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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
which was a charming name. The screen was as easy to read as 2a2er and worked at all light levels. elegant.you got lost. and that 2a2er itself is as easy to read as 2a2er. but over time most 2eo2le just started referring to it as their 2hone. without re0uiring batteries or software u2dates.i5mo was lightweight. And they called it a .i5mo ran on a combination of solar energy and body heat and had a nearly unlimited storage . it would direct you back to safety and read you a story on the way. #efore you 2rotest that books themselves are intuitively sim2le to use.i5mo. 1t was the only kind of 2hone 2eo2le had anymore. consider this the . The . so there didn’t seem to be any reason to call it anything s2ecial. and intuitively sim2le to use.
allowing one to. and even )hoctaw. or they could ask the . "lder 2eo2le 2articularly loved the . The . man or woman. and even theft-2roof it identified you by your finger2rints and wouldn’t res2ond to anyone else’s touch. )hinese. shatter2roof. for instance. !eo2le all over the world were united in their adoration for this highly literate gadget.i5mo s2oke fluent S2anish. "h. The . but that’s not all.i5mo to read books to them in their choice of voices (nglish or American. take all of <avid =ivingstone’s voluminous writings into the most remote African jungles without ever re0uiring an electrical outlet. grandchild or #roadway actor.ca2acity.i5mo because they could enlarge the ty2eface to suit them as their eyesight failed.i5mo was water2roof. so .
And to those of you who are inclined to bellyache about the romance of dim old financially and seismically unsound bookstores7 . "h. no setu2 fees. 1t cost >/*.there was no 2oint in stealing it. from ancient )hinese scrolls and shattered bits of 2a2yrus to back issues of T+ Guide and all ?. Admit it you want one. which meant that you could 2ick u2 a new device anytime and it would instantly recogni5e you. 4o 2assword. no data transfer.oogle scanned every last scra2 of 2a2er. So everything was available on the . 1t backed u2 all your data seamlessly and constantly.*+ and it was made entirely of recycled materials. :ou wouldn’t miss books either if you had one of these.**' 8arle0uin romance titles.i5mo. and .
and the rest is entirely fiction. any actual 2ersons. ma2s. So let’s move on. ask yourselves this :ou don’t miss chamber 2ots and ether anesthesia. )alifornia. The author of this book is the owner of an anti0uarian bookstore in (ureka. and 2rints. 2laces. #ut 2lease be assured that unlike the bookstore in this story. or things described in this book are used fictitiously. do you3 "f course not. 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. (ureka #ooks sells nothing but books. @ "ne more thing.
. and intends to continue on that basis for generations to come.on glorious old 2a2er.
PART ONE .
The shelves in the study. 4o. 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 slim volumes of 2oetry. the tattered 2a2erbacks. (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. The stack on the nightstand. and (mily and =ewis didn6t miss them. They were . Those had all but vanished. the 2onderous leather-bound and gilt-edged classics with red ribbons sewn into the bindings.
Aell. even if they didn6t get around to reading them. and they were very good at kee2ing u2 with all of their friends’ blogs and u2dating their Facebook 2ages.2erfectly ha22y to read books on a little electronic device that had.e! -ork Times. they certainly downloaded a lot of books before their last vacation. ca2tivated the nation. And they did read. . or what was left of them in their 2ost-2rint incarnation. 4ot to mention e-mail and Twitter. Sometimes. 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 . 0uite frankly.
but not before taking an enormous. e$2eriences. no. 1t’s true that (mily and =ewis didn6t read many of those anymore. shockingly bitter gul2 himself7 he got . considering that when =ewis was a boy. he once s2ent a summer working in his Encle Sy’s bookstore in (ureka. 8e read . )alifornia. and any number of other books his 2arents wouldn’t have a22roved of7 he was once asked to fetch a cold beer for Aallace Stegner. That was surely the ha22iest summer of his youth.#ut if by CbooksD you mean eighty or ninety thousand words strung together into some kind of sustained narrative meant to be read as a cohesive whole -.aked (un h# (olita. which he did. Ahich is ironic. and 2ossibly life-changing. =ewis had a number of momentous. 1n just three short months.well.
Encle Sy had no children of his own and no understanding of the level of su2ervision that children re0uired. #ut Sy was not the sort of uncle to call or show u2 at )hristmas or remember your .to ride in a 2olice car Fwhich had nothing to do with Aallace Stegner or (olita--he just got lost and needed a ride homeG7 and he managed to stand u2 in front of a grou2 of twelve mildly into$icated adults and read a derivative but nonetheless brave little 2oem about 2readolescent malaise at The Firebreathing <ragon’s weekly 2oetry reading. :oung =ewis went seventeen days without a bath. 1t was glorious. and once ate nothing but olives and cocktail sausages for an entire weekend. 1t was a very interesting summer.
8e married (mily. you might as well not e$ist. 1f you weren’t in (ureka. After =ewis’ 2arents found out what had gone on that summer. which e$2lains why. 8e rarely thought about uncle Sy at all. inhabiting Sy’s dusty and never-0uite-al2habeti5ed world. =ewis sim2ly said .birthday. and from there he embarked u2on a disa22ointing career as a 2harmaceutical sales re2resentative. they never let him s2end another vacation with Sy. when #illy <alton called to talk to him about the 2robate of Sylvester !orter’s estate. and it never occurred to =ewis to call or show u2 on his own. So =ewis went on to business school. a gra2hic designer who earned more than he did for what seemed like much less work.
D he said. said. animated . he would have to learn to tolerate. now that he and (mily were married.D and hung u2. Also on the list were thinks it)s funny to talk to the at about urrent events. 1 think you have the wrong number. numbers. B:ou heard me. BAhat was that3B =ewis looked u2 with sur2rise.C1’m sorry. !ron. 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. Arong number. (mily. C:ou didn’t get a name3D =ewis 2ut his seed-encrusted thumb into his mouth and thought# insists on dis ussin. points hopsti ks in people)s fa es durin. who was sitting across from him at the bagel sho2.
B #illy said when =ewis answered. 8e 2ulled his thumb out of his mouth and shrugged.onversations in "hinese restaurants. and insists on takin.oofy photos in Santa hats on summer va ations for future use on "hristmas ards. which to be honest made her faster than =ewis most daysHbut lately the list of irritating traits was beginning to weigh on him. B1t6s about your uncle Sy. B1 didn6t catch the name. su ks on his thumb/ The 2hone bu55ed again.she never s2ent more than half an hour getting ready to go anywhere. (mily had her good 0ualities -. (mily 2ressed her li2s together and thought.B he said.B . . (mily was still waiting for an answer. B<on6t hang u2.
and a man who sold blue-green algae ca2sules through a multilevel marketing scheme called 9ita=ife. 8e shared the s2ace with three other lawyers. #illy thoughtG. A secretary named )onnie Slack showed u2 every morning at eight to sit in a kind of . a husband-and-wife 2sychologist team Fa miserable idea. have a law office.two Although it would have sur2rised many of his clients to learn this. 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. in fact. a real estate agent. #illy <alton did.
if any showed u2. #illy had failed to attend the meeting where the decision to hire )onnie was made. and most 2eo2le felt . but if he had been there. )onnie never missed a day of work. #ut as it turned out. That left )onnie with the res2onsibility of caring for a ficus tree and making sure the fire e$tinguisher 2assed ins2ection once a year.i5mo. he would have insisted that they not hire a secretary named Slack. !eo2le took their own calls. res2onded to their own e-mail. and even billed their clients through a nifty mobile banking a2 on their . #ut having a rece2tionist was one of the benefits of this shared office arrangement.makeshift rece2tion area at the to2 of the stairs and greet clients. and she did anything her em2loyers asked her to doH although there wasn’t much to do.
that without )onnie. there would be no reason to have an office at all. Sy was #illy’s best friend. 1t ha22ens in bars and alleys and even in bookstores. dro22ing into a chair across from the counter where he could observe the theatrics that seemed to surround Sy the unwanted and often alarming advice he delivered to children about the advantages of . 8e 2referred to do his lawyering out on the streets. "ver the last twenty years #illy must have crossed the <ragon’s threshold thousands of times. 1t had been a miserable si$ months since Sy’s death. a fi$ed 2oint in his life that #illy had assumed would never move. he believed. The law doesn6t ha22en in an office. #illy agreed that offices didn’t have much of a 2oint. (s2ecially in bookstores.
After Sy died. #illy 2icked u2 some of his best cases by lingering around the <ragon’s counter. #illy continued to hang around the store.dro22ing out of school and 2ursuing their own education on their own terms7 the lengthy and 2ointless investigations into 2etty crimes like graffiti and sho2lifting that ke2t the (ureka 2olice de2artment’s foot 2atrol engaged in a genial and long-running dialogue with sho2kee2ers7 the literary debates that ended with Sy shouting down and e$2elling anyone who disagreed with him. listening in on Sy’s harangues of his customers for some hint of an im2ending divorce or a winnable lawsuit. There was always something ha22ening at the <ragon. #illy never missed a day of it. 8e had not gotten over the .
lingering long after the funeral and then one day just vanishing. would fade eventually. 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. just unusually 0uiet and non-cor2oreal. #illy knew. Sy’s will had gone . knocking him off his feet with the force of its de2arture. This feeling. but #illy 2referred to e$2erience it as a sort of transitional 2hase. shocking friends and lovers who had grown accustomed to the idea that the dead were not really dead. orH worseHwould be ri22ed away from him all at once one day. 8e believed that sometimes the dead had a way of sticking around. might materiali5e in his s0ueaky old chair behind the counter as if he had never left at all. a friendly haunting.
which gave him access to file . 1t never occurred to him that the clients would actually die someday. #ut it eventually turned u2 in a bo$ of old 2am2hlets on 9ictorian medicinal remedies that Sy must have bought the same year he and #illy wrote out the will. 8e was doing wills for free back then in the ho2es of drumming u2 some clients.missing. but nobody remembered the ne2hew’s name. and that he6d need to 2roduce a co2y of the will and act u2on its instructions. and 2robate was ho2elessly hung u2 while #illy searched for it. 8e knew Sy had left the store to a ne2hew. 1t had been over twenty years since he’d drafted the will7 #illy wasn6t even sure he’d 2assed the bar at that 2oint. #illy located it by lying flat on his back and sliding under the bookstore6s massive oak desk.
when he 2ulled out the 2am2hlets advertising Ayer’s )herry !ectoral and Sarsa2arilla Tonic. BIesus.well. since the days when Sy actually cared about sorting 2a2ers into file bo$es.bo$es that had been stashed there since --. She6d taken to wearing these 2leated schoolgirl skirts that she found at a thrift store. She had scaled a ladder to reach some volume on the wall of books behind the counter. B4o. B8ow long have these been here3B BAre they 2riced3B asked .inger.B said #illy. 8e slid out from under the desk and looked u2 at .B said #illy. but ever . There was sort of a 2ost)atholic school 2unk irony to the look.inger. who had come in on her day off because )rawford had failed to show u2 again.
C:ou’re getting rid of these3D CAhat’s anybody going to do with a 2am2hlet3D she said. colds. As if the weight of all the unsold books around her weren’t bad enough. showing her a handful. #illy had lost interest. bronchitis. 4ow he dared confront her with a 2am2hlet. CToss them.D she said.inger started dying her hair green to cover u2 the gray. hoarseness. JAyer6s cherry 2ectoral with o2ium. for the cure of coughs. influen5a. and for the . C8ow would you 2rice them3D C1 wouldn’t. 8e didn6t even bother sliding over a cou2le of feet to try to get a look u2 her skirt.since .D CReally3D he said. hea2ing e$tra scorn on the word.B he said B=isten to this. inci2ient consum2tion. C#ut these are cool. crou2.
CFine.relief of consum2tive 2atients in advanced stages of the disease.B he said.inger said.D CAhat did he leave me3D C.D .’ :ou’re going to take o2ium for hoarseness3 That’s fantasticKD .D C1s it really all going to that kid3 The house and everything3D C1f the kid wants it. 8e didn’t even know you then. <id you find the will3D C1t6s right here.D C:ou should have never let him do that. They’re yours. #illy. C8e 2robably signed it the same day all this stuff came into the store. climbing down from the ladder and holding the second volume of a Tibetan-)hinese dictionary over his head like .inger.inger was unmoved.
inger. the buckling 2lywood shelves looking as though they might finally give way.she intended to dro2 it on him. !robably married.D #illy said.inger. C. The store swam dangerously around him. . slamming the dictionary on the desk. Lids. 8e took a dee2 breath and his vision cleared.D CLids3D . C8asn’t anybody thought about what we’re going to do when little =ewis finds out thatH D C. CAhat kind of lawyer lets his client leave everything to a ten year-old3D C8e’s not ten anymore. !lease. C8e’s got to be over thirty by now.inger said. .ive it a rest.D 8e groaned and 2ulled himself to his feet.D said #illy.
had finally gone entirely grey. which he ke2t tied in a forlorn wis2 of a 2onytail. C1’m fine.D he said. .D #illy fished his 2hone out of his 2ocket and settled into Sy’s old chair to deliver the news to =ewis. The last si$ months had aged #illy7 his hair.inger said.C:ou all right3D .D . C8and me the 2hone. with something that 2assed for concern in her voice. CAnd get out from behind the counter.inger asked. 8is eyes were 2ermanently bloodshot7 his skin was turning to tissue. Ae’re running a store here.D CEse your own 2hone.
three =ewis 2ut the 2hone down and stared at some 2oint in the air above (mily6s head. B<id he die3B (mily asked. B:ou remember my uncle Sy.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. B8e --B 8e couldn6t bring himself to say it. She watched him and waited. . right3B BThe one who didn6t come to our wedding3B B:eah. having figured that much out from =ewis’s side of the conversation. Finally he s2oke.
that has to be --B B"ne of the last bookstores in America.B8e left me the bookstore. B8oney.B . 1 know.B BThe bookstore3 8e still has the bookstore3D (mily leaned forward and took =ewis6s hands.
An outlier. a fluke. re2orters had been tracking the dwindling number of bookstores in America. (very time one closed they would trot out a list of the few stores that remained o2en around the country. (ventually the only survivors were the 2eo2le who had lied about their age and enlisted as teenagers just before victory was declared. The odd bookstore that stayed o2en was. 1t was like kee2ing a list of the last surviving veterans of some distant war.four For the last several years. then lived an unusually long life afterward. like that teenage soldier. .
and handsome hardcovers sometimes went to interior decorators who wanted to furnish a room in some old-fashioned style. Autogra2h collectors 2icked u2 signed co2ies7 art lovers would sometimes buy an old volume for the engravings.Re2orters. 1t then fell to used bookstores and dealers of rare anti0uarian books to kee2 the tradition of 2rinted books alive. but even they were not faring well. Stores that sold new books were the first to go. loved to s2eculate about which store would be the last bookstore in America. as 2ublishers sim2ly sto22ed 2rinting new books and the bookstores were left with nothing to sell. #ut a used 2a2erback3 Iust to read3 8ardly anyone wanted those anymore. . attached as they were to the days of 2a2er and ink and steady 2aychecks.
. es2ecially now that its erratic and ill-tem2ered founder was gone. nostalgic neighborhoods. 2rotecting it against rent increases. #oth seemed much more secure than the <ragon. #ut the sad fact was that the rate at which bookstores were closing seemed to be accelerating.ackey6s #ooks in )hicago was a more likely candidate. The last few holdouts were .The Firebreathing <ragon was generally believed to be too remote and too obscure to last much longer. as was "ut of !rint in #rooklyn.ackey6s had owned its own building since %*%?. and "ut of !rint was recently 2urchased by a wealthy real estate attorney indulging his daughter6s literary fantasies. They were each fine old institutions rooted in affluent. .
4ow the last few bookstores were closing at the rate of two or three 2er month and it actually seemed 2ossible that. =ewis should have known that the <ragon was on the bookstore death watch list. "nce they saw their names in the 2a2er. they could finally let go.to22ling 0uickly. 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. by the end of the summer. leaving Sy to shuffle around his weird old house on a hillto2 overlooking 8umboldt #ay. . like those elderly war veterans who were only hanging on long enough to attain the rank of oldest living survivor. there might not be a single bookstore left.
B she said. staring at his toes. BSi$ months ago. "ut of the blue. a sure sign that he was 2ondering something. Ahen did you say he died3B (mily said that night as she got into bed.five CAait a minute.B =ewis was 2erched on the edge of the bed. 1 guess we6ll find out when we get there. BSo how is it that the store is still o2en3 Aho6s been running it all this time3B B"h. BThat’s what 1 thought. 8eart attack.et where3B .B B. 1 didn6t even think to ask.
a wine . 4ow her feet were right ne$t to his.issionstyle bed made of warm cherry. right3D Still he didn’t look u2 at her.B(ureka. those 2erfectly manicured feet =ewis loved to wra2 his hands around when she s2rawled across from him on the giant sectional sofa they installed in their living room after their wedding. The sectional was the first of many 2ieces of e0ui2ment that married life seemed to re0uire after s2ending nearly fifty thousand dollars on the wine country wedding and the honeymoon in 8awaii. it hardly seemed right to come home to a house full of 2oorlyassembled 1kea furniture. A handsome .D =ewis did not look at her as he said this. 8e heard her slide out of bed and walk over to him. C:ou are kidding.
4ow =ewis awoke almost every night in a sweat. long-term investments in their own 2ros2erous future. always choosing the toaster with the best re2utation. the numbers roiling in his head. and a whole-house media system with integrated controls in every room seemed. She sho22ed with serene confidence. )redit cards. like smart 2urchases. 8e wanted out. 1t was overwhelming and sickening. the sneakers that . And (mily didn’t. at the time. )ar 2ayments. urban life filled with good things.refrigerator to store the bottles that arrived by mail from each of three wine clubs they’d joined. She just wanted a comfortable. Student loans. (mily wasn’t a bad 2erson7 she wasn’t shallow or vain7 she wasn’t s2oiled or unreasonable.
And she most certainly did not want to move to (ureka and take 2ossession of a failing bookstore. 1t would come. 2um2kin in fall. She wasn’t about to wait until she was old to see #uda2est or hang her clothes in a cedar-lined closet. the handwoven sli2covers that she changed with the seasons celery green in s2ring. a warm sunflower in summer and an icy blue in winter. She felt that the best way to live a life filled with good things and e$otic vacations was to just start living it. The time to get what she wanted was now. (mily’s was a comfortable and orderly world. And she never worried about the money. .could cure bad 2osture and burn more calories.
CIust drive u2 with me and see it. meeting her eyes at last. So why should she be the one to tell him no3 8e would . She could feel his heart 2ounding against her. what good would it do him3 That bookstore was already dead. C)an’t we just go look3D (mily knew that she should have refused to go. 1t just didn’t know it yet. #ut she didn’t refuse to go. 8e wra22ed his arms around her waist and leaned his head against her. She 2ut her hand on to2 of =ewis’ head and let it rest there.D =ewis said. She should have insisted that they have nothing to do with his uncle Sy’s cra5y old enter2rise on the 4orth )oast. =ewis knew nothing about books or bookstores. and even if he did. 8e was unha22yHshe knew that.
D she said.take one look at his inheritance and reali5e that there was nothing to do but sell it off and 2ocket what little money they could get for it.D he said. Ahat was the harm in that3 C:ou’re right. 8e looked u2 at her in sur2rise. :ou’re finally going to get me to go to (ureka. "f course he would. This would be nothing but a weekend out of town. CAe should at least go have a look. slow breath. C:ou’ll love it. .D 8e let out a long.
A life-si5ed re2lica of a horse. made of leather and stuffed with horsehair. cou2lers and a$les and steel wheel rims and rain a2rons. was mounted on a 2latform and wheeled onto the wooden-2lank sidewalk in decent weather. the Firebreathing <ragon’s building housed a carriage sho2. which was the most lively street in this booming 2ort town. 1t was the only 2lace in town to get whi2s and saddles. . :ou could buy an entire carriage and roll it right out the front of the store onto Second Street. bridles and bits.six A hundred years ago.
light 2oured down on them from two skylights in the ceiling. and on sunny days. each of which were framed in the kind of florid 2lasterwork common to buildings in those days. bells and rein rails. 1ron hooks hung from the elegant 9ictorian banister. E2stairs the walls were lined with racks of wooden bo$es holding all manner of obsolete technology iron cli2s and leather coils.A long and skinny structure with thirty foothigh ceilings and a second-floor me55anine. 0uite suddenly. and sus2ended from those hooks were bridles and lines and saddles. Things that became useless. thanks to 8enry Ford and his bright ideas. whi2 sockets and shaft ti2s. the building lent itself 2erfectly to the business of carriages. . )arriages sat on a 2olished showroom floor in the middle of the building.
and the horse-and-buggy sho2. reo2ened as a saloon. where they could catch the eyes of motorists 2assing through on their way to San Francisco or the gold mines in Trinity )ounty. who framed a %*&+-era 2hotogra2h of the store in its horse-and-carriage glory and hung it behind the counter. "ld Town became a red-light district for loggers and fishermen. )ar dealershi2s o2ened on the edge of town. The irony of this was not lost on Sy.The sho2 suffered the fate of all horse-andbuggy sho2s. Sy fell into the habit of talking to the 2icture as if he was addressing the store’s long- . Ahen the 2ossibility emerged that an electronic gadget might actually re2lace the book. after being boarded u2 for a few years.
i5mo’s lurid 2leasures. when his long-time customers would come in and tell him that they would never surrender to . according to Sy’s mythology. s2ent his broken and dis2irited days in the saloon that re2laced his failed carriage sho2. that they would always return to the solid comfort of a real book.dead owner. "r. C=ook where it got him.D Aalter. Sy would just shake his head and 2oint to the 2hotogra2h. lamenting the downfall of the solid and reliable horse and 2redicting that . C8ow does a horse-and-buggy man know when to give it u2. Aalter3D he used to shout as he watched 2eo2le walk 2ast his sho2 without giving it a glance.D he would holler. CThat’s what you 2eo2le told Aalter. 8e even gave the owner a name Aalter.
A 2erson with no great ambition or financial obligations could o2erate a little business of their own and get by for years. when the timber industry fell into decline.2eo2le would soon tire of the chea2 and risky thrills offered by the automobile. 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. The saloon closed in the early si$ties. 8e even anne$ed the remains of an old bank . That’s e$actly what Sy did. along with the other bars along Second Street. Adventurous back-to-the-landers moved u2 to 8umboldt )ounty from the #ay Area. arriving in (ureka in %*'M in a school bus filled with books and just enough cash for a down 2ayment on the largest vacant building in "ld Town.
taking over its vault as a storeroom and 2artitioning off the front of the building so that it could be sold as a se2arate storefront.building ne$t door. where they could kee2 . #ookshelves climbed u2 the walls to the me55anine. books sat on tables and faded under the bright skylights. and near the entrance. a massive oak desk served as a sort of encam2ment for the staff. running from the sunlit front to the very dim and chilly rear of the building. 1n the center of the building. and then continued on the second floor. To most 2eo2le the <ragon looked like it had always been a bookstore. . where carriages had once gleamed on their 2edestals.ismatched bookcases formed cram2ed and narrow stacks around the edges of the former buggy showroom.
(ventually he bought a broken-down 9ictorian on a generous 2arcel of land outside of town and moved into it. The rest of "ld Town came together in more or less the same way. and the 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. An old cannery became a seafood restaurant. accessible through a service door in the alley.G For a few years Sy lived in an a2artment on the roof.one eye on "ld Town and one eye on each other. F4o one watched the customers. the town’s first meeting hall . and was known to a22ear on Sunday mornings in his bathrobe and cook scrambled eggs on a hot 2late behind the counter.
where )ity 8all and the jail were situated. 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. was deserted. The town’s civic life started on Second Street and continued through to Si$th. . . First Street. "nly the waterfront remained vacant. The fisherman had left. Ahile most towns along the !acific )oast face the water. which ran along the waterfront.became a thrift store. There was not even a walking 2ath for tourists who wanted to watch the 2elicans dive for their dinner or see the sun set over the water. and the old sawmill that once 2rocessed the logs that floated down the river had long ago shut down.eanwhile.
The lawlessness and disorder of )alifornia in the si$ties drew her to 8umboldt. and if they tried to track her down. sharing his narrow bed in the old a2artment above the store and moving with him to what they liked to call their Jcountry home’ on a hill overlooking the bay. This was her home now.seven 1t was not until after Sy died that anyone reali5ed that he and (dith had not been married. . She had family back in #ostonHa father and four brothers who all served on #oston’s 2olice forceHbut she never s2oke of them. they didn’t succeed. (dith had sim2ly been with him since the beginning.
She’d been 0uite alone over the last si$ months. on this sunny day in early summer. (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. and no one had taken res2onsibility for (dith. (dith was outside in her work clothes yanking on the blackberry vine that had taken . And now. who she addressed constantly the way Sy used to talk to Aalter the carriage-sho2 owner. but she was also the one with the bad heart and the brush with cancer. no one e$2ected him to go first. Sometimes she seemed too delicate to kee2 u2 with Sy. rarely s2eaking to anyone but Sy.Although Sy was older than (dith.
and discovered a lum2 in the 2rocess. snaking through the fine dusty earth on her stomach and ho2ing that the old flannel shirt she wore in the garden would be enough to kee2 the s2iders out. Two weeks later. She tore off the bra. C1 am not crawling under that 2orch again. She 2ulled so hard that when it broke looseHsna22ing cleanly off at the base. . brushed it away. as if even this was his fault. "ne night several years ago she was getting undressed for bed when she noticed a brown s2ider crawling out of her bra. SyKB she shouted. 4ot that she had anything against s2iders. leaving the roots intactHthe force of it knocked her into the grass. B<ammit.D #ut she did crawl under.root under Sy’s 2orch. a doctor in Redding confirmed that it was cancer.
B:ou know what3 . like flour.od 2ut the s2ider in my bra. B:ou6re 2robably wondering right now why a loving . This woman turned out to be someone who thrived on other 2eo2le6s cancer diagnoses7 on the way home. "nce she reached the base of the blackberry vine.D (dith got so irritated by this that she finally sna22ed. until it took on an air of s2iritual mysticism far beyond what (dith had intended. . she scra2ed away as much of loose dirt as she could -.B That line was re2eated around town for years.aybe . she ke2t saying things like.od would 2ut a lum2 in your breast.She’d had no choice but to acce2t a ride to the a22ointment from a well-meaning middle aged woman who lived down the street.wondering why the dirt under a house was always so fine and dry.
he 2referred to let his s2rawling .com2ared to the clay in the garden around it -and 2ulled the mess of roots out of the ground. even when Sy was alive. 4ow the entire thicket of vines. an im2ressive level of decay for a house that had only been vacant for si$ months. she made her way to the ditch at the end of Sy6s 2ro2erty that they used as a green waste dum2. <own it went to join the rest of the bramble. a good fifty feet in all. grabbing the vine by its roots the way you’d haul a dog around by the collar. followed her meekly out from under the 2orch. Then. (dith wouldn6t normally bother with these kind of 2reventative maintenance chores. She dusted herself off. "f course. but the blackberries were snaking under the house and growing through the floorboards.
Ahen the roof leaked .2ro2erty settle into a state of natural decline. The idea that things should be allowed to gradually fall a2art. And when the mossroof s2rung a leak. which made him feel vindicated. receiving nothing but 2alliative care to ease the sym2toms. the better it worked as a greenhouse. Ahen (dith 2ointed out that moss was accumulating on the roof of his ramshackle Nueen Anne. Another ten years went by and suddenly green roofs were in vogue. The more an outbuilding fell a2art. Sy went into the attic and 2atched it with mud from the inside. worked in the bookstore as well. 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.
Foreign =anguage had been engulfed by #ritain and France. "ver time. 4ew books were never shelved7 they were sim2ly stacked somewhere near the section where they belonged. 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. Some sections were com2letely im2assable.reat #ooks Series. he sus2ended buckets from the ceiling and threw a 2lastic tar2 over the endangered bookshelves until the storms receded in s2ring. The children6s section was only accessible to 2eo2le short and skinny enough to crawl under a table 2iled nearly to the ceiling with automotive . which were subse0uently taken over by several do5en com2lete sets of TimeO=ife6s .there.
coat hangers.re2air manuals. which is why she stayed out of the bookstore and refused Sy’s re2eated re0uests to move in with him. . (dith could never tolerate his sort of mess. Sy liked the logic in this. usually involving 2a2er cli2s. 1n short. 2ennies. 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. 8e loved to watch it grow and im2ose its own strange order on the world. Sy loved a good mess. settling into one of his rentals instead. and a case of acidfree binding ta2e that he bought back when he thought he might seriously attem2t to be a bookseller. 8e never tried to intercede when a mess was brewing7 he merely constructed his own odd ada2tations.
She used to be able to count on a burly . which meant that if they moved.There were about a half-do5en old buildings on the 2ro2erty. 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. each one cho22ed into a2artments and rented out to musicians whose tenure lasted decades. This allowed the musicians to indulge their aversion to day jobs. Sy had figured out the 2erfect a22roach to kee2ing long-term tenants he never charged them a security de2osit. and created the e$2ectation that they had no right to ask him to fi$ anythingHnot that he would have anyway. they wouldn6t have any money coming back to them. 8e also ke2t the rents low.
4ow she was looking after her enormous garden by herself. and for a moment (dith wondered if young =ewis and his wife would notice it at all. The shrubs covered the fence com2letely. even that would be over. And once Sy’s ne2hew got into town. southern facing slo2e of her garden.bass 2layer to roll out of bed around noon and haul bags of 2otting soil around or fi$ a break in the irrigation system. The fragrance was strong enough to discourage deer and make sure that no one else could follow their nose into (dith’s garden. (dith made her way from the ditch to the fence that ke2t deer out of the broad. The fence was overgrown with rosemary and an enormous redflowering 2inea22le sage. .
as she sli22ed through the gate and locked it behind her. "r. maybe =ewis would have her arrested. 1t could go either way.aybe she could get by for a few more months.. CAhat’s the kid going to make of this. Sy3D she asked. .
he had refused to 2artici2ate in the endless series of town hall meetings over the future of (ureka’s abandoned waterfront.ei ht Ahen Sy was alive. but the <ragon was im2ossible to move. "n the day that #illy <alton found Sy’s will. 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. and it was a wonder nobody ever did. councilwoman Ale$is Trevino was sitting .
The caffeine made her leg shake. <on )antrell. 8e’d been the low bidder on the 2roject she’d 2ro2osed for the waterfront. which just ha22ened to be a 2arcel of land that was once occu2ied by her grandfather’s sawmill. where contractors drank free as long as they brought their own cu2. and it made her even more im2atient with her contractor than she usually was. <on still held the cu2 of coffee he’d 2icked u2 at the hardware store. Ale$is was drinking her second chai. C1 can redraw these 2lans and fit another studio above the retail. in his best 1’m-gonna-level-with-you voice.D <on was saying. The . #ut the condos aren’t the 2roblem. CAll right.across the street from the <ragon at )ontra )offee with her contractor. =e$.
retail’s your 2roblem. <on. And even if you do. the 2lanning commission’s 2robably going to kick you off the 2roject over conflict of--D C<on’t you say that.D =e$ hissed. 1’ll 2ut a fence around that 2arcel and sit on it for another ten years if they don’t let me build.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. C1t’s my damn 2roject. . :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. There was no way this 2roject was getting off the ground. one who was in touch with something he liked to call reality. !eo2le like =e$ imagined that (ureka would one day wake u2.
1t didn’t e$ist to entertain other 2eo2le. even with the granite counterto2s and the co22er range hoods. Esed to be you could come u2 here and work in the sawmills or 2ull crab out of the water. Rent a room for a cou2le hundred bucks. <on thought. and you might . but he was 2retty sure they wouldn’t be dro22ing four hundred grand for a studio with a concrete floor and e$2osed ductwork. =e$ had a vision of sleek bistros overlooking the water. and tourists with nothing better to do than buy 2aintings of sailboats from the artists who would occu2y her live-work studios on the harbor.and start acting like one. bouti0ues that sold something other than dusty old books. (ureka wasn’t a bad 2lace to live. it just wasn’t that kind of 2lace. <on didn’t know any artists.
back-to-thelanders. 2ot smokers.just slide by without doing much of anything at all. !eo2le like <on 2ocketed fifty grand every time 2eo2le like =e$ came u2 with another scheme for im2roving (ureka and needed 2lans drawn u2. A certain cross-section of )alifornia’s 2o2ulation was attracted to that idea. (ureka never did get im2roved. !eo2le like =e$ thought they could 2ut condos on the waterfront and change all that. burned-out activists. (ureka never did become .endocino or )armel-by-theSea. but <on . and 2eo2le who just didn6t fit in anywhere else. so (ureka had more than its share of drifters. (ven though real estate 2rices went u2 after the highway de2artment decided not to run a freeway through the middle of town.
BSomething like that wouldn6t really go on the 2lans. so it was working out all right for him.built a deck and a 2arking s2ace for his R9 last summer. like ---B B1t6s not cosmetic. 16m a 2ublic official. =e$ blew on her chai and s0uinted at the 2lans <on had s2read out on the table.B he said. <on. BThese skateboarders come down here and 2o2 wheelies or whatever the hell you call it and run off the tourists. These 2lans are .B =e$ said. BThat6s more of a cosmetic thing. B<id you 2ut the skate blocks in3B she asked. 1f only he didn’t have to sit through these damn meetings. and 1 ran on a 2romise that 16d run those kids off the wharf. 1 want to make it clear from day one that we6re not going to tolerate it anymore.
8e made seven hatch marks along a length of sidewalk in front of the retail. !eo2le always asked <on how he could 2ut u2 with =e$. She’d 2ay it.going to have skate blocks on them if 1 had to draw them in myself. and she gave him steelbelted radials. B1s that what those are3B BThat6s what those are.B <on 2ulled a 2encil out of his shirt 2ocket and leaned across the table. BThere you go.B <on said. and he’d 2ut new tires on his truck. 8e gave her imaginary skate blocks. and that’s how he did it.B B"hKB =e$ said in an uncharacteristically girly voice. . 8e6d bill her si$ hundred bucks for that modification ne$t time he sent her a change order.
he should take it u2 with =e$. CAhen do you break ground3D .uillermo asked. sto22ed at the table and 2icked u2 <on6s em2ty coffee cu2 gingerly.uillermo . CAe’re done anyway. 8e leaned over to try to get a look before the 2lans disa22eared. She stood u2 to leave. 1f .uillermo didn’t like him drinking hardware store coffee in his sho2. as if it was something he6d found on the sidewalk and wasn6t sure he wanted to touch.. C4ot u2 to me. C. and rolled u2 <on’s 2lans. and at that moment she saw #illy <alton .artPn.D =e$ said. )ontra )offee’s owner. She’s the one who insisted on meeting here.oreQahQ3D <on shook his head and waved him away.D =e$ said.
C. and ste22ed behind the counter.D she said.oddamn city attorney.walk out of the <ragon with a bo$ under his arm. but he was already gone. following <on out the back door. She turned around to <on. C1’m not here.D she said to .uillermo. .
)rawford. the lights were on. And there was . CAhat the hell are you doing here3D )rawford said as he shoved the door o2en.nine Ahen )rawford showed u2 for work at eleven. he was sur2rised to find the <ragon’s door unlocked. unbo$ing cookbooks and shelving them in what was once the 2sychology section. Some of us work. C1’m working. Sure enough. 8e s2un his key around in the lock a cou2le of times and 2eered in the windows.D .inger.
which was a s2ecialty of his. #ack in Sy’s day. 1t felt like sacrilege to see the store drift so far from its original values.inger and stood between her and the bookcase she was organi5ing.inger might as well have hauled Sy’s s2irit out to the recycling bin along with the cardboard. e$2osing bare wood for the first time in years. .inger had hauled out eight bags of old cardboard and news2a2ers and then swe2t the floor. 8e marched over to . em2loyees undertook cleaning 2rojects at their own risk. BAs the manager of this store ---B . noticing that things had changed back there. )rawford saw an o22ortunity to take a 2rinci2led stand. .)rawford rolled his eyes and dro22ed his back2ack behind the counter. too. This outraged )rawford.
C:ou are not the manager.B BShitK 8ow much time do we have3D )rawford o2ened a second bo$ of cookbooks and started loading them onto a shelf.et out of my face.D C#y four days. They’re coming u2 here in a week or two. CAell.B . (mily.D CThey3D C8e6s got a wife.D CAell. B8e found the will. )rawford. 1’ve been here the longest. 1 think we should at least talk to #illy before we ---B B#illy was already here. C4ot much.inger had regretted 2ost2oning the start date of her job at the <ragon until after =abor <ay. 8e called =ewis. .B she said.D For over a decade .
2ulling out an early 0oy of "ookin. all 2urchased from the Iunior =eague when their charity booksho2 closed its doors. C:ou now know everything 1 know. #ut )rawford took an uncharacteristic interest in them.inger shrugged. 1t was sur2risingly satisfying work. filling a section and breaking down the em2ty bo$es. and facing out three books with cu2cakes on the cover. shelving books alongside each other.BAhat6s her deal3B . . The cookbooks themselves were nothing s2ecial mundane collections of casserole reci2es and easy su22ers for busy moms. to 2ut on the rare books shelf.D They worked in silence.
Aren’t you cute.his . 2ro22ing his feet u2 on the counter. 8e had the lean frame of someone who subsisted mostly on coffee and cigarettes. .inger said. )rawford ignored him.D .C)u2cakes. There was always someone )rawford wasn’t s2eaking to7 this week it was . BAe’re o2en.inger said. CAre you guys o2en or what3B .raphi s off the chair and dro22ed into it. Iust then . . with the su2erior attitude of a man who6d been at work since five.ational Geo.inger thought he wore the look of a weathered old activist well -. without looking u2.uillermo said.uillermo.D .uillermo brushed a stack of .uillermo 2ushed o2en the front door and kicked the doorsto2 into 2lace.
