its 2ossibilities.a$ine was treating him like staff.fort"#nine <uring their dinner. . . but distant and distracted the rest of the night. Iust being around her reminded him how lonely and isolated he was. She wasn’t 2retentious. she asked if she could taste the . She ran hot and cold friendly when she thought it would get her somewhere. she just o2erated by a set of rules that hadn’t made it to this 2art of the world.
8e was out on the sidewalk and on his own . 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. And when she decided to go with the sauvignon blanc instead. "kay. maybe she was a snob. but she was too 0uick for him.malbec and the sangiovese for com2arison. she e$2lained her choice to the waitress in some detail. And the evening ended badly.alway felt himself shrinking in his seat7 it was 2robably the first time any waitress in (ureka had ever been asked to 2rovide a 2review of a si$-dollar glass of wine before serving it. still be the best accom2animent to the salmon. . After a few too many drinks he’d decided to try to salvage the night by making a 2ass at her.
1n the end he decided not to divulge the <ragon6s secrets. leaving a message asking him to kee2 an eye on the store and Cre2ort back. 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. . She finally called from the air2ort.a$ine was no longer intriguing7 she was just bossy.a$ine was smart enough7 he knew she’d figure out what was going on if she hung around a while. .before he knew e$actly what ha22ened. 8e deleted the message. e$ce2t to say that it was a business model that intrigued her. At least they had somewhere to go together. She never would tell him e$actly why she was so interested in the <ragon. And he already had a boss.
C8e’s already gone. C1s =ewis here3D she asked.fift" (mily got into town just as the store was closing. (mily rushed in just as )rawford was turning off the lights. . =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.D )rawford said. 8e left )rawford and . clearing s2ace so they could unload the moving van.
inger said carefully.inger staring at her. B1 heard you had a lot of big s2enders in the store lately. She would 2ut the .inger. and then she noticed )rawford and . Then she had an idea. #ut what3 She looked around blankly for a minute. B8ow was your tri23B BFine. 1t had occurred to her that she should buy him a gift to make u2 for it.B (mily said. And of course. Some rare and wonderful volume that showed that she believed in him. good.B . who was trying to stash their assortment of 2restuffed sho22ing bags behind the counter. that gift should be a book.C"h. B1t6s been a 2retty good few days.B she said. )rawford looked nervously at .D She was still feeling guilty about their fight. continuing to look around.
(mily seemed to be waiting for .B she said to .inger. 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. so she added. B1 want to get a 2resent for =ewis.B (mily said. smiling. B8ey.inger said.B B"h. Take something home. that6s nice. maybe you can hel2 me. She looked over (mily’s shoulder at )rawford.inger to say something more.B .booksellers to the test. who was fro5en in 2lace. remembering how =ewis had described the big s2enders who had been in the . B16m a 2aying customer.D And. They knew what they were doing. B1t6s your store.D B4o.
B she said.oroccan leather. 1t6s kind of a 2retentious thing to do. She stared at the row of books in front of her. So you can think about . )rawford s2oke u2 behind her.B . who looked like he was about to e$2lode. BAhat is it3B (mily said. and handed it to (mily. but it’s 2retty ama5ing. turning it over as if she was afraid to o2en it. this is seven hundred. 1t6s been rebound in . Finally she 2ulled one off the shelf. B"kay.store lately. B1t6s a first edition of The Old Man and the Sea. she added. They stam2ed 8emingway’s signature on the cover.inger turned her back to )rawford. C16m looking for something in the five hundred dollar range. but the cover was 2robably damaged by the time it fell into the hands of the bookseller.
1t’s 2erfect. B<on6t 1 get a bag for my seven hundred dollars3B (mily asked. <id he even know it was in the store3D CEh---1 don’t think so. C=ewis isn’t going to believe this. She was trying not to look at )rawford.inger handed her the book.D .B 8e gave that s2eech with an air of resignation. 16ll take it.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. BFine. taking (mily’s credit card and running it through the terminal.inger. . (mily signed the credit card sli2 and .B (mily smiled at . as if he might never deliver it again.inger said.
8ave a good night.D (mily clutched the bag to her chest. Ae’ll go ahead and close u2.C"f course. you guys.ood night.inger said. grabbing the book and stuffing it into a bag. C8ere you go. .D .D . CThanks.
C1 was standing just like this. don’t yell at meKD She sat back on her heels and 2ut her hands over her mouth.( :"E <1< 4"TKD )rawford shouted a few minutes later. wait.inger was on her knees behind the counter. )rawford. 2awing through the bags she’d been restocking when (mily walked in.fift"#one CT(== . C<ammit. Ahat just ha22ened3 C"kay.D she said. . BAnd 1 handed her the credit card sli2 with my right hand ---B She 2antomimed this .D She stood u2 and 2lanted her feet right where they had been when she was talking to (mily.
.while )rawford watched im2atientlyHCand then when she asked for the bag. !lus a com2limentary 2ackage of rolling 2a2ers for being such a good customer. Thanks. 1t’s been great working with you. CAnd then you gave her one tightly-2acked ounce of marijuana along with her 8emingway. She stood for a long time and stared down the stack of bags at her feet. This did not just ha22en.B she said at last. B8uh. no. B1 shorted her half an ounce. .inger. 1 would have reached down with my left hand ---B "h.inger was too stunned to say anything.B .D 8e grabbed his jacket and stormed out the door.
Solid. a century that she suddenly missed for its bulk and 2resence. 1t was a sure winner a fine American classic. (very innovation of the twenty-first century could be erased by a . a manly book done u2 in manly navy blue leather. a warm and delicious relic from another century. workable objects.fift"#two Ahen (mily left the bookstore with her rebound-but-still-0uite-nice first edition of The Old Man and the Sea. the book felt solid and real under her arm. The twentieth century contributed skyscra2ers and ty2ewriters and automobiles and tele2hones to the world. she was elated for two reasons. First.
(mily felt like the store was actually hers. She could see why 2eo2le would still buy real books on 2a2er. although she could feel its heft in the dim 2ast. she’d mock u2 some designs and email them back.2ower failure. And the second reason she was elated3 "wning a bookstore that offered such a thing for sale also felt goodHand this was something new. she’d send off an invoice and wait for an . 2ractical time. her income unstable. a time she couldn’t remember clearly herself. and after a few more e$changes. For the first time. She’d been a freelancer for years7 her work life always felt unsettled. 1t reminded her of a more sensible. She was often struck by how e2hemeral it all was a client would sent her an email. "wning a book felt good.
like a deadbolt sliding into 2lace.electronic transfer to hit her bank account. En2lug the 1nternet and it would all vanish the clients. All at once. 1t made sense to her. Something moved and clicked and locked inside of her. the design work. A building. This valuable little book tucked under her arm . suddenly. the store fit.oods for sale. the bank de2osits and the bills that got 2aid automatically. what would be left of her work3 #ut the <ragon was so tan.ible. . in a way that her freelance design work never really did. Ahere would it all go3 Aithout it. And the seven hundred dollars she just s2ent on =ewis6s book3 That made her feel important. . 4one of it seemed real.oney in the cash drawer.
she mattered. too. 4ow she could see the attraction. #ut (mily was a dabbler7 she’d buy one thing and grow bored with it and never think to buy another one. 8e was waiting for her at Sy’s houseHtheir house. . =ewis collected coins and stam2s when he was a kid. She had never been a collector of anything. and she had friends who collected Fiestaware or Art <eco vases or old toys. And now that she owned it.mattered. 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. 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$icating.
She drove out of town 2ast the marshy lowlands where egrets fished for their su22er and u2 the long. rutted road to meet him.she reali5ed at last. .
sitting on the ste2s. 2ractically bouncing out of the car. She was just about to instigate a generalcontractor-home-remodel se$ual fantasy that . B8ey. =ewis even looked a little different in a battered work shirt and old jeans.B she said. waiting to com2lete her ha22iness like a 2eriod at the end of a sentence. She had worked herself into a state of eu2horia during the short and scenic drive from the bookstore to the house. more handy version of himself. he was a more rugged.fift"#three =ewis was waiting for her on the 2orch when she got there. And now here was =ewis.
B =ewis said. Then she reali5ed that Sy’s collection of movie 2ro2s had also been dismantled. drawers 2ulled from bureaus.B he said. BAhat6s going on3B B)ome with me. BSomething is very wrong. Something was very wrong.B (mily said. leading her robotically into the house. but more carefully a . B1 just figured that out. )hairs were u2ended. their contents scattered on the floor. (mily thought the house had been broken into. 2utting his hands awkwardly on her shoulders as if he had never touched her before.would ignite the kind of make-u2 se$ they hadn’t had since before the weddingHwhen she got a look at =ewis’s face. At first. tables knocked over.
BAhat is this3B 8e took her by the hand and led her u2stairs to an awkward. 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. a cardboard television sliced a2art with a bo$ cutter. She reali5ed that =ewis must have done this.2hony grandfather clock was neatly taken a2art. =ewis had gathered all the cardboard bo$es that #illy had managed to 2ack u2 after the funeral . Finally she managed to shake off her sur2rise and say. staring at the ruins of Sy6s 2ossessions as if he could not believe what he had accom2lished. 8e stood ne$t to (mily. 8er mouth formed the sha2e of a 0uestion but fro5e there. 1t had been used for storage since Sy6s death.
and stacked them in the center of the room to form a kind of table. Although she had never met Sy. they had ended u2 with two or three enormous jars of change. a handful of foreign currency left over from some tri2 to )anada or . after going through Sy6s house. 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.e$ico. This was a close-the-curtains-and-don’t-answer- . an old coffee can filled with crum2led dollar bills. #ut this was not that kind of 2ile of money. And on to2 of those bo$es was a 2ile of money. (mily would not have been sur2rised if. and even a cou2le of fat envelo2es of twenties.
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. the way they might look Hagain. 1t was the kind of 2ile of money that would make anyone say what (mily said ne$t. CAho else knows about this3D =ewis e$haled dee2ly. glad to finally have the secret out. BAs far as 1 know3 4obody. 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.the-2hone 2ile money. the way you’d see them in bank heist movies. A se2arate 2ile held battered fifties and twenties rolled together and bound by rubber bands.
B8ow much is here3B (mily asked. B"ne of those steel briefcases. And then there was a duffel bag filled with rolls of bills in that fake bank safe he had in the kitchen. just 2acked with bundles of cash. CSeven hundred thousand dollars. C1 don’t even want to touch itKD (mily said.D =ewis said. They both stood looking down at it as if they were studying a 2iece of scul2ture in a museum.B =ewis said.B CA8AT3D She backed u2 into the wall and reached for the door. After that 1 just kind of went nuts and started tearing . C)ount it yourself. e$actly like something you’d see in the movies. CAhat is this3 Ahere did it come from3D BFirst 1 found a briefcase under the bed.side of the 2ile.
BShit. we can6t kee2 this.the 2lace u2. to tell you the truth.D B=ewis.B =ewis was ready to carry out what ever decision someone else wanted to make about this money. BAell. B"kay. Then =ewis said. though. Ae can6t kee2 it. BAho are we giving it to3B (mily 2lanted her hands on the moving bo$es and leaned over the 2ile of money. 1 don6t know. 1 don’t even think 1’ve found it all. Sy was involved in something .B BLee2 it3 Are you cra5y3 1 don6t know where he got this money. Ae could.B she said. actually. She studied it carefully for a minute. but it wasn6t from selling books.B They both looked at it a while longer.
8e never ate out.else. but he hid it from the 1RS. And if we kee2 the money.D C"kay. !art of her wanted nothing to do with =ewis or his cra5y uncle or whatever this hea2 of bills . (mily. She leaned into him. maybe. And as far as 1 can tell. we are involved in it.B CThat’s not our 2roblem. B1 don6t know. like the furniture3D =ewis walked back around the room and stood behind (mily. unless you count the coffee sho2. That store threw off a lot of 2rofit for a lot of years. =ewis3 This money is just ours. too. 8e 2robably hadn’t bought a new shirt in ten years.D CSo what are you saying. Sy wasn6t s2ending it.B =ewis shook his head.
aybe we 2ut it in the attic under a floorboard.D Aell. 8e whis2ered in her ear like he was seducing her. Sy had some 2retty good hiding 2laces. #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.ake it look like Sy stashed it there years ago where nobody would ever think to look. . B16m saying we 2ut the money back. CSo. we wouldHD . he had a 2oint.re2resented. !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. =et6s say somebody comes looking for it down the road. .
Ae don6t make it obvious. Ae take some with us when we go on vacation.D (mily wasn6t sure about that.B C1 don’t know.BAe would just di2 into it a little at a time. Ae dro2 some cash when we go out to eat. 1t was e$actly the sort of 2lace a fugitive from justice would hide. B:ou 2ay cash for a haircut every now and then. allowed herself to be led to the makeshift 2allet of blankets =ewis had assembled last night in the attic.B =ewis said. Ae just nibble at it around the edges. =ewis. . his voice still low and gravelly in her ear. They turned the light out on the 2ile of money and (mily. but she was sure that bank robber se$ would be even better than general-contractorhome-remodel se$. still refusing to lay down in Sy’s bed.
D he said.=ewis knew her well enough to recogni5e the half-smile on her li2s as she stoo2ed to follow him through the attic. . BAs soon as the co2s come looking for that money --B (mily giggled and stumbled into him. They were all right. at least for now. CThis could be my last night of freedom. you know.
8e had seen seagulls and ravens u2 there during the day.D She wra22ed a blanket around . C1 forgotK 1 have a 2resent for you.B =ewis whis2ered. C1s it )hristmas3D C"hKD (mily said. They scratched and 2icked at the shingles.fift"#four At midnight they were still awake and listening to the house shift and settle. but what bird would land there at night3 An owl3 BThey sound like reindeer. making a 0uiet but distracting racket if you were trying to slee2 right under them. =ewis had discovered that birds liked to land on the 2eak of the roof to look out across the valley below.
B1 haven6t had time to wra2 it.her shoulders and ran down two flights of stairs. She sat cross-legged across from him. Ahen she got there. =ewis turned on a desk lam2 he’d set u2 near his makeshift bed. taking the bag from her. leather-bound first edition of The Old Man and The Sea with 8emmingway’s signature stam2ed . "ut came a delu$e.D 8e leaned over and kissed her and then reached into the bag. but 1 want you to have it now. She 2ulled out the 2a2er bag and dashed back u2stairs. 8er suitcase was still sitting just inside the front door where she’d left it. To mark the start of our new life with the bookstore.D CAhat’s this for3D he said. CIustHcongratulations.
=ewis held it carefully. For a long time .D he said. turning it over in his hands and o2ening it just a crack to 2eer inside. CAell. 1t’s the start of our library. C. organic. nothing. 1t’s just--D #ut then his hand came out of the bag. C<id this come from the store3D C1t did. floral.inger hel2ed me 2ick it out.in gold on the cover. 1t sat between them on Sy’s old 0uilt. 8e dro22ed it like it was on fire. and matching gold gilt on the fore-edge. earthy.D she said. and in it was a tightly-wra22ed ounce of (dith’s su2remely sweet. intricately com2le$ and highly sought-after bud. C=ook at this.D CAnd what else is in here3D he asked. sliding his hand back into the bag.
2erha2s. believing. that it might e$2lain itself if they would just let it s2eak.they just watched it. .
. )rawford shuffled u2 the stairs to #illy <alton’s office like a kid who already knew he was grounded.inger could agree u2onHbut they didn’t dare confide in anyone else. . Finally they heard his ste2s behind them on the stairs. #illy wasn’t much of a lawyerHthis was one thing )rawford and . standing tight-li22ed in the atrium. )rawford looked at her and didn’t say a word.fift"#five The ne$t morning.inger was waiting for him. 8e nodded and led them silently down the hall.
sit.B #illy said. .inger and )rawford eased into it.B he said. BAnd she actually came in and asked for ---B B4o. o2ening the door to what might have once been a corner suite in the building’s days as a hotel. sitting as far a2art from each other as they could.B1n here.B . right before close. 8e 2ulled out a folding chair and sat across from them.B . BAhen did this ha22en3B #illy asked. She thought it was some 0uaint little custom to come in and ask for rare book by 2rice.B )rawford said. B=ast night. gesturing to the couch.inger said. in his best cross-e$amination voice. BSit. BShe had no fucking idea what she was doing. There was a couch under the window and a dining room table covered in bo$es.
