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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
but over time most 2eo2le just started referring to it as their 2hone. The screen was as easy to read as 2a2er and worked at all light levels.i5mo ran on a combination of solar energy and body heat and had a nearly unlimited storage . which was a charming name. and intuitively sim2le to use.i5mo was lightweight. so there didn’t seem to be any reason to call it anything s2ecial. elegant. without re0uiring batteries or software u2dates. it would direct you back to safety and read you a story on the way. consider this the . The . #efore you 2rotest that books themselves are intuitively sim2le to use. 1t was the only kind of 2hone 2eo2le had anymore. And they called it a .you got lost.i5mo. and that 2a2er itself is as easy to read as 2a2er.
but that’s not all. so . The .ca2acity. and even theft-2roof it identified you by your finger2rints and wouldn’t res2ond to anyone else’s touch. shatter2roof. take all of <avid =ivingstone’s voluminous writings into the most remote African jungles without ever re0uiring an electrical outlet. "h.i5mo because they could enlarge the ty2eface to suit them as their eyesight failed. for instance. or they could ask the .i5mo was water2roof. and even )hoctaw. grandchild or #roadway actor. !eo2le all over the world were united in their adoration for this highly literate gadget.i5mo s2oke fluent S2anish. The . man or woman.i5mo to read books to them in their choice of voices (nglish or American. allowing one to. )hinese. "lder 2eo2le 2articularly loved the .
1t cost >/*. 4o 2assword.there was no 2oint in stealing it.**' 8arle0uin romance titles. So everything was available on the .oogle scanned every last scra2 of 2a2er. no setu2 fees. :ou wouldn’t miss books either if you had one of these.i5mo. Admit it you want one. no data transfer. and . "h.*+ and it was made entirely of recycled materials. from ancient )hinese scrolls and shattered bits of 2a2yrus to back issues of T+ Guide and all ?. which meant that you could 2ick u2 a new device anytime and it would instantly recogni5e you. And to those of you who are inclined to bellyache about the romance of dim old financially and seismically unsound bookstores7 . 1t backed u2 all your data seamlessly and constantly.
and 2rints. or things described in this book are used fictitiously. 2laces. @ "ne more thing. do you3 "f course not. any actual 2ersons. ask yourselves this :ou don’t miss chamber 2ots and ether anesthesia. (ureka #ooks sells nothing but books. Ahile it bears some resemblance to the endangered bookstore in this story. all 2rinted .to those of you who wa$ rha2sodic over the scent of dust mites and the te$ture of tree 2ul2 between your fingers. )alifornia. So let’s move on. ma2s. and the rest is entirely fiction. The author of this book is the owner of an anti0uarian bookstore in (ureka. #ut 2lease be assured that unlike the bookstore in this story.
on glorious old 2a2er. . and intends to continue on that basis for generations to come.
PART ONE .
4o. The slim volumes of 2oetry. (mily and =ewis thought they had seen the last of the dead tree variety of book.one (mily Short and =ewis 8artman thought they had seen the last of books. 4ot BbooksB in the sense of novels or 2residential biogra2hies or nonfiction narratives that e$2lore the hidden side of everything. There would always be 2lenty of those. The shelves in the study. They were . The stack on the nightstand. the tattered 2a2erbacks. Those had all but vanished. the 2onderous leather-bound and gilt-edged classics with red ribbons sewn into the bindings. and (mily and =ewis didn6t miss them.
or what was left of them in their 2ost-2rint incarnation. even if they didn6t get around to reading them. ca2tivated the nation.2erfectly ha22y to read books on a little electronic device that had.e! -ork Times. Aell. Sometimes. and they were very good at kee2ing u2 with all of their friends’ blogs and u2dating their Facebook 2ages. 4ot to mention e-mail and Twitter. 0uite frankly. . And they did read. and there were always restaurant reviews and weather re2orts and stock ti2s and video cli2s. And they always read the San Fran is o "hroni le and the . they certainly downloaded a lot of books before their last vacation.
#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.well. no. considering that when =ewis was a boy. 1t’s true that (mily and =ewis didn6t read many of those anymore. shockingly bitter gul2 himself7 he got . )alifornia. 1n just three short months. 8e read . Ahich is ironic. and 2ossibly life-changing. =ewis had a number of momentous.aked (un h# (olita. e$2eriences. which he did. but not before taking an enormous. and any number of other books his 2arents wouldn’t have a22roved of7 he was once asked to fetch a cold beer for Aallace Stegner.
#ut Sy was not the sort of uncle to call or show u2 at )hristmas or remember your . 1t was glorious. and once ate nothing but olives and cocktail sausages for an entire weekend. 1t was a very interesting summer. :oung =ewis went seventeen days without a bath.to ride in a 2olice car Fwhich had nothing to do with Aallace Stegner or (olita--he just got lost and needed a ride homeG7 and he managed to stand u2 in front of a grou2 of twelve mildly into$icated adults and read a derivative but nonetheless brave little 2oem about 2readolescent malaise at The Firebreathing <ragon’s weekly 2oetry reading. Encle Sy had no children of his own and no understanding of the level of su2ervision that children re0uired.
they never let him s2end another vacation with Sy. So =ewis went on to business school. 1f you weren’t in (ureka. and it never occurred to =ewis to call or show u2 on his own. when #illy <alton called to talk to him about the 2robate of Sylvester !orter’s estate. 8e married (mily. After =ewis’ 2arents found out what had gone on that summer. 8e rarely thought about uncle Sy at all. and from there he embarked u2on a disa22ointing career as a 2harmaceutical sales re2resentative. a gra2hic designer who earned more than he did for what seemed like much less work. =ewis sim2ly said . you might as well not e$ist. which e$2lains why. inhabiting Sy’s dusty and never-0uite-al2habeti5ed world.birthday.
numbers. (mily. animated . !ron. Also on the list were thinks it)s funny to talk to the at about urrent events. 8e was adding this to a list he6d been kee2ing of irritating traits that. 2ressing his thumb into the sesame seeds that had dro22ed onto his na2kin. points hopsti ks in people)s fa es durin.D and hung u2. said.C1’m sorry. now that he and (mily were married. C:ou didn’t get a name3D =ewis 2ut his seed-encrusted thumb into his mouth and thought# insists on dis ussin. B:ou heard me. 1 think you have the wrong number. who was sitting across from him at the bagel sho2. BAhat was that3B =ewis looked u2 with sur2rise.D he said. he would have to learn to tolerate. Arong number.
. B<on6t hang u2. (mily had her good 0ualities -.onversations in "hinese restaurants. 8e 2ulled his thumb out of his mouth and shrugged.B . which to be honest made her faster than =ewis most daysHbut lately the list of irritating traits was beginning to weigh on him. su ks on his thumb/ The 2hone bu55ed again.B he said. B1 didn6t catch the name. (mily 2ressed her li2s together and thought. B1t6s about your uncle Sy.oofy photos in Santa hats on summer va ations for future use on "hristmas ards.B #illy said when =ewis answered. and insists on takin.she never s2ent more than half an hour getting ready to go anywhere. (mily was still waiting for an answer.
#illy thoughtG. a real estate agent.two Although it would have sur2rised many of his clients to learn this. in fact. 8e shared the s2ace with three other lawyers. #illy <alton did. have a law office. 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. a husband-and-wife 2sychologist team Fa miserable idea. A secretary named )onnie Slack showed u2 every morning at eight to sit in a kind of . and a man who sold blue-green algae ca2sules through a multilevel marketing scheme called 9ita=ife.
res2onded to their own e-mail. #ut having a rece2tionist was one of the benefits of this shared office arrangement. That left )onnie with the res2onsibility of caring for a ficus tree and making sure the fire e$tinguisher 2assed ins2ection once a year. and most 2eo2le felt . #illy had failed to attend the meeting where the decision to hire )onnie was made. and she did anything her em2loyers asked her to doH although there wasn’t much to do. if any showed u2.makeshift rece2tion area at the to2 of the stairs and greet clients. )onnie never missed a day of work.i5mo. #ut as it turned out. !eo2le took their own calls. but if he had been there. and even billed their clients through a nifty mobile banking a2 on their . he would have insisted that they not hire a secretary named Slack.
#illy agreed that offices didn’t have much of a 2oint. a fi$ed 2oint in his life that #illy had assumed would never move. Sy was #illy’s best friend. there would be no reason to have an office at all. dro22ing into a chair across from the counter where he could observe the theatrics that seemed to surround Sy the unwanted and often alarming advice he delivered to children about the advantages of . The law doesn6t ha22en in an office. he believed. (s2ecially in bookstores. 1t had been a miserable si$ months since Sy’s death. 1t ha22ens in bars and alleys and even in bookstores. 8e 2referred to do his lawyering out on the streets.that without )onnie. "ver the last twenty years #illy must have crossed the <ragon’s threshold thousands of times.
listening in on Sy’s harangues of his customers for some hint of an im2ending divorce or a winnable lawsuit.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. 8e had not gotten over the . #illy continued to hang around the store. #illy never missed a day of it. There was always something ha22ening at the <ragon. After Sy died. #illy 2icked u2 some of his best cases by lingering around the <ragon’s counter.
Sy’s will had gone . orH worseHwould be ri22ed away from him all at once one day. just unusually 0uiet and non-cor2oreal. but #illy 2referred to e$2erience it as a sort of transitional 2hase. There was another reason to s2end so much time at the bookstore. This could be called denial.feeling that Sy might rea22ear at any time. knocking him off his feet with the force of its de2arture. would fade eventually. a friendly haunting. This feeling. 8e believed that sometimes the dead had a way of sticking around. shocking friends and lovers who had grown accustomed to the idea that the dead were not really dead. #illy knew. lingering long after the funeral and then one day just vanishing. might materiali5e in his s0ueaky old chair behind the counter as if he had never left at all.
8e knew Sy had left the store to a ne2hew. and that he6d need to 2roduce a co2y of the will and act u2on its instructions. which gave him access to file .missing. #illy located it by lying flat on his back and sliding under the bookstore6s massive oak desk. but nobody remembered the ne2hew’s name. 1t never occurred to him that the clients would actually die someday. and 2robate was ho2elessly hung u2 while #illy searched for it. #ut it eventually turned u2 in a bo$ of old 2am2hlets on 9ictorian medicinal remedies that Sy must have bought the same year he and #illy wrote out the will. 1t had been over twenty years since he’d drafted the will7 #illy wasn6t even sure he’d 2assed the bar at that 2oint. 8e was doing wills for free back then in the ho2es of drumming u2 some clients.
B4o. There was sort of a 2ost)atholic school 2unk irony to the look.bo$es that had been stashed there since --. but ever .well.inger. when he 2ulled out the 2am2hlets advertising Ayer’s )herry !ectoral and Sarsa2arilla Tonic. She had scaled a ladder to reach some volume on the wall of books behind the counter. since the days when Sy actually cared about sorting 2a2ers into file bo$es. BIesus.B said #illy. B8ow long have these been here3B BAre they 2riced3B asked . 8e slid out from under the desk and looked u2 at . She6d taken to wearing these 2leated schoolgirl skirts that she found at a thrift store.B said #illy. who had come in on her day off because )rawford had failed to show u2 again.inger.
CToss them. As if the weight of all the unsold books around her weren’t bad enough. crou2. C#ut these are cool. influen5a. C:ou’re getting rid of these3D CAhat’s anybody going to do with a 2am2hlet3D she said. for the cure of coughs. inci2ient consum2tion.D she said.inger started dying her hair green to cover u2 the gray. and for the . hoarseness.B he said B=isten to this. #illy had lost interest. C8ow would you 2rice them3D C1 wouldn’t. 4ow he dared confront her with a 2am2hlet. JAyer6s cherry 2ectoral with o2ium.since . 8e didn6t even bother sliding over a cou2le of feet to try to get a look u2 her skirt. bronchitis. colds. hea2ing e$tra scorn on the word. showing her a handful.D CReally3D he said.
D CAhat did he leave me3D C.D C1s it really all going to that kid3 The house and everything3D C1f the kid wants it.inger said. C8e 2robably signed it the same day all this stuff came into the store.inger. <id you find the will3D C1t6s right here. climbing down from the ladder and holding the second volume of a Tibetan-)hinese dictionary over his head like . 8e didn’t even know you then.D C:ou should have never let him do that.B he said. #illy. They’re yours. CFine.inger was unmoved.’ :ou’re going to take o2ium for hoarseness3 That’s fantasticKD .D .relief of consum2tive 2atients in advanced stages of the disease.
inger. 8e took a dee2 breath and his vision cleared. the buckling 2lywood shelves looking as though they might finally give way. slamming the dictionary on the desk.D said #illy. C8asn’t anybody thought about what we’re going to do when little =ewis finds out thatH D C.inger said. The store swam dangerously around him.D 8e groaned and 2ulled himself to his feet. !robably married.inger. Lids. CAhat kind of lawyer lets his client leave everything to a ten year-old3D C8e’s not ten anymore.D CLids3D . !lease. C. .ive it a rest.she intended to dro2 it on him. C8e’s got to be over thirty by now. .D #illy said.
D #illy fished his 2hone out of his 2ocket and settled into Sy’s old chair to deliver the news to =ewis. The last si$ months had aged #illy7 his hair. had finally gone entirely grey.inger asked. . C1’m fine.D he said.D . which he ke2t tied in a forlorn wis2 of a 2onytail. C8and me the 2hone.C:ou all right3D . Ae’re running a store here.D CEse your own 2hone. with something that 2assed for concern in her voice. 8is eyes were 2ermanently bloodshot7 his skin was turning to tissue.inger said. CAnd get out from behind the counter.
having figured that much out from =ewis’s side of the conversation. B8e --B 8e couldn6t bring himself to say it. Finally he s2oke.B 8e 2laced both of his 2alms on the table as if he was trying to steady himself. C=ewis3 Ahat is it3D 8e tried again. right3B BThe one who didn6t come to our wedding3B B:eah.three =ewis 2ut the 2hone down and stared at some 2oint in the air above (mily6s head. B<id he die3B (mily asked. . She watched him and waited. B:ou remember my uncle Sy.
B BThe bookstore3 8e still has the bookstore3D (mily leaned forward and took =ewis6s hands.B8e left me the bookstore. 1 know. that has to be --B B"ne of the last bookstores in America. B8oney.B .
four For the last several years. The odd bookstore that stayed o2en was. (very time one closed they would trot out a list of the few stores that remained o2en around the country. 1t was like kee2ing a list of the last surviving veterans of some distant war. a fluke. An outlier. like that teenage soldier. then lived an unusually long life afterward. . re2orters had been tracking the dwindling number of bookstores in America. (ventually the only survivors were the 2eo2le who had lied about their age and enlisted as teenagers just before victory was declared.
but even they were not faring well.Re2orters. 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. 1t then fell to used bookstores and dealers of rare anti0uarian books to kee2 the tradition of 2rinted books alive. #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. and handsome hardcovers sometimes went to interior decorators who wanted to furnish a room in some old-fashioned style. Stores that sold new books were the first to go. loved to s2eculate about which store would be the last bookstore in America. .
as was "ut of !rint in #rooklyn. . The last few holdouts were .ackey6s had owned its own building since %*%?.ackey6s #ooks in )hicago was a more likely candidate. nostalgic neighborhoods. and "ut of !rint was recently 2urchased by a wealthy real estate attorney indulging his daughter6s literary fantasies. 2rotecting it against rent increases.The Firebreathing <ragon was generally believed to be too remote and too obscure to last much longer. es2ecially now that its erratic and ill-tem2ered founder was gone. They were each fine old institutions rooted in affluent. #ut the sad fact was that the rate at which bookstores were closing seemed to be accelerating. . #oth seemed much more secure than the <ragon.
by the end of the summer. "nce they saw their names in the 2a2er. =ewis should have known that the <ragon was on the bookstore death watch list.to22ling 0uickly. like those elderly war veterans who were only hanging on long enough to attain the rank of oldest living survivor. . leaving Sy to shuffle around his weird old house on a hillto2 overlooking 8umboldt #ay. 8e assumed that Sy’s bookstore had faded away years ago. 8e noticed those stories when they came across the screen7 he just never read 2ast the first cou2le of lines. there might not be a single bookstore left. 4ow the last few bookstores were closing at the rate of two or three 2er month and it actually seemed 2ossible that. they could finally let go.
1 guess we6ll find out when we get there. Ahen did you say he died3B (mily said that night as she got into bed. 1 didn6t even think to ask.five CAait a minute. 8eart attack. BThat’s what 1 thought.B =ewis was 2erched on the edge of the bed. staring at his toes. BSo how is it that the store is still o2en3 Aho6s been running it all this time3B B"h. BSi$ months ago. "ut of the blue.B she said. a sure sign that he was 2ondering something.B B.et where3B .
issionstyle bed made of warm cherry. 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. it hardly seemed right to come home to a house full of 2oorlyassembled 1kea furniture. 8e heard her slide out of bed and walk over to him. a wine . right3D Still he didn’t look u2 at her. A handsome . 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.B(ureka. 4ow her feet were right ne$t to his.D =ewis did not look at her as he said this.
She sho22ed with serene confidence. She just wanted a comfortable. and a whole-house media system with integrated controls in every room seemed. the sneakers that .refrigerator to store the bottles that arrived by mail from each of three wine clubs they’d joined. )redit cards. at the time. always choosing the toaster with the best re2utation. 4ow =ewis awoke almost every night in a sweat. )ar 2ayments. (mily wasn’t a bad 2erson7 she wasn’t shallow or vain7 she wasn’t s2oiled or unreasonable. the numbers roiling in his head. Student loans. urban life filled with good things. 8e wanted out. 1t was overwhelming and sickening. like smart 2urchases. long-term investments in their own 2ros2erous future. And (mily didn’t.
1t would come. (mily’s was a comfortable and orderly world. . a warm sunflower in summer and an icy blue in winter. 2um2kin in fall. And she never worried about the money. She felt that the best way to live a life filled with good things and e$otic vacations was to just start living it. And she most certainly did not want to move to (ureka and take 2ossession of a failing bookstore. the handwoven sli2covers that she changed with the seasons celery green in s2ring. She wasn’t about to wait until she was old to see #uda2est or hang her clothes in a cedar-lined closet. The time to get what she wanted was now.could cure bad 2osture and burn more calories.
C)an’t we just go look3D (mily knew that she should have refused to go. So why should she be the one to tell him no3 8e would . 8e was unha22yHshe knew that.D =ewis said. what good would it do him3 That bookstore was already dead. She could feel his heart 2ounding against her.CIust drive u2 with me and see it. meeting her eyes at last. She should have insisted that they have nothing to do with his uncle Sy’s cra5y old enter2rise on the 4orth )oast. 8e wra22ed his arms around her waist and leaned his head against her. and even if he did. 1t just didn’t know it yet. #ut she didn’t refuse to go. =ewis knew nothing about books or bookstores. She 2ut her hand on to2 of =ewis’ head and let it rest there.
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. . slow breath. :ou’re finally going to get me to go to (ureka. This would be nothing but a weekend out of town.D he said.D she said. CAe should at least go have a look. "f course he would. 8e looked u2 at her in sur2rise. Ahat was the harm in that3 C:ou’re right. C:ou’ll love it.D 8e let out a long.
. made of leather and stuffed with horsehair. cou2lers and a$les and steel wheel rims and rain a2rons. was mounted on a 2latform and wheeled onto the wooden-2lank sidewalk in decent weather. A life-si5ed re2lica of a horse. 1t was the only 2lace in town to get whi2s and saddles. :ou could buy an entire carriage and roll it right out the front of the store onto Second Street. bridles and bits. the Firebreathing <ragon’s building housed a carriage sho2. which was the most lively street in this booming 2ort town.six A hundred years ago.
whi2 sockets and shaft ti2s. 1ron hooks hung from the elegant 9ictorian banister. )arriages sat on a 2olished showroom floor in the middle of the building. thanks to 8enry Ford and his bright ideas. light 2oured down on them from two skylights in the ceiling.A long and skinny structure with thirty foothigh ceilings and a second-floor me55anine. and on sunny days. 0uite suddenly. E2stairs the walls were lined with racks of wooden bo$es holding all manner of obsolete technology iron cli2s and leather coils. each of which were framed in the kind of florid 2lasterwork common to buildings in those days. bells and rein rails. . and sus2ended from those hooks were bridles and lines and saddles. Things that became useless. the building lent itself 2erfectly to the business of carriages.
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. Sy fell into the habit of talking to the 2icture as if he was addressing the store’s long- .The sho2 suffered the fate of all horse-andbuggy sho2s. reo2ened as a saloon. "ld Town became a red-light district for loggers and fishermen. and the horse-and-buggy sho2. who framed a %*&+-era 2hotogra2h of the store in its horse-and-carriage glory and hung it behind the counter. after being boarded u2 for a few years. where they could catch the eyes of motorists 2assing through on their way to San Francisco or the gold mines in Trinity )ounty.
according to Sy’s mythology. CThat’s what you 2eo2le told Aalter. 8e even gave the owner a name Aalter. lamenting the downfall of the solid and reliable horse and 2redicting that . that they would always return to the solid comfort of a real book. C8ow does a horse-and-buggy man know when to give it u2. s2ent his broken and dis2irited days in the saloon that re2laced his failed carriage sho2.dead owner.D he would holler. Aalter3D he used to shout as he watched 2eo2le walk 2ast his sho2 without giving it a glance. C=ook where it got him.i5mo’s lurid 2leasures. when his long-time customers would come in and tell him that they would never surrender to .D Aalter. Sy would just shake his head and 2oint to the 2hotogra2h. "r.
8e even anne$ed the remains of an old bank . arriving in (ureka in %*'M in a school bus filled with books and just enough cash for a down 2ayment on the largest vacant building in "ld Town.2eo2le would soon tire of the chea2 and risky thrills offered by the automobile. That’s e$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. The saloon closed in the early si$ties. Adventurous back-to-the-landers moved u2 to 8umboldt )ounty from the #ay Area. when the timber industry fell into decline. along with the other bars along Second Street. and soon "ld Town’s chea2 real estate made it 2ossible for these new arrivals to o2en a coffee sho2 or an art gallery or a bookstore.
ismatched bookcases formed cram2ed and narrow stacks around the edges of the former buggy showroom. #ookshelves climbed u2 the walls to the me55anine. and then continued on the second floor. and near the entrance. taking over its vault as a storeroom and 2artitioning off the front of the building so that it could be sold as a se2arate storefront. 1n the center of the building. where they could kee2 . To most 2eo2le the <ragon looked like it had always been a bookstore.building ne$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. where carriages had once gleamed on their 2edestals. books sat on tables and faded under the bright skylights.
one eye on "ld Town and one eye on each other. The rest of "ld Town came together in more or less the same way. F4o one watched the customers. (ventually he bought a broken-down 9ictorian on a generous 2arcel of land outside of town and moved into it. An old cannery became a seafood restaurant. and the rest of his life was devoted to running the small retail and real estate enter2rise he’d created for himself. 1t was Sy’s firm belief that 2eo2le should be allowed to wander through a bookstore unmolested. and was known to a22ear on Sunday mornings in his bathrobe and cook scrambled eggs on a hot 2late behind the counter. accessible through a service door in the alley.G For a few years Sy lived in an a2artment on the roof. the town’s first meeting hall .
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. . .became a thrift store. was deserted. Ahile most towns along the !acific )oast face the water. where )ity 8all and the jail were situated. "nly the waterfront remained vacant. which ran along the waterfront. The town’s civic life started on Second Street and continued through to Si$th. First Street. and the old sawmill that once 2rocessed the logs that floated down the river had long ago shut down. and the string of bars on either side of the <ragon re-o2ened as cafes and record stores and little sho2s that sold beads and wind chimes. (ureka had turned its back on its harbor.eanwhile. The fisherman had left.
She had family back in #ostonHa father and four brothers who all served on #oston’s 2olice forceHbut she never s2oke of them. . (dith had sim2ly been with him since the beginning. The lawlessness and disorder of )alifornia in the si$ties drew her to 8umboldt. 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. 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.
Although Sy was older than (dith. and no one had taken res2onsibility for (dith. And now. Sometimes she seemed too delicate to kee2 u2 with Sy. who she addressed constantly the way Sy used to talk to Aalter the carriage-sho2 owner. on this sunny day in early summer. but she was also the one with the bad heart and the brush with cancer. She’d been 0uite alone over the last si$ months. (dith was small and 0uiet and self-assured. #ut now he was gone. 1n 2rivate Sy’s friends often wondered who would take res2onsibility for him when (dith died. a massive man with a booming voice. rarely s2eaking to anyone but Sy. no one e$2ected him to go first. (dith was outside in her work clothes yanking on the blackberry vine that had taken .
leaving the roots intactHthe force of it knocked her into the grass. SyKB she shouted. brushed it away. . a doctor in Redding confirmed that it was cancer. "ne night several years ago she was getting undressed for bed when she noticed a brown s2ider crawling out of her bra. Two weeks later. 4ot that she had anything against s2iders. She tore off the bra. C1 am not crawling under that 2orch again. 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.D #ut she did crawl under.root under Sy’s 2orch. She 2ulled so hard that when it broke looseHsna22ing cleanly off at the base. as if even this was his fault. B<ammit. and discovered a lum2 in the 2rocess.
"nce she reached the base of the blackberry vine.B That line was re2eated around town for years.wondering why the dirt under a house was always so fine and dry.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.aybe . B:ou6re 2robably wondering right now why a loving . B:ou know what3 . This woman turned out to be someone who thrived on other 2eo2le6s cancer diagnoses7 on the way home.od would 2ut a lum2 in your breast. like flour.D (dith got so irritated by this that she finally sna22ed. . she scra2ed away as much of loose dirt as she could -.od 2ut the s2ider in my bra. she ke2t saying things like. until it took on an air of s2iritual mysticism far beyond what (dith had intended.
4ow the entire thicket of vines. "f course. but the blackberries were snaking under the house and growing through the floorboards. he 2referred to let his s2rawling . grabbing the vine by its roots the way you’d haul a dog around by the collar. She dusted herself off. even when Sy was alive.com2ared to the clay in the garden around it -and 2ulled the mess of roots out of the ground. (dith wouldn6t normally bother with these kind of 2reventative maintenance chores. a good fifty feet in all. 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. an im2ressive level of decay for a house that had only been vacant for si$ months. <own it went to join the rest of the bramble. Then.
Ahen (dith 2ointed out that moss was accumulating on the roof of his ramshackle Nueen Anne. The idea that things should be allowed to gradually fall a2art. which made him feel vindicated. receiving nothing but 2alliative care to ease the sym2toms.2ro2erty settle into a state of natural decline. Ahen the roof leaked . And when the mossroof s2rung a leak. Sy went into the attic and 2atched it with mud from the inside. The more an outbuilding fell a2art. Sy brought home a book that had recently come into the <ragon about thatched roof cottages in Scotland and argued that he was merely carrying on centuriesold tradition. worked in the bookstore as well. the better it worked as a greenhouse. Another ten years went by and suddenly green roofs were in vogue.
which were subse0uently taken over by several do5en com2lete sets of TimeO=ife6s . "ver time. 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. 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. 4ew books were never shelved7 they were sim2ly stacked somewhere near the section where they belonged. Foreign =anguage had been engulfed by #ritain and France. he sus2ended buckets from the ceiling and threw a 2lastic tar2 over the endangered bookshelves until the storms receded in s2ring. Some sections were com2letely im2assable.reat #ooks Series.
which is why she stayed out of the bookstore and refused Sy’s re2eated re0uests to move in with him. usually involving 2a2er cli2s. . Sy loved a good mess. 1n short. (dith could never tolerate his sort of mess.re2air manuals. coat hangers. 8e never tried to intercede when a mess was brewing7 he merely constructed his own odd ada2tations. settling into one of his rentals instead. 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. 2ennies. 8e loved to watch it grow and im2ose its own strange order on the world. and a case of acidfree binding ta2e that he bought back when he thought he might seriously attem2t to be a bookseller. Sy liked the logic in this.
they wouldn6t have any money coming back to them. 1t was lonely at the end of this old logging road. 4ow everyone had moved out but (dith. with nothing but scrubby second growth forest behind her and the nearest neighbor a half mile away. and created the e$2ectation that they had no right to ask him to fi$ anythingHnot that he would have anyway. which meant that if they moved. each one cho22ed into a2artments and rented out to musicians whose tenure lasted decades. 8e also ke2t the rents low. Sy had figured out the 2erfect a22roach to kee2ing long-term tenants he never charged them a security de2osit. She used to be able to count on a burly . This allowed the musicians to indulge their aversion to day jobs.There were about a half-do5en old buildings on the 2ro2erty.
The fence was overgrown with rosemary and an enormous redflowering 2inea22le sage. . even that would be over.bass 2layer to roll out of bed around noon and haul bags of 2otting soil around or fi$ a break in the irrigation system. 4ow she was looking after her enormous garden by herself. southern facing slo2e of her garden. and for a moment (dith wondered if young =ewis and his wife would notice it at all. The fragrance was strong enough to discourage deer and make sure that no one else could follow their nose into (dith’s garden. The shrubs covered the fence com2letely. And once Sy’s ne2hew got into town. (dith made her way from the ditch to the fence that ke2t deer out of the broad.
. maybe =ewis would have her arrested. Sy3D she asked. CAhat’s the kid going to make of this. 1t could go either way. "r.. as she sli22ed through the gate and locked it behind her.aybe she could get by for a few more months.
C:ou’ll have to burn the 2lace down to get us off Second StreetKD Sy used to say. 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. but the <ragon was im2ossible to move. he had refused to 2artici2ate in the endless series of town hall meetings over the future of (ureka’s abandoned waterfront. "n the day that #illy <alton found Sy’s will. councilwoman Ale$is Trevino was sitting .ei ht Ahen Sy was alive. and it was a wonder nobody ever did.
<on still held the cu2 of coffee he’d 2icked u2 at the hardware store. #ut the condos aren’t the 2roblem.across the street from the <ragon at )ontra )offee with her contractor. which just ha22ened to be a 2arcel of land that was once occu2ied by her grandfather’s sawmill. Ale$is was drinking her second chai. C1 can redraw these 2lans and fit another studio above the retail. where contractors drank free as long as they brought their own cu2. =e$.D <on was saying. CAll right. 8e’d been the low bidder on the 2roject she’d 2ro2osed for the waterfront. <on )antrell. and it made her even more im2atient with her contractor than she usually was. The caffeine made her leg shake. The . in his best 1’m-gonna-level-with-you voice.
D <on sighed and looked around the room as if he was ho2ing he’d find another client to talk to. reali5e that it was a seaside )alifornia town. the 2lanning commission’s 2robably going to kick you off the 2roject over conflict of--D C<on’t you say that. <on. :ou still don’t know if you’re going to get any of these stores to move down there and 2ay these rents just to be on the water. And even if you do.retail’s your 2roblem. C1t’s my damn 2roject. . There was no way this 2roject was getting off the ground. !eo2le like =e$ imagined that (ureka would one day wake u2.D =e$ hissed. one who was in touch with something he liked to call reality. 1’ll 2ut a fence around that 2arcel and sit on it for another ten years if they don’t let me build.
(ureka wasn’t a bad 2lace to live.and start acting like one. 1t didn’t e$ist to entertain other 2eo2le. and you might . Esed to be you could come u2 here and work in the sawmills or 2ull crab out of the water. but he was 2retty sure they wouldn’t be dro22ing four hundred grand for a studio with a concrete floor and e$2osed ductwork. Rent a room for a cou2le hundred bucks. and tourists with nothing better to do than buy 2aintings of sailboats from the artists who would occu2y her live-work studios on the harbor. it just wasn’t that kind of 2lace. even with the granite counterto2s and the co22er range hoods. bouti0ues that sold something other than dusty old books. <on thought. =e$ had a vision of sleek bistros overlooking the water. <on didn’t know any artists.
!eo2le like <on 2ocketed fifty grand every time 2eo2le like =e$ came u2 with another scheme for im2roving (ureka and needed 2lans drawn u2.just slide by without doing much of anything at all. but <on . (ureka never did get im2roved.endocino or )armel-by-theSea. 2ot smokers. and 2eo2le who just didn6t fit in anywhere else. (ureka never did become . A certain cross-section of )alifornia’s 2o2ulation was attracted to that idea. burned-out activists. (ven though real estate 2rices went u2 after the highway de2artment decided not to run a freeway through the middle of town. back-to-thelanders. so (ureka had more than its share of drifters. !eo2le like =e$ thought they could 2ut condos on the waterfront and change all that.
BThat6s more of a cosmetic thing. BSomething like that wouldn6t really go on the 2lans. =e$ blew on her chai and s0uinted at the 2lans <on had s2read out on the table.B =e$ said. and 1 ran on a 2romise that 16d run those kids off the wharf.built a deck and a 2arking s2ace for his R9 last summer. <on.B he said. 16m a 2ublic official. BThese skateboarders come down here and 2o2 wheelies or whatever the hell you call it and run off the tourists. like ---B B1t6s not cosmetic. These 2lans are . 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. so it was working out all right for him. 1f only he didn’t have to sit through these damn meetings.
She’d 2ay it.B <on said. 8e6d bill her si$ hundred bucks for that modification ne$t time he sent her a change order. .B <on 2ulled a 2encil out of his shirt 2ocket and leaned across the table. !eo2le always asked <on how he could 2ut u2 with =e$. and that’s how he did it.going to have skate blocks on them if 1 had to draw them in myself. 8e made seven hatch marks along a length of sidewalk in front of the retail. 8e gave her imaginary skate blocks. BThere you go. and she gave him steelbelted radials.B B"hKB =e$ said in an uncharacteristically girly voice. and he’d 2ut new tires on his truck. B1s that what those are3B BThat6s what those are.
. 1f . 8e leaned over to try to get a look before the 2lans disa22eared. She’s the one who insisted on meeting here.uillermo asked. as if it was something he6d found on the sidewalk and wasn6t sure he wanted to touch. )ontra )offee’s owner.uillermo didn’t like him drinking hardware store coffee in his sho2.D =e$ said. CAhen do you break ground3D . and at that moment she saw #illy <alton . sto22ed at the table and 2icked u2 <on6s em2ty coffee cu2 gingerly.uillermo . C. he should take it u2 with =e$. She stood u2 to leave.D =e$ said. C4ot u2 to me.oreQahQ3D <on shook his head and waved him away. and rolled u2 <on’s 2lans.artPn. CAe’re done anyway.
uillermo. following <on out the back door. and ste22ed behind the counter. .walk out of the <ragon with a bo$ under his arm.D she said.D she said to . but he was already gone. C.oddamn city attorney. She turned around to <on. C1’m not here.
8e s2un his key around in the lock a cou2le of times and 2eered in the windows.D .nine Ahen )rawford showed u2 for work at eleven. )rawford. And there was .inger. CAhat the hell are you doing here3D )rawford said as he shoved the door o2en. C1’m working. unbo$ing cookbooks and shelving them in what was once the 2sychology section. Sure enough. the lights were on. he was sur2rised to find the <ragon’s door unlocked. Some of us work.
)rawford rolled his eyes and dro22ed his back2ack behind the counter. This outraged )rawford.inger had hauled out eight bags of old cardboard and news2a2ers and then swe2t the floor. 8e marched over to .inger and stood between her and the bookcase she was organi5ing. )rawford saw an o22ortunity to take a 2rinci2led stand. .inger might as well have hauled Sy’s s2irit out to the recycling bin along with the cardboard. 1t felt like sacrilege to see the store drift so far from its original values. too. BAs the manager of this store ---B . noticing that things had changed back there. #ack in Sy’s day. em2loyees undertook cleaning 2rojects at their own risk. . e$2osing bare wood for the first time in years. which was a s2ecialty of his.
inger had regretted 2ost2oning the start date of her job at the <ragon until after =abor <ay.D C#y four days. (mily. They’re coming u2 here in a week or two. )rawford. C4ot much.D For over a decade .B BShitK 8ow much time do we have3D )rawford o2ened a second bo$ of cookbooks and started loading them onto a shelf.B she said. B8e found the will. . CAell.et out of my face.D CAell. 1’ve been here the longest.B .D CThey3D C8e6s got a wife.C:ou are not the manager. 8e called =ewis. 1 think we should at least talk to #illy before we ---B B#illy was already here.
C:ou now know everything 1 know. . 2ulling out an early 0oy of "ookin. shelving books alongside each other. and facing out three books with cu2cakes on the cover. filling a section and breaking down the em2ty bo$es. to 2ut on the rare books shelf. all 2urchased from the Iunior =eague when their charity booksho2 closed its doors.inger shrugged.D They worked in silence. The cookbooks themselves were nothing s2ecial mundane collections of casserole reci2es and easy su22ers for busy moms. #ut )rawford took an uncharacteristic interest in them. 1t was sur2risingly satisfying work.BAhat6s her deal3B .
his .D . Iust then . CAre you guys o2en or what3B .ational Geo.raphi s off the chair and dro22ed into it.C)u2cakes.D . . with the su2erior attitude of a man who6d been at work since five.inger said.inger thought he wore the look of a weathered old activist well -.inger said. . Aren’t you cute. )rawford ignored him. 2ro22ing his feet u2 on the counter. without looking u2.uillermo brushed a stack of .uillermo 2ushed o2en the front door and kicked the doorsto2 into 2lace.uillermo. BAe’re o2en.uillermo said. 8e had the lean frame of someone who subsisted mostly on coffee and cigarettes. There was always someone )rawford wasn’t s2eaking to7 this week it was .
face was all interesting angles and salt and 2e22er stubble.B she said.uillermo had ke2t a 2articularly close eye on the store. . dro22ing in with the air of someone who had the ability to re2ort directly back to Sy if anything was amiss.B B.uillermo3 This kid6s going to 0uit his cushy job in San Iose to move u2 to 8umboldt )ounty and just ---B She couldn’t finish.et used to it.inger said. B8as (dith been in this week3B he asked. . She ri22ed another bo$ of books o2en and glared down into its contents. After Sy’s death . BThink so3B BAell. B8aven6t seen her. what do you think. B<amnK 16m getting low.B .
.D )rawford said.D . C.uillermo shrugged. As long as the checks clear the bank. C)all me when she gets here. C(verybody in town knows.inger.et back to your coffee sho2.D . dro22ing onto the floor and wi2ing his brow as if he had e$erted himself in this first half hour of the day.uillermo sighed.. BAbsentee landlord. what does he care3B CThat’s insane. BAre you sure he even has to know3B B8ow can he not know3B )rawford said.B he said. not if you 2ut it that way. . BAell.uillermo jum2ed u2 as if he’d forgotten all about the coffee sho2.D he said. Ahat a cou2le of drama 0ueens.
D C<on’t say it. turning to )rawford. she added. C1 think we’ve seen the last of (dith. Then. C<on’t even think it.C<on’t count on it.D .D .D )rawford said.inger called after him.
The air2ort task force held its eleventh meeting of the year. leaving the farmer with nothing to do but walk along behind them and fend off 0uestions from the growing crowd of onlookers 2arked on the shoulder.ten 1t was another slow news day at the 1umboldt 1erald. this one convened to draw . and a 2hotogra2her had been dis2atched to grab a 2hoto of the farmer shooing them off the freeway. That would be today’s to2 story. Four 8olstein calves had esca2ed their 2en just south of Fortuna. the calves ambled over to the nearest e$it ram2 of their own accord. As it ha22ened.
alway <aniels. 8e’d been 2ut on the business desk. and authorshi2 of a blog called C8um#i5D that offered u2beat 2rofiles of new sandwich sho2s and art galleries in "ld .et a Face =iftD was the best headline the 1erald could come u2 with on short notice. but they’d get another shot at it tomorrow after there was time to get citi5en reactions and run a follow-u2. having refused the buy-out once again. where he was su22osed to drum u2 story ideas.u2 a 2lan for moving the baggage claim area out of an abandoned car wash ne$t door to the air2ort and into the terminal itself. CAir2ort #ags . which meant a free dinner of chicken wings and chea2 wine once a month at the )hamber mi$er. . was not assigned to cover either of these breaking stories.
a declaration that was usually good for a weeks’ worth of reaction 2ieces featuring fishermen. s2arring with local merchants who would give almost anything to have twenty 2eo2le living and. 2unctuated by )hristmas retail sales . who resented the dwindling availability of actual docking facilities along the waterfront. even as they re2eated their refusal to move into the new over2riced sho2s that would be built along the harbor. 1t was a comfortable and 2redictable news cycle. downtown. sho22ing and dining.Town. along with re2ur2osed 2ress releases from the Small #usiness Administration. 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. 2resumably.
erchantsDG.alway’s boss #etsy . behind-the-scenes stories of flower sho2s on 9alentine’s <ay FCFlorist !lays )u2id on February %RDG. . . Then came interviews with summer tourists. then it was time for )hristmas again. #ut today wasn’t one of those days.2rojections FCThere’s 4o !lace =ike "ld Town For the 8olidays. back-to-school ti2s for fall.ost days it was fine. Say =ocal . and tales of harried )!As during ta$ season FCA Ta$ing Time for AccountantsDG.alway couldn’t com2lainHhe was 2aying the rent and making a dent in his bar tab. . a 2erennial "ctober crowd-2leaser about the influ$ of cash into the local economy when the outdoor marijuana cro2 was harvested. which is more than most of his former coworkers could say.iers had .
had been demolished and turned into a 2arking lot. arts and culture. food.been by his desk twice this morning. Ahile . environmental issues. which had once housed a 2rinting 2ress as well as a large editorial staff. They o2erated out of an old house near the courthouse that had been divided into offices. but managing a loosely-knit confederacy of disgruntled re2orters-turnedbloggers was beyond her. leaving 2ink sticky notes on his com2uter monitor both times. The 1erald’s s2rawling brick building in "ld Town. #etsy might have run a tight newsroom at one 2oint. The news2a2er’s staff had been reduced to a handful of freelancers covering business. CSee meKD read one. and local 2olitics. C4owKD the second one said.
i5mo but refused to use it. and skimming the news online. checking email. #etsy hated e-mail. .alway. which meant that he s2ent a cou2le of hours each morning drinking coffee. and nobody was inclined to make a donation to the 1erald. but he wasn’t awake until noon. 2articularly . Around lunchtime his brain caught u2 with his body. 8e was usually in the office by ten. She carried a . they de2ended on donations through their charitable foundations to make it ha22en.the more august news organi5ations managed to kee2 a robust staff and do old-school investigative re2orting. She believed that her staff should show u2 by nine and stay 2ast five. a notion soundly rejected by almost everyone at the 1erald.