B . .uillermo had ke2t a 2articularly close eye on the store. After Sy’s death . what do you think.et used to it.inger said.B B. B8aven6t seen her. B8as (dith been in this week3B he asked. BThink so3B BAell.B she said. B<amnK 16m getting low.uillermo3 This kid6s going to 0uit his cushy job in San Iose to move u2 to 8umboldt )ounty and just ---B She couldn’t finish. . She ri22ed another bo$ of books o2en and glared down into its contents. dro22ing in with the air of someone who had the ability to re2ort directly back to Sy if anything was amiss.face was all interesting angles and salt and 2e22er stubble.
D . dro22ing onto the floor and wi2ing his brow as if he had e$erted himself in this first half hour of the day.uillermo jum2ed u2 as if he’d forgotten all about the coffee sho2.D )rawford said. ..B he said. C(verybody in town knows. As long as the checks clear the bank. what does he care3B CThat’s insane. C)all me when she gets here.et back to your coffee sho2. .uillermo shrugged. BAre you sure he even has to know3B B8ow can he not know3B )rawford said. BAell.inger. Ahat a cou2le of drama 0ueens. C. BAbsentee landlord. not if you 2ut it that way.D he said.D .uillermo sighed.
C<on’t even think it.D .D .C<on’t count on it. she added.D C<on’t say it.inger called after him. C1 think we’ve seen the last of (dith. Then.D )rawford said. turning to )rawford.
The air2ort task force held its eleventh meeting of the year. the calves ambled over to the nearest e$it ram2 of their own accord. As it ha22ened. leaving the farmer with nothing to do but walk along behind them and fend off 0uestions from the growing crowd of onlookers 2arked on the shoulder. That would be today’s to2 story. this one convened to draw . Four 8olstein calves had esca2ed their 2en just south of Fortuna.ten 1t was another slow news day at the 1umboldt 1erald. and a 2hotogra2her had been dis2atched to grab a 2hoto of the farmer shooing them off the freeway.
u2 a 2lan for moving the baggage claim area out of an abandoned car wash ne$t door to the air2ort and into the terminal itself. . 8e’d been 2ut on the business desk. was not assigned to cover either of these breaking stories. where he was su22osed to drum u2 story ideas.et a Face =iftD was the best headline the 1erald could come u2 with on short notice.alway <aniels. but they’d get another shot at it tomorrow after there was time to get citi5en reactions and run a follow-u2. which meant a free dinner of chicken wings and chea2 wine once a month at the )hamber mi$er. CAir2ort #ags . having refused the buy-out once again. and authorshi2 of a blog called C8um#i5D that offered u2beat 2rofiles of new sandwich sho2s and art galleries in "ld .
a declaration that was usually good for a weeks’ worth of reaction 2ieces featuring fishermen.Town. 1t was a comfortable and 2redictable news cycle. even as they re2eated their refusal to move into the new over2riced sho2s that would be built along the harbor. downtown. sho22ing and dining. s2arring with local merchants who would give almost anything to have twenty 2eo2le living and. along with re2ur2osed 2ress releases from the Small #usiness Administration. 2resumably. who resented the dwindling availability of actual docking facilities along the waterfront. 2unctuated by )hristmas retail sales . 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.
2rojections FCThere’s 4o !lace =ike "ld Town For the 8olidays. a 2erennial "ctober crowd-2leaser about the influ$ of cash into the local economy when the outdoor marijuana cro2 was harvested. #ut today wasn’t one of those days. behind-the-scenes stories of flower sho2s on 9alentine’s <ay FCFlorist !lays )u2id on February %RDG.alway couldn’t com2lainHhe was 2aying the rent and making a dent in his bar tab.alway’s boss #etsy . then it was time for )hristmas again. Then came interviews with summer tourists. and tales of harried )!As during ta$ season FCA Ta$ing Time for AccountantsDG.erchantsDG.iers had . .ost days it was fine. back-to-school ti2s for fall. Say =ocal . . . which is more than most of his former coworkers could say.
Ahile . and local 2olitics. but managing a loosely-knit confederacy of disgruntled re2orters-turnedbloggers was beyond her. which had once housed a 2rinting 2ress as well as a large editorial staff.been by his desk twice this morning. C4owKD the second one said. The news2a2er’s staff had been reduced to a handful of freelancers covering business. arts and culture. food. #etsy might have run a tight newsroom at one 2oint. environmental issues. They o2erated out of an old house near the courthouse that had been divided into offices. leaving 2ink sticky notes on his com2uter monitor both times. CSee meKD read one. The 1erald’s s2rawling brick building in "ld Town. had been demolished and turned into a 2arking lot.
8e was usually in the office by ten. She believed that her staff should show u2 by nine and stay 2ast five.the more august news organi5ations managed to kee2 a robust staff and do old-school investigative re2orting. 2articularly . #etsy hated e-mail. and skimming the news online. they de2ended on donations through their charitable foundations to make it ha22en.alway. She carried a . but he wasn’t awake until noon. a notion soundly rejected by almost everyone at the 1erald.i5mo but refused to use it. Around lunchtime his brain caught u2 with his body. checking email. and nobody was inclined to make a donation to the 1erald. which meant that he s2ent a cou2le of hours each morning drinking coffee. .
and #etsy sat among it as if she was 2reserved in wa$.alwayKD she called from the cracked and 2eeling leather chair she inhabited all day. 1t was a museum of late twentieth-century relics stacks of faded 2hone books. holding them u2 and raising his eyebrow in greeting. and a bin of uno2ened junk mail that had to go back five years. #ut today #etsy had a story all 2icked out for him. 1t was like a ta$idermied version of a newsroom. 8e 2eeled the notes off his monitor and carried them to her office. C. .making him coherent enough to make the rounds of "ld Town in search of a story. accordion files stuffed with news2a2er cli22ings. CSitKD #etsy’s office smelled of dandruff and 2encil shavings.
alway hadn’t ste22ed in her office in years. always with her brassy blonde hair 2iled on to2 of her head and s2rayed into 2lace. . you’re like a week late to that Rotary lunch. 8e 2referred to lean in the doorway. . #etsy made him write one every time a bookstore closed. 8e didn’t . C1’m late to a Rotary lunch. Ahat’s u23D C:eah. C1 want you to get down to the <ragon.alway had cranked out a do5en of these stories since the 8um#i5 blog launched two years ago.D 4ot another =ast #ookstore in America story.always in her black wool sweater.D he said.D #etsy said. C#ets. ho2ing that the 1erald2s local angle on what she called Cthe bookstore crisisD would get 2icked u2 nationally.
2robably.uillermo telling somebody that the new owners were coming into town.D CSomebody bought that 2lace3D . #ut that’s not it. The whole thing was such a ruse anyway everybody in town knew that the <ragon didn’t kee2 itself afloat selling books. 1 was getting my coffee this morning and 1 overheard .think he had another one in him. yeah. C8uh3 "hHwell. e$ce2t #etsy. 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. (veryone.
D #ut . 4ile. C. 8e already had his small-town cheerleader headline C#reathing 4ew =ife 1nto the Firebreathing <ragon. a cou2le of customer reactions. CArite that u2.C4o. the woman widely blamed for the downfall of the book.D C#illy <alton should be disbarred.D <alton said. 8e could also call . and a statement from #illy.a$ine Rogers. this is the guy who inherited it from Sy. 1t took #illy <alton all this time to find the will. too.D 4ow all he needed was a 2hoto. 8er com2any.i5mo for . feel-good small business 2iece lined u2.ood idea.com. delivered a Criver of readingD to the .D she said.alway wasn’t going to write a messy attorney misconduct article when he had an easy.
and most 2eo2le were. if you were willing to watch the ads.twenty bucks a monthHor for free. . :ou can switch effortlessly between the .D followed by a high-minded riff on the advantages of the electronic book. .a$ine could usually be counted on for a sym2athetic cluck over the fate of what she called Cdusty old bookstores. :ou can fit 4nfinite 0est in your 2ocket. even the more obscure serials like (ittle 3orrit and The Mystery of Ed!in 3rood. allowing you to finally indulge your love of com2arative literature. :ou can carry <ickens’ com2lete works with you.arnett and 9olokhonsky translations of Anna 'arenina and the original Russian.
She said this in a coolly confident voice that suggested that com2arative literature was. a 2assion you dared not deny. aside from the fact that #etsy would fire him if he didn’t.a$ine knew how to give a great 0uote. She said it in a way that im2lied that the two of you might someday get together in a dimly-lit hotel lounge and confess your shared love of the obscure little serials of )harles <ickens.a$ine and let her smart and silky voice float into his ear. . . #ut first he had to track down #illy <alton. and that was never easy. The only reason . was that he got to 2hone u2 . in fact.alway ke2t writing these bookstore articles.
8e was more like 2art-time hel2 for the city attorney’s office. he might as well be. )ases that would otherwise bog down the attorney’s office.e!even #illy wasn’t actually (ureka’s city attorney. although as far as =e$ Trevino was concerned. and 2erfunctory legal reviews of harebrained ballot initiatives to legali5e and regulate . Freedom of 1nformation re0uests from high school journalism students. hired on to hel2 with the more time-consuming and 2ointless cases. disgruntled e$-em2loyees a22ealing their dismissals on the grounds that they were in jail and therefore ouldn2t show u2 to work.
These initiatives usually died of their own inertia. Some novice council member floated the idea every few years. and the glorious or terrifying 2ossibilityHde2ending on your 2ers2ectiveHof 8umboldt )ounty turning into a high-end cannabis tourist destination. com2lete with smoking bars downtown and 2ot farms modeled after Sonoma )ounty’s wineries. 4o council member was targeted as much as Ale$is Trevino. a . arguing for the increased sales ta$ revenue. the dro2 in law enforcement e$2enses. it fell to #illy to review a steady stream of conflict-of-interest investigations brought by angry citi5en grou2s against council members. a common 2roblem for any 2roject the cannabis community chose to undertake.marijuana. And of course.
Still. sat on boards and councils around town. and 2artici2ated in enough shady deals to kee2 them under investigation from cradle to grave. 4o one was .woman whose family had dee2 roots in 8umboldt )ounty. =e$’s father 2ublished a conservative news2a2er in the late si$ties. funding it out of his own 2ocket and using it as a 2latform to slam the burgeoning environmental movement that was restricting the 4orth )oast fishing season and sto22ing the flow of logs into the sawmills o2erating on the water’s edge. Four generations of Trevinos had run the waterfront. =e$ ran uno22osed for city council and won every time. 8er grandfather bragged about his role in the %*&M e$2ulsion of )hinese immigrants from (ureka. They were not a wellloved family.
or reading aloud from them in a bar late at night. and now he was after =e$ 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. . 8e never submitted formal re2orts to the mayor’s office. . <alton had the dirt on everyone.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. #illy’s investigations were ha2ha5ard and dangerous. 4o. 8e had a knack for stumbling across the wrong 2iece of information at the wrong time and blurting it out in a crowded room. his style ran toward e-mailing the financial statements of 2ublic officials to all his friends.
#ut everybody knew the meetings with <on were about her develo2ment.The rest of the city attorney’s office just sat back and watched. waiting to see if =e$ would show u2 for another meeting with her contractor. Today #illy was hanging around "ld Town. She claimed she was meeting with him to discuss a remodel of her house. always making the e$cuse that the land was in a family trust over which she had no control. with their never-ending revisions and . 8e 2referred these long. safe in the knowledge that #illy <alton was wrecking no one’s career but his own. <on )antrell. She’d sat in on three votes that had im2lications for her waterfront deal already. drawn-out commercial 2rojects. but <on hadn’t done residential work in a decade.
uillermo said.B #illy said. !eo2le who decide to make over their house always want to start immediately. This is not your office.D #illy said. 8e made most of his money in the lengthy 2re-develo2ment 2hase. #illy sat at his table in the corner and waited. Ask me for a cu2 of coffee. <on never found CimmediatelyD to be 2articularly 2rofitable. C:ou know what 1’ll have3D .uillermo.B B#illy. Seriously.D . .delays.B B8ey. C"rder something. BThat6s nice. B:ou6ve got a real touch. a 2hase that didn’t e$ist in the residential remodels he used to get tangled u2 in.
B B1 didn6t think you would. Across the street. B:ou’ve seen her3B B:eah.inger emerged from the <ragon with a broom in her hand and started swee2ing the sidewalk. BAhat6s gotten into her3B . She6s 2icking u2 some visiting dignitary at the air2ort.B #illy drank his coffee in silence.B. . That6s all 1 heard.B B<o you know who it is3B BSome guy named Richmond. She left here about an hour ago.ood boy. Lee2 this u2 and 16ll even tell you where =e$ is.B B1 have no idea who that is.B 8e leaned across the counter and 2oured a cu2 of coffee for #illy.
alway. #illy watched her stand u2 and wave to somebody. C1t’s the end of an era.B #illy just shook his head. CThere’s that re2orter. BAants to im2ress the boss. 8e leaned back in his chair to see who it was. (ureka was a strangely secretive town you might know everybody. !eo2le were forever ducking out of rooms .inger knelt down to 2ick u2 the dam2 leaves that clung to the sidewalk.uillermo ste22ed aside to allow #illy to duck under the counter and out the back door. .uillermo wi2ed down #illy’s table and stuffed the bills in his 2ocket.uillermo said. 8e sla22ed three bucks on the table and . .D #illy said.B . . but you didn’t want to see most of them.BShe6s trying to act like a sho2kee2er.D he said.
.to avoid a conversation they’d just as soon avoid.uillermo had considered 2utting a lock on his back door. e$ce2t that he knew how fidgety his customers could get without an esca2e route. .
;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
The technologyH2rinted 2ages. in a si5e that could be easily held in the handHdemanded . Albums used to make sense7 they used to hang together as a body of work. bound together between 2asteboard covers. too.consist of four or five songs on one side of a 2iece of vinyl. and then four or five slightly more e$2erimental and intelligent songs on the other side. <igital music changed all that. and this had something to do with the fact that vinyl records could only hold eight or ten songs. And there used to be these hea2s of eighty to a hundred thousand words that 2eo2le would s2end about a week reading. and those hea2s of words used to hang together as a body of work. A 0uote-un0uote album could now hold two m2?s or two hundred.
#ut without Sy. )rawford could 2retend that he still had some kind of 2lace in the world. !eo2le used to go buy those books. 4ot any more. )rawford was understandably irritated. And talk about them. The bookstore was like a nest he could settle in with the scra2s of his 2revious e$istence and construct a kind of shelter out of sarcasm and remorse. They had to figure out how to tell their story and fit it within the confines of that thing called a book. . 4ow they downloaded Twitter feeds. 8is . and bestow awards u2on them. And 2lace them on bestseller lists. As long as the bookstore stayed o2en.anhattan a2artment was gone. and he hadn6t had any Argentinean beef in the longest time.something s2ecific of authors. the whole thing seemed kind of 2ointless.
Sy de2osited just enough into the bank to make the business look . (dith had dro22ed by this morning. She must be worried.8e was washed u2 at the age of thirty-four. )rawford thought. he wasn’t so sure. but she walked straight to the back with a fragrant bundle under her arm and left without saying a word. and where would she go3 For that matter. #ut he didn’t have much time to think about it today. (mily and =ewis were driving u2 from the #ay Area. Sy used to make him feel like that was an accom2lishment. Sy’s ne2hew would surely sell the 2ro2erty. Running a cash-based business was trickier than it seemed. where would any of them go3 4one of them had managed to save any money. too. =ately.
and you couldn’t 2ut it in the bank without attracting the attention of the 1RS. and )rawford and . but the rest of their salaries. was cash. And cash had to be s2ent.res2ectable. Sy used to say that money was also like a 2ile of sand. and everything else Sy took home. 1t shifted around and blew away.inger each got a legit 2ayroll check for something just above minimum wage. . And it seemed like a waste to leave money sitting around when there was always more to be had. :ou couldn’t 2ut it under the mattress without risking a break-in.
C1t’s a beautiful drive. stuffed . much less 2artici2ate in =ewis’ fantasy of moving to (ureka to run it. but =ewis insisted on driving.fourteen 1t took =ewis and (mily a cou2le of weeks to arrange for some time away from work so that they could get to (ureka and have a look at the bookstore.D =ewis said.D #ut (mily was in no mood to make a day of it. She still wasn’t sure she even wanted to see this bookstore. "n the day they left. she awoke in a foul mood.ake a day of it. CAe’ll take our time. (mily had ho2ed to fly u2 and rent a car at the tiny commuter air2ort outside (ureka. .
a few changes of clothes into a suitcase. and settled into the 2assenger’s seat with hardly a word to =ewis.olden . like a mirage of a city. First came the wide swee2 of the city to their left as they drove 2ast "akland and #erkeley. resembled stages of grief. giving the im2ression that the city floated just out of reach. to (mily. all 2ale blues and white lights. For years (mily had been trying to 2ersuade =ewis that they should give u2 their comfortable two-bedroom in San Iose and move into a little studio in San Francisco. The . The drive from San Iose to (ureka took them through changes in geogra2hy that.ate #ridge was mostly obscured by fog. The rent would be . San Francisco6s skyline shimmered above the bay.
higher. but at least they would be living in a real city. An evening is starting. She6d never had an evening that lived u2 to the 2romise of that blue moment. she came here for a 2articular moment in San Francisco. At those moments the city vibrates with 2ossibility. and anything could ha22en. Actually. the commute would be longer. but just standing on !owell and . only to end u2 in a neighborhood that could just as easily be in north <allas3 She came here for San Francisco. Ahat was the 2oint of clawing your way into the #ay Area real estate market. 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.
not just a cou2le times a month when she and =ewis took the train into the city. She wanted to e$2erience that moment every night. There was no good way to leave San Francisco e$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. The ne$t 2hase. There it is. came as she and =ewis sat in traffic for two hours from the Richmond #ridge to Santa Rosa. That6s why she wanted to live in San Francisco. 4o good could come from a . Surely she was not agreeing to a move that would take her even further from San Francisco. Anger. the first stage <enial.watching the daylight recede was enough for her. Surely this was just a weekend tri2.
a bookstore. .journey that began like this. she could breathe again. She leaned her head against the window and watched a row of auto malls slide 2ast. that of a comfortable 2ost-San Francisco lifestyle devoted to barrel tastings and bidding on chevre futures at bouti0ue goat farms. "nce they got through Santa Rosa. The wine country was hardly rural7 it felt e$2ansive and lu$urious. of all things. this kind of life in the country. and off in the distance. She could get by in a 2lace like this. This wasn6t so bad. the chTteaus of the nouveau-riche offered another kind of 2romise. This time of year the gnarled old vines were just starting the im2robable act of 2roducing fruit. =ewis was cra5y to think she’d 0uit her job and move to (ureka to run.
That6s called #argaining. She would trade the city for a 2lace like this. !hrases like Bthis great country of oursB rise unbidden to the li2s on a drive like this. 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 . the landsca2e gave way to what. for anyone but (mily. Ancient redwood forests usually ins2ire a sense of awe7 the mountains dra2ed in mist and the tree trunks as wide as your college a2artment and the stomach-churning views of the rivers crashing and frothing below the highway would bring anyone else to a 2lace of 2rofound gladness and une$2ected 2atriotism. After two hours of #argaining.
she’d grown irritated with his new-found interest in books and bookselling. (mily knew that Encle Sy’s bookstore meant something to =ewis once.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. She and =ewis hadn’t s2oken much on the drive. but that was no reason to dro2 everything and move u2 there. <e2ression.was locking a gate behind her. 8e s2oke of Cthe bookD as a Ccultural artifactD and 2raised it as a Cremarkable 2iece of technology. The forests were gloomy and menacing. The fourth stage of grief. . "ver the last few days. Suddenly owning a bookstore was the only thing he’d ever really wanted to do with his life.
hly Effe tive &eople# and he’d only read that because it was re0uired reading at a sales re2 retreat several years ago. #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 last 2rinted book he’d actually read was a co2y of Ste2hen )ovey’s The 6 1abits of 1i. 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.
CThere’s a message in this for us. been lost for years and had just found his way. reaching over to smooth his hair. C"h.D (mily had said. 8e knew what effect those eyes had on (mily. =ewis sighed and rolled over. honey. unbeknownst to his wife and his friends. to a guy who had. 8e had the soulful brown eyes of a 2u22y. She reali5ed that she had made a tactical error by o22osing the bookstore idea before .D he had told (mily last night as they lay in bed and faced each other. they could not. C)an’t we delete that message3D 4o. 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.a house.
B . 1t was entirely 2ossible that he would take one look at the bookstore and reali5e that there was no way they could afford to kee2 it o2en.ount (verest. the more you get behind them. BAhen are you leaving3B she said. CAell. (mily6s mother threw her arms around him and told him that she thought that was a wonderful idea. sur2rised by how 0uickly things were moving along. She had forgotten the only trick her mother had taught her about marriage the more im2ractical your husband’s ideas are.B (mily6s father said. and rather than tell him that there was no way in hell she was going to let him risk his life to climb a mountain.they6d even arrived in (ureka. 8er father had once wanted to climb . B1t6s kind of e$2ensive.
we can do thatKD her mother said. beaming. into a jar that she labeled C!aul’s (verest Fund.om. CAell. honey. And your father’s never going to get into sha2e for (verest.D And she took out a twenty and dro22ed it.D he said. seeing this. 8e’s not even in sha2e. are you cra5y3 8e can’t climb (verest. C=et’s start saving right now. 1 think. sweetie.D (mily.C8ow much3D CEmHabout seventy thousand dollars. <on6t you see how this works3 :ou al!ays su22ort the . 1’ll 2ut in the first twenty dollars. C. And how are you going to get that kind of money3D 8er mother smiled and took (mily’s face in her hands. CAe’re never going to get that kind of money. 2ulled her aside later.
The more im2ossible it is. They were almost to (ureka now. #ut now they were locked into 2osition =ewis driving them resolutely into their dim and dusty future.D She 2atted (mily on the cheeks and smiled. <on’t bother fighting with your husband over something he’s never actually going to do. where black and white 8olsteins gra5ed in the . CThat’s a little marital advice from your mom. and then you don’t have to be the bad guy.D 1t was good advice. actually. The redwoods gave way to cow 2astures. (mily wished she’d remembered it in time. the more you get behind it.cra5y stuff. and (mily wishing she could grab the steering wheel and turn them around. 8e’ll give u2 on his own eventually.
She rolled down her window to smell the ocean. and blue to give the workers the illusion that they were living in a seaside resort. .etting away from the trees calmed her down somewhat. 2ink. if only because it meant that the si$-hour drive was over. Soon the road swerved close to a flat e$2anse of ocean and (mily reali5ed she was looking at 8umboldt #ay. 1n the shadow of the mills were little com2any towns. waiting for logs that didn6t show u2 anymore. She was relieved to be here. "ld sawmills sat alongside the freeway. . She felt calmer than she had in days. rows of run-down bungalows that were once 2ainted bright green.com2any of egrets.
Acce2tance.1t wasn’t ha22iness e$actly. . but maybe it was something likeHwellHthe final stage of grief.
it’s just meKD he called again. She might be in the garden. There were no lights on in (dith6s cottage. C(dith. .fifteen C(dithKD #illy called out from the driveway. ho2ing she’d hear. and she really didn’t like sur2rise visitors. 8e walked around to the back of Sy6s house. 4o res2onse. loud. (dith didn’t like visitors. B1t6s #illyKB 8e6d given her enough of a warning. 8e unlocked Sy’s back door and let himself in. B(dith3B he shouted one more time. and then slammed his car door.
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. card tables. 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.to be cremated inside the bookstore so that he and the <ragon would go u2 in flames together --. and 2icnic benches had to be swe2t clear of cobwebs and tested for sturdiness before guests sat in them7 and the house had to be cleared of decades’ worth of old maga5ines .had been ignored in favor of a small and orderly ceremony at the house and a scattering of ashes into the forest at the edge of his 2ro2erty.
o. For the film ada2tation of Smoke. Real news2a2ers were 2rinted for the movie "hi a. an actual dust jacket was created for Ailliam 8urt6s character !aul #enjamin. filled with strangely detailed articles about the murders that s2elled out intricate sub2lots never revealed in the movie itself.and news2a2ers. and the more dila2idated and useless remnants of Sy6s collection of movie 2ro2s. . broken a22liances. com2lete with an author 2hoto of 8urt himself. Sy loved these literary 2ro2s as much as he loved to 2oint out literary mistakes in films. 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.
2hones that didn6t ring. and his house was filled with them clocks that didn6t kee2 time. refrigerators that didn6t stay cold. #illy didn6t want to throw too much of it out. #ut he continued to collect 2ro2s.BThat would6ve been a handwritten manuscri2t. knowing that eventually he would locate the heirs and it would be their job to sort through it. Sy. . C#eats me. Sy wanted a job advising the movie industry about anti0uarian books. CAhy don’t these 2eo2le call me3D he asked his fellow moviegoers. and decanters filled with diluted )oke instead of brandy.ational Treasure.D someone called out from the darkness. 8e was furious that 8ollywood never called. you illiterate fuckKB he shouted to the screen during .
but anything that stank or s2routed mildew got tossed. only to reali5e that the 2ower had been turned off.old. Enderneath it all was the smell of something dead a rat. A dead blackberry vine had somehow worked its way through a weak s2ot in the floorboards. S2eaking of mildew. And he was afraid to o2en the refrigerator. . #illy fli22ed a switch. A window 2ane above the kitchen sink was cracked. or a 2ossum. There was no e$cuse for letting Sy6s house fall into ruin like this. #illy sim2ly hadn6t . maybe. and the rank stench of a bottle of wine that must have s2illed somewhere in the house during the memorial. cat 2iss. the house was a horror of offensive smells.
8e had ri22ed u2 the car2ets and three layers of asbestos-laden linoleum below them. e$2osing wide 2lanks of old-growth . Sy was obsessed with the idea of stri22ing the house down to its bare bones. #ut why hadn’t (dith said anything3 Ahy hadn’t someoneHhis useless rece2tionist )onnie. evenHreminded him to sto2 by once a month and check on things3 #illy walked through the house with the e$aggerated ste2 of someone who thought the wrong move would cause the whole thing to colla2se.e$2ected it to take so long to find the will. 1t was a strange-looking house that managed to come across as both old and not0uite-finished at the same time. Time was sli22ery in 8umboldt )ounty7 this wasn6t the first time that si$ months had just gotten away from him.
And in fact. the boards were e$traordinary forty . CThis is the most overbuilt house in 8umboldt )ounty. wood that would only be used as a subfloor. BThe least we can do is 2ay tribute to all the trees they cut u2 to build this damn thing.B Sy had said. C=ook at these boardsKD he would shout into the wide beams. one on to2 of the other. There were actually two of these hefty subfloors made from the trunks of the world6s tallest trees. "nce he 2unched a hole through the floor to vent a hot water heater and 2ulled out a kind of core sam2le of his house’s undercarriage. =ate at night he used to lay down on the floor and 2ress his face into the wood.B So he sanded the wood and rubbed it down with natural beeswa$.redwoodHtrashy wood a hundred years ago.
and an awful tobacco brown from the seventies. dee2 2ur2le from the si$ties. #illy couldn6t imagine =ewis and (mily wanting to move in or fi$ it u2 . so 2sychedelic streaks of 2aint were left mint green from the fifties. The house was always seminaked. Ahenever the ancient knob and tube wiring failed. As much as he hated to see these old 9ictorians demolished. he cut a hole in the 2laster and ran new rome$. Sy had sanded most of the 2aint off the wainscoting and the trim around the doors. with the tight grain of an ancient arboreal creature. To make the floorboards feel at home. 1t was im2ossible to remove it all. never bothering to 2atch the holes.feet long and a foot wide.
enough to 2ut on the market. C(dithKD he shouted. And who would want all this stuff3 #attered desks and bookcases. 9incent’s 2robably wouldn’t takeH #efore he could finish his inventory. and then a scream. C(dith3D CAho’s that3D came a voice from the general direction of a hedge down the hill. not a sound. 4othing. 4o movement. C1t’s #illy. threadbare "riental rugs. Ahere are you3D . sagging couches that even St. Surely it would be sold as a tear-down and 2riced to move. he heard a crash outside. running to the back door.
B he called out before he lifted the latch.Another long 2ause. BAll right. 8ow big was this garden3 Sy had never allowed him anywhere near it. (dith. (dith was trying to decide whether or not to let him into her garden. BAre you hurt3B . but now that he was circling it closely he reali5ed that it must be nearly an acre. 8e saw nothing but shrubs and vines and an occasional metal fence 2ost. #illy. maybe more. B.B she said at last. circumnavigating the hedge and looking for a gate.o around the corner and you6ll see the gate about halfway down the hill. B16m here. Finally he saw an o2ening in the greenery.B 8e closed the back door behind him and jogged down the hill. #illy knew what was going on.
hefty stalks of corn. And in between it all.B she said in a low voice. Aelcome to Shangri-=a.B And truly. Almost everybody in 8umboldt )ounty had switched to indoor hydro2onic o2erations after !ro2osition /%+ made medical marijuana legal. #illy forgot why he was there. Lum0uat trees and jasmine. but those 2lants grew in the most artificial . B)ome on in. For a minute. =emongrass and Thai basil. 8e’d seen 2ot farms before.B1 just fell. it was beyond anything #illy had imagined. but nothing like this. Iac0ueminot roses and morning glory. the e$traordinary biodynamic strain of cannabis that only (dith could grow. Tiny )ham2agne gra2es and. #illy. as if she was talking to herself. ine$2licably.
A few back-to-the-landers in . A nice indoor grow-o2. and a wretched diet of chemical concoctions fed intravenously through dri2 irrigation. but growing 2ot outdoors on timber com2any 2ro2erty or national forest land only invited trouble.arberville were still tucking 2lants in between the redwoods. 2rotected by a medical marijuana license 2osted at the door. made much more sense. the incessant whirring of fans. #ut (dith was growing something else entirely. This was gourmet 2ot. 2ummeled by blindingly bright light. 2lanted in careful combination with a selection of e$otic beauties that she believed gave it the de2th and com2le$ity of a forty-year 2ort. cultivated outdoors as nature intended it.of conditions. She adhered to .
burying a cow6s horn in the garden in fall. A cannabis 2lant the si5e of a small magnolia tree stood in front of #illy. . stuffing 2owdered 0uart5 in another horn in s2ring.even the most wacky tenets of biodynamic farming. almost tro2ical garden of illicit delights. #illy had heard all of this over the years. 8e wanted to kiss it. brewing herbal remedies in the bladders of wild animals. and s2rinkling cow urine mi$ed with the ashes of weeds around the garden by the light of the full moon. #ut no one but Sy had been allowed in the garden. a nearim2ossibility on )alifornia6s chilly north coast. 8e heard that she had 2lanted some kind of uto2ian. 8e wanted to embrace it. 8er methods had been the subject of gossi2 and s2eculation for over a decade.
B. 8e sat down ne$t to her. An arsenal of garden tools were scattered on the ground around her. #illy. She seemed to just be resting there in the dirt.BSto2 screwing around. .et down here and give me a hand. but she didn6t take it.B #illy tried to kee2 his eyes on the ground as he skidded down the hill in the direction of (dith6s voice. They had to weigh forty 2ounds each. and two bags of 2otting soil had s2lit o2en at her feet. you didn6t try to lift those by yourselfKB CAell. 8e found her under a wildly overgrown hibiscus vine. 1HB #illy offered his hand. B(dith.B (dith6s voice drifted u2 to him from somewhere at the base of the garden’s slo2e.
1 think 1 twisted my ankle. #ut 1 like it here.B BAell. 1’ve got a bad heart. 1’ve got scars in 2laces you don’t even want to know about. C:ou know what3 1’m old.D . =et’s get you out of here and get this looked at. B1 don6t want to find out. She shook her head.B she said. B1 don6t know. 1’ll take you to urgent care. )ome on. try to move around and see if it hurts. B1 got di55y and everything just sort of fell out of my arms.B (dith didn6t take her eyes off the branches above her.D She smiled fondly u2 at the sky.BAre you hurt3B he said. C(dith. 1’m through with doctors.B she said. 1’ve got a bad knee.
bringing with it the sweet clear fragrance of honeysuckle. B8ow much longer do you think 1’ve got3B she said.B (dith said. turning to face him at last. although he couldn6t say why. B:eah.B #illy said. A bree5e moved through the garden. 1t was more like light.D . too. or clarity.They sat ne$t to each other in silence for a little while. :ou’re not that old. C(dithK )ome on. 8e reali5ed that there was something about honeysuckle that made its way into (dith6s 2ot. 1t was a smell that #illy associated with his childhood. 1t wasn6t a flavor or fragrance. BThis 2lace is incredible. e$actly.
B (dith said. After a few minutes he added. B1 can see that.CThat’s not what 1 meant.B A hummingbird dove right in front of #illy to go after a fuchsia down the hill. That6s what makes it. 4ot that 1’d want to.B . BThey6re on their way to (ureka right now. And the soil and the strange little microclimate 16ve got right here. B1t6s this garden. how much longer do you think 1’ve got before the kids show u2 and kick me out of my house3D #illy just shook his head. B:eah.B he said. 1t6s not like 1 can just 2ull u2 some 2lants and move into a warehouse and grow the same cro2.B She didn’t say anything. 1 meant. anyway. B:ou gonna 2ull u2 these 2lants and move on3B C1t6s not really the 2lants.
C1’ll try to kee2 them out of here. The night-blooming angel trum2ets unfurled. 8e held her hand for a minute and tried to see into her 2ale blue eyes through the semidarkness. She nodded. 8e led her u2 the hill to the gate. This time she took it and 2ulled herself to her feet. calling to say that he was in town. A chorus of crickets rose u2 from the grass.D he said. sending waves of shar2 lemon 2erfume to the bats that 2ollinated them. 1t would be =ewis. #illy6s 2hone bu55ed in his 2ocket. 8e stood u2 and e$tended his hand again to (dith.They sat together until the last shadows of the afternoon started to move across the garden. .
"ne guy stood out he was wearing a track suit with a 2rice tag still attached. They were all similarly attired ancient jeans faded almost to yellow or cargo 2ants that looked like they’d been wadded u2 in the back of somebody’s car for si$ months7 t-shirts with slogans like CES "ut of 8umboldt )ounty. 8e must have just bought it at Target on the way into town.sixteen The <ragon enjoyed its usual rush of lastminute customers on Friday night. Iust before five. a grou2 of (arth Firsters came in to 2ick u2 su22lies for the weekend.D dreadlocks. #efore )rawford had a . knit ca2s made of hem2.
CAelcome back. C8ello. B:eeeesssssssQD )rawford said. without taking his eyes off the books.D C. B1s that 1 2ick out a book--D . and said. 1’ve been in a tree for the last two years. not wanting to e$2lain anything if he didn6t have to.D Ieffrey wandered around the store. Ieffrey. the way this worksHD he said.chance to ask what had ha22ened to his last outfit. CSo.inger had been working so hard to organi5e.ood to be back. e$tended his hand. CShe’ll manage. 1’m Ieffrey.D C8ow’s the tree3D )rawford asked. scanning the shelves that )rawford and .D )rawford shook his hand. the guy a22roached the desk.
B )rawford said. CAe 2refer that you do. B<o 1 take the book home3B Ieffrey said.B BThat6s how it works. looking nervously at Ieffery’s (arth First friends.CThat’s right.D CAlong with--D .B Ieffrey said. you do. all of whom had already chosen their books.D said )rawford.B )rawford said. )rawford nodded encouragingly. C:es. BAnd 1 bring this book to you. BAnd you will sell it to me. B:es.D Ieffrey 2ulled a book off the shelf and held it u2 as if to demonstrate.D said )rawford. CAnd it could be any bookHD CAny book you want.
man. C.B he said.B B<oes it matter how much it costs3B Ieffery said. holding it out to his friends. 1 get it. B:esKB several of them said at once.uys3D "ne of Ieffrey6s friends moved in and 2ut his hand on Ieffrey6s shoulder. reaching for a si$ties-era re2rint of a 8ardy #oys mystery called The 1idden Theft. B=ike thisKB he said. making a collective hissing sound intended more to shut him u2 than answer his 0uestion. B!ick out a book and let6s get going. B)ome on. . 8e o2ened it to check the 2rice. B"h "kay.)rawford sighed and turned to the (arth First crowd. So 1 need like a twenty dollarHB he walked the aisles for a few more minutes before choosing a book on Ia2anese flower arranging.
C"utKD )rawford said. wrote out recei2ts.B!retty much like that. )rawford collected their money. Ieffrey. @ The rest of the Friday night rush was more businesslike. and then ran it dramatically under his nose. rising halfway out of his chair. A few cou2les came in and 2icked u2 2a2erbacks from the rack outside on their way to dinner. CSorry. and that was how )rawford liked it. A guy in dark jeans and a starched . 2eered inside. and sli22ed each book into a 2a2er bag. man.D one of the (arth Firsters said over his shoulder as they left.B one of his friends said. Ahen he handed Ieffrey his bag. and they lined u2 at the desk to 2ay. Ieffrey o2ened it.