She knows.B )rawford said.B )rawford said. Ahat are we su22osed to do3D #illy sighed and shook his head. They didn6t know what was really going on.B . they know.B B)rawford. :ou6re the goddamn lawyer. #y now. B(mily and =ewis had seen other 2eo2le making big buys like that. nearly shouting. BAhether it was an accident or not.BAhy is that 0uaint3B #illy asked. don6t be such an asshole. So come on. the 2oint is. B1t6s not. #illy.inger said. so what were they su22osed to think3B BThis is not the 2oint.B . B4e$t 0uestion.inger said. . she left with a bag that had an ounce of 2ot in it. B4obody6s heard from her3B B4ot yet.
ine3 Are you kidding3D )rawford said.#illy stood u2.B BFine. BAho6s at the store3B . C1f (mily asks3 Tell her it6s yours. 8e looked 2ointedly at . 1f there’s any left.D CThen what3D )rawford said. .inger looked down at her 2hone to check the time. 1f someone was going to take the fall for this. B4obody. Ae don’t o2en for another hour.et over there and clean out the store. <oesn’t matter now. it would have to be her. more to get their attention than because he had anything im2ortant to say.B #illy said. that is. !ack u2 all the shit and stick it in the vault. B.D C.inger.
BAe go back to being a regular bookstore3 Ae just go out of business3B #illy sat back down so he could look both of them in the eye.B1t6s only an ounce.B . and 1 handed her the bag 16d hidden it in.B BAnd then what3B )rawford said. and that 1 was trying to stash it away when she walked into the store. 16ll do it. 1’ll say 1 got flustered when she bought the book. C<on6t worry about it. of ourse you go out of business.B he said. )rawford. BAell. 16ll tell her it was mine.inger said. B8ow did you think this was going to end3B .
of course. And all the sho22ing bags had been em2tied of their merchandise. . (mily was under the desk. The 2ile of joints and dime bags in a 2ile behind the counter looked like the haul from a drug raid. stray joints and even a long-lost shoe bo$ stuffed with what would have been called dime bags back in the days when a dime was still a dime. clearing out a stash of alternative rolling 2a2ers that the store’s staff had considered over the years but decided against clear cellulose. There were. unbleached hem2 fiber.fift"#six #y the time they got to the store it was too late. molasses infused.
but in fact. and we didn’t onceHD 8er voice trailed off. C(mily. To think this has been back here all this time.D )rawford did as he was told. sur2rised. And 2ull u2 a chair. CAe’re closed.C=ock the door behind you. She was leading u2 to some kind of conclusion about what was going on at the <ragon. They hadn6t had time to 2re2are a back-u2 story if . (mily emerged from under the desk with her 2ile of contraband. )rawford. C=ook at this.D she said. =ewis 2ut a hand on her shoulder. That’s why we’re here. 4either . she didn6t know what to conclude. which she dum2ed on the counter.D =ewis said.inger looked at each other.inger’s e$cuse failed. CIesus )hrist.D )rawford and . =et them talk.
And when he got nervous. . that’s what ha22ened. so outraged that he forgot to 2lay it cool. So maybe this is something like that. and it turns out that it6s one or two em2loyees who always work on Friday night when the manager is off-duty. B=ook. So they sat in silence a little longer than they 2robably should have. he talked. yeah. and they weren6t sure what kind of 2lausible lie the other would be willing to back u2. so you guys ---B C"h. After Sy died. you hear in the news about some fast food restaurant that gets busted for selling drugs out the drive-through window. Their silence made =ewis nervous.one of them wanted to lead off with the truth. there wasn6t really anybody around watching the store.D )rawford said.
inger on the other. Sto2 it. Ahat utter misery.inger sighed and rolled her eyes and told them the whole story the gradual dro2-off in sales7 the way the culture suddenly turned a corner after the introduction of the . She wanted des2erately to get through this conversation and crawl into her own bed. Finally . .D (mily’s slee2less night was catching u2 with her.i5mo and books went e$tinct 0uicker than ty2ewriters did7 the <ragon’s fearful lurch from faltering but solvent bookstore to re2ository of unwanted books. e$ce2t that her bed was still in the truck. C)rawford. Ahat did ha22en3D They stared each other down. =ewis and (mily on one side of the counter and )rawford and .CAe just couldn’t wait to get rid of Sy so we could start our little drug dealing o2eration.
we didn6t even know what was going on.B )rawford said. This thing was just cra5y enough to . BAe didn6t decide. The first time he sold somebody a book and a joint. you 2ick out a book in the right 2rice range.D )rawford said. Sy was always taking 2eo2le into the back room or walking around the block with them.D CSoHyou decided toHD =ewis was trying to move this along. we take care of you right here at the counter. Ae were like a book or2hanage. BAt first. #ut somehow word got out. CSy couldn’t turn them away. :ou come in.B (mily had forgotten her anger and her e$haustion. it was kind of a joke.CThis is where books came to die.
intrigue her.D )rawford said. 4obody forces you to 2ay five bucks for a cu2 of coffee.ost 2eo2le just know. BSo.B B!eo2le don6t mind that3 They never com2lain about what they’re getting for their money3D (mily said.o somewhere else if you don’t like it. . C4ever.this is the retail 2rice. Cthis is the only 2lace you can get (dith’s 2ot. C(verybody calls it the Starbucks 2rice. really e$2ensive.D .D .inger said.B C#esides. 1t6s kind of like --.inger said. how do 2eo2le know how much to 2ay3B B. BAe are e$2ensive.B . you know3 This is the 2rice you 2ay if you don6t want any hassle and you don6t want to buy from some guy on the street.
B )rawford said like a lawyer who didn6t want his client interrogated anymore. She knows this thing is over.C(dithKD =ewis said. 8alf of (ureka was going to end u2 in jail if she didn6t shut u2. C(dith is involved in this3D )rawford shot an angry glance at . "r better yet. CThat’s the 2art 1 wasn’t su22osed to say anything about. e$amining them the way you6d look at .D she said.inger.D B=ook. don6t. looking down at her hands.B =ewis ste22ed out from behind the counter and walked a half circle around )rawford and . which were 2icking nervously at each other. BTalk to (dith yourself.inger. we6re done with this. C"h.
D =ewis said. That6s a 2ound. looking mostly at his feet. Finally he sto22ed and looked u2. are they3B . C8e wanted to leave them here.e$otic animals in a cage. BAhat6s he going to do with a bunch of encyclo2edias3B BAnd all those cou2les who come in on Friday night and get a 2a2erback before dinner3B BThat6s a joint.B =ewis walked a cou2le more half circles around them. almost to himself. BThese 2eo2le aren6t actually reading the books. B:eah.B BAnd he didn6t want to take the encyclo2edias home. BSo. the kid who came in and bought the encyclo2edia set for three thousand dollars3B )rawford grimaced and rubbed his forehead.D )rawford shrugged.
And then you showed u2 and we didn’t know what would ha22en if we told you. 2ounding her hands on the counter. #esides. BSome of our regulars buy the same books over and over.B CSo how long were you 2lanning on kee2ing this u23B (mily said. C!ay attentionKD C1 am 2aying attention.inger said.B4o. =ewisKB (mily said. #illy .ost 2eo2le bring them back after a while.B )rawford said.B . C1t took so long to find the will. forgetting that she wasn6t su22osed to be talking. 1 meanHthey just take them home andHwhat3 !ut them on a shelf3D B. so we just got used to running the store the way it had always run. B1 don’t know.
D . with the unnatural calm of someone whose fate was already decided. CThe lawyer kne!3D CAell.inger.D said . C(verybody knew about it.thought that as long as the store was making moneyHB B#illy <alton knew about this3B =ewis said. ($ce2t you.
8e didn6t remember getting back to his hotel room after yet another dinner in the bar the night before. em2ty coffee cu2s and 2i55a bo$es on every surface. The 2lace was a disaster clothes strewn across the floor. An irrational craving for fruit forced him to sit u2 in bed and consider 2ulling himself . 8e could only imagine what his friends in =ouisville would say if they could see him living like this. 1t was time to wra2 things u2 and go home. and a do5en 2ot 2lants sitting on a windowsill.fift"#seven Richmond awoke with a sour stomach and a tongue covered in moss.
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. 8is colleagues at Sumner were working 0uickly while the . The fruit was not nearly as satisfying as he e$2ected it to be. (very cell in his body was de2leted and dehydrated. 1n a few minutes he was u2 and showered and on his way downstairs. but he had been dreaming of strawberries and 2inea22les and melons. a 2iece of toast. 8e checked his e-mail while he ate. coffee --.just thinking about it made him feel more human. A 2late of fruit. Richmond wasn6t much of a fruit eater normally.together before they closed the breakfast buffet downstairs.
. Richmond6s boss Tom called the conce2t a CcafW-meets-brew2ub model. There would be a smoke sho2 in the corner.D a more res2ectable version of an Amsterdam coffeehouse.legislative team 2aved the way for )ongress to take action. the research division was 0uietly getting strains ready for 2atent. and a 2ub serving a mildly herbal macaroni and cheese. The idea was to a22eal to wellheeled #aby #oomers who were all too willing to revert to their old habits in a more legitimate and better-lit environment.eanwhile. a committee of retail consultants and marketing gurus were 2utting conce2tual drawings and business 2lans together for a chain of retail outlets. a bakery selling the usual brownies and cookies. and other reci2es under develo2ment back . a meatball sub.
The 8umboldt location --.which would anchor =e$ Trevino6s new develo2ment -. A fau$ backstory would be written about the chain’s humble origins. a decision that had been u2 in the air until Tom’s e-mail made it official it this morning. 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. And the first of those cafW-meets-brew2ubs would o2en here in 8umboldt )ounty. but the marketing team e$2ected it to take on an im2ortant symbolic role as the flagshi2 store. grainy black-and-white 2hotogra2hs would be taken.in a rented test kitchen in =ouisville. and the fictional .would not be their largest outlet or their most 2rofitable.
So Richmond had his orders from =ouisville wra2 u2 a few details with =e$. As he drove to (dith’s. 8e would 2ack a lunch. Today he was going to go to her house and cam2 out on her 2orch if he had to.com2any founder would 2romise to remain true to his 8umboldt roots. get those 2lants from (dith. The . he wondered how far he would be willing to go to get the 2lants. 8e would s2end the day. 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. and book a flight back to Lentucky. #ut nobody seemed to know where this woman was.
something com2letely different from the overbred and overhy2ed strains the indoor growers had been breeding. 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. #ut really.e$ecutives at Sumner had come to believe that (dith was in 2ossession of some e$traordinarily marketable strain. The fact that her 2lants survived outside also intrigued Sumner6s agricultural scientists.
8e would try one more time with (dith. and even that was ditchweed that couldn’t get a jaybird high. selling cigarettes to smokers. 8e signed on for a nice desk job in =ouisville. A car and a moving van were 2arked in (dith6s driveway and he got there. 8e wasn6t cut out to be a drug dealer. . !oint is. 8e 2ulled 0uickly 2ast it and drove down the hill to 2ark alongside the road.The truth was that Richmond didn6t have the stomach for intimidating old ladies or sneaking around on wooded lots. Aas (dith moving3 This might be his last chance. 8ell. he hadn6t even smoked 2ot since he was in high school. and then he was heading home. he didn’t belong in the middle of this mess.
"n the other side. and it was an angry confrontation. 8e stood and listened for a minute. he could see an e$2anse of unmown grass and a long hedge beyond it. near where he 2arked the car. 8e could not make out what they were saying. The voices seem to be coming from the other side of the hedge. #efore he got to the driveway. . And so he went back down the hill. sto22ing every minute or two to listen to those voices rise and fall. 8e ti2toed 2ast his car and finally found an o2ening in the bramble he thought he could sli2 through. but there was at least one man and one woman.Richmond followed a tangle of blackberry vines back u2 the hill. They were outside and down the hill. carefully. 0uietly. he heard voices.
There was an enormous holly tree halfway between where he was hiding in where the voices were coming from. too low for him to hear. and stood in the dwindling late morning shadows. CAnd you were going to let this go on for how long3D said the man. listening. Another woman6s voice followed.B came a 0uiet but clear voice. B1 told you.8e sli22ed through the blackberry vines. BThis is it. . 1 don6t have anything left to 2lant.B That had to be (dith. 8e decided to take a risk and get closer. he ste22ed carefully to avoid sna22ing a twig or crunching dead leaves. 16m done. 8is heart 2ounding as he walked. suffering only a few scratches.
B the man said. he wondered how this situation would . he figured. must surround (dith6s garden. As he crossed the field and ducked under the hedge that.1 wish we didn6t even kno! about this.B the first woman said irritably. B4ot only do 1 not think we should own this --.B said the man. Ae could all go to jail for this thing. 8e had to get closer.B B4obody is going to jail. B<o you want to see the rest of the 2lants or not3B B.BAell.ight as well. that6s an understatement. Richmond stood u2 so 0uickly that the to2 of his head was im2aled by the shar2 s2ines of the leaves of the holly tree. Aere they coming this way3 8e listened as the footste2s traveled down the hill and away from him. (mily.
su22osedly the most marijuanafriendly county in the country. #ut he wasn6t in =ouisville.look to law enforcement. So who could say what might . They were on friendly terms with the =ouisville !olice <e2artment. #ut when the feds brought their cho22ers in for a raid. 8e was in 8umboldt. Sumner had been ac0uiring marijuana strains and 2ro2agating them in greenhouses alongside tobacco 2lants for over a year now. !eo2le around the office had grown 2retty cavalier about the whole thing. they e$2ected coo2eration from local 2olice and they usually got it. and the cor2orate attorneys were always ready to arrange bail and craft a 2lausible e$2lanation if anyone was discovered around an illegal 2lant.
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. There had to be a gate somewhere. 4othing could get through it. 2ainful mess. never 0uite feeling that he had turned a corner or reached the other side. 1t curved so gradually that he had no real sense of how large this garden might be.ha22en if he was caught sneaking around one of 8umboldt6s most notorious outdoor grows3 The voices inside the garden had faded com2letely. . Richmond cre2t around the hedge. And then he reali5ed that he couldn’t see the way back to the car.
he thought. like a tele2hone 2ole or even an overturned log. C16m not saying we should become 2ot growers. CThese 2lants are kind of fascinating. And there’s something about this garden-. who he had seen in the store from time to time. CAhat3D (mily said. They were checking out their su22lier. 4ow it was starting to make sense.D came a woman’s voice. :ou don6t e$2ect to see . Anyone else would have 2icked a landmark. before setting out like this. 16m just saying it’s kind of interesting. Richmond reali5ed that the voices belonged to (mily and =ewis. rising out of nowhere and cutting off Richmond’s thoughts.Ahat an idiot.D C(milyKD said the man. #ut heH C1 have to admit.
1 like to mess around in a garden. it gets boring.B said the woman Richmond had identified as (dith. we only started with one or two 2lants. Things just sort of grew from there.marijuana growing in the garden like this. and if you6re just growing one 2lant over and over again in a garage under lights. Ahy do you do it this way3B B"h. 1t was easier to tuck them into the garden. C1t just wasn6t interesting to me any other way.B (dith said.D B1sn6t it harder to get them to grow outside like this3B (mily asked. Remember. it was really just an accident. with roses and a22le trees and all these other flowers around. 1t6s sunny and warm. and just high enough to sit . B4ot really. BAe have this interesting little microclimate right here.
CAell. 1 2ut a kind of cold frame around them. 8is way of kee2ing the store o2en after 2eo2le sto22ed buying books.D (dith said. walking into a store and just 2lacing their order3D CAe’ve got something nobody else has.B CSo here’s what 1 don’t understand. 1 usually 2ick a few 2lants to nurse through the winter. Ahy do 2eo2le come to you3 They can get it anywhere.D (mily said. a smile in her voice. CAhat3D .B CAnd it all goes to the <ragon. yes. right3 Aren’t they kind of e$2osed. C!ot’s 2ractically the state flower u2 here.above the fog. This was your uncle Sy’s idea. and it6s almost like they6re in a greenhouse.D =ewis said. of course.