CSitKD #etsy’s office smelled of dandruff and 2encil shavings.making him coherent enough to make the rounds of "ld Town in search of a story. 8e 2eeled the notes off his monitor and carried them to her office. 1t was like a ta$idermied version of a newsroom. #ut today #etsy had a story all 2icked out for him. and #etsy sat among it as if she was 2reserved in wa$. . holding them u2 and raising his eyebrow in greeting. accordion files stuffed with news2a2er cli22ings. 1t was a museum of late twentieth-century relics stacks of faded 2hone books. and a bin of uno2ened junk mail that had to go back five years. C.alwayKD she called from the cracked and 2eeling leather chair she inhabited all day.
#etsy made him write one every time a bookstore closed.alway had cranked out a do5en of these stories since the 8um#i5 blog launched two years ago. Ahat’s u23D C:eah. you’re like a week late to that Rotary lunch. C#ets. . 8e 2referred to lean in the doorway. .D #etsy said.D he said. C1’m late to a Rotary lunch.alway hadn’t ste22ed in her office in years.always in her black wool sweater. ho2ing that the 1erald2s local angle on what she called Cthe bookstore crisisD would get 2icked u2 nationally. always with her brassy blonde hair 2iled on to2 of her head and s2rayed into 2lace. 8e didn’t .D 4ot another =ast #ookstore in America story. C1 want you to get down to the <ragon.
(veryone.think he had another one in him. The whole thing was such a ruse anyway everybody in town knew that the <ragon didn’t kee2 itself afloat selling books. C8uh3 "hHwell. 2robably. yeah. who insisted on flaunting (ureka’s uni0ue status as one of the only small towns to still su22ort a real bookstore. CAhat ha22enedHdid another bookstore close3D he asked. a22arently. #ut that’s not it.D CSomebody bought that 2lace3D .uillermo telling somebody that the new owners were coming into town. e$ce2t #etsy. 1 was getting my coffee this morning and 1 overheard .
and a statement from #illy. 1t took #illy <alton all this time to find the will.D C#illy <alton should be disbarred.a$ine Rogers. delivered a Criver of readingD to the . 8e could also call .D <alton said. 4ile. the woman widely blamed for the downfall of the book.alway wasn’t going to write a messy attorney misconduct article when he had an easy.C4o. C. a cou2le of customer reactions. 8er com2any.com. CArite that u2.ood idea. 8e already had his small-town cheerleader headline C#reathing 4ew =ife 1nto the Firebreathing <ragon.i5mo for .D #ut .D 4ow all he needed was a 2hoto. too.D she said. feel-good small business 2iece lined u2. this is the guy who inherited it from Sy.
a$ine could usually be counted on for a sym2athetic cluck over the fate of what she called Cdusty old bookstores. . if you were willing to watch the ads.arnett and 9olokhonsky translations of Anna 'arenina and the original Russian. and most 2eo2le were. allowing you to finally indulge your love of com2arative literature. :ou can switch effortlessly between the . :ou can carry <ickens’ com2lete works with you.D followed by a high-minded riff on the advantages of the electronic book. :ou can fit 4nfinite 0est in your 2ocket.twenty bucks a monthHor for free. . even the more obscure serials like (ittle 3orrit and The Mystery of Ed!in 3rood.
She said it in a way that im2lied that the two of you might someday get together in a dimly-lit hotel lounge and confess your shared love of the obscure little serials of )harles <ickens. a 2assion you dared not deny.She said this in a coolly confident voice that suggested that com2arative literature was. . and that was never easy.alway ke2t writing these bookstore articles. was that he got to 2hone u2 .a$ine knew how to give a great 0uote. The only reason . in fact.a$ine and let her smart and silky voice float into his ear. aside from the fact that #etsy would fire him if he didn’t. #ut first he had to track down #illy <alton. .
8e was more like 2art-time hel2 for the city attorney’s office. disgruntled e$-em2loyees a22ealing their dismissals on the grounds that they were in jail and therefore ouldn2t show u2 to work. )ases that would otherwise bog down the attorney’s office. hired on to hel2 with the more time-consuming and 2ointless cases. although as far as =e$ Trevino was concerned. Freedom of 1nformation re0uests from high school journalism students. he might as well be. and 2erfunctory legal reviews of harebrained ballot initiatives to legali5e and regulate .e!even #illy wasn’t actually (ureka’s city attorney.
4o council member was targeted as much as Ale$is Trevino. Some novice council member floated the idea every few years. and the glorious or terrifying 2ossibilityHde2ending on your 2ers2ectiveHof 8umboldt )ounty turning into a high-end cannabis tourist destination. com2lete with smoking bars downtown and 2ot farms modeled after Sonoma )ounty’s wineries. arguing for the increased sales ta$ revenue. These initiatives usually died of their own inertia. it fell to #illy to review a steady stream of conflict-of-interest investigations brought by angry citi5en grou2s against council members. a . a common 2roblem for any 2roject the cannabis community chose to undertake. the dro2 in law enforcement e$2enses.marijuana. And of course.
and 2artici2ated in enough shady deals to kee2 them under investigation from cradle to grave. =e$ ran uno22osed for city council and won every time. 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. 8er grandfather bragged about his role in the %*&M e$2ulsion of )hinese immigrants from (ureka. =e$’s father 2ublished a conservative news2a2er in the late si$ties. Still. 4o one was . They were not a wellloved family.woman whose family had dee2 roots in 8umboldt )ounty. sat on boards and councils around town. Four generations of Trevinos had run the waterfront.
<alton had the dirt on everyone. and now he was after =e$ Trevino.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. or reading aloud from them in a bar late at night. 8e had a knack for stumbling across the wrong 2iece of information at the wrong time and blurting it out in a crowded room. 4o. . #illy’s investigations were ha2ha5ard and dangerous. 8e never submitted formal re2orts to the mayor’s office. his style ran toward e-mailing the financial statements of 2ublic officials to all his friends.
8e 2referred these long. safe in the knowledge that #illy <alton was wrecking no one’s career but his own. always making the e$cuse that the land was in a family trust over which she had no control. waiting to see if =e$ would show u2 for another meeting with her contractor. drawn-out commercial 2rojects. #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. <on )antrell. Today #illy was hanging around "ld Town. She claimed she was meeting with him to discuss a remodel of her house. but <on hadn’t done residential work in a decade. She’d sat in on three votes that had im2lications for her waterfront deal already.
delays.uillermo said.D . C:ou know what 1’ll have3D . 8e made most of his money in the lengthy 2re-develo2ment 2hase. a 2hase that didn’t e$ist in the residential remodels he used to get tangled u2 in. !eo2le who decide to make over their house always want to start immediately. <on never found CimmediatelyD to be 2articularly 2rofitable. Ask me for a cu2 of coffee.B #illy said. #illy sat at his table in the corner and waited.B B#illy.uillermo.D #illy said. C"rder something. BThat6s nice. .B B8ey. This is not your office. Seriously. B:ou6ve got a real touch.
BAhat6s gotten into her3B . . B:ou’ve seen her3B B:eah.B #illy drank his coffee in silence.B B1 have no idea who that is.B B1 didn6t think you would. Lee2 this u2 and 16ll even tell you where =e$ is.inger emerged from the <ragon with a broom in her hand and started swee2ing the sidewalk.B. She6s 2icking u2 some visiting dignitary at the air2ort. She left here about an hour ago. That6s all 1 heard.B 8e leaned across the counter and 2oured a cu2 of coffee for #illy. Across the street.ood boy.B B<o you know who it is3B BSome guy named Richmond.
C1t’s the end of an era.inger knelt down to 2ick u2 the dam2 leaves that clung to the sidewalk. but you didn’t want to see most of them. .D #illy said.B . (ureka was a strangely secretive town you might know everybody. BAants to im2ress the boss. .D he said. 8e leaned back in his chair to see who it was.uillermo wi2ed down #illy’s table and stuffed the bills in his 2ocket. . !eo2le were forever ducking out of rooms .BShe6s trying to act like a sho2kee2er.uillermo said. 8e sla22ed three bucks on the table and .B #illy just shook his head. CThere’s that re2orter.uillermo ste22ed aside to allow #illy to duck under the counter and out the back door.alway. #illy watched her stand u2 and wave to somebody.
.to avoid a conversation they’d just as soon avoid. 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.
;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
in a si5e that could be easily held in the handHdemanded . and those hea2s of words used to hang together as a body of work. and then four or five slightly more e$2erimental and intelligent songs on the other side. Albums used to make sense7 they used to hang together as a body of work. too. The technologyH2rinted 2ages. <igital music changed all that. and this had something to do with the fact that vinyl records could only hold eight or ten songs. bound together between 2asteboard covers.consist of four or five songs on one side of a 2iece of vinyl. And there used to be these hea2s of eighty to a hundred thousand words that 2eo2le would s2end about a week reading. A 0uote-un0uote album could now hold two m2?s or two hundred.
8is . And 2lace them on bestseller lists. 4ow they downloaded Twitter feeds. #ut without Sy. )rawford could 2retend that he still had some kind of 2lace in the world. )rawford was understandably irritated. .anhattan a2artment was gone. !eo2le used to go buy those books. the whole thing seemed kind of 2ointless. and he hadn6t had any Argentinean beef in the longest time. and bestow awards u2on them. And talk about them. The bookstore was like a nest he could settle in with the scra2s of his 2revious e$istence and construct a kind of shelter out of sarcasm and remorse.something s2ecific of authors. As long as the bookstore stayed o2en. 4ot any more. They had to figure out how to tell their story and fit it within the confines of that thing called a book.
(mily and =ewis were driving u2 from the #ay Area. Running a cash-based business was trickier than it seemed. =ately. (dith had dro22ed by this morning. but she walked straight to the back with a fragrant bundle under her arm and left without saying a word. where would any of them go3 4one of them had managed to save any money. Sy de2osited just enough into the bank to make the business look . Sy’s ne2hew would surely sell the 2ro2erty. )rawford thought. She must be worried. Sy used to make him feel like that was an accom2lishment. he wasn’t so sure. and where would she go3 For that matter. too. #ut he didn’t have much time to think about it today.8e was washed u2 at the age of thirty-four.
Sy used to say that money was also like a 2ile of sand. was cash. and you couldn’t 2ut it in the bank without attracting the attention of the 1RS. :ou couldn’t 2ut it under the mattress without risking a break-in. 1t shifted around and blew away. and )rawford and . And cash had to be s2ent. And it seemed like a waste to leave money sitting around when there was always more to be had.inger each got a legit 2ayroll check for something just above minimum wage. . and everything else Sy took home.res2ectable. but the rest of their salaries.
ake a day of it. She still wasn’t sure she even wanted to see this bookstore.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. she awoke in a foul mood. CAe’ll take our time. . much less 2artici2ate in =ewis’ fantasy of moving to (ureka to run it. but =ewis insisted on driving.D =ewis said. (mily had ho2ed to fly u2 and rent a car at the tiny commuter air2ort outside (ureka. stuffed . "n the day they left. C1t’s a beautiful drive.D #ut (mily was in no mood to make a day of it.
First came the wide swee2 of the city to their left as they drove 2ast "akland and #erkeley. The drive from San Iose to (ureka took them through changes in geogra2hy that. San Francisco6s skyline shimmered above the bay. resembled stages of grief. and settled into the 2assenger’s seat with hardly a word to =ewis. to (mily. giving the im2ression that the city floated just out of reach. 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. The .olden . like a mirage of a city.ate #ridge was mostly obscured by fog.a few changes of clothes into a suitcase. all 2ale blues and white lights. The rent would be .
but at least they would be living in a real city. 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$2ensive cologne and steaks on the grill drifts around the streets. she came here for a 2articular moment in San Francisco. only to end u2 in a neighborhood that could just as easily be in north <allas3 She came here for San Francisco. and anything could ha22en. the commute would be longer. but just standing on !owell and . Actually. She6d never had an evening that lived u2 to the 2romise of that blue moment. At those moments the city vibrates with 2ossibility. An evening is starting. Ahat was the 2oint of clawing your way into the #ay Area real estate market.higher.
Surely she was not agreeing to a move that would take her even further from San Francisco. There it is. There was no good way to leave San Francisco e$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.watching the daylight recede was enough for her. She wanted to e$2erience that moment every night. the first stage <enial. Anger. 4o good could come from a . not just a cou2le times a month when she and =ewis took the train into the city. Surely this was just a weekend tri2. That6s why she wanted to live in San Francisco. The ne$t 2hase. came as she and =ewis sat in traffic for two hours from the Richmond #ridge to Santa Rosa.
=ewis was cra5y to think she’d 0uit her job and move to (ureka to run. the chTteaus of the nouveau-riche offered another kind of 2romise. She leaned her head against the window and watched a row of auto malls slide 2ast. This time of year the gnarled old vines were just starting the im2robable act of 2roducing fruit. and off in the distance. she could breathe again. of all things. that of a comfortable 2ost-San Francisco lifestyle devoted to barrel tastings and bidding on chevre futures at bouti0ue goat farms. this kind of life in the country. She could get by in a 2lace like this. This wasn6t so bad. The wine country was hardly rural7 it felt e$2ansive and lu$urious.journey that began like this. a bookstore. . "nce they got through Santa Rosa.
!hrases like Bthis great country of oursB rise unbidden to the li2s on a drive like this.That6s called #argaining. 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. the landsca2e gave way to what. for anyone but (mily. She would trade the city for a 2lace like this. After two hours of #argaining. would not necessarily be called <e2ression. !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 .
was locking a gate behind her. 8e s2oke of Cthe bookD as a Ccultural artifactD and 2raised it as a Cremarkable 2iece of technology. Suddenly owning a bookstore was the only thing he’d ever really wanted to do with his life. she’d grown irritated with his new-found interest in books and bookselling. She and =ewis hadn’t s2oken much on the drive. . but that was no reason to dro2 everything and move u2 there. "ver the last few days.D re2eating those 2hrases so often to their friends and family that it was starting to sound like a stum2 s2eech. The trees glared down at her. (mily knew that Encle Sy’s bookstore meant something to =ewis once. <e2ression. The forests were gloomy and menacing. The fourth stage of grief.
#ut there was no 2oint in confronting =ewis with this evidence. The news that he had inherited a bookstore had transformed him from a vaguely dissatisfied sales re2 who might have toiled alongside her to 2ay off the mountain of student loan and credit card debt that ke2t them from ever scra2ing together a down 2ayment for . This in s2ite of the fact that the only book (mily could find in their house was an old =onely !lanet travel guide from a college tri2 to )hina that they used to 2ro2 u2 a wobbly desk.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.
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. they could not.D he had told (mily last night as they lay in bed and faced each other. reaching over to smooth his hair.a house. unbeknownst to his wife and his friends. been lost for years and had just found his way.D (mily had said. C)an’t we delete that message3D 4o. honey. 8e knew what effect those eyes had on (mily. =ewis sighed and rolled over. She reali5ed that she had made a tactical error by o22osing the bookstore idea before . 8e had the soulful brown eyes of a 2u22y. CThere’s a message in this for us. to a guy who had.
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. BAhen are you leaving3B she said.B . (mily6s mother threw her arms around him and told him that she thought that was a wonderful idea. She had forgotten the only trick her mother had taught her about marriage the more im2ractical your husband’s ideas are. B1t6s kind of e$2ensive. the more you get behind them.B (mily6s father said.ount (verest. 1t was entirely 2ossible that he would take one look at the bookstore and reali5e that there was no way they could afford to kee2 it o2en. 8er father had once wanted to climb . sur2rised by how 0uickly things were moving along.they6d even arrived in (ureka. CAell.
8e’s not even in sha2e. seeing this. 1’ll 2ut in the first twenty dollars. And your father’s never going to get into sha2e for (verest. we can do thatKD her mother said. CAell.D he said.C8ow much3D CEmHabout seventy thousand dollars. honey. <on6t you see how this works3 :ou al!ays su22ort the . C=et’s start saving right now. C. sweetie. 2ulled her aside later. 1 think.om. CAe’re never going to get that kind of money. are you cra5y3 8e can’t climb (verest. into a jar that she labeled C!aul’s (verest Fund. beaming. And how are you going to get that kind of money3D 8er mother smiled and took (mily’s face in her hands.D (mily.D And she took out a twenty and dro22ed it.
cra5y stuff.D She 2atted (mily on the cheeks and smiled. where black and white 8olsteins gra5ed in the .D 1t was good advice. and (mily wishing she could grab the steering wheel and turn them around. (mily wished she’d remembered it in time. The redwoods gave way to cow 2astures. 8e’ll give u2 on his own eventually. the more you get behind it. #ut now they were locked into 2osition =ewis driving them resolutely into their dim and dusty future. They were almost to (ureka now. actually. <on’t bother fighting with your husband over something he’s never actually going to do. and then you don’t have to be the bad guy. CThat’s a little marital advice from your mom. The more im2ossible it is.
waiting for logs that didn6t show u2 anymore. 1n the shadow of the mills were little com2any towns.etting away from the trees calmed her down somewhat. 2ink. . She felt calmer than she had in days. . She rolled down her window to smell the ocean. if only because it meant that the si$-hour drive was over.com2any of egrets. She was relieved to be here. rows of run-down bungalows that were once 2ainted bright green. and blue to give the workers the illusion that they were living in a seaside resort. "ld sawmills sat alongside the freeway. Soon the road swerved close to a flat e$2anse of ocean and (mily reali5ed she was looking at 8umboldt #ay.
Acce2tance. but maybe it was something likeHwellHthe final stage of grief.1t wasn’t ha22iness e$actly. .
4o res2onse. it’s just meKD he called again. and she really didn’t like sur2rise visitors. There were no lights on in (dith6s cottage. and then slammed his car door. 8e walked around to the back of Sy6s house. B1t6s #illyKB 8e6d given her enough of a warning. B(dith3B he shouted one more time. (dith didn’t like visitors. loud. . ho2ing she’d hear. She might be in the garden.fifteen C(dithKD #illy called out from the driveway. C(dith. 8e unlocked Sy’s back door and let himself in.
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 . card tables. 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.had been ignored in favor of a small and orderly ceremony at the house and a scattering of ashes into the forest at the edge of his 2ro2erty.to be cremated inside the bookstore so that he and the <ragon would go u2 in flames together --. The dead man’s long-standing and fre0uently-announced wish regarding the dis2osition of his body in the event of his death --.#illy hadn’t been to Sy6s house since the memorial service.
and news2a2ers.o. For the film ada2tation of Smoke. an actual dust jacket was created for Ailliam 8urt6s character !aul #enjamin. Sy loved these literary 2ro2s as much as he loved to 2oint out literary mistakes in films. and the more dila2idated and useless remnants of Sy6s collection of movie 2ro2s. broken a22liances. filled with strangely detailed articles about the murders that s2elled out intricate sub2lots never revealed in the movie itself. . com2lete with an author 2hoto of 8urt himself. 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. Real news2a2ers were 2rinted for the movie "hi a.
refrigerators that didn6t stay cold. knowing that eventually he would locate the heirs and it would be their job to sort through it. and decanters filled with diluted )oke instead of brandy. #illy didn6t want to throw too much of it out.ational Treasure. and his house was filled with them clocks that didn6t kee2 time.BThat would6ve been a handwritten manuscri2t. Sy. 8e was furious that 8ollywood never called. #ut he continued to collect 2ro2s. 2hones that didn6t ring. CAhy don’t these 2eo2le call me3D he asked his fellow moviegoers.D someone called out from the darkness. . you illiterate fuckKB he shouted to the screen during . Sy wanted a job advising the movie industry about anti0uarian books. C#eats me.
old. and the rank stench of a bottle of wine that must have s2illed somewhere in the house during the memorial. . A dead blackberry vine had somehow worked its way through a weak s2ot in the floorboards. #illy fli22ed a switch. S2eaking of mildew. only to reali5e that the 2ower had been turned off. And he was afraid to o2en the refrigerator. cat 2iss. A window 2ane above the kitchen sink was cracked. There was no e$cuse for letting Sy6s house fall into ruin like this. #illy sim2ly hadn6t . maybe. the house was a horror of offensive smells. Enderneath it all was the smell of something dead a rat.but anything that stank or s2routed mildew got tossed. or a 2ossum.
#ut why hadn’t (dith said anything3 Ahy hadn’t someoneHhis useless rece2tionist )onnie. Time was sli22ery in 8umboldt )ounty7 this wasn6t the first time that si$ months had just gotten away from him. 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. Sy was obsessed with the idea of stri22ing the house down to its bare bones.e$2ected it to take so long to find the will. e$2osing wide 2lanks of old-growth . 8e had ri22ed u2 the car2ets and three layers of asbestos-laden linoleum below them. 1t was a strange-looking house that managed to come across as both old and not0uite-finished at the same time.
BThe least we can do is 2ay tribute to all the trees they cut u2 to build this damn thing.B So he sanded the wood and rubbed it down with natural beeswa$. the boards were e$traordinary forty . =ate at night he used to lay down on the floor and 2ress his face into the wood. wood that would only be used as a subfloor. And in fact. There were actually two of these hefty subfloors made from the trunks of the world6s tallest trees.redwoodHtrashy wood a hundred years ago. CThis is the most overbuilt house in 8umboldt )ounty.B Sy had said. one on to2 of the other. C=ook at these boardsKD he would shout into the wide beams. "nce he 2unched a hole through the floor to vent a hot water heater and 2ulled out a kind of core sam2le of his house’s undercarriage.
so 2sychedelic streaks of 2aint were left mint green from the fifties. never bothering to 2atch the holes. with the tight grain of an ancient arboreal creature. The house was always seminaked. To make the floorboards feel at home. he cut a hole in the 2laster and ran new rome$. As much as he hated to see these old 9ictorians demolished. 1t was im2ossible to remove it all. and an awful tobacco brown from the seventies. #illy couldn6t imagine =ewis and (mily wanting to move in or fi$ it u2 . Ahenever the ancient knob and tube wiring failed.feet long and a foot wide. dee2 2ur2le from the si$ties. Sy had sanded most of the 2aint off the wainscoting and the trim around the doors.
4othing. C1t’s #illy. threadbare "riental rugs. Ahere are you3D . C(dithKD he shouted. running to the back door. C(dith3D CAho’s that3D came a voice from the general direction of a hedge down the hill. not a sound. and then a scream. sagging couches that even St. 4o movement. 9incent’s 2robably wouldn’t takeH #efore he could finish his inventory. he heard a crash outside.enough to 2ut on the market. Surely it would be sold as a tear-down and 2riced to move. And who would want all this stuff3 #attered desks and bookcases.
B he called out before he lifted the latch.o around the corner and you6ll see the gate about halfway down the hill. B.B 8e closed the back door behind him and jogged down the hill. #illy. B16m here. but now that he was circling it closely he reali5ed that it must be nearly an acre. circumnavigating the hedge and looking for a gate. (dith.B she said at last.Another long 2ause. #illy knew what was going on. maybe more. Finally he saw an o2ening in the greenery. 8ow big was this garden3 Sy had never allowed him anywhere near it. BAre you hurt3B . 8e saw nothing but shrubs and vines and an occasional metal fence 2ost. BAll right. (dith was trying to decide whether or not to let him into her garden.
the e$traordinary biodynamic strain of cannabis that only (dith could grow. as if she was talking to herself. And in between it all. but nothing like this.B And truly. Tiny )ham2agne gra2es and. it was beyond anything #illy had imagined. Aelcome to Shangri-=a. Iac0ueminot roses and morning glory. B)ome on in. For a minute.B1 just fell. ine$2licably. 8e’d seen 2ot farms before.B she said in a low voice. #illy forgot why he was there. =emongrass and Thai basil. hefty stalks of corn. Lum0uat trees and jasmine. Almost everybody in 8umboldt )ounty had switched to indoor hydro2onic o2erations after !ro2osition /%+ made medical marijuana legal. but those 2lants grew in the most artificial . #illy.
A few back-to-the-landers in .of conditions. cultivated outdoors as nature intended it. and a wretched diet of chemical concoctions fed intravenously through dri2 irrigation. but growing 2ot outdoors on timber com2any 2ro2erty or national forest land only invited trouble. 2ummeled by blindingly bright light. 2lanted in careful combination with a selection of e$otic beauties that she believed gave it the de2th and com2le$ity of a forty-year 2ort. 2rotected by a medical marijuana license 2osted at the door. the incessant whirring of fans. She adhered to . A nice indoor grow-o2.arberville were still tucking 2lants in between the redwoods. #ut (dith was growing something else entirely. This was gourmet 2ot. made much more sense.
8er methods had been the subject of gossi2 and s2eculation for over a decade. #illy had heard all of this over the years. and s2rinkling cow urine mi$ed with the ashes of weeds around the garden by the light of the full moon. A cannabis 2lant the si5e of a small magnolia tree stood in front of #illy. #ut no one but Sy had been allowed in the garden. 8e wanted to kiss it. 8e heard that she had 2lanted some kind of uto2ian. stuffing 2owdered 0uart5 in another horn in s2ring. 8e wanted to embrace it. burying a cow6s horn in the garden in fall. a nearim2ossibility on )alifornia6s chilly north coast. . almost tro2ical garden of illicit delights.even the most wacky tenets of biodynamic farming. brewing herbal remedies in the bladders of wild animals.
8e sat down ne$t to her. #illy.et down here and give me a hand. you didn6t try to lift those by yourselfKB CAell.B (dith6s voice drifted u2 to him from somewhere at the base of the garden’s slo2e. They had to weigh forty 2ounds each. 1HB #illy offered his hand.BSto2 screwing around. An arsenal of garden tools were scattered on the ground around her. B(dith. . 8e found her under a wildly overgrown hibiscus vine. She seemed to just be resting there in the dirt. but she didn6t take it.B #illy tried to kee2 his eyes on the ground as he skidded down the hill in the direction of (dith6s voice. B. and two bags of 2otting soil had s2lit o2en at her feet.
=et’s get you out of here and get this looked at. B1 got di55y and everything just sort of fell out of my arms.BAre you hurt3B he said.B she said.B (dith didn6t take her eyes off the branches above her.B she said. C:ou know what3 1’m old.B BAell. try to move around and see if it hurts.D . 1’ve got a bad heart. 1’m through with doctors. C(dith.D She smiled fondly u2 at the sky. B1 don6t know. #ut 1 like it here. 1 think 1 twisted my ankle. 1’ve got a bad knee. 1’ll take you to urgent care. )ome on. B1 don6t want to find out. She shook her head. 1’ve got scars in 2laces you don’t even want to know about.
BThis 2lace is incredible. or clarity. C(dithK )ome on. e$actly.D . B8ow much longer do you think 1’ve got3B she said. A bree5e moved through the garden. :ou’re not that old. bringing with it the sweet clear fragrance of honeysuckle. 1t wasn6t a flavor or fragrance. 1t was a smell that #illy associated with his childhood. too.They sat ne$t to each other in silence for a little while.B (dith said. although he couldn6t say why. B:eah. 8e reali5ed that there was something about honeysuckle that made its way into (dith6s 2ot. turning to face him at last.B #illy said. 1t was more like light.
B . 1 meant. And the soil and the strange little microclimate 16ve got right here. B1 can see that. B:eah. how much longer do you think 1’ve got before the kids show u2 and kick me out of my house3D #illy just shook his head. B1t6s this garden. B:ou gonna 2ull u2 these 2lants and move on3B C1t6s not really the 2lants. anyway.B She didn’t say anything. 4ot that 1’d want to. 1t6s not like 1 can just 2ull u2 some 2lants and move into a warehouse and grow the same cro2. After a few minutes he added.B A hummingbird dove right in front of #illy to go after a fuchsia down the hill.CThat’s not what 1 meant.B he said. BThey6re on their way to (ureka right now. That6s what makes it.B (dith said.
This time she took it and 2ulled herself to her feet. 8e held her hand for a minute and tried to see into her 2ale blue eyes through the semidarkness. calling to say that he was in town. C1’ll try to kee2 them out of here. #illy6s 2hone bu55ed in his 2ocket. . 8e stood u2 and e$tended his hand again to (dith.They sat together until the last shadows of the afternoon started to move across the garden. The night-blooming angel trum2ets unfurled. 1t would be =ewis. A chorus of crickets rose u2 from the grass.D he said. sending waves of shar2 lemon 2erfume to the bats that 2ollinated them. She nodded. 8e led her u2 the hill to the gate.
knit ca2s made of hem2. a grou2 of (arth Firsters came in to 2ick u2 su22lies for the weekend.sixteen The <ragon enjoyed its usual rush of lastminute customers on Friday night. 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.D dreadlocks. "ne guy stood out he was wearing a track suit with a 2rice tag still attached. #efore )rawford had a . Iust before five. 8e must have just bought it at Target on the way into town.
D C.chance to ask what had ha22ened to his last outfit.ood to be back. the guy a22roached the desk.D Ieffrey wandered around the store. B1s that 1 2ick out a book--D . CShe’ll manage. 1’ve been in a tree for the last two years. Ieffrey. CSo. C8ello. and said. without taking his eyes off the books. B:eeeesssssssQD )rawford said.inger had been working so hard to organi5e.D )rawford shook his hand. 1’m Ieffrey. scanning the shelves that )rawford and .D C8ow’s the tree3D )rawford asked. not wanting to e$2lain anything if he didn6t have to. the way this worksHD he said. e$tended his hand. CAelcome back.
D said )rawford. C:es.D Ieffrey 2ulled a book off the shelf and held it u2 as if to demonstrate. B<o 1 take the book home3B Ieffrey said.B BThat6s how it works.D said )rawford. )rawford nodded encouragingly. CAnd it could be any bookHD CAny book you want.B Ieffrey said.CThat’s right. you do. B:es. BAnd you will sell it to me. CAe 2refer that you do.B )rawford said.B )rawford said. all of whom had already chosen their books. BAnd 1 bring this book to you.D CAlong with--D . looking nervously at Ieffery’s (arth First friends.
holding it out to his friends.B he said.)rawford sighed and turned to the (arth First crowd. 1 get it. B"h "kay. making a collective hissing sound intended more to shut him u2 than answer his 0uestion.B B<oes it matter how much it costs3B Ieffery said. reaching for a si$ties-era re2rint of a 8ardy #oys mystery called The 1idden Theft. 8e o2ened it to check the 2rice. B)ome on. man. C. B=ike thisKB he said. B!ick out a book and let6s get going.uys3D "ne of Ieffrey6s friends moved in and 2ut his hand on Ieffrey6s shoulder. 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. .
)rawford collected their money. C"utKD )rawford said. rising halfway out of his chair. Ieffrey. A guy in dark jeans and a starched .D one of the (arth Firsters said over his shoulder as they left. A few cou2les came in and 2icked u2 2a2erbacks from the rack outside on their way to dinner. Ahen he handed Ieffrey his bag. and sli22ed each book into a 2a2er bag. CSorry. and they lined u2 at the desk to 2ay. 2eered inside. @ The rest of the Friday night rush was more businesslike.B one of his friends said. and then ran it dramatically under his nose. man. and that was how )rawford liked it. Ieffrey o2ened it. wrote out recei2ts.B!retty much like that.
taking only a minute to run his thumb over the gilt fore-edge before setting it on the counter.stri2ed shirt came straight to the desk. a cou2le of tourists came in and ga2ed at the teetering stacks of books. )rawford 2ut the book back on the shelf. CLee2 it. CAe really---D C1t’s all right. The guy nodded without 2icking it u2.D he said. then 2ulled the Twain out of the bag and set it back on the counter. Iust before close. jingling his keys. 8e turned to leave.D he said. . )rawford sli22ed it into a bag. and asked for a two hundred dollar book. )rawford 2ulled a decent #ritish edition of Twain’s More Tramps Abroad off the shelf. 8e was out the door with the crum2led bag in his hand. 1t was the third time he’d sold it in a month.
. C!eo2le have really su22orted us.wondering aloud how a store like this managed to stay in business.D They left without buying anything.B he said. BThis is a very uni0ue community. )rawford heard that 0uestion every weekend. flashing them his best )hamber of )ommerce smile.
CThe lawyer wanted to go over a few things with us first. 8e could tell she had already made u2 her mind about the bookstore. .D (mily said.seventeen (mily and =ewis got to town as the sun was setting over the 2ul2 mill.D C#ut couldn’t weHD =ewis sighed. They had just s2ent si$ hours in the car together and (mily had hardly said a word. C1 don’t understand why we can’t go straight to the store. 4ow she was going to argue with them about how they s2ent their evening.
Somewhere along this street was #illy’s office. CSorry. the bowling alley was closed. and most of the motels on the edge of town were e$tended-stay a2artments for 2eo2le whose luck had run out. The movie theater at the sho22ing mall was offering dollar tickets for second-run movies. . (ureka was looking a little worse for wear since the last time he’d been through town. A banner in a used car lot offered 2ayday loans to get 2eo2le Cback on the road and back to work.C"kay.D she said.D A few boarded-u2 9ictorians sat between the auto re2air sho2s and the self-storage units. looking more like shi2wrecks than abandoned houses.D She almost sounded like she meant it.
CAhat was this like when you were a kid3D (mily asked. 1 don6t think we ever did one other thing in (ureka. Encle Sy wasn6t selfish. e$actly. C1 don’t remember any of this.D . B4o way.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. =ewis could tell she was trying to be a good s2ort about this thing.D he said. 8e just assumed that everybody would want to orbit it the way he did.B BSy never took you out on a little boating e$cursion in the harbor3 "r a hike in the redwoods or anything like that3B =ewis laughed. but it would never occur to him to go do some touristy thing when 2eo2le came into town. C.
B8ow do you think he ke2t it o2en all this time3B B1 have no idea. anyway. #eing the first 2erson in town to meet =ewis and (mily didn6t make for very e$citing gossi2.D she said as =ewis came u2 the stairs. She reali5ed right away that . C:ou don’t look like Sy. The 1erald had 2osted a few short 2ieces about the change in ownershi2 at the <ragon. which was enough to get everybody talking. 1t was after five. She was curious about them. but #illy had 2ersuaded her to stay until he got there. but it was more than she usually got out of a day behind the desk here.B @ )onnie Slack greeted them at the to2 of the stairs.
#illy should have been here by now.that might not be a very rece2tionist-like thing to say. B:ou can wait in his office.B she said.B =ewis said. BAe6ve been storing a few things in here. B16m just his ne2hew. three of which had signs ta2ed to them that read C#roken.B )onnie said. (mily stood ne$t to him . =ewis leaned against the wall and crossed his arms over his chest.B Aith that she went back to her desk.B She led them down a wood2aneled hallway to an unmarked office door. but she was out of 2ractice. 1nside was a metal desk and a gathering of five chairs. 8ave a seat.D BSorry. wondering if she could go home now or if she was obligated to sit out there until #illy arrived. B#illy6s on his way.
BThis is so uncle Sy.and whis2ered at him out of the corner of her mouth.and. 1t looked like he had thought at one time about setting u2 an office but then decided against it. BThese are e$actly the 2eo2le he was hanging out with twenty years ago. 1t6s like she6s never even watched a movie that had a rece2tionist in it. there was a stack of file bo$es in the corner that looked like it hadn’t moved in ten years. or some coffee. 16m so sorry to hear about your loss’ ---B =ewis grinned and looked down at his feet. CShe6s not going to get us a bottle of water.B he said.B There was nothing in #illy6s office to indicate that he ever worked there -. in fact. 1n addition to the metal desk and the collection of broken chairs. he never had. a 2lastic 2lant in a . no Jhow was your tri2.
All =ewis . Encle Sy must have known something about =ewis that even =ewis didn’t know.wicker basket. This had been a very unsettling time for him. what with the su2ernatural forces that had joined together to de2osit a bookstore in his 2ath. A door o2ened into a small bathroom that was 2rimarily used to store cleaning su22lies. Ahy a bookstore3 That still wasn’t clear. and a set of chea2 dresser drawers that could have been left over from the days when the building was still a hotel. =ewis was getting im2atient. and at first. it had been e$citing to get instructions from beyond the grave. 8e had come to believe that he no longer had to worry about what to do ne$t with his life. Sy6s decision to leave him the bookstore felt like instructions from beyond the grave.
he began to wonder if that was the only smart thing to do. 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. C=ewisKD #illy burst into the room with the bustling air of a doctor who had ke2t his 2atients waiting too long. 8e had refused to consider sim2ly selling the 2ro2erty. a wis2 of gray hair tied . and going on with his life. 8e looked about as lawyer-like as any attorney in 8umboldt )ounty khaki 2ants. as he sat in the small rented room that 2assed for #illy <alton’s office.had to do was show u2 in (ureka and find out what that was. 2utting the money in the bank. checkered shirt. #ut now.
(mily3D 8e held out his hand.B =ewis looked over at (mily.B #illy reached for one of the remaining chairs. B=ook. CSorry 1’m late. and 2erched on the edge of his desk instead. thought better of it. :ou’ve got two em2loyees who have been running the 2lace by themselves all this time. too. BAe . and (mily took it. 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.into a 2onytail. =ewis decided to overlook the grass stains on his knees. CSitKD They settled into the two chairs that weren’t marked B#roken. 1 just wanted to let you know a little bit about the situation at the bookstore before you head over there.
8e left everything to you. and his house.B BThat6s right.B BSure. for summer.you stayed there.B B. but they6ve mostly moved out. #illy. That6s the bookstore.B #illy said. BAe6re just here to find out what6s going on. Sy drafted this will long time ago. right3B B:eah.what3 Aife3 .B =ewis said. including the building. BAell.ostly3B B(dith’s still there. 1 actually stayed in one of those little cabins out back. 8e had a few renters.irlfriend3B . as you know.B #illy said. 1 think you remember the house -.haven6t made any decisions. B<o you remember (dith3B CShe was his -. and he made it very sim2le.
D said =ewis. B1t6s yours now. =ewis felt that he should say something in honor of this life-changing moment. but before . B1 guess if he had married her. looking down at his desk. 1 guess you would say.B (mily shifted around in her seat. fishing around in his 2ockets. They never got married.irlfriend. CAnything else3D B1 guess 1 can give you a set of keys to the bookstore. she would6ve inherited all of this3B BThis has been really hard on her.B CAll right. CThat6s why 1 let her stay in her 2lace. 1 didn6t want to 2ut her out if 1 didn6t have to.B.D #illy said.B A ring of keys dro22ed heavily into =ewis’s hand.B #illy said.
so his overhead’s low. .he could 2ut a sentence together. but #illy interru2ted him. choosing his words carefully. 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. isn6t it3B CAell. CSy bought the building a long time ago. (mily leaned forward. 8ow much was Sy taking in every year3B C(milyHB =ewis said. BThat6s what everybody says.D #illy said. #ut this is a 2retty out-of-the-way 2lace. B)an you tell us anything about how the store’s managed to stay o2en all this time3 1t6s 2retty much over for bookstores. 1t6s kind of like ---B B9inyl records3B (mily said.
BAelcome to (ureka. okay. C1 don6t know e$actly.B B)losed3 1t’s Friday nightKD (mily said.inger and )rawford are 2retty good at watching the e$2enses. BThe store’s 2robably closed by now.CThat’s okay. but . B:ou coming over there with us3B #illy checked the screen on his 2hone.D he said. but 1 know he made enough to get by and to cover 2ayroll. #illy and =ewis turned to her and said. BAell. There6s not much money in the bank.D #illy said.B =ewis stood u2 and 2ut the keys in his 2ocket.B he said. almost in unison. Bbut you could let yourself in and look around.B . 1t was after si$.
somehow. B4o. =ewis stood outside for a minute. B"h. 1t was in the middle of the block and it leaned slightly to the left. man. Small.ei hteen #y the time they got to the store the lights were off and )rawford was gone. 1 don6t remember it being so --B BRun down3B (mily said.B The building did seem a little shrunken. giving the im2ression that it had shriveled considerably since the days when it had been large and sturdy enough to fill the s2ace. jingling his keys and looking at the building. .
8e wra22ed an arm around (mily and led her closer to the door. the dim windows 2iled with stacks of hardcovers. 8e was entranced.D he said. . C1 feel like 1 should carry you over the threshold. all this is yours. too. couldn’t wait to get inside. She tried to stifle a laugh.D (mily whis2ered. ThresholdK They weren’t s2ending the night here.(mily stood with =ewis and took it in the rotting columns in front. CAnd now. =ewis. were they3 CIust go figure out the alarm. in a voice choked with emotion. in a voice that suggested that she.D #ut =ewis wasn’t laughing. the faded sign with its wooden cutout of a dragon breathing fire across a 2ile of books.
was real and frightening. (mily remembered what it felt like to walk into a bookstore and savor the 2ossibility of getting lost somewhere in the back. . bolted to the wall in case of an earth0uake. ran around the room from floor to ceiling. #ut here the 2ossibility of getting lost-. (verything about the 2lace said creaky old bookstore.and tra22ed under an avalanche of old encyclo2edias -. and more books were stacked in between the shelves in 2a2er bags and bo$es. (mily sli22ed in behind him.8e unlocked the door and fumbled with the alarm. She didn’t dare venture too far in. A series of tables and bookcases formed a kind of ma5e through the store. !lywood bookshelves. (very chair was 2iled high with books.
The creaky floorboards. B!retty much. mildew. B1t even smells like one.D (mily leaned against the desk. the ancient beams.something green and bitter. but now it was an elegant wreck. The weight of this 2lace was on her. B1t6s an old bookstore. mothballs. BAhat do you think3B he said. and something else she couldn’t identify-.=ewis was standing behind her in the dark. dust. 1 think some of these books were here when 1 was a kid.B she said.B he said. B1s it what you remember3B she asked.B Ahat made u2 that dam2 and 2ul2y bookstore smell3 )rumbling 2a2er. . This might have been a grand old building once. the mismatched trim around the doors and windows. CSy wasn’t big on change.
C8ello3D C1s thisH.o ahead. She was trying to decide how long to let that go on when the 2hone rang.=ewis was walking around the store running his hands along the shelves.D CEhHno. Ratner3D CAho3D C. She felt around in the dark for the 2hone.a’am. ma’am3 1s this---D .D =ewis said. CShould 1 answer it3D she asked.rs. 1’m calling for .D CAait. C. my name is Richmond Tate. 1 meanHyou’ve got the wrong number. Ratner.rs.