The guy nodded without 2icking it u2.D he said. )rawford 2ut the book back on the shelf.stri2ed shirt came straight to the desk. taking only a minute to run his thumb over the gilt fore-edge before setting it on the counter. and asked for a two hundred dollar book. CAe really---D C1t’s all right. 8e turned to leave. )rawford 2ulled a decent #ritish edition of Twain’s More Tramps Abroad off the shelf. a cou2le of tourists came in and ga2ed at the teetering stacks of books. jingling his keys. CLee2 it. . Iust before close. 1t was the third time he’d sold it in a month. 8e was out the door with the crum2led bag in his hand.D he said. then 2ulled the Twain out of the bag and set it back on the counter. )rawford sli22ed it into a bag.
. BThis is a very uni0ue community.B he said. flashing them his best )hamber of )ommerce smile. C!eo2le have really su22orted us.D They left without buying anything.wondering aloud how a store like this managed to stay in business. )rawford heard that 0uestion every weekend.
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. C1 don’t understand why we can’t go straight to the store. They had just s2ent si$ hours in the car together and (mily had hardly said a word.D C#ut couldn’t weHD =ewis sighed. 4ow she was going to argue with them about how they s2ent their evening. CThe lawyer wanted to go over a few things with us first.
the bowling alley was closed. CSorry.D She almost sounded like she meant it.D A few boarded-u2 9ictorians sat between the auto re2air sho2s and the self-storage units.C"kay.D she said. The movie theater at the sho22ing mall was offering dollar tickets for second-run movies. looking more like shi2wrecks than abandoned houses. and most of the motels on the edge of town were e$tended-stay a2artments for 2eo2le whose luck had run out. (ureka was looking a little worse for wear since the last time he’d been through town. Somewhere along this street was #illy’s office. . A banner in a used car lot offered 2ayday loans to get 2eo2le Cback on the road and back to work.
D he said.CAhat was this like when you were a kid3D (mily asked. but it would never occur to him to go do some touristy thing when 2eo2le came into town.D . =ewis could tell she was trying to be a good s2ort about this thing. 1 don6t think we ever did one other thing in (ureka. B4o way. C. Encle Sy wasn6t selfish. C1 don’t remember any of this. That bookstore was like a 2lanet. 8e just assumed that everybody would want to orbit it the way he did. e$actly.y whole memory of that summer is just going back and forth between uncle Sy6s house and the bookstore.B BSy never took you out on a little boating e$cursion in the harbor3 "r a hike in the redwoods or anything like that3B =ewis laughed.
1t was after five. but it was more than she usually got out of a day behind the desk here. but #illy had 2ersuaded her to stay until he got there. The 1erald had 2osted a few short 2ieces about the change in ownershi2 at the <ragon. which was enough to get everybody talking. C:ou don’t look like Sy. She reali5ed right away that .D she said as =ewis came u2 the stairs. She was curious about them.B8ow do you think he ke2t it o2en all this time3B B1 have no idea. #eing the first 2erson in town to meet =ewis and (mily didn6t make for very e$citing gossi2. anyway.B @ )onnie Slack greeted them at the to2 of the stairs.
that might not be a very rece2tionist-like thing to say. B#illy6s on his way.B She led them down a wood2aneled hallway to an unmarked office door.D BSorry. (mily stood ne$t to him . three of which had signs ta2ed to them that read C#roken. B16m just his ne2hew. wondering if she could go home now or if she was obligated to sit out there until #illy arrived. =ewis leaned against the wall and crossed his arms over his chest. BAe6ve been storing a few things in here. but she was out of 2ractice.B )onnie said. B:ou can wait in his office. #illy should have been here by now.B Aith that she went back to her desk.B =ewis said. 8ave a seat.B she said. 1nside was a metal desk and a gathering of five chairs.
B There was nothing in #illy6s office to indicate that he ever worked there -. 1t looked like he had thought at one time about setting u2 an office but then decided against it. or some coffee. no Jhow was your tri2. BThis is so uncle Sy.and. 1t6s like she6s never even watched a movie that had a rece2tionist in it.and whis2ered at him out of the corner of her mouth. 16m so sorry to hear about your loss’ ---B =ewis grinned and looked down at his feet. a 2lastic 2lant in a . he never had. CShe6s not going to get us a bottle of water. 1n addition to the metal desk and the collection of broken chairs.B he said. BThese are e$actly the 2eo2le he was hanging out with twenty years ago. in fact. there was a stack of file bo$es in the corner that looked like it hadn’t moved in ten years.
it had been e$citing to get instructions from beyond the grave.wicker basket. and a set of chea2 dresser drawers that could have been left over from the days when the building was still a hotel. All =ewis . =ewis was getting im2atient. 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. This had been a very unsettling time for him. and at first. Encle Sy must have known something about =ewis that even =ewis didn’t know. 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.
8e looked about as lawyer-like as any attorney in 8umboldt )ounty khaki 2ants. and he would follow them. he began to wonder if that was the only smart thing to do. and going on with his life. 8e had refused to consider sim2ly selling the 2ro2erty. #ut now. as he sat in the small rented room that 2assed for #illy <alton’s office. checkered shirt. 2utting the money in the bank.had to do was show u2 in (ureka and find out what that was. C=ewisKD #illy burst into the room with the bustling air of a doctor who had ke2t his 2atients waiting too long. a wis2 of gray hair tied . This was a very comforting way to imagine the rest of his life instructions would be issued by dead relatives.
B =ewis looked over at (mily. who gave him one of those 0uick non-smiles that indicated that she was understandably nervous. (mily3D 8e held out his hand. =ewis decided to overlook the grass stains on his knees. 1 just wanted to let you know a little bit about the situation at the bookstore before you head over there. and 2erched on the edge of his desk instead. CSorry 1’m late. B=ook. too.into a 2onytail. :ou’ve got two em2loyees who have been running the 2lace by themselves all this time. CSitKD They settled into the two chairs that weren’t marked B#roken.B #illy reached for one of the remaining chairs. and (mily took it. BAe . thought better of it. and they’re understandably nervous about what6s going to ha22en to their jobs.
BAell.B B.B #illy said. right3B B:eah.you stayed there. 1 think you remember the house -.B =ewis said.B BSure.irlfriend3B . but they6ve mostly moved out. 1 actually stayed in one of those little cabins out back. and his house. B<o you remember (dith3B CShe was his -. #illy.B #illy said. including the building. for summer. and he made it very sim2le.ostly3B B(dith’s still there.haven6t made any decisions. 8e left everything to you. 8e had a few renters. as you know.what3 Aife3 . Sy drafted this will long time ago.B BThat6s right. BAe6re just here to find out what6s going on. That6s the bookstore.
CThat6s why 1 let her stay in her 2lace. B1t6s yours now. fishing around in his 2ockets. but before . looking down at his desk. 1 guess you would say.D said =ewis. she would6ve inherited all of this3B BThis has been really hard on her. CAnything else3D B1 guess 1 can give you a set of keys to the bookstore.B. They never got married.B #illy said.irlfriend. 1 didn6t want to 2ut her out if 1 didn6t have to.D #illy said.B CAll right.B (mily shifted around in her seat.B A ring of keys dro22ed heavily into =ewis’s hand. B1 guess if he had married her. =ewis felt that he should say something in honor of this life-changing moment.
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.D #illy said. isn6t it3B CAell. 8ow much was Sy taking in every year3B C(milyHB =ewis said. BThat6s what everybody says. (mily leaned forward.he could 2ut a sentence together. #ut this is a 2retty out-of-the-way 2lace. . CSy bought the building a long time ago. and 1 guess 1 could see that in a big city. but #illy interru2ted him. And there are still 2eo2le out there who collect books because that6s just what they6re into. choosing his words carefully. so his overhead’s low.
There6s not much money in the bank.inger and )rawford are 2retty good at watching the e$2enses. #illy and =ewis turned to her and said.CThat’s okay. almost in unison. BThe store’s 2robably closed by now.B =ewis stood u2 and 2ut the keys in his 2ocket. but .D he said. 1t was after si$. BAelcome to (ureka.B . okay. but 1 know he made enough to get by and to cover 2ayroll.B he said.D #illy said. C1 don6t know e$actly. B:ou coming over there with us3B #illy checked the screen on his 2hone.B B)losed3 1t’s Friday nightKD (mily said. Bbut you could let yourself in and look around. BAell.
B"h.B The building did seem a little shrunken.ei hteen #y the time they got to the store the lights were off and )rawford was gone. 1 don6t remember it being so --B BRun down3B (mily said. Small. somehow. B4o. 1t was in the middle of the block and it leaned slightly to the left. man. . giving the im2ression that it had shriveled considerably since the days when it had been large and sturdy enough to fill the s2ace. =ewis stood outside for a minute. jingling his keys and looking at the building.
CAnd now.D he said.D (mily whis2ered. in a voice that suggested that she. =ewis. the faded sign with its wooden cutout of a dragon breathing fire across a 2ile of books. in a voice choked with emotion. 8e was entranced.(mily stood with =ewis and took it in the rotting columns in front. She tried to stifle a laugh. the dim windows 2iled with stacks of hardcovers. C1 feel like 1 should carry you over the threshold. ThresholdK They weren’t s2ending the night here.D #ut =ewis wasn’t laughing. all this is yours. . couldn’t wait to get inside. were they3 CIust go figure out the alarm. too. 8e wra22ed an arm around (mily and led her closer to the door.
ran around the room from floor to ceiling. (mily sli22ed in behind him. . She didn’t dare venture too far in. and more books were stacked in between the shelves in 2a2er bags and bo$es. #ut here the 2ossibility of getting lost-.and tra22ed under an avalanche of old encyclo2edias -. (verything about the 2lace said creaky old bookstore. (very chair was 2iled high with books. bolted to the wall in case of an earth0uake.8e unlocked the door and fumbled with the alarm. !lywood bookshelves. A series of tables and bookcases formed a kind of ma5e through the store.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.
1 think some of these books were here when 1 was a kid. dust. The weight of this 2lace was on her.B he said. CSy wasn’t big on change.D (mily leaned against the desk. mildew. the mismatched trim around the doors and windows. The creaky floorboards. This might have been a grand old building once. but now it was an elegant wreck. mothballs. B1t even smells like one. B1t6s an old bookstore. B1s it what you remember3B she asked. the ancient beams.B Ahat made u2 that dam2 and 2ul2y bookstore smell3 )rumbling 2a2er. BAhat do you think3B he said. and something else she couldn’t identify-.something green and bitter. .=ewis was standing behind her in the dark. B!retty much.B she said.
D CAait.rs.rs.o ahead. 1’m calling for . She was trying to decide how long to let that go on when the 2hone rang. ma’am3 1s this---D . my name is Richmond Tate.=ewis was walking around the store running his hands along the shelves. 1 meanHyou’ve got the wrong number. CShould 1 answer it3D she asked. Ratner3D CAho3D C.D =ewis said.a’am. C8ello3D C1s thisH. C. She felt around in the dark for the 2hone. Ratner.D CEhHno.
"nce nice thing about (mily she never made him guess about what she wanted. C=et’s go eat. )lear enough. C4o. C1’m starting to get homicidal. keys in hand. Some guy who talks like Tommy =ee Iones. "rder me dinner or 1 may have to kill someone.e$ican or 1talian3D he said as he set the alarm code.D C)ool. (mily 2ut the 2hone down. C:eah. Te$as or .ississi22i or some2lace like that.D =ewis hustled over to the door.D C1 meant dinner. shivering in the summer fog.#ut before he could finish.D They stood on the sidewalk.D she said. like a southerner. . 1t was . CArong number3D =ewis said.
. and they went looking for whatever that might be.ood call. CAhatever’s o2en3D C.D he said.com2letely dark by now. CEh--D she said. and "ld Town was em2ty. looking around at the darkened storefronts.
As for air2lane reading. so the ability to . 8e was not much of a reader himself7 he di22ed into the business books his colleagues were reading and 2icked u2 the occasional 2a2erback thriller for a long 2lane ride. The .nineteen Richmond Tate had given little thought to the demise of the book until now. there was nothing worse than getting stuck on a 2lane with a novel you didn’t like. allowing him to search through thousands of books on management or sales techni0ues for the 2articular bit of wisdom he thought he’d read somewhere once.i5mo was 2erfect for an inattentive reader like Richmond.
#ut now. it occurred to him that his business had something in common with the book business. as he stood on the sidewalk on a chilly summer evening in (ureka. . ($ce2t that he would have an easier time of it than the booksellers would. something he hadn’t even considered until he hung u2 from his call to the Firebreathing <ragon. Relics of the twentieth century that would disa22ear entirely unless something was done about it. #ecause there are some things you can’t digiti5e. 8e hadn’t been in a bookstore in years. They were both selling 2roducts that had gone out of fashion.discard a book after a few 2ages and choose something else suited him just fine.
. and went back to looking at her menu.D Then he made his way back to his table. 1’m out here in )alifornia. Richmond dialed his secretary.D she said.D C1t’s all right.#efore he went back into the restaurant. See if you can’t find another number and call me back. C8ey. where =e$ was waiting for him. 1t was after eight in Lentucky7 she 2robably wouldn6t check her work messages until . 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. CIust trying to return a cou2le of calls before it got too late. CSorry about that.D he said. CAhat’s good here3D he said.onday.
D he said.D BThis close to the water and all they’ve got is fro5en fish3B B:eah. 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. !eo2le come here for the fish. C:ou6re right. 8e laughed and nodded at the waitress as she brought him his beer. most of it’s fro5en. This 2lace is okay. they’re going to order it in Iuly even if the season doesn’t start until <ecember. it is.D BAhat6s in season now3B . The thing is. C1 thought your job was to show off this fine city. but to tell you the truth. She closed her menu and set it down on the table.C4ot much.D she said.
:ou6ll be fine. Esually somebody at the )hamber handled these dinners. clean-shaven way. Richmond was one of those men who looked like he had been born wearing a suit.B =e$ wasn6t often called u2on to entertain visiting dignitaries. a 2retentious seafood restaurant that catered to . She would6ve taken him to (ureka6s one hi2 bistro. to make 2eo2le gossi2. he was overdressed. 8e was just good-looking enough.She shrugged. in a generic broadshouldered. The only 2lace to take a guy in a suit was the "s2rey. BIust get the 2asta. a 2lace near )ity 8all where she usually met her friends on Friday night. but when she 2icked him u2 at the air2ort she changed her mind. #ut Richmond had asked for her s2ecifically. And besides.
D =e$ had to remind herself that falling for men with interesting accents had never worked out for her. Byou6re with the convention and visitors bureau back in --B C=ouisville. 4obody she knew would be there.onday. B16m really out here to work on a business deal. . BSo. 8e 2ronounced it C=ouville.B =e$ said. 1’m just on the board. Ae6ve been reading about your 2lans for the waterfront --B CAe3 Actually. CActually.tourists.D Richmond said.y family trust owns the land. so she wouldn6t have to answer any 0uestions about her dinner date when she got to work on . .D he said. 16m not actively involved in the waterfront.
D BAho do you work for3B =e$ asked. you6re off the record tonight. she liked the way he said her name. B.s. B16m really here on behalf of the com2any 1 work for.D Richmond smiled down into his beer. Trevino. B1 do resource develo2ment for them.B She thought about telling him that he could call her =e$. .B he said. #esides.interesting resources we’d like to take a look at. CAhat6s the waterfront got to do with tourism in Lentucky3B she asked. 8e took a breath.well -. but that sounded like a line from a movie. all 1 can do is vote on whatever 2lan comes before the council.but as a city council member. 8umboldt )ounty has some-.
BAre you kidding me3B CSettle down.Their dinners arrived. B:ou work for a tobacco com2any3B she said.D CAhat could Sumner 2ossibly want in 8umboldt )ounty3D she whis2ered. C(verybody’s got to work for somebody. Trevino. BSumner Tobacco.s. 1 believe . There6s one cam2aign in this town that you and your family have given money to every single year. Ae did a search of cam2aign finance records over the last ten years. then he s2eared a 2iece of rigatoni with his fork and said. Richmond lowered his voice. now.B =e$ 2ushed away from the table.D Richmond said with a little laugh. too. B. Richmond waited for the waitress to leave.
B B16m talking about 8umboldt =egal. C(ven your little si$-year-old niece donated the ma$imum allowable by law. even here. BThat cam2aign goes nowhere. #ut beyond medical marijuana. =egali5e marijuana and you’ve finally got something to sell to the tourists u2 here. The tooth fairy must be good to her. but she already knew.D BAhat are you talking about3B =e$ asked.B B#ut you kee2 2ro22ing it u2. (very few years it funds another 2ro-legali5ation candidate or a ballot initiative.the Trevino family combined makes u2 ninety 2ercent of the donations. =et me guess. Ask her mother.D B1 don6t know. They6re . legali5ation is a non-starter.D =e$ laughed and shook her head.
That was cute. #ut 2ublic o2inion has turned . 8onestly. are they3 :ou gonna 2ut some kind of bouti0ue down there on the waterfront and sell over2riced bong hits to yu22ies3D #oo-ti0ue. B1t’s only a matter of time before the F<A regulates us the same way they do candy bars or as2rin. and then she figured out. 8er eyes got wide. we can’t figure out why we’ve gotten away with it as long as we have. tobacco is not e$actly working out anymore. B:ou guys are going to grow 2otKB BAell.not e$actly coming for the fish.B Richmond said. (ven if he was a cor2orate evildoer. She leaned across the table. BAnd a tobacco com2any would be interested in this because ---B she said.
do you know what the annual death toll from marijuana smoking is in this country3D She laughed.s.D CAhat do you mean. Trevino. well. They want to live out there in the woods and grow their . They’d rather go after hard drugs anyway. CEhHD C($actly. do it right3D C:ou think these 8umboldt growers are going to cater to a bunch of tourists from !asadena3 They don6t care about that. (ven the co2s are on our side.against us for good at this 2oint. So we figured. why not come u2 with something else we can grow that 2eo2le won’t object to so much3D CAnd you really think that is--3D C. we6ve got the money to do this right. So we figured.
Aho better than us to take non-smokers and make them smokers again3D BThat’s cra5y. #ut you guysHB BAe6ve got the farms. CAnd don’t count on . although she was already calculating what she could charge in rent to a Starbucks that sold fifteen-dollar joints instead of five dollar lattes. They’re not going to come into town and o2en u2 a Starbucks for 2ot smokers. the 2ersonnel.B =e$ 2ictured fields of !ur2le 8a5e flourishing in Lentucky’s long.do2e and count their money. the ca2ital. C(verybody here’s growing it indoors or hiding it in the redwood forest. the marketing 2lans. steamy summers.D =e$ said. C1t’s 2robably a lot chea2er to grow outside in the sun like that.D she said.
D =e$ said.B Richmond said with a half smile.D .B BAe don6t need your little cam2aign. BAe own )ongress. and smiled back at him. trust me. C8ow nice for you.our little cam2aign to make it ha22en for you. remember3B C"h yeah. 1t6s not going anywhere.
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. where he sat drinking coffee and scrolling through the news on his 2hone. staring at the ceiling and listening to (mily’s dee2. 8e crossed the 2arking lot and slid into an em2ty booth inside. Finally he couldn’t stand it anymore.m. .twent" At si$ a. the ne$t morning =ewis was wide awake in his motel room. 8e dressed in the dark and sli22ed outside. A diner was o2en ne$t door. untroubled breathing beside him.
D he . 4ot any more.Another bookstore had closed. the loss of this store is 2articularly significant. B1f you had asked me ten years ago whether a handheld com2uter would ever re2lace books. 2rom2ting yet another story about the demise of bookstores nationwide. 8e had been ski22ing 2ast these articles for years. TUG After thirty-seven years on )ongress Avenue. the !age Turner #ookstore is closing its doors. As one of only eight remaining bookstores in the Enited States. AEST14’S !A. according to owner Iack Ailliams.( TER4(R S(T T" )="S( FAustin. 1 would have said no way.
A shift to used and hardto-find books didn6t hel2. and even the obscure titles had all been digiti5ed. B1 thought that 2eo2le who grew u2 with books would not give them u2 so easily.D #ut once the . 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.oogle was scanning rare books faster than he could ac0uire them for the store.said.i5mo was introduced. "nce 2ublishers made the decision to sto2 issuing new releases on 2a2er. he felt he had no choice.B he said. because . said Ailliams. the store’s sales dro22ed ten to twenty 2ercent a year.
1 don6t have the ca2ital to start over.read. #esides. 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. which s2eciali5es in e$actly the kind of rarities Ailliams described.B Aith the closure of The !age Turner. "wner Anita 8awkins concedes that her selection of anti0ue leather-bound volumes of horror stories and witchcraft tales are used more as decoration than as bedside reads.
B . and . C!eo2le love the comfort and connection to real books.air2lane.i5mo came along just in time to make reading easier and more accessible to 2eo2le around the world just 2roves that books have moved on to their ne$t cha2ter. so to s2eak. C!eo2le buy our books because they6re collectors.D Ahen asked about 4ile’s latest 0uarterly earnings re2ort showing that downloads of book-length works have declined relative to music. The fact that the . agreed.B she said. or because they want them around for atmos2here. videos. They’ll always be a wonderful 2art of our culture.com. )(" of 4ile.a$ine Rogers.
interim manager of the Firebreathing <ragon in (ureka. Ahen asked to e$2lain the success of his store. no matter what the format. . )alifornia. Richard )rawford. he said.D and hung u2. C)ould be something in the air u2 here. CThere will always be an audience for good content.blog 2osts. answered the 2hone in the middle of a bustling Friday afternoon and said that he was too busy ringing u2 customers to take time out for an interview. )hicago.D #ookstore owners in #rooklyn. and <enver could not be reached for comment. Rogers said.
D @ C(milyKD =ewis said when she walked into the coffee sho2 to join him for breakfast.B he said. B<id you see that article3B B:eah.what else3 -catch u2 on his reading. B1 wish 1 could say that 1 had a stack of books on the nightstand 16m eager to get through.B she said. B1s that really the Richard )rawford3B BAho3B he said. C<on’t you remember The Retriever3D C8uh3D . 1 do my reading on my 2hone. Bbut like everybody else.Ailliams said he 2lans to retire at the end of the year and -.
who brought her a cu2 of coffee and a menu. C=ook. C1t sounds like it. 1 think 1 read it on 2a2er.B CSo the guy who works in our store is a famous author3D =ewis said. 8e went on "2rah. and then his ne$t novel was a total failure. what e$actly is your 2lan here3 Ae’re going to 0uit our jobs and sit u2 here in (ureka and wait to find out if we’re the fifth or the seventh-to-last bookstore to close in America3D .C1t was a huge book several years ago. he won a bunch of awards. B1 don6t know.D She slid into the booth and nodded at the waitress. =ewis. C<o 1 have it on here3D he asked. :ou don6t remember that book3B =ewis scrolled through his 2hone. 1t must6ve been a while ago.
1t looked as if he had traveled this way his whole life. Across the street. 1t was a bleak morning in (ureka. daring the logging trucks to take him out as they barreled down #roadway with their 2ayload of fallen redwoods. kicking himself into traffic. =ewis thought about their favorite breakfast 2lace in San Iose.=ewis looked out the window. a four-lane road that was also the only freeway through town. A guy in a wheelchair used his feet to 2ro2el himself backwards across #roadway. The fog was so dense that it left the 2avement dam2. !eo2le lined u2 around the block to get .len with geraniums in the window bo$es. a cheerful yellow cottage in Aillow . the 2aint 2eeled off a store that sold used medical su22lies. 8e didn’t look over his shoulder to see where he was going.
they’d use . locate a real estate agent in the afternoon. and we6ll figure out what to do after that. They could get to the bookstore and to Sy’s house before lunch. C=et’s just find out what the deal is.D he said at last. (ventually the buildings would sell. BThe bookstore has to kee2 some kind of financial records. =et6s have a look at them. and be on the road tomorrow morning. This was turning out to be nothing more than a weekend getaway.in there for Sunday brunch. butHjust a weekend. and go see uncle Sy6s house. 8e couldn’t imagine any of that ha22ening here. and the owner walked down the street 2ouring coffee while they waited.B She could see that he was already losing interest in the business of books. A unsettling weekend.
then.D . CAll right. dro22ing a twenty on the table to cover =ewis’s breakfast.D CThey’re 2robably not o2en yet.the 2roceeds to 2ay off some bills.D she said. C=et’s go. still looking out the window as if he was hy2noti5ed by the fog. CAe have the keys. C=et’s get over to the bookstore.D he said. and get on with their lives. remember3D she said.
T-shirts.D C<on’t do that.uillermo said.D .alway said. C1 should do a story about that.alway’s coffee. CAs long as 1’m the only one o2en.D . whatever 1’ve got.D . CThat’s money walking down the street.twent"#one .D . CAnd you’re the only guy o2en before noon.uillermo said as he refilled . they’ll buy anything. Tell these sho2kee2ers to get their asses out of bed and get down here.alway sat at his usual table at )ontra )offee and watched tourists walk 2ast "ld Town’s closed sho2s. mugs.
too. did you see the Times called )rawford3D C:eah.D . =ewis walked u2 to the <ragon and unlocked the door as if he owned the 2lace.uillermo said.CAhat. The <ragon 2robably took in five thousand bucks before close.alway said. 8ey. CAhy don’t you get over there and interview them3D CThey look young. CToo much clean living. on Friday afternoon.D .alway 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 . Across the street.D . (mily followed him inside. CAho was that3D . C1t’s got to be the new owners.
C<amnK Ahat are they doing with all that cash3D C4ow that Sy’s gone3 !utting in their 2ockets.uillermo traced a little s0uare on the table as if he was calculating something.D . 1’ve sat in there and watched it ha22en.uillermo dro22ed into the seat across from . CAhy not3 They’re running the 2lace.D They sat for a minute and watched (mily and =ewis move around inside the store. 1 ho2e. but he knew they would.. 4either one of them looked like they belonged at the .uillermo said.D C:ou don’t think they’d steal from the store.D . C:ou think so3 Five grand in an afternoon3D CAbsolutely. 8ow is that stealing3 They need to get 2aid.alway and stared at him.
C!robably looking for that five grand )rawford took in yesterday.glossy. C=ook. CThey’re looking for something. And =ewis3 8e would need to sto2 shaving for a week before he looked like he belonged at the <ragon. (mily ducked behind the counter and =ewis disa22eared into the back. why don’t you do a story about the .D .<ragon.D .uillermo said.alway said. man. so obviously they weren’t 2lanning on o2ening for business. 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. They had locked the door behind them and they hadn’t turned on any lights inside the store. somehow. (mily was too-.
CThe <ragon’s not going anywhere. There was no movement inside.D . And if those two are just here to close it down and sell the building.D . :ou going to wait for the .alway said.<ragon3 #low the lid on that 2lace. CAhy do you care whether or not 1 do a story3 :ou know that would shut them down.uillermo hadn’t taken his eyes off the <ragon. The 2olice can only ignore what’s going on over there if nobody’s rubbing it in their face.e! -ork Times to show u2 and do it instead3D C4ah.D . there’s 2lenty of time. . it’ll be u2 to them to decide what to tell the re2orters.uillermo didn’t look away from the store.alway said.D . CAait a minute.
meeting .D . CAll 1 know is that somebody’s going to end u2 with those 2lants.D .alway’s glance at last.D .uillermo said.CAw.alway said. man. C:ou don’t think (dith’s going to start working for you after the <ragon closes3D C1 don’t know.
though. slowing down in front of a wash-and-fold that didn’t look like it would know what to do with a suit. CThat’s the only 2hone number 1 have for (dith Ratner.D .twent"#two Richmond’s secretary checked her voice mail over the weekend after all. 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. 1t’s a few years old.D C1 don’t want to just show u2 over there. C1 do have an address.D she told him as he drove around downtown looking for a 2lace to get his suit dry-cleaned.
send me the address.CAll right. #ut if she 2ulls a rifle on me. it’s your fault.D .
($ce2t that today it wasn’t working. there wasn6t much 2oint in going back to bed. #ut that little lie was what sustained her.twent"#three After Sy died.et u2 in the morning. of course. get dressed.o ba k to bed after breakfast. #illy had called late last night to say that (mily and . After that. "nce you’d gotten yourself u2 and 2ulled yourself together. you can s2end the rest of the day in bed if you want to. have something to eat. a friend of (dith’s who was also a widow gave her this advice about getting through the first year . Take a shower. (ight magical words -ou an . 1t was a trick.
D )aretaker. maybe a little dustingHand she hadn’t volunteered. She asked him what he thought of Sy6s heirs. She hadn’t been in Sy’s house once . run the faucets and click the lights on once in a while. 1t was true that she didn’t have any claim to this 2lace.B he said. B1 don6t know. BThey don6t look like bookstore material to me.B BAhat did they say about the house3B she asked. so she shouldn6t be sur2rised if somebody drove u2 to the house.=ewis would 2robably be by this weekend. 1 told them you had been staying on as a kind of a caretaker. B4ot much. #illy had never actually asked her to do any of the things a caretaker of a vacant house might doHair the 2lace out.
)remation. She would have set the couch on to2 of his grave and let the grass grow around it.since the afternoon she found him dead on the couch. 8e seemed to have just slum2ed into it. :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 reali5ed now. 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. had its downsides. 4othing about his 2osture suggested that he had been in 2ain or even gas2ed for air. . =ater she wished she had just called his friends over to bury him in the backyard. They could have carried him from the couch to the garden and set him to slee2 in the dirt.
So where does that leave me3D . it would be as if her decades with Sy had just been erased. her livelihoodHand after that. no shared 2ossessions. She was going to lose this 2laceHher house.That’s what was bothering her this morning. She rolled over and looked out the window at the corner of Sy’s house and her garden beyond. nothing but each other. And it was that thought that was kee2ing her in bed all morning. She couldn’t. C1 can’t kee2 doing this. She could walk away from (ureka and never hear Sy’s name again. either. #ecause she wasn’t about to start over. her garden. They had no children together.D she said to Sy. Cbut 1 can’t do anything else.
At least for today. A car door slammed. @ (dith awoke a cou2le hours later to the sound of tires in the driveway. anyway. . and then she heard someone walking around the house to the back. There was no bree5e outside. . Stuck in bed. that’s where. The whole world seemed to have sto22ed. Slee2 rolled into the room at last and 2ulled her back into the darkness.radually the sunlight swung around the room and hit the wall o22osite. She sat u2 in bed.Stuck. Esually she s2ent Saturday in her 2ro2agation room starting new cuttings. Today the task seemed 2ointless Hnone of the 2lants would make it to harvest.
There was that third o2tion. 8e headed around the corner and down the hill toward her garden. 4o knock. but she couldn’t see him. but she was in no mood to see him.=ewis would be knocking on her door in a few minutes. she remembered that she wasn’t stuck between staying here and leaving (ureka forever. Iail. The man in the suit should have been right in front of her. Then. from her bedroom window. . At that moment. That got her out of bed. 1n a minute she was out of the house and running down the hill. She waited. The gate was locked7 surely he hadn’t found a way in already. she saw a man in a suit ste2 onto Sy’s back 2orch and look into a window.
C=ewis3D She got to the gate and checked the lock. C=ewis3D she called again. her heart 2ounding dangerously in her chest. following the hedge along its broad southern s2an and then climbing back u2 the hill on the other side. (ven from some distance. he looked older than (dith thought he would be. Then she saw him. and more 2uttogether than anyone who shared genes with Sy. She continued down the hill. . 1t was much stee2er on this side7 she was out of breath before she made it halfway u2 the hill. 8e had doubled back to her cottage after she left7 now he was walking away from her front door and back to his car.C8ello3D she called. 4obody was in there.
CAre you sure he’s related to you3D .She sli22ed into the branches of a thorny 2yracantha.D she said to Sy as she brushed stray leaves off her 2ants. CAhat a strange kid. She wasn’t sure why she didn’t want him to see her7 they were going to have to talk eventually. #ut she let him get back to his car and drive away before she untangled herself from the shrub.
D he said. C1’m.twent"#four Ahen . C"h. )rawford. CAho the fuck are you3D . CEhHD =ewis said. backing away from him. 8e could not.inger stood and waited to see if he could com2lete a sentence.inger said. she was sur2rised not to hear the alarm bee2ing.inger unlocked the <ragon’s front door. uhHD . So she said CThe new owner3D . standing u2 behind the counter. C1’m =ewis. She heard a shuffle of 2a2ers behind her and she s2un around. and went to check the 2anel.D she muttered.
C.D CThanks. CAhat3D . that makes me your em2loyee. C"h.inger.inger said.D she said. looking down at his feet. C1t’s your store.D he said. She’s in the back. Ae couldn’t find them.D C8ey. 1s your wife here3D C:eah.inger said. C1’ll just go turn on the lights.D C(gy2tology and !arenting.D Shit.D CAell. C1 was justHuhHD C1t’s okay.D she said. C1 guess so.D he said. trying to sound calm.D . Then he looked back down at the bo$es of 2a2ers and old maga5ines he’d scattered all over the floor behind the counter.D .C:eah. good.
C1 just met your husband.D she said.D C"h. 1 work here.CThat’s where the lights are. These two were obviously looking for something. Right behind the books in the (gy2tology and !arenting sections.inger didn’t turn on the lights.D .inger. then (mily came around the corner. Thanks. C1’m . She headed straight to the back. (mily3D she said as she rounded the corner into the <ragon’s storage room.D she said. From the other end of the room came the sound of cardboard bo$es getting shifted around.D #ut . C"hHhi. She reali5ed how bi5arre the ma5e of unsold books must look to anyone else. C8i.
C4o. or something like that3 1 thought they might be in that vault back there.inger asked. or ledgers. C1’m so sorry about Sy.D (mily said.D C<id you know him3D .inger said. following (mily’s ga5e back to the ancient bank . butQD That didn’t take long. we just thought we’d get here early and try to get a handle on how the store is doing. 8e must have been a great guy. but =ewis has told me a lot about him. 1 never did get a chance to meet him.C. hi.D .inger said. 1 was looking forH1 don’t knowH recei2ts.D C8e was something. C"h.ingerK Aow. coming toward her to shake her hand.D . CAhat are you looking for3D C"hHwell.
the first batch of customers .D (mily said. 1 can hel2 you out. CThanks. CThat’s been here forever.D She following . 1t doesn’t o2en. if you’re looking for financial records and stuff.inger back into the store. Fortunately.D (mily said. as far as 1 know. She reali5ed that she had no idea how this was going to work with (mily and =ewis in the store. She ke2t her eyes on the vault.D she said. C8ey. it seems to be locked. CAhy don’t we go back u2 front3D C"hHgreat. A cou2le of customers walked in immediately.D C:eah.vault in the back of the room. looking away from the vault at last. and waited while she fli22ed on the lights and 2ro22ed the door o2en. .inger needed to distract her.
CSorry.looked like tourists who didn’t know what they were doing. C:ou did3D =ewis said. in her best imitation of a hel2ful em2loyee. CAow. 1’ll do it. looking alarmed.D she said.D (mily said. is it3D she said. 2a2er really isn’t dead here. =ewis had made a mess behind the desk. C1’ll clean it u2.D =ewis said.inger decided that the best thing to do would be to get them out of there 0uickly.inger to show us the financials.D . CThat’s all right. C1 asked . There were 2a2ers and broken books and file folders everywhere. (mily laughed when she saw it. .
8e can give you a 2assword to the bank account. 8e fli22ed through it for a minute.D she said. and then we add it u2 at the end of the month.C1t’s "L. That’s where all the monthly statements are. C:eah. too. handing it over. and then turned back to . C1t’s your store.inger said in a low voice so the customers wouldn’t hear.D . C1t’s 2retty sim2le.D =ewis o2ened the ledger. Ae just write down the total sales for the day. All the bills come straight out of our account. #ut your uncle Sy liked to kee2 a 2a2er ledger. <id you meet the lawyer yet3D C#illy3D =ewis asked.D She o2ened the desk drawer and 2ulled an old green ledger book out from under the cash bo$.
who was still standing on the other side of the counter.the front. CAhat is this3D he asked. and--D CThese are sales3D =ewis asked in a whis2er. CAellHyeah. 1sn’t that what you wanted3 Sales figures3 There’s not much else to show you. CEmHit’s our ledger. CThis bookstore makes over a million dollars a year. =ewis looked u2 at (mily. 8e didn’t 0uite know how to tell her.D . Ae don’t really buy any books anymore. 8e looked at it blankly for a minute and then looked back u2 at .inger said. 1s something wrong3D .inger. Sy owned the building. 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
unlike most of the newer strains that only flourished in a hydro2onic system. The guys across the street were still unloading their truck.strain. if only they could get hold of it. :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. deliciously into$icating. and --. Twenty bags of . 1t was rumored to be light. And it hel2ed that <ragon grew easily outdoors. known as <ragon. was going to be Sumner6s 2remium 2roduct. sweet. This would be im2ortant if they wanted to lure what Tom was calling Bmainstream smokers.B All those clean-living non-smokers who would have to be 2ersuaded to light u2 again.best of all --free of that skunky 2ot odor.
regulations. "ne of the guys who was carrying e0ui2ment into the warehouse wore a B=egali5e 1tB T-shirt. a duct blower. tinkering with the dosages and injecting a different 2otion into their irrigation system every day. 1t was the Aild Aest out here. "nce Sumner rolled out its . These guys were like mad scientists. They were bouti0ue growers who could 2lay around with fancy e0ui2ment and over2riced fertili5er mi$tures all they wanted. These guys had no idea what they were asking for. wages. Richmond just watched him and shook his head. and they didn6t have to worry about ta$es. After all. or com2etition from large. and three cases of li0uid fertili5ers. they could charge almost anything for their 2roduct.horticultural-grade 2erlite. well-run 2lantations in the South.
and that was 2roving to be trickier than he’d e$2ected. 4ot to mention 2atent lawsuits.2roduct. and allround flakiness. 2rices would dro2 like a stone and these growers would all be 2ut out of business over ta$ evasion. labor and safety violations. because Sumner would own all the strains in circulation. #ut first Richmond had to figure out how to buy some 2ot. .
and they had a large staff to su22ort.twent"#seven 1n the old days. They sold a 2roduct that 2eo2le were willingHnot just willing. and a hefty rent to 2ay at the end of the month. A busy sho2 in a big city might do twenty-five grand on a good Saturday. a million dollars in annual sales would not have been 2articularly im2ressive for a bookstore. #ut those stores had to actually buy the books they offered for sale. . making annual sales of three or four million seem 2erfectly reasonable. but eager--to buy. And they also had customers.