B =ewis said.D CAhat do you mean. 1 don’t see why not. maybe even a different s2ecies. C8aven’t you tried it3D C4oKD (mily and =ewis shouted in unison.B (dith said.B =ewis said. BAe6re not the ones dealing drugs. Some 2eo2le think there’s also something about the soil u2 here or the way they’re allowed to grow. 1t’s an unusual strain. . :ou ever sell to kids3B B1 don6t sell to anybody. different3D =ewis asked. :ou should know what you’re destroying before you do it.CThese 2lants.B B:ou make it sound like we6re the bad guys. CAell. #ut this is a really different 2roduct. :ou6re just the gardener. B:eah. that6s right.
=et6s go. but don’t take it out on me. <on’t worry. BAll right.D C#utHwhat’s going to ha22en to thisH 2lace3D (mily asked.D (dith said. Richmond could hear her walking away. 1’m 2acking u2. That’s enough.D Richmond listened as they scrambled u2 the hill toward what must be the entrance to the garden. C:ou mean--D C"h. C1’ll get rid of all the offensive 2lants before 1 go. 1f (dith was really 2lanning on getting .(dith sighed. <o whatever you’re going to do. C1t’s yours now. lord.D C=ook. and that’s fine.D (dith said. 1HD C=ewis3 :ou’re u2set. :ou two are the ones calling the shots here.
They chattered and scolded him and landed a few yards away. although from the tone in her voice he didn’t think she’d be interested in striking a deal with a stranger. 8e continued to inch around the hedge. 8e watched them jockey for 2osition among the bramble and . he could come back tonight and take some 2lants. As he moved he startled a flock of s2arrows that had settled into the shrubs. guaranteeing that he would only disturb them again. 8e could try to get (dith alone and make her an offer. he didn6t have much time. There was no noise from inside.rid of the 2lants. And sneaking into the garden while =ewis and (mily were around seemed like too much of a risk. 1f he could just find the entrance in the daylight.
BIust a little di55y is all. A few of them fi$ed their bright black eyes on him.B =ewis shouted back.B (dith said in a firmer voice. but she sounded weak. B(dith fell. a slight woman with short grey hair in comfortable disarray.B Richmond heard someone fumbling with a latch just u2 the hill from him. B16m fine. 8e watched as (dith. )omes and goes.2reen their tiny feathers. Iust then he heard =ewis’s voice. 8e dro22ed to his knees and ducked into the shrubs. from some distance.D C1’m all right. closer than he e$2ected and 2lainly irritated.D (dith said. C(dithK Aatch out. walked u2 the hill and . BAhat ha22ened3B shouted (mily.
that they would never fit in here. 1n fact. both (mily and =ewis looked so comfortably middle-class and res2ectable that even Richmond could see. She held on to =ewis as she walked. (dith looked like a wild bird caught between them. after only a short time in 8umboldt )ounty. . 1n his carefullyironed khaki 2ants and navy blue sweater.back to the house with (mily and =ewis. he looked like he could have been her beloved grandson home on a break from medical school.
D they told 2eo2le as . figuring that it was one way to make sure they got a final 2aycheck. )rawford and .fift"#ei ht 1t didn’t take long for word to get around that the <ragon had been busted by its new owners. but by the afternoon they were making it clear that they were sold out 2ermanently. CAe’re done. A cou2le of regular customers had seen (mily and =ewis storm out of the store7 they came in and tried to make one last 2urchase before o2erations were shut down for good.inger sold the last of what they had in the store to a few long-time customers.
:ou want to buy something. so really. #illy <alton decided that the wisest course of action would be to sto2 answering his 2hone. . =ewis was calling every cou2le of hours.the news s2read. why bother3 #esides. his ne$t client might just be himself. no one would bother showing u2 to govern. 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. C1t’s over. Aithout it.D 4obody did. but his fees for handling Sy’s will would get him by for a while. buy a book. 8e knew he should drum u2 a few new clients.uillermo told him he’d seen an angry . which was fine with him because. as he liked to say. local government is nothing but a conflict of interests.
confrontation at the store. drunk driving charges. The mayor’s daughter’s e$-boyfriends gets into a dis2ute with . and he almost made it. and =ewis and (mily were finding out what it would take to kee2 their million-dollar bookstore in business. !robate was always easy in a town this si5e. Iudges lined u2 for the chance to handle a nice dry financial transaction instead of another day of messy child custody hearings. all of which involved the same 2otent brew of downand-out 2etty criminals with distant ties to 8umboldt’s 2ower elite. #illy had ho2ed he would get out of this relationshi2 with =ewis and (mily before they discovered that they had unwittingly become drug dealers instead of booksellers. #y now the whole thing had blown u2. and minor thefts.
Aith any luck. #illy wouldn’t see or hear from the heirs until it was all over. 4e$t to losing Sy. the ra2idly-dwindling bank accountHit would all be officially theirs as soon as the 2a2erwork finished snaking its way through the courthouse. the disa22earance of (dith6s sweet herb from his daily routine would surely be one of the major tragedies of his life. #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. That sort of thing. a genuine slum lord who ha22ens to have a brother on the 2lanning commission. #y com2arison. The business. a clean and easy will was a joy.his landlord. the 2ro2erty. So the work on the will was nearly com2lete. 8e had other .
he had re2resented half the growers in town at one time or another -. forcing him to become a common drug dealer. a funhouse of creativity and color that left nothing behind but mild elation. 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. 1n his worst moments. on the other hand. Sy used to com2lain that the death of the book had thrown him from the lofty 2ost of bookseller. . (dith.sources. 1t made 2eo2le feel light and bright and beautiful. had 2roduced a botanical wonder. of course -.but the tri2le-crossed hydro strains they grew induced levels of hallucination and 2aranoia that should never be inflicted u2on an attorney.
D CAhere are they3D #illy asked.uillermo was dum2ing coffee grounds into a recycling bin in the alley7 without looking u2. C1 think you’re clear. giving the <ragon a wide berth and sli22ing into the back door of )ontra )offee.D #illy followed . he said. C!robably back at the house yelling at (dith. :ou mean--D .D CShit.uillermo said with a hint of irritation. #illy walked to "ld Town.After taking care of a cou2le of details at the courthouse. C1 think we’re done with business as usual. . C1s it business as usual over there3D C4o.D .uillermo inside and 2oured himself a cu2 of coffee behind the counter. it is not business as usual.
fishing a cou2le bucks out of his 2ocket and swa22ing them for a scone from the 2latter on the counter.D #illy said. C:ou’re the store’s lawyer. 2lease. C<on’t you care what ha22ens to the store3D . or so they claim. )ouldn’t you have 2rotected them3 Aho knows what those kids are going to do3D C1 am not their lawyer. After everything they’ve been through. "r maybe they took it home as severance 2ay.D .uillermo said.CThey’re sold out. :ou’re in no 2lace to critici5e them. #illy.D CAhat does this have to do with me3D C:ou’re their lawyer.D CThey took it home3 They can’t do thatKD C"h.
uillermo laughed and 2ushed #illy out from behind the counter. . C<rug dealing. Through the storefront’s wavy glass they looked as though they had been sus2ended in amber.D .D #illy said. 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.oney laundering.inger standing 2erfectly still behind the counter. 1 shouldn’t even be seen in that 2lace. . Ta$ evasion. 8e could see )rawford and .C=et’s see.
something she didn’t think he was ca2able of. everyone has an ugly side. Ahat unsettled (dith the most was his res2onse to her garden. to ever kick u2 much of a fuss over the <ragon’s agricultural enter2rise. Then again. . =ewis had left in a rage. but she never e$2ected such fury from him.fift"#nine (dith sat. She knew he wouldn’t a22rove of it. too ha2less. !ush a 2erson far enough. She hadn6t let many 2eo2le inside over the years. shaking. on her front 2orch. Ahen she first met him she thought he was too docile. but when she did. and they will let you see it.
with its sticky buds and dee2 2ur2le veins. and even the least horticulturally-minded visitor would be entranced. They were -. #ut not =ewis.they usually res2onded the way #illy did.well. the e$otic fuchsias ri2ening into luscious dark hi2s that were sweet enough to eat. Tro2ical flowers were so out of 2lace here that they looked almost 2sychedelic. fleshy stalks of cannabis as if they were . the grassy dierama s2routing wands of 2ink 2endulous blooms. The bright 2ur2le tibouchina with its magenta stamens. The giant monkey 2u55le tree in the center. there6s no better word for it V into$icated. a re2tilian conifer from the age of dinosaurs that became a 9ictorian curiosity. Add to that the s2ectacle of this forbidden 2lant. 8e backed away from the tall.
like honey7 you could almost taste it.onarchs. not the . A chorus of tiny was2s and dragonflies bu55ed through the tall grass. attacking back and getting even more ensnared rather than delicately 2ulling himself away. The western 2ainted ladies had just recently arrived. but as a kind of botanical cons2iracy 2er2etrated u2on him by everyone at the <ragon.2oison. smaller and less showy than . but that made them seem tougher. S2iders terrified him7 dirt offended him. 1t was an es2ecially fine day to be out on the hillto2 where (dith’s cottage sat. Their wings were sturdy and functional. 8e seemed to regard the garden not as her creation. somehow. The air was warm and sweet and faintly golden. 8e got tangled in a floribunda and swatted at it.
slee2y and startled.onarchs from here to . "n a day like today Sy would leave the store in the hands of his em2loyees and sit right here with her. "nce they’d made love right there on the 2orch. which was. (ventually he’d take her hand and 2ull her to her feet. from a ga2 under the 2orch ste2s. . a 2retense for something far more interesting. saying nothing. but in the middle of it they had a feeling of being watched.e$ico. just watching the light move across the roofline of his house. of course.elegant and fragile 2anes of stained glass that trans2orted . just where (dith was sitting now. leading her inside for a na2. The four of them had emerged. and stood fro5en in 2lace. watching Sy and (dith from not ten feet away. They had disturbed a family of skunks slee2ing under the 2orch.
Sy seemed like the kind of man who would never die. Some of them even s2oke about their 2lans for widowhood. wondering aloud whether they would 2refer to be close to the grandchildren in !hoeni$. These women saw their husbands as 2rojects. and if the daughter in Seattle would mind a long visit in the summer to get away from the heat. So many of the women her age e$2ected to outlive their husbands. old fi$er-u22ers held together with wire and ta2e but not e$2ected to last.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. .
The collection of outbuildings he’d assembled on his 2ro2erty functioned as a kind of home for wayward youth.Sy was never like that7 he was salty and tenacious. he hung out with skateboarders and back2ackers and surfers. (dith e$2ected the world to sto2 turning when Sy died. that the sun would rise and . 1t seemed im2ossible that time could just move on. and s2irited like a teenager. and nothing that absolutely had to be done. 8e 2referred the com2any of kids he knew what music they were listening to. settling into bartending gigs or auto re2air work and acce2ting Sy’s vision of the world that there was no one to 2lease but themselves. he went to their art o2enings in a warehouse at the edge of town. They grew into wayward adults.
And in a few weeks. too. The 2lants had to go by the end of the day. and ste22ing carefully around the holes Sy left in her world as if he might be back anytime to fill them u2 again. a farm hand3Hbut soon she succumbed to the rhythm of her old life. she would need to be out. that 2eo2le would get u2 in the morning and make the bed and go to work as if nothing had ha22ened. .set. 2utting as many of the 2ieces back into 2lace as 2ossible. nervously. a week or so after Sy’s death and asked if there would be any more 2roduct. She didn’t even reali5e that the <ragon had continued to o2erate until )rawford had called. #ut she could hold a 2lace for him no longer. At first she was outragedHwhat did they think she was.
She knew she should eat something before she went back to the garden. Rather than choke down a miserable little sandwich in her kitchen.The trembling in her hands hadn’t sto22ed. She’d 2ull them out with her bare hands. 4ever mind. #ut 2utting it off would only make her feel worse. She was almost to the garden’s gate when she reali5ed that she didn’t have any tools with her. 8e’d worked himself into a full-blown 2anic at . sixt" (mily refused to let =ewis drive. she scoo2ed a handful of trail mi$ out of a bag in the 2antry and ate it as she went back down the hill.
’ She laughed and turned to stare at him. C1 can’t believe 1 0uit my job. CThat’s what you’re worried about3 :our job3 :ou can get another job. Finally he lifted his head and s2oke. 8e was sitting with his head in his hands. =ewis. She backed out of the driveway and headed into town. She was afraid to touch him. he left one of those take-thisjob-and-shove-it messages that every em2loyee . but then she reali5ed that taking him back to the bookstore might not be the wisest move.D =ewis hadn’t told (mily that he when he 0uit by voice mail.(dith’s garden. :ou can 2robably get your old job back. and she didn’t trust him behind the wheel. e$haling loudly every few seconds the way a horse snorts in frustration through its nostrils.
D (mily asked. 1 don’t think 1 can go back.fantasi5es about. justHthe whole lea2. . 1t’s everything. CAhat3 At the <ragon3D C:es. #ut never mind7 the 2oint was that he could. even if we can’t use it to 2ay our credit cards and all that.D . #ut we can’t stay here. or you just do what you were 2lanning on doing. of course. the a2artment. we’ve got to do something. C1t’s not just that. get another job. #ut either we go back to the #ay Area and get to work. :ou’re out of a job.aybe the contractors will take cash. )lean it u2 and run it like a bookstore. That cash will smooth things over. The job. and we’ve got bills to 2ay. 1’ve already lost a cou2le of clients.D BAell. 1 don’t know. at the <ragon. =ewis.
CAhat3 (mily. 1t is not a bookstore.D 8e dro22ed his head back into his hands. C1t hasn’t been a bookstore in years.D They drove along in silence for a minute. The stretch of land between (ureka and the hills behind it had its own odd a22eal there was a feed store that sold baby chicks and ducklings in s2ring, a western wear and tackle sho2, a bait stand, and a dingy bar called the Road 8ouse that looked inviting in the way that a worn-down bar could. 1t seemed to offer u2 the 2ossibility of dro22ing out of life and taking u2 a regular s2ot in the corner, no 0uestions asked. :ou could 2robably smoke in there, =ewis thought, although he’d only smoked four cigarettes in his life and had never been tem2ted to smoke a fifth. 1t was the idea that a22ealed to him a 2lace
where nobody would sto2 you from wrecking yourself. ,ost of the homes out here were something between a farmhouse and a 2ostwar ranch house. The lots were large and uneven7 some yards held a horse or a donkey, others served as long-term R9 2arking for some relative who had 2ersuaded the family to let them 2ull around back and run some orange e$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
they used u2 all the air.2ollen. The leaves trembled on their stems. and then they were gone and there was nothing but sky. They blocked out the light. She fought for a breath but couldn’t get one. For a minute. 8er hands shook and lost their gri2. the 2lants were her whole world. .
1nching his way slowly around the garden. but he didn’t dare go in. 8e waited for what seemed like a very long time before he moved. #esides. This is what he came here to do. which was almost hidden by brush. (dith could be back any time. 1f =ewis and (mily were 2utting her out of business. so he might as well get it over with. maybe she would be ready to entertain .sixt"#three Richmond saw no reason to go back to his car em2ty-handed. he came at last to the gate. 8e listened as (mily and =ewis took leave of (dith and drove away. he should at least try to talk to her first. 4o sound came from the to2 of the hill.
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. 1t seemed to take an eternity to get back to the gate. That 2ost would be easy to s2ot . if he could find a way to a22roach without making it look as though he was sneaking u2 on her. The corner of (dith’s cottage came into view. 1t would be a good time to talk to her. . and then he could see her there. sitting on her front 2orch.an offer. staring at the grass. 8e could have cash by the end of the day. afraid that any sound he made would carry on such a still and 0uiet day. 8e moved slowly again.aybe he should make his way back to the car and 2ull into the driveway.