D =ewis hustled over to the door.D she said.D C1 meant dinner. "nce nice thing about (mily she never made him guess about what she wanted. .D C)ool. like a southerner.#ut before he could finish. Te$as or . shivering in the summer fog. C4o. keys in hand.e$ican or 1talian3D he said as he set the alarm code. C=et’s go eat. CArong number3D =ewis said. "rder me dinner or 1 may have to kill someone.ississi22i or some2lace like that. )lear enough. C1’m starting to get homicidal. 1t was . (mily 2ut the 2hone down.D They stood on the sidewalk. C:eah. Some guy who talks like Tommy =ee Iones.
looking around at the darkened storefronts. and "ld Town was em2ty. CAhatever’s o2en3D C.ood call. CEh--D she said. and they went looking for whatever that might be.com2letely dark by now. .D he said.
so the ability to . The . As for air2lane reading. allowing him to search through thousands of books on management or sales techni0ues for the 2articular bit of wisdom he thought he’d read somewhere once.nineteen Richmond Tate had given little thought to the demise of the book until now.i5mo was 2erfect for an inattentive reader like Richmond. 8e was not much of a reader himself7 he di22ed into the business books his colleagues were reading and 2icked u2 the occasional 2a2erback thriller for a long 2lane ride. there was nothing worse than getting stuck on a 2lane with a novel you didn’t like.
something he hadn’t even considered until he hung u2 from his call to the Firebreathing <ragon.discard a book after a few 2ages and choose something else suited him just fine. They were both selling 2roducts that had gone out of fashion. 8e hadn’t been in a bookstore in years. as he stood on the sidewalk on a chilly summer evening in (ureka. it occurred to him that his business had something in common with the book business. Relics of the twentieth century that would disa22ear entirely unless something was done about it. #ecause there are some things you can’t digiti5e. ($ce2t that he would have an easier time of it than the booksellers would. . #ut now.
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. CSorry about that. . CAhat’s good here3D he said.D he said.D C1t’s all right. where =e$ was waiting for him. Richmond dialed his secretary. and went back to looking at her menu. 1t was after eight in Lentucky7 she 2robably wouldn6t check her work messages until .onday. 1’m out here in )alifornia. CIust trying to return a cou2le of calls before it got too late.#efore he went back into the restaurant. See if you can’t find another number and call me back. C8ey.D Then he made his way back to his table.D she said.
C1 thought your job was to show off this fine city.D he said.D BAhat6s in season now3B .C4ot much. 8e laughed and nodded at the waitress as she brought him his beer. !eo2le come here for the fish. they’re going to order it in Iuly even if the season doesn’t start until <ecember. it is. most of it’s fro5en. She closed her menu and set it down on the table. C:ou6re right.D she said. 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. This 2lace is okay.D BThis close to the water and all they’ve got is fro5en fish3B B:eah. The thing is. but to tell you the truth.
he was overdressed. Richmond was one of those men who looked like he had been born wearing a suit. :ou6ll be fine. And besides. a 2retentious seafood restaurant that catered to . a 2lace near )ity 8all where she usually met her friends on Friday night. 8e was just good-looking enough. to make 2eo2le gossi2. The only 2lace to take a guy in a suit was the "s2rey. but when she 2icked him u2 at the air2ort she changed her mind. #ut Richmond had asked for her s2ecifically. in a generic broadshouldered.She shrugged. Esually somebody at the )hamber handled these dinners.B =e$ wasn6t often called u2on to entertain visiting dignitaries. She would6ve taken him to (ureka6s one hi2 bistro. BIust get the 2asta. clean-shaven way.
tourists. 16m not actively involved in the waterfront. . 8e 2ronounced it C=ouville. B16m really out here to work on a business deal. Byou6re with the convention and visitors bureau back in --B C=ouisville.y family trust owns the land. .D he said. BSo.onday. 1’m just on the board.D =e$ had to remind herself that falling for men with interesting accents had never worked out for her. Ae6ve been reading about your 2lans for the waterfront --B CAe3 Actually. so she wouldn6t have to answer any 0uestions about her dinner date when she got to work on . CActually.B =e$ said.D Richmond said. 4obody she knew would be there.
8e took a breath.s. all 1 can do is vote on whatever 2lan comes before the council. B1 do resource develo2ment for them. CAhat6s the waterfront got to do with tourism in Lentucky3B she asked. #esides. but that sounded like a line from a movie.interesting resources we’d like to take a look at.B She thought about telling him that he could call her =e$. Trevino. B16m really here on behalf of the com2any 1 work for.D BAho do you work for3B =e$ asked. 8umboldt )ounty has some-. she liked the way he said her name.well -. .but as a city council member. B.B he said.D Richmond smiled down into his beer. you6re off the record tonight.
s. B:ou work for a tobacco com2any3B she said. Richmond lowered his voice. 1 believe .B =e$ 2ushed away from the table.D Richmond said with a little laugh. Trevino. BSumner Tobacco. too. There6s one cam2aign in this town that you and your family have given money to every single year. B. then he s2eared a 2iece of rigatoni with his fork and said. Ae did a search of cam2aign finance records over the last ten years. now. BAre you kidding me3B CSettle down.D CAhat could Sumner 2ossibly want in 8umboldt )ounty3D she whis2ered.Their dinners arrived. Richmond waited for the waitress to leave. C(verybody’s got to work for somebody.
C(ven your little si$-year-old niece donated the ma$imum allowable by law.B B16m talking about 8umboldt =egal. (very few years it funds another 2ro-legali5ation candidate or a ballot initiative.B B#ut you kee2 2ro22ing it u2.the Trevino family combined makes u2 ninety 2ercent of the donations. legali5ation is a non-starter. even here. The tooth fairy must be good to her. Ask her mother. They6re . but she already knew.D B1 don6t know.D BAhat are you talking about3B =e$ asked. BThat cam2aign goes nowhere.D =e$ laughed and shook her head. #ut beyond medical marijuana. =egali5e marijuana and you’ve finally got something to sell to the tourists u2 here. =et me guess.
8er eyes got wide. we can’t figure out why we’ve gotten away with it as long as we have. B:ou guys are going to grow 2otKB BAell.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. tobacco is not e$actly working out anymore. are they3 :ou gonna 2ut some kind of bouti0ue down there on the waterfront and sell over2riced bong hits to yu22ies3D #oo-ti0ue. 8onestly. #ut 2ublic o2inion has turned . That was cute.not e$actly coming for the fish. (ven if he was a cor2orate evildoer. and then she figured out. BAnd a tobacco com2any would be interested in this because ---B she said. She leaned across the table.
CEhHD C($actly. why not come u2 with something else we can grow that 2eo2le won’t object to so much3D CAnd you really think that is--3D C. They’d rather go after hard drugs anyway. (ven the co2s are on our side.s. So we figured.D CAhat do you mean. do it right3D C:ou think these 8umboldt growers are going to cater to a bunch of tourists from !asadena3 They don6t care about that. well.against us for good at this 2oint. So we figured. Trevino. do you know what the annual death toll from marijuana smoking is in this country3D She laughed. we6ve got the money to do this right. They want to live out there in the woods and grow their .
Aho better than us to take non-smokers and make them smokers again3D BThat’s cra5y. CAnd don’t count on .B =e$ 2ictured fields of !ur2le 8a5e flourishing in Lentucky’s long. They’re not going to come into town and o2en u2 a Starbucks for 2ot smokers. the 2ersonnel.D she said. although she was already calculating what she could charge in rent to a Starbucks that sold fifteen-dollar joints instead of five dollar lattes. #ut you guysHB BAe6ve got the farms. steamy summers. C(verybody here’s growing it indoors or hiding it in the redwood forest.do2e and count their money.D =e$ said. the marketing 2lans. C1t’s 2robably a lot chea2er to grow outside in the sun like that. the ca2ital.
B BAe don6t need your little cam2aign. BAe own )ongress. remember3B C"h yeah. and smiled back at him.D .B Richmond said with a half smile.D =e$ said. 1t6s not going anywhere.our little cam2aign to make it ha22en for you. trust me. C8ow nice for you.
Finally he couldn’t stand it anymore. untroubled breathing beside him. the ne$t morning =ewis was wide awake in his motel room. 8e crossed the 2arking lot and slid into an em2ty booth inside. where he sat drinking coffee and scrolling through the news on his 2hone.twent" At si$ a. . 8e dressed in the dark and sli22ed outside. A diner was o2en ne$t door. 8e couldn’t slee2 on a good night7 the combination of the strange bed and the 2revious day’s events had ke2t him awake for hours.m. staring at the ceiling and listening to (mily’s dee2.
AEST14’S !A. B1f you had asked me ten years ago whether a handheld com2uter would ever re2lace books. according to owner Iack Ailliams. As one of only eight remaining bookstores in the Enited States.D he . 4ot any more. the !age Turner #ookstore is closing its doors.( TER4(R S(T T" )="S( FAustin. 8e had been ski22ing 2ast these articles for years.Another bookstore had closed. the loss of this store is 2articularly significant. TUG After thirty-seven years on )ongress Avenue. 1 would have said no way. 2rom2ting yet another story about the demise of bookstores nationwide.
B1 thought that 2eo2le who grew u2 with books would not give them u2 so easily. "nce 2ublishers made the decision to sto2 issuing new releases on 2a2er.B he said. because . BAe could have transitioned to high-end books that are meant to be collected rather than . B1 couldn6t get in the new books 2eo2le wanted. he felt he had no choice.said. said Ailliams. A shift to used and hardto-find books didn6t hel2.D #ut once the . the store’s sales dro22ed ten to twenty 2ercent a year.i5mo was introduced.oogle was scanning rare books faster than he could ac0uire them for the store. and even the obscure titles had all been digiti5ed.
B4obody is going to 2ay si$ thousand dollars for a first edition of The +ampyre and then read it on the . 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. only one bookstore remains in the south 9oodoo #ooks in 4ew "rleans. 1 don6t have the ca2ital to start over. which s2eciali5es in e$actly the kind of rarities Ailliams described. #esides.B Aith the closure of The !age Turner.read. "wner Anita 8awkins concedes that her selection of anti0ue leather-bound volumes of horror stories and witchcraft tales are used more as decoration than as bedside reads.
)(" of 4ile.a$ine Rogers. agreed.D Ahen asked about 4ile’s latest 0uarterly earnings re2ort showing that downloads of book-length works have declined relative to music.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.com. They’ll always be a wonderful 2art of our culture. The fact that the . videos.air2lane. so to s2eak. C!eo2le buy our books because they6re collectors. C!eo2le love the comfort and connection to real books. and .B .B she said. or because they want them around for atmos2here.
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. he said. no matter what the format. C)ould be something in the air u2 here. Rogers said. CThere will always be an audience for good content.D #ookstore owners in #rooklyn. .D and hung u2. )hicago. interim manager of the Firebreathing <ragon in (ureka. )alifornia. and <enver could not be reached for comment. Ahen asked to e$2lain the success of his store.blog 2osts. Richard )rawford.
Ailliams said he 2lans to retire at the end of the year and -.what else3 -catch u2 on his reading.B he said. Bbut like everybody else. C<on’t you remember The Retriever3D C8uh3D . B1 wish 1 could say that 1 had a stack of books on the nightstand 16m eager to get through. 1 do my reading on my 2hone. B<id you see that article3B B:eah.B she said.D @ C(milyKD =ewis said when she walked into the coffee sho2 to join him for breakfast. B1s that really the Richard )rawford3B BAho3B he said.
who brought her a cu2 of coffee and a menu. =ewis. 8e went on "2rah.B CSo the guy who works in our store is a famous author3D =ewis said. B1 don6t know.C1t was a huge book several years ago. and then his ne$t novel was a total failure. :ou don6t remember that book3B =ewis scrolled through his 2hone. what e$actly is your 2lan here3 Ae’re going to 0uit our jobs and sit u2 here in (ureka and wait to find out if we’re the fifth or the seventh-to-last bookstore to close in America3D . 1 think 1 read it on 2a2er. C1t sounds like it. 1t must6ve been a while ago.D She slid into the booth and nodded at the waitress. C<o 1 have it on here3D he asked. C=ook. he won a bunch of awards.
=ewis looked out the window. =ewis thought about their favorite breakfast 2lace in San Iose. !eo2le lined u2 around the block to get . daring the logging trucks to take him out as they barreled down #roadway with their 2ayload of fallen redwoods. a cheerful yellow cottage in Aillow .len with geraniums in the window bo$es. The fog was so dense that it left the 2avement dam2. kicking himself into traffic. 1t was a bleak morning in (ureka. the 2aint 2eeled off a store that sold used medical su22lies. Across the street. 8e didn’t look over his shoulder to see where he was going. 1t looked as if he had traveled this way his whole life. 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.
C=et’s just find out what the deal is. and we6ll figure out what to do after that. =et6s have a look at them. (ventually the buildings would sell. and the owner walked down the street 2ouring coffee while they waited. they’d use . and be on the road tomorrow morning. butHjust a weekend.D he said at last.B She could see that he was already losing interest in the business of books. locate a real estate agent in the afternoon. This was turning out to be nothing more than a weekend getaway. BThe bookstore has to kee2 some kind of financial records. They could get to the bookstore and to Sy’s house before lunch.in there for Sunday brunch. A unsettling weekend. and go see uncle Sy6s house. 8e couldn’t imagine any of that ha22ening here.
the 2roceeds to 2ay off some bills. CAe have the keys.D he said.D CThey’re 2robably not o2en yet.D .D she said. C=et’s go. C=et’s get over to the bookstore. and get on with their lives. still looking out the window as if he was hy2noti5ed by the fog. dro22ing a twenty on the table to cover =ewis’s breakfast. CAll right. remember3D she said. then.
CThat’s money walking down the street.D C<on’t do that. C1 should do a story about that. CAs long as 1’m the only one o2en.D . mugs.alway sat at his usual table at )ontra )offee and watched tourists walk 2ast "ld Town’s closed sho2s.D .D . Tell these sho2kee2ers to get their asses out of bed and get down here. they’ll buy anything. T-shirts.uillermo said. whatever 1’ve got.uillermo said as he refilled .alway said.D .twent"#one . CAnd you’re the only guy o2en before noon.alway’s coffee.
(mily followed him inside.D .D . The <ragon 2robably took in five thousand bucks before close. too.uillermo said.uillermo said. somebody’s gonna buy a t-shirt to remind them of that great cu2 of coffee they had in (ureka3D C8a22ens all the time.D . =ewis walked u2 to the <ragon and unlocked the door as if he owned the 2lace. did you see the Times called )rawford3D C:eah. C1t’s got to be the new owners.D .alway said.CAhat. 8ey.alway said. on Friday afternoon. CAhy don’t you get over there and interview them3D CThey look young. CAho was that3D . Across the street. CToo much clean living.
1 ho2e..D C:ou don’t think they’d steal from the store.alway and stared at him. 1’ve sat in there and watched it ha22en.D . 4either one of them looked like they belonged at the .D . but he knew they would. C:ou think so3 Five grand in an afternoon3D CAbsolutely.uillermo said.uillermo traced a little s0uare on the table as if he was calculating something.uillermo dro22ed into the seat across from .D They sat for a minute and watched (mily and =ewis move around inside the store. 8ow is that stealing3 They need to get 2aid. C<amnK Ahat are they doing with all that cash3D C4ow that Sy’s gone3 !utting in their 2ockets. CAhy not3 They’re running the 2lace.
uillermo said. CThey’re looking for something. 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.alway said. And =ewis3 8e would need to sto2 shaving for a week before he looked like he belonged at the <ragon. man. why don’t you do a story about the .glossy. They had locked the door behind them and they hadn’t turned on any lights inside the store. C=ook. somehow.D .D . C!robably looking for that five grand )rawford took in yesterday. (mily was too-. so obviously they weren’t 2lanning on o2ening for business.<ragon. (mily ducked behind the counter and =ewis disa22eared into the back.
The 2olice can only ignore what’s going on over there if nobody’s rubbing it in their face.D . there’s 2lenty of time. CAait a minute.D . it’ll be u2 to them to decide what to tell the re2orters. CAhy do you care whether or not 1 do a story3 :ou know that would shut them down.e! -ork Times to show u2 and do it instead3D C4ah.alway said.alway said. CThe <ragon’s not going anywhere.<ragon3 #low the lid on that 2lace. . There was no movement inside. :ou going to wait for the .uillermo didn’t look away from the store. And if those two are just here to close it down and sell the building.uillermo hadn’t taken his eyes off the <ragon.D .D .
CAll 1 know is that somebody’s going to end u2 with those 2lants. man.alway said. meeting .D .uillermo said.D .CAw. C:ou don’t think (dith’s going to start working for you after the <ragon closes3D C1 don’t know.alway’s glance at last.D .
1t’s a few years old.D .D C1 don’t want to just show u2 over there. C1 guess it would be too much to ho2e that she still had a land line out there3D C<oesn’t look like it.D he said. C1 do have an address.twent"#two Richmond’s secretary checked her voice mail over the weekend after all. slowing down in front of a wash-and-fold that didn’t look like it would know what to do with a suit. though.D she told him as he drove around downtown looking for a 2lace to get his suit dry-cleaned. CThat’s the only 2hone number 1 have for (dith Ratner.
send me the address. #ut if she 2ulls a rifle on me. it’s your fault.CAll right.D .
a friend of (dith’s who was also a widow gave her this advice about getting through the first year .twent"#three After Sy died. "nce you’d gotten yourself u2 and 2ulled yourself together. have something to eat. #illy had called late last night to say that (mily and . ($ce2t that today it wasn’t working. you can s2end the rest of the day in bed if you want to. After that. get dressed. 1t was a trick. of course. (ight magical words -ou an . Take a shower. #ut that little lie was what sustained her.o ba k to bed after breakfast. there wasn6t much 2oint in going back to bed.et u2 in the morning.
B he said.=ewis would 2robably be by this weekend. #illy had never actually asked her to do any of the things a caretaker of a vacant house might doHair the 2lace out. B4ot much. B1 don6t know.D )aretaker. maybe a little dustingHand she hadn’t volunteered. She hadn’t been in Sy’s house once .B BAhat did they say about the house3B she asked. 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 asked him what he thought of Sy6s heirs. BThey don6t look like bookstore material to me.
: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. . She would have set the couch on to2 of his grave and let the grass grow around it. giving her a 2lace to go when she wanted to talk to him. 8e looked so comfortable in death that she had considered leaving him there for the night. 8e seemed to have just slum2ed into it. )remation. she reali5ed now. =ater she wished she had just called his friends over to bury him in the backyard. had its downsides. 4othing about his 2osture suggested that he had been in 2ain or even gas2ed for air. They could have carried him from the couch to the garden and set him to slee2 in the dirt.since the afternoon she found him dead on the couch.
it would be as if her decades with Sy had just been erased. her garden. nothing but each other. So where does that leave me3D . She couldn’t. She rolled over and looked out the window at the corner of Sy’s house and her garden beyond. She was going to lose this 2laceHher house. no shared 2ossessions. Cbut 1 can’t do anything else.D she said to Sy. C1 can’t kee2 doing this. She could walk away from (ureka and never hear Sy’s name again. #ecause she wasn’t about to start over. her livelihoodHand after that. They had no children together. either. And it was that thought that was kee2ing her in bed all morning.That’s what was bothering her this morning.
Stuck in bed.radually the sunlight swung around the room and hit the wall o22osite. that’s where.Stuck. @ (dith awoke a cou2le hours later to the sound of tires in the driveway. A car door slammed. anyway. Esually she s2ent Saturday in her 2ro2agation room starting new cuttings. . She sat u2 in bed. The whole world seemed to have sto22ed. Slee2 rolled into the room at last and 2ulled her back into the darkness. Today the task seemed 2ointless Hnone of the 2lants would make it to harvest. At least for today. There was no bree5e outside. . and then she heard someone walking around the house to the back.
. 1n a minute she was out of the house and running down the hill. she saw a man in a suit ste2 onto Sy’s back 2orch and look into a window. but she couldn’t see him. The gate was locked7 surely he hadn’t found a way in already. 4o knock. from her bedroom window. she remembered that she wasn’t stuck between staying here and leaving (ureka forever. 8e headed around the corner and down the hill toward her garden. Then. She waited. but she was in no mood to see him. Iail. That got her out of bed. The man in the suit should have been right in front of her. There was that third o2tion. At that moment.=ewis would be knocking on her door in a few minutes.
4obody was in there. her heart 2ounding dangerously in her chest. . 8e had doubled back to her cottage after she left7 now he was walking away from her front door and back to his car. C=ewis3D She got to the gate and checked the lock. (ven from some distance. 1t was much stee2er on this side7 she was out of breath before she made it halfway u2 the hill. C=ewis3D she called again. She continued down the hill.C8ello3D she called. Then she saw him. and more 2uttogether than anyone who shared genes with Sy. he looked older than (dith thought he would be. following the hedge along its broad southern s2an and then climbing back u2 the hill on the other side.
#ut she let him get back to his car and drive away before she untangled herself from the shrub.She sli22ed into the branches of a thorny 2yracantha. CAhat a strange kid. CAre you sure he’s related to you3D .D she said to Sy as she brushed stray leaves off her 2ants. She wasn’t sure why she didn’t want him to see her7 they were going to have to talk eventually.
and went to check the 2anel. C"h.inger unlocked the <ragon’s front door. She heard a shuffle of 2a2ers behind her and she s2un around. she was sur2rised not to hear the alarm bee2ing.D he said. backing away from him.twent"#four Ahen . CAho the fuck are you3D .inger said. C1’m. )rawford.inger stood and waited to see if he could com2lete a sentence. uhHD . CEhHD =ewis said. So she said CThe new owner3D .D she muttered. C1’m =ewis. 8e could not. standing u2 behind the counter.
trying to sound calm. CAhat3D .D he said.D she said.inger said. that makes me your em2loyee.D she said. C1’ll just go turn on the lights.D C8ey.D CAell. Then he looked back down at the bo$es of 2a2ers and old maga5ines he’d scattered all over the floor behind the counter.inger.D CThanks. C1 guess so. C"h.D C(gy2tology and !arenting.D .D Shit. 1s your wife here3D C:eah.D . C. Ae couldn’t find them.C:eah. She’s in the back.inger said. C1 was justHuhHD C1t’s okay.D he said. good. looking down at his feet. C1t’s your store.
inger didn’t turn on the lights.D . She reali5ed how bi5arre the ma5e of unsold books must look to anyone else.D she said.inger. C1’m . C"hHhi. then (mily came around the corner.CThat’s where the lights are.D C"h. Thanks. (mily3D she said as she rounded the corner into the <ragon’s storage room. Right behind the books in the (gy2tology and !arenting sections. She headed straight to the back. C8i. These two were obviously looking for something.D #ut . From the other end of the room came the sound of cardboard bo$es getting shifted around.D she said. 1 work here. C1 just met your husband.
inger said. but =ewis has told me a lot about him. following (mily’s ga5e back to the ancient bank .C. hi.inger said.inger asked. coming toward her to shake her hand. butQD That didn’t take long. CAhat are you looking for3D C"hHwell. we just thought we’d get here early and try to get a handle on how the store is doing. C"h.D .ingerK Aow.D . or something like that3 1 thought they might be in that vault back there. 8e must have been a great guy.D C<id you know him3D . C4o. 1 never did get a chance to meet him.D C8e was something. or ledgers. C1’m so sorry about Sy.D (mily said. 1 was looking forH1 don’t knowH recei2ts.
vault in the back of the room. if you’re looking for financial records and stuff.D She following . . A cou2le of customers walked in immediately. 1 can hel2 you out.D (mily said. C8ey.D she said. She reali5ed that she had no idea how this was going to work with (mily and =ewis in the store. CAhy don’t we go back u2 front3D C"hHgreat.D C:eah. Fortunately. CThat’s been here forever. CThanks. the first batch of customers . it seems to be locked. She ke2t her eyes on the vault. and waited while she fli22ed on the lights and 2ro22ed the door o2en.inger back into the store.inger needed to distract her. looking away from the vault at last. as far as 1 know.D (mily said. 1t doesn’t o2en.
in her best imitation of a hel2ful em2loyee.inger decided that the best thing to do would be to get them out of there 0uickly.looked like tourists who didn’t know what they were doing.D she said. There were 2a2ers and broken books and file folders everywhere. 1’ll do it.inger to show us the financials. C1 asked .D =ewis said. =ewis had made a mess behind the desk.D . 2a2er really isn’t dead here. C:ou did3D =ewis said. is it3D she said. CAow. (mily laughed when she saw it. CSorry. CThat’s all right. looking alarmed.D (mily said. C1’ll clean it u2. .
D she said. <id you meet the lawyer yet3D C#illy3D =ewis asked. handing it over. C1t’s 2retty sim2le. too.D She o2ened the desk drawer and 2ulled an old green ledger book out from under the cash bo$. and then we add it u2 at the end of the month. All the bills come straight out of our account. C:eah. #ut your uncle Sy liked to kee2 a 2a2er ledger. C1t’s your store.D =ewis o2ened the ledger. and then turned back to .inger said in a low voice so the customers wouldn’t hear. Ae just write down the total sales for the day. 8e fli22ed through it for a minute. That’s where all the monthly statements are.D .C1t’s "L. 8e can give you a 2assword to the bank account.
CEmHit’s our ledger.D . CAellHyeah.inger said. 1sn’t that what you wanted3 Sales figures3 There’s not much else to show you. Sy owned the building. 8e looked at it blankly for a minute and then looked back u2 at .the front.inger. who was still standing on the other side of the counter. CAhat is this3D he asked. Ae don’t really buy any books anymore. 1s something wrong3D . 8e didn’t 0uite know how to tell her. =ewis looked u2 at (mily. and--D CThese are sales3D =ewis asked in a whis2er. CThis bookstore makes over a million dollars a year. so there’s no rent to 2ay.
;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
if only they could get hold of it.B All those clean-living non-smokers who would have to be 2ersuaded to light u2 again. This would be im2ortant if they wanted to lure what Tom was calling Bmainstream smokers.strain. 1t was rumored to be light. Twenty bags of . and --. The guys across the street were still unloading their truck. deliciously into$icating. unlike most of the newer strains that only flourished in a hydro2onic system. :ou could smoke it on a coffee break at the office or at your in-laws’ house after Thanksgiving dinner and it would leave little more than the faint scent of burning 2a2er behind. sweet.best of all --free of that skunky 2ot odor. And it hel2ed that <ragon grew easily outdoors. known as <ragon. was going to be Sumner6s 2remium 2roduct.
"ne of the guys who was carrying e0ui2ment into the warehouse wore a B=egali5e 1tB T-shirt. a duct blower. They were bouti0ue growers who could 2lay around with fancy e0ui2ment and over2riced fertili5er mi$tures all they wanted. or com2etition from large. After all. 1t was the Aild Aest out here. Richmond just watched him and shook his head. These guys had no idea what they were asking for. wages. regulations. and three cases of li0uid fertili5ers. they could charge almost anything for their 2roduct. "nce Sumner rolled out its . These guys were like mad scientists.horticultural-grade 2erlite. tinkering with the dosages and injecting a different 2otion into their irrigation system every day. well-run 2lantations in the South. and they didn6t have to worry about ta$es.
2rices would dro2 like a stone and these growers would all be 2ut out of business over ta$ evasion. 4ot to mention 2atent lawsuits. #ut first Richmond had to figure out how to buy some 2ot. labor and safety violations. and that was 2roving to be trickier than he’d e$2ected. because Sumner would own all the strains in circulation.2roduct. . and allround flakiness.
. They sold a 2roduct that 2eo2le were willingHnot just willing.twent"#seven 1n the old days. and they had a large staff to su22ort. a million dollars in annual sales would not have been 2articularly im2ressive for a bookstore. making annual sales of three or four million seem 2erfectly reasonable. And they also had customers. #ut those stores had to actually buy the books they offered for sale. A busy sho2 in a big city might do twenty-five grand on a good Saturday. and a hefty rent to 2ay at the end of the month. but eager--to buy.
whatever small salaries )rawford and . and you still hadHwell. As =ewis drove out to Sy’s 2lace. "ne million dollars. insurance. 4either of them said a word. )ould that be right3 Surely not. Subtract out 2ro2erty ta$es. =ewis had imagined that he would be taking 2ossession of a few dila2idated buildings and a collection of moldy books.inger were 2aid. The idea that Sy had left =ewis anything of value was an unsettling one.#ut now3 1n a town this si5e3 A million dollars seemed im2ossible. the ledger closed in her la2. They were both chewing over that number in silence. 2retty close to a million dollars. all of which would cost more to dis2ose of than they were worth. 8e liked the . (mily sat ne$t to him. utilities. he wondered if somebody was 2laying a joke on him.
or he could eat in the bar . 1f you were willing to wade through a certain amount of muck. 8e had mastered the delicate art of bribery. Ruinous. The truth was that he didn6t trust easy money. footing the bill for karaoke night after a 2harmacists’ in-service training.idea that taking over Sy’s bookstore would be difficult. 2erha2s im2ossible. knowing just how far he could go in delivering 2i55as to the (R on a Saturday night. Aorking in 2harmaceuticals had taught him that there was 2lenty of money sloshing around out there. and sitting across the restaurant after a 2ain management sym2osium. watching a grou2 of doctors devour the lobsters and steaks he was 2aying for. it was just there to be scoo2ed u2. even. 8e could sit with them and let them buy their own dinners.
8e rarely took a drink. and he wasn’t at all sure that a 2ill was the answer to de2ression or an$iety or chronic aches and 2ains. For someone who sold mood-altering drugs and 2ain 2ills for a living. and he had hardly ever smoked so much as a cigarette. =et them eat their dinner in 2eace. 8e fell into this job almost by accident. 8e knew which o2tion would work. They were going to 2rescribe his drugs regardless7 all he had to do was stand in the middle and take his cut. =ewis was a sur2risingly straight-laced guy.and let them dine on his em2loyer’s tab. 8e didn’t like the idea of an increasingly do2ed-u2 American society. encouraged by a college roommate who had . These guys didn’t want to talk to him anyway.
and somehow it stuck. but buying martinis for medical 2ractitioners was not on the list. no inventory to buy3 4o author events or staff 2ick lists orHwell--effort of any kind3 Ahat sort of business was that3 . e$actly. #lacksmithing. he’d been fantasi5ing about some job that re0uired him to dig his way out of his foolish. #ookselling seemed to fit into that category. 8is wages felt ill-gotten. #efore the news of Sy’s death. no merchandising. debt-fueled lifestyle by working with his hands cabinet-making.been recruited by the com2any. Ahat had he 2lanned to do with his life3 8e couldn’t say. but a million dollars in sales3 Aith only two em2loyees and no real strategy3 4o marketing. maybe. A medieval trade with humble rewards. The work was easy.
A narrow mountain ridge skirted the bay. 1t wasn’t fair.There wouldn’t be anything for him to do but stand in the way of the money and catch a little bit of it as it went by. Encle Sy6s 2lace sat at a 2rime location at the to2 of the ridge. and along that ridge were the new. following a road that led around the bay and through a scrubby. A few timber com2any e$ecutives lived out here alongside doctors and wealthy retirees from the #ay Area. second-growth forest. . =ewis took the back way out of (ureka. (ven from the road =ewis could see that a s2rawling. s2litlevel home built on Sy’s lot would face s2ectacular sunsets over the !acific. custom-built homes that re2resented the last of (ureka6s wealth.
B =ewis couldn’t imagine this 2lace without Sy.8e followed the rutted road u2 to Sy6s 2lace and 2arked in the driveway that ran alongside the house. . Surely he was still here. but the 2roject had been abandoned before even one side of the house could be 2ainted. and later it was sky blue. BAell. yeah.B (mily said. 1 guess it is. but now it was mostly gray. 8e leaned over the steering wheel to look through his windshield at the sagging 2orch and layers of 2eeling 2aint. Someone had attem2ted to go after the trim with a coat of maroon 2aint. The house was once green. slamming doors and 2ushing gusts of wind down the hallway and whatever else it was that ghosts did. BThis looks like a haunted house.
gray-haired woman in a flannel shirt and brown. They circled back and a22roached the cottage closest to Sy6s house. BActually. All em2ty.They got out of the car and walked around the house. As =ewis ste22ed u2 onto the 2orch. garages. A tiny.that had all been converted to rentals over the years.sheds. and then back at him. B:ou aren6t the ne2hew. little cottages -. dirt-stained 2ants stood in front of them. This is my wife ---B . Around back were a grou2 of outbuildings -. =ewis and (mily ti2toed among them.B she said. (dith looked 2ast =ewis at (mily. the door flew o2en. B(dith3B =ewis said. looking in a few windows. 1 am. ste22ing carefully through the tall grass. A tangle of 2ower lines led from one to the ne$t.
B .you know --. BAe just wanted to take a look at the 2lace to --. BAe6re not going to do anything right away. BAe just got here. B:ou6ve got to figure out what to do with this 2lace. And what to do about me. BAe6re just here for the weekend to look around.figure out --B B1 know.B (dith said. 1 was going to take a 0uick look at Sy6s house.aybe you can show us the 2lace.B (mily said. <o you want to come inside3 .B =ewis said.B She stood looking u2 at them. She wasn6t going to offer any suggestions. BThen who was that other man3B CEhHB B:ou weren6t here earlier this morning3B she said.(dith leaned in the doorway and s0uinted at =ewis.
it might not occur to them to go for a little nature walk down the hill. 1’ll show it to you. . but if she ke2t them busy. She didn6t want to go inside.B she said.She looked 2ast them at the house. C1 bet it hasn’t changed much since you were a boy. and followed them to the back door. )ome on.
)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-
inger had to admit. The store didn6t need to be 2articularly clean --. changing light bulbs and knocking s2ider webs out of the corners.and he carried it around the store. A catastro2he. =ewis found a ladder in the bathroom -. .inger felt obligated to 2itch in.but it didn’t have to be in this kind of disarray. )rawford and . A bookish wreck.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 -. They knew what the store must look like to its new owners. 1t was a little embarrassing to watch them work.em2ty coffee cu2s that had been stashed in outof-the-way 2laces for weeks or. )rawford and . either. 2ossibly months.most customers didn6t s2end enough time in the store to notice --.
They were going to have to be much more careful.so in between customers. The <ragon’s regular customers had a hard time adjusting to the new owners. (mily and =ewis were always hovering nearby. they washed the unused glass cases near the counter and cleaned off the desk. 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. 1t was a good thing they did. There was enough illegal detritus to 2ut them in jail in a less 2ermissive county. because every corner and crevice was filled with bits of sus2icious dried green material. This was intimidating to the customers. ready to ste2 u2 with a book recommendation or offer to hunt down a 2articular title. Soon they fell into .
This was not good.inger. who was changing the light bulb in the doorway. #ut )rawford and . B)an 1 hel2 you find a book3B . "ne day a skateboarder with a shaved head and a row of 2iercings u2 both ears walked 2ast =ewis. forcing them to go find a book on their own. 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.the habit of walking straight u2 to the desk and mumbling their re0uests to )rawford or . loud enough for =ewis to hear.inger were not ready to change the rules of the game. They gave 2eo2le a blank look when they held out their cash. )rawford gave the guy a small shake of the head and said.
B8ey. the kid said. let me take this one. BEm. right3B )rawford smiled at the skateboarder who. BSure.B he said. BThat6s what Sy would6ve done. the kid .B The kid followed =ewis reluctantly into the de2ths of the store. just aHB 8e looked around des2erately. )rawford tilted his head toward the 2hiloso2hy section. "ur 2hiloso2hy section’s over here. he figured. got himself into this mess and was going to have to get himself out. )rawford. 1n a voice that suggested that he wasn6t used to talking to grown-u2s.D #efore he could say anything else. BAhat were you looking for3B =ewis said. 1 don’t know.=ewis jum2ed down from his ladder. C=ikeHa 2hiloso2hy book3D BSure. =ewis.
CAe might have that in 2a2erback. then fled the store with a bag containing his 9oltaire and his bud. 1 like this one. 2ractically racing back to the counter to hand it to )rawford. 1t came to just over a hundred bucks.B the kid said.B he said.reached down and grabbed a nice old co2y of 9oltaire6s letters rebound in contem2orary 2aneled calf with gilt lettering on the s2ine. =ewis had been standing right by the desk watching him. CAhat3D asked )rawford. BAre you sure3B =ewis asked. CThat was odd. o2ening the book 0uickly to check the 2rice. .D =ewis said. BThis looks good.B B4o. 8e handed his twenties to )rawford and told him to kee2 the change.
!eo2le love books. And where does a kid like that get that kind of money3B )rawford shrugged. . in this case. kind of working class town. BThat6s the ama5ing thing about this town. C8ey.BAell. entirely inconse0uential issue. you know what 1 mean3D C4o. butHit’s hardly #erkeley. C1 mean. he hardly even looked around. you know3 4obody seems to have the money to 2aint their house or wash their car. but they’re going to come in here and buy a hundred-dollar 9oltaire3D )rawford loved nothing more than taking a 2rinci2led stand.B C:eah. what3D )rawford said. summoning a little mock indignation. it’s just this small. es2ecially on a minor and.
C1’m sorry.D =ewis said. . :ou’re the one who’s hel2ed make this store what it is. =ewis rushed to the door to hel2 her. then you don6t know this community.man. :ou’re right. (mily walked into the store with another load of cleaning su22lies and a stack of em2ty bo$es. after you’ve only been here a little while.B 8e wi2ed his eyes and got busy straightening the desk as if to distract himself from a sudden rush of outraged tears.D #efore the moment got any more sentimental than it already was. 1 know what (ureka must look like to you. And if you don6t think that skateboarder kid can a22reciate 9oltaire. #ut 2eo2le who live here ha22en to think this is a 2retty s2ecial 2lace. 1 just got here. C8ey.
CEhHthey’re for the books we’re not going to kee2. books that have clearly been wet .D =ewis said slowly. books with coffee stains. They turned and looked at him with matching e$2ressions of startled fright.D =ewis said. CThe entire reference section is mildewed. )rawford had the im2ression that he’d caught them at something. choosing his words. still wound u2 over his im2assioned defense of (ureka as a cultural institution. CAhere are you taking them3D (mily 2ressed her li2s together and headed to the back room. Ae’ve found books with the covers torn off. (ven the shelves. C4ot going to kee23D )rawford asked. CSome of these books areH wellHdirty.CAhat are the bo$es for3D )rawford asked.
C1t’s your store. <efending old and mildewed books came much more naturally to him. 8e went back to rearranging su22lies on the desk. not to mention all the old .D he said to =ewis. They’ve been sitting here for years. 4obody’s bought them.D =ewis said. C1’m not the bad guy.D CSome of these books really should be recycled. refusing to look u2.and dried out again.raphi sHD C1 see. CFine. 1t’s just that nobody wants these books. but it was easy to forget that the store didn’t even really sell books anymore. CSo you’re just going to throw books away.D .ational Geo.D )rawford said.D )rawford knew that =ewis was right.
inger needed now that the owners were here all the time rolling joints under the desk. .=ewis didn’t argue that 2oint. 8e followed (mily to the back. )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 .
sometimes showing u2 just after dawn to move bookcases around before the store o2ened. (mily and =ewis came and went at all hours. and fre0uently staying late into the evening.inger and )rawford to kee2 the <ragon o2erating the way it used to.thirt" 1t was not easy for . The store’s em2loyees had to take any o22ortunity . 1t was im2ossible to kee2 track of where they were or how long they might be out of the store. 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.
They had not yet bothered to establish a new bank account. So they fell into the dangerous habit of s2ending the cash in the till on whatever they needed take-out meals. so there were no mi$-u2s behind the counter. And the new owners s2ent the money as 0uickly as it came in. new clothes to tide them over until they could get back to San Iose. Fortunately. and the <ragon’s account was still tied u2 in 2robate. not to mention cleaning su22lies and tools and 2ayments to the handymen they’d hired to do .they could to dash to the back and stuff sho22ing bags with the ne$t day’s su22ly of joints and one-gram bags and tightly 2acked 0uarter-ounces. (mily and =ewis were charmed by their em2loyees’ insistence on ringing u2 all customers themselves.
to recommend books to the <ragon’s nervous customers. #ut . The idea of all this unaccounted-for cash made them a little nervous. )rawford thought that =ewis was settling into his role as a bookseller. And what !ould ha22en once 2robate was over and the money was sorted out3 )rawford and . or just fi$ it u2 and sell it. in his semi-literate way. reorgani5ing the store and attem2ting. but )rawford assured them that they could save their recei2ts and take it all to an accountant to sort out once 2robate was finished.odd jobs.inger had heard (mily .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.
the unreliable electrical wiring. 1t didn’t seem like she was entirely settled in. dehumidifiers. she didn’t seem to be in any hurry to leave. which he had outfitted with blowers. . As long as the new owners were sticking around. Then again. She s2oke longingly of their condo in San Iose.com2lain about the many shortcomings of Sy’s house on the hill the fragile 2lumbing. 1t was the 2erfect hiding 2lace most 2eo2le had long ago forgotten that a bank once stood where the . the unheated and uninsulated bedrooms. and drying lines.inger and )rawford would have to make some changes to the way the <ragon o2erated. (dith used to bring her cro2 directly to the store in big black garbage bags. and Sy would hang it u2 to dry in the old bank vault.
that was im2ossible. )rawford and .<ragon’s stockroom was. and )rawford said he didn6t .inger used to s2end a little time every day trimming and bagging and rolling. #ut with the owners in the store. and the vault was lined in steel and concrete. .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. but the lack of slee2 was wearing on them. They each ruled out the 2ossibility of setting u2 the o2eration at home. For a while they came in late at night to get ready for the ne$t day’s customers. making it earth0uake-2roof and im2ervious to the noses of drug-sniffing dogs. So they had to find another 2lace to 2rocess (dith’s cro2.
have the s2ace for it. where . 1t was strangely isolating. but in fact they were always in orbit around Sy. 1t would have to ha22en at (dith6s house. This had its own risks =ewis and (mily were living ne$t door. and (dith had considered them to be her friends. they dis2ersed. Sy was like the s2ider in the middle of the web everyone in his world was interconnected. and eventually they might wonder why their em2loyees s2ent so much time with (dith. too. but only through him. #ut lacking any other o2tion. There had always been a lot of 2eo2le around. the scales.inger and (dith never s2ent much time alone when Sy was alive. . . and other e0ui2ment moved to (dith6s kitchen table. "nce he was gone. (dith reali5ed in hindsight. bags.inger volunteered to 2ut in a shift a few nights a week.
So far. they didn’t mention it. 1n fact.inger’s car in the driveway. 1t satisfied some 2rimitive grooming instinct of hers. the new arrangement was working. cli22ing and cleaning with a cou2le 2airs of narrow scissors better suited to manicures than gardening. there was no reason for them to believe that there was anything unusual in two old friends getting together in the evening. 1f =ewis or (mily noticed . And (dith liked having someone around again7 it gave her a reason to straighten u2 the house and make a real su22er. . 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.#ut now the two women were in the habit of 2assing 2leasant evenings at the kitchen table.