8e liked the .inger were 2aid. the ledger closed in her la2. all of which would cost more to dis2ose of than they were worth. and you still hadHwell. 4either of them said a word. "ne million dollars.#ut now3 1n a town this si5e3 A million dollars seemed im2ossible. he wondered if somebody was 2laying a joke on him. (mily sat ne$t to him. whatever small salaries )rawford and . Subtract out 2ro2erty ta$es. utilities. As =ewis drove out to Sy’s 2lace. insurance. )ould that be right3 Surely not. The idea that Sy had left =ewis anything of value was an unsettling one. 2retty close to a million dollars. They were both chewing over that number in silence. =ewis had imagined that he would be taking 2ossession of a few dila2idated buildings and a collection of moldy books.
footing the bill for karaoke night after a 2harmacists’ in-service training. 8e had mastered the delicate art of bribery. Ruinous. 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. it was just there to be scoo2ed u2. 1f you were willing to wade through a certain amount of muck. 8e could sit with them and let them buy their own dinners. watching a grou2 of doctors devour the lobsters and steaks he was 2aying for. even.idea that taking over Sy’s bookstore would be difficult. The truth was that he didn6t trust easy money. knowing just how far he could go in delivering 2i55as to the (R on a Saturday night. 2erha2s im2ossible. or he could eat in the bar .
8e fell into this job almost by accident. They were going to 2rescribe his drugs regardless7 all he had to do was stand in the middle and take his cut. and he wasn’t at all sure that a 2ill was the answer to de2ression or an$iety or chronic aches and 2ains. encouraged by a college roommate who had . These guys didn’t want to talk to him anyway. 8e rarely took a drink. 8e knew which o2tion would work. =et them eat their dinner in 2eace. 8e didn’t like the idea of an increasingly do2ed-u2 American society.and let them dine on his em2loyer’s tab. and he had hardly ever smoked so much as a cigarette. For someone who sold mood-altering drugs and 2ain 2ills for a living. =ewis was a sur2risingly straight-laced guy.
The work was easy. and somehow it stuck. he’d been fantasi5ing about some job that re0uired him to dig his way out of his foolish. A medieval trade with humble rewards. no inventory to buy3 4o author events or staff 2ick lists orHwell--effort of any kind3 Ahat sort of business was that3 . maybe.been recruited by the com2any. but buying martinis for medical 2ractitioners was not on the list. #ookselling seemed to fit into that category. #lacksmithing. but a million dollars in sales3 Aith only two em2loyees and no real strategy3 4o marketing. debt-fueled lifestyle by working with his hands cabinet-making. Ahat had he 2lanned to do with his life3 8e couldn’t say. #efore the news of Sy’s death. 8is wages felt ill-gotten. no merchandising. e$actly.
(ven from the road =ewis could see that a s2rawling. following a road that led around the bay and through a scrubby. 1t wasn’t fair. second-growth forest. =ewis took the back way out of (ureka. A few timber com2any e$ecutives lived out here alongside doctors and wealthy retirees from the #ay Area.There wouldn’t be anything for him to do but stand in the way of the money and catch a little bit of it as it went by. s2litlevel home built on Sy’s lot would face s2ectacular sunsets over the !acific. and along that ridge were the new. custom-built homes that re2resented the last of (ureka6s wealth. . A narrow mountain ridge skirted the bay. Encle Sy6s 2lace sat at a 2rime location at the to2 of the ridge.
slamming doors and 2ushing gusts of wind down the hallway and whatever else it was that ghosts did. 8e leaned over the steering wheel to look through his windshield at the sagging 2orch and layers of 2eeling 2aint. but now it was mostly gray.B (mily said. and later it was sky blue. yeah. Someone had attem2ted to go after the trim with a coat of maroon 2aint. BAell. The house was once green. .8e followed the rutted road u2 to Sy6s 2lace and 2arked in the driveway that ran alongside the house. BThis looks like a haunted house.B =ewis couldn’t imagine this 2lace without Sy. 1 guess it is. but the 2roject had been abandoned before even one side of the house could be 2ainted. Surely he was still here.
and then back at him. They circled back and a22roached the cottage closest to Sy6s house. garages. This is my wife ---B . the door flew o2en. A tangle of 2ower lines led from one to the ne$t.that had all been converted to rentals over the years. little cottages -. As =ewis ste22ed u2 onto the 2orch. (dith looked 2ast =ewis at (mily. Around back were a grou2 of outbuildings -. All em2ty. B:ou aren6t the ne2hew. ste22ing carefully through the tall grass. 1 am.B she said. BActually. dirt-stained 2ants stood in front of them. B(dith3B =ewis said.sheds. looking in a few windows. A tiny.They got out of the car and walked around the house. gray-haired woman in a flannel shirt and brown. =ewis and (mily ti2toed among them.
figure out --B B1 know. BAe6re just here for the weekend to look around.B She stood looking u2 at them. BAe just wanted to take a look at the 2lace to --. BThen who was that other man3B CEhHB B:ou weren6t here earlier this morning3B she said. B:ou6ve got to figure out what to do with this 2lace. BAe6re not going to do anything right away.B =ewis said. BAe just got here.B (dith said. She wasn6t going to offer any suggestions.B .you know --. 1 was going to take a 0uick look at Sy6s house.aybe you can show us the 2lace. <o you want to come inside3 .(dith leaned in the doorway and s0uinted at =ewis.B (mily said. And what to do about me.
She didn6t want to go inside.B she said. 1’ll show it to you. it might not occur to them to go for a little nature walk down the hill. but if she ke2t them busy. . )ome on.She looked 2ast them at the house. and followed them to the back door. C1 bet it hasn’t changed much since you were a boy.
)rawford wasn6t ha22y about ;inger waking him u2 on a Saturday morning, but now that (mily and =ewis were in town, he thought he should try to get to work on time. Sure enough, he was only there for fifteen minutes before they returned from their tour of Sy’s house. BAre you Richard )rawford3B (mily said when she saw him behind the counter. )rawford rose slowly from his chair. 8e didn6t get recogni5ed much anymore. BAell, ahQB BThe Richard )rawford3 1t is youK :ou really work here3B
She said it as if working here would be beneath a writer of his stature. This ha22ened to be a belief that he always held, but until now no one had agreed with him. ,aybe (mily wouldn6t be such a bad boss, after all. B(verybody calls me )rawford. 1 went to high school here for a few years after my 2arents got divorced, so 1 moved back when V uh-- 1 mean -- after --B 8e reali5ed that he didn6t actually want to review the series of failures and bad decisions that landed him back in (ureka. BAnd you6re (mily3B B:es, and this is =ewis,B she said. =ewis nodded to )rawford and headed to the back of the store with a ta2e measure in his hand. B<id ;inger go home3
BAell, yeah,B )rawford said. B1 ho2e that’s okay. Ae’re usually both here for a little while in the afternoon, but she had some things she wanted to do today so 1 told her she could just take off.D C"h. Thanks,B (mily said. B,aybe you can show me around a little. Show me how things work around here.D )rawford could hear =ewis moving furniture around back in the history section. Ahat were they u2 to3 BSure. #ut, look, 1 think we6re all kind of curious. 8ave the two of you decided what you6re going to do with the store3B (mily walked around behind the counter and dro22ed into a chair. BTo tell you the truth, )rawford, 1 wasn6t at all sure 1 wanted anything
to do with this 2lace when we got here. #ut =ewis has a lot of fond memories of the summer he s2ent here --B B:eah, 1 heard he got to 2arty with Stegner,B )rawford said. (mily laughed. BThat6s the story, anyway. #ut you know, bookstores are 2retty much going e$tinct. 1 didn6t really see how we can make this work. #ut we6ve seen the sales figures. :ou guys must be doing something right. There6s not really any money in the bank, but the building’s 2aid off. So, 1 don’t know. At this 2oint, we haven’t totally ruled out the 2ossibility of moving u2 here and giving it a try. =ewis wants to try to rearrange things a little and kind ofHD she looked around and 2aused, choosing her wordsHCstraighten things u2.D
"ne of the <ragon6s regulars walked in with a bargain 2a2erback she’d 2icked u2 from the rack outside. She was an older woman )rawford didn6t know by name. Sort of a grandmotherly ty2e, with just a touch of bag lady thrown in. )rawford didn6t think that she sle2t outside, but it wouldn6t sur2rise him to see her going through the trash bins in the alley, either. Ahen she saw (mily behind the counter, she sto22ed short. B:ou the new owner3B she said. (mily stood u2 and e$tended her hand. B:es, 1’m VB #ut the woman was having none of it. She handed her 2a2erback to )rawford -- a thriller set in northern )alifornia called ,e essary Evil -- and )rawford sli22ed it into a 2a2er bag, running his hand 0uickly around the inside of
the bag to make sure ;inger had stuffed it the night before. "ne skinny joint in a 2lastic sleeve. 8e smoothed her wadded-u2 bills and 2ut them in the cash drawer. B<oes she know3B she said over her shoulder as she was walking out the door. She didn6t wait for an answer. (mily looked at )rawford, 2u55led. B"h,B he said. BShe meant --- about me. :ou know. About my novels.B B"hK :ou6ve got a little following around town, don6t you, )rawford3B C:eah, kind of,D he said, with what he ho2ed looked like embarrassment. BAell, look. #efore we get interru2ted again, do you want to show me how to ring u2 customers3 1 mean, you don6t seem to have a
cash register or anything, so it all looks 2retty straightforward, but is there anything 1 should know3B )rawford knew he would have to deal with this sooner or later. 8e had worked out an answer last night. BThere6s not much to it. #ut if you don6t mind me making a suggestion ---B B4o, 2lease, go ahead.B BAell, it6s just that since Sy’s been gone, there6s been this real hole in how the store runs. The way he set it u2 was that ;inger and 1 would be the only ones who rang u2 customers, and Sy was always out in the store, talking to 2eo2le and setting u2 new dis2lays and stuff like that. 8e was kind of like the heart of the store.B )rawford swallowed as if he was having difficulty controlling his emotions.
(mily reached out and 2ut a hand on his. B"h, )rawford. 1’m sure this has been so hard for you guys.D )rawford looked away and blinked. BAell, you can see how much it6s fallen into disarray over the last few months. Ae6ve tried to kee2 it u2 the way Sy liked it, but it hasn6t been easy. 1 think the best thing you guys could do would be to carry on the tradition and let us work behind the counter while you run the store. 1t would kind of be like honoring his memory.B B16ll talk to =ewis about that. And you know, 1 should 2robably go see if he needs any hel2.B BAnything 1 can do3B BIust do your job.B (mily stood u2 to go look for =ewis. Iust then an older man came in. )rew cut, ironed shirt, khaki 2ants. 8e looked
like an e$-,arine. 4ot a ty2ical <ragon customer. BAhat kind of books are these3B he said to (mily as she came out from behind the counter. (mily looked to )rawford for hel2, but )rawford just smiled. She might as well learn to handle it. BEm-- all kinds of books,B (mily said. BAre you looking for something in 2articular3B B1 want to bring my son to the =ord. 1 want him to receive the Aord through a real book, not a com2uter. The book.B (mily wi2ed her 2alms on her jeans. This was not a situation she had ever e$2ected to find herself in. BSo, you are looking for ---B She turned again to )rawford, and this time he decided to hel2 her out.
BAe have a whole section of #ibles right back here, sir,B )rawford said, walking him back to the Aestern religion section. 1t was actually a beautiful collection of #ibles a 2ocket-si5ed %M'M Ling Iames with the original brass clas2, a lovely old %M+R edition with a modern fore-edge 2ainting on three sides, and a number of nice rebound volumes dating back to the turn of the century. )rawford had been ama5ed that 2eo2le 2arted with their heavy, leather-bound #ibles so easily in favor of the digital version. #ut here they all were, an entire community’s collection of holy te$ts, waiting at the <ragon for their resurrection. C1 wish =ewis could have seen that,D (mily said after the man left with his #ible. She looked around again for her husband, but he
seemed to have disa22eared into the back room. C1 guess you just never know what 2eo2le are going to say when they walk in the door. :ou have to be ready for anything.D C:ou’ll get the hang of it,D )rawford said.
(mily had ho2ed they would stay the weekend, figure out what to do about selling the store, and then go home on ,onday. #ut the store’s startling financial success had changed her mind. She couldn’t walk away from that kind of money without at least considering the unlikely 2ossibility that bookselling was, after all, a lucrative enter2rise. #esides, =ewis was enchanted with the 2lace. So a weekend turned into a week, and one week turned into another, and they each invented e$cuses for staying away from work just a few days longer, knowing that their jobs
were becoming ever more 2recarious as they neglected them. 1t hardly mattered, though. The bookstore was strangely addictive they both found the act of cleaning and sorting and organi5ing to be sur2risingly satisfying, and they enjoyed the notoriety of being small-town sho2kee2ers. !eo2le came in just to meet them and to tell them stories about uncle Sy. Their activities became a regular feature on ;alway’s local business blog. They felt almost obligated to stay, as if it would be bad manners to leave so 0uickly. They worked in the store every day, dusting, washing windows, clearing the aisles downstairs and shoveling 2iles of books and old maga5ines into the back room to be sorted. (mily walked around with a garbage bag, 2icking u2 half-
and he carried it around the store. changing light bulbs and knocking s2ider webs out of the corners.but it didn’t have to be in this kind of disarray.inger felt obligated to 2itch in. A bookish wreck. =ewis found a ladder in the bathroom -. 1t was a little embarrassing to watch them work. 2ossibly months. A catastro2he. either.em2ty coffee cu2s that had been stashed in outof-the-way 2laces for weeks or. .inger had to admit. The store didn6t need to be 2articularly clean --.most customers didn6t s2end enough time in the store to notice --. )rawford and . )rawford and .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.
The <ragon’s regular customers had a hard time adjusting to the new owners. Soon they fell into . they washed the unused glass cases near the counter and cleaned off the desk.so in between customers. (mily and =ewis were always hovering nearby. This was intimidating to the customers. because every corner and crevice was filled with bits of sus2icious dried green material. 1t was a good thing they did. They were going to have to be much more careful. ready to ste2 u2 with a book recommendation or offer to hunt down a 2articular title. 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. There was enough illegal detritus to 2ut them in jail in a less 2ermissive county.
forcing them to go find a book on their own.inger. and handed )rawford a wad of twenties.the habit of walking straight u2 to the desk and mumbling their re0uests to )rawford or . This was not good. )rawford gave the guy a small shake of the head and said. "ne day a skateboarder with a shaved head and a row of 2iercings u2 both ears walked 2ast =ewis.inger were not ready to change the rules of the game. B)an 1 hel2 you find a book3B . loud enough for =ewis to hear. in the ho2es of by2assing the 2retense of buying a book altogether and thus avoiding a bookish chat with the owners. who was changing the light bulb in the doorway. #ut )rawford and . They gave 2eo2le a blank look when they held out their cash.
BSure. the kid .D #efore he could say anything else.=ewis jum2ed down from his ladder. "ur 2hiloso2hy section’s over here. right3B )rawford smiled at the skateboarder who. BEm.B The kid followed =ewis reluctantly into the de2ths of the store. the kid said. 1n a voice that suggested that he wasn6t used to talking to grown-u2s. BThat6s what Sy would6ve done. )rawford tilted his head toward the 2hiloso2hy section. just aHB 8e looked around des2erately. BAhat were you looking for3B =ewis said. =ewis. )rawford. C=ikeHa 2hiloso2hy book3D BSure. B8ey. let me take this one. 1 don’t know.B he said. got himself into this mess and was going to have to get himself out. he figured.
o2ening the book 0uickly to check the 2rice. CAe might have that in 2a2erback.B the kid said. then fled the store with a bag containing his 9oltaire and his bud. CAhat3D asked )rawford. . 8e handed his twenties to )rawford and told him to kee2 the change. CThat was odd.B he said. BThis looks good.D =ewis said. 1t came to just over a hundred bucks. 2ractically racing back to the counter to hand it to )rawford.reached down and grabbed a nice old co2y of 9oltaire6s letters rebound in contem2orary 2aneled calf with gilt lettering on the s2ine. 1 like this one. =ewis had been standing right by the desk watching him. BAre you sure3B =ewis asked.B B4o.
!eo2le love books. it’s just this small. entirely inconse0uential issue. he hardly even looked around. And where does a kid like that get that kind of money3B )rawford shrugged. in this case. BThat6s the ama5ing thing about this town. es2ecially on a minor and.BAell. summoning a little mock indignation. butHit’s hardly #erkeley. but they’re going to come in here and buy a hundred-dollar 9oltaire3D )rawford loved nothing more than taking a 2rinci2led stand. C8ey. you know what 1 mean3D C4o. C1 mean.B C:eah. you know3 4obody seems to have the money to 2aint their house or wash their car. what3D )rawford said. kind of working class town. .
1 just got here. #ut 2eo2le who live here ha22en to think this is a 2retty s2ecial 2lace. after you’ve only been here a little while. And if you don6t think that skateboarder kid can a22reciate 9oltaire.D #efore the moment got any more sentimental than it already was.D =ewis said. :ou’re the one who’s hel2ed make this store what it is. =ewis rushed to the door to hel2 her. :ou’re right. . C8ey. C1’m sorry. 1 know what (ureka must look like to you.man.B 8e wi2ed his eyes and got busy straightening the desk as if to distract himself from a sudden rush of outraged tears. then you don6t know this community. (mily walked into the store with another load of cleaning su22lies and a stack of em2ty bo$es.
books that have clearly been wet . )rawford had the im2ression that he’d caught them at something. They turned and looked at him with matching e$2ressions of startled fright. CEhHthey’re for the books we’re not going to kee2. choosing his words. still wound u2 over his im2assioned defense of (ureka as a cultural institution. CAhere are you taking them3D (mily 2ressed her li2s together and headed to the back room. (ven the shelves. C4ot going to kee23D )rawford asked.D =ewis said. Ae’ve found books with the covers torn off. CThe entire reference section is mildewed. books with coffee stains.D =ewis said slowly. CSome of these books areH wellHdirty.CAhat are the bo$es for3D )rawford asked.
CFine. They’ve been sitting here for years. <efending old and mildewed books came much more naturally to him. CSo you’re just going to throw books away. not to mention all the old . but it was easy to forget that the store didn’t even really sell books anymore.raphi sHD C1 see. refusing to look u2. 8e went back to rearranging su22lies on the desk.D . C1t’s your store. 4obody’s bought them.D )rawford knew that =ewis was right. 1t’s just that nobody wants these books.D he said to =ewis.D =ewis said.D CSome of these books really should be recycled.D )rawford said.ational Geo. C1’m not the bad guy.and dried out again.
inger needed now that the owners were here all the time rolling joints under the desk. 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 . .=ewis didn’t argue that 2oint.
The store’s em2loyees had to take any o22ortunity .thirt" 1t was not easy for . They were also cleaning out Sy’s house and trying to make it habitable7 one of them was always running off to the hardware store or dro22ing by the house to meet a contractor. 1t was im2ossible to kee2 track of where they were or how long they might be out of the store. (mily and =ewis came and went at all hours.inger and )rawford to kee2 the <ragon o2erating the way it used to. sometimes showing u2 just after dawn to move bookcases around before the store o2ened. and fre0uently staying late into the evening.
And the new owners s2ent the money as 0uickly as it came in. So they fell into the dangerous habit of s2ending the cash in the till on whatever they needed take-out meals.they could to dash to the back and stuff sho22ing bags with the ne$t day’s su22ly of joints and one-gram bags and tightly 2acked 0uarter-ounces. not to mention cleaning su22lies and tools and 2ayments to the handymen they’d hired to do . and the <ragon’s account was still tied u2 in 2robate. (mily and =ewis were charmed by their em2loyees’ insistence on ringing u2 all customers themselves. new clothes to tide them over until they could get back to San Iose. Fortunately. so there were no mi$-u2s behind the counter. They had not yet bothered to establish a new bank account.
#ut . to recommend books to the <ragon’s nervous customers. in his semi-literate way. reorgani5ing the store and attem2ting. The idea of all this unaccounted-for cash made them a little nervous. And what !ould ha22en once 2robate was over and the money was sorted out3 )rawford and .inger had heard (mily .odd jobs. )rawford thought that =ewis was settling into his role as a bookseller.inger had sto22ed asking the new owners what their long-range 2lans were7 it seemed as if they were still trying to decide whether they should move to (ureka 2ermanently and run the <ragon. or just fi$ it u2 and sell it. but )rawford assured them that they could save their recei2ts and take it all to an accountant to sort out once 2robate was finished.
dehumidifiers. and Sy would hang it u2 to dry in the old bank vault. As long as the new owners were sticking around. (dith used to bring her cro2 directly to the store in big black garbage bags. the unreliable electrical wiring. Then again. . the unheated and uninsulated bedrooms. and drying lines. She s2oke longingly of their condo in San Iose. 1t was the 2erfect hiding 2lace most 2eo2le had long ago forgotten that a bank once stood where the . which he had outfitted with blowers. 1t didn’t seem like she was entirely settled in.com2lain about the many shortcomings of Sy’s house on the hill the fragile 2lumbing.inger and )rawford would have to make some changes to the way the <ragon o2erated. she didn’t seem to be in any hurry to leave.
and )rawford said he didn6t . making it earth0uake-2roof and im2ervious to the noses of drug-sniffing dogs. )rawford and . .inger used to s2end a little time every day trimming and bagging and rolling.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. They each ruled out the 2ossibility of setting u2 the o2eration at home. So they had to find another 2lace to 2rocess (dith’s cro2. but the lack of slee2 was wearing on them. For a while they came in late at night to get ready for the ne$t day’s customers. that was im2ossible.<ragon’s stockroom was. #ut with the owners in the store. and the vault was lined in steel and concrete.
Sy was like the s2ider in the middle of the web everyone in his world was interconnected. 1t would have to ha22en at (dith6s house. .have the s2ace for it.inger volunteered to 2ut in a shift a few nights a week. and (dith had considered them to be her friends. "nce he was gone. 1t was strangely isolating. they dis2ersed. but in fact they were always in orbit around Sy. and eventually they might wonder why their em2loyees s2ent so much time with (dith. . #ut lacking any other o2tion. There had always been a lot of 2eo2le around. This had its own risks =ewis and (mily were living ne$t door.inger and (dith never s2ent much time alone when Sy was alive. and other e0ui2ment moved to (dith6s kitchen table. too. the scales. bags. (dith reali5ed in hindsight. where . but only through him.
#ut now the two women were in the habit of 2assing 2leasant evenings at the kitchen table. there was no reason for them to believe that there was anything unusual in two old friends getting together in the evening. 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. 1f =ewis or (mily noticed . . So far. they didn’t mention it. cli22ing and cleaning with a cou2le 2airs of narrow scissors better suited to manicures than gardening. 1n fact.inger’s car in the driveway. the new arrangement was working. 1t satisfied some 2rimitive grooming instinct of hers.
. or 2laying cards it gave you something to do with your hands while you sat and talked.Rolling joints was a little like knitting.
thirt"#one Richmond fell into the habit of visiting the bookstore every day to chat with . 8is attem2ts to buy marijuana had failed utterly7 the street dealers sus2ected he was a co2 and . wasn’t about to reverse her 2osition. having made the decision initially that he was too clean-cut to buy anything but books from the <ragon. 8e had no idea what he would do with dried 2lant matter even if he was able to buy some.inger and 2urchase a book.inger. Ahat he really needed was a 2lant. a2art from 2ick it a2art in search of seeds that Sumner’s botanists could germinate. and he wasn’t any closer to getting one of those .
even the regular customers .the dealers wouldn’t talk to him. that the act of hanging out in a bookstore had grown so unfamiliar. in such a short time. 8ere at the <ragon. and the <ragon was behaving like the bookstore Richmond knew it wasn’t. he liked s2ending time in a bookstore again. 4onetheless. so foreign. 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. women carrying on hushed conversations at the end of an aisle. Richmond thought. 1t was strange. 2eo2le gathered in com2lete silence around a table of new arrivals.
They 2icked u2 books and e$amined them on all sides. as if they were mysterious objects that re0uired further study. they grabbed a book near the counter. however. The effect.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 shoved it across the desk along with a few crum2led bills. !eo2le marched u2 and down the aisles the way they’d walk through a su2ermarket. hastily checked the 2rice. eager to get out . and then set them carefully back down. and a few of them were making some minimal effort to act like actual bookstore customers. 4obody carried books around with them7 when it was time to leave. was more like that of an amateur acting class im2rovising a bookstore scene.
B he said. B:ou6re back.B . B:6all are one of the last bookstores in the country. :ou’re famous.inger looked over and recogni5ed him. some s2ecial hand gesture or wink or word muttered under the breath that would signal what the buyer was really after.B she said.inger work. Finally .as 0uickly as they could. B1 couldn6t stay away. 8e noticed that everyone left with a 2a2er bag. which was unusual in an era when refusing a bag was a sign of virtue. "ne day he 2ulled u2 a chair in the cookbook section and watched . #ut he saw nothing. For while it was a steady stream of ten-dollar 2a2erback sales. 8e watched for some secret code.
artens. almost like licorice or --. She was dressed in her usual 2ost2unk schoolgirl outfit a 2laid skirt. :eah. Soon she was so close that Richmond could 2ick u2 the dark.B"h. we6re gonna turn this whole book thing around. and black boots.well. a tattered cashmere sweater that had been 2atched together with safety 2ins around the neck and at the elbows. straightening books and 2icking u2 a stack of 2rints in glassine sleeves that had slid off a table. .B B1 believe it. ginger -.B Richmond said. s2icy fragrance.inger drifted a little closer to him.that seemed to come out of her 2ores. and now was no time to start. you heard about that. 8e was out of his league and far from his . Richmond told himself that he had never so much as flirted with a girl who wore <oc .
B she said. B:ou just -look like business. . C1 guess that’s a bad thing around here.D .inger was distracted by a guy who was waiting for her at the counter.natural habitat.inger was making conversation. do you know this book3B the guy said as . Richmond had traded his suit for a 2air of jeans.inger asked. B8ey. as if he was trying to make it sto2. 8e looked nervous one leg shook and he ke2t 2utting his hand on it. #ut . but a22arently he wasn6t fooling anybody. B8ow’d you guess3B She shook her head and smiled. 8e couldn6t even imagine what the rules for dating might be out here.inger a22roached. As long as he was stuck in this town. why not3 B:ou out here on business3B .
8e worked on it for a minute and then handed it to . B1t6s about this big. holding the 2a2er delicately between two fingers. B1t6s got a 2icture of a castle on the cover. =ike this. roughly the si5e of the book. and on the back is a big 2icture of the author. B1 don6t know. B<o you remember what it6s about3B .inger said. B<o you have that one3B he asked.well. more like a Roman nose.inger asked.B .inger. you know what 1 mean3 4ot a .B and he grabbed a 2en from the desk and started drawing a cartoonish outline of a man in 2rofile with a big nose. 8e6s got a Roman nose.BAhat book is that3B .reek nose. indicating with his hands that the book was -.B he said.
They had it in the library over there.B4ot really. glancing across the aisles of books downstairs and the walls lined with books u2stairs. man. And you know. .B She looked at the drawing again. 1 think that6s why. :eah.B B#ecause you6re not in jail3B B!retty much. but they won’t let me check it out anymore. 1 think the jail closed their library. :ou6re welcome to look around and see if it’s here. BSorry.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. 1 read it in jail one time. Ae 2robably ended u2 with all their books.
8e was holding a battered clothbound cookbook with the title stam2ed in black on the cover. . CAhere did you find this3D C:ou actually have a section right over there called )ookbooks.D said .C"h. Ahen she turned around. B8ow old is this book3B . B1 think these are real food stains on the cover. no. Richmond was standing at the counter.D he said.D 8e took his drawing out of .B . taking the book out of his hand.inger watched the doorway for a few minutes as if she was e$2ecting an encore from him.inger said.B Richmond said.inger6s hand and left. C1’ve fallen for that one before. C"h my god.inger. The "hildren2s %ard Guild "ook $ook.
inger6s hands and o2ened it to the title 2age. a cu2 of lard. BAell. sugar. Bammonia cookies sounded 2retty good. And 1 thought theseHwait.D B4oKB 8e held out the book. B+ lum2s of ammonia.B BAhat are you going to do with this3B she asked.eneral 8os2ital. eggs.D She smiled at him. . and a little flour and lemon. Ammonia cookies. a single man needs to know how to cook. 8e figured he better kee2 going. let me find it HB he said as he fli22ed to the dessert section.uhHB he took the book out of .B%*%+. 1 think it got a lot of use there at the -. B#eaver 9alley . milk.
and 2igeons.B he said. 8e’d have to come u2 with something better than that.B Richmond close the book and handed it to her.B he said. what would you --B . That6s it.BThere is also a 2igeon 2ie that 1’d like to try. if a man were to offer to make you his s2ecial Fried )ream for dinner. no. B4ow. B:ou6re not going to get to the grocery store and go. B"h. B1t6s just got 2otatoes. . that should be easy to remember.inger shook her head.B she said. JAhat was that other thing 1 needed for 2igeon 2ie3’D Richmond fli22ed through the book one more time. 1 eat fried cream all the time.B BAell. B16ll work on it. 2ork fat.
C1s this all 1 get3D he asked.D .B she said. CThat’s all you bought. eight-fifty. .D . B(ight bucks. There was nothing in there but a book.inger took his money and slid the book into a bag.She checked the inside front cover. CAith ta$. where the 2rice was written in 2encil.inger said. Richmond 2eeked into the bag.
D #illy said. ready to deliver a little s2eech about the im2ortance of saving good news for the afternoon. =ewis. and kee2ing bad news to yourself. .B BAell. #ut =ewis didn’t give him a chance.thirt"#two #illy <alton’s 2hone was ringing much too early for a Sunday morning. C#illy. #illy answered the 2hone. 1t was =ewis. clearing his throat and trying to sound lawyerly. that6s right. when it could be 2ro2erly toasted. 1t looks like we6ve got ourselves bookstore. regardless of the hour. 8e rolled over in bed and s0uinted at the screen.
1 think she’s been a little nervous. :ou own a bookstore now.D C1 know. That’s why we wanted to give it a little time.B =ewis said. Ae6re going to live at Sy6s house and run the bookstore.B #illy sat u2 in bed. <o you know we had someone come in and 2ay five hundred dollars for a first edition of Mrs/ 3allo!ay with a torn . BAe6ve been u2 talking most of the night. but now she’s seen for herself how well this store does.CThat6s what 16ve been telling you. Ae6re going to do it. see what it was like to live u2 here and be in the store every day.B B4o. that6s not what 1 mean. BAre you sure about this3 1t seems like (mily’s been a little reluctant to jum2 into this thing. what with bookstores closing the way they have.
:ou6ve seen the numbers. but--1 meanH are you really sure about this3D B"h.cover and a stain on the back3 1t’s unbelievable. C<on’t you guys have jobs and a house andHD C4ot really. This store’s making a ton of money with . And 1 sent off a notice to our landlord.D #illy said.D CAow. C1 just called and 0uit my job. come on.D =ewis said cheerfully. Ae were month-tomonth at the condo anyway. 1 left a voice mail. C"kay.D C:ou 0uit at this hour3 CAell. #ut even if you just look at the 2eo2le who come in and 2ick u2 a hardcover for twenty bucksHC C=ewis3D #illy interru2ted.
. :ou know. Ae’ve sent out our first 2ress release.2ractically no overhead. They’re sending a re2orter and a 2hotogra2her u2 to interview us about the store. )lean it u2. :eah.B BAhy. make it into more of a draw for tourists. BToday3B #illy asked. Aow.D B"h.B CAe’re already working.B B1deas3B BTo hel2 kee2 it going. Sounds like you6ve got a lot of work ahead of you. take it to the ne$t level. not at all. give it a national 2resence.D That got him out of bed. is something wrong3D C4o. 1’ve got a meeting with the San Fran is o "hroni le this afternoon. #illy. And we6ve got some ideas of our own.
#illy. C1 remember s2ending a summer in my uncle Sy’s .D @ . Ae’re going to make this 2lace famous. he thought the call was a 2rank and hung u2.C:ou should get down here. #ut attorney #illy <alton was 2ersistent and eventually convinced 8artford that he had inherited an unusual legacy one of the last bookstores in the country.1==1"4-<"==AR #""LST"R( A A(==-L(!T S()R(T "4 ="ST )"AST F(ureka. )AG Ahen =ewis 8artford got a call from an attorney about an inheritance from a long-lost uncle.
Sylvester !orter.D 8artford said. a store that has s2eciali5ed in used and rare books for over forty years. Ahen they arrived in (ureka. but another sur2rise awaited them. given the rate at . After 8artman’s uncle. CAe assumed that the <ragon was a failing bookstore. Cbut 1 had no idea the store had stayed in business all this time.D Soon 8artman and his wife (mily Short were on their way to (ureka to have a look at the Firebreathing <ragon. it took si$ months to locate the will and contact the heirs. they knew they would face a difficult decision about the future of the bookstore.bookstore when 1 was a kid. died.
C1 was sure that the store would be on the brink of going out of business. CThe commitment to books shown by this community is astonishing.which other stores are closing these days. but now 1 reali5e that this store .D 8artman said. the store earned over >%./ million. 1 had forgotten how the 2eo2le of a small town can rally around a beloved institution like the Firebreathing <ragon. the store’s handwritten ledger told a different story last year.D 8artman said. 1 came u2 here e$2ecting to close the bookstore down and sell the building. C)oming from the big city. making it an e$traordinary success in the digital age.D #ut in fact.
D .a$ine Rogers.D 8artman 2lans to renovate the store’s dila2idated interior.D 8artman said. C1 want them to come to the <ragon and reconnect with what they loved about books.has a future.ost 2eo2le don’t have a bookstore in their own hometown anymore. )(" of 4ile. 1t even gives me ho2e that the book itself has a future.com. CAe’re glad to see such diversity in the market2lace. and transform the <ragon into a destination bookstore for tourists.D Rogers . C. hold book signings and 2oetry readings. said that she was C2leasantly sur2risedD to learn of one bookstore that wasn’t on life su22ort.
D The Firebreathing <ragon is one of only seven bookstores remaining in the Enited States.D he said.aybe the <ragon’s success will ins2ire other 2eo2le to take the lea2.said. C1 never thought 1’d be running a bookstore. #ut we’ve always believed that as long as brick-and-mortar bookstores offer something of value to their customers. C<igital media got off to a strong start and o2ened a world of books to 2eo2le who might not otherwise have access to the world’s libraries. C. they will survive.D . 8artman said that he ho2es to reverse that trend. 1 wish the Firebreathing <ragon and its new owners well.
a$ine.a$ine Rogers. 8e called .alway said. who 2robably wanted to know why the "hroni le had scoo2ed the 1erald on the million-dollar bookstore story. and one was from . have you been . .thirt"#three . over there3B .a$ine first.alway had four messages waiting for him when he got to work the ne$t morning. C"ne 2oint two million dollars a year in that shithole you call a town3D C4ice to hear from you. BSeriously.a$ine said. Three were from #etsy. CAre you shitting me3D . leaning back in his chair.D . . BAhat the fuck are they doin.a$ine said when she answered the 2hone.alway.
And if you ask them why they bought it. and 1 do mean everybody. There6s like three 2eo2le who come in every day to bitch about 2olitics or talk about &ro7e t Run!ay# and then maybe one 2erson comes in and buys a book. 16ve been in th"se stores. you find out that they6re not even 2lanning on .alway.holding out on me all these years3 Ahat kind of 2lace is that3B B1t’sH1 don’t know. and most of them aren’t clearing a hundred grand a year. 4eat old building. 1t’s a bookstore.i5mo3 There6s not even a do5en bookstores left in this country. . 1n a town that si5e3 Ahen everybody. dammit. . owns a . good locationH why are you so sur2rised that they’re doing well3D C<on’t screw with me.a$ine.
a$ine3 The <ragon’s different. !eo2le will migrate ---B B1 know. C!eo2le will migrate to the technology that works best for them. re2eating her mantra in a sing-songy voice. The book was a wonderful 2iece of technology for .D . what do you care3 :ou 2ut three thousand bookstores out of business and it really matters if one of them survives3D . 8e just loved arguing with . .reading it.D she said.od.D CAhat do you want me to say.alway said. C1 didn6t 2ut anybody out of business. C:ou make it sound like 1’m out for blood.alway wasn’t really interested in defending the <ragon. that woman had a mouth. . #esides. 1t6s for a school 2lay or a time ca2sule or some shit.a$ine.
1’ll see you soon. .D C1’ll 2ass. :ou can buy me a drink.D . though. Aell anyway.B B1 was. 1t’s a great basement.two thousand years.a$ine said.B A long shot.B B1 thought you were a re2orter.B BRight. CAe do. .B .a$ine. (tc. B1 thought bloggers all lived in their 2arents’ basements. but worth a try. he thought. etc. 16m thinking of making a tri2 to your charming little seaside village. Save it for the re2orters. 16m a blogger now. :ou can slee2 on the 2ool table.ot any recommendations about where 1 can stay3B BThere’s room at my 2lace.