Richmond wondered why he. SomeoneHit must be (dithH walked down the hill and 2ushed the gate o2en. 8e ke2t moving. of all 2eo2le. 1t would guide him back to the gate if he was in a hurry. For the hundredth time. 4o sur2rises. 8e heard it clang shut behind her. Aas she 2ulling out 2lants already3 8e had to move.again. just walk in and announce yourself. no intrusions. The thing to do would be to walk in like any other visitor and call out her name. retracing his ste2s and 2ausing just outside the gate to listen for her. had been sent . #ack u2 the hill he went. Richmond stood at the gate and tried to collect himself. 8e could hear her rustling around. 8e was halfway back to his car when he heard footste2s.
8e could hear her tugging at 2lants and bashing them down. grabbed the 2lants. 8e couldn’t even get close to this woman. then turned and walked away again. 1nstead.aybe Sumner should have rounded u2 some hired thugs who could have come in under cover of darkness. She came straight to the gate with a 2ile of something. still gathering his resolveHhe reali5ed . he’d been here all this time and his nerve had failed him over and over. And now he had no choice but to march in and wrestle 2lants away from her. not that he had tried very hard. still nervous. 8er breath was high and ras2y7 the leaves shuffled like 2a2ers around her. .on this ridiculous mission. and gone. After several minutesHstill waiting.
She must have gone dee2er into the garden.he couldn’t hear her anymore. ducked under the thorny burgundy canes of a blackberry in fruit. 1t wasn’t a garden in any ordinary sense there was no lawn. Richmond thought about the e$2ansive estate gardens in =ouisville with their dee2 herbaceous borders flanking . no network of flagstone 2aths. 1f only Tom could see this. and no sense of order. no fountain or scul2ture or deck. lord. 8e didn’t even know how he would describe this 2lace to their cro2 scientists. At last he lifted the latch. 1f the rumors were true. and took a ste2 inside. and (dith’s sweet delicious cro2 was made all the more sweet and delicious by its unconventional surroundingsHthen Sumner didn’t stand a chance. "h.
This. 8e treaded carefully. #ut they would not be talked into turning their fields into a tro2ical wilderness like this one. Tobacco growers would be 2ersuaded to 2ut in cannabisHhell.wide swaths of neatly-mown bluegrass. not . following the foot2aths (dith had worn through the garden. #efore he went looking for her. 8e also bent down and scoo2ed a handful of soil into his 2ocket. There. was a jungle. by com2arison. their grandfathers had grown hem2 right through Aorld Aar 11. he sli22ed his 2hone out of his 2ocket and sna22ed a few 2ictures of the garden for Tom. There was no sign of (dith. they’d want to analy5e the nutrients in the soil and try to match them in the laboratory. 1f this was really the strain Sumner needed.
And then he saw another. <own the trail he saw a beefy. as 2ale and lim2 as wilted lettuce.far from the gate. was the 2ile of young 2lants she had ri22ed out. remembering that he had intended to announce himself at the gate. 1t looked like a cyclone had come through the garden and targeted only cannabis for its destruction.iss Ratner3 8elloKD The trail led him down to the bottom of the garden. She was ri22ing them out. but not u2rooted. C(dithKD he called. C. The 2lants his com2any was staking its future on. and here they were. And another. 1t was easy to follow the 2ath she had taken7 there were 2lants knocked down on both . si$-foot tall s2ecimen that had been knocked over and crushed.
Lentucky. ho2ing she was listening nearby. like the arms of an octo2us. my name is Richmond Tate. C. an illegal 2lant stood out.iss Ratner. C1’m from =ouisville. (ven in this overgrown tangle. 1 just want to talk. C(dithKD he called again. 1’ve come here with a business offer for you.iss Ratner3 8ello3D . 4o answer. and just a few healthier s2ecimens remained off in the distance. Ahere was she3 8e reali5ed that after all the time he’d s2ent lurking around this 2lace today.D he called. )ould she be out of earshot3 "r was she hiding3 C. Richmond could see the s2iky leaves from here. 1t seemed to stretch and move.sides.D 4othing. he still couldn’t tell how big her garden was.
.And then he saw her.
8e sat back on his heels and looked out at the botanical wonder around her the a22le tree bearing small. 8er cheek was as fragile as tissue. and the towering cannabis 2lants she had wrestled to the ground. but he could imagine that this would be how a gardener .sixt"#four The skin of a dead 2erson was more like the skin of an onion. unri2e fruit. the s2iky and surreal blossoms of the 2assionflower vine. Richmond was no gardener. bending over (dith as if she was a turtle shell or a butterfly wing. Richmond thought. some natural curiosity he had found in the grass. and already cold.
would want to go. against the living earth. 4ot alone by the side of the road. but here. . on a warm and fragrant afternoon. 4ot in a hos2ital. 4ot even in bed. 1t would be the middle of the night before Richmond would reali5e that he could have attem2ted to revive her. She seemed so still and so far away.
then he would have to flee with them. they would find the two of them here. 8e could carry her back to her house and leave the garden out of it. . surrounded by the evidence of her illegal activity. 1f he took the 2lants --. 1f he called the 2olice. #ut he6d seen enough crime shows to know that moving a body always looked sus2icious.sixt"#five (dith’s death 2osed a 2roblem for Richmond.which. after all. 8e couldn6t very well wait for the 2olice to show u2 when he had a car stuffed full of recently-harvested marijuana. were what he came here for --.
The 2lants wilted as he fretted and 2aced. but it didn6t make anything worse. either. and he ran. The cro2 was halfdestroyed.And there was no telling how much time he had before (mily and =ewis came back. Ahat Richmond did ne$t didn6t make anything better. There was no good way for this to end. (dith was already dead. . 8e grabbed all the marijuana he could carry.
and the an$iety would kill him long before the fiery crash over the Sierras. #ut 2ut a cou2le do5en ra2idly wilting marijuana 2lants in his carry-on bag.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. the 2ack-and-shi2 sho2 near the air2ort was staffed by college students who knew all about shi22ing live 2lants in unmarked . and it was only a matter of time before the one he boarded 2roved his 2oint. Fortunately. So at the last minute he had ignored Tom’s orders and shi22ed the 2lants back to =ouisville in their turkey bags.
C#low into the bag and then seal it u2. which would not be im2ossible to trace to Sumner. Tri2le-wra2 that shit. free of charge.D he said. They kid assured Richmond that such a small 0uantity might be confiscated. 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. CEse the 2rinter cubicle. So Richmond boarded his flight unencumbered by contraband and therefore slightly less afraid. but not investigated. but would at least re0uire some effort. :ou need another bag3D And he 2ulled a bo$ of turkey bags out from behind the counter and offered them. the kid behind the counter figured it out.bo$es. and he made it .
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 .
these 2eo2le she barely knew. . along with the enormous checks s2rinkled with silver glitter that she sometimes had to 2resent at community fundraisers. The )hamber 2roduced the same 2re2osterous red bows and oversi5ed gold scissors at every ribbon-cutting. She couldn6t 2ro2erly mourn her constituents. #ut funerals were worse. were further 2roof that her job carried all the weight of a school 2lay.sixt"#seven =e$6s least favorite official duties as a councilmember were ribbon-cutting ceremonies and funerals. Those 2ro2s. She shuddered when grieving family members handed her the micro2hone.
were so lost. There had been talk of holding the service at Sy’s 2lace. but =ewis and (mily felt it was too unkem2t. 2referring to kee2 her distance in case (dith6s secret garden was ever raided. to make sense of it.asking her to say a few words about the de2arted. as an elected leader. as a no-nonsense adult in a suit. She was a small town elected official. The . =e$ had not seen much of her in recent years. but 1 can6t fi$ this. #ut these 2eo2le --. she wanted to say. (dith6s funeral was 2articularly difficult. it didn6t seem right to invite 2eo2le to the scene of her mysterious death. and besides. 1 can fi$ a 2arking ticket. They looked out at her from the de2ths of their anger and confusion and e$2ected her. not a 2riest.these stricken 2arents and children and friends --.
and hel2ing themselves to the trays of refreshments as if it was an o2en house. but the doors remained unlocked. (ventually it was decided that The Firebreathing <ragon would be the most fitting 2lace to say farewell to (dith. The store was closed for the day. these two 2eo2le needed to get to know . the default location for memorials in town. was rejected as too sterile. A funeral was no 2lace to do business. browsing the books. 2icking u2 a 2rogram near the door. so the regular customers came and went anyway. but then again.community center at the marina. She saw <on )antrell walk in and shake =ewis’ hand before he headed for the food. Todd =arson walked in right behind him.
each other. C<on. BSo. <on straightened slightly and shook Todd6s hand.D she said. Todd wore khaki 2ants and a tucked-in shirt.D <on 2ressed his li2s together and nodded. he had the air of someone who wasn’t used to tucking in his shirt. in his best man-to-man voice. She hurried downstairs to make the introductions. 2atting Todd awkwardly on the back. 8e was one of those young men who never managed to look like an adult7 even now. CTodd’s going to be our 2roject manager. =e$3B . This is Todd. BAnd what 2roject would that be.D Todd said. C<on.D said =e$.
C. CAnd who’s our tenant3D C:ou remember our new friend Richmond3D CAhat.=e$ leaned over to whis2er to him. C:ou’re doing business with a tobacco com2any3 1 thought that guy was a botanist. The council is ready to move on the ne$t round of 2lans we submit.D . <on.D CAnd Todd hereQD C1s not going u2 for reelection ne$t year.D =e$ said.ot it. knocking a stack of books off the shelf he had been leaning against.D said <on. the tobacco e$ecutive3 8e’s going to sell cigarettes by the seashore3D Todd jum2ed. 16ve got financing and 16ve got a tenant. CAhat3D he hissed. BAe are on.
B Todd fumbled with the books.=e$ held u2 her hands. s2eaking with e$aggerated care as if she was talking to a five . BAhoa.D he said. looking for the em2ty s2ot on the shelf they must have occu2ied. There is not a brewery in town that will sign a five-year lease on a building that has not yet been built and 2ay !ortland rents for a (ureka location. CSo why did he want toHD B=isten to me. and then gave u2 and set them back on the floor. that’s all. This is a brew2ub.D BA brew2ub3B Todd said. BAith all the local breweries around here3 :ou’re going to bring in a national chain3D CTodd. Sumner owns a lot of different com2anies.B =e$ said. as if he didn’t 0uite buy it. C8uh.
C1 get it. <on3D <on gave =e$ another tight. 1 2ut the financing together. Ae6re even going to have lofts for artists.year-old. and you oversee the whole thing to make sure that the 2lans match u2 with what the 2eo2le who have the money want. 2ained smile and turned with Todd to look out the window toward the vacant waterfront. There will be lots of o22ortunities for local businesses on the waterfront. 1t seemed like everybody was learning how the world worked this week. .B Todd sighed. <on here draws u2 2lans. CAe each have our roles. Ahy don’t you tell him about the lofts. 1 justHB CTodd.
B =ewis looked u2 and saw that 2eo2le were watching him. and leaned over the counter. Ae6re in the middle of a ---B .a book about camels3B BStories.B =ewis re2eated. like. B:ou know. a kid6s book. feeling awkward and out of 2lace. oblivious to the event taking sha2e in the store. B<o you have any books on camels3B she asked =ewis.sixt"#ei ht As 2eo2le gathered for the memorial =ewis stood behind the counter. 1 like to read stories about camels. A woman walked in. we’re actually closed today. B)amels. or just --. B:ou mean.
=ewis followed her. BSorry. =ewis followed. Ae6ve got horses. but we6re closed today to 2ay res2ects to a friend of ours who has died. more to get her out of the store 0uickly than anything. ma6am. ratsHB B=et me see what you got on rats.B<on6t you have any animal stories3B The woman headed to the back of the store.B =ewis said. 1 don6t see camels. )rawford finally came to his assistance.B . B16m sorry. )rawford.B the woman said eagerly. giraffes. BAe do have a section on mammals. feeling like an idiot.B 8e took her by the elbow and steered her out the front door. 1 should6ve been able to handle that. B1t6s right here.
BAell.B B:ou mean ---B BThey were here to buy what we had to sell. so let me guess.what we have for sale. but they6re not really sure how it works. and they knew how it worked.B .B BAhat does that mean3B =ewis asked. She’s what your uncle Sy used to call our Ty2e Four customer.B =ewis said. BTy2e "ne was the customer who came in here and understood what was going on. and you6re not going to e$2lain it to them. BTy2e Two would be the 2eo2le who come in wanting to buy Vuh-.B B"kay.BForget it. folding his arms across his chest and leaning over to s2eak to =ewis in a low voice.B )rawford said.
BAnd Ty2e Three are the tourists who have no idea what6s going on. Ahich they 2robably won’t buy. .B BAell.B C)ra5y 2eo2le. BAhat3B B1 don6t know.CThat6s right. "rHno. e$actly. and they can6t believe they6re in an actual bookstore with actual books for sale.B BAnd then there’s Ty2e Four. 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. 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 )rawford said.
4ow that the truth had come out.D came a voice at the door.uillermo with another tray of cookies.aybe she just comes in here because we6re a ca2tive audience.B C#ehind you. 2eo2le were treating him like he was 2art of the family. . and we6re more or less obligated to go down that road with her. C#een 0uite a week for you. 2atting him on the back. She can6t very well go into a shoe store and strike u2 a conversation about camels. C=ewis.D =ewis made an uncomfortable half-smile and looked down at the floor.maybe that6s not right. #ut she comes in here. 4ever mind the fact that he had 2ut a halt to the <ragon’s nefarious . 8e set them on the counter and then joined =ewis and )rawford by the door.D . 1t was .uillermo said.
D CSo is this good-bye3D C4ot yet.D =ewis said. es2ecially now that (dith was gone and her cro2 was wrecked. and the realtor says it’ll sell a lot easier if we clear out all the books.D =ewis said.activities7 they always e$2ected him to do that. 1n s2ite of everything that had ha22ened. Ae have to do an earth0uake retrofit and fi$ the roof. CAell. it’sHwell. C1n light of everything that’s ha22ened. it’s been 0uite a summer. CThe house needs a lot of work. really. 1 guess so. C)rawford says you’re going to sell the 2lace3D . C:eah.D =ewis said. 4ot that there was any alternative.uillermo said. soQD 8e didn’t look at )rawford as he said that. he still felt like .
C1t’s a little bit of a risk.uillermo. 2ro2 money3D . CAell. #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 Aith that he laughed and 2ounded =ewis on the back again and walked u2stairs to the me55anine. not really. where #illy was hel2ing =e$ gather the s2eakers who had volunteered to eulogi5e (dith.D said . CAow. 1 guess you could always s2end the 2ro2 money.he was letting )rawford down by closing the store.uillermo said. not wanting to mention the cash they’d found at the house. CAhat does he mean. Sy didn’t leave much cash. did he3D C4o. =ewis turned to )rawford. CSounds e$2ensive.D .D =ewis said.D C8uh.
D CSo he also collected the fake money they use in films. They’re all over the house. C:ou know. 1t’s kind of an underground thing to collect.C"h. because technically. they’re counterfeit bills. right3 They use this fake cash called 2ro2 money.D CRight. you haven’t found it3D )rawford asked. when 2ro2 money gets scattered all over the road 2eo2le will actually 2ick it u2 and try to s2end it. your uncle Sy collected movie 2ro2s. Sy got a big kick out of hiding itHD . :ou know those scenes in action movies where the armored truck gets blown u2 and the money goes everywhere3 Aell. :ou knowHa guy o2ens a briefcase full of cashHit’s not real money.
D she said. CThere is no money. C4o money. "ne of them had to be (mily’s.#ut =ewis left before he could finish. CFriends and family. C4one of it’s real. leaning against her so hard that she staggered back. knocking over a shelf of military history.D he re2eated. the faces swimming around him.D he whis2ered. C=et’s begin.D Iust then =e$ Trevino’s voice floated down from the me55anine. 8e walked through the crowd.D . Finally he found her in a corner talking with one of Sy’s former tenants.
sorting the recycling and hauling the garbage into the alley. . =ewis slum2ed in a chair behind the counter. BAre you talking about the money or the bookstore3B . B1t never occurred to me that you would think all that was real. BAe should have told you. (mily had gone for a walk. which really meant that she wanted to get out of the store before she said something she regretted.B =ewis lifted his head.B )rawford said.sixt"#nine After the service. )rawford stood around nervously.inger was in the back.