Rolling joints was a little like knitting. . or 2laying cards it gave you something to do with your hands while you sat and talked.
thirt"#one Richmond fell into the habit of visiting the bookstore every day to chat with .inger and 2urchase a book. wasn’t about to reverse her 2osition. 8e had no idea what he would do with dried 2lant matter even if he was able to buy some. having made the decision initially that he was too clean-cut to buy anything but books from the <ragon. and he wasn’t any closer to getting one of those .inger. Ahat he really needed was a 2lant. a2art from 2ick it a2art in search of seeds that Sumner’s botanists could germinate. 8is attem2ts to buy marijuana had failed utterly7 the street dealers sus2ected he was a co2 and .
that the act of hanging out in a bookstore had grown so unfamiliar. 4onetheless. Richmond thought.the dealers wouldn’t talk to him. 2eo2le gathered in com2lete silence around a table of new arrivals. even the regular customers . women carrying on hushed conversations at the end of an aisle. and the <ragon was behaving like the bookstore Richmond knew it wasn’t. in such a short time. so foreign. 1t was strange. 8e remembered what it used to feel like to walk into one and catch 2eo2le in sur2risingly 2rivate moments teenagers sitting cross-legged on the floor reading to themselves. (dith wouldn’t answer her door. sometimes just running their hands along the covers. he liked s2ending time in a bookstore again. 8ere at the <ragon.
hastily checked the 2rice. The effect. was more like that of an amateur acting class im2rovising a bookstore scene. however. eager to get out . as if they were mysterious objects that re0uired further study. they grabbed a book near the counter. and then set them carefully back down.seemed not to know how 2eo2le used to act in a bookstore. They obviously knew that the owners believed they were running an actual bookstore. and a few of them were making some minimal effort to act like actual bookstore customers. !eo2le marched u2 and down the aisles the way they’d walk through a su2ermarket. They 2icked u2 books and e$amined them on all sides. and shoved it across the desk along with a few crum2led bills. 4obody carried books around with them7 when it was time to leave.
some s2ecial hand gesture or wink or word muttered under the breath that would signal what the buyer was really after. B:ou6re back.B . B1 couldn6t stay away.inger looked over and recogni5ed him. "ne day he 2ulled u2 a chair in the cookbook section and watched . 8e watched for some secret code. B:6all are one of the last bookstores in the country.as 0uickly as they could. #ut he saw nothing. 8e noticed that everyone left with a 2a2er bag. which was unusual in an era when refusing a bag was a sign of virtue. Finally .inger work. For while it was a steady stream of ten-dollar 2a2erback sales. :ou’re famous.B she said.B he said.
inger drifted a little closer to him. a tattered cashmere sweater that had been 2atched together with safety 2ins around the neck and at the elbows. She was dressed in her usual 2ost2unk schoolgirl outfit a 2laid skirt. s2icy fragrance. 8e was out of his league and far from his . and black boots.well. .artens. almost like licorice or --. straightening books and 2icking u2 a stack of 2rints in glassine sleeves that had slid off a table. and now was no time to start.B Richmond said.B"h.B B1 believe it. we6re gonna turn this whole book thing around. ginger -.that seemed to come out of her 2ores. :eah. Soon she was so close that Richmond could 2ick u2 the dark. you heard about that. Richmond told himself that he had never so much as flirted with a girl who wore <oc .
. B:ou just -look like business. 8e looked nervous one leg shook and he ke2t 2utting his hand on it.inger a22roached. but a22arently he wasn6t fooling anybody. 8e couldn6t even imagine what the rules for dating might be out here.B she said.natural habitat. #ut . As long as he was stuck in this town.D .inger was making conversation. Richmond had traded his suit for a 2air of jeans. C1 guess that’s a bad thing around here. why not3 B:ou out here on business3B .inger was distracted by a guy who was waiting for her at the counter. do you know this book3B the guy said as .inger asked. B8ey. as if he was trying to make it sto2. B8ow’d you guess3B She shook her head and smiled.
B he said.inger asked. B<o you remember what it6s about3B . =ike this. and on the back is a big 2icture of the author. holding the 2a2er delicately between two fingers. B<o you have that one3B he asked.inger.B and he grabbed a 2en from the desk and started drawing a cartoonish outline of a man in 2rofile with a big nose. B1t6s about this big.well. roughly the si5e of the book. indicating with his hands that the book was -.BAhat book is that3B . 8e6s got a Roman nose.inger said. you know what 1 mean3 4ot a . 8e worked on it for a minute and then handed it to .reek nose.B . B1 don6t know. B1t6s got a 2icture of a castle on the cover. more like a Roman nose.
. 1 think that6s why.B4ot really. They had it in the library over there. And you know. man. 1 think the jail closed their library.B 8e turned his back to the counter and took a long look around the building. 1 just don6t know if we have it or not.B She looked at the drawing again. but they won’t let me check it out anymore. BSorry. Ae 2robably ended u2 with all their books. 1 read it in jail one time.B B#ecause you6re not in jail3B B!retty much. :eah. glancing across the aisles of books downstairs and the walls lined with books u2stairs. :ou6re welcome to look around and see if it’s here.
inger watched the doorway for a few minutes as if she was e$2ecting an encore from him. Ahen she turned around.inger6s hand and left. C1’ve fallen for that one before. C"h my god.D 8e took his drawing out of . CAhere did you find this3D C:ou actually have a section right over there called )ookbooks. The "hildren2s %ard Guild "ook $ook. . taking the book out of his hand.C"h.B Richmond said. B1 think these are real food stains on the cover.D he said.inger.inger said. 8e was holding a battered clothbound cookbook with the title stam2ed in black on the cover.B . B8ow old is this book3B . Richmond was standing at the counter.D said . no.
B%*%+.D B4oKB 8e held out the book. a single man needs to know how to cook.eneral 8os2ital. And 1 thought theseHwait. . B+ lum2s of ammonia.B BAhat are you going to do with this3B she asked. let me find it HB he said as he fli22ed to the dessert section.uhHB he took the book out of . eggs. Bammonia cookies sounded 2retty good. BAell. milk. a cu2 of lard.D She smiled at him. 1 think it got a lot of use there at the -. B#eaver 9alley . 8e figured he better kee2 going. Ammonia cookies. sugar.inger6s hands and o2ened it to the title 2age. and a little flour and lemon.
JAhat was that other thing 1 needed for 2igeon 2ie3’D Richmond fli22ed through the book one more time.B Richmond close the book and handed it to her. that should be easy to remember. 8e’d have to come u2 with something better than that. what would you --B . B1t6s just got 2otatoes.B he said. . 2ork fat.B he said.B she said. if a man were to offer to make you his s2ecial Fried )ream for dinner. B"h. B:ou6re not going to get to the grocery store and go. That6s it.BThere is also a 2igeon 2ie that 1’d like to try. B16ll work on it. B4ow.inger shook her head.B BAell. and 2igeons. no. 1 eat fried cream all the time.
C1s this all 1 get3D he asked.inger said.D . There was nothing in there but a book.B she said. B(ight bucks. Richmond 2eeked into the bag. eight-fifty. where the 2rice was written in 2encil.D .She checked the inside front cover. . CAith ta$.inger took his money and slid the book into a bag. CThat’s all you bought.
thirt"#two #illy <alton’s 2hone was ringing much too early for a Sunday morning. 1t looks like we6ve got ourselves bookstore. 1t was =ewis. =ewis. ready to deliver a little s2eech about the im2ortance of saving good news for the afternoon. when it could be 2ro2erly toasted. #ut =ewis didn’t give him a chance.B BAell. . C#illy.D #illy said. that6s right. regardless of the hour. and kee2ing bad news to yourself. #illy answered the 2hone. clearing his throat and trying to sound lawyerly. 8e rolled over in bed and s0uinted at the screen.
D C1 know. BAre you sure about this3 1t seems like (mily’s been a little reluctant to jum2 into this thing. Ae6re going to live at Sy6s house and run the bookstore. BAe6ve been u2 talking most of the night. see what it was like to live u2 here and be in the store every day. :ou own a bookstore now. 1 think she’s been a little nervous.B #illy sat u2 in bed.B B4o. what with bookstores closing the way they have. but now she’s seen for herself how well this store does. <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. Ae6re going to do it.B =ewis said.CThat6s what 16ve been telling you. That’s why we wanted to give it a little time.
come on. C"kay.D C:ou 0uit at this hour3 CAell. 1 left a voice mail. This store’s making a ton of money with . #ut even if you just look at the 2eo2le who come in and 2ick u2 a hardcover for twenty bucksHC C=ewis3D #illy interru2ted.D #illy said.D =ewis said cheerfully. but--1 meanH are you really sure about this3D B"h. :ou6ve seen the numbers. C1 just called and 0uit my job.D CAow.cover and a stain on the back3 1t’s unbelievable. And 1 sent off a notice to our landlord. C<on’t you guys have jobs and a house andHD C4ot really. Ae were month-tomonth at the condo anyway.
#illy. give it a national 2resence. :eah.B BAhy.D B"h. not at all.B B1deas3B BTo hel2 kee2 it going. )lean it u2.B CAe’re already working. They’re sending a re2orter and a 2hotogra2her u2 to interview us about the store. BToday3B #illy asked. Ae’ve sent out our first 2ress release. And we6ve got some ideas of our own. is something wrong3D C4o. take it to the ne$t level. :ou know.2ractically no overhead. . 1’ve got a meeting with the San Fran is o "hroni le this afternoon. Sounds like you6ve got a lot of work ahead of you. Aow.D That got him out of bed. make it into more of a draw for tourists.
#ut attorney #illy <alton was 2ersistent and eventually convinced 8artford that he had inherited an unusual legacy one of the last bookstores in the country. #illy. )AG Ahen =ewis 8artford got a call from an attorney about an inheritance from a long-lost uncle. he thought the call was a 2rank and hung u2.D @ .1==1"4-<"==AR #""LST"R( A A(==-L(!T S()R(T "4 ="ST )"AST F(ureka.C:ou should get down here. Ae’re going to make this 2lace famous. C1 remember s2ending a summer in my uncle Sy’s .
Ahen they arrived in (ureka. they knew they would face a difficult decision about the future of the bookstore. After 8artman’s uncle. Sylvester !orter.D 8artford said.D Soon 8artman and his wife (mily Short were on their way to (ureka to have a look at the Firebreathing <ragon. but another sur2rise awaited them. it took si$ months to locate the will and contact the heirs. died. CAe assumed that the <ragon was a failing bookstore. Cbut 1 had no idea the store had stayed in business all this time.bookstore when 1 was a kid. given the rate at . a store that has s2eciali5ed in used and rare books for over forty years.
the store’s handwritten ledger told a different story last year./ million. CThe commitment to books shown by this community is astonishing.D 8artman said. C1 was sure that the store would be on the brink of going out of business. but now 1 reali5e that this store . 1 had forgotten how the 2eo2le of a small town can rally around a beloved institution like the Firebreathing <ragon. making it an e$traordinary success in the digital age. 1 came u2 here e$2ecting to close the bookstore down and sell the building. C)oming from the big city.D 8artman said.D #ut in fact.which other stores are closing these days. the store earned over >%.
ost 2eo2le don’t have a bookstore in their own hometown anymore. said that she was C2leasantly sur2risedD to learn of one bookstore that wasn’t on life su22ort. C. and transform the <ragon into a destination bookstore for tourists. CAe’re glad to see such diversity in the market2lace.a$ine Rogers.com.D .D Rogers .has a future. )(" of 4ile. C1 want them to come to the <ragon and reconnect with what they loved about books.D 8artman 2lans to renovate the store’s dila2idated interior. hold book signings and 2oetry readings. 1t even gives me ho2e that the book itself has a future.D 8artman said.
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.D he said. C. 1 wish the Firebreathing <ragon and its new owners well.aybe the <ragon’s success will ins2ire other 2eo2le to take the lea2. they will survive. 8artman said that he ho2es to reverse that trend.D .D The Firebreathing <ragon is one of only seven bookstores remaining in the Enited States. #ut we’ve always believed that as long as brick-and-mortar bookstores offer something of value to their customers. C1 never thought 1’d be running a bookstore.said.
.a$ine said. CAre you shitting me3D . . and one was from .D . 8e called .a$ine Rogers. have you been .a$ine said when she answered the 2hone. Three were from #etsy.alway said. over there3B .alway.alway had four messages waiting for him when he got to work the ne$t morning.thirt"#three . leaning back in his chair. BSeriously. C"ne 2oint two million dollars a year in that shithole you call a town3D C4ice to hear from you. BAhat the fuck are they doin.a$ine first. who 2robably wanted to know why the "hroni le had scoo2ed the 1erald on the million-dollar bookstore story.a$ine.
1n a town that si5e3 Ahen everybody. 16ve been in th"se stores.holding out on me all these years3 Ahat kind of 2lace is that3B B1t’sH1 don’t know. 4eat old building. and most of them aren’t clearing a hundred grand a year. you find out that they6re not even 2lanning on . and 1 do mean everybody. . dammit.i5mo3 There6s not even a do5en bookstores left in this country. owns a . . 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. 1t’s a bookstore. And if you ask them why they bought it.a$ine.alway. good locationH why are you so sur2rised that they’re doing well3D C<on’t screw with me.
!eo2le will migrate ---B B1 know.D she said.D CAhat do you want me to say. The book was a wonderful 2iece of technology for .alway wasn’t really interested in defending the <ragon. .a$ine3 The <ragon’s different.a$ine. 8e just loved arguing with . C!eo2le will migrate to the technology that works best for them.alway said. what do you care3 :ou 2ut three thousand bookstores out of business and it really matters if one of them survives3D . #esides.reading it. C1 didn6t 2ut anybody out of business. re2eating her mantra in a sing-songy voice. 1t6s for a school 2lay or a time ca2sule or some shit. that woman had a mouth. C:ou make it sound like 1’m out for blood.D . .od.
CAe do.D .B . but worth a try. he thought. 16m a blogger now. . though.D C1’ll 2ass. :ou can slee2 on the 2ool table.B B1 was.ot any recommendations about where 1 can stay3B BThere’s room at my 2lace. (tc. B1 thought bloggers all lived in their 2arents’ basements. Save it for the re2orters. 1’ll see you soon. .B BRight.B A long shot.a$ine.a$ine said. 16m thinking of making a tri2 to your charming little seaside village.two thousand years. etc. 1t’s a great basement. :ou can buy me a drink.B B1 thought you were a re2orter. Aell anyway.
a revolutionary and utterly democratic conce2t. #ut lately. that river seemed to be dwindling to a stream. they would reach drought . 1t was.com with a noble goal to encourage the digiti5ation of every library in the world and 2ut those libraries in the 2ocket of every 2erson in the world.a$ine Rogers would never go so far as to suggest that the electronic book had killed the novel. She took the river meta2hor seriously she believed that she was tearing down the dams and finally letting literature flow. she thought.thirt"#four . She had founded 4ile. and then to a trickle. 1f 4ile’s numbers were right.
This made them look like they were kee2ing literature alive even in hard times. Ahile both dro2s in 2rices were 2lanned. They had such a huge market share that they had actually been able to lower their 2rices twice. For the last several years the com2any had enjoyed robust growth.ore Americans had a 4ile.com subscri2tion than had cable T9. . streaming literary content as well as music and movies in a subscri2tion format that 2roved incredibly successful. 4ile waited for some slight hiccu2 in the economy before announcing the new rates.conditions in a cou2le of years. 1t had been an astonishing few years. making headlines both times and winning even the begrudging 2raise of their critics. . They won awards7 their subscriber base grew dramatically.
1f you ran a health club. 4ile noticed a significant dro2off in the number of 2eo2le who actually downloaded and read the Briver of readingB they had access to. they could get the rest of theirH. they’d eventually sto2 2aying for it. The only real benefit to 4ile’s stream was that it included books. At first this seemed like good news.a$ine hated this termH ontent elsewhere. And if 2eo2le weren’t into the books. they just weren6t using it as much. They were still 2aying for the service. you counted on a certain 2ercentage of members 2aying their dues but not showing u2. The 2roblem was that if too many 2eo2le sto22ed using 4ile’s service. "ver the last cou2le of years.#ut then something changed. They could get music and movies elsewhere. .
. that three-hundred 2age tome.So now .a$ine had given her marketing staff the job of figuring out why readershi2 dro22ed off so 2reci2itously. that eighty or a hundred-thousand word te$t that hung together in a cohesive narrative and took a cou2le of weeks to get through. Ahat they found was this once 2eo2le were reading short streams of te$t on a small screen. That thing that sat on the nightstand and waited for you to come back to it. 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. they became unmoored from the very notion of a book.
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. 1t made for books riddled . B4ow the books never come. say a cou2le of 2aragra2hs. the job of editing a book fell to freelance editors. BAhy am 1 writing now3 To see my name a22ear on my tele2hone3B To make matters still worse.There was no reason to fill three hundred 2ages anymore.B he said. 1f an idea could be fleshed out in. and writers who couldn’t stand to see their 2recious 2rose tam2ered with in the first 2lace decided to ski2 the editing 2rocess altogether. as 2ublishing houses colla2sed.
Amalfi 2a2er. fountain 2ens. .a$ine heard about the unlikely success of the Firebreathing <ragon. 1t occurred to her. old etchings in silver framesHwould be dis2layed. 4o one was left to 2rotect writers from their own worst instincts. Then . that maybe 2eo2le needed some 2hysical reminder of the culture of literature. She 2ictured a store with walls lined with leather-bound books and comfortable. o2en s2aces where bookish accessoriesH reading glasses. 4ot a bookstore e$actly -that would be taking it too far -. when she read the article.but some2lace that felt bookish. And writers who did hire editors were always free to ignore their advice and 2ublish anyway.with foolish errors and long-winded digressions.
And wouldn’t 4ile. the urge to read would return.The kind of merchandise that made 2eo2le feel literary. too. . she reasoned.com grab headlines for rolling out a chain of brick-and-mortar stores3 .aybe if the tra22ings of books came back.
but she showed u2 to work in a rage the morning the story ran. C1t was something to see. but at the last minute they hired a whole crew to get the 2lace ready for the 2hotogra2her.thirt"#five . they’d been cleaning for weeks. she had to admit . as she looked around. 1 mean. recovering from a nasty summer cold. although. CAhat the hell ha22ened here3D she shouted at )rawford.D . They just des ended on this 2lace.inger said.inger had been off work for a few days. and in one day--D C1’m not talking about that. who was busy cleaning and bagging (dith’s early-morning delivery.
the scratches of tables and chairs. 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)ra5y3 The . :eah. we could have the 2olice--D .D )rawford said.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. Sy had uncovered the redwood 2lanks here just like he did at his house. the base of a set of 2osts that once held saddle racks. the long. uninterru2ted stretches of floorboards were visible again. Thanks to their efforts. C"h.that the 2lace looked bigger and brighter. cra5y.
C1’ve been such an idiot about this.oney around here as been kind of like the tide. She6d only been at work for five minutes and already she was e$hausted.D C:ou broke3D )rawford asked. . unbelieving.CAell. BThis isn’t really u2 to us anymore. it sloshes around. B1’m about to lose my job.B .D she admitted. kind of. it’s not our finances. 4ever occurred to me to try to hold on . Already she could feel a fever returning. CAell. They each took home 2lenty of cash in addition to their modest little 2aychecks.inger colla2sed into a chair behind the counter.B she said.inger. you know3 1t comes in. She reali5ed she shouldn’t have gotten out of bed so soon.B he said. They6re in charge now. it goes out. C.
. because =ord knows they deserved it. 1t6s --B She looked around.to any of it. ga5ing across the stacks u2 at the ceiling and out the window. which went into a batch of cookies for the hos2ice nurses to either distribute to their 2atients or kee2 for themselves. #ut it’s not just that.inger and )rawford watched in silence as she headed to the children’s section.B )rawford laughed and sli22ed his scale behind the counter as the first customer of the day walked in. 1t6s this life. She made her own mind-blowing butter. 1 don6t know how to do anything but sell books. a white-haired woman with a /%+ card who 2referred (dith’s organic cro2 to the synthetic. hydro shit they sold at the dis2ensary. B1t6s this 2lace. where she .
usually 2icked out a vintage Tale of &eter Rabbit or %onderful %i8ard of O8/ "nce every few months. and when they were re-shelved she would buy them again.D )rawford said as he watched the woman make her selection. with the 2rices still written inside.inger. .B . she would return them all to the store. CThis sto22ed being about books a long time ago. B.et real.
C:ou’re never going to get that 2ast design review. Around it. set out slightly from the building in a wood frame that would have been 2ainted on the sides to look like the edges of a book.D he said.thirt"#six <on )antrell stood on the sidewalk with =ewis and shook his head. <on . he wanted to create a kind of shallow wooden scul2ture of fau$ books on shelves. on the building’s e$terior walls. C<on’t even think about it.D 8e handed back the scra2 of 2a2er on which =ewis had scribbled a new design for the <ragon’s front door. =ewis had envisioned a giant book-sha2ed door.
Cis get you a 2aint job and a new sign. :ou could also use new gutters. There was no way the historic 2reservation committee would let him get away with a stunt like that. 8e didn’t have to.D .D <on said. 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.thought it looked like the entrance to a ride at <isneyland. but he didn’t say so. CAhat we could do. :ou don’t want to be down here 2utting buckets under leaks at three o’clock in the morning. See those rust stains around the windows3 That’s a gutter leak. and maybe blast out this old concrete around the door and 2ut in a new tile entryway. Sy never did want to just tear the roof off and start over.
<on thought about this for a minute. 8e liked the kid. CAell.D =ewis said. Then again. BAhy don6t 1 draw u2 some 2lans and we6ll see what the design review committee has to say. and he didn6t want to see him waste his money on a 2roject that was doomed from the start. BTell you what.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. his wife had just found a flat screen television that fit 2erfectly in the one available s2ot they had for it in the R9.B <on said. 16ll just . 1--D C1 thought you had friends on the city council. 8e hated for her hard work to go unrewarded.
. This kid had money to burn. that would be great. 8e went inside and 2ulled cash out of the drawer. CAhat are you going to do about these old 2lywood shelves3D <on asked. and 1 can have the gal down at my office fill out the a22lication. 8ow does that sound3D That sounded fine to =ewis.D C4o. C=et’s do half now and half when we deliver the 2lans to the city. unless you’d rather do it yourself. 8e was liking this kid better all the time. <on stuffed it in his 2ocket. BReally.B =ewis said. or ---B 1t was official. you can handle the whole thing3 <o you need me to 2ay you now. casting his eyes across what seemed like acres of mismatched fi$tures.charge you for my time to do the 2lans.
<on. who said.C1 don’t know. 1’ll get to work on those 2lans. right3 :ou 2ut in some custombuilt oak bookcases.D C"ak3D CSeems like you’re going for more of a classy look. #ut for now. =ewis. CThink about it. C4ice to meet you. those ladders that slide along the wallHD C"hK 1 love those laddersKD C1t’s a nice look.D =ewis shook his hand. C"ak.D =ewis said. 8e looked ho2efully at <on.D <on said.D CAelcome to town.D .
and went by the bookstore whenever . s2ent a great deal of each day on the 2hone with his colleagues. but he wasn’t e$actly making the connections he’d been sent here to make. 8e had not 2lanned to stay so long. Richmond wondered how much longer he’d get away with it. So he worked from the hotel’s business center for a few hours every morning.inger was working to try to strike u2 a conversation with her. .thirt"#seven Richmond was settling into the cor2orate suite he’d rented at (ureka’s only decent hotel. 1t was an easy life.
and a few gas stations had to close down because their 2um2s wouldn6t work. Richmond had already dressed for the meeting by the time he found out about this . but a road crew working on 8ighway %&% had cut the only fiber o2tic cable 2roviding 1nternet access to 8umboldt )ounty.ost 2eo2le didn6t seem bothered by it like a 2ower failure or snow day. . Stores and restaurants 2ut u2 signs a2ologi5ing for their inability to acce2t credit cards. 8e’d been 2romised video conference facilities when he booked the room. 4o one in town could get online today.onday morning he ran his weekly legislative meeting from his hotel room."ne . the sudden disa22earance of the 1nternet seemed more like an e$cuse to take a day off than an im2ediment to 2roductivity.
he stood stiffly in his suit while he waited for Tom to come on the line.0uirk in 8umboldt )ounty6s communication system. so he mostly found himself staring at his own image in the mirror. For two years he6d been married to a legislative aide in Sumner Tobacco’s <) office. and watched a double row of wrinkles grow gradually dee2er across his forehead over the years. 8e’d had the same haircut since college. 2layed the same game of golf on the weekends. There was nothing in the room to look at. worn the same class ring and the same #rooks #rothers suits. so even though he was alone in his hotel room. Enrecogni5able. too generic. 1n the time he’d s2ent 8umboldt )ounty. . he was already starting to see himself as too s0uare.
(uro2ean-style suit and an array of trim dress shirts in 2lum and 2ur2le. 8e thought he looked good in the fitting room in . 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. but when he got back to =ouisville.where he was stationed half-time.anhattan. . 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. 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. 8e donated the suits to a thrift store and shaved off the sideburns.
BRich3 :ou still there3D C:eah. 8e was going to end u2 an old Southern bachelor. 1’m here. Finally Tom came on the line.And here he was.D . Enchanged. drinking bourbon on his front 2orch in the mornings because there was no one around to tell him not to. 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 knew that he was becoming less interesting to women around =ouisville all the time. Single. .etting older and 2ossibly odder the way 2eo2le do when their habits are allowed to go unconfronted for too many years.
This is the one 2lant 1 really want.ood.D .od damn. it’s--D C1t’s what3 1t’s 8umboldt )ounty. are you any closer to finishing things u2 out there3D C1 don’t know. so 1 send my to2 guy. =isten. RichK 1’ve had guys buying u2 2lants all over the world this yearK 8ell.C. 1 can’t get anybody to talk to me. Tom. for chrissakes. Ae’re still rounding everybody u2. 1 knew 1 should have sent Levin out there. 1 sent my kid to Amsterdam for his senior tri2 and he came back with a whole garden in his suitcase. Short of ho22ing the fence and grabbing a 2lant in the middle of the night--D C. and what ha22ens3D CAell.
Levin. 1 will get this done and be home as soon as 1 can. Tom.ood lord. C. The 2othead webmaster from )hicago. even though they were 2rinted two weeks ago in )hina and shi22ed to Targets all over this great nation.Levin. while somehow looking like every other kid they’d ever hired in the 1T de2artment.D . Ahy they hadn’t shi22ed the whole 1T o2eration to #angalore years ago was something Richmond would never understand. 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. Levin was one of those hi2sters who went out of his way to make it look like he didn’t fit in. :ou don’t need to send Levin.
CFine. 1t’s not that smoking would become illegal7 it’s that the F<A would have the 2ower to regulate !hat 2eo2le smoked. A few staffers had been sus2icious. =et’s get going. and they were working on a new 2roduct that would easily 2ass F<A review. Richmond’s 2eo2le were 2re2ared with a mostly-honest answer they knew they were fighting a losing battle over tobacco. (verybody’s here. Toss in a cou2le of tragic tales of lung cancer and em2hysema 2laguing . wondering why Sumner would Cgo rogueD rather than 2ush the legislation through in 2artnershi2 with the rest of #ig Tobacco.D Richmond’s staff each gave their u2dates. re2orting on the calls they’d 2aid to senators and on the roundtable sessions with staff members on the 8ill.
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. Richmond’s staff had ti2toed around their old friends on the 8ill from 9irginia and Lentucky. . and it became a 2lausible story. instead forming a coalition of anti-tobacco crusaders and rookie legislators who were looking to attach their name to a 2iece of landmark legislation. So far.long-time Sumner staffers. 4ot so 2lausible that the legislators who re2resented tobacco country would buy it.
that’s all we care about. CTom. CFinally. She wants the same thing they all want. some good news. Ahat is it3D C. Richmond said. C1 forgot to tell you the good news. Arite the . whatever.D Richmond said. stick around for a minute. There’s one more thing.s.D CFine with me.D The staff left the room and Tom 2icked u2 the 2hone.#efore the meeting finished. Tom. The city councilwoman3 1 think she’ll 2lay ball. Trevino. a long-term lease.D CAhat does she want3D CShe’s a real estate develo2er. Iust something to get a 2roject off the ground. 1f she can get you to the growers. A silent 2artner.
:ou go out there and have your little garden club meeting with the . we don’t just want the 2lant.D CShe friends with the old lady3D C1 don’t think so. and a soil sam2le. 1’ll meet with her and her contractor and get it going. Iust knock on her damn door with a wad of cash if you have to. 1 can’t have him talking to her. you’re going to have to find a way to get to her. Ae want her growing methods. That’s why we sent you. Ae want to lock u2 as many 8umboldt strains as we can. (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. Levin might know how to buy 2ot. Remember.D CThat’s what 1 thought.check.D CAell.
This hasn’t been as easy as we thought it would be. . Ae’ve got a boatload of 2atents to 2ush through before )ongress goes back into session.D CAell. . #ut come to think of it. Iust take your time. Richmond. and get your ass back here.D C1 told you. #e sure and get in some surfing while you’re out there.D As Tom hung u2.lady. Richmond could hear him laughing at the idea of a Lentucky tobacco e$ecutive on a surfboard. he hadn’t set foot on the beach since he got there. that’s great. (njoy your vacation.ight not be such a bad idea to catch some waves before he left )alifornia.
BAhat beach3B she asked with scorn in her voice.D B:ou do know that 2eo2le come here on vacation just to go to the beach. BAith 2icnic tables and barbecue 2its3 1 thought this was )alifornia.B B1t6s not that )alifornia.B CSo what. BAren’t there beaches around here3B Richmond said.D . B 1 hate the beach. you 2eo2le don’t go to the beach3D he asked.thirt"#ei ht =e$ was not e$actly entranced by Richmond6s invitation to meet him at the beach.
The !acific "cean is like a giant air conditioner that never shuts off. =ook.C4ot here they don’t. sought to ban chain stores from the city. Todd =arson. and regularly called for articles of im2eachment . dro22ed by her office.D Richmond said. 16ll take you to the other tourist tra2. 1t6s cold out there. C)an you bring your contractor3B B8e’ll come as long as you6re buying.D =e$ hung u2 just as one of her fellow councilmembers. Todd was one of the latest in a cro2 of young 2rogressives that got elected on a 2latform that favored indoor agriculture over timber. all right. if you want to see water. 16m buying.B B"h.B BSounds good. :ou can eat over2riced seafood and look at the beach.
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 2latform was an easy 2ath to victory in 8umboldt )ounty. Todd had stuck around longer than most. making the election about the number of 2lants the <A should allow medical marijuana 2atients to grow.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 . Todd stuck to the scri2t. This 2ut the retired co2 in the uncomfortable 2osition of staking out the conservative 2osition at ten 2lants.
Re0uiring that twenty-five 2ercent of all city e$2enditures be made with community currency. . =e$ liked these kids. advising them on 2rocedural matters and encouraging them to 2ursue their more farfetched 2ro2osals. why not3 . and a solid two-thirds of the electorate agreed with him. a system of wooden nickels that was su22osed to function as an alternative economy3 Sure. #anning all military flights in and out of 8umboldt )ounty3 Aorth a try.insisted that no fewer than a hundred 2lants 2er 2atient would do. 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$es voluntary3 )ould work.
meaning that little or no investigative journalism got done.D she said. C4ot e$actly my area of e$2ertise.B . or other dry business that no one but her and a cou2le of other grown-u2s on the council understood anyway. They also ke2t the media entertained. budgets. revisions to ordinances. :ou6ve been working on this deal as long as 16ve known you.She liked these kinds of initiatives because they consumed the entire 2ublic comment 2eriod during council meetings. Todd. B1 know better than that. So she was sur2rised when Todd leaned in her doorway and said that he wanted to talk to her about real estate. allowing little or no time for discussion of 5oning changes.
There’s a wooden dock. 1t’s cute. A sidewalk cafW. and 1 can6t vote on the 5oning changes.B Todd said.B1t6s a family 2roject.B B1t6s not a sho22ing center. B:ou6re going to need the whole council behind you on this 5oning thing. BAell. And so far our little 2rogressive slate hasn6t e$actly rallied around the idea of 2utting a sho22ing center on the waterfront. 16m about as far out of the loo2 on this deal as anybody could get. #ut don6t worry about it. 1t6s a little row of condos with tiny little retail s2aces on the ground floor.B =e$ reali5ed that she was giving him her standard media talking 2oints. and 1 know better . :ou and your friends came into office on an anti-develo2ment 2latform. 1 can6t be involved in the 2lans. that6s why 16m here.
astonished. 1t6s just that 16ve s2ent si$ years on the council. and 1 kind of forgot to finish u2 college before 1 ran that first time. BTodd3 1s this what 1 think it is3B 8e looked down at his feet. :ou6ve always been really good to me. She reached around him and 2ushed her door closed. =e$ was starting to reali5e that it 2robably wasn6t going to ha22en. :ou6re going to need a 2roject manager.than to try to change your mind.D =ately. This 2roject will either ha22en or it won6t. B1 don6t mean it to sound like that. B"kay. 16ve got to get a real . well let6s just say it did ha22en. 1 can’t afford to kee2 doing this forever. right3 Somebody to get the 2lans through design review and 2ush some 2a2ers around3B =e$ looked u2 at Todd.
B B"kay. IustHanything. and then 16ve got to come u2 with something else. 1’ll finish out my term. it6s nice of you to want to su22ort my family6s 2roject in which 1 have no role whatsoever.1 don6t know.D C<oes that mean you’re not running again3D =e$ asked. C!robably not. but ---B . but what e$actly am 1 0ualified to do3 So 1 thought maybe if 1 could get on a 2roject like this. so Todd3 :ou understand that 1 can’t 2romise you a job in e$change for a vote. )onsulting or -. right3 1 mean. and 16m sure they6ll watch the vote closely and remember who their friends are.job eventually. it might lead to something else.
1t6s all right.D . 1 get it. 16m starting to figure out how things work around here.B1 know what you6re trying to say. =e$.B CTook you long enough. <on6t worry.
who was nursing a beer in the bar while he waited for a familiar face. =e$ joined him a few minutes later. even if he had to call from the car on the way over.thirt"#nine The Shoreline . A crowd of 2eo2le waiting near the entrance for their tables watched with astonishment as Richmond walked u2 to the hostess stand. . said the magic words.onday night.rill was unusually busy for a . She motioned to <on. and was seated immediately. #ut a22arently reservations were out of vogue in 8umboldt )ounty. Richmond was in the habit of making dinner reservations every time he ate out.
Bthat6s just fine with me. looking down at the menu.D said Richmond.onday night.lad you could join us. 8e decided that he didn6t care. This is 2retty much the only restaurant in town that o2ens on . C<on )antrell.<on e$tended his hand as he sat down. . <on. so if anybody wants to go out to eat. and it didn6t 2articularly matter to him what ha22ened to the creature before it landed in the dee2 fryer. C.B 8e wondered if =e$ was going to tell him that all the fish was fro5en here.D =e$ frowned.D he said. too. B1 forgot it was . C!o2ular 2lace. 8e liked his fish fried.D Richmond said. this is where they end u2B BAell.ondays.
D C"hhhhh. C)lose the deal3D he said.D <on said with mock seriousness. <on.D CThat’s right.B:eah.B <on looked u2 from the role he was buttering. That6s all we need. but 1 had to leave my 2lans in the car. :ou can shi2 a co2y back to =ouisville before we close the deal. C1 didn’t get a chance to fill you in today.B B1t6s all right. . CRichmond’s interested in coming in on the 2roject.B Richmond said.D =e$ said. =e$ leaned across the table. B16m not really the 2lans guy anyway. B1 can6t really go flashing them around with so many 2eo2le in here. CThe pro7e t.D she said 0uietly.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.B =e$ said. . B<o we have B --he 2aused as if he was searching for the right word --. and Richmond nodded as if he cared about any of this. so 0uietly that she was almost mouthing each word. A waiter arrived and they ordered their dinner.Bapproval for the 2roject3B BAe had some very good news about that earlier today. =e$ asked <on to describe the 2roject to Richmond7 <on muttered about s0uare footage and infrastructure im2rovements and 2arking s2aces and roofing materials until their dinner arrived.<on looked at both of them for a minute and then leaned in as =e$ had done.
That 2lace was driving him cra5y. 8e asked the guy who owned the coffee sho2 across the street about it. And there was an astounding amount of actual cash Richmond was sur2rised to see how often 2eo2le still resorted to 2a2er money in (ureka. 1 went into that famous bookstore today. but no one had sto22ed to consider e$actly how much money must be running through the <ragon6s cash drawer. BSome 2eo2le like to kee2 their s2ending off the record.D he said. =ike everybody else in town.B . and the man just said.illion <ollar #ookstore article in the "hroni le with ama5ement. he had read that the so-called . (verybody in (ureka knew that the bookstore was ke2t afloat by something other than the sale of anti0uarian books.B8ey.
#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. All these kids had to do was lay low and cash the checks. B:ou know. 1nstead. and for what3 The store was 2rofitable. . they had told the re2orter that they were going to s2ark a national revival in reading and return the book to its rightful 2lace on the shelf. Richmond laughed. 1 didn6t even get that until just now.B he said. The owners ran the risk of attracting auditors and co2s. Ahat were they thinking3 BThey breathing a lot of fire down there today3B <on said.
16ll tell you.od6s name do those 2eo2le stay o2en3 Ahere 1 come from we6ve got co2s 2ulling ditch weed out of the gullies. that6s why you got me. <on. 1f everybody around here knows what6s going on.aybe you can e$2lain something else.BAell.B <on said. B16m here to e$2lain things tonight. B. BAhat is it. and those are just old wild hem2 2lants that can6t do anything to anybody. BAell Rich.B Richmond said. . 1t was a lot easier to deal with =e$ 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.B 8e was on his second beer and starting to enjoy himself. Rich3B B8ow in .
1n fact. but the 2roducts that the <ragon sells is a little unusual. BAnd the other thing.There6s a cou2le of things going on. . (ntire a2artment com2le$es turned over to indoor grow o2s. drunk drivers. The first is that the co2s have bigger 2roblems.B =e$ stayed 0uiet during all of this. "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.e$ican drug cartels setting u2 o2erations in the redwoods and leaving guns and tanks of fertili5er and diesel out there. it occurred to her that if he ever thought about running for city council. .eth labs. B1 don6t know if you6re aware of this. 8ell. <on was doing just fine on his own. Rich3B <on said. . even. she6d be in trouble.
BAe’re res2ectable citi5ens here.D <on said.B <on and =e$ looked at each other over their water glasses. 1 wonder what e$actly makes the <ragon6s 2roduct so unusual. . Jcourse not.1t6s very 2o2ular.B he said. summer solstice. The <A that 2rosecutes the <ragon will never get re-elected in this town. C#ut you must have heard something. 1 work for a com2any that sells smoking 2roducts. CAe wouldn’t know. B:ou now.D CAell.B she said. (aster egg hunts.D Richmond said. B1t6s interesting that you bring that u2. BShe and Sy used to hold all these ama5ing 2arties in that garden. B(dith Ratner is an e$traordinary gardener.D Richmond saw his o22ortunity. Aho is this woman3 (dith3B =e$ jum2ed in.
you name it. it was a real bookstore. leaning back so the waiter could clear his 2late and hand him a dessert menu. She grew things nobody could grow. . B"h. one just started to re2lace the other.i5mo came along.B =e$ said. B(dith and Sy used to just share the harvest with their friends. 4obody knows how she does it. And nobody knows where she got that 2articular 2lant but she6s so famous for.B BSo the <ragon never really was a bookstore3B Richmond said. but she6s friends with 2lant hunters all over the world. 1 sus2ect somebody shi22ed it to her with an orchid from Thailand or something like that. All kinds of tro2ical 2lants and rare flowers from the 8imalayas.8alloween. you know3 #ut when the . :ou could get lost in the garden.
B Richmond said. B1 sure would like to meet (dith.B =e$ said. the less anybody sees of her.ood luck with that. She6s not a fool.B B. "ver time we all just acce2ted that they had found another way to stay in business.:ou almost didn6t notice it ha22ening. 8e and <on each ordered a glass of bourbon7 at the last minute =e$ decided to join them. "ne day we looked around and reali5ed books had gone straight to hell. but he noticed that nobody in )alifornia ate dessert7 they drank it.B 4ormally Richmond would have a 2iece of 2ie for dessert.B . BShe and 1 are kind of in the same business. but the <ragon still ke2t the lights on somehow. BThe more she grows.
B:ou want to meet some growers. 8is wife was 2robably in bed by now. 8e raised his glass to =e$ and drank it down. 1 guess she’s even friends with Sumner Tobacco now. Richmond looked at him evenly for a minute. =e$ie here will set you u2.<on was leaning back in his seat. why are you friends with her.B Richmond said.B <on said. Rich3 Ahat on earth does a guy like you want with a little condo 2roject like this3D <on was drunk and feeling a little 2rotective of =e$. 8e yawned and looked at his watch. 8e took the last si2 of his own drink and set it on the table. B16m here to make a deal.B . <on. wishing he had a cigar. BIust like you. CShe’s got all kinds of friends. 8ell. #ut the 0uestion is.
writing recommendations for the half-do5en staff 2icks =ewis told him to choose.uillermo .uillermo looked around the 2lace with amusement.ac<onald 2a2erbacks. 8e was working on a window dis2lay to celebrate the author6s birthday. =ewis stood just inside the front door.artPn walked across the street to see how the <ragon was faring under its new regime. Sy had some 2retty nice 2ieces of anti0ue furniture in the store7 once they6ve . . )rawford sat behind the counter with a stack of inde$ cards. . knee-dee2 in a 2ile of Iohn <.fort" . 1t was starting to look like a real bookstore again.
been cleared of junk and 2olished. 2robablyH had scra2ed them off and re2laced them with framed 2rints from the <ragon’s e$tensive collection of 0ueer old engravings. SomeoneH=ewis.B .uillermo said to no one in 2articular. B=ooks nice. they actually gave the 2lace a kind of nostalgic glow. 1t even smelled better. book-binding. (ach one de2icted some obscure and long-lost 2rofession mead-making. . The ends of each bookcase had once been blanketed with the curling the remnants of yellowed news2a2er cli22ings lamenting the demise of bookstores. honey-gathering. blood-letting. =ike wood 2olish and clean 2a2er. all 2rinted shortly before the demise of news2a2ers.
uillermo.B C"h.D CTheir what3D .B said . 8e looked at )rawford. Sure.uillermo said. B:ou know. B:ou’re turning into 0uite a celebrity.ac<onald 2a2erbacks. alarmed. Surely =ewis wasn6t in on it already. .B B"h yeah.ade me think maybe 1 was in the wrong business. <id you see our article in the "hroni le3D B1 did.D =ewis said. CAe’re 2retty e$cited about seeing what we can do with this 2lace. B8ow much are these3B . C!eo2le are always going to need their fi$. their coffee.D =ewis said. !eo2le are always going to need their caffeine fi$.B . 1 don’t know. .CThanks.uillermo 2icked through the Iohn <.