#ut lately. She had founded 4ile. that river seemed to be dwindling to a stream. they would reach drought . she thought. a revolutionary and utterly democratic conce2t.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. 1f 4ile’s numbers were right. 1t was.thirt"#four .a$ine Rogers would never go so far as to suggest that the electronic book had killed the novel. and then to a trickle. She took the river meta2hor seriously she believed that she was tearing down the dams and finally letting literature flow.
conditions in a cou2le of years. Ahile both dro2s in 2rices were 2lanned. 4ile waited for some slight hiccu2 in the economy before announcing the new rates. For the last several years the com2any had enjoyed robust growth.ore Americans had a 4ile. . making headlines both times and winning even the begrudging 2raise of their critics. They had such a huge market share that they had actually been able to lower their 2rices twice. 1t had been an astonishing few years. This made them look like they were kee2ing literature alive even in hard times. . streaming literary content as well as music and movies in a subscri2tion format that 2roved incredibly successful. They won awards7 their subscriber base grew dramatically.com subscri2tion than had cable T9.
At first this seemed like good news. "ver the last cou2le of years. And if 2eo2le weren’t into the books. they could get the rest of theirH. you counted on a certain 2ercentage of members 2aying their dues but not showing u2. they just weren6t using it as much. 1f you ran a health club. The only real benefit to 4ile’s stream was that it included books. 4ile noticed a significant dro2off in the number of 2eo2le who actually downloaded and read the Briver of readingB they had access to. they’d eventually sto2 2aying for it. They could get music and movies elsewhere.a$ine hated this termH ontent elsewhere.#ut then something changed. . The 2roblem was that if too many 2eo2le sto22ed using 4ile’s service. They were still 2aying for the service.
that three-hundred 2age tome. And even worse than the fact that 2eo2le weren’t reading books3 Ariters sto22ed writing them.So now . Ahat they found was this once 2eo2le were reading short streams of te$t on a small screen. that eighty or a hundred-thousand word te$t that hung together in a cohesive narrative and took a cou2le of weeks to get through. . A digital file stored on an electronic device didn’t call to you the way a book did. That thing that sat on the nightstand and waited for you to come back to it.a$ine had given her marketing staff the job of figuring out why readershi2 dro22ed off so 2reci2itously. they became unmoored from the very notion of a book.
BAhy am 1 writing now3 To see my name a22ear on my tele2hone3B To make matters still worse. as 2ublishing houses colla2sed. 1f an idea could be fleshed out in. and writers who couldn’t stand to see their 2recious 2rose tam2ered with in the first 2lace decided to ski2 the editing 2rocess altogether. why not just do that3 "ne well-loved novelist went so far as to admit that the 2ros2ect of that bo$ of newly2rinted books arriving on his doorste2 had been the only thing kee2ing him going during his lengthy and award-winning writing career.B he said. say a cou2le of 2aragra2hs. the job of editing a book fell to freelance editors. 1t made for books riddled .There was no reason to fill three hundred 2ages anymore. B4ow the books never come.
that maybe 2eo2le needed some 2hysical reminder of the culture of literature. And writers who did hire editors were always free to ignore their advice and 2ublish anyway. 4ot a bookstore e$actly -that would be taking it too far -. Amalfi 2a2er. . o2en s2aces where bookish accessoriesH reading glasses. when she read the article. old etchings in silver framesHwould be dis2layed. fountain 2ens. 4o one was left to 2rotect writers from their own worst instincts.with foolish errors and long-winded digressions. Then . She 2ictured a store with walls lined with leather-bound books and comfortable.but some2lace that felt bookish. 1t occurred to her.a$ine heard about the unlikely success of the Firebreathing <ragon.
com grab headlines for rolling out a chain of brick-and-mortar stores3 . . she reasoned. the urge to read would return. too.aybe if the tra22ings of books came back.The kind of merchandise that made 2eo2le feel literary. And wouldn’t 4ile.
1 mean. C1t was something to see. as she looked around.D .thirt"#five . who was busy cleaning and bagging (dith’s early-morning delivery.inger had been off work for a few days. but she showed u2 to work in a rage the morning the story ran. but at the last minute they hired a whole crew to get the 2lace ready for the 2hotogra2her. recovering from a nasty summer cold. she had to admit . although. they’d been cleaning for weeks.inger said. They just des ended on this 2lace. and in one day--D C1’m not talking about that. CAhat the hell ha22ened here3D she shouted at )rawford.
Sy had uncovered the redwood 2lanks here just like he did at his house. C"h. 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. uninterru2ted stretches of floorboards were visible again.that the 2lace looked bigger and brighter. Thanks to their efforts. the base of a set of 2osts that once held saddle racks. the long. :eah.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. we could have the 2olice--D . you mean the re2orter. cra5y. the scratches of tables and chairs. C)ra5y3 The .D )rawford said.
C1’ve been such an idiot about this. She6d only been at work for five minutes and already she was e$hausted. it sloshes around.D she admitted.B he said. They each took home 2lenty of cash in addition to their modest little 2aychecks. it’s not our finances. BThis isn’t really u2 to us anymore. B1’m about to lose my job. .D C:ou broke3D )rawford asked.inger colla2sed into a chair behind the counter. unbelieving.B she said. kind of. C.CAell. it goes out.B . She reali5ed she shouldn’t have gotten out of bed so soon. you know3 1t comes in. 4ever occurred to me to try to hold on .inger. They6re in charge now.oney around here as been kind of like the tide. Already she could feel a fever returning. CAell.
1t6s this life. #ut it’s not just that. .B )rawford laughed and sli22ed his scale behind the counter as the first customer of the day walked in. She made her own mind-blowing butter. ga5ing across the stacks u2 at the ceiling and out the window. 1t6s --B She looked around. B1t6s this 2lace. 1 don6t know how to do anything but sell books. hydro shit they sold at the dis2ensary.inger and )rawford watched in silence as she headed to the children’s section. where she . a white-haired woman with a /%+ card who 2referred (dith’s organic cro2 to the synthetic. which went into a batch of cookies for the hos2ice nurses to either distribute to their 2atients or kee2 for themselves.to any of it. because =ord knows they deserved it.
she would return them all to the store.et real. and when they were re-shelved she would buy them again. .D )rawford said as he watched the woman make her selection. with the 2rices still written inside.inger.B . CThis sto22ed being about books a long time ago. B.usually 2icked out a vintage Tale of &eter Rabbit or %onderful %i8ard of O8/ "nce every few months.
D 8e handed back the scra2 of 2a2er on which =ewis had scribbled a new design for the <ragon’s front door.thirt"#six <on )antrell stood on the sidewalk with =ewis and shook his head. he wanted to create a kind of shallow wooden scul2ture of fau$ books on shelves. <on . C<on’t even think about it. =ewis had envisioned a giant book-sha2ed door.D he said. on the building’s e$terior walls. C:ou’re never going to get that 2ast design review. Around it. set out slightly from the building in a wood frame that would have been 2ainted on the sides to look like the edges of a book.
Sy never did want to just tear the roof off and start over. :ou could also use new gutters. but that’s really what it needs. but he didn’t say so. See those rust stains around the windows3 That’s a gutter leak.thought it looked like the entrance to a ride at <isneyland. 8e didn’t have to. Cis get you a 2aint job and a new sign. :ou don’t want to be down here 2utting buckets under leaks at three o’clock in the morning. CAhat we could do. and maybe blast out this old concrete around the door and 2ut in a new tile entryway. There was no way the historic 2reservation committee would let him get away with a stunt like that. And 1’ll get one of my guys u2 on the roof to see what we can get done before winter.D .D <on said.
BAhy don6t 1 draw u2 some 2lans and we6ll see what the design review committee has to say. 1--D C1 thought you had friends on the city council. his wife had just found a flat screen television that fit 2erfectly in the one available s2ot they had for it in the R9. BTell you what. CAell.CSoHyou don’t think we could make the door into a book3D =ewis said with the mournful whine of a little boy who had just been told he couldn’t kee2 the 2u22y he’d found.D =ewis said. and he didn6t want to see him waste his money on a 2roject that was doomed from the start. 16ll just . 8e liked the kid. 8e hated for her hard work to go unrewarded.B <on said. <on thought about this for a minute. Then again.
casting his eyes across what seemed like acres of mismatched fi$tures.B =ewis said. 8e was liking this kid better all the time. <on stuffed it in his 2ocket. or ---B 1t was official. BReally. CAhat are you going to do about these old 2lywood shelves3D <on asked. 8ow does that sound3D That sounded fine to =ewis. C=et’s do half now and half when we deliver the 2lans to the city. .charge you for my time to do the 2lans. 8e went inside and 2ulled cash out of the drawer. and 1 can have the gal down at my office fill out the a22lication. you can handle the whole thing3 <o you need me to 2ay you now. unless you’d rather do it yourself.D C4o. This kid had money to burn. that would be great.
<on.D <on said. those ladders that slide along the wallHD C"hK 1 love those laddersKD C1t’s a nice look.D =ewis shook his hand.D C"ak3D CSeems like you’re going for more of a classy look. 1’ll get to work on those 2lans.C1 don’t know.D CAelcome to town. #ut for now. C4ice to meet you.D . who said. 8e looked ho2efully at <on. =ewis.D =ewis said. CThink about it. C"ak. right3 :ou 2ut in some custombuilt oak bookcases.
So he worked from the hotel’s business center for a few hours every morning. s2ent a great deal of each day on the 2hone with his colleagues. 8e had not 2lanned to stay so long. . but he wasn’t e$actly making the connections he’d been sent here to make. 1t was an easy life. Richmond wondered how much longer he’d get away with it.inger was working to try to strike u2 a conversation with her.thirt"#seven Richmond was settling into the cor2orate suite he’d rented at (ureka’s only decent hotel. and went by the bookstore whenever .
Richmond had already dressed for the meeting by the time he found out about this . the sudden disa22earance of the 1nternet seemed more like an e$cuse to take a day off than an im2ediment to 2roductivity. but a road crew working on 8ighway %&% had cut the only fiber o2tic cable 2roviding 1nternet access to 8umboldt )ounty. Stores and restaurants 2ut u2 signs a2ologi5ing for their inability to acce2t credit cards. .ost 2eo2le didn6t seem bothered by it like a 2ower failure or snow day. 8e’d been 2romised video conference facilities when he booked the room. and a few gas stations had to close down because their 2um2s wouldn6t work.onday morning he ran his weekly legislative meeting from his hotel room."ne . 4o one in town could get online today.
For two years he6d been married to a legislative aide in Sumner Tobacco’s <) office. he stood stiffly in his suit while he waited for Tom to come on the line. 1n the time he’d s2ent 8umboldt )ounty.0uirk in 8umboldt )ounty6s communication system. so he mostly found himself staring at his own image in the mirror. too generic. so even though he was alone in his hotel room. worn the same class ring and the same #rooks #rothers suits. and watched a double row of wrinkles grow gradually dee2er across his forehead over the years. Enrecogni5able. . he was already starting to see himself as too s0uare. 2layed the same game of golf on the weekends. 8e’d had the same haircut since college. There was nothing in the room to look at.
anhattan. 8e thought he looked good in the fitting room in . and she had tried to break him out of his res2ectable Southern image. . 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.where he was stationed half-time. but when he got back to =ouisville. 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. (uro2ean-style suit and an array of trim dress shirts in 2lum and 2ur2le. She 2ersuaded him to grow sideburns and even got him to buy a more fitted. 8e donated the suits to a thrift store and shaved off the sideburns.
drinking bourbon on his front 2orch in the mornings because there was no one around to tell him not to. 1’m here. BRich3 :ou still there3D C:eah. 8is last attem2t at a relationshi2 with someone from out of town had failed so miserably that he didn’t dare try it again. Finally Tom came on the line. . Single. 8e was going to end u2 an old Southern bachelor.And here he was.D .etting older and 2ossibly odder the way 2eo2le do when their habits are allowed to go unconfronted for too many years. Enchanged. 8e knew that he was becoming less interesting to women around =ouisville all the time.
od damn. Ae’re still rounding everybody u2. and what ha22ens3D CAell. =isten. for chrissakes. it’s--D C1t’s what3 1t’s 8umboldt )ounty. 1 sent my kid to Amsterdam for his senior tri2 and he came back with a whole garden in his suitcase. are you any closer to finishing things u2 out there3D C1 don’t know. so 1 send my to2 guy.C. RichK 1’ve had guys buying u2 2lants all over the world this yearK 8ell. Tom.D .ood. 1 can’t get anybody to talk to me. 1 knew 1 should have sent Levin out there. This is the one 2lant 1 really want. Short of ho22ing the fence and grabbing a 2lant in the middle of the night--D C.
C. 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. Levin. 1 will get this done and be home as soon as 1 can. Ahy they hadn’t shi22ed the whole 1T o2eration to #angalore years ago was something Richmond would never understand.ood lord. while somehow looking like every other kid they’d ever hired in the 1T de2artment.Levin.D . even though they were 2rinted two weeks ago in )hina and shi22ed to Targets all over this great nation. Tom. The 2othead webmaster from )hicago. :ou don’t need to send Levin.
CFine. Toss in a cou2le of tragic tales of lung cancer and em2hysema 2laguing . 1t’s not that smoking would become illegal7 it’s that the F<A would have the 2ower to regulate !hat 2eo2le smoked. and they were working on a new 2roduct that would easily 2ass F<A review. Richmond’s 2eo2le were 2re2ared with a mostly-honest answer they knew they were fighting a losing battle over tobacco. re2orting on the calls they’d 2aid to senators and on the roundtable sessions with staff members on the 8ill.D Richmond’s staff each gave their u2dates. =et’s get going. A few staffers had been sus2icious. wondering why Sumner would Cgo rogueD rather than 2ush the legislation through in 2artnershi2 with the rest of #ig Tobacco. (verybody’s here.
and it became a 2lausible story.long-time Sumner staffers. 4ot so 2lausible that the legislators who re2resented tobacco country would buy it. So far. Richmond’s staff had ti2toed around their old friends on the 8ill from 9irginia and Lentucky. instead forming a coalition of anti-tobacco crusaders and rookie legislators who were looking to attach their name to a 2iece of landmark legislation. 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. .
D The staff left the room and Tom 2icked u2 the 2hone. Iust something to get a 2roject off the ground. Richmond said. CTom. Ahat is it3D C.D CAhat does she want3D CShe’s a real estate develo2er. whatever. stick around for a minute. A silent 2artner. The city councilwoman3 1 think she’ll 2lay ball. 1f she can get you to the growers. that’s all we care about. Trevino. some good news. There’s one more thing. a long-term lease.#efore the meeting finished. Tom. C1 forgot to tell you the good news. CFinally. Arite the .s.D Richmond said.D CFine with me. She wants the same thing they all want.
Levin might know how to buy 2ot. Ae want to lock u2 as many 8umboldt strains as we can. and a soil sam2le. (dith Ratner doesn’t seem to 2al around with the rest of the growers. That’s why we sent you.D CShe friends with the old lady3D C1 don’t think so.check. but the kid was just here trying to fi$ my 2rinter and 1 didn’t understand a damn thing he said. Remember. Ae want her growing methods.D CAell. you’re going to have to find a way to get to her. Iust knock on her damn door with a wad of cash if you have to. we don’t just want the 2lant. 1 can’t have him talking to her. 1’ll meet with her and her contractor and get it going.D CThat’s what 1 thought. :ou go out there and have your little garden club meeting with the .
he hadn’t set foot on the beach since he got there. Ae’ve got a boatload of 2atents to 2ush through before )ongress goes back into session. and get your ass back here. . (njoy your vacation.D C1 told you.lady. #ut come to think of it. #e sure and get in some surfing while you’re out there. that’s great.D As Tom hung u2. Richmond could hear him laughing at the idea of a Lentucky tobacco e$ecutive on a surfboard. This hasn’t been as easy as we thought it would be. . Richmond.D CAell.ight not be such a bad idea to catch some waves before he left )alifornia. Iust take your time.
BAren’t there beaches around here3B Richmond said.D B:ou do know that 2eo2le come here on vacation just to go to the beach. B 1 hate the beach. BAhat beach3B she asked with scorn in her voice.B CSo what. you 2eo2le don’t go to the beach3D he asked. BAith 2icnic tables and barbecue 2its3 1 thought this was )alifornia.D .thirt"#ei ht =e$ was not e$actly entranced by Richmond6s invitation to meet him at the beach.B B1t6s not that )alifornia.
=ook.C4ot here they don’t. sought to ban chain stores from the city. Todd =arson. C)an you bring your contractor3B B8e’ll come as long as you6re buying.B BSounds good. 16ll take you to the other tourist tra2. if you want to see water.D =e$ hung u2 just as one of her fellow councilmembers. all right. Todd was one of the latest in a cro2 of young 2rogressives that got elected on a 2latform that favored indoor agriculture over timber. :ou can eat over2riced seafood and look at the beach.D Richmond said. dro22ed by her office. 1t6s cold out there. 16m buying. The !acific "cean is like a giant air conditioner that never shuts off. and regularly called for articles of im2eachment .B B"h.
Todd stuck to the scri2t.or charges of war crimes to be drawn u2 against the !resident. making the election about the number of 2lants the <A should allow medical marijuana 2atients to grow. easily winning re-election against a retired 2olice officer who thought that getting his friends at Rotary out to vote would be enough of a mandate to swee2 him into office. This 2ut the retired co2 in the uncomfortable 2osition of staking out the conservative 2osition at ten 2lants. Todd . and there was always some young activist who would have no trouble living on the so-called sti2end offered to councilmembers in lieu of a real salary for a few years. Todd had stuck around longer than most. This 2latform was an easy 2ath to victory in 8umboldt )ounty.
why not3 . =e$ liked these kids. . advising them on 2rocedural matters and encouraging them to 2ursue their more farfetched 2ro2osals. Re0uiring that twenty-five 2ercent of all city e$2enditures be made with community currency.aking 2ro2erty ta$es voluntary3 )ould work. She didn’t just funnel money to them through her bundled donations to 8umboldt =egal7 she also acted as a kind of den mother. #anning all military flights in and out of 8umboldt )ounty3 Aorth a try. a system of wooden nickels that was su22osed to function as an alternative economy3 Sure.insisted that no fewer than a hundred 2lants 2er 2atient would do. and a solid two-thirds of the electorate agreed with him.
B1 know better than that. budgets.D she said.B . C4ot e$actly my area of e$2ertise. So she was sur2rised when Todd leaned in her doorway and said that he wanted to talk to her about real estate. :ou6ve been working on this deal as long as 16ve known you. They also ke2t the media entertained. meaning that little or no investigative journalism got done. Todd.She liked these kinds of initiatives because they consumed the entire 2ublic comment 2eriod during council meetings. allowing little or no time for discussion of 5oning changes. revisions to ordinances. or other dry business that no one but her and a cou2le of other grown-u2s on the council understood anyway.
And so far our little 2rogressive slate hasn6t e$actly rallied around the idea of 2utting a sho22ing center on the waterfront.B =e$ reali5ed that she was giving him her standard media talking 2oints.B B1t6s not a sho22ing center. and 1 know better . There’s a wooden dock. that6s why 16m here. A sidewalk cafW. 16m about as far out of the loo2 on this deal as anybody could get. #ut don6t worry about it.B Todd said.B1t6s a family 2roject. 1 can6t be involved in the 2lans. B:ou6re going to need the whole council behind you on this 5oning thing. 1t6s a little row of condos with tiny little retail s2aces on the ground floor. 1t’s cute. :ou and your friends came into office on an anti-develo2ment 2latform. and 1 can6t vote on the 5oning changes. BAell.
=e$ was starting to reali5e that it 2robably wasn6t going to ha22en. astonished.than to try to change your mind. :ou6ve always been really good to me. B"kay. 16ve got to get a real . :ou6re going to need a 2roject manager. and 1 kind of forgot to finish u2 college before 1 ran that first time. B1 don6t mean it to sound like that.D =ately. 1 can’t afford to kee2 doing this forever. This 2roject will either ha22en or it won6t. BTodd3 1s this what 1 think it is3B 8e looked down at his feet. right3 Somebody to get the 2lans through design review and 2ush some 2a2ers around3B =e$ looked u2 at Todd. 1t6s just that 16ve s2ent si$ years on the council. well let6s just say it did ha22en. She reached around him and 2ushed her door closed.
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. )onsulting or -.D C<oes that mean you’re not running again3D =e$ asked. so Todd3 :ou understand that 1 can’t 2romise you a job in e$change for a vote. but ---B . and then 16ve got to come u2 with something else.B B"kay.job eventually. it might lead to something else. IustHanything. but what e$actly am 1 0ualified to do3 So 1 thought maybe if 1 could get on a 2roject like this. right3 1 mean. and 16m sure they6ll watch the vote closely and remember who their friends are. C!robably not.
B CTook you long enough. =e$. 1 get it.D . 16m starting to figure out how things work around here. 1t6s all right.B1 know what you6re trying to say. <on6t worry.
thirt"#nine The Shoreline . who was nursing a beer in the bar while he waited for a familiar face.rill was unusually busy for a . =e$ joined him a few minutes later. . Richmond was in the habit of making dinner reservations every time he ate out. even if he had to call from the car on the way over. She motioned to <on. and was seated immediately. A crowd of 2eo2le waiting near the entrance for their tables watched with astonishment as Richmond walked u2 to the hostess stand. #ut a22arently reservations were out of vogue in 8umboldt )ounty.onday night. said the magic words.
too. C<on )antrell. 8e decided that he didn6t care.<on e$tended his hand as he sat down. 8e liked his fish fried.B 8e wondered if =e$ was going to tell him that all the fish was fro5en here. This is 2retty much the only restaurant in town that o2ens on . .D he said.D said Richmond. Bthat6s just fine with me.D =e$ frowned.D Richmond said.ondays.lad you could join us. <on. so if anybody wants to go out to eat. B1 forgot it was . this is where they end u2B BAell. and it didn6t 2articularly matter to him what ha22ened to the creature before it landed in the dee2 fryer. C. looking down at the menu. C!o2ular 2lace.onday night.
:ou can shi2 a co2y back to =ouisville before we close the deal. <on.D she said 0uietly. That6s all we need. CThe pro7e t. CRichmond’s interested in coming in on the 2roject.D CThat’s right.B:eah.D C"hhhhh. B1 can6t really go flashing them around with so many 2eo2le in here. .D =e$ said. B16m not really the 2lans guy anyway. C)lose the deal3D he said.D <on said with mock seriousness.B B1t6s all right.B =e$ said. =e$ leaned across the table.B Richmond said. but 1 had to leave my 2lans in the car.B <on looked u2 from the role he was buttering. C1 didn’t get a chance to fill you in today.
. B<o we have B --he 2aused as if he was searching for the right word --.B =e$ said.<on looked at both of them for a minute and then leaned in as =e$ had done.Bapproval for the 2roject3B BAe had some very good news about that earlier today. A waiter arrived and they ordered their dinner. so 0uietly that she was almost mouthing each word. =e$ asked <on to describe the 2roject to Richmond7 <on muttered about s0uare footage and infrastructure im2rovements and 2arking s2aces and roofing materials until their dinner arrived. and Richmond nodded as if he cared about any of this. 8e waited until they had each made reasonable 2rogress on the slabs of marine life 2laced in front of them before he brought u2 the issue that was really on his mind.
but no one had sto22ed to consider e$actly how much money must be running through the <ragon6s cash drawer. =ike everybody else in town.illion <ollar #ookstore article in the "hroni le with ama5ement. And there was an astounding amount of actual cash Richmond was sur2rised to see how often 2eo2le still resorted to 2a2er money in (ureka. he had read that the so-called . and the man just said.B8ey. (verybody in (ureka knew that the bookstore was ke2t afloat by something other than the sale of anti0uarian books. BSome 2eo2le like to kee2 their s2ending off the record. 8e asked the guy who owned the coffee sho2 across the street about it. 1 went into that famous bookstore today.D he said.B . That 2lace was driving him cra5y.
. 1 didn6t even get that until just now. Richmond laughed. Ahat were they thinking3 BThey breathing a lot of fire down there today3B <on said. 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. 1nstead. B:ou know. All these kids had to do was lay low and cash the checks. The owners ran the risk of attracting auditors and co2s. and for what3 The store was 2rofitable.#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.B he said.
od6s name do those 2eo2le stay o2en3 Ahere 1 come from we6ve got co2s 2ulling ditch weed out of the gullies.BAell. that6s why you got me. BAell Rich.B 8e was on his second beer and starting to enjoy himself. why don6t the co2s close them down3B <on dro22ed his na2kin on the table and leaned back in his chair.aybe you can e$2lain something else. <on.B Richmond said. B16m here to e$2lain things tonight. Rich3B B8ow in . 1f everybody around here knows what6s going on. BAhat is it. B.B <on said. and those are just old wild hem2 2lants that can6t do anything to anybody. 16ll tell you. . 1t was a lot easier to deal with =e$ when there was another man at the table.
Rich3B <on said. BAnd the other thing. drunk drivers. "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. . The first is that the co2s have bigger 2roblems. but the 2roducts that the <ragon sells is a little unusual.eth labs. it occurred to her that if he ever thought about running for city council. she6d be in trouble.There6s a cou2le of things going on. (ntire a2artment com2le$es turned over to indoor grow o2s.e$ican drug cartels setting u2 o2erations in the redwoods and leaving guns and tanks of fertili5er and diesel out there. . 8ell. <on was doing just fine on his own.B =e$ stayed 0uiet during all of this. even. 1n fact. . B1 don6t know if you6re aware of this.
. BAe’re res2ectable citi5ens here. B:ou now. B(dith Ratner is an e$traordinary gardener.D CAell.1t6s very 2o2ular. summer solstice. 1 work for a com2any that sells smoking 2roducts. 1 wonder what e$actly makes the <ragon6s 2roduct so unusual. CAe wouldn’t know.D Richmond said. C#ut you must have heard something. (aster egg hunts.D Richmond saw his o22ortunity. BShe and Sy used to hold all these ama5ing 2arties in that garden. Aho is this woman3 (dith3B =e$ jum2ed in.D <on said.B <on and =e$ looked at each other over their water glasses.B he said. Jcourse not.B she said. B1t6s interesting that you bring that u2. The <A that 2rosecutes the <ragon will never get re-elected in this town.
:ou could get lost in the garden. And nobody knows where she got that 2articular 2lant but she6s so famous for. 4obody knows how she does it. you name it.8alloween. . B"h. one just started to re2lace the other. B(dith and Sy used to just share the harvest with their friends. All kinds of tro2ical 2lants and rare flowers from the 8imalayas.B BSo the <ragon never really was a bookstore3B Richmond said. you know3 #ut when the . 1 sus2ect somebody shi22ed it to her with an orchid from Thailand or something like that.i5mo came along. She grew things nobody could grow. leaning back so the waiter could clear his 2late and hand him a dessert menu. but she6s friends with 2lant hunters all over the world. it was a real bookstore.B =e$ said.
:ou almost didn6t notice it ha22ening. but the <ragon still ke2t the lights on somehow. BThe more she grows.B =e$ said. "ne day we looked around and reali5ed books had gone straight to hell.ood luck with that.B . She6s not a fool.B 4ormally Richmond would have a 2iece of 2ie for dessert. but he noticed that nobody in )alifornia ate dessert7 they drank it. 8e and <on each ordered a glass of bourbon7 at the last minute =e$ decided to join them. "ver time we all just acce2ted that they had found another way to stay in business. BShe and 1 are kind of in the same business.B B. B1 sure would like to meet (dith. the less anybody sees of her.B Richmond said.
why are you friends with her. B16m here to make a deal. 1 guess she’s even friends with Sumner Tobacco now. 8is wife was 2robably in bed by now. 8e raised his glass to =e$ and drank it down. Richmond looked at him evenly for a minute. wishing he had a cigar. CShe’s got all kinds of friends.B . BIust like you. Rich3 Ahat on earth does a guy like you want with a little condo 2roject like this3D <on was drunk and feeling a little 2rotective of =e$. 8ell.B <on said.B Richmond said. B:ou want to meet some growers. =e$ie here will set you u2.<on was leaning back in his seat. #ut the 0uestion is. 8e took the last si2 of his own drink and set it on the table. <on. 8e yawned and looked at his watch.
ac<onald 2a2erbacks. =ewis stood just inside the front door. Sy had some 2retty nice 2ieces of anti0ue furniture in the store7 once they6ve .uillermo . .uillermo looked around the 2lace with amusement.fort" . . )rawford sat behind the counter with a stack of inde$ cards. writing recommendations for the half-do5en staff 2icks =ewis told him to choose. knee-dee2 in a 2ile of Iohn <.artPn walked across the street to see how the <ragon was faring under its new regime. 8e was working on a window dis2lay to celebrate the author6s birthday. 1t was starting to look like a real bookstore again.
been cleared of junk and 2olished. (ach one de2icted some obscure and long-lost 2rofession mead-making. blood-letting. book-binding. they actually gave the 2lace a kind of nostalgic glow. The ends of each bookcase had once been blanketed with the curling the remnants of yellowed news2a2er cli22ings lamenting the demise of bookstores. . 2robablyH had scra2ed them off and re2laced them with framed 2rints from the <ragon’s e$tensive collection of 0ueer old engravings. all 2rinted shortly before the demise of news2a2ers. honey-gathering. SomeoneH=ewis.B . B=ooks nice. =ike wood 2olish and clean 2a2er.uillermo said to no one in 2articular. 1t even smelled better.
B:ou know. CAe’re 2retty e$cited about seeing what we can do with this 2lace. Surely =ewis wasn6t in on it already. 1 don’t know. <id you see our article in the "hroni le3D B1 did. C!eo2le are always going to need their fi$.B .CThanks. .uillermo 2icked through the Iohn <.D =ewis said. . their coffee. B8ow much are these3B . !eo2le are always going to need their caffeine fi$.ac<onald 2a2erbacks. alarmed.ade me think maybe 1 was in the wrong business.uillermo.B C"h.uillermo said. Sure.B B"h yeah.D =ewis said.B said .D CTheir what3D . 8e looked at )rawford. B:ou’re turning into 0uite a celebrity.
uillermo 2icked two off the floor and took them over to )rawford. yeah a while ago. we6ve got a whole stack of signed )arl 8iaasens 16m about to bring out. 1 think .B .B .ac<onald was one of his influences. =ewis. followed him to the counter.uillermo said. without taking his eyes off )rawford. 2robably. =ooks like we’ve got a com2lete set. B"h ---uh. B8ave you read his stuff before3B =ewis asked. 8e was fascinated . so if you like him---D C16ll check that out.BFive bucks.B BAell. trying out his new role as bookseller.B =ewis said. BAe must have had some real collectors u2 here. once you6ve worked your way through those. :ears ago.
They6ve got such great covers. That’s what everybody says. C8uh.B he said to =ewis as he 2ulled his nose out of the bag. B1 love the smell of old books.uillermo slid his books into a bag.by the kind of sleight-of-hand involved in o2erating the <ragon under its new ownershi2. BThere you go.uillermo held the bag u2 to his nose and breathed dee2ly. B1t6s kind of nice to read them on 2a2er again. . isn6t it3B =ewis said.B )rawford took ten bucks from . They were both ignoring =ewis. . There it was that faintly herbal smell that meant that (dith was still in business. man. B(s2ecially those vintage 2a2erbacks.D =ewis said.B he said. =ewis stood right ne$t to him.
8e 2ulled out obscure histories of )alifornia’s gold rush and set them out alongside =arry . wondering if she might also enjoy Lent 8aruf’s trio of novels about a small town in )olorado. 8e was trying to be a good bookseller by remembering his customers’ tastes and looking for books they might enjoy based on their 2ast 2urchases. he couldn’t honestly say whether anyone was actually going home and reading them. 8e’d sent a woman home with an Anne Tyler novel and asked how she liked it ne$t time she came in.fort"#one Although =ewis was enjoying the business of 2utting books into 2eo2le’s hands.
and (mily was an avowed techie who read incessantly. but only in small doses. so he 2ut them all out on dis2lay together.. So really. #ut no one did. ho2ing to create some kind of synergy between readers of Aestern fiction and Aestern history. neither of them were suited for the job of selling books to book lovers. in the store. . She could s2end hours catching u2 on email and Twitter and the blogs she read.c. figuring someone would go for them. a novel he’d always meant to read. There were a do5en co2ies of "at h:. but =ewis had never once seen her get through an entire cha2ter of anything.urtry and Annie !roul$. =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..
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. and )rawford took one home occasionally under the store’s liberal em2loyee lending 2olicy.i5mos as anyone else. =ewis also noticed that both )rawford and . #ut =ewis never actually heard them talk about the books they were reading. And although )rawford railed against the way the . 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 .inger were as tethered to their .)rawford and .i5mo had caused books to sim2ly eva2orate.
uillermo to bring over an urn every morning. and 2osting a sign in the window encouraging book clubs to use the <ragon as their meeting s2ace. So far. Soon =ewis arranged for . 8e thought that 2erha2s he just didn’t understand bookish 2eo2le.of robust literary community he’d e$2ected to find. no book clubs were forthcoming. but 2eo2le did come in and ask for the coffee. that he had not yet learned to s2eak their language. with com2limentary coffee and scones from )ontra )offee. collecting names and e-mail addresses for a newsletter he intended to write. urging his em2loyees to 2ost handwritten recommendations in every section. #ut he 2ersisted in his attem2ts to make the <ragon o2erate more like a real bookstore. That seemed to be 2o2ular .
8e could not believe his good fortune. as if electronic books never e$isted. but =ewis couldn’t tell whether free coffee was hel2ing to sell books or not. real estate attorney .with the regulars.eorge Alvare5." #EST F#rooklyn. The few remaining bookstores around the country. however. And =ewis floated with it. 4:G Alma Alvare5 2icked the wrong time to buy a bookstore. "ET "F !R14T A4< "ET "F #ES14(SS TA" #""LST"R(S . were not so fortunate. Aith su22ort from her father. she . The store just seemed to float along.
took over the 2o2ular neighborhood bookstore "ut of !rint in #rooklyn6s . B1 think 2eo2le just assumed that 16d kee2 the 2lace afloat with family money. Although the 2urchase was widely rumored to be a vanity 2roject for a wealthy society girl. B1 . working long hours in the store and founding a literacy 2roject in 2artnershi2 with neighborhood schools. "ut of !rint has gone the way of bookstores everywhere. Alvare5 2roved herself to be a dedicated bookseller.B Alvare5 said. but it was never about that. #ut after five years under new ownershi2.reen2oint neighborhood just as the 2ublishing world was entering the digital age.
B 1f Iacobs sounds bitter. B!eo2le tell me they can6t imagine #oston without a bookstore.B Iacobs said. Ahen 8arvard closed its libraries and reo2ened them as Cdigital learning centers. they’d better get used to it.believed that there would always be a 2lace in #rooklyn for a bookstore.B #oston #ook )om2any’s )raig Iacobs also announced that he was closing his venerable old bookstore on 8arvard S0uare. it6s because he was one of the most ardent critics of the digiti5ation of books.D Iacobs led a . #ut if the community wasn6t behind me. 1 wasn6t going to kee2 it o2en for my own entertainment. BAell.
B1n the rush to digiti5e. as well as the loss of multi2le editions of a book or 2eriodical which could contain significant differences.&&& books were saved. we’re losing valuable te$t. Iacobs also e$2ressed frustration over the failure of his <ead Tree Scholar 2roject.D he said. which aimed to demonstrate that the digiti5ation 2rocess resulted in the omission of 2ages. and those may be headed to the landfill as well unless a donor comes forward to continue 2aying the storage fees. .fund-raising effort to 2urchase and store the hundreds of thousands of volumes that would otherwise be recycled. 1n the end. only about R&.
B =ewis 8artman.ordon.B Aith the closure of #oston #ook )om2any and "ut of !rint. owner of Seattle6s #lack and Ahite #ooks. the new owner of The Firebreathing <ragon in (ureka. but said that she Bho2es that Aest )oast readers would kee2 the tradition of 2rinted books alive. only five bookstores remain o2en in the Enited States. 16m just one 2erson7 1 can6t carry this myself any longer. . (laine .C#ut that seems to be a trade-off 2eo2le have been willing to make in favor of the enormous cost savings. e$2ressed dismay over the loss of the last two bookstores on the (ast )oast.
)alifornia. BAe6re just a small store in a workingclass mill town. .B he said.D The other bookstore owners were not available for comment. Ae’re doing better than ever. recently stunned the literary world with his recent announcement that his store was bringing in over one million dollars a year in book sales. Bbut 2eo2le here are still attached to the 2rinted 2age.
As .inger. (mily wanted money. =ewis wanted a bookstore. Ahy hadn’t she caught on3 !eo2le see what they want to see. but even he would eventually figure out that the <ragon could not 2ossibly be succeeding as a real bookstore when all the others were failing. but surely it couldn’t last much longer. And that wife of his was obviously looking for an e$cuse to bail out. She had 2ut u2 with this charade for the sake of )rawford and . Sy’s ne2hew was not the brightest young man she’d ever met.fort"#two The news that two more bookstores had closed bothered (dith.