D #ut he couldn’t think. but you6re right. B:eah. 1t wasn6t fair to you.B he said. BAgain. really.B )rawford said. C<on’t. B1 cannot believe 1 managed to get myself into so much trouble in such a short 2eriod of time. IustHjust let me think. but at some middle 2oint in the air between them. 1 was talking about the money. 8e had to cover 2ayroll. the <ragon’s sales ta$ 2ayments were 2ast-due.BAell. 8e owed everyone money. re2laying the events of the last several weeks. 1f we had any idea you were racking u2 bills and 2aying contractors ---B C)rawford.D =ewis was looking not at )rawford. Ae should never have ke2t any of it from you. 8e was in a da5e.D =ewis said. really sorry about that. he owed <on . shaking his head.
for the first time. A building that was falling a2art. the water stains around the windows. That 8emingway that (mily had given3 8e hadn’t even looked at it.)antrell moneyHand what did he have3 A bookstore that didn’t make sell books. The miserable truth was that =ewis’s coach was turning back into a 2um2kin. he could see how decre2it the 2lace really was the 2eeling 2aint. 1n another . (mily was rightHhe 2robably could get his old job back. 4ow. The da55ling and 2romising new life he had fashioned for himself was over. the sagging shelves groaning under the weight of books that no one wanted. A briefcase full of fake cash and a ma$ed-out credit card. (ven =ewis didn’t want them.
=ewis was already imagining the story he would tell re2orters. salvaging libraries and rescuing books that would otherwise have gone to the dum2. 8is beloved uncle Sy had 2oured his life into this bookstore. or one just like it. And the <ragon would not be one of the last surviving bookstores in America anymore. to kee2 the <ragon going against all odds. they could be back in their a2artment. but it was sim2ly not 2ossible. The building was run down. They’d be a little dee2er in debt. and they’d have this story between themHthis interval of time in which their lives went right off the rails. =ewis had ho2ed to kee2 his memory alive. the store hadn’t made .month. 8e was a man of another time. but otherwise unhurt. The man had been a ho2eless literary romantic.
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. #ut in the . #ut Encle Sy was a man with big dreams. That million-dollar ledger showing a history of record-breaking sales3 All a figment of an old man’s imagination. =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. She was the one who discovered (dith’s body at the bottom of the garden. (mily. and we can all learn from that. 1t was all very sad. Ahere !as (mily3 8e wouldn’t be sur2rised if she didn’t come back at all.any money in years.
She’d gone down to the garden. and their drive u2 the coast. light as a leaf and covered in dew. their confrontation in the garden earlier today.morning (mily wanted to find (dith and make sure she was all right. and following the trail of destruction straight down to the bottom of the hill. (mily had been entirely forthcoming. There was (dith. all of . telling them the story of their recent discovery about the <ragon. calling (dith’s name as she went. and offer to let her stay until she and =ewis sold the house. The 2olice found no evidence that (dith had been murdered or even startled by an intruder. which they were able to confirm later with credit card recei2ts at a gas station and at a restaurant in Trinidad. not that they looked very hard. 4one of this came as a sur2rise to the officers.
whom had known about (dith’s legendary cro2 and the real source of the <ragon’s 2rofits. against the <ragon. for that matter. had 2ractically begged them to file chargesHagainst him as (dith’s landlord. They took a mild. anything. 8e didn’t bother correcting them about the grandson 2art. =ewis. or their grandsons. 8e let them finish their 2a2erwork and hel2ed the ambulance driver find . This elicited a laugh from the officers. They were so clearly uninterested in finding a crime at the scene of (dith’s death. who assured =ewis that they had more im2ortant things to do than go after little old ladies with herb gardens. des2erate and terrified. 2rofessional interest in the garden. having seen every kind of grow o2 but this over the years.
She blamed herself anyway. #ut the coroner refused to go along with that. (mily didn6t care that she hadn’t been im2licated. Surely the stress must6ve triggered the attack. it needed a . who also had no interest in blaming (mily or =ewis.a flat s2ot to 2ark near the garden so the little wheeled cart wouldn’t have far to go. according to the coroner. that6s all. She had hardly s2oken to =ewis since (dith6s death. and 2our a new driveway. cut the grass. 1f they were going to sell the house. had been engaging contractors. to clear brush. She. Surely they were to blame for this somehow. immersing herself in the task of cleaning out (dith6s cottage and getting Sy’s house fi$ed u2. (dith had a heart attack. She had a weak heart and she overe$erted herself. too.
C)rawford. tell her to wait for me. 8e looked around for )rawford. =ewis could almost believe that his uncle Sy was 2laying a joke on him from the grave. Ahat a ridiculous situation. ho2ing it was . 8e 2ulled the 2hone out of his 2ocket. who had wandered off to hel2 . C1’m going to look for (mily.new roof. a real heating systemHany number of e$2ensive renovations for which estimates were arriving daily. And now those contractors would have to be 2aid with something other than Sy’s fake money.D he called.inger with the clean-u2. 1f she comes back here. his 2hone bu55ed.D @ As he left the store.
Aait. C=ewis. 8ave you got a minute3D . 1’m the )(" of 4ile. it is.D "h. CAhat3D he said.her. 8e was in no mood for more jokes. who is this3D C=ewis. this is . im2atient to get rid of this unwanted caller. 1’ve been trying to reach you all week. Ahat is it3D =ewis said. C:es. but it was the same unfamiliar number he’d been ignoring every day since (dith died. CSeriously.a$ine Rogers. CAhHis this =ewis 8artman3D came a woman’s voice.com. 2lease.
B4ot just one. Aith. 8e couldn6t talk her into dinner out.sevent" BSo you6re saying that 4ile. 2icking the rubbery canned mushrooms off her 2i55a. books.B said =ewis. B<oes she remember that her com2any is the one that 2retty much did away with books3D . BActual bookstores. but she had agreed. to sit on the floor in Sy’s living room and s2lit a 2i55a and a bottle of wine with him. reluctantly. like.B (mily said.com wants to o2en a bookstore. A whole bunch of them.B BThat6s the idea.B =ewis said.
She says that sales of e-books are offVD C"ff3D (mily said. C<id you tell her that3D . C<own. everything. She wants to re2roduce the whole thingHthe architecture. 1 guess. The books would be more like decoration. #ut they’d also have book clubs and writing classes. yeah. And she thinks that stores like the <ragon would make 2eo2le feel literary again. the floorboards. They’d sell coffee and writing 2a2er and fancy 2ens and 2robably e-books. She6s really sorry about that. refilling her glass. They’d have a lot fewer books. and authors would come and read.D (mily said. and she’s got all these ideas about doing webcasts and virtual events--D CThis is the stu2idest idea 1’ve ever heard.CAell. of course.
CAell.D C!retty much.D =ewis said.D CSo she still thinks the <ragon is this wildly successful bookstore.B (mily said. The bookstore that has survived. The last literary out2ost in the Aest. against all odds. CAait a minute. and gone on to sell a million dollars’ worth of books in the digital age. not e$actly. CAnd you didn’t tell her3D CAellHno.D BFor us3 Ahy us3B =ewis didn6t say anything for a minute. BShe hasn’t heard about (dith3 She doesn’t know that the store’s basically out of business3D C4ot e$actly.D .D =ewis said. CShe’s got a very interesting offer for us.
That got (mily on her feet. =ewis thought she was going to throw it at him. Ae 0uit our jobs to do this. She doesn6t know that.B (mily said. A develo2ment deal. (verybody .B BSo she6s going to find out. For a minute. She stood over him with a 2iece of 2i55a in her hand. A twoyear contract to hel2 them take the <ragon nationwide.D B4ot just jobs. B:eah.B =ewis said. CIobs3 Ae had 7obs. B=ewisK Ahat are you doing3 Ahat do you 2ossibly e$2ect to get out of this3B BShe6s offering us jobs. CShe will know. still standing over him. =ewisKB =ewis cleared his throat.D BThe <ragon3 The <ragon sold 2ot.
D he continued.B BSo you think you6re going to convince her that we run this ama5ingly successful bookstore and that she should co2y it all over the country.D (mily sat back down. B1t doesn6t look like any of this is going to end u2 in the news e$ce2t for (dith’s obituary.B C1 don’t think that. She tucked her knees under her chin and looked at him. which really doesn’t say much about the <ragon. 1 am married to a cra5y 2erson.knows.D =ewis said. CShe’s going to send a cou2le 2eo2le down here to 2ut the deal together. .D B8ow is she going to find out3D =ewis said. Ae were the only ones in the whole goddamn town who didn’t know. To think he used to seem boring. she thought. CShe does.
CEm. 1 said 1 would have to talk to you and )rawford first.CThey’ll start with the <ragon. they6ll redo it.B =ewis said. BThey want to offer him a deal. too.B B. 1t6ll be more likeHB CA theme 2ark version of the <ragon3D (mily said. 1 forgot to tell you about that 2art. They want authors to be involved at each store. :eah. Lind of.eaning whatHthey6d have writers working in the store3B . of course not. they6ll start with the <ragon3 1sn6t the <ragon already a bookstore3B BAell.B B4o.B BAhy )rawford3B B"h. 1t’ll be a 2rototy2e.D CAnd you6ve already agreed to this.D BAhat you mean.
1t6s more like the writers would lend their names to the whole thing. Ae’re done here.BAell. making the <ragon one of three bookstores left in America.D As he was 2icking u2 the em2ty wine bottle. not running the cash register or anything like that. .ascots3D (mily was right. C"kay. =ewis reali5ed. 1t would be a theme 2ark. his 2hone rang. A re2orter in <enver wanted a comment from him on the news that Tall Tales was closing. C)ould we 2ut them in cages and make them write for 2eanuts3D she said. Forget it. =ewis closed the 2i55a bo$ so the last slice wouldn’t tem2t him. Sort of like--B C.
C4o comment.C4ot tonight.D .D he said.
8e told (mily that he was getting ready to hold a going out of business sale. but the fact was. Ahile she worked. maybe even in San Francisco this time. . he just couldn6t stand to let it go. and made arrangements to look at some a2artments in the #ay Area. =ewis hung around the bookstore.a$ine’s offer.inger had left for =os Angeles after the funeral. She said that she was going to visit her . "ver the ne$t week (mily finished cleaning out Sy’s house. then sell off Sy’s 2ro2erty and get out of town.sevent"#one =ewis reluctantly agreed that the only sensible thing to do was to find an e$cuse to turn down . had their belongings driven back to a storage unit in San Iose.
A gri55led old man hauling three bags of bottles and cans stuck his head in the door. CThere’s only like forty-eight of them in the world.utenberg #ible3D he asked. :ou’re not going to just find one in a bookstore. the cra5y 2eo2leHwhat )rawford called the Ty2e Four customersHseemed to take u2 all their time. but =ewis sus2ected she was looking for a job.D CThat’s what everybody tells me. C4o.D he said. That left him and )rawford to sit morosely in the store and wave away the few customers who hadn’t heard that the <ragon was selling nothing but books.D said )rawford. Cbut 1 kee2 lookingKD .family. C:ou got a . Aithout the store’s regular clients coming in and out.
man.B he said to =ewis after the man left.D =ewis said. low 2atch of sun across the entryway. The dust danced in the light. orHD .B C. serene. slightly mussed. when the light shifted and hit the windows.BThere you go. )rawford was starting to wonder why =ewis was 2aying him to sit there.D he finally said. CEhHhey. sending a long. 1t was everything a bookstore should be 0uiet. =ewis loved this time of day in the bookstore the late afternoon. C1 could be cleaning out the back room. They leaned back in their chairs and listened to the ticking of the clock on the bookshelf behind them. BThat6s a book we could sell to somebody. And un2rofitable.ood.
She doesn’t know what a book is. =icense it. B1t6s all right.=ewis shook his head. She sells digital media. #ut she doesn6t sell books.ac0uire the <ragon.D .com to sort of -. leaning toward =ewis. but he slammed them on the floor and sat u2. 1 wasn6t even going to bring this u2.B )rawford’s feet had been 2ro22ed u2 on the desk. really. 1’ve had an offer from 4ile. That bitch . but 1 think you6ve got a right to know. BThose assholesK Are you kidding me3 They ruined my life. Ae6ll get to it.a$ine Rogers3 She goes around telling 2eo2le that she only wants to make books available to everybody. Yeroes and ones. then--B C=ook. )rawford.B CAell.
=ewis3 Right now. C1 am your em2loyee. CAell. and it damn near won the 4ational .=ewis was stunned. before you go to bed. . C<id you even read my books3B 4othing. 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. Tonight.ood friend of your uncle Sy. 1 think she knowsHD #ut )rawford wasn’t done. CAho do you know who actually reads novels on their stu2id little 2hone3 Ahat are you reading right now. #ut you’re not even curious enough to read a single 2age 1’ve written. 4ot to mention that my novel s2ent in nine months on the bestseller list.
She said she met you. 8er name was . for chrissakes. you can6t even bother --B Then it hit him. And you. That woman who had come into the bookstore and 2raised his novel. Forget it. Aas that her3 BAait a minute. .D C4o. CShe’s im2ressed by the <ragon’s unlikely success.#ook Award. CAhat did she say about me3B B"h.B )rawford said. suddenly interested.B BShe told you that3D )rawford said. mister million-dollar bookseller. BShe was here. but he knew how ridiculous this would sound. what3 She wants to buy the bookstore3 Ahat for3D =ewis tried to su22ress a smile.a$ine. )rawford. wasn6t she3B B:eah.
<on6t you see how 2erfect is this3 They’re the ones who did this to us. And she wants to hire you. and now they will 2ay. )all her.D C:our uncle Sy would have jum2ed on this.She wants to take it nationwide. Take their money. <o the deal.B B)rawford.D C:ou are talking like a cra5y 2erson.D . BThat6s brilliantKB Then he rolled over onto his back and looked u2 at =ewis. Ahat3 Ae can6t.B This was too much for )rawford. 8e fell out of his chair in mock astonishment and rolled around on the floor. B=et6s do it. BThe <ragon6s unlikely successKB he howled. B"f course we can.D )rawford 2ulled himself back into his chair.
2ulling his shirt down and turning around to face them. looking over his shoulder at them. CThis tattoo. 8e un5i22ed his jacket as he walked in the door.D )rawford wasn’t saying a word. 2artially obscured by a swath of hair.They were interru2ted by a mountain of a man in full motorcycle leather. looking nervously at )rawford. C<o you have this3D he said. C1t’s based on a 2icture from a book 1 found in this store. then lifted his black =ed Ye22elin t-shirt and turned around.D the guy said. . CAhHD =ewis said. <o you still have that book3 1 want to get the rest of it on my chest. e$2osing a tattoo of naked figures moaning and writhing.
D C1 should have bought it. CSold it to one of our best customers last year.D )rawford said. . e$actly3D =ewis asked. C8ow much did you sell it for3D CAbout five hundred bucks. gilt edges.D )rawford said. C4oHwaitH1 mean. yes. unbelievable engravings.D )rawford said. 1t was an ama5ing book. 2rom2ting the man to lift his shirt again. C4o. in his best erudite bookseller voice.D C:ou still have it3D he said.D the man said.CAhat was the tattoo. CAh. CThe <orW engravings. 1 remember it well. do you remember the name of the book3D C<ante’s 4nferno.D he said. shooting =ewis a meaningful look. tooHbig folio si5e.
C1’m sure you can find a scan of the engravings online.uy who used to own this 2lace loaned it to me. C1 kind of like being a bookseller. C:ou know3D =ewis said.D =ewis said. fuck that.D CAell.D After he left.D C"nline3 :eah3D the guy said. =ewis and )rawford just sat and grinned at the em2ty doorway. =ewis thought. CAell. . good luck finding it. CSo how’d you get the tattoo if you didn’t have the book3D he asked.D C1t grows on you.D )rawford said. C.!robably an ounce.