2robably. B8ave you read his stuff before3B =ewis asked.BFive bucks. B"h ---uh.uillermo said. without taking his eyes off )rawford. 8e was fascinated .ac<onald was one of his influences.B .B . trying out his new role as bookseller.uillermo 2icked two off the floor and took them over to )rawford. =ewis. yeah a while ago. so if you like him---D C16ll check that out. :ears ago. =ooks like we’ve got a com2lete set. 1 think . we6ve got a whole stack of signed )arl 8iaasens 16m about to bring out.B BAell. followed him to the counter. once you6ve worked your way through those.B =ewis said. BAe must have had some real collectors u2 here.
D =ewis said.by the kind of sleight-of-hand involved in o2erating the <ragon under its new ownershi2. B1 love the smell of old books. BThere you go. isn6t it3B =ewis said. That’s what everybody says.B )rawford took ten bucks from . B(s2ecially those vintage 2a2erbacks.uillermo held the bag u2 to his nose and breathed dee2ly. .uillermo slid his books into a bag. C8uh. man. They6ve got such great covers. . B1t6s kind of nice to read them on 2a2er again. =ewis stood right ne$t to him. They were both ignoring =ewis.B he said.B he said to =ewis as he 2ulled his nose out of the bag. There it was that faintly herbal smell that meant that (dith was still in business.
fort"#one Although =ewis was enjoying the business of 2utting books into 2eo2le’s hands. he couldn’t honestly say whether anyone was actually going home and reading them. 8e 2ulled out obscure histories of )alifornia’s gold rush and set them out alongside =arry . wondering if she might also enjoy Lent 8aruf’s trio of novels about a small town in )olorado. 8e’d sent a woman home with an Anne Tyler novel and asked how she liked it ne$t time she came in. 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.
. So really. neither of them were suited for the job of selling books to book lovers. figuring someone would go for them. #ut no one did.. a novel he’d always meant to read. and (mily was an avowed techie who read incessantly. =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. There were a do5en co2ies of "at h:. but =ewis had never once seen her get through an entire cha2ter of anything. in the store. so he 2ut them all out on dis2lay together. She could s2end hours catching u2 on email and Twitter and the blogs she read. ho2ing to create some kind of synergy between readers of Aestern fiction and Aestern history. but only in small doses.c.urtry and Annie !roul$. .
)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. 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 . erasing them from 2eo2le’s lives and allowing most 2eo2le to sim2ly forget about them entirely.inger were a little better7 he’d see them 2aging through a book from time to time.i5mo had caused books to sim2ly eva2orate. =ewis also noticed that both )rawford and .
uillermo to bring over an urn every morning. that he had not yet learned to s2eak their language. urging his em2loyees to 2ost handwritten recommendations in every section. and 2osting a sign in the window encouraging book clubs to use the <ragon as their meeting s2ace. with com2limentary coffee and scones from )ontra )offee. but 2eo2le did come in and ask for the coffee. collecting names and e-mail addresses for a newsletter he intended to write. That seemed to be 2o2ular . Soon =ewis arranged for . So far. 8e thought that 2erha2s he just didn’t understand bookish 2eo2le. no book clubs were forthcoming.of robust literary community he’d e$2ected to find. #ut he 2ersisted in his attem2ts to make the <ragon o2erate more like a real bookstore.
with the regulars. however. 8e could not believe his good fortune. 4:G Alma Alvare5 2icked the wrong time to buy a bookstore. were not so fortunate. as if electronic books never e$isted. And =ewis floated with it. but =ewis couldn’t tell whether free coffee was hel2ing to sell books or not. she .eorge Alvare5." #EST F#rooklyn. Aith su22ort from her father. The store just seemed to float along. The few remaining bookstores around the country. real estate attorney . "ET "F !R14T A4< "ET "F #ES14(SS TA" #""LST"R(S .
working long hours in the store and founding a literacy 2roject in 2artnershi2 with neighborhood schools. B1 think 2eo2le just assumed that 16d kee2 the 2lace afloat with family money. "ut of !rint has gone the way of bookstores everywhere. Although the 2urchase was widely rumored to be a vanity 2roject for a wealthy society girl. #ut after five years under new ownershi2.took over the 2o2ular neighborhood bookstore "ut of !rint in #rooklyn6s .B Alvare5 said. B1 .reen2oint neighborhood just as the 2ublishing world was entering the digital age. Alvare5 2roved herself to be a dedicated bookseller. but it was never about that.
Ahen 8arvard closed its libraries and reo2ened them as Cdigital learning centers. 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.D Iacobs led a .B 1f Iacobs sounds bitter. they’d better get used to it.believed that there would always be a 2lace in #rooklyn for a bookstore. BAell.B Iacobs said. #ut if the community wasn6t behind me. B!eo2le tell me they can6t imagine #oston without a bookstore.B #oston #ook )om2any’s )raig Iacobs also announced that he was closing his venerable old bookstore on 8arvard S0uare.
fund-raising effort to 2urchase and store the hundreds of thousands of volumes that would otherwise be recycled. B1n the rush to digiti5e. we’re losing valuable te$t.D he said. which aimed to demonstrate that the digiti5ation 2rocess resulted in the omission of 2ages.&&& books were saved. 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. Iacobs also e$2ressed frustration over the failure of his <ead Tree Scholar 2roject. 1n the end. . only about R&.
e$2ressed dismay over the loss of the last two bookstores on the (ast )oast. 16m just one 2erson7 1 can6t carry this myself any longer.B Aith the closure of #oston #ook )om2any and "ut of !rint. only five bookstores remain o2en in the Enited States. (laine . owner of Seattle6s #lack and Ahite #ooks.B =ewis 8artman.ordon. but said that she Bho2es that Aest )oast readers would kee2 the tradition of 2rinted books alive. the new owner of The Firebreathing <ragon in (ureka. .C#ut that seems to be a trade-off 2eo2le have been willing to make in favor of the enormous cost savings.
B he said. . Bbut 2eo2le here are still attached to the 2rinted 2age. recently stunned the literary world with his recent announcement that his store was bringing in over one million dollars a year in book sales.)alifornia. BAe6re just a small store in a workingclass mill town. Ae’re doing better than ever.D The other bookstore owners were not available for comment.
fort"#two The news that two more bookstores had closed bothered (dith. =ewis wanted a bookstore. Sy’s ne2hew was not the brightest young man she’d ever met. And that wife of his was obviously looking for an e$cuse to bail out.inger. Ahy hadn’t she caught on3 !eo2le see what they want to see. (mily wanted money. She had 2ut u2 with this charade for the sake of )rawford and . but surely it couldn’t last much longer. but even he would eventually figure out that the <ragon could not 2ossibly be succeeding as a real bookstore when all the others were failing. As .
1 2romise. they weren’t asking many 0uestions. . #ut surely this couldn’t last.inger said.long as they were getting what they wanted.inger finished their work. (ventually someone would tell them. looking down into (dith’s living room from the ladder. C1t’s tem2orary. =ewis and (mily were getting to know 2eo2le in town. after (dith and . And (dith didn’t want to be around when they found out. )rawford and 1 were talking about renting a s2ace somewhere.inger climbed u2 into the crawl s2ace above her living room to string u2 some drying lines.D . "ne sli2 was all it would take. C1’m sorry this has gone on so long. Ae can figure out a way for the store to 2ay for it--D . "ne night.
D . anyway. it’s too much work for me. and 1 was lucky to have a sur2lus going when (mily and =ewis showed u2.inger. #esides. C:ou don’t really think you can kee2 this going. a little crabbily. 1 guess 1 thoughtH1 thought we were going to try to.C.D (dith said. in case you hadn’t noticed. #ut this is all getting to be too much for me. nobody asked me. honey.D CAell. And who do they go after3 The growers. 1 could barely kee2 u2 with demand when 1 had hel2.D (dith said. do you3D . Aithout Sy and his renters around here. CAell. This has become kind of a large-scale o2eration.inger climbed down and leaned the ladder against the wall. CThose kids could go to the feds. yeah.
it was just me 2utting a cou2le of 2lants in the garden. 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. . sitting down ne$t to her. C1 don6t love doing this.inger asked. And then it became the thing that ke2t the bookstore o2en. 1t was a lark.B she said. as if 2art of her had worn away.She eased down onto the couch. She looked down at her hands as she s2oke. BAhen this thing started.inger reali5ed that she looked very tired and sort of shrunken. C(dith. That was going to be his big accom2lishment. She hadn’t looked this bad since the funeral. what are you saying3D . Sy felt like he was 2laying a trick on everybody. 1 don6t think it even bothered him that he wasn6t e$actly .
inger was stunned. 1’m sure we could hire somebody you could trust.B (dith shook her head. that6s it. B1 haven6t started any new 2lants. B16m out. "nce these are gone. As far as he was concerned. C<on6t you think it would be kind of cool to give Sy what he wanted3 . BAhat3 Ahen were you going to tell us3B . . but-B She couldn6t bring herself to look u2 at . 1’ve enjoyed having your com2any these days.inger. Ae could get you some hel2.ive the <ragon another si$ months. 2eo2le were 2aying him money and taking books home.selling books anymore.B CSo isn’t that enough of a reason to kee2 it u2 a while longer3D . and it might just be the last bookstore.inger. . That made it a bookstore.B she said.inger asked.
#esides.B1 guess 16m telling you right now. then3D C"h.inger. 1’m tired and my heart doesn’t work right anymore.D .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. C!lease tell me you6ve got something else to do besides this. Sy found it in the bookstore shortly after he bought the building7 it was most likely a holdover from the . CAe ke2t this u2 much longer than we should have. before they find out. 4ow. 8er eyes were wet and gray.inger. 1t’s time to go. .D CAellHwhat are we going to do.D she said. And don’t tell me to hire somebody to hel2.B (dith finally looked at . The last thing 1 want is some college kid messing around in my garden.
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. two ho2eless and de2ressed 9ictorian-era s2insters. neither of whom had any idea what they might do ne$t with their lives. .
Something like that might work. As a sort of com2romise. or that Sy’s run-down old house was the right 2lace for them. for a while at least.fort"#three 1t was with great reluctance that (mily agreed to drive back to San Iose and 2ack u2 their things. =ewis e$2ressed no interest in seeing their old home one more time7 he was already . She was still not convinced that =ewis was ca2able of running a bookstore. she had been eying the new condominiums that were 2ro2osed for the waterfront. She couldn’t imagine living in (ureka forever. #ut eventually she’d want to get back to the city.
The truth was. This worried (milyHwould they ever take another vacation3Hbut she had agreed to collect their furniture and set u2 cam2. And she was looking forward to getting back to the city for a few days. in (ureka. 1t was a si$-hour drive back to the #ay Area. at least tem2orarily. she needed a little time by herself. As (mily got closer to civili5ation. 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. she found herself shrugging off the s2ell of 8umboldt . She took a handful of bills from the cash drawer and told =ewis she’d hire movers to hel2 her 2ack their things.ado2ting Sy’s mindset that nothing outside (ureka mattered.
with curbs and kiosks and doorways that formed shar2 right angles. nothing leaned im2robably to the left. 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.)ounty as if it had been a dream. she looked with wonder at the sho22ing center across the street. this sho22ing center. 1t was all of a 2iece. the . As she leaned against the car and waited for her tank to fill. built to suit and functioning e$actly as it was intended. The sun was getting low in the west7 as she watched. 1t was so bright and clean. nothing seemed to have been 2asted in from some mysterious time in the dim 2ast. 4othing crumbled.
1t was as if they were pretendin. 8ow on earth could a 2lace like that bring in the kind of money that was recorded in the ledger3 =ike =ewis. to be customers in a bookstore. . she was sur2rised at the lack of browsing and bookish talk. The closer she got to San Iose. barely even glancing inside. They would just 2ull something off the shelf and take it to the counter. the less the bookstore made sense to her. 2eo2le at the <ragon seemed not to know how to buy books.signs in the drugstore and the su2ermarket and the dry cleaner and the Thai restaurant all lit u2 at once. (mily had the unsettling feeling that she was watching a 2lay. (mily smiled. Several times over the last few weeks. 1n fact. 1t was magical.
and even now. in all his bookish fervor. There was the news to watch. bringing stacks of 2residential biogra2hies and 2o2ular histories back to Sy’s house at night. and then a movie or an e2isode of The %ire or a research 2roject on the 1nternet concerning the handling of author events or merchandising or inventory control. and that the <ragon was destined to survive des2ite the neartotal annihilation of books from the culture. 8e acted as if he had taken u2 reading again. 8e’d juggle his books along with the remote . and then the 3aily Sho!. he never made it through more than a 2age or two at a time. on the other hand. (mily had never known him to sit u2 in bed and read. seemed to be taking it on faith that his uncle Sy was somehow uni0ue among bookstore owners.=ewis.
control and the la2to2. a national ad cam2aignH (mily couldn’t kee2 track of everything on his list. Then would come a com2uter system. some high-end fi$tures and lights. but she knew it amounted to several hundred thousand dollars. and 2ossibly a new roof. a renovated children’s section com2lete with toys and a 2lay structure. but both the building that housed the <ragon and Sy’s house were so run-down that it would be im2ossible to borrow . The store was bringing in some money. it could bring in twice that after he fi$ed it u2. each com2eting for his attention until he fell aslee2 among his distractions. a new sign. 1t needed a 2aint job. =ewis believed that if the store was raking in over a million dollars in its 2resent disheveled state.
not to mention the fact that they were sim2ly dro22ing out of their careers. They were 2utting themselves out on a limb financially. cars that died before they were 2aid offHit was ridiculous. Add to that the loss of their health insurance. really. how much trouble they’d managed to get in financially since college. to tell the truth. She couldn’t e$2lain it to her friends. #ut she was trying not to mention her doubts to =ewis.money against them. even with the <ragon’s substantial income. and. she didn’t 0uite believe it herself. deferred student loans. 8e wouldn’t hear . And they still had their own debtHinsane debt fueled by 2ricey vacations and over2riced furniture. 4one of this would bother (mily if she had any idea why the <ragon was so insanely successful.
the car2et of grass. Their condo looked like a museum dedicated to the 2reservation of their former life an oversi5ed Fand not-yet-2aid-forG media center . and finally. the well-lit car2ort Fshe missed arportsKG. so wellmannered. but after just a few days away. 1t was im2ossible to talk to him about it. for a little electronic bee2 to greet her when she got home. it seemed so civili5ed. com2lete with a knob that re0uired no s2ecial trick to o2en it and an alarm that chimed 2leasantly when she entered. She never thought she’d miss that chime.any criticism of the store. #y the time (mily got to their condo it was dark. 2erfectly-sealed front door. 8ere were all the comforts that seemed so alien in (ureka the gated entryway. that heavy.
recessed lighting. C:eah. fine. and a Aolf range.D C%hat3D . C8ey. a wine refrigerator and cocktail cart in the dining room.that ran the length of the living room. her 2hone bu55ed in her 2ocket. co22er range hood. but before she could. a kitchen loaded with develo2er’s e$tras granite counterto2s. C1 just walked in.D she said. 1t was all so shockingly new and orderly andHshe hated to think thisHno longer theirs.D C(verything "L there3D =ewis asked. 8ow’s the store3D C)ra5y. Ae did almost ten thousand dollars today. =ewis had asked her to call when she got there. =ong drive.
. )rawford had him meet him in the alley to load it into his car.aybe they were being bought as dWcor. CAho s2ends that kind of money on an encyclo2edia. )an you believe that3D .D (mily 2ictured a bookshelf filled with matching sets of leather-bound books. "ne guy bought a three thousand dollar encyclo2edia set from %M*M. he was a college student. =ewis3 Are they that rare3D C1 don’t think so. a lawyer3 A judge3D C4o. CAhat was he.C1’m serious.D (mily sat down on the edge of their bed. Ae’ve got seven more sets in the back room.
but here’s the strange 2art.D C1 don’t understand. Cthat’s what 1 wondered.D CAhy would he do that3D CAell. )rawford 2ractically had to beg him to take the books. too. )rawford told me later that it was a sur2rise for his girlfriend and he didn’t have a 2lace to hide it. 8e said 2eo2le actually say that a lot.D C)rawford went to get a bo$ and he said not to bother.D =ewis said. After he bought them3 8e wanted to leave them in the store.She traced the geometric 2attern on their beds2read with her finger as she thought about this. 1f they’re buying a really . CAnd that doesn’t seem strange to you3D C4o.
She loved this )alifornia king with its cris2 sheets and down 2illows and leather-covered headboard.D (mily felt ill. C:eahHcra5y. they’ll ask us to hold onto it for a while. huh3 16ve seen 2eo2le come in and just ask for a book in a 2articular 2rice range. 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. like. She couldn’t say why. .e$2ensive book as a gift. JAhat have you got for about two hundred dollars3’ Turns out )rawford kee2s a whole bookcase just organi5ed by 2rice because so many 2eo2le come in looking for gifts like that.
Tomorrow the movers would take it a2art and load it into the van she was renting. And it just dro22ed into our la2s. Ahat more could you want3B . (mily3B CAhat3 1HB CAhy can’t you just be ha22y about this3 =ook at what’s ha22ened to usK This 2lace is a gold mine. Also. C1 can’t believe it. She was tired and sarcastic and bitter.She bought it back in the days when life made sense to her. she was starting to reali5e that she was more attached to her whirl2ool tub and her granite counterto2s than she thought she was. She regretted the tone in her voice as soon as she said it. =ewis.D she said. BAhat the hell is wrong with you. She wasn’t about to slee2 in Sy’s old bed. 1 really can’t.
. .i5mo store. 1t would cost her >/*. <o you remember here3 1’m giving u2HB #ut that was it. 8e had never hung u2 on her before.i5mo store in the morning. (mily threw her 2hone across the room hard enough to crack the screen.B=ewisK 4ot too long ago we lived here. The bright. shiny. 8e hung u2. Iust thinking about it made her feel better.*+ and a tri2 to the . and that was not easy to do.
She ate lunch at her favorite 2lace . she made two tri2s to the . She just wasn6t sure where. At first she enjoyed the silence. first to re2lace her 2hone. She took an e$tra day to 2ack.i5mo store.fort"#four (mily and =ewis had never fought like this before. . because she wasn6t entirely sure that she was going back to (ureka. and then to buy it a few shiny.ostly she cleaned and organi5ed and 2ut some of her favorite things into bo$es with the e$2ectation that she would be taking them somewhere. Ahile she was in town. although she didn’t really think of it as 2acking. unnecessary accessories.
atos. where there just didn6t seem to be any o22ortunity to fritter away money or time. She needed a warm body in bed with her more than she needed air to breathe. one of his best 0ualities was his sim2le 2resence in bed at night. 1t was. She was doing 2retty well until she got into bed that night. A day that would be im2ossible in (ureka. (mily would admit that although she loved =ewis when he was awake. in other words. 1f she was being 2erfectly honest.in =os . got her hair cut. She was a light slee2er who s2ent at least an hour or two every night awake and worrying over some 2etty fear -. She hated slee2ing alone.that her com2uter would crash before she turned in her . and dro22ed in on a cou2le of design clients. a day filled with mindless errands and small lu$uries.
She would roll over and butt her head against his back. or that she would find out that coffee causes cancer. She had to call back three times before =ewis answered. She would never slee27 she would lose her mind7 she would fall to 2ieces. she 2icked u2 the 2hone. 8e was slee2ing. that she had left a candle burning in the bathroom. feeling the reassuring rise and fall of his rib cage. damn him. she 2assed a terrible night alone. she wouldn’t survive. (mily genuinely believed that if she ever had to live alone again.ne$t 2roject. At some 2oint just before dawn. leaving her with an im2ossible choice to make. . And in fact. The only thing that got her back to slee2 was =ewis’s steady breathing ne$t to her.
ackey’s in )hicago.B =ewis said when he answered.D C:eah.D C"kay.D C1 did. She laughed. B1 am.B BAhich one3B B. That leaves four. 16m sorry. BSay it.B CSee if you can find those other shoes before you leave. 16m sorry. #ut first3 . =ewis.B she said.B B16m sorry. Aait. See you soon.D CIesus. <id you hear3D BAhat3B BAnother bookstore closed.D C8ey. They’re 2acked.BSay you6re sorry.o back to slee2.D .
CAe’ll be fine. back to whatever awaited her behind the redwood curtain and the blanket of fog beyond it. Soon she was once again driving northHacross the bridge. As she drove. 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. through the wine country. "nce she made the decision to go backHand had she ever really considered not going3Hshe had a lot of 2acking to do.o to slee2.D #ut she didn’t slee2. she reali5ed that even stronger than her desire to be with =ewis was her desire to kee2 an eye on =ewis. 2ast the sho22ing malls and the self-storage units. .
the store. 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. This thing was not going to end well. she knew that.
C=ook at this 2laceKD she shouted into the 2hone.alway on her way out of the air2ort. where he had been live-blogging the trial of an unem2loyed auto mechanicturned-sho2lifter. but he had finally been brought to justice by a s2irited young woman working in a dress sho2 around the corner from the <ragon. The merchants in "ld Town were u2 in arms about this guy.a$ine Rogers landed in (ureka and called . C:ou live here3D . The 2olice had been unable to sto2 him.fort"#five .alway slid out of the bench in the back of the courtroom. She saw him sli2 a necklace into his .
1t was the most e$citement "ld Town had seen in months.a$ine said. BThey like to hang out with the cows. BThere are cows on the side of the road.2ocket and she chased him down the street.D . yeah. BAnd what are those big white birds3B she said. B!robably egrets. B1 don6t know. Actual cowsKB BAell. but not thisKB .B CThis is unbelievable.B he said.alway said when he got out into the hallway. jum2ing on him hard enough to knock him down and shatter his kneeca2. . BAhat were you e$2ecting3B . it6s dairy country u2 here.alway.B he said.
16m talking about a 2lace like this being the book ca2itol of the country. anyway3D C1’ll tell you when 1 see you.C4ot really. B16m at the courthouse. BAhere are you3B she said.B she said. There better be some thriving cosmo2olitan downtown 1 just haven6t seen yet.alway said.B he said.D CAhat are you doing here. you 2robably just drove through it.eet me at the hotel tonight.D . C<inner’s on me. judging from how long we6ve been on the 2hone. so the egrets ---B B4ot that. BAell. Ahich way to the bookstore3D . CThe cows kick u2 a lot of bugs when they gra5e. B.B he said.D she said.
a$ine found her way into "ld Town and 2arked a cou2le of blocks from the store. The fog had rolled in and settled over (ureka. she could see million-dollar beachfront cottages occu2ied by 2eo2le who bought books just to have them around for character. #ut something about this 2ersistent marine layer suggested unem2loyed mill workers with meth labs in the basement.ot it. . 1f this 2lace were brighter and warmer.D C.ost of the town6s original 9ictorian . . not second home buyers with cash to burn on obsolete technology. 4othing like low-hanging grey clouds to make a town looked discouraged. #ut for some reason. .a$ine thought.a$ine kind of liked the 2lace.CRight on Fifth.D . Sunshine seems to invite 2ros2erity.
a sign written in faded black Shar2ie in the window of a coin sho2 . reali5ing that ashtrays. for life of her. She stood and looked fondly at them for a long time through the window. which gave the bakeries and the beauty 2arlors a little more charm than they would have otherwise had. like books. for some reason. old ty2ewriters and colorful 2lastic ashtrays. 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. There was a yarn sho2 that also sold vintage buttons and sewing machines and.a$ine found sur2risingly com2elling. which .architecture was still intact. remember what. Around the corner.a$ine could not.
.ost of them looked around for . She headed for an armchair in the 2sychology section. She noticed that most 2eo2le didn6t venture very far into the store. ringing 2eo2le u2 0uickly and 0uietly.offered to 2ay to2 dollar for gold. A guy who looked vaguely familiar to her stood behind the counter. 8ow long had it been since she6d been in a coin sho23 1nside. (very store in this town seemed to sell little everyday objects that 2eo2le no longer used. hundreds of coins were encased in their cardboard and mylar sleeves as if they had been 2reserved in wa$.aybe it wasn6t so far-fetched that a bookstore could stay o2en here. .a$ine sli22ed into the <ragon without making eye contact with anyone. where she could watch how the store o2erated without calling attention to herself. .
she thought most retailers 2ut their most 2o2ular sections within easy reach.B he told her as a way of e$2laining why he wasn6t too worried about 2eo2le downloading classic literature onto their 2hones. 2icked u2 a book near the counter. B Ae sell the books in the center aisle. and got on their way. (verything else is just wall2a2er. She remembered an e$ecutive from a big bookstore chain telling her once that most of the books on the shelves were just there as decoration.just a few minutes.B 8e was laid off two weeks later. . This wasn6t too sur2rising. bought it. BAe never did actually sell Shakes2eare. A scruffy-looking woman in her early twenties came in dragging an e0ually scruffylooking child.
CAhat3D the kid asked.D the woman said.D the guy said again. C#ookstore. where she whis2ered something to the . CThese books are all for sale. looking u2 at the woman who brought him here. C:ou don’t. C#ookstore. at the same time the guy behind the counter said. At a library.D The kid looked at them both in astonishment. not moving from the entryway. but you have to bring them back.D the woman said im2atiently. you can take books home. CTo read. The woman dragged him to the counter.D BAhy do we have to take them home3B the kid wailed.D said the guy behind the desk.CAhat is this 2lace3D the kid asked. C1t’s a library.
stuff it in a sort of woven !eruvian bag she wore on one shoulder. Ahat was a woman like that doing buying a two hundred dollar book every week3 . 8e turned around. and 2ull the kid out of the store. 2ulled a book off a shelf behind him. Then he looked over and noticed .clerk.D he said. <idn’t even . . And she didn’t even glance at the book.a$ine sitting in the chair. CSee you ne$t week. CRegular customer3D she asked. Two hundred dollars.a$ine watched her take the bag. C8ey. and wrote u2 a ticket.lan e at it. She smiled.D the guy behind the desk called after her. but she couldn’t hel2 herself. She hadn’t intended to say anything.
CIust reading. CAre you looking for anything in 2articular3D C. holding u2 a tattered book of affirmations for alcoholics that she’d 2ulled off the shelf at random.8e looked 0uickly back down at the counter.e3 4o. 8e straightened a stack of 2a2ers on the desk and then looked u2 again.D . .a$ine had the strange feeling that she had caught him doing something he wasn’t su22osed to do.D she said.
1 shouldn6t have said anything to you.B she said. 16m sorry about that. She and Todd =arson sat on a 2ublic safety subcommittee together7 before the meeting she 2ulled him aside. BSince you6ve become newly educated on the benefits of back door 2olitics. 16ve been feeling bad about that whole thing. rather.or. .B he said. on the 2romise that <on )antrell made on her behalf -.to arrange a meeting with some growers for Richmond. =e$.fort"#six 1t didn’t take long for =e$ to make good on her 2romise -. B"h man. 16ve got a favor to ask.
=e$ thought.B Todd looked over his shoulder as if he was worried that a security camera was 2icking u2 this conversation.B 8e took an awkward ste2 back. B"f course.B he said when his ga5e finally returned to hers.B she said. knocking over a chair in the hallway outside the council chambers. B1 guess 16m a little 2aranoid. BSorry. don6t worry about that. =e$ just smiled and waited for him to settle down. B:ou6re in. B"h. BReally3B he whis2ered. 1t6s fine. 8e still had this boyish curly hair and big brown eyes that managed to look sincere when he was a2ologi5ing. Todd.Ahat a cute kid.B . Ae6ll 2ut you on the 2ayroll.
1 don6t know. 8e wants to meet some growers. in a low voice. 1t occurred to =e$ that this might be more 2olitical intrigue than the kid could handle.B =e$ said.uch bigger than what we can do here in 8umboldt. B16ve got a friend who would like to meet some of your friends. S2eaking of kee2ing things 0uiet.B"kay. 1t6s hard to get close to those guys.B B=ook.B B"h. .B she said. She sat down ne$t to him and said. BThis guy is behind a big legali5ation effort. B1 have a friend in town who is a botanist. =e$.B Todd eased into a chair. 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 .
Iust then. B1t6s just a bunch of friends getting together. 8e just wants a meeting. no 2hotos. their committee was called into session. just a conversation.B So Todd.B =e$ said as she stood 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. against his better judgment. This guy can hel2 us get there.now.D Todd 2ressed his li2s together and looked down at his hands. B=et6s set this u2. .
the easier it was getting to s2ot them. but he didn’t want to make it seem like he was afraid of these guys. overweight and 2ale. he reali5ed. 2asty young men. halfdreadlocked hair. There seemed to be a dress code for 2ot growers. The more time he s2ent in town.fort"#seven Richmond wanted to ask =e$ to go with him to the meeting. there wasn’t much to be afraid of all five of the growers who had agreed to meet with him were soft. And in fact. which all seemed to be . with matching manes of curly. The growers Fand he didn’t even try to remember their names.
and that got them e$cited enough to loosen u2 even more. Richmond knew just enough about the science of growing 2lants to get a conversation going. They sat awkwardly on a 2icnic bench. which made for an uneasy meeting. They had been unable to agree on a meeting 2lace. The fact that Richmond was able to . Finally they settled on a 2ark near the waterfront. Richmond in his neatly-ironed dress shirt and the rest of them in their baggy sweats and old jeans. rejecting various hamburger joints as too visible and refusing to host the meeting at any of their own grow houses. 8e s2un a few tall tales of the legali5ation effort that would make them all rich.fake anyway7 names like Fire and !hoeni$ and Sky and RiverG were as frightened of Richmond as he was of them.
but not so shabby that it de2ressed him to sit for hours and drink alone. he would have seen that the maroon car2et was just about threadbare and all the woodwork was fake. and the growers grinned at each other as they stuffed the cash in their 2ockets. There were no obno$ious beer 2osters and . but the lights wouldn’t be turned u2. not ever. he doubled it. #ack at the hotel. with the air of kids who had each been given a dollar and sent to the candy store. casually. 1f the lights had been turned u2. Richmond called his boss from the bar. windowless bar for killing time on a business tri2 just bland enough not to attract the locals. which meant that it was mostly em2ty.2ay whatever it took to get hold of a few 2lant sam2les didn’t hurt7 when they named their 2rice. 1t was the 2erfect kind of dark.
did you3D Tom said. 1’ve been talking to growers all afternoon. CAhat ha22ened3D C. this has 0uite 2ossibly been the longest day of my life.D C:ou made some new friends. but the volume was off and the closed-ca2tion was on.no cocktail menus 2rinted by vodka distributors with e$otic names for the same si$ or seven mi$ed drinks 2eo2le had been drinking for a hundred years.y friend on the city council came through for me. BTom. .B he said when his boss answered the 2hone. Richmond felt entirely at home here. A television above the bar was tuned to )44.
1t6s more like a very lucrative obsession. . :ou know one of these kids uses twelve different kinds of nitrogen fertili5er in one grow cycle3 1 tried to tell him that the 2lant can6t tell the difference between one nitrogen molecule and another. that6s about right. Rich. Those guys are cra5y. 8e was going to be here a while.B BAell. and that just about got me killed.B The bartender brought Richmond his beer.B B:eah. 8e reached for the bar menu. 1 will never understand how any of them manage to stay in business. it6s not e$actly a business.B4ot e$actly. 1t was stout and cold and there was not near enough of it.
B B4o. no. She dra2ed her suit jacket across the stool ne$t to her and started digging around in her bag for a 2hone. Some . Iust let me close the door. buddy.B Tom said. They were the kind of eyes you6d s2end a lot of money trying to frame with a good haircut iceblue !aul 4ewman eyes. B"h.B A woman slid onto a stool a cou2le of seats down from him. isn6t it3 1 should call you tomorrow. no wedding ring. These are actual drug dealers we’re talking about. sleek black hair that hung artfully into her eyes. Richmond could hear a baby crying in the background.B:ou need to watch it. it6s late there. 1 want to hear about this. Richmond couldn’t hel2 but si5e her u2 a little too skinny.
B<id you get anything from these guys3B B1 got some 2lants.B Tom said.fragrance drifted over to RichmondHsomething cris2 and e$2ensive.B BReally3B Tom said.B Richmond said.B BAell. after a muffled negotiation with his wife over bathtime. either. These guys are convinced 16ve got the inside track on legali5ation ---B . more like the non-s2ecific but into$icating smell of new cars and new clothes than anything Richmond could 2articularly identify. everything’s for sale. 8e could tell she didn6t belong in (ureka. if that6s what you mean. B"kay. B=ooks like 16ll be bringing back about a do5en strains. B1 didn6t think they6d give u2 their 2lants like that.
They6re into this cra5y mad scientist stuff. 1t6s all hydro2onic.B BAhich it isn6t. So what are their grow o2s like3B BThey didn6t e$actly invite me over. B--. and that we needed some of the really high octane strains to 2lay around with in the laboratory so that we could come u2 with some high-but-reasonable limits that )ongress would sign off on.B C($actly. They want to hel2.B Tom said. Anyway. #ut you know these 2eo2le. They6re s2ending a hundred bucks on a single sodium light bulb. 1 told them that any legal 2roduct was going to have limits on T8) levels.and that legali5ation is their ticket to 2ros2erity.BAhich you do.B C. Tom.ood. using reflective film . all indoors.
they will. 1t6s what ha22ens when you run a cash business.B Richmond gestured for another beer and 2ointed to the chicken wings on the bar menu. 2um2ing the 2lace full of )"/. Any 2rogress with . :eah. BSoon enough. B!retty much.aybe it was the beer.s.B Tom said cheerfully. . all that. BThey just burn twenty-dollar bills to kee2 the greenhouse warm3B Tom said. 1f they ever had to kee2 track of their e$2enses and run a !X=HB B"h.like wall2a2er. but Richmond was starting to think that he had seen her somewhere before. The woman at the end of the bar si22ed her )abernet and scrolled through e-mails on her 2hone. Ratner3B . that6s their strategy.
They all agree that she’s 2laying a com2letely different game. and the only thing they know about her techni0ue is that it should be im2ossible.B Richmond said. So the growers 2retty much leave her alone and let her do her thing. These guys just worshi2 her from afar. She gets incredible yields for an outdoor o2eration in this kind of weather.D CThere’s no rivalry.B4ot really. kind of like a rose that . They don6t even try to kee2 u2. not that 1 can tell. 1t6s very e$2ensive and there6s not much of it. 4obody has any idea where she got her 2lants. her 2roduction is really limited. 1t6s not e$actly Thailand u2 here. orHD C4o. BThe thing is. And they say it’s an everblooming strain.
16ve been down at that bookstore every day. :ou managed to get hold of any of it yet3B Richmond 2aused and took a long drink of his second beer.B B. B1 don6t know. 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.blooms all year. Tom. 1 can6t figure it out. that’s what we kee2 hearing. 1 would just as soon not s2end another week here if 1 can avoid it.aybe they figured you out. Anyway. Turns out your legislative staff is a little too good at their jobs.B B:eah.ood. "ur friends on the . 8er 2lants don’t wait until fall to 2roduce a cro2.B B.B B)ould be.
C.B #efore he could re2ly.D . CLind of. B16ll call you tomorrow. disheveledlooking guy in a tattered leather jacket came u2 behind her.B Richmond said distractedly. CThis is going to sound like a line. a lean.com.alway <aniels. Ae need to get going on those 2atents now. Tom. 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. C1umboldt 1erald.a$ine Rogers. 4ile.D he said. CAorking late3D she asked.B She looked over at Richmond as he set his 2hone down. BAll right.B The woman at the end of the bar answered a call on her 2hone and then stood u2 to 2ay her tab. holding out his hand to Richmond.D he said. B.8ill are ready to move.
B16m sorry.D . B1 was just introducing myself.a$ine jum2ed and turned around..B They looked each other over like e$-lovers and then turned back around to face Richmond. :ou are ---B A re2orter and a high-2rofile )(". C(njoy your dinner.D he said. C1’m nobody.alwayK At last.a$ine said. B.B . 4ot e$actly the kind of 2eo2le Richmond should be talking to on the way to his third beer.
CAhen 1 saw that article in the "hroni le. 1 mean. . 1 was just as sur2rised as you were.D she said. 8e was charming in that scruffy. but 1’ve always sus2ected that they really just . but he had sur2risingly little to say about the newly-famous bookstore. . right3D 8e shook his head.alway.fort"#ei ht . garrulous way that long-time disgruntled re2orters could be.a$ine was disa22ointed by her dinner with .a$ine. the downtown businesses are your beat. C)ome on. A lot of 2eo2le love that store. after warming him u2 with a scotch before dinner. C:ou’ve got to have a theory.alway.
love the idea of the store. Aould 2eo2le here really rather sit around and read a book on 2a2er3D #ut .i5mo ownershi2 in this county. #ut let me ask you why do 2eo2le out here still buy books3 1’ve got the data on rates of . 8umboldt’s not substantially different than a lot of other big. rural counties. 2eo2le treated it like it was something e$ce2tional. #efore it was even on the list of last bookstores in America. "kay. <id you know that3D C8uh. 8e wanted to rail against the demise of the .alway didn’t have any answers. Sy always used to like to brag on the fact that it was the westernmost bookstore in the Enited States. you know3 =ike we’re su22osed to be this out2ost of art and literature.
as if she’d invited him to a strategy meeting instead of dinner. long-term investigations they used to. rambling. and. She e$2ected . (ventually she dro22ed her line of 0uestioning .a$ine like he treated anyone else. #ut .alway treated .a$ine had been )(" long enough to have forgotten what it was like to talk to someone who wasn’t utterly deferential to her. . which is to say that he was self-absorbed. mildly flirtatious.alway to be 2re2ared for this conversation. and worry over the inability of news organi5ations to conduct the kind of meaty. com2lain about the ram2ant 2lagiarism in the news blogos2here. as he always was in the 2resence of someone who looked like .a$ine. She e$2ected him to be da55led by her wealth or intimidated by her 2ower.news2a2er.
it might have gone differently. 8e had the ragged look of an aging rock star. and a bad . 8e was one of those men who seemed oddly a22ealing if you didn’t get too close. he clutched it in a frantic. and he smelled like leather and some old after-shave nobody wears anymore. To make things worse. 1f only he’d been a little less des2erate. you-don’t-get-a-kiss-goodnight 2arting. which she managed to thwart by 2atting him on the shoulder while 2ushing him gently away. That did it for her. the night ended with an awkward.and surrendered to the fact that she was stuck having dinner in a small town with a malcontented but talkative re2orter. #ut when she offered her hand to say goodnight. 4o useful information. clammy way and moved in for a hug.
handshake. Ahat little interest she had in him eva2orated.t. a reversible fleece in shades of charcoal and oatmeal. she was feeling good. . So she went to bed alone and s2ent a restless night wondering if anything would come of this tri2. Finally it was morning and there was a si$ a. Then breakfast. and her dressiest 2air of Tevas. 1n s2ite of the restless night. For her tri2 into town.m. 8er 2lan was to browse . and now she was on her way to the bookstore.a$ine wore what she ho2ed would be her most convincing =ost )oast tourist outfit a 2air of ultra-lightweight cargo 2ants that she usually only wore when she was hiking . 8ood. yoga class in the hotel’s fitness center. She was ready to make a deal.
!rostitutes3 1n . faintly redolent of seaweed.the store one more time like a regular customer. with the sun hitting the side of every warehouse along the wharf and illuminating the wide 2lanks with their 2eeling 2aint. and a string of low-rent motels. She didn’t want to a22roach them too 0uickly. a metal fabricator. because she still wasn’t sure e$actly what made the <ragon work. A woman walked 2ast in a short black dress -. 1t was a da55ling morning on (ureka6s waterfront warm and windless. a stroll that took her 2ast a dila2idated mobile home 2ark held together with honeysuckle vines. then call the new owners and set u2 a meeting.a$ine decided to walk from the hotel to the bookstore. .not much more than a swimsuit cover-u2 V and a 2air of gold high heels.
That6s why he looked familiarK BAre you Richard )rawford3D she asked.a$ine shook her head. )rawford remembered her. 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. and she was in "ld Town. CThe writer3 :ou work here3 :ou’re a 2art of this thing3D . C8ey. too. weren’t you in here yesterday3 1’m )rawford. She rounded a corner.this little town3 . 2assed a cou2le of coffee sho2s.D 8e held out his hand. one of whom she recogni5ed from the last time she was there. The <ragon was com2letely em2ty when she walked in e$ce2t for the two em2loyees behind the counter.
B C1 can6t believe it’s you. Aho was this mysterious and beautiful woman3 8e reali5ed that he might be in love with her. . Bthat6s me.B .a$ine said. B1 always wondered what ha22ened to you. . you were robbed.a$ine watched her go.B he said. but 1 don6t know if 1 want to take the blame for all this. 1 couldn6t believe it didn6t win the 4ational #ook Award.The woman behind the counter laughed and walked off. never mind. Richard )rawfordK 8e came around the counter and stood with his hands in his 2ockets. but once you hit fortyHwell. 1 loved The Retriever. BAell. 1n my o2inion.B )rawford was too stunned to say anything. trying to look modest. She wasn’t sure green hair was becoming for a woman of any age.
one in which he behaved like the reclusive literary star she clearly believed he was. BSo 1 know you don6t own this 2lace.a$ine as she reeled off this alternative version of his life. but they just got here.a$ine continued. Finally he reali5ed that she was waiting for an answer. because 1 read the article about the new owners.. oblivious to the effect she was having on him. . or teach writing worksho2s. <o 2eo2le come in here to meet you3 <o they want to get their books signed3 <o you run some kind of literary series for the store. or what3B )rawford stared at . right3 So you must have a lot to do with the fact that this 2lace is still around.
a$ine said. The building looked like an . BAell. taking in the walls covered in books. glad that .C"h. 1t was now 2ossible to see the molding and other architectural details that had once been obscured. Ahat ha22ened3 . 8e used to know how to talk like a famous author.B )rawford said.a$ine looked around again. the aging chandeliers.B . the 2recarious banister.B )rawford said.things like that. B:eah. it6s 2retty ama5ing. yes.inger was not there to catch him lying to this woman. =ewis had been in the store every day clearing the aisles and reorgani5ing. 8e knew that he sounded like an idiot. we6ve done --. you must be so 2roud of the success of this store. AhHwell.
that6s this building --.B she said.and you have the books. B16m curious.old man who had been reminded to stand u2 straight. and maybe even get a date out of the deal. BSo. :ou have the set -. 1f . which are like 2ro2s. B1 think it6s the whole 2ackage. 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. !eo2le bring all these needs and e$2ectations to a bookstore.y secret3B B:eah.B he said. and everybody in the store is acting out a 2art. B"ver the years 16ve learned that a bookstore is like a 2iece of theater. Surely he could come u2 with a 2lausible lie. B.
a$ine looked at him with wonder. 2eo2le bring in their needs and e$2ectations3B she asked.you6re working behind the desk.D . She wasn6t really looking at him7 she was looking at the glow. B"h. you know. and . and the 2erformance is different for every 2erson who walks in. 1t had been a long time. BAhat do you mean. )rawford had forgotten what it was like to have 2eo2le look at him like this. Somebody comes in looking for a do-it-yourself divorce book. :ou 2ut on a little 2erformance. That6s what he used to call the faint halo that a successful novel could give a 2erson. you have to figure out how to be the kind of 2erson they want you to be. 8e had forgotten all about the glow.
and they have to get all stoic and tell you they’d never want to sell it anyway.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. . Somebody comes in wanting to be treated like a big shot. Somebody brings in an old book that6s been in the family forever and they think it6s worth a fortune. 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. and you have to find a way to tell them that it6s only like a ten-dollar book.