C1’m sorry this has gone on so long.inger climbed u2 into the crawl s2ace above her living room to string u2 some drying lines. they weren’t asking many 0uestions. (ventually someone would tell them. Ae can figure out a way for the store to 2ay for it--D . "ne night.inger said. looking down into (dith’s living room from the ladder. "ne sli2 was all it would take. after (dith and . )rawford and 1 were talking about renting a s2ace somewhere.D .inger finished their work. . =ewis and (mily were getting to know 2eo2le in town. And (dith didn’t want to be around when they found out.long as they were getting what they wanted. C1t’s tem2orary. 1 2romise. #ut surely this couldn’t last.
C. in case you hadn’t noticed. yeah. Aithout Sy and his renters around here. do you3D .D CAell.inger.D (dith said. CThose kids could go to the feds. 1 guess 1 thoughtH1 thought we were going to try to. anyway. it’s too much work for me.D (dith said. 1 could barely kee2 u2 with demand when 1 had hel2. #esides. This has become kind of a large-scale o2eration. C:ou don’t really think you can kee2 this going. And who do they go after3 The growers. and 1 was lucky to have a sur2lus going when (mily and =ewis showed u2. nobody asked me. #ut this is all getting to be too much for me.D . a little crabbily. honey.inger climbed down and leaned the ladder against the wall. CAell.
And then it became the thing that ke2t the bookstore o2en. (dith couldn’t bring herself to look at her. sitting down ne$t to her.B she said. She looked down at her hands as she s2oke. BAhen this thing started.She eased down onto the couch. She hadn’t looked this bad since the funeral. what are you saying3D . . C1 don6t love doing this. 1t was a lark.inger reali5ed that she looked very tired and sort of shrunken. 1 don6t think it even bothered him that he wasn6t e$actly . That was going to be his big accom2lishment. as if 2art of her had worn away. C(dith.inger asked. Sy felt like he was 2laying a trick on everybody. 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.
B (dith shook her head.ive the <ragon another si$ months.selling books anymore.B she said. C<on6t you think it would be kind of cool to give Sy what he wanted3 . Ae could get you some hel2. B16m out. . but-B She couldn6t bring herself to look u2 at .inger. "nce these are gone. 1’ve enjoyed having your com2any these days.inger.B CSo isn’t that enough of a reason to kee2 it u2 a while longer3D . BAhat3 Ahen were you going to tell us3B . As far as he was concerned. . and it might just be the last bookstore. 1’m sure we could hire somebody you could trust. That made it a bookstore.inger asked. B1 haven6t started any new 2lants. 2eo2le were 2aying him money and taking books home.inger was stunned. that6s it.
B1 guess 16m telling you right now. And don’t tell me to hire somebody to hel2. before they find out.D CAellHwhat are we going to do.inger.D she said. CAe ke2t this u2 much longer than we should have. #esides.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. 1’m tired and my heart doesn’t work right anymore. C!lease tell me you6ve got something else to do besides this.D . .B (dith finally looked at .inger. 4ow. then3D C"h. 1t’s time to go. 8er eyes were wet and gray. The last thing 1 want is some college kid messing around in my garden. Sy found it in the bookstore shortly after he bought the building7 it was most likely a holdover from the .
<ragon’s days as a saloon in the fifties. The mirror was so tarnished and yellowed that she and (dith looked like figures from another era. . neither of whom had any idea what they might do ne$t with their lives. two ho2eless and de2ressed 9ictorian-era s2insters.
She couldn’t imagine living in (ureka forever. As a sort of com2romise.fort"#three 1t was with great reluctance that (mily agreed to drive back to San Iose and 2ack u2 their things. =ewis e$2ressed no interest in seeing their old home one more time7 he was already . she had been eying the new condominiums that were 2ro2osed for the waterfront. She was still not convinced that =ewis was ca2able of running a bookstore. or that Sy’s run-down old house was the right 2lace for them. #ut eventually she’d want to get back to the city. Something like that might work. for a while at least.
1t was a si$-hour drive back to the #ay Area. 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. The truth was. This worried (milyHwould they ever take another vacation3Hbut she had agreed to collect their furniture and set u2 cam2.ado2ting Sy’s mindset that nothing outside (ureka mattered. 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. she needed a little time by herself. at least tem2orarily. And she was looking forward to getting back to the city for a few days. in (ureka. As (mily got closer to civili5ation.
The sun was getting low in the west7 as she watched. she looked with wonder at the sho22ing center across the street.)ounty as if it had been a dream. nothing seemed to have been 2asted in from some mysterious time in the dim 2ast. 1t was so bright and clean. 4othing crumbled. 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. this sho22ing center. As she leaned against the car and waited for her tank to fill. nothing leaned im2robably to the left. with curbs and kiosks and doorways that formed shar2 right angles. the . built to suit and functioning e$actly as it was intended. 1t was all of a 2iece.
1n fact. 1t was magical. the less the bookstore made sense to her. to be customers in a bookstore. she was sur2rised at the lack of browsing and bookish talk. (mily had the unsettling feeling that she was watching a 2lay. They would just 2ull something off the shelf and take it to the counter. (mily smiled. 2eo2le at the <ragon seemed not to know how to buy books. barely even glancing inside. .signs in the drugstore and the su2ermarket and the dry cleaner and the Thai restaurant all lit u2 at once. 8ow on earth could a 2lace like that bring in the kind of money that was recorded in the ledger3 =ike =ewis. 1t was as if they were pretendin. The closer she got to San Iose. Several times over the last few weeks.
in all his bookish fervor. 8e acted as if he had taken u2 reading again. and then the 3aily Sho!. There was the news to watch. on the other hand. bringing stacks of 2residential biogra2hies and 2o2ular histories back to Sy’s house at night. (mily had never known him to sit u2 in bed and read. and that the <ragon was destined to survive des2ite the neartotal annihilation of books from the culture. seemed to be taking it on faith that his uncle Sy was somehow uni0ue among bookstore owners.=ewis. 8e’d juggle his books along with the remote . and then a movie or an e2isode of The %ire or a research 2roject on the 1nternet concerning the handling of author events or merchandising or inventory control. and even now. he never made it through more than a 2age or two at a time.
1t needed a 2aint job. =ewis believed that if the store was raking in over a million dollars in its 2resent disheveled state. Then would come a com2uter system. each com2eting for his attention until he fell aslee2 among his distractions. but she knew it amounted to several hundred thousand dollars. and 2ossibly a new roof. it could bring in twice that after he fi$ed it u2. but both the building that housed the <ragon and Sy’s house were so run-down that it would be im2ossible to borrow . some high-end fi$tures and lights. a new sign.control and the la2to2. The store was bringing in some money. a renovated children’s section com2lete with toys and a 2lay structure. a national ad cam2aignH (mily couldn’t kee2 track of everything on his list.
Add to that the loss of their health insurance. really. And they still had their own debtHinsane debt fueled by 2ricey vacations and over2riced furniture. deferred student loans. and. she didn’t 0uite believe it herself. cars that died before they were 2aid offHit was ridiculous. 8e wouldn’t hear . They were 2utting themselves out on a limb financially. 4one of this would bother (mily if she had any idea why the <ragon was so insanely successful. to tell the truth. #ut she was trying not to mention her doubts to =ewis.money against them. not to mention the fact that they were sim2ly dro22ing out of their careers. how much trouble they’d managed to get in financially since college. even with the <ragon’s substantial income. She couldn’t e$2lain it to her friends.
any criticism of the store. and finally. so wellmannered. but after just a few days away. Their condo looked like a museum dedicated to the 2reservation of their former life an oversi5ed Fand not-yet-2aid-forG media center . 2erfectly-sealed front door. 8ere were all the comforts that seemed so alien in (ureka the gated entryway. the car2et of grass. for a little electronic bee2 to greet her when she got home. the well-lit car2ort Fshe missed arportsKG. #y the time (mily got to their condo it was dark. com2lete with a knob that re0uired no s2ecial trick to o2en it and an alarm that chimed 2leasantly when she entered. it seemed so civili5ed. 1t was im2ossible to talk to him about it. She never thought she’d miss that chime. that heavy.
=ewis had asked her to call when she got there. her 2hone bu55ed in her 2ocket. Ae did almost ten thousand dollars today.D C(verything "L there3D =ewis asked. but before she could. and a Aolf range. C1 just walked in.D she said. fine. recessed lighting. a wine refrigerator and cocktail cart in the dining room. 8ow’s the store3D C)ra5y. co22er range hood.that ran the length of the living room. C:eah. 1t was all so shockingly new and orderly andHshe hated to think thisHno longer theirs. =ong drive. C8ey. a kitchen loaded with develo2er’s e$tras granite counterto2s.D C%hat3D .
)rawford had him meet him in the alley to load it into his car. CAhat was he.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. =ewis3 Are they that rare3D C1 don’t think so. a lawyer3 A judge3D C4o.C1’m serious.D (mily sat down on the edge of their bed. CAho s2ends that kind of money on an encyclo2edia. )an you believe that3D . . he was a college student. Ae’ve got seven more sets in the back room.aybe they were being bought as dWcor.
D C1 don’t understand. but here’s the strange 2art. CAnd that doesn’t seem strange to you3D C4o. 1f they’re buying a really . Cthat’s what 1 wondered. too. )rawford 2ractically had to beg him to take the books.She traced the geometric 2attern on their beds2read with her finger as she thought about this. 8e said 2eo2le actually say that a lot.D =ewis said.D CAhy would he do that3D CAell.D C)rawford went to get a bo$ and he said not to bother. After he bought them3 8e wanted to leave them in the store. )rawford told me later that it was a sur2rise for his girlfriend and he didn’t have a 2lace to hide it.
She couldn’t say why. JAhat have you got for about two hundred dollars3’ Turns out )rawford kee2s a whole bookcase just organi5ed by 2rice because so many 2eo2le come in looking for gifts like that. huh3 16ve seen 2eo2le come in and just ask for a book in a 2articular 2rice range. like. .D CA college kid is going to sur2rise his girlfriend with a three thousand-dollar encyclo2edia set. All these 2eo2le buying booksK )an you believe it3D (mily stretched out on the bed.e$2ensive book as a gift.D (mily felt ill. She loved this )alifornia king with its cris2 sheets and down 2illows and leather-covered headboard. C:eahHcra5y. they’ll ask us to hold onto it for a while.
She was tired and sarcastic and bitter. And it just dro22ed into our la2s. BAhat the hell is wrong with you. She regretted the tone in her voice as soon as she said it. C1 can’t believe it. Ahat more could you want3B .D she said. She wasn’t about to slee2 in Sy’s old bed. Tomorrow the movers would take it a2art and load it into the van she was renting.She bought it back in the days when life made sense to her. (mily3B CAhat3 1HB CAhy can’t you just be ha22y about this3 =ook at what’s ha22ened to usK This 2lace is a gold mine. Also. =ewis. she was starting to reali5e that she was more attached to her whirl2ool tub and her granite counterto2s than she thought she was. 1 really can’t.
<o you remember here3 1’m giving u2HB #ut that was it. 8e had never hung u2 on her before. .B=ewisK 4ot too long ago we lived here.i5mo store in the morning.*+ and a tri2 to the . (mily threw her 2hone across the room hard enough to crack the screen. 1t would cost her >/*. The bright. . and that was not easy to do. 8e hung u2. shiny.i5mo store. Iust thinking about it made her feel better.
i5mo store. although she didn’t really think of it as 2acking. She took an e$tra day to 2ack. .ostly she cleaned and organi5ed and 2ut some of her favorite things into bo$es with the e$2ectation that she would be taking them somewhere. She just wasn6t sure where. and then to buy it a few shiny. At first she enjoyed the silence. she made two tri2s to the . She ate lunch at her favorite 2lace . unnecessary accessories.fort"#four (mily and =ewis had never fought like this before. first to re2lace her 2hone. Ahile she was in town. because she wasn6t entirely sure that she was going back to (ureka.
A day that would be im2ossible in (ureka. She was doing 2retty well until she got into bed that night.in =os .atos. in other words. and dro22ed in on a cou2le of design clients.that her com2uter would crash before she turned in her . She was a light slee2er who s2ent at least an hour or two every night awake and worrying over some 2etty fear -. She needed a warm body in bed with her more than she needed air to breathe. She hated slee2ing alone. one of his best 0ualities was his sim2le 2resence in bed at night. (mily would admit that although she loved =ewis when he was awake. 1t was. 1f she was being 2erfectly honest. where there just didn6t seem to be any o22ortunity to fritter away money or time. got her hair cut. a day filled with mindless errands and small lu$uries.
She would never slee27 she would lose her mind7 she would fall to 2ieces. damn him.ne$t 2roject. (mily genuinely believed that if she ever had to live alone again. 8e was slee2ing. she 2assed a terrible night alone. she 2icked u2 the 2hone. or that she would find out that coffee causes cancer. The only thing that got her back to slee2 was =ewis’s steady breathing ne$t to her. She would roll over and butt her head against his back. she wouldn’t survive. that she had left a candle burning in the bathroom. leaving her with an im2ossible choice to make. . feeling the reassuring rise and fall of his rib cage. At some 2oint just before dawn. She had to call back three times before =ewis answered. And in fact.
D .B BAhich one3B B. She laughed. They’re 2acked. 16m sorry. 16m sorry. =ewis.BSay you6re sorry.D C"kay. That leaves four. BSay it.D C8ey.B B16m sorry.D C:eah.D C1 did. Aait.B =ewis said when he answered. See you soon. B1 am.B she said.B CSee if you can find those other shoes before you leave. <id you hear3D BAhat3B BAnother bookstore closed.o back to slee2.ackey’s in )hicago. #ut first3 .D CIesus.
2ast the sho22ing malls and the self-storage units.D #ut she didn’t slee2. 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. As she drove. "nce she made the decision to go backHand had she ever really considered not going3Hshe had a lot of 2acking to do. she reali5ed that even stronger than her desire to be with =ewis was her desire to kee2 an eye on =ewis. back to whatever awaited her behind the redwood curtain and the blanket of fog beyond it.o to slee2.CAe’ll be fine. Soon she was once again driving northHacross the bridge.
This thing was not going to end well. The only 0uestion was how disastrously broke they would be when it all fell a2art.the store. she knew that. and just the 2lans were going to cost a fortune. .
alway on her way out of the air2ort.a$ine Rogers landed in (ureka and called . C:ou live here3D . C=ook at this 2laceKD she shouted into the 2hone. but he had finally been brought to justice by a s2irited young woman working in a dress sho2 around the corner from the <ragon.fort"#five . The merchants in "ld Town were u2 in arms about this guy. where he had been live-blogging the trial of an unem2loyed auto mechanicturned-sho2lifter.alway slid out of the bench in the back of the courtroom. The 2olice had been unable to sto2 him. She saw him sli2 a necklace into his .
2ocket and she chased him down the street.B he said. Actual cowsKB BAell. .D .B he said. 1t was the most e$citement "ld Town had seen in months.B CThis is unbelievable.alway.alway said when he got out into the hallway.a$ine said. it6s dairy country u2 here. B!robably egrets. jum2ing on him hard enough to knock him down and shatter his kneeca2. B1 don6t know. BAnd what are those big white birds3B she said. BThere are cows on the side of the road. BThey like to hang out with the cows. yeah. BAhat were you e$2ecting3B . but not thisKB .
16m talking about a 2lace like this being the book ca2itol of the country. BAhere are you3B she said. B. anyway3D C1’ll tell you when 1 see you.D she said. so the egrets ---B B4ot that.alway said. B16m at the courthouse.D . you 2robably just drove through it. There better be some thriving cosmo2olitan downtown 1 just haven6t seen yet.C4ot really.eet me at the hotel tonight.B she said. CThe cows kick u2 a lot of bugs when they gra5e. BAell.B he said. C<inner’s on me.B he said. Ahich way to the bookstore3D .D CAhat are you doing here. judging from how long we6ve been on the 2hone.
.a$ine kind of liked the 2lace. she could see million-dollar beachfront cottages occu2ied by 2eo2le who bought books just to have them around for character.D C.CRight on Fifth. 4othing like low-hanging grey clouds to make a town looked discouraged.a$ine thought. not second home buyers with cash to burn on obsolete technology. 1f this 2lace were brighter and warmer. . #ut for some reason.ot it.D .ost of the town6s original 9ictorian . The fog had rolled in and settled over (ureka. #ut something about this 2ersistent marine layer suggested unem2loyed mill workers with meth labs in the basement. Sunshine seems to invite 2ros2erity. .a$ine found her way into "ld Town and 2arked a cou2le of blocks from the store.
for life of her. for some reason. remember what. a sign written in faded black Shar2ie in the window of a coin sho2 .a$ine could not. Around the corner. like books. reali5ing that ashtrays. which . The kind of ashtray a 2erson owned used to say something about them. which gave the bakeries and the beauty 2arlors a little more charm than they would have otherwise had. old ty2ewriters and colorful 2lastic ashtrays. There was a yarn sho2 that also sold vintage buttons and sewing machines and. had left 2eo2le6s homes so 0uietly that no one even noticed they were gone.a$ine found sur2risingly com2elling. but .architecture was still intact. She stood and looked fondly at them for a long time through the window.
She headed for an armchair in the 2sychology section.offered to 2ay to2 dollar for gold. where she could watch how the store o2erated without calling attention to herself. hundreds of coins were encased in their cardboard and mylar sleeves as if they had been 2reserved in wa$. A guy who looked vaguely familiar to her stood behind the counter. ringing 2eo2le u2 0uickly and 0uietly. . .a$ine sli22ed into the <ragon without making eye contact with anyone.ost of them looked around for . 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. She noticed that most 2eo2le didn6t venture very far into the store. .aybe it wasn6t so far-fetched that a bookstore could stay o2en here.
2icked u2 a book near the counter.just a few minutes. . bought it.B 8e was laid off two weeks later. B Ae sell the books in the center aisle.B he told her as a way of e$2laining why he wasn6t too worried about 2eo2le downloading classic literature onto their 2hones. A scruffy-looking woman in her early twenties came in dragging an e0ually scruffylooking child. She remembered an e$ecutive from a big bookstore chain telling her once that most of the books on the shelves were just there as decoration. BAe never did actually sell Shakes2eare. she thought most retailers 2ut their most 2o2ular sections within easy reach. and got on their way. (verything else is just wall2a2er. This wasn6t too sur2rising.
C1t’s a library. C#ookstore.D the woman said. The woman dragged him to the counter. CThese books are all for sale. at the same time the guy behind the counter said. looking u2 at the woman who brought him here. At a library. you can take books home. but you have to bring them back. CAhat3D the kid asked.D said the guy behind the desk. C#ookstore. CTo read. not moving from the entryway.D the guy said again.D the woman said im2atiently. C:ou don’t.CAhat is this 2lace3D the kid asked.D BAhy do we have to take them home3B the kid wailed. where she whis2ered something to the .D The kid looked at them both in astonishment.
And she didn’t even glance at the book. She hadn’t intended to say anything. and 2ull the kid out of the store.D the guy behind the desk called after her. and wrote u2 a ticket.D he said. 2ulled a book off a shelf behind him.clerk. <idn’t even . Ahat was a woman like that doing buying a two hundred dollar book every week3 .a$ine sitting in the chair. 8e turned around.lan e at it. C8ey. but she couldn’t hel2 herself. Two hundred dollars. .a$ine watched her take the bag. Then he looked over and noticed . CRegular customer3D she asked. She smiled. CSee you ne$t week. stuff it in a sort of woven !eruvian bag she wore on one shoulder.
CAre you looking for anything in 2articular3D C. 8e straightened a stack of 2a2ers on the desk and then looked u2 again. holding u2 a tattered book of affirmations for alcoholics that she’d 2ulled off the shelf at random. .D she said.8e looked 0uickly back down at the counter. CIust reading.a$ine had the strange feeling that she had caught him doing something he wasn’t su22osed to do.D .e3 4o.
16ve been feeling bad about that whole thing. 1 shouldn6t have said anything to you. BSince you6ve become newly educated on the benefits of back door 2olitics. B"h man. on the 2romise that <on )antrell made on her behalf -.B she said. 16m sorry about that.to arrange a meeting with some growers for Richmond. 16ve got a favor to ask. . She and Todd =arson sat on a 2ublic safety subcommittee together7 before the meeting she 2ulled him aside.B he said. rather.fort"#six 1t didn’t take long for =e$ to make good on her 2romise -.or. =e$.
BReally3B he whis2ered. =e$ thought. Ae6ll 2ut you on the 2ayroll. 8e still had this boyish curly hair and big brown eyes that managed to look sincere when he was a2ologi5ing. BSorry. knocking over a chair in the hallway outside the council chambers.B 8e took an awkward ste2 back. B:ou6re in.B Todd looked over his shoulder as if he was worried that a security camera was 2icking u2 this conversation.B she said. don6t worry about that. B"h. B"f course. =e$ just smiled and waited for him to settle down. B1 guess 16m a little 2aranoid.B . 1t6s fine.B he said when his ga5e finally returned to hers. Todd.Ahat a cute kid.
.B B=ook. 1 don6t know. BThis guy is behind a big legali5ation effort. She sat down ne$t to him and said.B Todd eased into a chair.B =e$ said.B"kay. B16ve got a friend who would like to meet some of your friends. 1t6s hard to get close to those guys. S2eaking of kee2ing things 0uiet. B1 have a friend in town who is a botanist.uch bigger than what we can do here in 8umboldt.B B"h. 1t occurred to =e$ that this might be more 2olitical intrigue than the kid could handle. 8e wants to meet some growers. =e$. And you know that my 2lans for develo2ing the waterfront de2end u2on the idea that tourists are going to come u2 here to do something that they can’t do right . in a low voice.B she said.
D Todd 2ressed his li2s together and looked down at his hands. 8e just wants a meeting. .B =e$ said as she stood u2. against his better judgment.now. This guy can hel2 us get there. their committee was called into session. B1t6s just a bunch of friends getting together. 4o names. Iust then. no 2hotos. B=et6s set this u2.B So Todd. just a conversation. 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.
which all seemed to be . overweight and 2ale. with matching manes of curly. There seemed to be a dress code for 2ot growers.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. halfdreadlocked hair. but he didn’t want to make it seem like he was afraid of these guys. The growers Fand he didn’t even try to remember their names. he reali5ed. the easier it was getting to s2ot them. 2asty young men. The more time he s2ent in town.
They had been unable to agree on a meeting 2lace.fake anyway7 names like Fire and !hoeni$ and Sky and RiverG were as frightened of Richmond as he was of them. which made for an uneasy meeting. and that got them e$cited enough to loosen u2 even more. Finally they settled on a 2ark near the waterfront. They sat awkwardly on a 2icnic bench. 8e s2un a few tall tales of the legali5ation effort that would make them all rich. Richmond in his neatly-ironed dress shirt and the rest of them in their baggy sweats and old jeans. Richmond knew just enough about the science of growing 2lants to get a conversation going. The fact that Richmond was able to . rejecting various hamburger joints as too visible and refusing to host the meeting at any of their own grow houses.
but the lights wouldn’t be turned u2. #ack at the hotel. windowless bar for killing time on a business tri2 just bland enough not to attract the locals. 1t was the 2erfect kind of dark. he would have seen that the maroon car2et was just about threadbare and all the woodwork was fake. Richmond called his boss from the bar. and the growers grinned at each other as they stuffed the cash in their 2ockets. not ever. There were no obno$ious beer 2osters and . casually. he doubled it. which meant that it was mostly em2ty. 1f the lights had been turned u2. but not so shabby that it de2ressed him to sit for hours and drink alone. with the air of kids who had each been given a dollar and sent to the candy store.2ay whatever it took to get hold of a few 2lant sam2les didn’t hurt7 when they named their 2rice.
did you3D Tom said. A television above the bar was tuned to )44.y friend on the city council came through for me.B he said when his boss answered the 2hone. . BTom. Richmond felt entirely at home here. this has 0uite 2ossibly been the longest day of my life.no cocktail menus 2rinted by vodka distributors with e$otic names for the same si$ or seven mi$ed drinks 2eo2le had been drinking for a hundred years. but the volume was off and the closed-ca2tion was on.D C:ou made some new friends. CAhat ha22ened3D C. 1’ve been talking to growers all afternoon.
that6s about right. Those guys are cra5y. 8e was going to be here a while.B B:eah.B BAell. 8e reached for the bar menu. it6s not e$actly a business.B4ot e$actly. and that just about got me killed.B The bartender brought Richmond his beer. 1 will never understand how any of them manage to stay in business. 1t was stout and cold and there was not near enough of it. . :ou know one of these kids uses twelve different kinds of nitrogen fertili5er in one grow cycle3 1 tried to tell him that the 2lant can6t tell the difference between one nitrogen molecule and another. 1t6s more like a very lucrative obsession. Rich.
no. Iust let me close the door.B A woman slid onto a stool a cou2le of seats down from him. Richmond could hear a baby crying in the background. sleek black hair that hung artfully into her eyes. Some .B B4o. 1 want to hear about this. These are actual drug dealers we’re talking about. They were the kind of eyes you6d s2end a lot of money trying to frame with a good haircut iceblue !aul 4ewman eyes.B Tom said. isn6t it3 1 should call you tomorrow. B"h.B:ou need to watch it. She dra2ed her suit jacket across the stool ne$t to her and started digging around in her bag for a 2hone. it6s late there. no wedding ring. Richmond couldn’t hel2 but si5e her u2 a little too skinny. buddy.
B Richmond said. 8e could tell she didn6t belong in (ureka. These guys are convinced 16ve got the inside track on legali5ation ---B . B<id you get anything from these guys3B B1 got some 2lants. everything’s for sale.B BReally3B Tom said. if that6s what you mean.fragrance drifted over to RichmondHsomething cris2 and e$2ensive.B BAell.B Tom said. more like the non-s2ecific but into$icating smell of new cars and new clothes than anything Richmond could 2articularly identify. after a muffled negotiation with his wife over bathtime. B=ooks like 16ll be bringing back about a do5en strains. B1 didn6t think they6d give u2 their 2lants like that. either. B"kay.
ood. 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 BAhich it isn6t. 1t6s all hydro2onic.B C. They want to hel2. all indoors.BAhich you do. B--.and that legali5ation is their ticket to 2ros2erity. So what are their grow o2s like3B BThey didn6t e$actly invite me over.B Tom said. #ut you know these 2eo2le. using reflective film . Anyway. They6re into this cra5y mad scientist stuff.B C($actly. 1 told them that any legal 2roduct was going to have limits on T8) levels. Tom. They6re s2ending a hundred bucks on a single sodium light bulb.
B Tom said cheerfully. The woman at the end of the bar si22ed her )abernet and scrolled through e-mails on her 2hone. 2um2ing the 2lace full of )"/.aybe it was the beer. all that. B!retty much. they will. .like wall2a2er. :eah. BSoon enough.s. but Richmond was starting to think that he had seen her somewhere before. Ratner3B .B Richmond gestured for another beer and 2ointed to the chicken wings on the bar menu. 1f they ever had to kee2 track of their e$2enses and run a !X=HB B"h. that6s their strategy. BThey just burn twenty-dollar bills to kee2 the greenhouse warm3B Tom said. 1t6s what ha22ens when you run a cash business. Any 2rogress with .
They all agree that she’s 2laying a com2letely different game. kind of like a rose that . orHD C4o. She gets incredible yields for an outdoor o2eration in this kind of weather.D CThere’s no rivalry. and the only thing they know about her techni0ue is that it should be im2ossible.B Richmond said. 1t6s very e$2ensive and there6s not much of it. 4obody has any idea where she got her 2lants. These guys just worshi2 her from afar. They don6t even try to kee2 u2. her 2roduction is really limited. 1t6s not e$actly Thailand u2 here. So the growers 2retty much leave her alone and let her do her thing.B4ot really. And they say it’s an everblooming strain. not that 1 can tell. BThe thing is.
Tom. B1 don6t know.B B.B B. Turns out your legislative staff is a little too good at their jobs. :ou managed to get hold of any of it yet3B Richmond 2aused and took a long drink of his second beer. Anyway. 1 would just as soon not s2end another week here if 1 can avoid it. 1 can6t figure it out.B B:eah. 1 am headed back to (dith Ratner6s house tomorrow and 1 will get this done one way or another.aybe they figured you out. that’s what we kee2 hearing. 16ve been down at that bookstore every day.blooms all year. "ur friends on the . 8er 2lants don’t wait until fall to 2roduce a cro2.B B)ould be. There must be a secret 2assword.ood.
CLind of.D he said. 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.a$ine Rogers. C.com. 4ile. Ae need to get going on those 2atents now. a lean. disheveledlooking guy in a tattered leather jacket came u2 behind her. CThis is going to sound like a line.B She looked over at Richmond as he set his 2hone down. holding out his hand to Richmond.D .B #efore he could re2ly. BAll right.8ill are ready to move. B16ll call you tomorrow.B Richmond said distractedly. CAorking late3D she asked.D he said.alway <aniels. B.B The woman at the end of the bar answered a call on her 2hone and then stood u2 to 2ay her tab. C1umboldt 1erald. Tom.
B They looked each other over like e$-lovers and then turned back around to face Richmond.a$ine jum2ed and turned around.D . C(njoy your dinner. C1’m nobody..D he said.alwayK At last. B16m sorry.a$ine said. B1 was just introducing myself. B. 4ot e$actly the kind of 2eo2le Richmond should be talking to on the way to his third beer. :ou are ---B A re2orter and a high-2rofile )(".B .
the downtown businesses are your beat. C:ou’ve got to have a theory. CAhen 1 saw that article in the "hroni le.a$ine. . A lot of 2eo2le love that store.alway. after warming him u2 with a scotch before dinner.fort"#ei ht .alway.a$ine was disa22ointed by her dinner with . 8e was charming in that scruffy. right3D 8e shook his head. 1 was just as sur2rised as you were. garrulous way that long-time disgruntled re2orters could be. but he had sur2risingly little to say about the newly-famous bookstore. 1 mean. . C)ome on. but 1’ve always sus2ected that they really just .D she said.
"kay. 8umboldt’s not substantially different than a lot of other big. #efore it was even on the list of last bookstores in America. 2eo2le treated it like it was something e$ce2tional. <id you know that3D C8uh.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. rural counties. #ut let me ask you why do 2eo2le out here still buy books3 1’ve got the data on rates of .love the idea of the store. you know3 =ike we’re su22osed to be this out2ost of art and literature. 8e wanted to rail against the demise of the .i5mo ownershi2 in this county. Aould 2eo2le here really rather sit around and read a book on 2a2er3D #ut .
rambling. She e$2ected . . (ventually she dro22ed her line of 0uestioning . She e$2ected him to be da55led by her wealth or intimidated by her 2ower.a$ine like he treated anyone else.alway to be 2re2ared for this conversation.a$ine. and. #ut . as he always was in the 2resence of someone who looked like . and worry over the inability of news organi5ations to conduct the kind of meaty.news2a2er.a$ine had been )(" long enough to have forgotten what it was like to talk to someone who wasn’t utterly deferential to her. as if she’d invited him to a strategy meeting instead of dinner. com2lain about the ram2ant 2lagiarism in the news blogos2here. mildly flirtatious. long-term investigations they used to. which is to say that he was self-absorbed.alway treated .
8e had the ragged look of an aging rock star. To make things worse. 4o useful information. clammy way and moved in for a hug. you-don’t-get-a-kiss-goodnight 2arting.and surrendered to the fact that she was stuck having dinner in a small town with a malcontented but talkative re2orter. and he smelled like leather and some old after-shave nobody wears anymore. 8e was one of those men who seemed oddly a22ealing if you didn’t get too close. which she managed to thwart by 2atting him on the shoulder while 2ushing him gently away. it might have gone differently. and a bad . he clutched it in a frantic. That did it for her. 1f only he’d been a little less des2erate. #ut when she offered her hand to say goodnight. the night ended with an awkward.
She was ready to make a deal. 8er 2lan was to browse . For her tri2 into town. and now she was on her way to the bookstore. she was feeling good. Ahat little interest she had in him eva2orated. and her dressiest 2air of Tevas. So she went to bed alone and s2ent a restless night wondering if anything would come of this tri2. 1n s2ite of the restless night.handshake. Finally it was morning and there was a si$ a.m. . a reversible fleece in shades of charcoal and oatmeal. Then breakfast. yoga class in the hotel’s fitness center. 8ood.t.a$ine wore what she ho2ed would be her most convincing =ost )oast tourist outfit a 2air of ultra-lightweight cargo 2ants that she usually only wore when she was hiking .
a stroll that took her 2ast a dila2idated mobile home 2ark held together with honeysuckle vines.the store one more time like a regular customer. !rostitutes3 1n . . a metal fabricator. because she still wasn’t sure e$actly what made the <ragon work. faintly redolent of seaweed. She didn’t want to a22roach them too 0uickly. 1t was a da55ling morning on (ureka6s waterfront warm and windless. then call the new owners and set u2 a meeting. with the sun hitting the side of every warehouse along the wharf and illuminating the wide 2lanks with their 2eeling 2aint. A woman walked 2ast in a short black dress -.not much more than a swimsuit cover-u2 V and a 2air of gold high heels.a$ine decided to walk from the hotel to the bookstore. and a string of low-rent motels.
CThe writer3 :ou work here3 :ou’re a 2art of this thing3D . The <ragon was com2letely em2ty when she walked in e$ce2t for the two em2loyees behind the counter. 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. 2assed a cou2le of coffee sho2s.a$ine shook her head. weren’t you in here yesterday3 1’m )rawford. and she was in "ld Town. too. That6s why he looked familiarK BAre you Richard )rawford3D she asked. C8ey. one of whom she recogni5ed from the last time she was there.this little town3 . She rounded a corner. )rawford remembered her.D 8e held out his hand.
1n my o2inion. . B1 always wondered what ha22ened to you.a$ine watched her go. BAell. Richard )rawfordK 8e came around the counter and stood with his hands in his 2ockets. but 1 don6t know if 1 want to take the blame for all this.B )rawford was too stunned to say anything. 1 loved The Retriever. . you were robbed. Aho was this mysterious and beautiful woman3 8e reali5ed that he might be in love with her. never mind. Bthat6s me.a$ine said. but once you hit fortyHwell.B C1 can6t believe it’s you. 1 couldn6t believe it didn6t win the 4ational #ook Award.The woman behind the counter laughed and walked off.B he said.B . trying to look modest. She wasn’t sure green hair was becoming for a woman of any age.
BSo 1 know you don6t own this 2lace. one in which he behaved like the reclusive literary star she clearly believed he was. right3 So you must have a lot to do with the fact that this 2lace is still around.a$ine continued. . but they just got here. or teach writing worksho2s. oblivious to the effect she was having on him.a$ine as she reeled off this alternative version of his life. <o 2eo2le come in here to meet you3 <o they want to get their books signed3 <o you run some kind of literary series for the store.. or what3B )rawford stared at . Finally he reali5ed that she was waiting for an answer. because 1 read the article about the new owners.
C"h. BAell. B:eah.a$ine said. AhHwell. we6ve done --. you must be so 2roud of the success of this store.B )rawford said. glad that . 8e knew that he sounded like an idiot. yes.a$ine looked around again. Ahat ha22ened3 .B )rawford said. taking in the walls covered in books. =ewis had been in the store every day clearing the aisles and reorgani5ing. the aging chandeliers. it6s 2retty ama5ing.inger was not there to catch him lying to this woman.B . 8e used to know how to talk like a famous author.things like that. the 2recarious banister. The building looked like an . 1t was now 2ossible to see the molding and other architectural details that had once been obscured.
!eo2le bring all these needs and e$2ectations to a bookstore. :ou have the set -. Ahy do you think this 2lace has survived3 Ahat’s the secret3B 8e assumed this woman didn6t want to know the real secret.old man who had been reminded to stand u2 straight. B.and you have the books. BSo. which are like 2ro2s. B1 think it6s the whole 2ackage. Surely he could come u2 with a 2lausible lie.that6s this building --. B16m curious. Ahat6s your secret3D )rawford had a lot of secrets. and everybody in the store is acting out a 2art. B"ver the years 16ve learned that a bookstore is like a 2iece of theater. 1f .y secret3B B:eah.B he said.B she said. and maybe even get a date out of the deal.
and .a$ine looked at him with wonder. 2eo2le bring in their needs and e$2ectations3B she asked. 1t had been a long time. you know.you6re working behind the desk. She wasn6t really looking at him7 she was looking at the glow. :ou 2ut on a little 2erformance. BAhat do you mean. B"h.D . Somebody comes in looking for a do-it-yourself divorce book. you have to figure out how to be the kind of 2erson they want you to be. That6s what he used to call the faint halo that a successful novel could give a 2erson. and the 2erformance is different for every 2erson who walks in. 8e had forgotten all about the glow. )rawford had forgotten what it was like to have 2eo2le look at him like this.
they can barely even whis2er it to you because they don6t want anyone to know. Somebody comes in wanting to be treated like a big shot.D B<on6t some 2eo2le just want a good book to read3B )rawford shifted from one foot to the other and summoned a 2ained e$2ression to his face. Somebody brings in an old book that6s been in the family forever and they think it6s worth a fortune. and they have to get all stoic and tell you they’d never want to sell it anyway. . wanting the owner to take them in the back and 2our them some sherry and give them a thirty 2ercent discount on the rare first edition they’re 2robably not going to buy anyway. and you have to find a way to tell them that it6s only like a ten-dollar book.
what else could they be3B .a$ine6s turn to stare.aybe they buy a book because it6s a souvenir of this e$2erience they had where they came in here and felt --.B 1t was . So yeah. .B BAell -. This guy was brilliant. .inger returned from the back room and )rawford reali5ed that he’d better cut the conversation off before she heard him.literary.anymore3 4ot much. it6s about nostalgia. 2eo2le come in here to feel bookish. Ahat a marketerK BSo that6s what these books are. And if they do. somehow.B:ou mean --.1 don6t know --. A souvenir of their e$2erience in the store. She lived for the moments when she could sabotage )rawford in the act of trying to im2ress a woman.