The 2lans included a mysterious anchor tenant from out of the area.sevent"#two . And now . #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.alway had been assigned the dreary task of gathering s2eculation from local 2ersonalities on the identity of this mystery tenant. and then interviewing local .alway’s boss had decided it was time for him to do some actual re2orting. some national chain that was also 2roviding ca2ital for the first 2hase of construction.
dro22ing into a chair across from . he wasn’t talking to the 2ress. B#ut 16ll tell you one thing.uillermo said. he started with .uillermo said. She6s got the 8umboldt =egal 2eo2le all involved.uillermo.B . 8e knew that =e$ took her off-site meetings at )ontra )offee. And 1 heard he was setting u2 a meeting with his friends.uillermo had any information. C4ow she’s having lunch with Todd =arson. in this 2roject3 She usually stays as far away from them as she can.alway.B BAhat. BShe never brought anybody from out of town in here.business owners and civic leaders for their reaction to the s2eculation.D .D . 4aturally.B C4ot any more. #ut if .
uillermo said. 1 guess they’ll shut it down. already regretting the . C=ewis can’t seem to stay away.alway said. !oor kid.D C1 heard (dith’s garden was 2retty much destroyed.D . he’s been through a lot.D C8m. but they sure don’t seem to be 2acking u2. today they are.alway looked glumly out the window.D .D CAhat about this mystery man from out of town3D C1 never saw him. CAre they still o2en over there3D CAell. Sounds to me like she’s talking to growers. This was not turning into much of a story. CShe took him to dinner a cou2le times. but she didn’t meet with him in here.uillermo said. 1 don’t know why.D .D . that could mean--D C1 don’t know.CAell.
no. right.uillermo said. #ut by then the 2olice hadHyou knowHdone the minimum they had to do to clear the 2lace out. did you3D C8ell. C:eah. CA lot’s changed over the years. CSan Antonio. 1 heard that a few growers went out there to try to get hold of some 2lants. Aell. you know what they used to do with all the 2ot they confiscated3 They took it to the 2ul2 mill .loss of (dith’s horticultural contributions as much as the rest of the community.D said . when 1 was a kid. :ou didn’t grow u2 here.D C"h.uillermo. C1t was a cou2le of days before anybody reali5ed that the garden was even involved.D .D . anyway.alway smiled and shook his head.
uillermo said admiringly.D . :ou could smell it all over the bay.ood times.once a month or so and had them burn it. 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.D C4o shit3D . . C:eah.D C. CThey really were. And we lived out there on this logging road that led right to the mill.uillermo said.D .alway said.
and she .sevent"#three =E)L RE4S "ET F"R 9""<"" #""LS F4ew "rleans. one of the city6s most beloved institutions announced that it was closing its doors for good. and haunted houses-. 9oodoo #ooks owner Anita 8awkins 2acked u2 the last of the store6s inventory of rare and out-of-2rint books on vam2ires. =AG As 4ew "rleans residents once again leave their homes in antici2ation of the arrival of 8urricane )arla. witchcraft.
doesn6t intend to return to the French Nuarter after the hurricane threat 2asses.ontgomery. BAe come here every year.y lease was u2 for renewal.B said . and the owner wants to do some renovations after the evacuation. Alabama. B. but 1 just don6t see how 1 can kee2 going. B8e6s already told me to e$2ect a rent increase. And 1 was three months behind to begin with.B 9isitors to the French Nuarter reacted with shock and disbelief to the news that 9oodoo #ooks was closing.reg <elgado of . B"ne of our favorite things to do is to come into 9oodoo #ooks and look at all . 1 hate to close.D she said from her mother6s home in Shreve2ort.
D She added that .B #ut .i5mo. CAnita 8awkins managed to do something with her bookstore that no digital media could do. 1t6s 2art of the whole e$2erience of the French Nuarter.those cra5y witch books they have. C1 do have all of Anne Rice’s books on my 2hone.a$ine Rogers said that she would be BhauntedD by the loss of 9oodoo #ooks.com )(" . The French Nuarter won’t be the same without 9oodoo #ooks.D he added. CShe created an evocative setting and hel2ed trans2ort her customers to another time. holding u2 his .r.B Rogers said. <elgado admitted that he had never 2urchased a book from the store. 4ile.
said that she Cwould mourn the 2assing of 9oodoo #ooks the way you’d mourn the loss of a friend. C1’m not sure how much longer 1 can hold out either.ordon.ordon said. C1t’s not the same as being there.D she admitted. 1t’s .D . Cbut at least those books will live on.D (laine . owner of Seattlebased #lack and Ahite #ooks.she took comfort in the knowledge that anyone could carry 9oodoo6s entire inventory around in their 2ocket. C1’m surrounded by books every day.D . but 1 try not to think about that.ordon now has the distinction of being one of the last two booksellers left in the Enited States.
hard for me to believe that the rest of the country doesn’t want to e$2erience what 1 do. )A bookstore Firebreathing <ragon. was not available for comment.D =ewis 8artman. . owner of the (ureka.
sevent"#four :ears from now.com had bought and remodeled it. "r even if he did insist on doing the deal with . by a2ologi5ing and getting his old job back and doing the dishes more often than necessary and 2aying off their bills and whatever else (mily wanted --. a media room. =ewis would reali5e that he was not forced to do what he did ne$t. claiming that he and )rawford .a child. a timeshare in Tahoe. 8e could have followed (mily back to San Iose and re2aired his marriage the easy way.a$ine. he could have closed the store and reo2ened it only after 4ile. That would have worked.
There would have been no lies. with books on the shelves and joints under the counter.needed a break before they began their new venture. but so what3 1t was already for sale all over town. After (mily left. And his run-in with the 2olice at the scene of (dith6s . . After all. he became even more fi$ated on the idea of kee2ing the store o2en and running it the way it had been running all this time. furious that =ewis was making no 2rogress toward closing the store and ho2ing that a dramatic gesture on her 2art would shake him u2.and no illegal activity. too. just a few omissions --.aybe their bestselling 2roduct was illegal. the <ragon had su22orted Sy and two em2loyees without doing anything terribly wrong. #ut that is not what ha22ened. That might have worked.
weren6t they3 !eo2le were being e$2osed to books and they were taking them home. =ewis and )rawford could sit behind the counter and sell over2riced books to enthusiastic customers all day long.a$ine’s 2eo2le would . #esides. they were still selling books.death had convinced him that local law enforcement was all too willing to look the other way. it made sense to just kee2 going.a$ine could send her 2eo2le down to the <ragon to observe the store in action. was it3 So in a strange way. . 1t was never the role of a bookseller to actually make a 2erson read a book once they6d bought it. That was really the job of a bookstoreHto get 2eo2le to ac0uire the books. .
she could travel. She could 0uit her job. )rawford wasn6t o22osed to the idea of reviving the <ragon. they would go legit. And when the money came through from 4ile. she could 2aint. 1t never occurred to =ewis that this scenario --. (mily would come back. whatever she wanted. but when =ewis asked him what they could do about getting a . The only 2roblem was that (dith6s garden was 2roducing nothing but a22les and honeysuckle nectar.com.a$ine --was the very scenario made her decide to leave in the first 2lace.see what they wanted to seeHa busy bookstore that made a remarkably steady 2rofit.the one in which he stayed in (ureka and clung to the 2ossibility of doing a deal with .
as everyone but =ewis knew. which was under the jurisdiction of the local 2olice. even taking the time to identify the red and white signs marking the boundary between "ld Town. which.B And that is how =ewis found himself on the old cargo dock on (ureka6s waterfront. BThis one6s on you.B he said.new su22lier. attem2ting to buy ten 2ounds of marijuana from an undercover officer of the <e2artment of 8omeland Security. was federally controlled. and the 2ort. The officer slowed his cruiser down and 2ointed . )rawford just shrugged. B:ou6re the boss. The officer was e$traordinarily nice about the whole thing. They 2assed the signs on the way to the jail.
the way you6d show the sights to a tourist. .them out 2olitely.
being housed tem2orarily at the county jail. =ewis wasn6t allowed to sit with him in the usual visitation room7 federal 2rocedures re0uired that any meetings with his lawyer be held a2art from the other inmates. #ecause =ewis was a federal 2risoner. #illy had to get a new level of clearance and fill out a stack of unfamiliar 2a2erwork to get into the same building he’d visited a hundred times before.sevent"#five 1t took a week for #illy <alton to get in to see his client. So the guards brought the two of them to a room that was not too different from #illy6s office an awkward and unused s2ace normally reserved .
Red welts ran u2 his arms and across his neck. !lease tell me you6ve been working on getting me out of here. B1t6s going to be a long 2rocess. to which two folding chairs and a broken com2uter desk had been added. This is not the .B said #illy.B B#illy.arriott. buddy. B16ve never had a 2rivate meeting room over here before.B =ewis looked terrible.for storage. yeah. . looking around a22rovingly. BEh.B #illy said. That was a big buy for your first time out.B 8e looked grimly at =ewis and fiddled with a 2en. and he was allergic to either the county-issued orange jum2suit or the laundry detergent it was washed in. 8e obviously hadn6t sle2t. BThis is nice.
sur2rised. They6re 2retty sure you were trying to buy ten 2ounds of 2ot. BAren’t we going to work on my defense3D B:ou6ve got a defense3B #illy asked.what do you think is on that ta2e3B BAll right.B1s that all you got3B said =ewis. 1 didn6t say what he thought 1 said. 1 was de2ressed or confused or --B B=ewis.we6ve got to tell them something. Ahat about bail3B BAe6ve got a hearing ne$t week. 8ow much money have you got3B . right3 1t was a misunderstanding.1 mean -. They have video cameras down on the docks and the agent was wearing a wire. BAell -. Ae6ll get a chance to see the video. but --.
B =ewis said.B4ot much. did you3B B1 don6t know. 8e felt like crying. there is one 2iece of good news. B1 just have to stay here3B #illy laughed and tugged at his 2onytail. Ahat about the house and the store3B BThe feds will 2robably sei5e those. The guard knocked on the door. BSo that6s it3B =ewis said. Their time was u2. standing u2 and sla22ing =ewis on the back. . BAell. )an6t (mily come u2 with some money3B B(mily’s not e$actly taking my calls right now.B #illy said. B:ou didn6t think they were going to let me take you home.B =ewis mumbled.
Aouldn6t that be cool3B .BAhat6s that3B BThere6s a rumor going around on the 1nternet that )ongress is about to outlaw cigarettes and legali5e marijuana.
a$ine called the <ragon the day after the story about 9oodoo #ooks broke. 1s he there3 16ve been trying him on his 2hone.’ That6s cute. 1 was actually calling for =ewis. two little girls ran into the store and tore u2 the .aybe.B BAas that a little too cute3B B. B)rawfordK 1 don6t know if you remember me.B she said brightly.B BAell. B4ice 0uote to the 2ress. B1 was in your store a while ago --B B1 remember you.B #efore )rawford could say anything. listen. J8aunted. but he6s not answering.B )rawford said.sevent"#six .
B BAell. that6s kind of cool. They come running in and they try to find the oldest book in the store. B%M*%KB "ne of them shouted.a$ine said. BAhat3B .B . B%M'MKB the other one said. B"h. jee5. B1t means you have all these young 2eo2le interested in books. but they6re not interested in reading them.B )rawford sighed. B1t6s this game that kids 2lay in here sometimes. They6re interested in 2ulling them off the shelves and cracking the s2ines.stairs. they6re not . B"h no.B B:eah.D BSo have they found the oldest book in the store yet3B )rawford listened to the thudding of their footste2s overhead.a$ine said.
1t’s a %+'? treatise by . #ut that’s not actually the oldest thin. There was a 2ause. %R*?. 1 have it right here on my 2hone. B 4o.D CSeriously3 %R*?3D B1 guess you6re going to ask me what the 4uremberg )hronicle is.B )rawford said.alen. BActually. 1t6s a single sheet from the 4uremberg )hronicle. Ahat.a$ine said. no.D BAhat6s the oldest thing --. in the store. you only have one 2age3B .reek 2hysician. . The oldest book is down here. 1t6s a history of the world u2 to that time.D CAho’s he3D CAncient .a$ine.anywhere close to it.the cobwebs3B . And 1 have the com2lete volume.
a$ine.B .D BAre you going to let me talk to =ewis3B B8e just ste22ed out. B4e$t time you come into the store. :ou make it sound so-seductive.B. 1 will show you a leaf from the 4uremberg )hronicle. 16ll tell him you called.B )rawford said. :ou try doing that on your 2hone.B BAow. )rawford. 1 will 2ut a 2iece of 2a2er in your hand that dates to the voyage of )olumbus. his voice warm and serious.D C1t is. Actually.
and after (dith’s sudden death. So he 2aid a visit to the 2ort authority office and wrote the kind of short. regardless of the subject matter. #ut the arrest of an "ld Town merchant was news. a long e$2osW seemed 2ointless.iers finally had to threaten to fire . . 2e22y blog 2ost that was e$2ected of him. and nobody else had re2orted it.alway if he didn6t 2ost something on his blog about the situation at the <ragon. 8e6d been reluctant to blow the store6s cover when he himself was a regular customer.sevent"#seven #etsy .
BAe6ve been monitoring the activity at the Firebreathing <ragon bookstore for some time now.8ere’s A Ti2 <on’t Re-E2 Aith the Feds 4ewbie bookstore owner-turned-2ot dealer =ewis 8artman was arrested after attem2ting to buy ten 2ounds of marijuana from a federal agent on (ureka6s waterfront.B said !ort Authority s2okes2erson #rian Anderson. 8artman entered the . . but the bookstore itself was located outside our area of jurisdiction and we were unable to obtain coo2eration from local law enforcement.r. BAe6ve known that it was a cover for a drug dealing o2eration.
Seriously.2ort area voluntarily and attem2ted to solicit drugs from an undercover agent. Iust a cou2le ti2s for out-of-towners. Ae intend to 2rosecute to the full e$tent of the law. Ae mean it this time.lessons learned3 Anyone3 "ne There is nothing for sale at the Firebreathing <ragon but books. Two That area right around the water where boats 2ull u2 and unload their stuff3 That’s called the 2ort. @ .B So --. "ur mission is to kee2 our nation6s 2orts safe and free of illegal and dangerous activity. 1t’s where all the federal officers hang out and enforce their laws.
:ou6ve known about this along. . <oes this mean 16m not going to get a second date3D )lick.B C. C:ou 2iece of shit..a$ine.alway6s 2hone rang five minutes after his 2ost went live.
and white bread and baked beans at dinner. broadcasting a stream of talk shows and infomercials.sevent"#ei ht =ewis decided that his time in jail would be best s2ent reflecting u2on his 2ast mistakes. accom2anied by a mealy a22le and a sugary juice substitute. The meals were astonishingly bad V chea2 corn flakes for breakfast. 1t . and she had made it clear that she didn6t want to hear from him. There wasn6t much else to do the television stayed on one channel all day. but there was no one to call but (mily. 2eanut butter at lunch. 8e could have lined u2 to use one of the four 2hones available to inmates.
wasn6t the kind of meal you would linger over. And slee2 was a thing of the 2ast the lights were on day and night. and no 2rovisions had been made in the 2olicy for the machines’ inevitable system failures. Anyway. 1nstead. there was no library. . visitors had been banned from bringing books to 2risoners after the com2uters had been installed. which made =ewis wonder if he could convince )rawford to bring a few of them back. the jail had a digital media center that housed four broken com2uters. And of course. #ut )rawford was so far not willing to visit =ewis in jail. and he had not so much as a sheet to muffle the light and noise.ost of the 2rison library’s books had ended u2 at the <ragon over the years. .
although he found that most of the guys were sur2risingly easy to talk to. =ewis tried to stick to himself. And a few of them recogni5ed him from the bookstore. a hotbed of criminal activity. after all. "f course they did. it was a trio of skinny white . most of whom were either 2assing through on their way to !elican #ay.So =ewis was on his own with his miserable thoughts. or biding their time until they were released and 2ut back under the su2ervision of their 2arole officers. if he could be considered to be on his own in a dorm with si$ty other men. 1n fact. 1t was. 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.