This guy was brilliant. A souvenir of their e$2erience in the store. .1 don6t know --. somehow. . So yeah.what else could they be3B .aybe they buy a book because it6s a souvenir of this e$2erience they had where they came in here and felt --.literary. 2eo2le come in here to feel bookish.B 1t was .anymore3 4ot much.inger returned from the back room and )rawford reali5ed that he’d better cut the conversation off before she heard him.B BAell -. it6s about nostalgia. Ahat a marketerK BSo that6s what these books are.B:ou mean --.a$ine6s turn to stare. And if they do. She lived for the moments when she could sabotage )rawford in the act of trying to im2ress a woman.
:ou areH3D C.D she said. B1 should get going.D she said. too. taking one last look around the store. C1’m sorry. C1 think the moving van arrives today.a$ine. sure. Are the owners going to be back anytime soon3B CThey’re in the middle of moving.D She smiled and left before he could ask for her last name. B4ice meeting you.D )rawford said. .B )rawford shook her hand.B he said. <o you want me to call them3D CThat’s okay. C1’ll get in touch with them. )rawford. C"h.D She held out her hand.C1’d better get back to work.
Iust being around her reminded him how lonely and isolated he was. She wasn’t 2retentious. e$actly. . She ran hot and cold friendly when she thought it would get her somewhere.a$ine had the 2olish and luster of a big city about her7 a kind of bright e$2ectation about the world and its 2ossibilities. Ahen she ordered wine by the glass.fort"#nine <uring their dinner. but distant and distracted the rest of the night. she just o2erated by a set of rules that hadn’t made it to this 2art of the world. .alway had the uncomfortable feeling that . she asked if she could taste the .a$ine was treating him like staff.
And when she decided to go with the sauvignon blanc instead. but she was too 0uick for him.malbec and the sangiovese for com2arison. . maybe she was a snob. After a few too many drinks he’d decided to try to salvage the night by making a 2ass at her. she e$2lained her choice to the waitress in some detail. still be the best accom2animent to the salmon.alway felt himself shrinking in his seat7 it was 2robably the first time any waitress in (ureka had ever been asked to 2rovide a 2review of a si$-dollar glass of wine before serving it. 8e was out on the sidewalk and on his own . And the evening ended badly. 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. "kay.
8e deleted the message. She never would tell him e$actly why she was so interested in the <ragon. 8e stood in the fog under the yellow light of a street lam2 and watched a family of raccoons dash across the street and disa22ear into the sewer. And he already had a boss. At least they had somewhere to go together. . e$ce2t to say that it was a business model that intrigued 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. She finally called from the air2ort.a$ine was smart enough7 he knew she’d figure out what was going on if she hung around a while. . .D as if he’d agreed to hel2 her.a$ine was no longer intriguing7 she was just bossy.before he knew e$actly what ha22ened.
=ewis had been working at Sy’s house all day. C8e’s already gone. 8e left )rawford and .fift" (mily got into town just as the store was closing. clearing s2ace so they could unload the moving van.inger in charge7 they were hastily stuffing bags and restocking what they called the Cbig buyD shelves the high-end books organi5ed by 2rice for 2eo2le who didn’t have time to fool around. (mily rushed in just as )rawford was turning off the lights. .D )rawford said. C1s =ewis here3D she asked.
B she said. who was trying to stash their assortment of 2restuffed sho22ing bags behind the counter. )rawford looked nervously at . that gift should be a book. 1t had occurred to her that she should buy him a gift to make u2 for it.C"h. B1 heard you had a lot of big s2enders in the store lately.inger said carefully. good. B1t6s been a 2retty good few days.D She was still feeling guilty about their fight. continuing to look around.B (mily said. B8ow was your tri23B BFine. Some rare and wonderful volume that showed that she believed in him. She would 2ut the .B . Then she had an idea. and then she noticed )rawford and . And of course.inger.inger staring at her. #ut what3 She looked around blankly for a minute.
D B4o. smiling. Take something home. They knew what they were doing.B (mily said. B1t6s your store.D And. She looked over (mily’s shoulder at )rawford. so she added.booksellers to the test. that6s nice.inger said. maybe you can hel2 me. remembering how =ewis had described the big s2enders who had been in the .inger. who was fro5en in 2lace. B1 want to get a 2resent for =ewis.inger to say something more. 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. B16m a 2aying customer. (mily seemed to be waiting for . B8ey.B B"h.B she said to .B .
who looked like he was about to e$2lode. but the cover was 2robably damaged by the time it fell into the hands of the bookseller. but it’s 2retty ama5ing. turning it over as if she was afraid to o2en it. 1t6s kind of a 2retentious thing to do. B1t6s a first edition of The Old Man and the Sea. C16m looking for something in the five hundred dollar range.inger turned her back to )rawford.store lately. 1t6s been rebound in . So you can think about . she added. She stared at the row of books in front of her.oroccan leather.B . and handed it to (mily. )rawford s2oke u2 behind her. BAhat is it3B (mily said.B she said. They stam2ed 8emingway’s signature on the cover. Finally she 2ulled one off the shelf. B"kay. this is seven hundred.
. <id he even know it was in the store3D CEh---1 don’t think so.inger. 1t’s 2erfect.D . as if he might never deliver it again. 16ll take it. BFine. She was trying not to look at )rawford. C=ewis isn’t going to believe this.B 8e gave that s2eech with an air of resignation.inger handed her the book.B (mily smiled at .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. (mily signed the credit card sli2 and .inger said. B<on6t 1 get a bag for my seven hundred dollars3B (mily asked. taking (mily’s credit card and running it through the terminal.
Ae’ll go ahead and close u2. you guys. CThanks.D .ood night.C"f course.D . 8ave a good night.D (mily clutched the bag to her chest.inger said. C8ere you go. grabbing the book and stuffing it into a bag. .
C1 was standing just like this. .inger was on her knees behind the counter.D She stood u2 and 2lanted her feet right where they had been when she was talking to (mily. don’t yell at meKD She sat back on her heels and 2ut her hands over her mouth. 2awing through the bags she’d been restocking when (mily walked in. C<ammit.( :"E <1< 4"TKD )rawford shouted a few minutes later.D she said. wait. Ahat just ha22ened3 C"kay. )rawford.fift"#one CT(== . BAnd 1 handed her the credit card sli2 with my right hand ---B She 2antomimed this .
. 1 would have reached down with my left hand ---B "h. B8uh. !lus a com2limentary 2ackage of rolling 2a2ers for being such a good customer. This did not just ha22en.B .while )rawford watched im2atientlyHCand then when she asked for the bag. She stood for a long time and stared down the stack of bags at her feet.inger.D 8e grabbed his jacket and stormed out the door. . no. B1 shorted her half an ounce.inger was too stunned to say anything.B she said at last. CAnd then you gave her one tightly-2acked ounce of marijuana along with her 8emingway. Thanks. 1t’s been great working with you.
Solid. a manly book done u2 in manly navy blue leather. workable objects. she was elated for two reasons. a century that she suddenly missed for its bulk and 2resence. a warm and delicious relic from another century.fift"#two Ahen (mily left the bookstore with her rebound-but-still-0uite-nice first edition of The Old Man and the Sea. (very innovation of the twenty-first century could be erased by a . First. The twentieth century contributed skyscra2ers and ty2ewriters and automobiles and tele2hones to the world. 1t was a sure winner a fine American classic. the book felt solid and real under her arm.
(mily felt like the store was actually hers. a time she couldn’t remember clearly herself. She was often struck by how e2hemeral it all was a client would sent her an email. 2ractical time. And the second reason she was elated3 "wning a bookstore that offered such a thing for sale also felt goodHand this was something new. For the first time.2ower failure. "wning a book felt good. She could see why 2eo2le would still buy real books on 2a2er. her income unstable. although she could feel its heft in the dim 2ast. she’d send off an invoice and wait for an . She’d been a freelancer for years7 her work life always felt unsettled. 1t reminded her of a more sensible. she’d mock u2 some designs and email them back. and after a few more e$changes.
Ahere would it all go3 Aithout it. 4one of it seemed real. En2lug the 1nternet and it would all vanish the clients. And the seven hundred dollars she just s2ent on =ewis6s book3 That made her feel important. the design work. . in a way that her freelance design work never really did. the store fit. A building.ible.oney in the cash drawer. suddenly. . what would be left of her work3 #ut the <ragon was so tan.electronic transfer to hit her bank account. like a deadbolt sliding into 2lace. This valuable little book tucked under her arm . the bank de2osits and the bills that got 2aid automatically.oods for sale. All at once. 1t made sense to her. Something moved and clicked and locked inside of her.
The idea of it was into$icating. she mattered. 4ow she could see the attraction. too.mattered. =ewis collected coins and stam2s when he was a kid. And now that she owned it. She got back to her moving van and stashed the bag in her suitcase so =ewis wouldn’t see the book until she was ready to give it to him. #ut (mily was a dabbler7 she’d buy one thing and grow bored with it and never think to buy another one. She had never been a collector of anything. 8e was waiting for her at Sy’s houseHtheir house. and she had friends who collected Fiestaware or Art <eco vases or old toys. . 1magine a room full of books like this oneK 1magine who she would be if she owned original Steinbecks and Fit5geralds and dusty old volumes of !oe.
. She drove out of town 2ast the marshy lowlands where egrets fished for their su22er and u2 the long.she reali5ed at last. rutted road to meet him.
B8ey. And now here was =ewis. She was just about to instigate a generalcontractor-home-remodel se$ual fantasy that . sitting on the ste2s. 2ractically bouncing out of the car. =ewis even looked a little different in a battered work shirt and old jeans.fift"#three =ewis was waiting for her on the 2orch when she got there. more handy version of himself. waiting to com2lete her ha22iness like a 2eriod at the end of a sentence. he was a more rugged.B she said. She had worked herself into a state of eu2horia during the short and scenic drive from the bookstore to the house.
but more carefully a . drawers 2ulled from bureaus. B1 just figured that out. BAhat6s going on3B B)ome with me. leading her robotically into the house. At first. their contents scattered on the floor. tables knocked over. BSomething is very wrong.B he said. Something was very wrong. Then she reali5ed that Sy’s collection of movie 2ro2s had also been dismantled.B =ewis said.would ignite the kind of make-u2 se$ they hadn’t had since before the weddingHwhen she got a look at =ewis’s face.B (mily said. )hairs were u2ended. (mily thought the house had been broken into. 2utting his hands awkwardly on her shoulders as if he had never touched her before.
1t had been used for storage since Sy6s death. =-sha2ed room at the back of the house that might have been a 2orch at one time. She reali5ed that =ewis must have done this. 8er mouth formed the sha2e of a 0uestion but fro5e there. BAhat is this3B 8e took her by the hand and led her u2stairs to an awkward. 8e stood ne$t to (mily.2hony grandfather clock was neatly taken a2art. Finally she managed to shake off her sur2rise and say. a fake bank safe unscrewed and left in 2ieces. staring at the ruins of Sy6s 2ossessions as if he could not believe what he had accom2lished. =ewis had gathered all the cardboard bo$es that #illy had managed to 2ack u2 after the funeral . a cardboard television sliced a2art with a bo$ cutter.
(mily would not have been sur2rised if. after going through Sy6s house. And on to2 of those bo$es was a 2ile of money.and stacked them in the center of the room to form a kind of table. everything she had heard about him suggested that he was the kind of man who would stick a little cash under the mattress. This was a close-the-curtains-and-don’t-answer- . a handful of foreign currency left over from some tri2 to )anada or . and even a cou2le of fat envelo2es of twenties. they had ended u2 with two or three enormous jars of change. Although she had never met Sy. #ut this was not that kind of 2ile of money.e$ico. an old coffee can filled with crum2led dollar bills. 4ot just a little 2ile of money.
(mily had nothing to draw u2on but the movies hereHwhen they came out of a drug dealer’s 2ocket. 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. 1t was the kind of 2ile of money that would make anyone say what (mily said ne$t.B 8e slid 2ast (mily and walked around to the other .the-2hone 2ile money. CAho else knows about this3D =ewis e$haled dee2ly. the way they might look Hagain. A se2arate 2ile held battered fifties and twenties rolled together and bound by rubber bands. the way you’d see them in bank heist movies.
C)ount it yourself. B8ow much is here3B (mily asked. They both stood looking down at it as if they were studying a 2iece of scul2ture in a museum. C1 don’t even want to touch itKD (mily said. just 2acked with bundles of cash. B"ne of those steel briefcases.B =ewis said. CAhat is this3 Ahere did it come from3D BFirst 1 found a briefcase under the bed. After that 1 just kind of went nuts and started tearing . e$actly like something you’d see in the movies.D =ewis said.side of the 2ile. And then there was a duffel bag filled with rolls of bills in that fake bank safe he had in the kitchen. CSeven hundred thousand dollars.B CA8AT3D She backed u2 into the wall and reached for the door.
BAell.D B=ewis.B she said.B They both looked at it a while longer. 1 don6t know. BAho are we giving it to3B (mily 2lanted her hands on the moving bo$es and leaned over the 2ile of money. Ae could.B BLee2 it3 Are you cra5y3 1 don6t know where he got this money. She studied it carefully for a minute. Sy was involved in something .the 2lace u2. Ae can6t kee2 it. but it wasn6t from selling books. B"kay. to tell you the truth. actually. BShit. we can6t kee2 this.B =ewis was ready to carry out what ever decision someone else wanted to make about this money. Then =ewis said. though. 1 don’t even think 1’ve found it all.
And as far as 1 can tell. like the furniture3D =ewis walked back around the room and stood behind (mily. That store threw off a lot of 2rofit for a lot of years. too.D CSo what are you saying.else.D C"kay.B CThat’s not our 2roblem. but he hid it from the 1RS. we are involved in it. unless you count the coffee sho2.B =ewis shook his head. =ewis3 This money is just ours. !art of her wanted nothing to do with =ewis or his cra5y uncle or whatever this hea2 of bills . maybe. 8e 2robably hadn’t bought a new shirt in ten years. And if we kee2 the money. 8e never ate out. She leaned into him. Sy wasn6t s2ending it. (mily. B1 don6t know.
. CSo. !eo2le were always going on Anti<ues Roadsho! with some treasure that had been hidden away in the false bottom of a drawer for decades.re2resented.aybe we 2ut it in the attic under a floorboard. he had a 2oint. 1t6s not inconceivable that we could live in this house for years and never find his stash. =et6s say somebody comes looking for it down the road. . 8e whis2ered in her ear like he was seducing her. we wouldHD . #ut 2art of her was kind of interested in hearing what he had to say. B16m saying we 2ut the money back. Sy had some 2retty good hiding 2laces.ake it look like Sy stashed it there years ago where nobody would ever think to look.D Aell.
but she was sure that bank robber se$ would be even better than general-contractorhome-remodel se$. B:ou 2ay cash for a haircut every now and then. allowed herself to be led to the makeshift 2allet of blankets =ewis had assembled last night in the attic.B C1 don’t know. They turned the light out on the 2ile of money and (mily.BAe would just di2 into it a little at a time. Ae don6t make it obvious. Ae dro2 some cash when we go out to eat. 1t was e$actly the sort of 2lace a fugitive from justice would hide. Ae take some with us when we go on vacation.D (mily wasn6t sure about that. still refusing to lay down in Sy’s bed.B =ewis said. Ae just nibble at it around the edges. . his voice still low and gravelly in her ear. =ewis.
BAs soon as the co2s come looking for that money --B (mily giggled and stumbled into him. . They were all right.D he said. you know.=ewis knew her well enough to recogni5e the half-smile on her li2s as she stoo2ed to follow him through the attic. at least for now. CThis could be my last night of freedom.
fift"#four At midnight they were still awake and listening to the house shift and settle. =ewis had discovered that birds liked to land on the 2eak of the roof to look out across the valley below. C1s it )hristmas3D C"hKD (mily said. 8e had seen seagulls and ravens u2 there during the day.D She wra22ed a blanket around . making a 0uiet but distracting racket if you were trying to slee2 right under them. They scratched and 2icked at the shingles.B =ewis whis2ered. C1 forgotK 1 have a 2resent for you. but what bird would land there at night3 An owl3 BThey sound like reindeer.
Ahen she got there. 8er suitcase was still sitting just inside the front door where she’d left it.her shoulders and ran down two flights of stairs.D CAhat’s this for3D he said.D 8e leaned over and kissed her and then reached into the bag. CIustHcongratulations. taking the bag from her. B1 haven6t had time to wra2 it. "ut came a delu$e. To mark the start of our new life with the bookstore. She 2ulled out the 2a2er bag and dashed back u2stairs. leather-bound first edition of The Old Man and The Sea with 8emmingway’s signature stam2ed . =ewis turned on a desk lam2 he’d set u2 near his makeshift bed. but 1 want you to have it now. She sat cross-legged across from him.
nothing. and matching gold gilt on the fore-edge. sliding his hand back into the bag. 1t’s just--D #ut then his hand came out of the bag. C=ook at this.D CAnd what else is in here3D he asked. C. =ewis held it carefully.inger hel2ed me 2ick it out. CAell. intricately com2le$ and highly sought-after bud. floral. 1t’s the start of our library. C<id this come from the store3D C1t did. turning it over in his hands and o2ening it just a crack to 2eer inside.D he said. 8e dro22ed it like it was on fire.D she said. earthy. and in it was a tightly-wra22ed ounce of (dith’s su2remely sweet. For a long time .in gold on the cover. 1t sat between them on Sy’s old 0uilt. organic.
believing. . that it might e$2lain itself if they would just let it s2eak.they just watched it. 2erha2s.
#illy wasn’t much of a lawyerHthis was one thing )rawford and . Finally they heard his ste2s behind them on the stairs. .fift"#five The ne$t morning. . )rawford shuffled u2 the stairs to #illy <alton’s office like a kid who already knew he was grounded. standing tight-li22ed in the atrium. 8e nodded and led them silently down the hall.inger was waiting for him.inger could agree u2onHbut they didn’t dare confide in anyone else. )rawford looked at her and didn’t say a word.
8e 2ulled out a folding chair and sat across from them. sit. BAhen did this ha22en3B #illy asked. She thought it was some 0uaint little custom to come in and ask for rare book by 2rice. sitting as far a2art from each other as they could.B .B )rawford said.B he said. BSit. BShe had no fucking idea what she was doing.B . right before close. o2ening the door to what might have once been a corner suite in the building’s days as a hotel. gesturing to the couch.B1n here. BAnd she actually came in and asked for ---B B4o.B #illy said. B=ast night. There was a couch under the window and a dining room table covered in bo$es.inger said.inger and )rawford eased into it. . in his best cross-e$amination voice.
inger said. #illy. so what were they su22osed to think3B BThis is not the 2oint.B . BAhether it was an accident or not. Ahat are we su22osed to do3D #illy sighed and shook his head.B .B B)rawford. She knows. #y now. nearly shouting. B1t6s not. don6t be such an asshole. the 2oint is. .BAhy is that 0uaint3B #illy asked.inger said. So come on. B4obody6s heard from her3B B4ot yet.B )rawford said. she left with a bag that had an ounce of 2ot in it. B(mily and =ewis had seen other 2eo2le making big buys like that. They didn6t know what was really going on. they know.B )rawford said. B4e$t 0uestion. :ou6re the goddamn lawyer.
B BFine.inger looked down at her 2hone to check the time. B.B #illy said. !ack u2 all the shit and stick it in the vault.D C. Ae don’t o2en for another hour.inger. it would have to be her.et over there and clean out the store. 1f someone was going to take the fall for this. . that is.D CThen what3D )rawford said.#illy stood u2. 1f there’s any left. C1f (mily asks3 Tell her it6s yours. 8e looked 2ointedly at . more to get their attention than because he had anything im2ortant to say. BAho6s at the store3B . <oesn’t matter now. B4obody.ine3 Are you kidding3D )rawford said.
B8ow did you think this was going to end3B . 16ll tell her it was mine. and that 1 was trying to stash it away when she walked into the store. 16ll do it.B BAnd then what3B )rawford said. of ourse you go out of business. C<on6t worry about it.B he said. BAell. 1’ll say 1 got flustered when she bought the book.B .B1t6s only an ounce. and 1 handed her the bag 16d hidden it in. )rawford. BAe go back to being a regular bookstore3 Ae just go out of business3B #illy sat back down so he could look both of them in the eye.inger said.
of course. clearing out a stash of alternative rolling 2a2ers that the store’s staff had considered over the years but decided against clear cellulose. . And all the sho22ing bags had been em2tied of their merchandise. The 2ile of joints and dime bags in a 2ile behind the counter looked like the haul from a drug raid. (mily was under the desk.fift"#six #y the time they got to the store it was too late. There were. molasses infused. stray joints and even a long-lost shoe bo$ stuffed with what would have been called dime bags back in the days when a dime was still a dime. unbleached hem2 fiber.
D )rawford and . (mily emerged from under the desk with her 2ile of contraband. sur2rised. To think this has been back here all this time. They hadn6t had time to 2re2are a back-u2 story if . =ewis 2ut a hand on her shoulder.D she said. She was leading u2 to some kind of conclusion about what was going on at the <ragon. which she dum2ed on the counter.inger’s e$cuse failed.D =ewis said. and we didn’t onceHD 8er voice trailed off. 4either . but in fact. And 2ull u2 a chair. CIesus )hrist. she didn6t know what to conclude. =et them talk. That’s why we’re here.D )rawford did as he was told. )rawford. C(mily. C=ook at this.C=ock the door behind you. CAe’re closed.inger looked at each other.
you hear in the news about some fast food restaurant that gets busted for selling drugs out the drive-through window. And when he got nervous. there wasn6t really anybody around watching the store. yeah. B=ook. .one of them wanted to lead off with the truth. So they sat in silence a little longer than they 2robably should have. and they weren6t sure what kind of 2lausible lie the other would be willing to back u2. and it turns out that it6s one or two em2loyees who always work on Friday night when the manager is off-duty. that’s what ha22ened. he talked. so you guys ---B C"h. Their silence made =ewis nervous. So maybe this is something like that. After Sy died. so outraged that he forgot to 2lay it cool.D )rawford said.
Ahat utter misery. e$ce2t that her bed was still in the truck.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 .i5mo and books went e$tinct 0uicker than ty2ewriters did7 the <ragon’s fearful lurch from faltering but solvent bookstore to re2ository of unwanted books. . Ahat did ha22en3D They stared each other down. Finally . C)rawford. Sto2 it.inger on the other. =ewis and (mily on one side of the counter and )rawford and . She wanted des2erately to get through this conversation and crawl into her own bed.D (mily’s slee2less night was catching u2 with her.CAe just couldn’t wait to get rid of Sy so we could start our little drug dealing o2eration.
we didn6t even know what was going on. This thing was just cra5y enough to . CSy couldn’t turn them away. BAt first. #ut somehow word got out. BAe didn6t decide. we take care of you right here at the counter. it was kind of a joke. you 2ick out a book in the right 2rice range.D CSoHyou decided toHD =ewis was trying to move this along. Sy was always taking 2eo2le into the back room or walking around the block with them. Ae were like a book or2hanage. The first time he sold somebody a book and a joint.D )rawford said.B )rawford said.CThis is where books came to die.B (mily had forgotten her anger and her e$haustion. :ou come in.
ost 2eo2le just know.this is the retail 2rice.D .D .B B!eo2le don6t mind that3 They never com2lain about what they’re getting for their money3D (mily said. .inger said.inger said. you know3 This is the 2rice you 2ay if you don6t want any hassle and you don6t want to buy from some guy on the street.B C#esides.intrigue her. BAe are e$2ensive. Cthis is the only 2lace you can get (dith’s 2ot. C4ever. how do 2eo2le know how much to 2ay3B B. 4obody forces you to 2ay five bucks for a cu2 of coffee. BSo. 1t6s kind of like --. really e$2ensive. C(verybody calls it the Starbucks 2rice.B .o somewhere else if you don’t like it.D )rawford said.
She knows this thing is over.B =ewis ste22ed out from behind the counter and walked a half circle around )rawford and . looking down at her hands. C"h.inger. "r better yet. 8alf of (ureka was going to end u2 in jail if she didn6t shut u2. CThat’s the 2art 1 wasn’t su22osed to say anything about. which were 2icking nervously at each other.D B=ook. BTalk to (dith yourself.D she said. we6re done with this. e$amining them the way you6d look at .C(dithKD =ewis said. don6t.B )rawford said like a lawyer who didn6t want his client interrogated anymore. C(dith is involved in this3D )rawford shot an angry glance at .inger.
are they3B .D )rawford shrugged. looking mostly at his feet. BSo. 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 BAnd he didn6t want to take the encyclo2edias home. B:eah. C8e wanted to leave them here. the kid who came in and bought the encyclo2edia set for three thousand dollars3B )rawford grimaced and rubbed his forehead.e$otic animals in a cage.D =ewis said. That6s a 2ound. Finally he sto22ed and looked u2.B =ewis walked a cou2le more half circles around them. BThese 2eo2le aren6t actually reading the books. almost to himself.
And then you showed u2 and we didn’t know what would ha22en if we told you.B CSo how long were you 2lanning on kee2ing this u23B (mily said. 1 meanHthey just take them home andHwhat3 !ut them on a shelf3D B. #esides. C1t took so long to find the will. =ewisKB (mily said.B . forgetting that she wasn6t su22osed to be talking. so we just got used to running the store the way it had always run.ost 2eo2le bring them back after a while. BSome of our regulars buy the same books over and over. B1 don’t know.B4o.inger said. C!ay attentionKD C1 am 2aying attention. #illy . 2ounding her hands on the counter.B )rawford said.
thought that as long as the store was making moneyHB B#illy <alton knew about this3B =ewis said.inger. C(verybody knew about it. ($ce2t you. CThe lawyer kne!3D CAell.D said . with the unnatural calm of someone whose fate was already decided.D .
The 2lace was a disaster clothes strewn across the floor. 1t was time to wra2 things u2 and go home. em2ty coffee cu2s and 2i55a bo$es on every surface. 8e could only imagine what his friends in =ouisville would say if they could see him living like this. 8e didn6t remember getting back to his hotel room after yet another dinner in the bar the night before. An irrational craving for fruit forced him to sit u2 in bed and consider 2ulling himself .fift"#seven Richmond awoke with a sour stomach and a tongue covered in moss. and a do5en 2ot 2lants sitting on a windowsill.
8is colleagues at Sumner were working 0uickly while the .together before they closed the breakfast buffet downstairs. 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 2late of fruit. (very cell in his body was de2leted and dehydrated. Richmond wasn6t much of a fruit eater normally. 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. coffee --. The fruit was not nearly as satisfying as he e$2ected it to be.just thinking about it made him feel more human. a 2iece of toast. 8e checked his e-mail while he ate.
Richmond6s boss Tom called the conce2t a CcafW-meets-brew2ub model. There would be a smoke sho2 in the corner. a committee of retail consultants and marketing gurus were 2utting conce2tual drawings and business 2lans together for a chain of retail outlets.D a more res2ectable version of an Amsterdam coffeehouse. a meatball sub.eanwhile. a bakery selling the usual brownies and cookies. . and other reci2es under develo2ment back . The idea was to a22eal to wellheeled #aby #oomers who were all too willing to revert to their old habits in a more legitimate and better-lit environment. the research division was 0uietly getting strains ready for 2atent. and a 2ub serving a mildly herbal macaroni and cheese.legislative team 2aved the way for )ongress to take action.
which would anchor =e$ Trevino6s new develo2ment -. 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. The 8umboldt location --. 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. And the first of those cafW-meets-brew2ubs would o2en here in 8umboldt )ounty. but the marketing team e$2ected it to take on an im2ortant symbolic role as the flagshi2 store.in a rented test kitchen in =ouisville. grainy black-and-white 2hotogra2hs would be taken. and the fictional .would not be their largest outlet or their most 2rofitable.
get those 2lants from (dith. 8e would 2ack a lunch. The . #ut nobody seemed to know where this woman was. he wondered how far he would be willing to go to get the 2lants. and book a flight back to Lentucky.com2any founder would 2romise to remain true to his 8umboldt roots. So Richmond had his orders from =ouisville wra2 u2 a few details with =e$. As he drove to (dith’s. 8e was frustrated by his inability to get through to (dith he had been to her house several times and had found neither the garden nor the gardener7 he had snoo2ed around the bookstore7 he had tried to 2ry information out of the growers. Today he was going to go to her house and cam2 out on her 2orch if he had to. 8e would s2end the day.
#ut really. The fact that her 2lants survived outside also intrigued Sumner6s agricultural scientists.e$ecutives at Sumner had come to believe that (dith was in 2ossession of some e$traordinarily marketable strain. who had already confirmed that the strains they6d obtained from hydro2onic growers needed too much 2am2ering and wouldn6t survive in Lentucky6s former tobacco fields. 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 .
selling cigarettes to smokers. 8e would try one more time with (dith. he hadn6t even smoked 2ot since he was in high school. .The truth was that Richmond didn6t have the stomach for intimidating old ladies or sneaking around on wooded lots. 8e 2ulled 0uickly 2ast it and drove down the hill to 2ark alongside the road. 8e wasn6t cut out to be a drug dealer. A car and a moving van were 2arked in (dith6s driveway and he got there. !oint is. and then he was heading home. and even that was ditchweed that couldn’t get a jaybird high. Aas (dith moving3 This might be his last chance. 8ell. he didn’t belong in the middle of this mess. 8e signed on for a nice desk job in =ouisville.
carefully. #efore he got to the driveway. he heard voices. 8e stood and listened for a minute. he could see an e$2anse of unmown grass and a long hedge beyond it. but there was at least one man and one woman. They were outside and down the hill. The voices seem to be coming from the other side of the hedge. "n the other side. and it was an angry confrontation. 8e could not make out what they were saying. 8e ti2toed 2ast his car and finally found an o2ening in the bramble he thought he could sli2 through. . sto22ing every minute or two to listen to those voices rise and fall.Richmond followed a tangle of blackberry vines back u2 the hill. near where he 2arked the car. And so he went back down the hill. 0uietly.
Another woman6s voice followed. B1 told you. he ste22ed carefully to avoid sna22ing a twig or crunching dead leaves. listening. BThis is it. 16m done. 8e decided to take a risk and get closer. There was an enormous holly tree halfway between where he was hiding in where the voices were coming from.B That had to be (dith. 1 don6t have anything left to 2lant.B came a 0uiet but clear voice. . and stood in the dwindling late morning shadows. suffering only a few scratches. CAnd you were going to let this go on for how long3D said the man.8e sli22ed through the blackberry vines. 8is heart 2ounding as he walked. too low for him to hear.
B said the man.B B4obody is going to jail. he figured.B the man said. that6s an understatement. Aere they coming this way3 8e listened as the footste2s traveled down the hill and away from him.B the first woman said irritably. must surround (dith6s garden. 8e had to get closer. As he crossed the field and ducked under the hedge that. he wondered how this situation would .BAell.1 wish we didn6t even kno! about this. B<o you want to see the rest of the 2lants or not3B B. B4ot only do 1 not think we should own this --. Richmond stood u2 so 0uickly that the to2 of his head was im2aled by the shar2 s2ines of the leaves of the holly tree. (mily.ight as well. Ae could all go to jail for this thing.
!eo2le around the office had grown 2retty cavalier about the whole thing. Sumner had been ac0uiring marijuana strains and 2ro2agating them in greenhouses alongside tobacco 2lants for over a year now. #ut he wasn6t in =ouisville. They were on friendly terms with the =ouisville !olice <e2artment. 8e was in 8umboldt. su22osedly the most marijuanafriendly county in the country. #ut when the feds brought their cho22ers in for a raid. So who could say what might . and the cor2orate attorneys were always ready to arrange bail and craft a 2lausible e$2lanation if anyone was discovered around an illegal 2lant.look to law enforcement. they e$2ected coo2eration from local 2olice and they usually got it.
The overgrowth of shrubs and vines surrounding it were better than any security fence Sumner had ever erected around its tobacco fields.ha22en if he was caught sneaking around one of 8umboldt6s most notorious outdoor grows3 The voices inside the garden had faded com2letely. 4othing could get through it. There had to be a gate somewhere. And then he reali5ed that he couldn’t see the way back to the car. and climbing over it would be a thorny. . never 0uite feeling that he had turned a corner or reached the other side. Richmond cre2t around the hedge. 2ainful mess. 1t curved so gradually that he had no real sense of how large this garden might be.
#ut heH C1 have to admit. Richmond reali5ed that the voices belonged to (mily and =ewis. C16m not saying we should become 2ot growers. before setting out like this. Anyone else would have 2icked a landmark. who he had seen in the store from time to time. CThese 2lants are kind of fascinating. They were checking out their su22lier.D came a woman’s voice. :ou don6t e$2ect to see .Ahat an idiot. rising out of nowhere and cutting off Richmond’s thoughts.D C(milyKD said the man. 16m just saying it’s kind of interesting. 4ow it was starting to make sense. like a tele2hone 2ole or even an overturned log. CAhat3D (mily said. And there’s something about this garden-. he thought.
B (dith said. Things just sort of grew from there. 1 like to mess around in a garden. we only started with one or two 2lants. B4ot really. C1t just wasn6t interesting to me any other way. and if you6re just growing one 2lant over and over again in a garage under lights. and just high enough to sit . with roses and a22le trees and all these other flowers around. 1t was easier to tuck them into the garden. 1t6s sunny and warm. it gets boring. it was really just an accident. BAe have this interesting little microclimate right here.marijuana growing in the garden like this. Remember.B said the woman Richmond had identified as (dith.D B1sn6t it harder to get them to grow outside like this3B (mily asked. Ahy do you do it this way3B B"h.
of course. C!ot’s 2ractically the state flower u2 here. walking into a store and just 2lacing their order3D CAe’ve got something nobody else has.B CAnd it all goes to the <ragon.D (mily said. This was your uncle Sy’s idea. 1 2ut a kind of cold frame around them. a smile in her voice. right3 Aren’t they kind of e$2osed.D (dith said. Ahy do 2eo2le come to you3 They can get it anywhere.above the fog. yes. and it6s almost like they6re in a greenhouse.B CSo here’s what 1 don’t understand. CAhat3D . CAell.D =ewis said. 8is way of kee2ing the store o2en after 2eo2le sto22ed buying books. 1 usually 2ick a few 2lants to nurse through the winter.
D CAhat do you mean. BAe6re not the ones dealing drugs. that6s right. #ut this is a really different 2roduct. :ou ever sell to kids3B B1 don6t sell to anybody. maybe even a different s2ecies.CThese 2lants. CAell. different3D =ewis asked. . :ou should know what you’re destroying before you do it. 1 don’t see why not.B =ewis said. :ou6re just the gardener. C8aven’t you tried it3D C4oKD (mily and =ewis shouted in unison.B (dith said. B:eah. 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.B =ewis said.B B:ou make it sound like we6re the bad guys.
<on’t worry.D (dith said.D (dith said.D C=ook. C1t’s yours now. :ou two are the ones calling the shots here. <o whatever you’re going to do. =et6s go. lord. 1HD C=ewis3 :ou’re u2set. That’s enough. BAll right.(dith sighed.D Richmond listened as they scrambled u2 the hill toward what must be the entrance to the garden. and that’s fine. C:ou mean--D C"h. 1’m 2acking u2.D C#utHwhat’s going to ha22en to thisH 2lace3D (mily asked. 1f (dith was really 2lanning on getting . Richmond could hear her walking away. but don’t take it out on me. C1’ll get rid of all the offensive 2lants before 1 go.
They chattered and scolded him and landed a few yards away. There was no noise from inside. And sneaking into the garden while =ewis and (mily were around seemed like too much of a risk. guaranteeing that he would only disturb them again. although from the tone in her voice he didn’t think she’d be interested in striking a deal with a stranger. As he moved he startled a flock of s2arrows that had settled into the shrubs. 8e could try to get (dith alone and make her an offer. he could come back tonight and take some 2lants. he didn6t have much time. 8e continued to inch around the hedge.rid of the 2lants. 1f he could just find the entrance in the daylight. 8e watched them jockey for 2osition among the bramble and .
BIust a little di55y is all. B(dith fell. )omes and goes.B Richmond heard someone fumbling with a latch just u2 the hill from him. 8e watched as (dith.D C1’m all right.D (dith said. C(dithK Aatch out. Iust then he heard =ewis’s voice. from some distance. but she sounded weak. closer than he e$2ected and 2lainly irritated. 8e dro22ed to his knees and ducked into the shrubs.2reen their tiny feathers.B (dith said in a firmer voice. A few of them fi$ed their bright black eyes on him. walked u2 the hill and .B =ewis shouted back. BAhat ha22ened3B shouted (mily. B16m fine. a slight woman with short grey hair in comfortable disarray.
back to the house with (mily and =ewis. (dith looked like a wild bird caught between them. that they would never fit in here. She held on to =ewis as she walked. he looked like he could have been her beloved grandson home on a break from medical school. 1n his carefullyironed khaki 2ants and navy blue sweater. both (mily and =ewis looked so comfortably middle-class and res2ectable that even Richmond could see. 1n fact. after only a short time in 8umboldt )ounty. .
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. figuring that it was one way to make sure they got a final 2aycheck.inger sold the last of what they had in the store to a few long-time customers.D they told 2eo2le as . CAe’re done. )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.
D 4obody did. . C1t’s over.uillermo told him he’d seen an angry . buy a book. which was fine with him because. so really. Aithout it.the news s2read. but his fees for handling Sy’s will would get him by for a while. his ne$t client might just be himself. =ewis was calling every cou2le of hours. no one would bother showing u2 to govern. as he liked to say. #illy <alton decided that the wisest course of action would be to sto2 answering his 2hone. 8e knew he should drum u2 a few new clients. There wasn’t much going on right now anyway the city attorney’s office had told him to back off his investigations of conflict-of-interest charges among council members. local government is nothing but a conflict of interests. why bother3 #esides. :ou want to buy something.
and he almost made it.confrontation at the store. and =ewis and (mily were finding out what it would take to kee2 their million-dollar bookstore in business. all of which involved the same 2otent brew of downand-out 2etty criminals with distant ties to 8umboldt’s 2ower elite. !robate was always easy in a town this si5e. The mayor’s daughter’s e$-boyfriends gets into a dis2ute with . #y now the whole thing had blown u2. and minor thefts. #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. drunk driving charges. Iudges lined u2 for the chance to handle a nice dry financial transaction instead of another day of messy child custody hearings.
#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. a clean and easy will was a joy. #y com2arison. So the work on the will was nearly com2lete. the 2ro2erty. Aith any luck.his landlord. 4e$t to losing Sy. The business. 8e had other . the ra2idly-dwindling bank accountHit would all be officially theirs as soon as the 2a2erwork finished snaking its way through the courthouse. That sort of thing. #illy wouldn’t see or hear from the heirs until it was all over. the disa22earance of (dith6s sweet herb from his daily routine would surely be one of the major tragedies of his life. a genuine slum lord who ha22ens to have a brother on the 2lanning commission.
. of course -. a funhouse of creativity and color that left nothing behind but mild elation. on the other hand. forcing him to become a common drug dealer.he had re2resented half the growers in town at one time or another -. had 2roduced a botanical wonder. but even he had to admit that the <ragon’s house blend delivered the same gentle e$ultation and wisdom that Leats and <ickinson once did. Sy used to com2lain that the death of the book had thrown him from the lofty 2ost of bookseller.sources.but the tri2le-crossed hydro strains they grew induced levels of hallucination and 2aranoia that should never be inflicted u2on an attorney. 1t made 2eo2le feel light and bright and beautiful. 1n his worst moments. (dith.
C!robably back at the house yelling at (dith. it is not business as usual.uillermo said with a hint of irritation. . C1 think we’re done with business as usual.D #illy followed .D .D CAhere are they3D #illy asked.uillermo inside and 2oured himself a cu2 of coffee behind the counter. he said. #illy walked to "ld Town.uillermo was dum2ing coffee grounds into a recycling bin in the alley7 without looking u2. giving the <ragon a wide berth and sli22ing into the back door of )ontra )offee.D CShit.After taking care of a cou2le of details at the courthouse. C1s it business as usual over there3D C4o. C1 think you’re clear. :ou mean--D .
D . 2lease. )ouldn’t you have 2rotected them3 Aho knows what those kids are going to do3D C1 am not their lawyer. #illy.D CThey took it home3 They can’t do thatKD C"h.D CAhat does this have to do with me3D C:ou’re their lawyer. After everything they’ve been through.CThey’re sold out. "r maybe they took it home as severance 2ay.uillermo said. fishing a cou2le bucks out of his 2ocket and swa22ing them for a scone from the 2latter on the counter. C:ou’re the store’s lawyer. :ou’re in no 2lace to critici5e them. C<on’t you care what ha22ens to the store3D .D #illy said. or so they claim.
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. Through the storefront’s wavy glass they looked as though they had been sus2ended in amber.oney laundering. 8e could see )rawford and .D #illy said. C<rug dealing.inger standing 2erfectly still behind the counter. . .C=et’s see.uillermo laughed and 2ushed #illy out from behind the counter. 1 shouldn’t even be seen in that 2lace.D . Ta$ evasion.
to ever kick u2 much of a fuss over the <ragon’s agricultural enter2rise. Then again. but she never e$2ected such fury from him. but when she did. . on her front 2orch. too ha2less. Ahen she first met him she thought he was too docile. She knew he wouldn’t a22rove of it. and they will let you see it. Ahat unsettled (dith the most was his res2onse to her garden.fift"#nine (dith sat. =ewis had left in a rage. She hadn6t let many 2eo2le inside over the years. everyone has an ugly side. !ush a 2erson far enough. something she didn’t think he was ca2able of. shaking.