D she said. )rawford. :ou areH3D C.a$ine.D She held out her hand. C1 think the moving van arrives today. sure. C1’ll get in touch with them. B4ice meeting you.B he said. C"h. C1’m sorry.C1’d better get back to work. taking one last look around the store. <o you want me to call them3D CThat’s okay. B1 should get going.D she said. too.D )rawford said.B )rawford shook her hand. .D She smiled and left before he could ask for her last name. Are the owners going to be back anytime soon3B CThey’re in the middle of moving.
she just o2erated by a set of rules that hadn’t made it to this 2art of the world.a$ine had the 2olish and luster of a big city about her7 a kind of bright e$2ectation about the world and its 2ossibilities. Ahen she ordered wine by the glass.fort"#nine <uring their dinner.a$ine was treating him like staff. . she asked if she could taste the . Iust being around her reminded him how lonely and isolated he was. but distant and distracted the rest of the night. She wasn’t 2retentious. She ran hot and cold friendly when she thought it would get her somewhere. e$actly. .alway had the uncomfortable feeling that .
"kay. And the evening ended badly. . maybe she was a snob.alway felt himself shrinking in his seat7 it was 2robably the first time any waitress in (ureka had ever been asked to 2rovide a 2review of a si$-dollar glass of wine before serving it.malbec and the sangiovese for com2arison. still be the best accom2animent to the salmon. 8e was out on the sidewalk and on his own . but she was too 0uick for him. she e$2lained her choice to the waitress in some detail. As if the waitress cared whether the herbal notes in the wine would com2ete with the fennel in the salad or whether it would overall. And when she decided to go with the sauvignon blanc instead. After a few too many drinks he’d decided to try to salvage the night by making a 2ass at her.
8e stood in the fog under the yellow light of a street lam2 and watched a family of raccoons dash across the street and disa22ear into the sewer. 1n the end he decided not to divulge the <ragon6s secrets. She never would tell him e$actly why she was so interested in the <ragon. . And he already had a boss. .D as if he’d agreed to hel2 her. 8e deleted the message.a$ine was smart enough7 he knew she’d figure out what was going on if she hung around a while. e$ce2t to say that it was a business model that intrigued her. .before he knew e$actly what ha22ened. She finally called from the air2ort.a$ine was no longer intriguing7 she was just bossy. leaving a message asking him to kee2 an eye on the store and Cre2ort back. At least they had somewhere to go together.
=ewis had been working at Sy’s house all day.fift" (mily got into town just as the store was closing. C1s =ewis here3D she asked.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. clearing s2ace so they could unload the moving van. C8e’s already gone. 8e left )rawford and .
1t had occurred to her that she should buy him a gift to make u2 for it. B8ow was your tri23B BFine.inger said carefully. that gift should be a book.D She was still feeling guilty about their fight.inger.B . And of course.C"h. good. continuing to look around.inger staring at her. Some rare and wonderful volume that showed that she believed in him. and then she noticed )rawford and . B1t6s been a 2retty good few days. She would 2ut the . )rawford looked nervously at .B (mily said.B she said. Then she had an idea. B1 heard you had a lot of big s2enders in the store lately. who was trying to stash their assortment of 2restuffed sho22ing bags behind the counter. #ut what3 She looked around blankly for a minute.
remembering how =ewis had described the big s2enders who had been in the . She looked over (mily’s shoulder at )rawford.inger. She walked slowly over to the counter and let her ga5e travel across the shelf of rare books )rawford had just re-stocked behind the counter. smiling. They knew what they were doing. that6s nice. B16m a 2aying customer. (mily seemed to be waiting for .booksellers to the test.B (mily said.B she said to . so she added.inger to say something more. maybe you can hel2 me. B1t6s your store.D B4o.inger said. who was fro5en in 2lace.B . B1 want to get a 2resent for =ewis.B B"h. Take something home.D And. B8ey.
B"kay. 1t6s been rebound in . She stared at the row of books in front of her. she added.B . They stam2ed 8emingway’s signature on the cover. Finally she 2ulled one off the shelf.oroccan leather.B she said. 1t6s kind of a 2retentious thing to do. but the cover was 2robably damaged by the time it fell into the hands of the bookseller. B1t6s a first edition of The Old Man and the Sea. and handed it to (mily. turning it over as if she was afraid to o2en it. BAhat is it3B (mily said.inger turned her back to )rawford. So you can think about . this is seven hundred. C16m looking for something in the five hundred dollar range. who looked like he was about to e$2lode.store lately. but it’s 2retty ama5ing. )rawford s2oke u2 behind her.
D . <id he even know it was in the store3D CEh---1 don’t think so. 16ll take it. She was trying not to look at )rawford. 1t’s 2erfect.B (mily smiled at . C=ewis isn’t going to believe this. B<on6t 1 get a bag for my seven hundred dollars3B (mily asked.inger handed her the book.inger said. as if he might never deliver it again. .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 .B 8e gave that s2eech with an air of resignation.inger. taking (mily’s credit card and running it through the terminal. BFine.
D (mily clutched the bag to her chest. C8ere you go. Ae’ll go ahead and close u2.inger said.D .D .C"f course. grabbing the book and stuffing it into a bag. . CThanks. 8ave a good night.ood night. you guys.
don’t yell at meKD She sat back on her heels and 2ut her hands over her mouth. )rawford.fift"#one CT(== . Ahat just ha22ened3 C"kay. . BAnd 1 handed her the credit card sli2 with my right hand ---B She 2antomimed this .D she said.inger was on her knees behind the counter. 2awing through the bags she’d been restocking when (mily walked in. C1 was standing just like this.D She stood u2 and 2lanted her feet right where they had been when she was talking to (mily. wait. C<ammit.( :"E <1< 4"TKD )rawford shouted a few minutes later.
. .inger was too stunned to say anything. CAnd then you gave her one tightly-2acked ounce of marijuana along with her 8emingway. no.inger.D 8e grabbed his jacket and stormed out the door.B . 1 would have reached down with my left hand ---B "h. !lus a com2limentary 2ackage of rolling 2a2ers for being such a good customer. B8uh.B she said at last. Thanks. This did not just ha22en. B1 shorted her half an ounce. She stood for a long time and stared down the stack of bags at her feet.while )rawford watched im2atientlyHCand then when she asked for the bag. 1t’s been great working with you.
fift"#two Ahen (mily left the bookstore with her rebound-but-still-0uite-nice first edition of The Old Man and the Sea. she was elated for two reasons. a century that she suddenly missed for its bulk and 2resence. workable objects. First. a manly book done u2 in manly navy blue leather. The twentieth century contributed skyscra2ers and ty2ewriters and automobiles and tele2hones to the world. the book felt solid and real under her arm. (very innovation of the twenty-first century could be erased by a . a warm and delicious relic from another century. 1t was a sure winner a fine American classic. Solid.
For the first time. a time she couldn’t remember clearly herself. 2ractical time. 1t reminded her of a more sensible. her income unstable. She could see why 2eo2le would still buy real books on 2a2er. She’d been a freelancer for years7 her work life always felt unsettled. And the second reason she was elated3 "wning a bookstore that offered such a thing for sale also felt goodHand this was something new. although she could feel its heft in the dim 2ast. she’d send off an invoice and wait for an . She was often struck by how e2hemeral it all was a client would sent her an email. she’d mock u2 some designs and email them back.2ower failure. "wning a book felt good. (mily felt like the store was actually hers. and after a few more e$changes.
Something moved and clicked and locked inside of her. Ahere would it all go3 Aithout it.electronic transfer to hit her bank account. like a deadbolt sliding into 2lace. En2lug the 1nternet and it would all vanish the clients. what would be left of her work3 #ut the <ragon was so tan.oney in the cash drawer. the bank de2osits and the bills that got 2aid automatically. the design work. 1t made sense to her. the store fit.ible. 4one of it seemed real. . . And the seven hundred dollars she just s2ent on =ewis6s book3 That made her feel important. in a way that her freelance design work never really did. A building. This valuable little book tucked under her arm . All at once.oods for sale. suddenly.
#ut (mily was a dabbler7 she’d buy one thing and grow bored with it and never think to buy another one. 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. 8e was waiting for her at Sy’s houseHtheir house. . She got back to her moving van and stashed the bag in her suitcase so =ewis wouldn’t see the book until she was ready to give it to him.mattered. she mattered. The idea of it was into$icating. too. 4ow she could see the attraction. and she had friends who collected Fiestaware or Art <eco vases or old toys. And now that she owned it. She had never been a collector of anything. =ewis collected coins and stam2s when he was a kid.
. rutted road to meet him.she reali5ed at last. She drove out of town 2ast the marshy lowlands where egrets fished for their su22er and u2 the long.
2ractically bouncing out of the car. B8ey.B she said.fift"#three =ewis was waiting for her on the 2orch when she got there. =ewis even looked a little different in a battered work shirt and old jeans. he was a more rugged. waiting to com2lete her ha22iness like a 2eriod at the end of a sentence. And now here was =ewis. more handy version of himself. sitting on the ste2s. She was just about to instigate a generalcontractor-home-remodel se$ual fantasy that . She had worked herself into a state of eu2horia during the short and scenic drive from the bookstore to the house.
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 =ewis said. At first. BSomething is very wrong. Then she reali5ed that Sy’s collection of movie 2ro2s had also been dismantled. leading her robotically into the house. Something was very wrong.B he said.B (mily said. but more carefully a . their contents scattered on the floor. (mily thought the house had been broken into. BAhat6s going on3B B)ome with me. tables knocked over. 2utting his hands awkwardly on her shoulders as if he had never touched her before. )hairs were u2ended. B1 just figured that out. drawers 2ulled from bureaus.
Finally she managed to shake off her sur2rise and say. a fake bank safe unscrewed and left in 2ieces. a cardboard television sliced a2art with a bo$ cutter. 8e stood ne$t to (mily. =-sha2ed room at the back of the house that might have been a 2orch at one time.2hony grandfather clock was neatly taken a2art. 1t had been used for storage since Sy6s death. staring at the ruins of Sy6s 2ossessions as if he could not believe what he had accom2lished. =ewis had gathered all the cardboard bo$es that #illy had managed to 2ack u2 after the funeral . 8er mouth formed the sha2e of a 0uestion but fro5e there. She reali5ed that =ewis must have done this. BAhat is this3B 8e took her by the hand and led her u2stairs to an awkward.
e$ico. 4ot just a little 2ile of money. And on to2 of those bo$es was a 2ile of money. they had ended u2 with two or three enormous jars of change. after going through Sy6s house. everything she had heard about him suggested that he was the kind of man who would stick a little cash under the mattress. an old coffee can filled with crum2led dollar bills. (mily would not have been sur2rised if. #ut this was not that kind of 2ile of money. This was a close-the-curtains-and-don’t-answer- . and even a cou2le of fat envelo2es of twenties. Although she had never met Sy.and stacked them in the center of the room to form a kind of table. a handful of foreign currency left over from some tri2 to )anada or .
A 2ile of money staggering for its very com2actness how could so many hundred-dollar bills occu2y a s2ace not much larger than a microwave oven3 They were cleanly bundled and banded.the-2hone 2ile money. BAs far as 1 know3 4obody. the way you’d see them in bank heist movies.B 8e slid 2ast (mily and walked around to the other . A se2arate 2ile held battered fifties and twenties rolled together and bound by rubber bands. (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. CAho else knows about this3D =ewis e$haled dee2ly. 1t was the kind of 2ile of money that would make anyone say what (mily said ne$t. the way they might look Hagain.
side of the 2ile.B CA8AT3D She backed u2 into the wall and reached for the door.B =ewis said. C1 don’t even want to touch itKD (mily said. B"ne of those steel briefcases. CAhat is this3 Ahere did it come from3D BFirst 1 found a briefcase under the bed. 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. just 2acked with bundles of cash. After that 1 just kind of went nuts and started tearing . B8ow much is here3B (mily asked. e$actly like something you’d see in the movies.D =ewis said. They both stood looking down at it as if they were studying a 2iece of scul2ture in a museum. C)ount it yourself.
D B=ewis. but it wasn6t from selling books.the 2lace u2.B she said. though. She studied it carefully for a minute. Ae can6t kee2 it. BAho are we giving it to3B (mily 2lanted her hands on the moving bo$es and leaned over the 2ile of money. we can6t kee2 this. 1 don’t even think 1’ve found it all. Sy was involved in something . 1 don6t know. Then =ewis said.B BLee2 it3 Are you cra5y3 1 don6t know where he got this money.B They both looked at it a while longer. Ae could.B =ewis was ready to carry out what ever decision someone else wanted to make about this money. BAell. to tell you the truth. B"kay. BShit. actually.
B1 don6t know. (mily. She leaned into him. like the furniture3D =ewis walked back around the room and stood behind (mily.D C"kay. Sy wasn6t s2ending it. but he hid it from the 1RS. too.B =ewis shook his head. =ewis3 This money is just ours. maybe. That store threw off a lot of 2rofit for a lot of years.else. 8e 2robably hadn’t bought a new shirt in ten years. unless you count the coffee sho2. And as far as 1 can tell. !art of her wanted nothing to do with =ewis or his cra5y uncle or whatever this hea2 of bills .B CThat’s not our 2roblem. And if we kee2 the money. we are involved in it.D CSo what are you saying. 8e never ate out.
#ut 2art of her was kind of interested in hearing what he had to say. .ake it look like Sy stashed it there years ago where nobody would ever think to look.re2resented.aybe we 2ut it in the attic under a floorboard. Sy had some 2retty good hiding 2laces. CSo. . we wouldHD . he had a 2oint. 1t6s not inconceivable that we could live in this house for years and never find his stash. B16m saying we 2ut the money back. =et6s say somebody comes looking for it down the road.D Aell. 8e whis2ered in her ear like he was seducing her. !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.
=ewis. Ae take some with us when we go on vacation. B:ou 2ay cash for a haircut every now and then. Ae dro2 some cash when we go out to eat. Ae don6t make it obvious. . allowed herself to be led to the makeshift 2allet of blankets =ewis had assembled last night in the attic. his voice still low and gravelly in her ear. still refusing to lay down in Sy’s bed.B C1 don’t know. They turned the light out on the 2ile of money and (mily.B =ewis said.D (mily wasn6t sure about that. Ae just nibble at it around the edges.BAe would just di2 into it a little at a time. 1t was e$actly the sort of 2lace a fugitive from justice would hide. but she was sure that bank robber se$ would be even better than general-contractorhome-remodel se$.
. They were all right. you know. at least for now.=ewis knew her well enough to recogni5e the half-smile on her li2s as she stoo2ed to follow him through the attic.D he said. CThis could be my last night of freedom. BAs soon as the co2s come looking for that money --B (mily giggled and stumbled into him.
8e had seen seagulls and ravens u2 there during the day. C1s it )hristmas3D C"hKD (mily said. making a 0uiet but distracting racket if you were trying to slee2 right under them. =ewis had discovered that birds liked to land on the 2eak of the roof to look out across the valley below. C1 forgotK 1 have a 2resent for you. They scratched and 2icked at the shingles.B =ewis whis2ered. but what bird would land there at night3 An owl3 BThey sound like reindeer.fift"#four At midnight they were still awake and listening to the house shift and settle.D She wra22ed a blanket around .
=ewis turned on a desk lam2 he’d set u2 near his makeshift bed. She 2ulled out the 2a2er bag and dashed back u2stairs. B1 haven6t had time to wra2 it. but 1 want you to have it now. 8er suitcase was still sitting just inside the front door where she’d left it. She sat cross-legged across from him. CIustHcongratulations.D 8e leaned over and kissed her and then reached into the bag. taking the bag from her. leather-bound first edition of The Old Man and The Sea with 8emmingway’s signature stam2ed .her shoulders and ran down two flights of stairs. "ut came a delu$e. Ahen she got there.D CAhat’s this for3D he said. To mark the start of our new life with the bookstore.
organic. sliding his hand back into the bag. turning it over in his hands and o2ening it just a crack to 2eer inside.inger hel2ed me 2ick it out. For a long time .in gold on the cover.D she said. intricately com2le$ and highly sought-after bud. nothing. 1t’s the start of our library. floral. 1t sat between them on Sy’s old 0uilt.D he said.D CAnd what else is in here3D he asked. C<id this come from the store3D C1t did. earthy. 8e dro22ed it like it was on fire. and in it was a tightly-wra22ed ounce of (dith’s su2remely sweet. =ewis held it carefully. CAell. and matching gold gilt on the fore-edge. C. 1t’s just--D #ut then his hand came out of the bag. C=ook at this.
believing. that it might e$2lain itself if they would just let it s2eak. .they just watched it. 2erha2s.
. 8e nodded and led them silently down the hall. Finally they heard his ste2s behind them on the stairs. )rawford looked at her and didn’t say a word. )rawford shuffled u2 the stairs to #illy <alton’s office like a kid who already knew he was grounded. . standing tight-li22ed in the atrium.fift"#five The ne$t morning.inger was waiting for him. #illy wasn’t much of a lawyerHthis was one thing )rawford and .inger could agree u2onHbut they didn’t dare confide in anyone else.
B )rawford said. right before close.B1n here. BSit. BShe had no fucking idea what she was doing.B he said. B=ast night. sit. gesturing to the couch. She thought it was some 0uaint little custom to come in and ask for rare book by 2rice.B . o2ening the door to what might have once been a corner suite in the building’s days as a hotel. There was a couch under the window and a dining room table covered in bo$es. in his best cross-e$amination voice. sitting as far a2art from each other as they could. 8e 2ulled out a folding chair and sat across from them.B #illy said.inger said.B . BAhen did this ha22en3B #illy asked. . BAnd she actually came in and asked for ---B B4o.inger and )rawford eased into it.
B4e$t 0uestion. the 2oint is.inger said. B4obody6s heard from her3B B4ot yet. :ou6re the goddamn lawyer.inger said. nearly shouting.B )rawford said. B(mily and =ewis had seen other 2eo2le making big buys like that.B B)rawford. They didn6t know what was really going on. #y now.B )rawford said. she left with a bag that had an ounce of 2ot in it. B1t6s not. so what were they su22osed to think3B BThis is not the 2oint. . Ahat are we su22osed to do3D #illy sighed and shook his head. they know. #illy. don6t be such an asshole.BAhy is that 0uaint3B #illy asked.B . BAhether it was an accident or not. She knows.B . So come on.
more to get their attention than because he had anything im2ortant to say. Ae don’t o2en for another hour.#illy stood u2. .et over there and clean out the store. B4obody. B. that is. BAho6s at the store3B .inger looked down at her 2hone to check the time.ine3 Are you kidding3D )rawford said. 8e looked 2ointedly at .D CThen what3D )rawford said. <oesn’t matter now. C1f (mily asks3 Tell her it6s yours.B #illy said.B BFine.inger.D C. 1f there’s any left. 1f someone was going to take the fall for this. it would have to be her. !ack u2 all the shit and stick it in the vault.
16ll do it. )rawford.inger said. C<on6t worry about it.B BAnd then what3B )rawford said.B . BAell. of ourse you go out of business. 1’ll say 1 got flustered when she bought the book. B8ow did you think this was going to end3B . 16ll tell her it was mine.B1t6s only an ounce. and 1 handed her the bag 16d hidden it in.B he said. BAe go back to being a regular bookstore3 Ae just go out of business3B #illy sat back down so he could look both of them in the eye. and that 1 was trying to stash it away when she walked into the store.
clearing out a stash of alternative rolling 2a2ers that the store’s staff had considered over the years but decided against clear cellulose. There were. molasses infused.fift"#six #y the time they got to the store it was too late. 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. And all the sho22ing bags had been em2tied of their merchandise. unbleached hem2 fiber. (mily was under the desk. The 2ile of joints and dime bags in a 2ile behind the counter looked like the haul from a drug raid. of course. .
4either . That’s why we’re here.inger looked at each other. CIesus )hrist. )rawford. and we didn’t onceHD 8er voice trailed off. but in fact. C(mily. C=ook at this.D )rawford did as he was told. CAe’re closed. She was leading u2 to some kind of conclusion about what was going on at the <ragon.C=ock the door behind you.D =ewis said.D she said. =et them talk. They hadn6t had time to 2re2are a back-u2 story if .inger’s e$cuse failed. =ewis 2ut a hand on her shoulder. And 2ull u2 a chair.D )rawford and . sur2rised. To think this has been back here all this time. she didn6t know what to conclude. (mily emerged from under the desk with her 2ile of contraband. which she dum2ed on the counter.
So maybe this is something like that. And when he got nervous. so you guys ---B C"h. .one of them wanted to lead off with the truth. and it turns out that it6s one or two em2loyees who always work on Friday night when the manager is off-duty. So they sat in silence a little longer than they 2robably should have.D )rawford said. After Sy died. that’s what ha22ened. you hear in the news about some fast food restaurant that gets busted for selling drugs out the drive-through window. and they weren6t sure what kind of 2lausible lie the other would be willing to back u2. yeah. so outraged that he forgot to 2lay it cool. B=ook. he talked. Their silence made =ewis nervous. there wasn6t really anybody around watching the store.
e$ce2t that her bed was still in the truck. =ewis and (mily on one side of the counter and )rawford and .CAe just couldn’t wait to get rid of Sy so we could start our little drug dealing o2eration. C)rawford.i5mo and books went e$tinct 0uicker than ty2ewriters did7 the <ragon’s fearful lurch from faltering but solvent bookstore to re2ository of unwanted books. Ahat did ha22en3D They stared each other down. . Finally .D (mily’s slee2less night was catching u2 with her. Ahat utter misery.inger on the other. Sto2 it. She wanted des2erately to get through this conversation and crawl into her own bed.inger sighed and rolled her eyes and told them the whole story the gradual dro2-off in sales7 the way the culture suddenly turned a corner after the introduction of the .
CSy couldn’t turn them away. :ou come in. The first time he sold somebody a book and a joint. BAe didn6t decide.D )rawford said. you 2ick out a book in the right 2rice range.D CSoHyou decided toHD =ewis was trying to move this along.B )rawford said. BAt first.B (mily had forgotten her anger and her e$haustion. Sy was always taking 2eo2le into the back room or walking around the block with them.CThis is where books came to die. This thing was just cra5y enough to . #ut somehow word got out. Ae were like a book or2hanage. we didn6t even know what was going on. it was kind of a joke. we take care of you right here at the counter.
D . really e$2ensive. how do 2eo2le know how much to 2ay3B B. C4ever.D .ost 2eo2le just know. 4obody forces you to 2ay five bucks for a cu2 of coffee.inger said. C(verybody calls it the Starbucks 2rice.D )rawford said. BSo. BAe are e$2ensive.intrigue her.o somewhere else if you don’t like it.this is the retail 2rice.B B!eo2le don6t mind that3 They never com2lain about what they’re getting for their money3D (mily said.B . you know3 This is the 2rice you 2ay if you don6t want any hassle and you don6t want to buy from some guy on the street.B C#esides. Cthis is the only 2lace you can get (dith’s 2ot. 1t6s kind of like --. .inger said.
looking down at her hands.inger.C(dithKD =ewis said. She knows this thing is over. CThat’s the 2art 1 wasn’t su22osed to say anything about. C(dith is involved in this3D )rawford shot an angry glance at . which were 2icking nervously at each other. don6t.D she said.D B=ook. we6re done with this. e$amining them the way you6d look at . "r better yet. C"h.B =ewis ste22ed out from behind the counter and walked a half circle around )rawford and . 8alf of (ureka was going to end u2 in jail if she didn6t shut u2.inger. BTalk to (dith yourself.B )rawford said like a lawyer who didn6t want his client interrogated anymore.
e$otic animals in a cage.B =ewis walked a cou2le more half circles around them. C8e wanted to leave them here. are they3B . BAhat6s he going to do with a bunch of encyclo2edias3B BAnd all those cou2les who come in on Friday night and get a 2a2erback before dinner3B BThat6s a joint. almost to himself. Finally he sto22ed and looked u2. That6s a 2ound.D )rawford shrugged. BSo. looking mostly at his feet.D =ewis said. B:eah. BThese 2eo2le aren6t actually reading the books. the kid who came in and bought the encyclo2edia set for three thousand dollars3B )rawford grimaced and rubbed his forehead.B BAnd he didn6t want to take the encyclo2edias home.
#illy . #esides. BSome of our regulars buy the same books over and over. 1 meanHthey just take them home andHwhat3 !ut them on a shelf3D B. C!ay attentionKD C1 am 2aying attention. And then you showed u2 and we didn’t know what would ha22en if we told you.B )rawford said.B CSo how long were you 2lanning on kee2ing this u23B (mily said. =ewisKB (mily said. B1 don’t know. 2ounding her hands on the counter.inger said.B4o.ost 2eo2le bring them back after a while. C1t took so long to find the will. forgetting that she wasn6t su22osed to be talking.B . so we just got used to running the store the way it had always run.
inger. C(verybody knew about it.thought that as long as the store was making moneyHB B#illy <alton knew about this3B =ewis said.D .D said . CThe lawyer kne!3D CAell. ($ce2t you. with the unnatural calm of someone whose fate was already decided.
An irrational craving for fruit forced him to sit u2 in bed and consider 2ulling himself . 1t was time to wra2 things u2 and go home. 8e didn6t remember getting back to his hotel room after yet another dinner in the bar the night before. and a do5en 2ot 2lants sitting on a windowsill. The 2lace was a disaster clothes strewn across the floor. 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.fift"#seven Richmond awoke with a sour stomach and a tongue covered in moss.
1n a few minutes he was u2 and showered and on his way downstairs. 8is colleagues at Sumner were working 0uickly while the . 8e checked his e-mail while he ate.together before they closed the breakfast buffet downstairs. but he had been dreaming of strawberries and 2inea22les and melons. A 2late of fruit. Richmond wasn6t much of a fruit eater normally. The fruit was not nearly as satisfying as he e$2ected it to be.just thinking about it made him feel more human. 8e 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. (very cell in his body was de2leted and dehydrated. coffee --. a 2iece of toast.
a committee of retail consultants and marketing gurus were 2utting conce2tual drawings and business 2lans together for a chain of retail outlets. . There would be a smoke sho2 in the corner. the research division was 0uietly getting strains ready for 2atent.legislative team 2aved the way for )ongress to take action. a bakery selling the usual brownies and cookies. and a 2ub serving a mildly herbal macaroni and cheese. Richmond6s boss Tom called the conce2t a CcafW-meets-brew2ub model. 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. and other reci2es under develo2ment back .eanwhile. a meatball sub.D a more res2ectable version of an Amsterdam coffeehouse.
but the marketing team e$2ected it to take on an im2ortant symbolic role as the flagshi2 store.would not be their largest outlet or their most 2rofitable.in a rented test kitchen in =ouisville. and the fictional . Sumner6s marketing team confirmed that 8umboldt had the best brand recognition among adventurous u2scale consumers who had 2leasant memories of their 2ast recreational drug use. grainy black-and-white 2hotogra2hs would be taken. a decision that had been u2 in the air until Tom’s e-mail made it official it this morning. And the first of those cafW-meets-brew2ubs would o2en here in 8umboldt )ounty. A fau$ backstory would be written about the chain’s humble origins. The 8umboldt location --.which would anchor =e$ Trevino6s new develo2ment -.
he wondered how far he would be willing to go to get the 2lants. The . As he drove to (dith’s. So Richmond had his orders from =ouisville wra2 u2 a few details with =e$. and book a flight back to Lentucky. Today he was going to go to her house and cam2 out on her 2orch if he had to. 8e would s2end the day. 8e was frustrated by his inability to get through to (dith he had been to her house several times and had found neither the garden nor the gardener7 he had snoo2ed around the bookstore7 he had tried to 2ry information out of the growers.com2any founder would 2romise to remain true to his 8umboldt roots. get those 2lants from (dith. 8e would 2ack a lunch. #ut nobody seemed to know where this woman was.
how did anyone at Sumner know that this strain would be the one to win over a new generation of marijuana smokers3 8ow hard would it be for Sumner6s geneticists to cook something u2 in the laboratory that would work just as well3 .e$ecutives at Sumner had come to believe that (dith was in 2ossession of some e$traordinarily marketable strain. something com2letely different from the overbred and overhy2ed strains the indoor growers had been breeding. who had already confirmed that the strains they6d obtained from hydro2onic growers needed too much 2am2ering and wouldn6t survive in Lentucky6s former tobacco fields. The fact that her 2lants survived outside also intrigued Sumner6s agricultural scientists. #ut really.
he hadn6t even smoked 2ot since he was in high school. 8ell. 8e 2ulled 0uickly 2ast it and drove down the hill to 2ark alongside the road. 8e would try one more time with (dith. A car and a moving van were 2arked in (dith6s driveway and he got there. 8e signed on for a nice desk job in =ouisville.The truth was that Richmond didn6t have the stomach for intimidating old ladies or sneaking around on wooded lots. 8e wasn6t cut out to be a drug dealer. . selling cigarettes to smokers. he didn’t belong in the middle of this mess. and then he was heading home. and even that was ditchweed that couldn’t get a jaybird high. !oint is. Aas (dith moving3 This might be his last chance.
The voices seem to be coming from the other side of the hedge. he heard voices. They were outside and down the hill. . "n the other side. but there was at least one man and one woman. he could see an e$2anse of unmown grass and a long hedge beyond it. #efore he got to the driveway. 0uietly. and it was an angry confrontation. And so he went back down the hill. 8e stood and listened for a minute. sto22ing every minute or two to listen to those voices rise and fall.Richmond followed a tangle of blackberry vines back u2 the hill. 8e ti2toed 2ast his car and finally found an o2ening in the bramble he thought he could sli2 through. 8e could not make out what they were saying. near where he 2arked the car. carefully.
suffering only a few scratches. 8e decided to take a risk and get closer. CAnd you were going to let this go on for how long3D said the man. .8e sli22ed through the blackberry vines. BThis is it. 1 don6t have anything left to 2lant. he ste22ed carefully to avoid sna22ing a twig or crunching dead leaves. Another woman6s voice followed.B That had to be (dith.B came a 0uiet but clear voice. 8is heart 2ounding as he walked. and stood in the dwindling late morning shadows. There was an enormous holly tree halfway between where he was hiding in where the voices were coming from. listening. B1 told you. too low for him to hear. 16m done.
As he crossed the field and ducked under the hedge that.BAell.1 wish we didn6t even kno! about this.B the first woman said irritably. he wondered how this situation would . Richmond stood u2 so 0uickly that the to2 of his head was im2aled by the shar2 s2ines of the leaves of the holly tree. must surround (dith6s garden. that6s an understatement. Aere they coming this way3 8e listened as the footste2s traveled down the hill and away from him.B B4obody is going to jail. B<o you want to see the rest of the 2lants or not3B B. 8e had to get closer.ight as well. (mily.B said the man. he figured.B the man said. Ae could all go to jail for this thing. B4ot only do 1 not think we should own this --.
#ut he wasn6t in =ouisville. su22osedly the most marijuanafriendly county in the country. !eo2le around the office had grown 2retty cavalier about the whole thing. 8e was in 8umboldt. They were on friendly terms with the =ouisville !olice <e2artment. So who could say what might . #ut when the feds brought their cho22ers in for a raid. they e$2ected coo2eration from local 2olice and they usually got it. Sumner had been ac0uiring marijuana strains and 2ro2agating them in greenhouses alongside tobacco 2lants for over a year now. and the cor2orate attorneys were always ready to arrange bail and craft a 2lausible e$2lanation if anyone was discovered around an illegal 2lant.look to law enforcement.
and climbing over it would be a thorny. And then he reali5ed that he couldn’t see the way back to the car. . 4othing could get through it. never 0uite feeling that he had turned a corner or reached the other side. The overgrowth of shrubs and vines surrounding it were better than any security fence Sumner had ever erected around its tobacco fields. 2ainful mess. Richmond cre2t around the hedge. There had to be a gate somewhere. 1t curved so gradually that he had no real sense of how large this garden might be.ha22en if he was caught sneaking around one of 8umboldt6s most notorious outdoor grows3 The voices inside the garden had faded com2letely.
rising out of nowhere and cutting off Richmond’s thoughts. C16m not saying we should become 2ot growers. They were checking out their su22lier. before setting out like this. Richmond reali5ed that the voices belonged to (mily and =ewis. like a tele2hone 2ole or even an overturned log. who he had seen in the store from time to time.Ahat an idiot. :ou don6t e$2ect to see . 4ow it was starting to make sense. CAhat3D (mily said. #ut heH C1 have to admit. And there’s something about this garden-.D came a woman’s voice. he thought. CThese 2lants are kind of fascinating.D C(milyKD said the man. 16m just saying it’s kind of interesting. Anyone else would have 2icked a landmark.
1 like to mess around in a garden.B said the woman Richmond had identified as (dith. it was really just an accident. BAe have this interesting little microclimate right here.D B1sn6t it harder to get them to grow outside like this3B (mily asked.B (dith said. 1t was easier to tuck them into the garden. B4ot really. it gets boring. C1t just wasn6t interesting to me any other way. with roses and a22le trees and all these other flowers around.marijuana growing in the garden like this. Remember. and just high enough to sit . 1t6s sunny and warm. and if you6re just growing one 2lant over and over again in a garage under lights. Ahy do you do it this way3B B"h. Things just sort of grew from there. we only started with one or two 2lants.
of course. and it6s almost like they6re in a greenhouse.B CSo here’s what 1 don’t understand.D =ewis said. a smile in her voice. walking into a store and just 2lacing their order3D CAe’ve got something nobody else has. CAell. 1 2ut a kind of cold frame around them. 8is way of kee2ing the store o2en after 2eo2le sto22ed buying books. right3 Aren’t they kind of e$2osed.D (dith said. C!ot’s 2ractically the state flower u2 here. CAhat3D .D (mily said. This was your uncle Sy’s idea.above the fog. yes. Ahy do 2eo2le come to you3 They can get it anywhere. 1 usually 2ick a few 2lants to nurse through the winter.B CAnd it all goes to the <ragon.
1t’s an unusual strain.B =ewis said. different3D =ewis asked. :ou6re just the gardener. B:eah. that6s right. .B B:ou make it sound like we6re the bad guys. Some 2eo2le think there’s also something about the soil u2 here or the way they’re allowed to grow. 1 don’t see why not.D CAhat do you mean. maybe even a different s2ecies. BAe6re not the ones dealing drugs. :ou ever sell to kids3B B1 don6t sell to anybody. CAell. C8aven’t you tried it3D C4oKD (mily and =ewis shouted in unison. :ou should know what you’re destroying before you do it. #ut this is a really different 2roduct.B (dith said.CThese 2lants.B =ewis said.
lord. 1HD C=ewis3 :ou’re u2set. :ou two are the ones calling the shots here.D (dith said. 1f (dith was really 2lanning on getting . C1t’s yours now. and that’s fine. That’s enough.D C=ook.D (dith said.D C#utHwhat’s going to ha22en to thisH 2lace3D (mily asked. <on’t worry.D Richmond listened as they scrambled u2 the hill toward what must be the entrance to the garden. but don’t take it out on me. C:ou mean--D C"h. =et6s go. Richmond could hear her walking away. 1’m 2acking u2. C1’ll get rid of all the offensive 2lants before 1 go. <o whatever you’re going to do. BAll right.(dith sighed.
guaranteeing that he would only disturb them again. They chattered and scolded him and landed a few yards away. There was no noise from inside. 1f he could just find the entrance in the daylight. 8e could try to get (dith alone and make her an offer. As he moved he startled a flock of s2arrows that had settled into the shrubs. although from the tone in her voice he didn’t think she’d be interested in striking a deal with a stranger. he didn6t have much time. he could come back tonight and take some 2lants. And sneaking into the garden while =ewis and (mily were around seemed like too much of a risk. 8e continued to inch around the hedge. 8e watched them jockey for 2osition among the bramble and .rid of the 2lants.
D C1’m all right. )omes and goes.2reen their tiny feathers. 8e watched as (dith. walked u2 the hill and .B Richmond heard someone fumbling with a latch just u2 the hill from him. B(dith fell. B16m fine. C(dithK Aatch out. BIust a little di55y is all. closer than he e$2ected and 2lainly irritated. from some distance. 8e dro22ed to his knees and ducked into the shrubs. a slight woman with short grey hair in comfortable disarray. A few of them fi$ed their bright black eyes on him.B (dith said in a firmer voice. BAhat ha22ened3B shouted (mily. but she sounded weak.D (dith said. Iust then he heard =ewis’s voice.B =ewis shouted back.
back to the house with (mily and =ewis. (dith looked like a wild bird caught between them. 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. that they would never fit in here. he looked like he could have been her beloved grandson home on a break from medical school. after only a short time in 8umboldt )ounty. 1n fact. She held on to =ewis as she walked. .
CAe’re done.inger sold the last of what they had in the store to a few long-time customers. but by the afternoon they were making it clear that they were sold out 2ermanently. A cou2le of regular customers had seen (mily and =ewis storm out of the store7 they came in and tried to make one last 2urchase before o2erations were shut down for good. figuring that it was one way to make sure they got a final 2aycheck.fift"#ei ht 1t didn’t take long for word to get around that the <ragon had been busted by its new owners.D they told 2eo2le as . )rawford and .
local government is nothing but a conflict of interests. why bother3 #esides. C1t’s over.uillermo told him he’d seen an angry . 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. =ewis was calling every cou2le of hours. . :ou want to buy something. but his fees for handling Sy’s will would get him by for a while. 8e knew he should drum u2 a few new clients. so really. as he liked to say. Aithout it.D 4obody did. which was fine with him because. no one would bother showing u2 to govern. buy a book. his ne$t client might just be himself.the news s2read. #illy <alton decided that the wisest course of action would be to sto2 answering his 2hone.