They just grow their own or buy it at the clinic. Anybody who wants a medical card can get one. B4o resale market. .guys in their twenties --.D B1t’s getting harder to sell that shit anyway. 8e gave no volume discount and he 2riced his shit so high you couldn’t buy from him and sell it on the street.B Tim said.B Aill added glumly. C8e didn’t want to sell do2e to do2e dealers.B 8ank added. B:our uncle Sy wanted it that way. Aill. and Tim-who e$2lained the rationale for the <ragon6s high 2rices to =ewis.8ank.B B:ou can buy fucking 2ot brownies at the clinic in Arcata. B!rices on the street are falling.B Tim said.
CS2rained my ankle. turning to Tim. that6s the first 2lace 16m going. C8eadaches.B C8ow’d you 0ualify for a /%+ card3D =ewis asked.B<ude. Ahat had once seemed like fateHhaving a bookstore dro2 in his la2. have you had those brownies3B Aill said.D Aill said. BAhen 1 get out of here. C:ou3D =ewis asked. as he listened to the maddening .D =ewis reali5ed that he wasn6t really too different from these guys. That was the difference between the 2eo2le out there and the 2eo2le in here. as if he was meant for a new lifeHnow seemed like the kind of trouble he should have known how to avoid. he thought. Ahat landed him in here was greed and stu2idity.
uillermo being o2en for business across the street. and in fact. no one seemed to care whether his bills got 2aid or his 2hone got answered. #ut then he got locked u2. Entil his arrest. =ewis’s new life had a rhythm that seemed inse2arable from the 2eo2le around him. 4o one had any urgent business to discuss with him. 8is morning coffee de2ended on . and he sim2ly ceased to matter. The 2eo2le out there knew how to kee2 their lives on course. !eo2le called him and sent him e-mails. 8e had a wife and em2loyees.sound of car radios rising u2 from the street that ran 2ast the jail. no one seemed . 8e was getting to know the teller at the bank and the cashier at the deli. 8e had bills to 2ay and 2laces to be. 1t was ama5ing how 0uickly you dro22ed out of sight in jail.
but he was wrong about that. 8e hadn6t just been arrested7 he’d been erased. And maybe that was just as well. .to wonder where he was or when he would be back. =ewis had always assumed that he mattered a little. too. and that his absence would cause some disru2tion in the world he inhabited.
barely . #RA4<. 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. )"4. Two newscasters.R(SS Q T"#A))" .!’ )="T814."L14. Tom and Richmond ducked away from the re2orters at the Ahite 8ouse and caught a cab back to their hotel.AR(TT(S E4<(R 4(A AET8"R1T: FR".A=1Y(S !"T A4< #A4S T"#A))" read the crawl. S"-)A==(< 8(A=T8: S.1A4T SE.4(R A44"E4)(S 4(A JA.(R1)A4 8(. 14T1T1AT19( =(.sevent"#nine After the signing ceremony.
onday morning.able to contain their mirth. 8e felt strangely at home there.B 1n fact. BAe were lucky to get a Friday afternoon signing. Then we just go back to running our business. BIesus )hrist.B B1 don6t know how you can be so calm about this. B1t6s not so bad.B Tom said. The media shitstorm will have died down by .B Richmond shrugged. fumbling around with the controls to turn off the sound. Richmond did miss 8umboldt )ounty. BThat tri2 to )alifornia must have been good for you.B he said.B said Tom. sat in front of a giant digital image of a marijuana leaf hovering above the Ahite 8ouse. BAe6ve got to make sure we stay ahead of this story. <oing what we do. as if he .
And it had been a 2rofitable tri2. but they all got by somehow. 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. BA little of this.had caught u2 with some alternate version of his life that had been ticking by in northern )alifornia all this time. 1n this other life. 8e would have bought a house in the mountains and hired <on )antrell to build a deck around it. 1f you asked a 2erson in (ureka what they did for a living. a little of that.B Richmond could get used to that kind of lifestyle. they would just shrug and say. The idea to launch a line of hem2 2roducts . not just because of the 2lants he managed to shi2 back alive.
once the kids had bought into the idea. The American . The cannabis would just be marketed as one more . and notebooks.rown name had been ins2ired by 8umboldt )ounty. back2acks.rown. the brew2ubs would be 2ositioned as a celebration of American farmers. and then roll out the chain of brew2ubs. too as a nod to its 2ro-local farmer attitude.ahead of their more lucrative cro2 had come from his visits to all the little stores in "ld Town that sold hem2 sweaters. which they were calling American . with the source of every ingredient 2rinted on the menus. They could get a line of clothing out to the college market to start building their brand. down to the name of the farmer who grew the ho2s for the beer and the name of the woman who jarred the 2ickles.
Sumner had managed to get the legislation ready for 2assage 0uietly. #ut the real outrage would come a cou2le of days from now. The retail smoking 2roducts would come last. 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 . were livid. The other tobacco com2anies didn6t even have time to call their lobbyists. when they found out that Sumner had 2atented every commercially available strain of .American-grown cro2. of course. Esually #ig Tobacco stuck together. and made a backdoor deal with the Ahite 8ouse to arrange an immediate signing ceremony. Their com2etitors. 1t was considered a sacrilege to go it alone like this.reen.
Iust make sure your little friend in 8umboldt )ounty is ready to break ground. .B Richmond said. C:ou wanted to run the brew2ub 2rogram.cannabis. B:ou6re in charge. and was in a 2osition to challenge 2atents on any other strains their com2etitors might dig u2. smiling. grabbing his briefcase and handing a twenty to the driver. it’s yours. B8ave you called your new real estate 2artner out there3B B4ow she6s my real estate 2artner. B"h.D CAhy wouldn’t she be3D Richmond asked.B Tom said. and s2eaking of )alifornia.B Tom said as they 2ulled u2 in front of their hotel. buddy.
Tom laughed. 4ot just to the growers.D . Rich. CSooner or later those 2eo2le are going to figure out what this means. She’s not going to be your best friend forever. but to the whole economy out there.
CSonofabitchKD he yelled as the 2i2e crumbled in his hand. hel2ing . 8e sat u2 and reached for his 2hone. She got #illy <alton on the 2hone as he was s2rawled under the sink in the back room behind )ontra )offee. sending a shower of brown water and flakes of rust into his eyes. CAhat3D .ei ht" (mily was the first 2erson to reali5e that the news from Aashington could hel2 get =ewis out of jail.uillermo wrestle out a rusted 2i2e and re2lace it with something that would meet code before the ins2ector came back at noon.
B B1t6s not that. #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. if that6s what you6re wondering.uillermo motioned for #illy to get out of the way so that he could slide under the sink and kee2 working. CSto2 being such a smartass. that6s very nice. 8e doesn6t get a lot of visitors.B#illy3 1t6s (mily. not even from his wife. Ahy3 16m not a divorce lawyer. #ut 1 am calling about =ewis.B . B1 was trying to find out if =ewis was going to get out now that this legislation is 2assed.B BAell. <id 1 get you in the middle of something3B BLind of.B .B (mily said. but 16m sure he6ll be glad to know he at least got a 2hone call.
This law isn6t going to hel2 him. BThey6re going to have to issue some rules and work out the details first. . #illy waved away their money7 he didn’t know how much to charge for refills anyway.#illy rolled his eyes.B #illy said.uillermo was still flat on his back under the sink. #esides.D (mily said. CSeriously3 She said that3D #illy 2oured a cou2le of refills for . for what seemed like the four hundredth time that morning. he thought. your husband tried to buy shitload of 2ot from a federal agent well before it was legal.uillermo’s customers. . (verybody6s a lawyer. like guns or ta$ evasion. but the attorney general says she isn6t going to 2rosecute any 2ending cases unless there6s some other crime involved. B!ot is not legal yet.B B:eah.
for god’s sake.D #illy hung u2 and retreated to the back room. that6s real com2assionate of you. #ut 1 don6t like the idea of him sitting in that jail.B #illy said. #illy. 1 am not coming back.B BAell. 4o.B #illy said. where . CRead the news once in a while. . 16ll look into it.o be a lawyer. Aas that (mily3B .uillermo had managed to re2lace the 2i2e on his own.(mily sighed. BSee3 :ou didn6t even need me. <o you want me to send you the article3B BThat6s okay. 8e6s going to have to work this out on his own. BAhat a sur2rise. Are you coming back anytime soon3B B:ou sound like =ewis. C"h. #illy.
B .B BAhat6s that3B BAhole lot of 2eo2le are about to get out of jail.B:eah. She had some interesting news.
=e$ twirled around in her chair and saw Todd leaning in the doorway that led to the warren of council offices behind the stage. CAe can’t . 8e was clutching a stack of 2a2ers from whatever meeting he had just suffered through. trying to figure out if they could 2our the foundation before the rainy season hit in "ctober. waiting for her finance subcommittee meeting to begin.ei ht"#one =e$ sat in the em2ty )ity )ouncil chambers. "n the back of the agenda she was sketching out a 2roject timeline. CThat2s your anchor tenant3D came a hushed voice behind her.
B . it’s more like a 2ub. =e$.talk about this here.D #ut Todd sat down ne$t to her anyway.B she said in a low voice. 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. B1 told you. C. Ahat are they going to 2ut in that big s2ace they6re leasing from you. a smoke sho23B =e$ looked around to make sure they were alone. These 2eo2le got me elected.y thing starts in ten minutes. 9ery wholesome.D =e$ whis2ered. 1t6s all a little sus2icious. C:ou knew all along that Sumner Tobacco was going to start growing 2ot. BThey are freaking out over at 8umboldt =egal. B4ot e$actly.D Todd leaned across the table and s2oke right into her ear.
Sumner’s going to make sure that all these small growers all over the country get 2rosecuted if they don6t 2ay their ta$es or follow the labor law or meet every building code or .!eo2le were starting to file in for the meeting.B =e$ muttered. B"kay. B1 don6t see what 8umboldt =egal’s got to be u2set about. two things just ha22ened here. all these growers just became fine.B Todd said. C1sn’t this what they wanted3 =egali5ation3D Todd grabbed =e$ by the arm and 2ulled her out of her chair. BFirst of all. fast. u2standing. law-abiding businessmen. She followed him reluctantly into the hallway. =e$ and Todd sat back in their chairs and tried to look as if they were just killing time. before =e$ could 2ull away.
And that doesn6t even get into the economics.environmental regulation.D Todd said.B C1sn’t that good news3D =e$ said.B =e$ felt her stomach turn into a stone. And the other thing3 Sumner 2atented every goddamned strain of cannabis they could get their hands on. yes it is. C4ot for them. including the ones your friend Richmond 2icked u2 while he was here. They6re going to 2ush the 2rice down right through the . if the <ragon hadn’t managed to shut itself down first. CThey would have even shut the <ragon down. BAait. 1t is now illegal for 8umboldt growers to grow their own 2ot. There6s going to be no more diesel do2e in the woods for these guys. That can6t be ---B B"h. Sumner is 2lanting thousands of acres right now.
1 can’t vote for this waterfront thing. 1’m sorry. They’re going to own the whole market. Aould they really sell 2ot at the mall3 CAell. C1 think they e$2ected to chi2 away at the law little by little.D Todd said. turning and leaning against the wall ne$t to her. what e$actly did your grower friends think was going to ha22en when marijuana was legal3D C1 don’t know. :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. you know3 This is so much more mainstream than anything they ever imagined.D . 1 just can’t. So =e$3 Forget it. but still kee2 it kind of underground. And there goes your cannabis tourism idea.floor.
the downtown merchants. 1f they wanted to o2en their so-called brew2ubs here in )alifornia. 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.D She should have marched back into her meeting and started thinking about how to turn Todd around. She’d send them back their earnest money and find a way out of the develo2ment deal. She didn’t have the energy for this fight. but there was no 2oint. This 2roject was going to have everyone in an u2roar Hthe growers. they’d have to find a develo2er with more nerve than she had. They stood together and looked out the small window across the hall. 1t framed the . Sumner would have to figure something else out.CShit.
The sounds from the basketball court could be heard all over "ld Town on a calm morning. reminding 2eo2le to call him if they ever got too close to that basketball court. A bail bondsman even used the familiar noise as the soundtrack to his radio commercial. Too much 2artici2ation in 2rison life made him nervous-.but he was getting tired of sitting all day.view of the county jail. .by joining them he might become one of them-. where =ewis had just reluctantly agreed to shoot hoo2s with Aill and Tim.
somehow.D #illy had advised him not to admit directly to anything. BAell.ei ht#two .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. it must be true. . )rawford continued to show u2 to work and 2reside over the store in =ewis6s absence. still o2erating as a bookstore and were ama5ed and titillated to learn the truth. which meant that he s2ent his days saying things like. and most 2eo2le were willing to let it dro2 after a few evasive answers. if that’s what you read on the 1nternet.
trying to strike that balance between sarcasm and false cheer that was once the s2ecial talent of bookstore clerks everywhere. as if this fact would be as astonishing to )rawford as it was to them.These new visitors to the store cre2t in slowly. There were still a sur2rising number of good finds at the <ragon a cou2le of battered old editions of Alfred Stieglit5’s "amera . B16ve never been in here before. BReally3 4ever once3B )rawford would answer wonderingly.otes. A few 2eo2le would linger and look wistfully through the books.B they would say. with torn covers and unfortunate stains but breathtaking . looking around in wonderment before finally making eye contact with )rawford.
h Married. Ahat novelties these books wereK A few 2eo2le 2unched the titles into their 2hones to download later. 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.2hotogravures nonetheless. "n one such day. but they all left em2tyhanded. )rawford was sitting behind the desk 2ricing a stack of anatomy te$tbooks from the %*/&s that he found in the . 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.
had asked him to. The 2hone rang. 1t was the San Fran is o "hroni le. undoubtedly looking for a little local color to round out their story on the im2act of the new marijuana legislation behind the redwood curtain. 8e had been ignoring calls from the media because =ewis. 2assing the message by way of #illy. their genitals so gently rubbed out that it looked like they had just forgotten to grow any. There were fu55y black-and-white 2hotogra2hs of naked women and men in these books. )rawford thought he could at least sell the books to someone who wanted to cut the 2ictures out. but it had been a slow afternoon and )rawford was .back room. This only made the 2hotogra2hs more 2ornogra2hic. somehow.
are you -. #esides.D B"h.getting bored.B )rawford said. B:ou are not about to tell me ---B BAre you still o2en3 1 mean -. 1 was ho2ing to get a res2onse from =ewis on the news about #lack and Ahite #ooks in Seattle. he didn6t have to answer their 0uestions. no. . B=ewis isn6t here right now. 8e could just take a message. C<ragon.still a bookstore3B she asked.ardner from the "hroni le. )an 1 hel2 you3B BAow. B1s this =ewis 8artman3B came a woman6s voice. is he still in jail3 This is #eth .D he said when he 2icked u2 the 2hone.
he could imagine himself saying brightly to a grou2 of schoolchildren on a tour.D )rawford said. :ou6re the last bookstore in America.CAellHyeah. 8ere is how we arranged the books. Ae faced the s2ines out because that6s where the titles of the books were written.B @ For a long time after he 2ut the 2hone down. )rawford just stood and looked around the store. standing u2. already as still and 0uiet as a diorama in a museum. how handwritten volumes were . as if he needed to rise and face the news she was about to deliver. BThen 1 think that6s it. 8e thought of Sy and how he loved to issue declarations on the history of books and bookshelves.
And then movable ty2e came along and ruined everything for the monks with their 0uills. and the title inscribed there in 2en. "r they might have stood u2 on a shelf with the edges facing out. !eo2le think that the book never changed after that. And then came the monster steam 2resses that could make a thousand sheets in an hour. getting u2 from behind the counter and running his hands along the . Sy used to say.once 2laced on their sides in cu2boards. Ahat di55ying s2eed that must have been. and what a strange and heartbreaking new develo2ment for 2ractitioners of hand-set ty2e. back when a wealthy 2erson might only own four or five books and would have these 2ieces of furniture s2ecially built to hold them.
they didn’t know. #ut the book changes all the time. kiddo.aybe they’d 2rint ads on them. huh3 A thousand dollar book if we had a collector who wanted to buy it. !eo2le took them off the books and threw them away. C<ust jacketsKD Sy once roared at )rawford right after he started working there. . That’s a ninety-nine thousand-dollar 2iece of 2a2er. :ou know why3 #ecause dust jackets were so rare. C:ou see this nice old first edition of Anne of Green Gables3 !retty book. :ou’re old enough to remember that. Iust an e$2eriment. right3 :ou’d bring a new book home and throw the dust jacket right out3D .shelves the way =ewis did the first time he came into the store. #ut do you know what it would cost in a dust jacket3 A hundred thousand dollars.