The giant monkey 2u55le tree in the center. a re2tilian conifer from the age of dinosaurs that became a 9ictorian curiosity. with its sticky buds and dee2 2ur2le veins.well. 8e backed away from the tall.they usually res2onded the way #illy did. and even the least horticulturally-minded visitor would be entranced. The bright 2ur2le tibouchina with its magenta stamens. fleshy stalks of cannabis as if they were . Add to that the s2ectacle of this forbidden 2lant. #ut not =ewis. there6s no better word for it V into$icated. They were -. the e$otic fuchsias ri2ening into luscious dark hi2s that were sweet enough to eat. the grassy dierama s2routing wands of 2ink 2endulous blooms. Tro2ical flowers were so out of 2lace here that they looked almost 2sychedelic.
like honey7 you could almost taste it. 8e got tangled in a floribunda and swatted at it.2oison. attacking back and getting even more ensnared rather than delicately 2ulling himself away. but as a kind of botanical cons2iracy 2er2etrated u2on him by everyone at the <ragon. S2iders terrified him7 dirt offended him.onarchs. The western 2ainted ladies had just recently arrived. The air was warm and sweet and faintly golden. Their wings were sturdy and functional. but that made them seem tougher. A chorus of tiny was2s and dragonflies bu55ed through the tall grass. smaller and less showy than . 8e seemed to regard the garden not as her creation. somehow. not the . 1t was an es2ecially fine day to be out on the hillto2 where (dith’s cottage sat.
"nce they’d made love right there on the 2orch. of course. The four of them had emerged.onarchs from here to .e$ico. slee2y and startled. . a 2retense for something far more interesting. "n a day like today Sy would leave the store in the hands of his em2loyees and sit right here with her. They had disturbed a family of skunks slee2ing under the 2orch. but in the middle of it they had a feeling of being watched. just where (dith was sitting now. watching Sy and (dith from not ten feet away. and stood fro5en in 2lace. saying nothing. from a ga2 under the 2orch ste2s. leading her inside for a na2. which was.elegant and fragile 2anes of stained glass that trans2orted . just watching the light move across the roofline of his house. (ventually he’d take her hand and 2ull her to her feet.
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$2ected to last. and if the daughter in Seattle would mind a long visit in the summer to get away from the heat. These women saw their husbands as 2rojects. Some of them even s2oke about their 2lans for widowhood.The sight of those four fat black tails aloft in the grass was enough to diminish Sy’s ardor7 they’d 2ulled their clothes on and s2ent the rest of the morning 2ounding boards around the foundation. Sy seemed like the kind of man who would never die. wondering aloud whether they would 2refer to be close to the grandchildren in !hoeni$. .
8e 2referred the com2any of kids he knew what music they were listening to. he went to their art o2enings in a warehouse at the edge of town. he hung out with skateboarders and back2ackers and surfers. that the sun would rise and .Sy was never like that7 he was salty and tenacious. and s2irited like a teenager. 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. The collection of outbuildings he’d assembled on his 2ro2erty functioned as a kind of home for wayward youth. 1t seemed im2ossible that time could just move on. and nothing that absolutely had to be done. (dith e$2ected the world to sto2 turning when Sy died. They grew into wayward adults.
too.set. and ste22ing carefully around the holes Sy left in her world as if he might be back anytime to fill them u2 again. And in a few weeks. 2utting as many of the 2ieces back into 2lace as 2ossible. At first she was outragedHwhat did they think she was. The 2lants had to go by the end of the day. a farm hand3Hbut soon she succumbed to the rhythm of her old life. nervously. . She didn’t even reali5e that the <ragon had continued to o2erate until )rawford had called. a week or so after Sy’s death and asked if there would be any more 2roduct. she would need to be out. that 2eo2le would get u2 in the morning and make the bed and go to work as if nothing had ha22ened. #ut she could hold a 2lace for him no longer.
4ever mind. she scoo2ed a handful of trail mi$ out of a bag in the 2antry and ate it as she went back down the hill. She was almost to the garden’s gate when she reali5ed that she didn’t have any tools with her. She knew she should eat something before she went back to the garden. 8e’d worked himself into a full-blown 2anic at . She’d 2ull them out with her bare hands. Rather than choke down a miserable little sandwich in her kitchen.The trembling in her hands hadn’t sto22ed. #ut 2utting it off would only make her feel worse. sixt" (mily refused to let =ewis drive.
Finally he lifted his head and s2oke.(dith’s garden. =ewis. he left one of those take-thisjob-and-shove-it messages that every em2loyee .D =ewis hadn’t told (mily that he when he 0uit by voice mail. 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. :ou can 2robably get your old job back. She backed out of the driveway and headed into town. CThat’s what you’re worried about3 :our job3 :ou can get another job. but then she reali5ed that taking him back to the bookstore might not be the wisest move. 8e was sitting with his head in his hands. C1 can’t believe 1 0uit my job.’ She laughed and turned to stare at him. She was afraid to touch him.
at the <ragon. That cash will smooth things over. )lean it u2 and run it like a bookstore.D (mily asked.D BAell. the a2artment. #ut never mind7 the 2oint was that he could. 1t’s everything. C1t’s not just that. and we’ve got bills to 2ay. of course. #ut either we go back to the #ay Area and get to work. . we’ve got to do something.aybe the contractors will take cash. even if we can’t use it to 2ay our credit cards and all that. 1’ve already lost a cou2le of clients. CAhat3 At the <ragon3D C:es. =ewis. 1 don’t know.fantasi5es about. get another job.D . #ut we can’t stay here. :ou’re out of a job. justHthe whole lea2. 1 don’t think 1 can go back. The job. or you just do what you were 2lanning on doing.
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
8er hands shook and lost their gri2. For a minute. . the 2lants were her whole world. they used u2 all the air. They blocked out the light. She fought for a breath but couldn’t get one.2ollen. The leaves trembled on their stems. and then they were gone and there was nothing but sky.
he should at least try to talk to her first. (dith could be back any time. 8e listened as (mily and =ewis took leave of (dith and drove away. 4o sound came from the to2 of the hill. maybe she would be ready to entertain . which was almost hidden by brush. #esides. 8e waited for what seemed like a very long time before he moved.sixt"#three Richmond saw no reason to go back to his car em2ty-handed. 1f =ewis and (mily were 2utting her out of business. he came at last to the gate. This is what he came here to do. 1nching his way slowly around the garden. so he might as well get it over with. but he didn’t dare go in.
staring at the grass. 1t seemed to take an eternity to get back to the gate. . sitting on her front 2orch. 8e moved slowly again. The corner of (dith’s cottage came into view. if he could find a way to a22roach without making it look as though he was sneaking u2 on her.an offer. afraid that any sound he made would carry on such a still and 0uiet day.aybe he should make his way back to the car and 2ull into the driveway. 8e could have cash by the end of the day. 1t would be a good time to talk to her. and then he could see her there. That 2ost would be easy to s2ot . 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.
#ack u2 the hill he went. Richmond wondered why he. SomeoneHit must be (dithH walked down the hill and 2ushed the gate o2en. 8e could hear her rustling around.again. of all 2eo2le. Richmond stood at the gate and tried to collect himself. had been sent . 8e heard it clang shut behind her. Aas she 2ulling out 2lants already3 8e had to move. no intrusions. just walk in and announce yourself. For the hundredth time. The thing to do would be to walk in like any other visitor and call out her name. 4o sur2rises. 8e ke2t moving. 1t would guide him back to the gate if he was in a hurry. 8e was halfway back to his car when he heard footste2s. retracing his ste2s and 2ausing just outside the gate to listen for her.
still nervous. not that he had tried very hard. 8e could hear her tugging at 2lants and bashing them down. 1nstead. 8e couldn’t even get close to this woman. and gone. then turned and walked away again. . grabbed the 2lants.aybe Sumner should have rounded u2 some hired thugs who could have come in under cover of darkness. he’d been here all this time and his nerve had failed him over and over. 8er breath was high and ras2y7 the leaves shuffled like 2a2ers around her.on this ridiculous mission. After several minutesHstill waiting. And now he had no choice but to march in and wrestle 2lants away from her. still gathering his resolveHhe reali5ed . She came straight to the gate with a 2ile of something.
She must have gone dee2er into the garden. and no sense of order. lord.he couldn’t hear her anymore. Richmond thought about the e$2ansive estate gardens in =ouisville with their dee2 herbaceous borders flanking . no network of flagstone 2aths. At last he lifted the latch. and (dith’s sweet delicious cro2 was made all the more sweet and delicious by its unconventional surroundingsHthen Sumner didn’t stand a chance. "h. 8e didn’t even know how he would describe this 2lace to their cro2 scientists. 1t wasn’t a garden in any ordinary sense there was no lawn. ducked under the thorny burgundy canes of a blackberry in fruit. 1f only Tom could see this. no fountain or scul2ture or deck. and took a ste2 inside. 1f the rumors were true.
There was no sign of (dith. he sli22ed his 2hone out of his 2ocket and sna22ed a few 2ictures of the garden for Tom.wide swaths of neatly-mown bluegrass. following the foot2aths (dith had worn through the garden. was a jungle. Tobacco growers would be 2ersuaded to 2ut in cannabisHhell. 8e treaded carefully. This. 1f this was really the strain Sumner needed. they’d want to analy5e the nutrients in the soil and try to match them in the laboratory. There. by com2arison. #efore he went looking for her. not . 8e also bent down and scoo2ed a handful of soil into his 2ocket. #ut they would not be talked into turning their fields into a tro2ical wilderness like this one. their grandfathers had grown hem2 right through Aorld Aar 11.
far from the gate. and here they were. but not u2rooted. 1t looked like a cyclone had come through the garden and targeted only cannabis for its destruction. remembering that he had intended to announce himself at the gate. And another. si$-foot tall s2ecimen that had been knocked over and crushed.iss Ratner3 8elloKD The trail led him down to the bottom of the garden. <own the trail he saw a beefy. She was ri22ing them out. was the 2ile of young 2lants she had ri22ed out. C(dithKD he called. as 2ale and lim2 as wilted lettuce. And then he saw another. C. The 2lants his com2any was staking its future on. 1t was easy to follow the 2ath she had taken7 there were 2lants knocked down on both .
sides. C(dithKD he called again.D he called. )ould she be out of earshot3 "r was she hiding3 C. 1’ve come here with a business offer for you.iss Ratner. C1’m from =ouisville. ho2ing she was listening nearby. 1 just want to talk. he still couldn’t tell how big her garden was. Ahere was she3 8e reali5ed that after all the time he’d s2ent lurking around this 2lace today. 1t seemed to stretch and move. C. an illegal 2lant stood out. and just a few healthier s2ecimens remained off in the distance. Lentucky. 4o answer. (ven in this overgrown tangle. like the arms of an octo2us.iss Ratner3 8ello3D . Richmond could see the s2iky leaves from here.D 4othing. my name is Richmond Tate.
And then he saw her. .
Richmond thought. unri2e fruit. the s2iky and surreal blossoms of the 2assionflower vine. and already cold. 8er cheek was as fragile as tissue. but he could imagine that this would be how a gardener . bending over (dith as if she was a turtle shell or a butterfly wing.sixt"#four The skin of a dead 2erson was more like the skin of an onion. and the towering cannabis 2lants she had wrestled to the ground. 8e sat back on his heels and looked out at the botanical wonder around her the a22le tree bearing small. Richmond was no gardener. some natural curiosity he had found in the grass.
on a warm and fragrant afternoon. 4ot in a hos2ital.would want to go. . 4ot alone by the side of the road. 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. but here. against the living earth.
then he would have to flee with them. 1f he called the 2olice. 8e could carry her back to her house and leave the garden out of it. . #ut he6d seen enough crime shows to know that moving a body always looked sus2icious. were what he came here for --. after all.sixt"#five (dith’s death 2osed a 2roblem for Richmond. they would find the two of them here. 8e couldn6t very well wait for the 2olice to show u2 when he had a car stuffed full of recently-harvested marijuana. 1f he took the 2lants --. surrounded by the evidence of her illegal activity.which.
either. The cro2 was halfdestroyed. and he ran. Ahat Richmond did ne$t didn6t make anything better. There was no good way for this to end.And there was no telling how much time he had before (mily and =ewis came back. (dith was already dead. . The 2lants wilted as he fretted and 2aced. but it didn6t make anything worse. 8e grabbed all the marijuana he could carry.
4othing as heavy and awkward as an air2lane should be able to stay u2 in the air. and the an$iety would kill him long before the fiery crash over the Sierras. 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. #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. So at the last minute he had ignored Tom’s orders and shi22ed the 2lants back to =ouisville in their turkey bags. Fortunately.
but would at least re0uire some effort. So Richmond boarded his flight unencumbered by contraband and therefore slightly less afraid. but not investigated. CEse the 2rinter cubicle. the kid behind the counter figured it out. free of charge.D he said. Tri2le-wra2 that shit.bo$es. They kid assured Richmond that such a small 0uantity might be confiscated. Richmond didn’t even have to e$2lain his 2roblem7 when he looked around the cram2ed store for a 2rivate 2lace to 2ack the bo$. C#low into the bag and then seal it u2. and he made it . which would not be im2ossible to trace to Sumner. :ou need another bag3D And he 2ulled a bo$ of turkey bags out from behind the counter and offered them. The 2ackage went off to a little-used maintenance yard in 4ew Albany.
the rest of the way home on the wings of three slee2ing 2ills and just a little s2lash of jack and coke to wash them down. .
PART THREE .
sixt"#seven =e$6s least favorite official duties as a councilmember were ribbon-cutting ceremonies and funerals. #ut funerals were worse. Those 2ro2s. She shuddered when grieving family members handed her the micro2hone. She couldn6t 2ro2erly mourn her constituents. The )hamber 2roduced the same 2re2osterous red bows and oversi5ed gold scissors at every ribbon-cutting. . were further 2roof that her job carried all the weight of a school 2lay. along with the enormous checks s2rinkled with silver glitter that she sometimes had to 2resent at community fundraisers. these 2eo2le she barely knew.
They looked out at her from the de2ths of their anger and confusion and e$2ected her. #ut these 2eo2le --. (dith6s funeral was 2articularly difficult. she wanted to say.were so lost. to make sense of it. but 1 can6t fi$ this. not a 2riest. The . 1 can fi$ a 2arking ticket. She was a small town elected official. as an elected leader.these stricken 2arents and children and friends --. =e$ had not seen much of her in recent years.asking her to say a few words about the de2arted. 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. and besides. as a no-nonsense adult in a suit. it didn6t seem right to invite 2eo2le to the scene of her mysterious death.
The store was closed for the day. 2icking u2 a 2rogram near the door. Todd =arson walked in right behind him. so the regular customers came and went anyway. browsing the books. the default location for memorials in town. (ventually it was decided that The Firebreathing <ragon would be the most fitting 2lace to say farewell to (dith. these two 2eo2le needed to get to know . but then again. A funeral was no 2lace to do business. and hel2ing themselves to the trays of refreshments as if it was an o2en house. but the doors remained unlocked. was rejected as too sterile. She saw <on )antrell walk in and shake =ewis’ hand before he headed for the food.community center at the marina.
This is Todd. BSo. <on straightened slightly and shook Todd6s hand. in his best man-to-man voice.D she said. he had the air of someone who wasn’t used to tucking in his shirt. =e$3B .each other. CTodd’s going to be our 2roject manager.D said =e$.D Todd said. C<on.D <on 2ressed his li2s together and nodded. She hurried downstairs to make the introductions. BAnd what 2roject would that be. 2atting Todd awkwardly on the back. 8e was one of those young men who never managed to look like an adult7 even now. Todd wore khaki 2ants and a tucked-in shirt. C<on.
16ve got financing and 16ve got a tenant. CAnd who’s our tenant3D C:ou remember our new friend Richmond3D CAhat.D . BAe are on. CAhat3D he hissed. The council is ready to move on the ne$t round of 2lans we submit.D CAnd Todd hereQD C1s not going u2 for reelection ne$t year.D said <on.=e$ leaned over to whis2er to him. C:ou’re doing business with a tobacco com2any3 1 thought that guy was a botanist. knocking a stack of books off the shelf he had been leaning against. the tobacco e$ecutive3 8e’s going to sell cigarettes by the seashore3D Todd jum2ed. C. <on.D =e$ said.ot it.
CSo why did he want toHD B=isten to me.=e$ held u2 her hands.D he said. that’s all.B Todd fumbled with the books. looking for the em2ty s2ot on the shelf they must have occu2ied. and then gave u2 and set them back on the floor. This is a brew2ub. BAith all the local breweries around here3 :ou’re going to bring in a national chain3D CTodd. Sumner owns a lot of different com2anies.D BA brew2ub3B Todd said. s2eaking with e$aggerated care as if she was talking to a five . There is not a brewery in town that will sign a five-year lease on a building that has not yet been built and 2ay !ortland rents for a (ureka location. BAhoa. as if he didn’t 0uite buy it.B =e$ said. C8uh.
B Todd sighed. <on here draws u2 2lans. There will be lots of o22ortunities for local businesses on the waterfront. <on3D <on gave =e$ another tight. C1 get it. Ae6re even going to have lofts for artists. 1t seemed like everybody was learning how the world worked this week. . 2ained smile and turned with Todd to look out the window toward the vacant waterfront. Ahy don’t you tell him about the lofts.year-old. 1 2ut the financing together. 1 justHB CTodd. and you oversee the whole thing to make sure that the 2lans match u2 with what the 2eo2le who have the money want. CAe each have our roles.
oblivious to the event taking sha2e in the store. B)amels.sixt"#ei ht As 2eo2le gathered for the memorial =ewis stood behind the counter. a kid6s book. like. feeling awkward and out of 2lace.B =ewis looked u2 and saw that 2eo2le were watching him. Ae6re in the middle of a ---B . B<o you have any books on camels3B she asked =ewis. we’re actually closed today. B:ou mean. or just --. A woman walked in. and leaned over the counter. 1 like to read stories about camels.a book about camels3B BStories.B =ewis re2eated. B:ou know.
1 don6t see camels. Ae6ve got horses.B 8e took her by the elbow and steered her out the front door. more to get her out of the store 0uickly than anything. BAe do have a section on mammals. BSorry.B =ewis said. =ewis followed. but we6re closed today to 2ay res2ects to a friend of ours who has died. 1 should6ve been able to handle that.B the woman said eagerly. ratsHB B=et me see what you got on rats. )rawford. )rawford finally came to his assistance. B16m sorry. giraffes. =ewis followed her. feeling like an idiot. ma6am.B . B1t6s right here.B<on6t you have any animal stories3B The woman headed to the back of the store.
and you6re not going to e$2lain it to them.what we have for sale. She’s what your uncle Sy used to call our Ty2e Four customer. BTy2e Two would be the 2eo2le who come in wanting to buy Vuh-.BForget it. so let me guess. and they knew how it worked. but they6re not really sure how it works. BAell.B B:ou mean ---B BThey were here to buy what we had to sell.B =ewis said.B )rawford said.B B"kay.B . BTy2e "ne was the customer who came in here and understood what was going on.B BAhat does that mean3B =ewis asked. folding his arms across his chest and leaning over to s2eak to =ewis in a low voice.
B C)ra5y 2eo2le. e$actly. "rHno. BAnd Ty2e Three are the tourists who have no idea what6s going on. why is she cra5y just because she wants a book about camels3B BShe doesn6t want a book about camels.CThat6s right. BAhat3B B1 don6t know.B BAell. .B )rawford said.B BAnd then there’s Ty2e Four. 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. and they can6t believe they6re in an actual bookstore with actual books for sale. Ahich they 2robably won’t buy. She wants to find a book that will make sense of whatever cra5y thing is rattling around inside her head.
C=ewis. 8e set them on the counter and then joined =ewis and )rawford by the door.D came a voice at the door.B C#ehind you.uillermo with another tray of cookies.aybe she just comes in here because we6re a ca2tive audience.maybe that6s not right. 2atting him on the back. C#een 0uite a week for you.D =ewis made an uncomfortable half-smile and looked down at the floor. #ut she comes in here. She can6t very well go into a shoe store and strike u2 a conversation about camels. and we6re more or less obligated to go down that road with her. 4ow that the truth had come out. 1t was . 2eo2le were treating him like he was 2art of the family. .D . 4ever mind the fact that he had 2ut a halt to the <ragon’s nefarious .uillermo said.
it’sHwell.D =ewis said.D =ewis said.activities7 they always e$2ected him to do that. really. Ae have to do an earth0uake retrofit and fi$ the roof. CThe house needs a lot of work. 4ot that there was any alternative. CAell. es2ecially now that (dith was gone and her cro2 was wrecked. 1n s2ite of everything that had ha22ened.D CSo is this good-bye3D C4ot yet.D =ewis said. C:eah. and the realtor says it’ll sell a lot easier if we clear out all the books. it’s been 0uite a summer. soQD 8e didn’t look at )rawford as he said that. C)rawford says you’re going to sell the 2lace3D . C1n light of everything that’s ha22ened. he still felt like . 1 guess so.uillermo said.
D Aith that he laughed and 2ounded =ewis on the back again and walked u2stairs to the me55anine. =ewis turned to )rawford. #ut the realtor (mily talked to said that we’d never unload this building or Sy’s house in the condition they’re in. 1 guess you could always s2end the 2ro2 money. where #illy was hel2ing =e$ gather the s2eakers who had volunteered to eulogi5e (dith.D =ewis said. Sy didn’t leave much cash.uillermo.uillermo said. CSounds e$2ensive.D C8uh. not really. not wanting to mention the cash they’d found at the house. 2ro2 money3D . CAell.D .he was letting )rawford down by closing the store. CAhat does he mean. C1t’s a little bit of a risk. CAow. did he3D C4o.D said .
D CRight. C:ou know.D CSo he also collected the fake money they use in films. :ou know those scenes in action movies where the armored truck gets blown u2 and the money goes everywhere3 Aell. they’re counterfeit bills. your uncle Sy collected movie 2ro2s. you haven’t found it3D )rawford asked. :ou knowHa guy o2ens a briefcase full of cashHit’s not real money. They’re all over the house. Sy got a big kick out of hiding itHD . right3 They use this fake cash called 2ro2 money. because technically.C"h. when 2ro2 money gets scattered all over the road 2eo2le will actually 2ick it u2 and try to s2end it. 1t’s kind of an underground thing to collect.
D . "ne of them had to be (mily’s. the faces swimming around him.D she said.D he whis2ered. CThere is no money. knocking over a shelf of military history. CFriends and family. C4one of it’s real.D he re2eated. C=et’s begin.#ut =ewis left before he could finish. 8e walked through the crowd. C4o money.D Iust then =e$ Trevino’s voice floated down from the me55anine. Finally he found her in a corner talking with one of Sy’s former tenants. leaning against her so hard that she staggered back.
(mily had gone for a walk.sixt"#nine After the service. BAre you talking about the money or the bookstore3B . )rawford stood around nervously.inger was in the back. B1t never occurred to me that you would think all that was real.B )rawford said. sorting the recycling and hauling the garbage into the alley. . BAe should have told you. =ewis slum2ed in a chair behind the counter.B =ewis lifted his head. which really meant that she wanted to get out of the store before she said something she regretted.
8e was in a da5e. 1t wasn6t fair to you. 8e owed everyone money. really.B he said. but at some middle 2oint in the air between them. he owed <on . IustHjust let me think. B:eah. 1 was talking about the money. the <ragon’s sales ta$ 2ayments were 2ast-due. C<on’t. Ae should never have ke2t any of it from you. but you6re right. BAgain. B1 cannot believe 1 managed to get myself into so much trouble in such a short 2eriod of time. shaking his head.D #ut he couldn’t think. re2laying the events of the last several weeks.B )rawford said.D =ewis was looking not at )rawford. 8e had to cover 2ayroll. really sorry about that.BAell. 1f we had any idea you were racking u2 bills and 2aying contractors ---B C)rawford.D =ewis said.
A briefcase full of fake cash and a ma$ed-out credit card.)antrell moneyHand what did he have3 A bookstore that didn’t make sell books. 4ow. the water stains around the windows. The miserable truth was that =ewis’s coach was turning back into a 2um2kin. (ven =ewis didn’t want them. the sagging shelves groaning under the weight of books that no one wanted. 1n another . The da55ling and 2romising new life he had fashioned for himself was over. for the first time. (mily was rightHhe 2robably could get his old job back. A building that was falling a2art. That 8emingway that (mily had given3 8e hadn’t even looked at it. he could see how decre2it the 2lace really was the 2eeling 2aint.
the store hadn’t made . =ewis was already imagining the story he would tell re2orters. They’d be a little dee2er in debt. The man had been a ho2eless literary romantic. but otherwise unhurt. And the <ragon would not be one of the last surviving bookstores in America anymore. =ewis had ho2ed to kee2 his memory alive. to kee2 the <ragon going against all odds. they could be back in their a2artment. 8is beloved uncle Sy had 2oured his life into this bookstore.month. but it was sim2ly not 2ossible. or one just like it. salvaging libraries and rescuing books that would otherwise have gone to the dum2. The building was run down. and they’d have this story between themHthis interval of time in which their lives went right off the rails. 8e was a man of another time.
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. #ut Encle Sy was a man with big dreams. =ewis would say to the re2orters. 1t was nearly midnight when they got back from their visit to the elk. Ahere !as (mily3 8e wouldn’t be sur2rised if she didn’t come back at all. That million-dollar ledger showing a history of record-breaking sales3 All a figment of an old man’s imagination. and we can all learn from that.any money in years. #ut in the . 1t was all very sad. (mily. 8e and (mily ho2ed to set u2 a scholarshi2 fund in Sy’s honor. She was the one who discovered (dith’s body at the bottom of the garden.
4one of this came as a sur2rise to the officers. There was (dith. which they were able to confirm later with credit card recei2ts at a gas station and at a restaurant in Trinidad. calling (dith’s name as she went. The 2olice found no evidence that (dith had been murdered or even startled by an intruder. She’d gone down to the garden.morning (mily wanted to find (dith and make sure she was all right. not that they looked very hard. telling them the story of their recent discovery about the <ragon. light as a leaf and covered in dew. all of . and following the trail of destruction straight down to the bottom of the hill. and their drive u2 the coast. and offer to let her stay until she and =ewis sold the house. (mily had been entirely forthcoming. their confrontation in the garden earlier today.
against the <ragon. They were so clearly uninterested in finding a crime at the scene of (dith’s death. having seen every kind of grow o2 but this over the years. anything. had 2ractically begged them to file chargesHagainst him as (dith’s landlord. or their grandsons. This elicited a laugh from the officers. 2rofessional interest in the garden. for that matter. =ewis. 8e didn’t bother correcting them about the grandson 2art. They took a mild.whom had known about (dith’s legendary cro2 and the real source of the <ragon’s 2rofits. des2erate and terrified. who assured =ewis that they had more im2ortant things to do than go after little old ladies with herb gardens. 8e let them finish their 2a2erwork and hel2ed the ambulance driver find .
that6s all. She had hardly s2oken to =ewis since (dith6s death. Surely the stress must6ve triggered the attack. (dith had a heart attack. it needed a . to clear brush. who also had no interest in blaming (mily or =ewis. and 2our a new driveway. She had a weak heart and she overe$erted herself. according to the coroner. She blamed herself anyway. She. Surely they were to blame for this somehow. cut the grass. #ut the coroner refused to go along with that. (mily didn6t care that she hadn’t been im2licated. immersing herself in the task of cleaning out (dith6s cottage and getting Sy’s house fi$ed u2. had been engaging contractors.a flat s2ot to 2ark near the garden so the little wheeled cart wouldn’t have far to go. 1f they were going to sell the house. too.
inger with the clean-u2. And now those contractors would have to be 2aid with something other than Sy’s fake money. tell her to wait for me. who had wandered off to hel2 .D @ As he left the store. 8e looked around for )rawford. a real heating systemHany number of e$2ensive renovations for which estimates were arriving daily. C1’m going to look for (mily. his 2hone bu55ed. 8e 2ulled the 2hone out of his 2ocket. Ahat a ridiculous situation. 1f she comes back here.new roof. =ewis could almost believe that his uncle Sy was 2laying a joke on him from the grave. C)rawford. ho2ing it was .D he called.
a$ine Rogers. Aait. C=ewis. who is this3D C=ewis. CAhat3D he said. 8e was in no mood for more jokes. 2lease. 8ave you got a minute3D . 1’ve been trying to reach you all week.her. it is. but it was the same unfamiliar number he’d been ignoring every day since (dith died. im2atient to get rid of this unwanted caller. CSeriously. this is . C:es. Ahat is it3D =ewis said. CAhHis this =ewis 8artman3D came a woman’s voice.D "h. 1’m the )(" of 4ile.com.
Aith.B (mily said.B BThat6s the idea. like. but she had agreed.B =ewis said. books. B<oes she remember that her com2any is the one that 2retty much did away with books3D .B said =ewis. BActual bookstores. 8e couldn6t talk her into dinner out.com wants to o2en a bookstore. 2icking the rubbery canned mushrooms off her 2i55a. B4ot just one. A whole bunch of them. to sit on the floor in Sy’s living room and s2lit a 2i55a and a bottle of wine with him. reluctantly.sevent" BSo you6re saying that 4ile.
She6s really sorry about that. refilling her glass. #ut they’d also have book clubs and writing classes. yeah. C<own. 1 guess. everything. and authors would come and read. And she thinks that stores like the <ragon would make 2eo2le feel literary again. the floorboards. They’d have a lot fewer books. and she’s got all these ideas about doing webcasts and virtual events--D CThis is the stu2idest idea 1’ve ever heard. of course. She says that sales of e-books are offVD C"ff3D (mily said. They’d sell coffee and writing 2a2er and fancy 2ens and 2robably e-books.CAell. She wants to re2roduce the whole thingHthe architecture. The books would be more like decoration.D (mily said. C<id you tell her that3D .
D =ewis said.D C!retty much. The bookstore that has survived.B (mily said. CShe’s got a very interesting offer for us.D CSo she still thinks the <ragon is this wildly successful bookstore. The last literary out2ost in the Aest. CAnd you didn’t tell her3D CAellHno.D =ewis said. and gone on to sell a million dollars’ worth of books in the digital age. CAait a minute. against all odds. not e$actly. BShe hasn’t heard about (dith3 She doesn’t know that the store’s basically out of business3D C4ot e$actly.D .CAell.D BFor us3 Ahy us3B =ewis didn6t say anything for a minute.
Ae 0uit our jobs to do this. B=ewisK Ahat are you doing3 Ahat do you 2ossibly e$2ect to get out of this3B BShe6s offering us jobs. =ewisKB =ewis cleared his throat.B =ewis said. She doesn6t know that. still standing over him.B BSo she6s going to find out.D BThe <ragon3 The <ragon sold 2ot. CIobs3 Ae had 7obs. (verybody . A twoyear contract to hel2 them take the <ragon nationwide. B:eah. She stood over him with a 2iece of 2i55a in her hand. For a minute.D B4ot just jobs.B (mily said.That got (mily on her feet. A develo2ment deal. CShe will know. =ewis thought she was going to throw it at him.
D B8ow is she going to find out3D =ewis said. Ae were the only ones in the whole goddamn town who didn’t know. CShe’s going to send a cou2le 2eo2le down here to 2ut the deal together. . 1 am married to a cra5y 2erson.D he continued. she thought. To think he used to seem boring. which really doesn’t say much about the <ragon.knows. She tucked her knees under her chin and looked at him.B C1 don’t think that.D =ewis said. B1t doesn6t look like any of this is going to end u2 in the news e$ce2t for (dith’s obituary. CShe does.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.
1 said 1 would have to talk to you and )rawford first.B =ewis said. 1 forgot to tell you about that 2art. too.D CAnd you6ve already agreed to this. 1t6ll be more likeHB CA theme 2ark version of the <ragon3D (mily said. Lind of.B BAhy )rawford3B B"h.CThey’ll start with the <ragon. 1t’ll be a 2rototy2e. they6ll start with the <ragon3 1sn6t the <ragon already a bookstore3B BAell.eaning whatHthey6d have writers working in the store3B .B B. They want authors to be involved at each store. :eah.B B4o. of course not. CEm. they6ll redo it. BThey want to offer him a deal.D BAhat you mean.
C)ould we 2ut them in cages and make them write for 2eanuts3D she said. . 1t would be a theme 2ark. Forget it. his 2hone rang. =ewis closed the 2i55a bo$ so the last slice wouldn’t tem2t him.D As he was 2icking u2 the em2ty wine bottle. making the <ragon one of three bookstores left in America. not running the cash register or anything like that.BAell. 1t6s more like the writers would lend their names to the whole thing. C"kay.ascots3D (mily was right. A re2orter in <enver wanted a comment from him on the news that Tall Tales was closing. Ae’re done here. Sort of like--B C. =ewis reali5ed.
D .C4ot tonight. C4o comment.D he said.
then sell off Sy’s 2ro2erty and get out of town. . Ahile she worked. "ver the ne$t week (mily finished cleaning out Sy’s house. had their belongings driven back to a storage unit in San Iose.a$ine’s offer. he just couldn6t stand to let it go. but the fact was.sevent"#one =ewis reluctantly agreed that the only sensible thing to do was to find an e$cuse to turn down . and made arrangements to look at some a2artments in the #ay Area. 8e told (mily that he was getting ready to hold a going out of business sale.inger had left for =os Angeles after the funeral. maybe even in San Francisco this time. =ewis hung around the bookstore. She said that she was going to visit her .
D said )rawford.D he said. Aithout the store’s regular clients coming in and out.utenberg #ible3D he asked. C4o. Cbut 1 kee2 lookingKD . :ou’re not going to just find one in a bookstore. 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. CThere’s only like forty-eight of them in the world. C:ou got a . but =ewis sus2ected she was looking for a job. the cra5y 2eo2leHwhat )rawford called the Ty2e Four customersHseemed to take u2 all their time. A gri55led old man hauling three bags of bottles and cans stuck his head in the door.D CThat’s what everybody tells me.family.
orHD . slightly mussed. serene. low 2atch of sun across the entryway.B he said to =ewis after the man left.D he finally said. man. )rawford was starting to wonder why =ewis was 2aying him to sit there. The dust danced in the light. And un2rofitable. when the light shifted and hit the windows. C1 could be cleaning out the back room.B C. CEhHhey.D =ewis said. They leaned back in their chairs and listened to the ticking of the clock on the bookshelf behind them. =ewis loved this time of day in the bookstore the late afternoon.BThere you go.ood. 1t was everything a bookstore should be 0uiet. BThat6s a book we could sell to somebody. sending a long.
com to sort of -. but he slammed them on the floor and sat u2. then--B C=ook.B CAell. Ae6ll get to it. B1t6s all right. Yeroes and ones. She sells digital media. =icense it.B )rawford’s feet had been 2ro22ed u2 on the desk. )rawford. #ut she doesn6t sell books. BThose assholesK Are you kidding me3 They ruined my life. really.ac0uire the <ragon. 1 wasn6t even going to bring this u2. She doesn’t know what a book is. 1’ve had an offer from 4ile.=ewis shook his head. That bitch . but 1 think you6ve got a right to know.a$ine Rogers3 She goes around telling 2eo2le that she only wants to make books available to everybody.D . leaning toward =ewis.
#ut you’re not even curious enough to read a single 2age 1’ve written. C<id you even read my books3B 4othing. 1 think she knowsHD #ut )rawford wasn’t done. CAell. 8e had no idea he would set )rawford off like that. CAho do you know who actually reads novels on their stu2id little 2hone3 Ahat are you reading right now. Tonight. and it damn near won the 4ational . . C1 am your em2loyee. 4ot to mention that my novel s2ent in nine months on the bestseller list. before you go to bed.=ewis was stunned. Ahat6s the name of the book you6re in the middle of3D =ewis didn’t say anything. =ewis3 Right now.ood friend of your uncle Sy.
. BShe was here. wasn6t she3B B:eah. That woman who had come into the bookstore and 2raised his novel. mister million-dollar bookseller. you can6t even bother --B Then it hit him.a$ine. And you.B BShe told you that3D )rawford said. )rawford.B )rawford said. CAhat did she say about me3B B"h. 8er name was . She said she met you.#ook Award. for chrissakes. what3 She wants to buy the bookstore3 Ahat for3D =ewis tried to su22ress a smile.D C4o. but he knew how ridiculous this would sound. Aas that her3 BAait a minute. Forget it. suddenly interested. CShe’s im2ressed by the <ragon’s unlikely success.
8e fell out of his chair in mock astonishment and rolled around on the floor.D . B=et6s do it.B B)rawford.D C:our uncle Sy would have jum2ed on this. and now they will 2ay. BThe <ragon6s unlikely successKB he howled. Take their money.D C:ou are talking like a cra5y 2erson.She wants to take it nationwide.D )rawford 2ulled himself back into his chair. BThat6s brilliantKB Then he rolled over onto his back and looked u2 at =ewis. <o the deal. And she wants to hire you. B"f course we can. Ahat3 Ae can6t.B This was too much for )rawford. <on6t you see how 2erfect is this3 They’re the ones who did this to us. )all her.
looking nervously at )rawford.D the guy said.They were interru2ted by a mountain of a man in full motorcycle leather. <o you still have that book3 1 want to get the rest of it on my chest.D )rawford wasn’t saying a word. CAhHD =ewis said. 2ulling his shirt down and turning around to face them. C<o you have this3D he said. 2artially obscured by a swath of hair. 8e un5i22ed his jacket as he walked in the door. e$2osing a tattoo of naked figures moaning and writhing. looking over his shoulder at them. . CThis tattoo. then lifted his black =ed Ye22elin t-shirt and turned around. C1t’s based on a 2icture from a book 1 found in this store.
tooHbig folio si5e. shooting =ewis a meaningful look. gilt edges. yes. e$actly3D =ewis asked. CThe <orW engravings.D C1 should have bought it.D )rawford said.D C:ou still have it3D he said. C8ow much did you sell it for3D CAbout five hundred bucks.D the man said. .D )rawford said. do you remember the name of the book3D C<ante’s 4nferno. 1t was an ama5ing book. CAh. 2rom2ting the man to lift his shirt again. C4oHwaitH1 mean.CAhat was the tattoo.D )rawford said. 1 remember it well. CSold it to one of our best customers last year.D he said. in his best erudite bookseller voice. unbelievable engravings. C4o.
D )rawford said.uy who used to own this 2lace loaned it to me. C:ou know3D =ewis said.D C1t grows on you. . CSo how’d you get the tattoo if you didn’t have the book3D he asked. C1 kind of like being a bookseller. =ewis thought. =ewis and )rawford just sat and grinned at the em2ty doorway. CAell. fuck that.D C"nline3 :eah3D the guy said.D =ewis said. good luck finding it.!robably an ounce.D CAell.D After he left. C. C1’m sure you can find a scan of the engravings online.
alway had been assigned the dreary task of gathering s2eculation from local 2ersonalities on the identity of this mystery tenant. The 2lans included a mysterious anchor tenant from out of the area.sevent"#two . and then interviewing local . #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. some national chain that was also 2roviding ca2ital for the first 2hase of construction.alway’s boss had decided it was time for him to do some actual re2orting. And now .
dro22ing into a chair across from . 4aturally. BShe never brought anybody from out of town in here. he started with .alway.uillermo said.uillermo.D .business owners and civic leaders for their reaction to the s2eculation.uillermo said. B#ut 16ll tell you one thing. C4ow she’s having lunch with Todd =arson.B BAhat. 8e knew that =e$ took her off-site meetings at )ontra )offee. She6s got the 8umboldt =egal 2eo2le all involved.B C4ot any more. And 1 heard he was setting u2 a meeting with his friends. he wasn’t talking to the 2ress.D . #ut if .B .uillermo had any information. in this 2roject3 She usually stays as far away from them as she can.
D C1 heard (dith’s garden was 2retty much destroyed. but she didn’t meet with him in here.D .uillermo said.D .D CAhat about this mystery man from out of town3D C1 never saw him. Sounds to me like she’s talking to growers.CAell. C=ewis can’t seem to stay away.D . This was not turning into much of a story.uillermo said. that could mean--D C1 don’t know. 1 don’t know why.D . he’s been through a lot.alway looked glumly out the window.D C8m.alway said. 1 guess they’ll shut it down. CShe took him to dinner a cou2le times. but they sure don’t seem to be 2acking u2. CAre they still o2en over there3D CAell. already regretting the . !oor kid. today they are.
CA lot’s changed over the years. right. you know what they used to do with all the 2ot they confiscated3 They took it to the 2ul2 mill .uillermo. #ut by then the 2olice hadHyou knowHdone the minimum they had to do to clear the 2lace out. anyway. C1t was a cou2le of days before anybody reali5ed that the garden was even involved. no. 1 heard that a few growers went out there to try to get hold of some 2lants.D . when 1 was a kid. :ou didn’t grow u2 here. C:eah. Aell.D said .D C"h.D . CSan Antonio.loss of (dith’s horticultural contributions as much as the rest of the community.uillermo said.alway smiled and shook his head. did you3D C8ell.
And we lived out there on this logging road that led right to the mill. CThey really were. 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 .uillermo said.once a month or so and had them burn it. :ou could smell it all over the bay.uillermo said admiringly.alway said.ood times.D .D C4o shit3D . .D C. C:eah.
and she . =AG As 4ew "rleans residents once again leave their homes in antici2ation of the arrival of 8urricane )arla.sevent"#three =E)L RE4S "ET F"R 9""<"" #""LS F4ew "rleans. 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. one of the city6s most beloved institutions announced that it was closing its doors for good. witchcraft.
doesn6t intend to return to the French Nuarter after the hurricane threat 2asses. but 1 just don6t see how 1 can kee2 going. and the owner wants to do some renovations after the evacuation.y lease was u2 for renewal. B"ne of our favorite things to do is to come into 9oodoo #ooks and look at all .B said .ontgomery. 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. Alabama. BAe come here every year. B8e6s already told me to e$2ect a rent increase. B. 1 hate to close.D she said from her mother6s home in Shreve2ort.reg <elgado of .
CShe created an evocative setting and hel2ed trans2ort her customers to another time. C1 do have all of Anne Rice’s books on my 2hone. The French Nuarter won’t be the same without 9oodoo #ooks.D She added that .B Rogers said. 1t6s 2art of the whole e$2erience of the French Nuarter.D he added.a$ine Rogers said that she would be BhauntedD by the loss of 9oodoo #ooks. CAnita 8awkins managed to do something with her bookstore that no digital media could do. holding u2 his .r. <elgado admitted that he had never 2urchased a book from the store.i5mo.those cra5y witch books they have.com )(" . 4ile.B #ut .