4obody. . Ahat about re2lacing grand old bindings with that awful leatherette. 1n the seventies you could be reading along and .y god. kiddo. the crumbling 2article-board cousin to . Then FSy would say.oroccan leather3 And then they bound books in cardboard and cloth.)rawford could almost hear the echo of Sy6s voice around the room. rising to his feetG they brought out 2a2erbacks and everybody thought we6d gone straight to hell. of all thingsK !a2er went from silk to cotton to hem2 to mushy 2ressed 2ul2. and that was not so long ago.D 8e knew the rest of the lecture by heart. C4obody has an Anne of Green Gables in a dust jacket. they used to bind cigarette ads right into science fiction novels. The book changes constantly.
The utter absurdity of booksK he would say. <idn’t that 2iss the authors offK And then Sy would colla2se into himself. . whee5ing and coughing and choking on his own laughter.there would be an ad for Lote$ or )anadian )lub. when he could s2eak again.
and he carried a 2lastic bag under his arm that contained his 2ersonal belongings wallet.B #illy had decided to let that one go.ei ht"#three BAelcome back. 2hone.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 .B =ewis told him. B1t was fake anyway. BThat6s okay. and the crum2led back2ack that once held the cash he had offered to the undercover agent.B #illy said as =ewis came through the automatic door at the jail. 8e was wearing the clothes he had been arrested in. BThey6re kee2ing the money.
The 2ost-jail burger was actually his favorite 2art of being a lawyer.B #illy said. taking =ewis6s bag from him the way you might grab your buddy’s suitcase when you met him at the air2ort. a beer. in that order. and a na2. =ewis was a little disa22ointed that #illy was on foot he had been ho2ing for a 8ollywood-style release from jail.B B<one. They walked across the street and down a cou2le of blocks to the brewery. a shower. C1 look like shit. com2lete with a guy in Ray-#ans and a suit .re0uests for release from small-time marijuana criminals that they wouldn6t notice a bag of counterfeit bills.D =ewis said. BAhat 1 want is a burger.B #illy said. B:ou6re looking good.
and they had each walked out on their own. but she didn’t even include a note. C4othing.D . C4o word from (mily3D #illy asked as =ewis turned his 2hone on and checked for messages. just a cou2le of guys on their way somewhere.D =ewis said. 1nstead he had #illy with his thinning 2onytail and his )rocs. CShe sent me the link to the "hroni le story. hands in 2ockets. striding determinedly across the 2arking lot and disa22earing into the neighborhood behind )ity 8all.driving a big black =incoln. 8ank and Aill had been released as wellHTim was still locked u2 for a <E1-. At least someone came to meet him.
bitter si2 of beer. B1 don6t think Sy would6ve been 2roud of a single thing 16ve done. =ewis headed straight for the two em2ty seats at the bar and signaled to the bartender. how about that3D #illy said. which was crowded and boisterous and slightly smoky from the heat coming off the grill.B BAell it was. who 2oured a cou2le of 2ints.B #illy said. :ou made it. B:our uncle Sy would be 2roud. B:ou make it sound like it was a contest. and everything he owned is going to be thrown away or sold off. kind of. (dith is dead. 1 . BAhy do you say it like that3B he said to #illy. C=ast bookstore in America.B =ewis shuddered at the first foamy.C:eah.B he said. B8is business is ruined.D They walked into the brewery.
B8ere6s the thing. =ewis. BAhy did he leave this 2lace to me. ordering burgers and fries for both of them. "r at least to )rawford and .inger. 8e didn6t dwell on the 2ast and he didn’t worry about the . leaving all this to me. Reliving it in your mind and trying to figure out what you should have done differently. but 1 don6t.don6t know what he was thinking. 1 wish 1 had some kind of easy answer for you.B 8e thought about that for a minute and then he turned and looked at #illy. :ou6re 2robably gonna s2end a lot of time over the years wondering why all this ha22ened the way it did. #illy3 1t should’ve all gone to (dith. Ahy’d he 2ick me3D Their menus arrived and #illy waved them away. :our uncle Sy wasn6t like you.
#illy shrugged. To tell you the truth.’D @ #illy headed back to his office after lunch. =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. J!ut down =ewis.B BSo you don6t remember why he 2icked me3B =ewis said. . 1 asked Sy who he wanted to leave it to.future. 8e didn6t think about dying. 1t was a gorgeous. 8e made that will a long time ago. That kid’s going to need something to do. C:ou’d been u2 there not long before to s2end the summer. 8e only did it because 1 was just starting out as a lawyer and 1 needed a client. and he looked around the store and said. he 2robably never gave that will another thought.
everyone he knew had an eight-to-five job that didn6t 2ermit s2ending long stretches of the afternoon in a cafW. 8e rounded the corner and . what these 2eo2le did for a living.uillermo waved from his storefront.late summer afternoon in (ureka.ost of the 2eo2le he 2assed seemed to recogni5e him. #efore he came to 8umboldt )ounty. =ewis could hear the clanging of shi26s rigging in the harbor. and the sidewalks were filled with 2eo2le drinking their coffee at the tables and chairs they’d dragged outside. The doors to every cafW were o2en. 1t occurred to =ewis that it didn6t bother him in the least that all these 2eo2le knew his 2ersonal . either from the <ragon or from his recent notoriety in the news. as he always did. =ewis wondered. . The seagulls circled high above "ld Town.
C4o. 8is life was 2laying out alongside theirs7 his situation was no more or less remarkable than anyone else’s. They knew that the <ragon had been a sham. =ewis. C"h.D CThey let you out of jail3D . they 2robably knew that (mily had left him. A year ago. he could not have imagined s2ending time in jail and then having to face an entire community who knew what had ha22ened. not even checking to see who was calling. 1t’s .D =ewis sto22ed on the sidewalk in front of the store.a$ine.a$ine. 8i. . #ut these 2eo2le seemed to just take him at face value. they knew about his arrest. C(mily3D he said.business. 8is 2hone rang just before he reached the <ragon.
=ewis3 1’ve got another idea. 1 guess 1 killed the deal.D . Iust now.D 8e 2aused. C1’m really sorry.D CActually.C:eah.
ONE %EAR LATER .
C8ow was your flight3D . Ahere are you3D CEm. <id you eat already3D C4o. there’s a food court around . 1’ll meet you there.ei ht"#four C8ave you landed3D C:eah. She was making her way to the last 2air of em2ty seats in the food court when she felt an arm reach around her waist.D (mily ordered a sandwich and looked around for a table. 1 just got off the 2lane.ate S'. turning around and giving =ewis a kiss. B8eyKB she said.
D (mily said. BAnd3B .B (mily said. C.D =ewis said. 8ere. C1n San Francisco3 Ae’ve got what. 1n the air2ort. three stores already3D C4o.D she said. Ae have got to hire somebody in #oston. CSo have you checked your messages3D C4ot yet.a$ine wants to o2en u2 a location here. dro22ing his overnight bag on to2 of (mily’s suitcase and sitting down ne$t to her.C=ong. <oesn6t she know they don6t allow smoking in the air2ort3D BThat6s what 1 told her.D CAe will.D =ewis laughed and 2ut his head in his hands. BShe is so cra5y.
D They took #ART to the !owell Street station and dragged their luggage across Enion S0uare. #""LS. Finish your sandwich and let6s go into the city. C"h my godKD =ewis said when he rounded the corner at . CAhat3D CThis is the first time 1’ve seen the sign. 8ow was =A3D CSucked. 1 don6t want any more air2ort food.D Across the s0uare an enormous mar0uee read F1R(#R(AT814.eary. the sign managed .D C1 know. =ook. 1n s2ite of the fact that it was illuminated by what seemed to be a hundred thousand =(< lights. 1 hate =A.BShe said to let Richmond worry about that.B C"f course.
C1t’s just the biggest thing in Enion S0uare. Although =ewis would always like the (ureka store best.to look like the sort of hand-2ainted signboard that once hung above the <ragon. 1t was his idea to go all the way across the building like that. and floorboards from .acy’s sign. C4o. C1t’s hugeKD C4ow.D They crossed Enion S0uare and walked through the store’s wide double doors. it’s great. 1 think it’s bigger than the . (mily had 2ersuaded the architect to salvage banisters.D (mily said. Ahat does )rawford think3D C8e loves it. he had to admit that they did 2retty good job on Enion S0uare. trim.D =ewis assured her. you do remember that your wife does all the design work for this com2any.
B1t makes more sense to have these little stations around the store. and she even found a collection of brass light fi$tures that came out of the old San Francisco library.D 1t was only noon. what 1 like about this one is that we don6t just have one big smoke sho2 in the back. with four or five stools . but already the 2lace was full.B =ewis said. (ven though the bookshelves and furniture were the same at all twenty-eight stores around the country. Three 2olished mahogany bars were situated around the store. the architectural salvage hel2 to give the stores the creaky old bookstore atmos2here she and =ewis wanted to 2reserve.old buildings. BSee. The two of them stood just inside the doorway and looked around at the store.
of course. and in fact most of their book sales were to collectors who were after a 2articular autogra2h or an unusual binding. if not an old bookstore.com’s data showed that more than half of their customers downloaded a title after seeing it in the store. At first . Someone worked behind the counter at each station --.at each. 2eo2le actually did 2ick u2 a book once they settled into a chair.Richmond insisted on calling them cannabis sommeliers --. #ut 4ile. .a$ine had worried that the 2lace would reek of stale smoke. but a 2owerful and sur2risingly 0uiet ventilation system ke2t the 2lace clean and smelling more likeHwell.dis2ensing joints. something close to it. And in s2ite of =ewis6s early doubts. 8ardly anyone bought one. and chatting with the customers. refilling bowls.
taking (mily’s suitcase from her and shaking =ewis’ hand.That satisfied )rawford. set u2 an old-fashioned 2rinting 2ress and bookbinding sho2 where artists could . )ome check it out. And it was )rawford who a22roached them now.D Although )rawford had ho2ed to kee2 the original <ragon as the store where he could e$2eriment and launch new 2roducts. 1t was here in San Francisco that he launched a series of writing worksho2s and author events. whose job it was to scour garages and warehouses for books to rotate through the shelves. C8ey. C1’ll get these sent over to your hotel. the fact was that the Enion S0uare location was so much bigger and busier that he was s2ending most of his time here.D he said.
hand-colored ma2s. C)rawfordKD (mily e$claimed as she walked into the glass-enclosed gallery s2ace. all framed and 2riced and ready to hang on the wall. CThis is gorgeousKD RedoutW’s roses. A ma2 dating back to %'+&. The charred edges around the bullet hole had been carefully 2reserved. when cartogra2hers thought that )alifornia was an island. engraved in 2ainstaking detail under orders from Iose2hine #ona2arte and colored by hand two hundred years ago. and manuscri2t 2ages. A letter addressed to 8unter Thom2son from his editor. which Thom2son had taken outside and shot. andHthis is what =ewis and (mily had come to seeHo2ened a gallery that sold botanical engravings. the letter 2ressed .2ractice those lost arts.
CSame way your uncle did. )rawford had 2riced it at five hundred dollars. :ou just have to know where to look. 1t’s out there.D . C8ow do you find it3D )rawford shrugged.D =ewis said. CThis stuff is ama5ing.between glass. but he was tem2ted to raise it to a thousand just to kee2 it in the store a while longer.
onica’s Third Street !romenade and found herself 2ulled inside. And 1 can’t believe )rawford went along with it. and 1’m not going to ask.inger wandered by the s2rawling new bookstore on Santa . but she’d refused.ei ht"#five 1t was only a matter of time before . They don’t owe me any favors.D . Sumner. and the <ragon. =ewis is a sellout. #esides.D she said to her sister when the news broke about the 2artnershi2 between 4ile. C1t was a shitty thing to do. 8er sister had been trying for months to convince her to call =ewis and ask for a job. C1 walked out on them.
but she had grown accustomed to it in the last year. her old job. She didn’t even think she missed the <ragon much until she walked by and saw that they were hiring.onica instead of (ureka.inger thought. and girls really did roller skate 2ast in bikinis.#ut here she was. . drawn to the very memory of a bookstore. but it did look dark and warm and literary in a way that made it seem like a foreign land here in southern )alifornia. essentially.onica store had none of the flavor of the original <ragon. Soon she was standing at the counter filling out an a22lication for what was. . unable to stay away. "utside. The Santa . only in Santa . =os Angeles had always been a caricature of itself. 2alm trees flanked the sidewalks.
At the other end of the counter. trying to decide how to describe her 2revious bookstore e$2erience.D she said. C1 liked it when it was green. breaking away from the grou2.She leaned over the counter. . reali5ing that it wasn’t even hers. C:ou can kee2 that 2en. C:ou changed your hair. C:ou changed your wardrobe. then s2it it out.D one of the men said. a grou2 of 2eo2le crowded around a set of architectural 2lans and talked about the final changes the store would need before it could o2en. She dro22ed the 2en on the counter and stared at him.inger twirled the 2en nervously between her fingers and chewed on the ca2.D .D he said.D CThis color’s called egg2lant.
. C1 thought 1’d a22ly. 1’ll give you a job if that’s what you want. C1 was ho2ing you might want dinner.D CAell hell.D .D she said. are you3D C1 saw the sign.D CAhat else would 1 want3D Richmond swallowed hard and tried to sound casual. :ou’re not in here looking for a job.inger.CTurns out nobody wears a suit in )alifornia.
calling it a sham. when he conjured u2 his uncle Sy’s s2irit and tried to make his case to the old manG what was the .ei ht"#six Sometimes =ewis wondered if he6d done the right thing by cutting a deal with . The re2orters who had covered the demise of bookstores across the country lined u2 to take shots at this new venture.a$ine. late at night. a cynical cor2orate maneuver aimed at co-o2ting the very literary culture it had killed. he heard from 2lenty of embittered former booksellers who accused him of jum2ing into bed with the enemy. #ut F=ewis reasoned. "nce the news got out.
And if they 2ersisted in doing most of their reading on their 2hones3 . She was sincere in her belief that the books themselves acted as a kind of touchstone. that her stores would connect 2eo2le to literature in some concrete way. And she wasn’t a snob about it.a$ine saw a reason to get 2eo2le e$cited about books. Real books. and 2eo2le weren’t e$actly lining u2 to buy books there. either she also filled her sho2s with 2ul2 2a2erbacks and tattered children’s books and anything with interesting notations by the author or some long-ago reader.alternative3 The <ragon was the last bookstore left. it wasHwhat3 A museum3 A charity3 A tourist attraction3 At least . Aithout customers. with sum2tuous bindings and creamy. deckle-edge 2a2er and e$traordinary little engravings.
.a$ine could hardly object. and she didn’t see why anyone else would. 8e was sus2icious of writers who swore off boo5e and cigarettes and late nights in favor of a 2ot of tea and yoga at sunrise. he believed. #ut he surely would have a22roved of that other thing they sold at Firebreathing #ooksHa slightly refined strain of (dith’s lovely cannabis. either.a$ine with an im2assioned defense of the 2rinted 2age. bred in bars and coffee houses and o2ium dens. was born out of into$ication. =ewis knew that Sy would have come roaring back at . like ja55 and 1m2ressionism. Sy believed that literature. . and meant to be shared at 2arties and in backyards and living rooms and out on the street. 8ealthy living. was the enemy of literature.
CSo lighten u2. Sto2 asking me. kidKD =ewis could hear Sy saying during those late-night conversations. C<o whatever you want.D .
com. . visit www.A&out the Author Amy Stewart is the author of four books on the 2erils and 2leasures of the natural world.com.lastbookstoreinamerica.amystewart.eurekabooksellers. )A.com and www. Ioin the discussion about this book at www. To find out more. 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.
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