C1’m surrounded by books every day.ordon now has the distinction of being one of the last two booksellers left in the Enited States.ordon said.ordon.D . C1t’s not the same as being there.D .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.D she admitted. C1’m not sure how much longer 1 can hold out either. said that she Cwould mourn the 2assing of 9oodoo #ooks the way you’d mourn the loss of a friend. 1t’s . but 1 try not to think about that. Cbut at least those books will live on.
owner of the (ureka.D =ewis 8artman. was not available for comment. )A bookstore Firebreathing <ragon.hard for me to believe that the rest of the country doesn’t want to e$2erience what 1 do. .
a$ine.com had bought and remodeled it. a media room. claiming that he and )rawford . by a2ologi5ing and getting his old job back and doing the dishes more often than necessary and 2aying off their bills and whatever else (mily wanted --. That would have worked.a child.sevent"#four :ears from now. he could have closed the store and reo2ened it only after 4ile. 8e could have followed (mily back to San Iose and re2aired his marriage the easy way. a timeshare in Tahoe. "r even if he did insist on doing the deal with . =ewis would reali5e that he was not forced to do what he did ne$t.
he became even more fi$ated on the idea of kee2ing the store o2en and running it the way it had been running all this time. #ut that is not what ha22ened.aybe their bestselling 2roduct was illegal.and no illegal activity. And his run-in with the 2olice at the scene of (dith6s .needed a break before they began their new venture. but so what3 1t was already for sale all over town. furious that =ewis was making no 2rogress toward closing the store and ho2ing that a dramatic gesture on her 2art would shake him u2. That might have worked. with books on the shelves and joints under the counter. After (mily left. just a few omissions --. . After all. too. the <ragon had su22orted Sy and two em2loyees without doing anything terribly wrong. There would have been no lies.
. weren6t they3 !eo2le were being e$2osed to books and they were taking them home. #esides. That was really the job of a bookstoreHto get 2eo2le to ac0uire the books. they were still selling books. it made sense to just kee2 going. =ewis and )rawford could sit behind the counter and sell over2riced books to enthusiastic customers all day long.a$ine’s 2eo2le would .a$ine could send her 2eo2le down to the <ragon to observe the store in action. 1t was never the role of a bookseller to actually make a 2erson read a book once they6d bought it. was it3 So in a strange way.death had convinced him that local law enforcement was all too willing to look the other way. .
She could 0uit her job. but when =ewis asked him what they could do about getting a .see what they wanted to seeHa busy bookstore that made a remarkably steady 2rofit.a$ine --was the very scenario made her decide to leave in the first 2lace. The only 2roblem was that (dith6s garden was 2roducing nothing but a22les and honeysuckle nectar. )rawford wasn6t o22osed to the idea of reviving the <ragon. whatever she wanted. And when the money came through from 4ile. 1t never occurred to =ewis that this scenario --. (mily would come back.the one in which he stayed in (ureka and clung to the 2ossibility of doing a deal with . they would go legit. she could travel. she could 2aint.com.
BThis one6s on you. )rawford just shrugged. The officer was e$traordinarily nice about the whole thing.B And that is how =ewis found himself on the old cargo dock on (ureka6s waterfront. as everyone but =ewis knew.B he said. and the 2ort. The officer slowed his cruiser down and 2ointed . B:ou6re the boss. They 2assed the signs on the way to the jail. which was under the jurisdiction of the local 2olice. was federally controlled. even taking the time to identify the red and white signs marking the boundary between "ld Town. attem2ting to buy ten 2ounds of marijuana from an undercover officer of the <e2artment of 8omeland Security. which.new su22lier.
the way you6d show the sights to a tourist. .them out 2olitely.
=ewis wasn6t allowed to sit with him in the usual visitation room7 federal 2rocedures re0uired that any meetings with his lawyer be held a2art from the other inmates. being housed tem2orarily at the county jail.sevent"#five 1t took a week for #illy <alton to get in to see his client. #ecause =ewis was a federal 2risoner. So the guards brought the two of them to a room that was not too different from #illy6s office an awkward and unused s2ace normally reserved . #illy had to get a new level of clearance and fill out a stack of unfamiliar 2a2erwork to get into the same building he’d visited a hundred times before.
for storage. .arriott. buddy.B said #illy.B 8e looked grimly at =ewis and fiddled with a 2en. B1t6s going to be a long 2rocess. BEh. BThis is nice. 8e obviously hadn6t sle2t.B #illy said. That was a big buy for your first time out. This is not the . to which two folding chairs and a broken com2uter desk had been added. Red welts ran u2 his arms and across his neck. yeah. B16ve never had a 2rivate meeting room over here before. looking around a22rovingly. !lease tell me you6ve been working on getting me out of here. and he was allergic to either the county-issued orange jum2suit or the laundry detergent it was washed in.B B#illy.B =ewis looked terrible.
Ahat about bail3B BAe6ve got a hearing ne$t week.1 mean -. They have video cameras down on the docks and the agent was wearing a wire. 1 didn6t say what he thought 1 said. They6re 2retty sure you were trying to buy ten 2ounds of 2ot.we6ve got to tell them something. sur2rised. but --.what do you think is on that ta2e3B BAll right. BAell -. BAren’t we going to work on my defense3D B:ou6ve got a defense3B #illy asked. 1 was de2ressed or confused or --B B=ewis. right3 1t was a misunderstanding.B1s that all you got3B said =ewis. 8ow much money have you got3B . Ae6ll get a chance to see the video.
did you3B B1 don6t know. . there is one 2iece of good news.B =ewis mumbled. )an6t (mily come u2 with some money3B B(mily’s not e$actly taking my calls right now. BSo that6s it3B =ewis said. 8e felt like crying. BAell. The guard knocked on the door.B4ot much. B1 just have to stay here3B #illy laughed and tugged at his 2onytail. Ahat about the house and the store3B BThe feds will 2robably sei5e those.B #illy said. Their time was u2. B:ou didn6t think they were going to let me take you home. standing u2 and sla22ing =ewis on the back.B =ewis said.
Aouldn6t that be cool3B .BAhat6s that3B BThere6s a rumor going around on the 1nternet that )ongress is about to outlaw cigarettes and legali5e marijuana.
B)rawfordK 1 don6t know if you remember me. J8aunted.B #efore )rawford could say anything. 1s he there3 16ve been trying him on his 2hone.B she said brightly.B )rawford said. B4ice 0uote to the 2ress.aybe. listen. B1 was in your store a while ago --B B1 remember you. but he6s not answering.B BAas that a little too cute3B B.a$ine called the <ragon the day after the story about 9oodoo #ooks broke. 1 was actually calling for =ewis. two little girls ran into the store and tore u2 the .’ That6s cute.B BAell.sevent"#six .
B .stairs. BAhat3B .B B:eah. B"h. B%M'MKB the other one said.B BAell. B1t6s this game that kids 2lay in here sometimes.a$ine said. B"h no. B1t means you have all these young 2eo2le interested in books. they6re not . that6s kind of cool. They6re interested in 2ulling them off the shelves and cracking the s2ines.B )rawford sighed. but they6re not interested in reading them. B%M*%KB "ne of them shouted.D BSo have they found the oldest book in the store yet3B )rawford listened to the thudding of their footste2s overhead. jee5. They come running in and they try to find the oldest book in the store.a$ine said.
There was a 2ause.a$ine. 1t6s a single sheet from the 4uremberg )hronicle. BActually.D CAho’s he3D CAncient . 1t6s a history of the world u2 to that time. 1t’s a %+'? treatise by .D BAhat6s the oldest thing --. . 1 have it right here on my 2hone. #ut that’s not actually the oldest thin. The oldest book is down here. you only have one 2age3B .anywhere close to it.D CSeriously3 %R*?3D B1 guess you6re going to ask me what the 4uremberg )hronicle is. %R*?. in the store.alen. And 1 have the com2lete volume. no.B )rawford said. B 4o.a$ine said. Ahat.the cobwebs3B .reek 2hysician.
16ll tell him you called.B.D C1t is. Actually.B BAow. :ou try doing that on your 2hone. B4e$t time you come into the store.D BAre you going to let me talk to =ewis3B B8e just ste22ed out. )rawford.B )rawford said. :ou make it sound so-seductive. 1 will show you a leaf from the 4uremberg )hronicle. his voice warm and serious.B . 1 will 2ut a 2iece of 2a2er in your hand that dates to the voyage of )olumbus.a$ine.
a long e$2osW seemed 2ointless. So he 2aid a visit to the 2ort authority office and wrote the kind of short. .sevent"#seven #etsy . regardless of the subject matter. and after (dith’s sudden death. 8e6d been reluctant to blow the store6s cover when he himself was a regular customer.iers finally had to threaten to fire . 2e22y blog 2ost that was e$2ected of him. #ut the arrest of an "ld Town merchant was news. and nobody else had re2orted it.alway if he didn6t 2ost something on his blog about the situation at the <ragon.
BAe6ve known that it was a cover for a drug dealing o2eration. but the bookstore itself was located outside our area of jurisdiction and we were unable to obtain coo2eration from local law enforcement. BAe6ve been monitoring the activity at the Firebreathing <ragon bookstore for some time now.r. 8artman entered the .B said !ort Authority s2okes2erson #rian Anderson. .8ere’s A Ti2 <on’t Re-E2 Aith the Feds 4ewbie bookstore owner-turned-2ot dealer =ewis 8artman was arrested after attem2ting to buy ten 2ounds of marijuana from a federal agent on (ureka6s waterfront.
B So --. "ur mission is to kee2 our nation6s 2orts safe and free of illegal and dangerous activity. 1t’s where all the federal officers hang out and enforce their laws. Two That area right around the water where boats 2ull u2 and unload their stuff3 That’s called the 2ort.2ort area voluntarily and attem2ted to solicit drugs from an undercover agent. Iust a cou2le ti2s for out-of-towners.lessons learned3 Anyone3 "ne There is nothing for sale at the Firebreathing <ragon but books. Seriously. @ . Ae mean it this time. Ae intend to 2rosecute to the full e$tent of the law.
B C. . :ou6ve known about this along.. <oes this mean 16m not going to get a second date3D )lick.alway6s 2hone rang five minutes after his 2ost went live.a$ine. C:ou 2iece of shit.
The meals were astonishingly bad V chea2 corn flakes for breakfast. but there was no one to call but (mily. 8e could have lined u2 to use one of the four 2hones available to inmates. There wasn6t much else to do the television stayed on one channel all day. and white bread and baked beans at dinner. 2eanut butter at lunch. 1t .sevent"#ei ht =ewis decided that his time in jail would be best s2ent reflecting u2on his 2ast mistakes. accom2anied by a mealy a22le and a sugary juice substitute. and she had made it clear that she didn6t want to hear from him. broadcasting a stream of talk shows and infomercials.
And of course. and he had not so much as a sheet to muffle the light and noise. and no 2rovisions had been made in the 2olicy for the machines’ inevitable system failures. . visitors had been banned from bringing books to 2risoners after the com2uters had been installed. 1nstead. . And slee2 was a thing of the 2ast the lights were on day and night. there was no library.ost of the 2rison library’s books had ended u2 at the <ragon over the years. Anyway. which made =ewis wonder if he could convince )rawford to bring a few of them back.wasn6t the kind of meal you would linger over. the jail had a digital media center that housed four broken com2uters. #ut )rawford was so far not willing to visit =ewis in jail.
if he could be considered to be on his own in a dorm with si$ty other men. 1n fact. or biding their time until they were released and 2ut back under the su2ervision of their 2arole officers. "f course they did. They were charismatic in the way that smalltime criminals could be the ability to strike u2 a conversation with anyone seemed to be related to the ability to lift a wallet or move a little stolen merchandise. although he found that most of the guys were sur2risingly easy to talk to.So =ewis was on his own with his miserable thoughts. it was a trio of skinny white . after all. And a few of them recogni5ed him from the bookstore. =ewis tried to stick to himself. a hotbed of criminal activity. 1t was. most of whom were either 2assing through on their way to !elican #ay.
C8e didn’t want to sell do2e to do2e dealers. Aill.B B:ou can buy fucking 2ot brownies at the clinic in Arcata.D B1t’s getting harder to sell that shit anyway.B Aill added glumly.B 8ank added.B Tim said. B:our uncle Sy wanted it that way. They just grow their own or buy it at the clinic. . and Tim-who e$2lained the rationale for the <ragon6s high 2rices to =ewis.8ank. 8e gave no volume discount and he 2riced his shit so high you couldn’t buy from him and sell it on the street. B4o resale market.guys in their twenties --.B Tim said. Anybody who wants a medical card can get one. B!rices on the street are falling.
That was the difference between the 2eo2le out there and the 2eo2le in here. as he listened to the maddening . he thought. have you had those brownies3B Aill said. turning to Tim.D Aill said. BAhen 1 get out of here. C:ou3D =ewis asked. that6s the first 2lace 16m going.B C8ow’d you 0ualify for a /%+ card3D =ewis asked.B<ude. Ahat had once seemed like fateHhaving a bookstore dro2 in his la2. CS2rained my ankle.D =ewis reali5ed that he wasn6t really too different from these guys. as if he was meant for a new lifeHnow seemed like the kind of trouble he should have known how to avoid. C8eadaches. Ahat landed him in here was greed and stu2idity.
uillermo being o2en for business across the street. and in fact. and he sim2ly ceased to matter. 1t was ama5ing how 0uickly you dro22ed out of sight in jail. !eo2le called him and sent him e-mails. =ewis’s new life had a rhythm that seemed inse2arable from the 2eo2le around him. 8e was getting to know the teller at the bank and the cashier at the deli. 4o one had any urgent business to discuss with him.sound of car radios rising u2 from the street that ran 2ast the jail. 8e had a wife and em2loyees. 8is morning coffee de2ended on . The 2eo2le out there knew how to kee2 their lives on course. Entil his arrest. no one seemed . #ut then he got locked u2. no one seemed to care whether his bills got 2aid or his 2hone got answered. 8e had bills to 2ay and 2laces to be.
too. and that his absence would cause some disru2tion in the world he inhabited. but he was wrong about that. 8e hadn6t just been arrested7 he’d been erased. =ewis had always assumed that he mattered a little. And maybe that was just as well.to wonder where he was or when he would be back. .
#RA4<.!’ )="T814.1A4T SE. )"4. Tom and Richmond ducked away from the re2orters at the Ahite 8ouse and caught a cab back to their hotel."L14.R(SS Q T"#A))" .A=1Y(S !"T A4< #A4S T"#A))" read the crawl. 14T1T1AT19( =(.AR(TT(S E4<(R 4(A AET8"R1T: FR".4(R A44"E4)(S 4(A JA. barely . 4ews of the legislation’s swift 2assage already dominated the tiny T9 screen in the back of the cab.sevent"#nine After the signing ceremony.(R1)A4 8(. S"-)A==(< 8(A=T8: S. Two newscasters. F<A (U!()T(< T" "ET=AA )1.
sat in front of a giant digital image of a marijuana leaf hovering above the Ahite 8ouse.B 1n fact.B he said. BThat tri2 to )alifornia must have been good for you.B B1 don6t know how you can be so calm about this. fumbling around with the controls to turn off the sound. BIesus )hrist. Then we just go back to running our business. BAe6ve got to make sure we stay ahead of this story. 8e felt strangely at home there.B Tom said.onday morning.B said Tom. B1t6s not so bad.able to contain their mirth. as if he . <oing what we do. The media shitstorm will have died down by . BAe were lucky to get a Friday afternoon signing.B Richmond shrugged. Richmond did miss 8umboldt )ounty.
they would just shrug and say. BA little of this. a little of that. 8e would have bought a house in the mountains and hired <on )antrell to build a deck around it. And it had been a 2rofitable tri2.B Richmond could get used to that kind of lifestyle. 1f you asked a 2erson in (ureka what they did for a living. 1n this other life. The idea to launch a line of hem2 2roducts . but they all got by somehow. 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.had caught u2 with some alternate version of his life that had been ticking by in northern )alifornia all this time. not just because of the 2lants he managed to shi2 back alive. he would have asked out the girl in the bookstore.
rown name had been ins2ired by 8umboldt )ounty. 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. The American . down to the name of the farmer who grew the ho2s for the beer and the name of the woman who jarred the 2ickles. which they were calling American . They could get a line of clothing out to the college market to start building their brand. and notebooks.rown. the brew2ubs would be 2ositioned as a celebration of American farmers. with the source of every ingredient 2rinted on the menus. and then roll out the chain of brew2ubs. once the kids had bought into the idea. The cannabis would just be marketed as one more . back2acks.
Their com2etitors. Sumner had managed to get the legislation ready for 2assage 0uietly. The other tobacco com2anies didn6t even have time to call their lobbyists.American-grown cro2. 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 . #ut the real outrage would come a cou2le of days from now. and made a backdoor deal with the Ahite 8ouse to arrange an immediate signing ceremony. were livid. Esually #ig Tobacco stuck together. of course.reen. The retail smoking 2roducts would come last. 1t was considered a sacrilege to go it alone like this. when they found out that Sumner had 2atented every commercially available strain of .
it’s yours. B8ave you called your new real estate 2artner out there3B B4ow she6s my real estate 2artner. . buddy. B"h.cannabis. Iust make sure your little friend in 8umboldt )ounty is ready to break ground.B Tom said.B Tom said as they 2ulled u2 in front of their hotel.B Richmond said. B:ou6re in charge. smiling.D CAhy wouldn’t she be3D Richmond asked. grabbing his briefcase and handing a twenty to the driver. and was in a 2osition to challenge 2atents on any other strains their com2etitors might dig u2. C:ou wanted to run the brew2ub 2rogram. and s2eaking of )alifornia.
4ot just to the growers. She’s not going to be your best friend forever. but to the whole economy out there.D . Rich. CSooner or later those 2eo2le are going to figure out what this means.Tom laughed.
sending a shower of brown water and flakes of rust into his eyes. She got #illy <alton on the 2hone as he was s2rawled under the sink in the back room behind )ontra )offee.ei ht" (mily was the first 2erson to reali5e that the news from Aashington could hel2 get =ewis out of jail. 8e sat u2 and reached for his 2hone. CAhat3D . hel2ing . CSonofabitchKD he yelled as the 2i2e crumbled in his hand.uillermo wrestle out a rusted 2i2e and re2lace it with something that would meet code before the ins2ector came back at noon.
#ut 1 am calling about =ewis. not even from his wife. B1 was trying to find out if =ewis was going to get out now that this legislation is 2assed.B .uillermo motioned for #illy to get out of the way so that he could slide under the sink and kee2 working. Ahy3 16m not a divorce lawyer.B (mily said. #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. CSto2 being such a smartass. but 16m sure he6ll be glad to know he at least got a 2hone call.B#illy3 1t6s (mily. if that6s what you6re wondering.B B1t6s not that. 8e doesn6t get a lot of visitors. that6s very nice. <id 1 get you in the middle of something3B BLind of.B .B BAell.
. but the attorney general says she isn6t going to 2rosecute any 2ending cases unless there6s some other crime involved.uillermo was still flat on his back under the sink. #esides. BThey6re going to have to issue some rules and work out the details first.#illy rolled his eyes. CSeriously3 She said that3D #illy 2oured a cou2le of refills for .B B:eah. for what seemed like the four hundredth time that morning.B #illy said. he thought. This law isn6t going to hel2 him. your husband tried to buy shitload of 2ot from a federal agent well before it was legal. . B!ot is not legal yet. like guns or ta$ evasion.uillermo’s customers. (verybody6s a lawyer.D (mily said. #illy waved away their money7 he didn’t know how much to charge for refills anyway.
Aas that (mily3B . 8e6s going to have to work this out on his own. BSee3 :ou didn6t even need me. 4o. where .B #illy said. C"h. 1 am not coming back. 16ll look into it.B BAell. #ut 1 don6t like the idea of him sitting in that jail.D #illy hung u2 and retreated to the back room. Are you coming back anytime soon3B B:ou sound like =ewis.(mily sighed.o be a lawyer. . <o you want me to send you the article3B BThat6s okay. BAhat a sur2rise. for god’s sake. CRead the news once in a while. #illy. #illy. that6s real com2assionate of you.uillermo had managed to re2lace the 2i2e on his own.B #illy said.
B . She had some interesting news.B:eah.B BAhat6s that3B BAhole lot of 2eo2le are about to get out of jail.
CThat2s your anchor tenant3D came a hushed voice behind her. "n the back of the agenda she was sketching out a 2roject timeline. CAe can’t . =e$ twirled around in her chair and saw Todd leaning in the doorway that led to the warren of council offices behind the stage. 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. 8e was clutching a stack of 2a2ers from whatever meeting he had just suffered through.ei ht"#one =e$ sat in the em2ty )ity )ouncil chambers.
D #ut Todd sat down ne$t to her anyway. B1 told you.D =e$ whis2ered.B . C:ou knew all along that Sumner Tobacco was going to start growing 2ot.D Todd leaned across the table and s2oke right into her ear. These 2eo2le got me elected.talk about this here. Ae really should not talk about this here. BThey are freaking out over at 8umboldt =egal. C.B she said in a low voice. it’s more like a 2ub. 1t6s all a little sus2icious.y thing starts in ten minutes. Ahat are they going to 2ut in that big s2ace they6re leasing from you. =e$. a smoke sho23B =e$ looked around to make sure they were alone. 9ery wholesome. B4ot e$actly. They are going to want to know how 1 can vote for your 2roject after Sumner has made this big announcement.
B Todd said. fast. =e$ and Todd sat back in their chairs and tried to look as if they were just killing time. law-abiding businessmen. Sumner’s going to make sure that all these small growers all over the country get 2rosecuted if they don6t 2ay their ta$es or follow the labor law or meet every building code or . BFirst of all. two things just ha22ened here.B =e$ muttered.!eo2le were starting to file in for the meeting. all these growers just became fine. u2standing. B1 don6t see what 8umboldt =egal’s got to be u2set about. before =e$ could 2ull away. C1sn’t this what they wanted3 =egali5ation3D Todd grabbed =e$ by the arm and 2ulled her out of her chair. She followed him reluctantly into the hallway. B"kay.
They6re going to 2ush the 2rice down right through the .B C1sn’t that good news3D =e$ said. C4ot for them. including the ones your friend Richmond 2icked u2 while he was here. And the other thing3 Sumner 2atented every goddamned strain of cannabis they could get their hands on. 1t is now illegal for 8umboldt growers to grow their own 2ot. yes it is.D Todd said.environmental regulation.B =e$ felt her stomach turn into a stone. BAait. Sumner is 2lanting thousands of acres right now. CThey would have even shut the <ragon down. There6s going to be no more diesel do2e in the woods for these guys. That can6t be ---B B"h. if the <ragon hadn’t managed to shut itself down first. And that doesn6t even get into the economics.
you know3 This is so much more mainstream than anything they ever imagined. 1 can’t vote for this waterfront thing. And there goes your cannabis tourism idea. C1 think they e$2ected to chi2 away at the law little by little. Aould they really sell 2ot at the mall3 CAell. 1 just can’t. what e$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. but still kee2 it kind of underground.D . turning and leaning against the wall ne$t to her.floor.D Todd said. 1’m sorry. So =e$3 Forget it. They’re going to own the whole market.
the civic boosters who had been trying for years to distance (ureka from its cannabis culture so that 2arents wouldn’t be afraid to send their kids to college here. They stood together and looked out the small window across the hall.D She should have marched back into her meeting and started thinking about how to turn Todd around. 1t framed the . but there was no 2oint. the downtown merchants. She didn’t have the energy for this fight. 1f they wanted to o2en their so-called brew2ubs here in )alifornia. This 2roject was going to have everyone in an u2roar Hthe growers. Sumner would have to figure something else out. they’d have to find a develo2er with more nerve than she had. She’d send them back their earnest money and find a way out of the develo2ment deal.CShit.
The sounds from the basketball court could be heard all over "ld Town on a calm morning. .but he was getting tired of sitting all day. A bail bondsman even used the familiar noise as the soundtrack to his radio commercial. reminding 2eo2le to call him if they ever got too close to that basketball court. Too much 2artici2ation in 2rison life made him nervous-.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.
D #illy had advised him not to admit directly to anything.ei ht#two . it must be true.alway6s blog 2ost about the arrest caused a little ri22le of interest among that narrow slice of (ureka6s 2o2ulation that had believed that the <ragon was. BAell. and most 2eo2le were willing to let it dro2 after a few evasive answers. which meant that he s2ent his days saying things like. )rawford continued to show u2 to work and 2reside over the store in =ewis6s absence. if that’s what you read on the 1nternet. . still o2erating as a bookstore and were ama5ed and titillated to learn the truth. somehow.
otes.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. as if this fact would be as astonishing to )rawford as it was to them. BReally3 4ever once3B )rawford would answer wonderingly. trying to strike that balance between sarcasm and false cheer that was once the s2ecial talent of bookstore clerks everywhere. A few 2eo2le would linger and look wistfully through the books. with torn covers and unfortunate stains but breathtaking .B they would say. looking around in wonderment before finally making eye contact with )rawford.
h Married.2hotogravures nonetheless. but they all left em2tyhanded. 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. 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 $e 1appy Thou. )rawford was sitting behind the desk 2ricing a stack of anatomy te$tbooks from the %*/&s that he found in the . "n one such day.
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. somehow. 8e had been ignoring calls from the media because =ewis. had asked him to. This only made the 2hotogra2hs more 2ornogra2hic.back room. their genitals so gently rubbed out that it looked like they had just forgotten to grow any. The 2hone rang. 1t was the San Fran is o "hroni le. but it had been a slow afternoon and )rawford was . undoubtedly looking for a little local color to round out their story on the im2act of the new marijuana legislation behind the redwood curtain. 2assing the message by way of #illy.
1 was ho2ing to get a res2onse from =ewis on the news about #lack and Ahite #ooks in Seattle.D he said when he 2icked u2 the 2hone. B:ou are not about to tell me ---B BAre you still o2en3 1 mean -.D B"h.ardner from the "hroni le. he didn6t have to answer their 0uestions. B=ewis isn6t here right now.still a bookstore3B she asked. no. )an 1 hel2 you3B BAow. #esides. .B )rawford said. 8e could just take a message. B1s this =ewis 8artman3B came a woman6s voice.are you -.getting bored. is he still in jail3 This is #eth . C<ragon.
D )rawford said. Ae faced the s2ines out because that6s where the titles of the books were written. 8ere is how we arranged the books. BThen 1 think that6s it. already as still and 0uiet as a diorama in a museum.B @ For a long time after he 2ut the 2hone down. standing u2. 8e thought of Sy and how he loved to issue declarations on the history of books and bookshelves. as if he needed to rise and face the news she was about to deliver.CAellHyeah. )rawford just stood and looked around the store. he could imagine himself saying brightly to a grou2 of schoolchildren on a tour. how handwritten volumes were . :ou6re the last bookstore in America.
once 2laced on their sides in cu2boards. getting u2 from behind the counter and running his hands along the . And then came the monster steam 2resses that could make a thousand sheets in an hour. and what a strange and heartbreaking new develo2ment for 2ractitioners of hand-set ty2e. Ahat di55ying s2eed that must have been. And then movable ty2e came along and ruined everything for the monks with their 0uills. back when a wealthy 2erson might only own four or five books and would have these 2ieces of furniture s2ecially built to hold them. !eo2le think that the book never changed after that. "r they might have stood u2 on a shelf with the edges facing out. and the title inscribed there in 2en. Sy used to say.
Iust an e$2eriment. #ut the book changes all the time. huh3 A thousand dollar book if we had a collector who wanted to buy it. . !eo2le took them off the books and threw them away. C:ou see this nice old first edition of Anne of Green Gables3 !retty book. they didn’t know. C<ust jacketsKD Sy once roared at )rawford right after he started working there. That’s a ninety-nine thousand-dollar 2iece of 2a2er. right3 :ou’d bring a new book home and throw the dust jacket right out3D . kiddo. #ut do you know what it would cost in a dust jacket3 A hundred thousand dollars.shelves the way =ewis did the first time he came into the store. :ou know why3 #ecause dust jackets were so rare.aybe they’d 2rint ads on them. :ou’re old enough to remember that.
4obody. The book changes constantly. C4obody has an Anne of Green Gables in a dust jacket. and that was not so long ago.D 8e knew the rest of the lecture by heart. Then FSy would say.oroccan leather3 And then they bound books in cardboard and cloth. rising to his feetG they brought out 2a2erbacks and everybody thought we6d gone straight to hell.y god. they used to bind cigarette ads right into science fiction novels. the crumbling 2article-board cousin to . of all thingsK !a2er went from silk to cotton to hem2 to mushy 2ressed 2ul2. Ahat about re2lacing grand old bindings with that awful leatherette. kiddo.)rawford could almost hear the echo of Sy6s voice around the room. 1n the seventies you could be reading along and . .
when he could s2eak again. . <idn’t that 2iss the authors offK And then Sy would colla2se into himself. The utter absurdity of booksK he would say.there would be an ad for Lote$ or )anadian )lub. whee5ing and coughing and choking on his own laughter.
B #illy had e$2lained when he was arranging =ewis’s release. and the crum2led back2ack that once held the cash he had offered to the undercover agent. and he carried a 2lastic bag under his arm that contained his 2ersonal belongings wallet. 2hone. BThat6s okay.B #illy had decided to let that one go.B =ewis told him.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. 8e ho2ed that the feds and the local district attorney would both be so busy 2rocessing . B1t was fake anyway.ei ht"#three BAelcome back.
a shower. B:ou6re looking good. The 2ost-jail burger was actually his favorite 2art of being a lawyer. and a na2. a beer.B B<one.B #illy said. They walked across the street and down a cou2le of blocks to the brewery.D =ewis said.B #illy said. BAhat 1 want is a burger. =ewis was a little disa22ointed that #illy was on foot he had been ho2ing for a 8ollywood-style release from jail. com2lete with a guy in Ray-#ans and a suit . taking =ewis6s bag from him the way you might grab your buddy’s suitcase when you met him at the air2ort. in that order.re0uests for release from small-time marijuana criminals that they wouldn6t notice a bag of counterfeit bills. C1 look like shit.
driving a big black =incoln.D . hands in 2ockets. C4othing. just a cou2le of guys on their way somewhere. CShe sent me the link to the "hroni le story. 1nstead he had #illy with his thinning 2onytail and his )rocs. 8ank and Aill had been released as wellHTim was still locked u2 for a <E1-. At least someone came to meet him.D =ewis said. C4o word from (mily3D #illy asked as =ewis turned his 2hone on and checked for messages.and they had each walked out on their own. striding determinedly across the 2arking lot and disa22earing into the neighborhood behind )ity 8all. but she didn’t even include a note.
BAhy do you say it like that3B he said to #illy. who 2oured a cou2le of 2ints. which was crowded and boisterous and slightly smoky from the heat coming off the grill. =ewis headed straight for the two em2ty seats at the bar and signaled to the bartender.B #illy said. B8is business is ruined.C:eah. and everything he owned is going to be thrown away or sold off.D They walked into the brewery. B:our uncle Sy would be 2roud. B:ou make it sound like it was a contest. B1 don6t think Sy would6ve been 2roud of a single thing 16ve done.B BAell it was.B he said. C=ast bookstore in America. kind of. 1 . :ou made it. how about that3D #illy said.B =ewis shuddered at the first foamy. (dith is dead. bitter si2 of beer.
BAhy did he leave this 2lace to me. 8e didn6t dwell on the 2ast and he didn’t worry about the . :ou6re 2robably gonna s2end a lot of time over the years wondering why all this ha22ened the way it did. :our uncle Sy wasn6t like you. =ewis. ordering burgers and fries for both of them.inger. 1 wish 1 had some kind of easy answer for you. #illy3 1t should’ve all gone to (dith. but 1 don6t. leaving all this to me. Reliving it in your mind and trying to figure out what you should have done differently. "r at least to )rawford and . B8ere6s the thing.don6t know what he was thinking. Ahy’d he 2ick me3D Their menus arrived and #illy waved them away.B 8e thought about that for a minute and then he turned and looked at #illy.
he 2robably never gave that will another thought. 8e only did it because 1 was just starting out as a lawyer and 1 needed a client. . 8e didn6t think about dying. 1t was a gorgeous. C:ou’d been u2 there not long before to s2end the summer. That kid’s going to need something to do. #illy shrugged.’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. 1 asked Sy who he wanted to leave it to. 8e made that will a long time ago.B BSo you don6t remember why he 2icked me3B =ewis said. To tell you the truth.future. J!ut down =ewis. and he looked around the store and said.
and the sidewalks were filled with 2eo2le drinking their coffee at the tables and chairs they’d dragged outside. 1t occurred to =ewis that it didn6t bother him in the least that all these 2eo2le knew his 2ersonal . what these 2eo2le did for a living. either from the <ragon or from his recent notoriety in the news. everyone he knew had an eight-to-five job that didn6t 2ermit s2ending long stretches of the afternoon in a cafW.uillermo waved from his storefront. The doors to every cafW were o2en.ost of the 2eo2le he 2assed seemed to recogni5e him. . 8e rounded the corner and . #efore he came to 8umboldt )ounty.late summer afternoon in (ureka. =ewis wondered. =ewis could hear the clanging of shi26s rigging in the harbor. as he always did. The seagulls circled high above "ld Town.
1t’s . 8is life was 2laying out alongside theirs7 his situation was no more or less remarkable than anyone else’s.business. C(mily3D he said.D CThey let you out of jail3D . =ewis. C"h. 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. #ut these 2eo2le seemed to just take him at face value.a$ine. 8i.D =ewis sto22ed on the sidewalk in front of the store. they 2robably knew that (mily had left him.a$ine. they knew about his arrest. A year ago. They knew that the <ragon had been a sham. C4o. 8is 2hone rang just before he reached the <ragon. .
D CActually. =ewis3 1’ve got another idea. C1’m really sorry. Iust now.C:eah.D 8e 2aused.D . 1 guess 1 killed the deal.
ONE %EAR LATER .
there’s a food court around . turning around and giving =ewis a kiss. 1 just got off the 2lane. B8eyKB she said. C8ow was your flight3D .D (mily ordered a sandwich and looked around for a table. <id you eat already3D C4o. Ahere are you3D CEm.ei ht"#four C8ave you landed3D C:eah.ate S'. She was making her way to the last 2air of em2ty seats in the food court when she felt an arm reach around her waist. 1’ll meet you there.
BAnd3B .D CAe will. dro22ing his overnight bag on to2 of (mily’s suitcase and sitting down ne$t to her. 1n the air2ort.B (mily said.D =ewis laughed and 2ut his head in his hands. 8ere. <oesn6t she know they don6t allow smoking in the air2ort3D BThat6s what 1 told her. C1n San Francisco3 Ae’ve got what.D she said. C.D =ewis said.C=ong.D (mily said. CSo have you checked your messages3D C4ot yet. BShe is so cra5y.a$ine wants to o2en u2 a location here. three stores already3D C4o. Ae have got to hire somebody in #oston.
eary.D Across the s0uare an enormous mar0uee read F1R(#R(AT814. #""LS.B C"f course. 1n s2ite of the fact that it was illuminated by what seemed to be a hundred thousand =(< lights. 1 hate =A. 8ow was =A3D CSucked. the sign managed . Finish your sandwich and let6s go into the city. =ook.BShe said to let Richmond worry about that. 1 don6t want any more air2ort food. C"h my godKD =ewis said when he rounded the corner at .D They took #ART to the !owell Street station and dragged their luggage across Enion S0uare. CAhat3D CThis is the first time 1’ve seen the sign.D C1 know.
(mily had 2ersuaded the architect to salvage banisters. C4o. 1t was his idea to go all the way across the building like that.to look like the sort of hand-2ainted signboard that once hung above the <ragon. it’s great. Although =ewis would always like the (ureka store best. C1t’s just the biggest thing in Enion S0uare.D They crossed Enion S0uare and walked through the store’s wide double doors.D =ewis assured her. he had to admit that they did 2retty good job on Enion S0uare. C1t’s hugeKD C4ow. and floorboards from . trim.D (mily said. 1 think it’s bigger than the . you do remember that your wife does all the design work for this com2any.acy’s sign. Ahat does )rawford think3D C8e loves it.
B =ewis said.D 1t was only noon. B1t makes more sense to have these little stations around the store. but already the 2lace was full. BSee. The two of them stood just inside the doorway and looked around at the store. (ven though the bookshelves and furniture were the same at all twenty-eight stores around the country. the architectural salvage hel2 to give the stores the creaky old bookstore atmos2here she and =ewis wanted to 2reserve. Three 2olished mahogany bars were situated around the store. what 1 like about this one is that we don6t just have one big smoke sho2 in the back. with four or five stools . and she even found a collection of brass light fi$tures that came out of the old San Francisco library.old buildings.
Someone worked behind the counter at each station --. something close to it.dis2ensing joints. but a 2owerful and sur2risingly 0uiet ventilation system ke2t the 2lace clean and smelling more likeHwell.com’s data showed that more than half of their customers downloaded a title after seeing it in the store. of course. 8ardly anyone bought one. .Richmond insisted on calling them cannabis sommeliers --. refilling bowls.at each. 2eo2le actually did 2ick u2 a book once they settled into a chair. And in s2ite of =ewis6s early doubts. and chatting with the customers. and in fact most of their book sales were to collectors who were after a 2articular autogra2h or an unusual binding. At first . if not an old bookstore. #ut 4ile.a$ine had worried that the 2lace would reek of stale smoke.
1t was here in San Francisco that he launched a series of writing worksho2s and author events. C8ey.That satisfied )rawford. taking (mily’s suitcase from her and shaking =ewis’ hand.D Although )rawford had ho2ed to kee2 the original <ragon as the store where he could e$2eriment and launch new 2roducts. )ome check it out. whose job it was to scour garages and warehouses for books to rotate through the shelves. C1’ll get these sent over to your hotel.D he said. And it was )rawford who a22roached them now. set u2 an old-fashioned 2rinting 2ress and bookbinding sho2 where artists could . the fact was that the Enion S0uare location was so much bigger and busier that he was s2ending most of his time here.
when cartogra2hers thought that )alifornia was an island. hand-colored ma2s. A letter addressed to 8unter Thom2son from his editor. The charred edges around the bullet hole had been carefully 2reserved. which Thom2son had taken outside and shot. CThis is gorgeousKD RedoutW’s roses. the letter 2ressed . A ma2 dating back to %'+&. C)rawfordKD (mily e$claimed as she walked into the glass-enclosed gallery s2ace.2ractice those lost arts. and manuscri2t 2ages. engraved in 2ainstaking detail under orders from Iose2hine #ona2arte and colored by hand two hundred years ago. andHthis is what =ewis and (mily had come to seeHo2ened a gallery that sold botanical engravings. all framed and 2riced and ready to hang on the wall.
but he was tem2ted to raise it to a thousand just to kee2 it in the store a while longer. :ou just have to know where to look.D . CThis stuff is ama5ing.between glass. CSame way your uncle did.D =ewis said. C8ow do you find it3D )rawford shrugged. 1t’s out there. )rawford had 2riced it at five hundred dollars.
And 1 can’t believe )rawford went along with it.onica’s Third Street !romenade and found herself 2ulled inside.ei ht"#five 1t was only a matter of time before . Sumner. and 1’m not going to ask. but she’d refused. C1t was a shitty thing to do. C1 walked out on them.D she said to her sister when the news broke about the 2artnershi2 between 4ile. =ewis is a sellout. #esides. They don’t owe me any favors. 8er sister had been trying for months to convince her to call =ewis and ask for a job.D . and the <ragon.inger wandered by the s2rawling new bookstore on Santa .
"utside.#ut here she was. The Santa . unable to stay away. =os Angeles had always been a caricature of itself. She didn’t even think she missed the <ragon much until she walked by and saw that they were hiring. drawn to the very memory of a bookstore. Soon she was standing at the counter filling out an a22lication for what was. essentially. only in Santa .inger thought.onica store had none of the flavor of the original <ragon. but she had grown accustomed to it in the last year. . and girls really did roller skate 2ast in bikinis.onica instead of (ureka. . 2alm trees flanked the sidewalks. her old job. but it did look dark and warm and literary in a way that made it seem like a foreign land here in southern )alifornia.
inger twirled the 2en nervously between her fingers and chewed on the ca2.D she said. She dro22ed the 2en on the counter and stared at him.D CThis color’s called egg2lant. .D he said. C:ou changed your wardrobe. C1 liked it when it was green. trying to decide how to describe her 2revious bookstore e$2erience. C:ou can kee2 that 2en. a grou2 of 2eo2le crowded around a set of architectural 2lans and talked about the final changes the store would need before it could o2en. C:ou changed your hair. At the other end of the counter.D one of the men said. breaking away from the grou2. then s2it it out. reali5ing that it wasn’t even hers.D .She leaned over the counter.
D . :ou’re not in here looking for a job.inger. C1 thought 1’d a22ly.CTurns out nobody wears a suit in )alifornia. 1’ll give you a job if that’s what you want. . C1 was ho2ing you might want dinner.D she said. are you3D C1 saw the sign.D CAell hell.D CAhat else would 1 want3D Richmond swallowed hard and tried to sound casual.
a cynical cor2orate maneuver aimed at co-o2ting the very literary culture it had killed. calling it a sham. "nce the news got out. The re2orters who had covered the demise of bookstores across the country lined u2 to take shots at this new venture. he heard from 2lenty of embittered former booksellers who accused him of jum2ing into bed with the enemy.ei ht"#six Sometimes =ewis wondered if he6d done the right thing by cutting a deal with .a$ine. #ut F=ewis reasoned. late at night. when he conjured u2 his uncle Sy’s s2irit and tried to make his case to the old manG what was the .
alternative3 The <ragon was the last bookstore left. Real books. Aithout customers. deckle-edge 2a2er and e$traordinary little engravings. and 2eo2le weren’t e$actly lining u2 to buy books there. She was sincere in her belief that the books themselves acted as a kind of touchstone. 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. with sum2tuous bindings and creamy. it wasHwhat3 A museum3 A charity3 A tourist attraction3 At least . And she wasn’t a snob about it. that her stores would connect 2eo2le to literature in some concrete way. And if they 2ersisted in doing most of their reading on their 2hones3 .a$ine saw a reason to get 2eo2le e$cited about books.
was born out of into$ication.a$ine could hardly object. . 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. and meant to be shared at 2arties and in backyards and living rooms and out on the street. like ja55 and 1m2ressionism.a$ine with an im2assioned defense of the 2rinted 2age. Sy believed that literature. =ewis knew that Sy would have come roaring back at . #ut he surely would have a22roved of that other thing they sold at Firebreathing #ooksHa slightly refined strain of (dith’s lovely cannabis. and she didn’t see why anyone else would. 8ealthy living. bred in bars and coffee houses and o2ium dens. he believed. either.. was the enemy of literature.
C<o whatever you want. kidKD =ewis could hear Sy saying during those late-night conversations.CSo lighten u2. Sto2 asking me.D .
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.amystewart. . Ioin the discussion about this book at www. To find out more.A&out the Author Amy Stewart is the author of four books on the 2erils and 2leasures of the natural world. )A.com and www.com.com.eurekabooksellers. visit www.lastbookstoreinamerica.
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