The mayor’s daughter’s e$-boyfriends gets into a dis2ute with .confrontation at the store. Iudges lined u2 for the chance to handle a nice dry financial transaction instead of another day of messy child custody hearings. drunk driving charges. #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. 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. and minor thefts. and =ewis and (mily were finding out what it would take to kee2 their million-dollar bookstore in business. and he almost made it. #y now the whole thing had blown u2.
the 2ro2erty. The business. So the work on the will was nearly com2lete. 4e$t to losing Sy. That sort of thing. #y com2arison. the disa22earance of (dith6s sweet herb from his daily routine would surely be one of the major tragedies of his life. Aith any luck. 8e had other . a clean and easy will was a joy. the ra2idly-dwindling bank accountHit would all be officially theirs as soon as the 2a2erwork finished snaking its way through the courthouse.his landlord. a genuine slum lord who ha22ens to have a brother on the 2lanning commission. #ut he did want to get back to the bookstore one last time in the ho2es that the em2loyees had set a little something aside for him. #illy wouldn’t see or hear from the heirs until it was all over.
sources. of course -. but even he had to admit that the <ragon’s house blend delivered the same gentle e$ultation and wisdom that Leats and <ickinson once did. 1t made 2eo2le feel light and bright and beautiful.he had re2resented half the growers in town at one time or another -. 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.but the tri2le-crossed hydro strains they grew induced levels of hallucination and 2aranoia that should never be inflicted u2on an attorney. 1n his worst moments. Sy used to com2lain that the death of the book had thrown him from the lofty 2ost of bookseller. had 2roduced a botanical wonder. (dith.
.uillermo inside and 2oured himself a cu2 of coffee behind the counter. C!robably back at the house yelling at (dith. C1 think we’re done with business as usual.D #illy followed .After taking care of a cou2le of details at the courthouse.uillermo was dum2ing coffee grounds into a recycling bin in the alley7 without looking u2. C1s it business as usual over there3D C4o.D CShit. #illy walked to "ld Town. giving the <ragon a wide berth and sli22ing into the back door of )ontra )offee.D . he said. C1 think you’re clear.D CAhere are they3D #illy asked. it is not business as usual. :ou mean--D .uillermo said with a hint of irritation.
"r maybe they took it home as severance 2ay. )ouldn’t you have 2rotected them3 Aho knows what those kids are going to do3D C1 am not their lawyer. C:ou’re the store’s lawyer.uillermo said.D CThey took it home3 They can’t do thatKD C"h. or so they claim. 2lease.D . #illy. C<on’t you care what ha22ens to the store3D .D CAhat does this have to do with me3D C:ou’re their lawyer.CThey’re sold out. After everything they’ve been through. fishing a cou2le bucks out of his 2ocket and swa22ing them for a scone from the 2latter on the counter.D #illy said. :ou’re in no 2lace to critici5e them.
8e could see )rawford and .D #illy said.uillermo laughed and 2ushed #illy out from behind the counter.oney laundering. .inger standing 2erfectly still behind the counter. 1 shouldn’t even be seen in that 2lace. Ta$ evasion.D . 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. C<rug dealing. Through the storefront’s wavy glass they looked as though they had been sus2ended in amber.C=et’s see. .
and they will let you see it. Ahat unsettled (dith the most was his res2onse to her garden. but she never e$2ected such fury from him. shaking. =ewis had left in a rage. but when she did. She knew he wouldn’t a22rove of it. everyone has an ugly side. !ush a 2erson far enough. Then again. She hadn6t let many 2eo2le inside over the years. . to ever kick u2 much of a fuss over the <ragon’s agricultural enter2rise.fift"#nine (dith sat. on her front 2orch. something she didn’t think he was ca2able of. too ha2less. Ahen she first met him she thought he was too docile.
well. there6s no better word for it V into$icated. the e$otic fuchsias ri2ening into luscious dark hi2s that were sweet enough to eat. They were -. and even the least horticulturally-minded visitor would be entranced. with its sticky buds and dee2 2ur2le veins. Tro2ical flowers were so out of 2lace here that they looked almost 2sychedelic. #ut not =ewis. 8e backed away from the tall.they usually res2onded the way #illy did. The giant monkey 2u55le tree in the center. Add to that the s2ectacle of this forbidden 2lant. a re2tilian conifer from the age of dinosaurs that became a 9ictorian curiosity. the grassy dierama s2routing wands of 2ink 2endulous blooms. fleshy stalks of cannabis as if they were . The bright 2ur2le tibouchina with its magenta stamens.
Their wings were sturdy and functional.onarchs. 8e got tangled in a floribunda and swatted at it. A chorus of tiny was2s and dragonflies bu55ed through the tall grass. smaller and less showy than . attacking back and getting even more ensnared rather than delicately 2ulling himself away. The air was warm and sweet and faintly golden. S2iders terrified him7 dirt offended him. 1t was an es2ecially fine day to be out on the hillto2 where (dith’s cottage sat. 8e seemed to regard the garden not as her creation.2oison. like honey7 you could almost taste it. The western 2ainted ladies had just recently arrived. but that made them seem tougher. but as a kind of botanical cons2iracy 2er2etrated u2on him by everyone at the <ragon. somehow. not the .
of course.e$ico. which was. . slee2y and startled. "n a day like today Sy would leave the store in the hands of his em2loyees and sit right here with her. just where (dith was sitting now. leading her inside for a na2. saying nothing. a 2retense for something far more interesting. watching Sy and (dith from not ten feet away.onarchs from here to . The four of them had emerged. (ventually he’d take her hand and 2ull her to her feet. just watching the light move across the roofline of his house. "nce they’d made love right there on the 2orch. from a ga2 under the 2orch ste2s. and stood fro5en in 2lace.elegant and fragile 2anes of stained glass that trans2orted . They had disturbed a family of skunks slee2ing under the 2orch. but in the middle of it they had a feeling of being watched.
Sy seemed like the kind of man who would never die. Some of them even s2oke about their 2lans for widowhood. 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$2ected to last. wondering aloud whether they would 2refer to be close to the grandchildren in !hoeni$. . These women saw their husbands as 2rojects.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. and if the daughter in Seattle would mind a long visit in the summer to get away from the heat.
and nothing that absolutely had to be done. he went to their art o2enings in a warehouse at the edge of town. They grew into wayward adults. he hung out with skateboarders and back2ackers and surfers. 8e 2referred the com2any of kids he knew what music they were listening to. and s2irited like a teenager. 1t seemed im2ossible that time could just move on. that the sun would rise and . The collection of outbuildings he’d assembled on his 2ro2erty functioned as a kind of home for wayward youth. settling into bartending gigs or auto re2air work and acce2ting Sy’s vision of the world that there was no one to 2lease but themselves. (dith e$2ected the world to sto2 turning when Sy died.Sy was never like that7 he was salty and tenacious.
At first she was outragedHwhat did they think she was. that 2eo2le would get u2 in the morning and make the bed and go to work as if nothing had ha22ened. nervously. too. and ste22ing carefully around the holes Sy left in her world as if he might be back anytime to fill them u2 again. a week or so after Sy’s death and asked if there would be any more 2roduct. #ut she could hold a 2lace for him no longer. she would need to be out.set. a farm hand3Hbut soon she succumbed to the rhythm of her old life. The 2lants had to go by the end of the day. . And in a few weeks. 2utting as many of the 2ieces back into 2lace as 2ossible. She didn’t even reali5e that the <ragon had continued to o2erate until )rawford had called.
She was almost to the garden’s gate when she reali5ed that she didn’t have any tools with her. 8e’d worked himself into a full-blown 2anic at . she scoo2ed a handful of trail mi$ out of a bag in the 2antry and ate it as she went back down the hill.The trembling in her hands hadn’t sto22ed. 4ever mind. Rather than choke down a miserable little sandwich in her kitchen. She knew she should eat something before she went back to the garden. #ut 2utting it off would only make her feel worse. sixt" (mily refused to let =ewis drive. She’d 2ull them out with her bare hands.
CThat’s what you’re worried about3 :our job3 :ou can get another job.D =ewis hadn’t told (mily that he when he 0uit by voice mail. Finally he lifted his head and s2oke. =ewis. he left one of those take-thisjob-and-shove-it messages that every em2loyee . C1 can’t believe 1 0uit my job. e$haling loudly every few seconds the way a horse snorts in frustration through its nostrils. She backed out of the driveway and headed into town.’ She laughed and turned to stare at him. :ou can 2robably get your old job back. and she didn’t trust him behind the wheel. She was afraid to touch him. but then she reali5ed that taking him back to the bookstore might not be the wisest move.(dith’s garden. 8e was sitting with his head in his hands.
=ewis. )lean it u2 and run it like a bookstore. . That cash will smooth things over. The job. :ou’re out of a job.D BAell. of course. #ut either we go back to the #ay Area and get to work. justHthe whole lea2. get another job. or you just do what you were 2lanning on doing. #ut never mind7 the 2oint was that he could.D . at the <ragon. 1 don’t know.fantasi5es about. 1’ve already lost a cou2le of clients. #ut we can’t stay here. C1t’s not just that. CAhat3 At the <ragon3D C:es.D (mily asked. even if we can’t use it to 2ay our credit cards and all that. 1t’s everything. and we’ve got bills to 2ay. 1 don’t think 1 can go back. we’ve got to do something.aybe the contractors will take cash. the a2artment.
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. She fought for a breath but couldn’t get one. and then they were gone and there was nothing but sky.2ollen. For a minute. the 2lants were her whole world. They blocked out the light. The leaves trembled on their stems. . they used u2 all the air.
which was almost hidden by brush. 8e waited for what seemed like a very long time before he moved. 1nching his way slowly around the garden. #esides. 1f =ewis and (mily were 2utting her out of business. 4o sound came from the to2 of the hill. 8e listened as (mily and =ewis took leave of (dith and drove away. (dith could be back any time. he came at last to the gate. he should at least try to talk to her first. so he might as well get it over with. This is what he came here to do.sixt"#three Richmond saw no reason to go back to his car em2ty-handed. but he didn’t dare go in. maybe she would be ready to entertain .
This time he 2aused and looked around for a landmark a fence2ost across the meadow leaned so far to the left that it threatened to 2ull the fence down. . 1t would be a good time to talk to her. afraid that any sound he made would carry on such a still and 0uiet day. The corner of (dith’s cottage came into view. 1t seemed to take an eternity to get back to the gate. That 2ost would be easy to s2ot . if he could find a way to a22roach without making it look as though he was sneaking u2 on her. staring at the grass.an offer. 8e could have cash by the end of the day. sitting on her front 2orch.aybe he should make his way back to the car and 2ull into the driveway. 8e moved slowly again. and then he could see her there.
retracing his ste2s and 2ausing just outside the gate to listen for her. SomeoneHit must be (dithH walked down the hill and 2ushed the gate o2en. 8e ke2t moving. no intrusions. The thing to do would be to walk in like any other visitor and call out her name.again. 4o sur2rises. Richmond wondered why he. had been sent . Aas she 2ulling out 2lants already3 8e had to move. #ack u2 the hill he went. 8e could hear her rustling around. 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. Richmond stood at the gate and tried to collect himself. For the hundredth time. of all 2eo2le. 8e heard it clang shut behind her. just walk in and announce yourself.
8er breath was high and ras2y7 the leaves shuffled like 2a2ers around her. then turned and walked away again. not that he had tried very hard. he’d been here all this time and his nerve had failed him over and over. She came straight to the gate with a 2ile of something. After several minutesHstill waiting. still nervous. And now he had no choice but to march in and wrestle 2lants away from her. . and gone.on this ridiculous mission. 8e could hear her tugging at 2lants and bashing them down. 8e couldn’t even get close to this woman. 1nstead. still gathering his resolveHhe reali5ed .aybe Sumner should have rounded u2 some hired thugs who could have come in under cover of darkness. grabbed the 2lants.
and took a ste2 inside. and no sense of order. "h. She must have gone dee2er into the garden. 1t wasn’t a garden in any ordinary sense there was no lawn. 8e didn’t even know how he would describe this 2lace to their cro2 scientists. no fountain or scul2ture or deck. and (dith’s sweet delicious cro2 was made all the more sweet and delicious by its unconventional surroundingsHthen Sumner didn’t stand a chance.he couldn’t hear her anymore. 1f only Tom could see this. lord. At last he lifted the latch. ducked under the thorny burgundy canes of a blackberry in fruit. no network of flagstone 2aths. Richmond thought about the e$2ansive estate gardens in =ouisville with their dee2 herbaceous borders flanking . 1f the rumors were true.
he sli22ed his 2hone out of his 2ocket and sna22ed a few 2ictures of the garden for Tom. #efore he went looking for her. Tobacco growers would be 2ersuaded to 2ut in cannabisHhell. This. by com2arison. 8e treaded carefully. their grandfathers had grown hem2 right through Aorld Aar 11. was a jungle.wide swaths of neatly-mown bluegrass. 8e also bent down and scoo2ed a handful of soil into his 2ocket. There was no sign of (dith. not . #ut they would not be talked into turning their fields into a tro2ical wilderness like this one. they’d want to analy5e the nutrients in the soil and try to match them in the laboratory. 1f this was really the strain Sumner needed. There. following the foot2aths (dith had worn through the garden.
was the 2ile of young 2lants she had ri22ed out. and here they were. And then he saw another. C. si$-foot tall s2ecimen that had been knocked over and crushed. but not u2rooted. And another. She was ri22ing them out. C(dithKD he called. The 2lants his com2any was staking its future on. remembering that he had intended to announce himself at the gate.iss Ratner3 8elloKD The trail led him down to the bottom of the garden. <own the trail he saw a beefy.far from the gate. as 2ale and lim2 as wilted lettuce. 1t looked like a cyclone had come through the garden and targeted only cannabis for its destruction. 1t was easy to follow the 2ath she had taken7 there were 2lants knocked down on both .
like the arms of an octo2us.iss Ratner3 8ello3D . and just a few healthier s2ecimens remained off in the distance. 1 just want to talk.D 4othing.sides. (ven in this overgrown tangle. ho2ing she was listening nearby. an illegal 2lant stood out. my name is Richmond Tate. C. Lentucky. C(dithKD he called again.D he called.iss Ratner. C1’m from =ouisville. Ahere was she3 8e reali5ed that after all the time he’d s2ent lurking around this 2lace today. )ould she be out of earshot3 "r was she hiding3 C. he still couldn’t tell how big her garden was. 4o answer. 1’ve come here with a business offer for you. 1t seemed to stretch and move. Richmond could see the s2iky leaves from here.
And then he saw her. .
sixt"#four The skin of a dead 2erson was more like the skin of an onion. bending over (dith as if she was a turtle shell or a butterfly wing. 8e sat back on his heels and looked out at the botanical wonder around her the a22le tree bearing small. some natural curiosity he had found in the grass. Richmond thought. and already cold. the s2iky and surreal blossoms of the 2assionflower vine. Richmond was no gardener. 8er cheek was as fragile as tissue. unri2e fruit. but he could imagine that this would be how a gardener . and the towering cannabis 2lants she had wrestled to the ground.
on a warm and fragrant afternoon. 4ot in a hos2ital. against the living earth. . She seemed so still and so far away.would want to go. but here. 1t would be the middle of the night before Richmond would reali5e that he could have attem2ted to revive her. 4ot alone by the side of the road. 4ot even in bed.
they would find the two of them here.which. after all. were what he came here for --. surrounded by the evidence of her illegal activity.then he would have to flee with them. . 1f he took the 2lants --.sixt"#five (dith’s death 2osed a 2roblem for Richmond. #ut he6d seen enough crime shows to know that moving a body always looked sus2icious. 8e couldn6t very well wait for the 2olice to show u2 when he had a car stuffed full of recently-harvested marijuana. 1f he called the 2olice. 8e could carry her back to her house and leave the garden out of it.
. either. and he ran. The 2lants wilted as he fretted and 2aced. 8e grabbed all the marijuana he could carry. but it didn6t make anything worse. 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. The cro2 was halfdestroyed. (dith was already dead. Ahat Richmond did ne$t didn6t make anything better.
4othing as heavy and awkward as an air2lane should be able to stay u2 in the air. So at the last minute he had ignored Tom’s orders and shi22ed the 2lants back to =ouisville in their turkey bags.sixt"#six Richmond didn’t like to fly on a good day. #ut 2ut a cou2le do5en ra2idly wilting marijuana 2lants in his carry-on bag. Fortunately. the 2ack-and-shi2 sho2 near the air2ort was staffed by college students who knew all about shi22ing live 2lants in unmarked . and the an$iety would kill him long before the fiery crash over the Sierras. and it was only a matter of time before the one he boarded 2roved his 2oint.
bo$es. Tri2le-wra2 that shit. the kid behind the counter figured it out. They kid assured Richmond that such a small 0uantity might be confiscated. which would not be im2ossible to trace to Sumner. C#low into the bag and then seal it u2. but would at least re0uire some effort.D he said. The 2ackage went off to a little-used maintenance yard in 4ew Albany. So Richmond boarded his flight unencumbered by contraband and therefore slightly less afraid. free of charge. CEse the 2rinter cubicle. and he made it . Richmond didn’t even have to e$2lain his 2roblem7 when he looked around the cram2ed store for a 2rivate 2lace to 2ack the bo$. but not investigated. :ou need another bag3D And he 2ulled a bo$ of turkey bags out from behind the counter and offered them.
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 .
were further 2roof that her job carried all the weight of a school 2lay. #ut funerals were worse. She couldn6t 2ro2erly mourn her constituents. . Those 2ro2s. The )hamber 2roduced the same 2re2osterous red bows and oversi5ed gold scissors at every ribbon-cutting. along with the enormous checks s2rinkled with silver glitter that she sometimes had to 2resent at community fundraisers. She shuddered when grieving family members handed her the micro2hone.sixt"#seven =e$6s least favorite official duties as a councilmember were ribbon-cutting ceremonies and funerals. these 2eo2le she barely knew.
(dith6s funeral was 2articularly difficult. but 1 can6t fi$ this. They looked out at her from the de2ths of their anger and confusion and e$2ected her. 2referring to kee2 her distance in case (dith6s secret garden was ever raided. to make sense of it. The . not a 2riest. =e$ had not seen much of her in recent years. There had been talk of holding the service at Sy’s 2lace. and besides. She was a small town elected official. as a no-nonsense adult in a suit.were so lost. 1 can fi$ a 2arking ticket.asking her to say a few words about the de2arted. #ut these 2eo2le --. as an elected leader. she wanted to say.these stricken 2arents and children and friends --. it didn6t seem right to invite 2eo2le to the scene of her mysterious death. but =ewis and (mily felt it was too unkem2t.
She saw <on )antrell walk in and shake =ewis’ hand before he headed for the food. browsing the books. (ventually it was decided that The Firebreathing <ragon would be the most fitting 2lace to say farewell to (dith. and hel2ing themselves to the trays of refreshments as if it was an o2en house. the default location for memorials in town. A funeral was no 2lace to do business. so the regular customers came and went anyway. but then again. was rejected as too sterile. these two 2eo2le needed to get to know . The store was closed for the day. 2icking u2 a 2rogram near the door.community center at the marina. but the doors remained unlocked. Todd =arson walked in right behind him.
D <on 2ressed his li2s together and nodded. Todd wore khaki 2ants and a tucked-in shirt. C<on.each other.D Todd said. 2atting Todd awkwardly on the back.D said =e$.D she said. She hurried downstairs to make the introductions. This is Todd. CTodd’s going to be our 2roject manager. he had the air of someone who wasn’t used to tucking in his shirt. BAnd what 2roject would that be. C<on. =e$3B . 8e was one of those young men who never managed to look like an adult7 even now. <on straightened slightly and shook Todd6s hand. BSo. in his best man-to-man voice.
BAe are on. knocking a stack of books off the shelf he had been leaning against. 16ve got financing and 16ve got a tenant. CAhat3D he hissed.ot it.=e$ leaned over to whis2er to him. C:ou’re doing business with a tobacco com2any3 1 thought that guy was a botanist. CAnd who’s our tenant3D C:ou remember our new friend Richmond3D CAhat.D .D =e$ said. C. the tobacco e$ecutive3 8e’s going to sell cigarettes by the seashore3D Todd jum2ed.D CAnd Todd hereQD C1s not going u2 for reelection ne$t year. <on. The council is ready to move on the ne$t round of 2lans we submit.D said <on.
B =e$ said. CSo why did he want toHD B=isten to me. Sumner owns a lot of different com2anies. C8uh. BAith all the local breweries around here3 :ou’re going to bring in a national chain3D CTodd. and then gave u2 and set them back on the floor.=e$ held u2 her hands. s2eaking with e$aggerated care as if she was talking to a five . looking for the em2ty s2ot on the shelf they must have occu2ied.D he said. as if he didn’t 0uite buy it.D BA brew2ub3B Todd said. There is not a brewery in town that will sign a five-year lease on a building that has not yet been built and 2ay !ortland rents for a (ureka location. This is a brew2ub. BAhoa.B Todd fumbled with the books. that’s all.
1 2ut the financing together. There will be lots of o22ortunities for local businesses on the waterfront. 1 justHB CTodd. <on3D <on gave =e$ another tight. 1t seemed like everybody was learning how the world worked this week. CAe each have our roles.B Todd sighed. Ahy don’t you tell him about the lofts. <on here draws u2 2lans.year-old. C1 get it. and you oversee the whole thing to make sure that the 2lans match u2 with what the 2eo2le who have the money want. 2ained smile and turned with Todd to look out the window toward the vacant waterfront. Ae6re even going to have lofts for artists. .
B:ou know. 1 like to read stories about camels. a kid6s book. feeling awkward and out of 2lace. B:ou mean. and leaned over the counter. B<o you have any books on camels3B she asked =ewis. we’re actually closed today. B)amels. Ae6re in the middle of a ---B . A woman walked in.B =ewis re2eated.a book about camels3B BStories. or just --. like. oblivious to the event taking sha2e in the store.B =ewis looked u2 and saw that 2eo2le were watching him.sixt"#ei ht As 2eo2le gathered for the memorial =ewis stood behind the counter.
=ewis followed. BSorry.B . BAe do have a section on mammals. giraffes. )rawford. but we6re closed today to 2ay res2ects to a friend of ours who has died.B =ewis said. =ewis followed her. B1t6s right here. Ae6ve got horses. B16m sorry. more to get her out of the store 0uickly than anything. 1 should6ve been able to handle that.B<on6t you have any animal stories3B The woman headed to the back of the store. ma6am.B the woman said eagerly. 1 don6t see camels. )rawford finally came to his assistance. ratsHB B=et me see what you got on rats. feeling like an idiot.B 8e took her by the elbow and steered her out the front door.
but they6re not really sure how it works.what we have for sale. folding his arms across his chest and leaning over to s2eak to =ewis in a low voice. BTy2e "ne was the customer who came in here and understood what was going on. She’s what your uncle Sy used to call our Ty2e Four customer. and they knew how it worked. BAell. and you6re not going to e$2lain it to them.B )rawford said.B =ewis said.BForget it.B BAhat does that mean3B =ewis asked.B B"kay. so let me guess.B B:ou mean ---B BThey were here to buy what we had to sell. BTy2e Two would be the 2eo2le who come in wanting to buy Vuh-.B .
She wants to find a book that will make sense of whatever cra5y thing is rattling around inside her head.B BAell. why is she cra5y just because she wants a book about camels3B BShe doesn6t want a book about camels.B C)ra5y 2eo2le. and they can6t believe they6re in an actual bookstore with actual books for sale. "rHno.B )rawford said.B BAnd then there’s Ty2e Four. BAnd Ty2e Three are the tourists who have no idea what6s going on. Ahich they 2robably won’t buy. BAhat3B B1 don6t know. She just wants ---B )rawford 2ressed his li2s together and looked out at the little crowd of Sy and (dith6s friends milling around in the store. . e$actly.CThat6s right.
D came a voice at the door. 4ow that the truth had come out. #ut she comes in here. 1t was .D =ewis made an uncomfortable half-smile and looked down at the floor. She can6t very well go into a shoe store and strike u2 a conversation about camels.B C#ehind you.aybe she just comes in here because we6re a ca2tive audience. 2eo2le were treating him like he was 2art of the family. C=ewis.maybe that6s not right.uillermo with another tray of cookies. C#een 0uite a week for you. . 2atting him on the back. 4ever mind the fact that he had 2ut a halt to the <ragon’s nefarious . 8e set them on the counter and then joined =ewis and )rawford by the door.D . and we6re more or less obligated to go down that road with her.uillermo said.
and the realtor says it’ll sell a lot easier if we clear out all the books.D =ewis said.D =ewis said. it’s been 0uite a summer. really.D CSo is this good-bye3D C4ot yet. CAell. C1n light of everything that’s ha22ened. CThe house needs a lot of work.activities7 they always e$2ected him to do that. it’sHwell. soQD 8e didn’t look at )rawford as he said that. 4ot that there was any alternative. C:eah. C)rawford says you’re going to sell the 2lace3D . he still felt like . es2ecially now that (dith was gone and her cro2 was wrecked. Ae have to do an earth0uake retrofit and fi$ the roof. 1n s2ite of everything that had ha22ened.D =ewis said. 1 guess so.uillermo said.
#ut the realtor (mily talked to said that we’d never unload this building or Sy’s house in the condition they’re in. not really. CAow. =ewis turned to )rawford. CAhat does he mean.uillermo said.D =ewis said. Sy didn’t leave much cash.uillermo.D . CSounds e$2ensive.he was letting )rawford down by closing the store. did he3D C4o. 1 guess you could always s2end the 2ro2 money. not wanting to mention the cash they’d found at the house. where #illy was hel2ing =e$ gather the s2eakers who had volunteered to eulogi5e (dith. CAell.D Aith that he laughed and 2ounded =ewis on the back again and walked u2stairs to the me55anine.D C8uh. C1t’s a little bit of a risk. 2ro2 money3D .D said .
they’re counterfeit bills.D CSo he also collected the fake money they use in films. 1t’s kind of an underground thing to collect. :ou know those scenes in action movies where the armored truck gets blown u2 and the money goes everywhere3 Aell. your uncle Sy collected movie 2ro2s. :ou knowHa guy o2ens a briefcase full of cashHit’s not real money. They’re all over the house. right3 They use this fake cash called 2ro2 money. when 2ro2 money gets scattered all over the road 2eo2le will actually 2ick it u2 and try to s2end it. because technically. C:ou know. you haven’t found it3D )rawford asked.D CRight.C"h. Sy got a big kick out of hiding itHD .
CFriends and family.D Iust then =e$ Trevino’s voice floated down from the me55anine. C4one of it’s real. 8e walked through the crowd.D he whis2ered. Finally he found her in a corner talking with one of Sy’s former tenants. leaning against her so hard that she staggered back. C4o money. knocking over a shelf of military history.D he re2eated. C=et’s begin. the faces swimming around him.D she said. CThere is no money.#ut =ewis left before he could finish. "ne of them had to be (mily’s.D .
BAe should have told you. (mily had gone for a walk. =ewis slum2ed in a chair behind the counter.B =ewis lifted his head. BAre you talking about the money or the bookstore3B . )rawford stood around nervously.B )rawford said.inger was in the back.sixt"#nine After the service. which really meant that she wanted to get out of the store before she said something she regretted. B1t never occurred to me that you would think all that was real. . sorting the recycling and hauling the garbage into the alley.
but at some middle 2oint in the air between them. but you6re right. 8e had to cover 2ayroll. really.BAell. B:eah. IustHjust let me think. BAgain. 1 was talking about the money. B1 cannot believe 1 managed to get myself into so much trouble in such a short 2eriod of time. Ae should never have ke2t any of it from you. 1t wasn6t fair to you. really sorry about that.D =ewis said. shaking his head.B he said. he owed <on . 8e owed everyone money. the <ragon’s sales ta$ 2ayments were 2ast-due. C<on’t. 1f we had any idea you were racking u2 bills and 2aying contractors ---B C)rawford. 8e was in a da5e.D =ewis was looking not at )rawford. re2laying the events of the last several weeks.D #ut he couldn’t think.B )rawford said.
The da55ling and 2romising new life he had fashioned for himself was over. A building that was falling a2art. A briefcase full of fake cash and a ma$ed-out credit card. (mily was rightHhe 2robably could get his old job back.)antrell moneyHand what did he have3 A bookstore that didn’t make sell books. That 8emingway that (mily had given3 8e hadn’t even looked at it. 4ow. the water stains around the windows. for the first time. 1n another . 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. he could see how decre2it the 2lace really was the 2eeling 2aint.
they could be back in their a2artment. And the <ragon would not be one of the last surviving bookstores in America anymore. 8is beloved uncle Sy had 2oured his life into this bookstore. They’d be a little dee2er in debt. 8e was a man of another time. but otherwise unhurt. salvaging libraries and rescuing books that would otherwise have gone to the dum2. =ewis had ho2ed to kee2 his memory alive. but it was sim2ly not 2ossible.month. the store hadn’t made . 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. The man had been a ho2eless literary romantic. to kee2 the <ragon going against all odds. =ewis was already imagining the story he would tell re2orters. or one just like it.
(mily. 8e and (mily ho2ed to set u2 a scholarshi2 fund in Sy’s honor. 1t was all very sad. and we can all learn from that. =ewis would say to the re2orters. That million-dollar ledger showing a history of record-breaking sales3 All a figment of an old man’s imagination. Ahere !as (mily3 8e wouldn’t be sur2rised if she didn’t come back at all. She was the one who discovered (dith’s body at the bottom of the garden. #ut Encle Sy was a man with big dreams. #ut in the .any money in years. 1t was nearly midnight when they got back from their visit to the elk. 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.
their confrontation in the garden earlier today. all of . calling (dith’s name as she went. and following the trail of destruction straight down to the bottom of the hill. (mily had been entirely forthcoming. and their drive u2 the coast. 4one of this came as a sur2rise to the officers.morning (mily wanted to find (dith and make sure she was all right. and offer to let her stay until she and =ewis sold the house. telling them the story of their recent discovery about the <ragon. which they were able to confirm later with credit card recei2ts at a gas station and at a restaurant in Trinidad. There was (dith. not that they looked very hard. The 2olice found no evidence that (dith had been murdered or even startled by an intruder. light as a leaf and covered in dew. She’d gone down to the garden.
who assured =ewis that they had more im2ortant things to do than go after little old ladies with herb gardens. having seen every kind of grow o2 but this over the years. 8e didn’t bother correcting them about the grandson 2art. They were so clearly uninterested in finding a crime at the scene of (dith’s death. They took a mild. or their grandsons. des2erate and terrified.whom had known about (dith’s legendary cro2 and the real source of the <ragon’s 2rofits. for that matter. against the <ragon. =ewis. This elicited a laugh from the officers. 2rofessional interest in the garden. anything. 8e let them finish their 2a2erwork and hel2ed the ambulance driver find . had 2ractically begged them to file chargesHagainst him as (dith’s landlord.
who also had no interest in blaming (mily or =ewis. to clear brush. She had a weak heart and she overe$erted herself. (mily didn6t care that she hadn’t been im2licated. She blamed herself anyway. it needed a . She. 1f they were going to sell the house. that6s all. (dith had a heart attack. had been engaging contractors. #ut the coroner refused to go along with that. She had hardly s2oken to =ewis since (dith6s death. Surely they were to blame for this somehow. cut the grass. and 2our a new driveway.a flat s2ot to 2ark near the garden so the little wheeled cart wouldn’t have far to go. immersing herself in the task of cleaning out (dith6s cottage and getting Sy’s house fi$ed u2. too. Surely the stress must6ve triggered the attack. according to the coroner.
1f she comes back here. who had wandered off to hel2 . =ewis could almost believe that his uncle Sy was 2laying a joke on him from the grave. C)rawford. Ahat a ridiculous situation. And now those contractors would have to be 2aid with something other than Sy’s fake money. ho2ing it was .inger with the clean-u2. tell her to wait for me. a real heating systemHany number of e$2ensive renovations for which estimates were arriving daily.new roof. 8e looked around for )rawford.D @ As he left the store. C1’m going to look for (mily. 8e 2ulled the 2hone out of his 2ocket. his 2hone bu55ed.D he called.
CSeriously. this is .D "h. C:es. who is this3D C=ewis. 8ave you got a minute3D . 8e was in no mood for more jokes.com. Ahat is it3D =ewis said. im2atient to get rid of this unwanted caller. 2lease. 1’m the )(" of 4ile. CAhat3D he said. it is. C=ewis. CAhHis this =ewis 8artman3D came a woman’s voice. but it was the same unfamiliar number he’d been ignoring every day since (dith died. Aait. 1’ve been trying to reach you all week.her.a$ine Rogers.
BActual bookstores. books.sevent" BSo you6re saying that 4ile.B (mily said. B<oes she remember that her com2any is the one that 2retty much did away with books3D .B BThat6s the idea.com wants to o2en a bookstore. 8e couldn6t talk her into dinner out. 2icking the rubbery canned mushrooms off her 2i55a.B said =ewis. to sit on the floor in Sy’s living room and s2lit a 2i55a and a bottle of wine with him. like. reluctantly. but she had agreed.B =ewis said. B4ot just one. Aith. A whole bunch of them.
C<own. and she’s got all these ideas about doing webcasts and virtual events--D CThis is the stu2idest idea 1’ve ever heard. And she thinks that stores like the <ragon would make 2eo2le feel literary again. She wants to re2roduce the whole thingHthe architecture. the floorboards.D (mily said. They’d have a lot fewer books. They’d sell coffee and writing 2a2er and fancy 2ens and 2robably e-books. 1 guess. She6s really sorry about that. yeah. everything. C<id you tell her that3D . She says that sales of e-books are offVD C"ff3D (mily said. refilling her glass.CAell. The books would be more like decoration. and authors would come and read. of course. #ut they’d also have book clubs and writing classes.
CAnd you didn’t tell her3D CAellHno. against all odds.D =ewis said.D .D CSo she still thinks the <ragon is this wildly successful bookstore.CAell.D BFor us3 Ahy us3B =ewis didn6t say anything for a minute. The bookstore that has survived. CShe’s got a very interesting offer for us.D =ewis said. The last literary out2ost in the Aest.B (mily said. and gone on to sell a million dollars’ worth of books in the digital age. not e$actly.D C!retty much. CAait a minute. BShe hasn’t heard about (dith3 She doesn’t know that the store’s basically out of business3D C4ot e$actly.
That got (mily on her feet.B BSo she6s going to find out. A develo2ment deal. (verybody .D B4ot just jobs. still standing over him.D BThe <ragon3 The <ragon sold 2ot. Ae 0uit our jobs to do this. A twoyear contract to hel2 them take the <ragon nationwide. CShe will know. CIobs3 Ae had 7obs. =ewisKB =ewis cleared his throat. She doesn6t know that.B =ewis said. B=ewisK Ahat are you doing3 Ahat do you 2ossibly e$2ect to get out of this3B BShe6s offering us jobs. She stood over him with a 2iece of 2i55a in her hand. B:eah. =ewis thought she was going to throw it at him. For a minute.B (mily said.
CShe’s going to send a cou2le 2eo2le down here to 2ut the deal together. She tucked her knees under her chin and looked at him. which really doesn’t say much about the <ragon.D B8ow is she going to find out3D =ewis said.knows. Ae were the only ones in the whole goddamn town who didn’t know. B1t doesn6t look like any of this is going to end u2 in the news e$ce2t for (dith’s obituary.D he continued. To think he used to seem boring. 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. she thought. .B C1 don’t think that. 1 am married to a cra5y 2erson.D =ewis said.
1t’ll be a 2rototy2e. BThey want to offer him a deal. of course not.B BAhy )rawford3B B"h. CEm.B B.CThey’ll start with the <ragon. :eah. they6ll start with the <ragon3 1sn6t the <ragon already a bookstore3B BAell. They want authors to be involved at each store.D BAhat you mean.D CAnd you6ve already agreed to this. 1 forgot to tell you about that 2art.B =ewis said.B B4o.eaning whatHthey6d have writers working in the store3B . Lind of. too. they6ll redo it. 1 said 1 would have to talk to you and )rawford first. 1t6ll be more likeHB CA theme 2ark version of the <ragon3D (mily said.
his 2hone rang. C"kay.ascots3D (mily was right. Ae’re done here. making the <ragon one of three bookstores left in America.D As he was 2icking u2 the em2ty wine bottle.BAell. A re2orter in <enver wanted a comment from him on the news that Tall Tales was closing. Forget it. not running the cash register or anything like that. C)ould we 2ut them in cages and make them write for 2eanuts3D she said. Sort of like--B C. 1t would be a theme 2ark. =ewis closed the 2i55a bo$ so the last slice wouldn’t tem2t him. 1t6s more like the writers would lend their names to the whole thing. . =ewis reali5ed.
D .D he said.C4ot tonight. C4o comment.
=ewis hung around the bookstore. he just couldn6t stand to let it go. 8e told (mily that he was getting ready to hold a going out of business sale. Ahile she worked. .a$ine’s offer. and made arrangements to look at some a2artments in the #ay Area. maybe even in San Francisco this time.inger had left for =os Angeles after the funeral. had their belongings driven back to a storage unit in San Iose. She said that she was going to visit her . "ver the ne$t week (mily finished cleaning out Sy’s house. then sell off Sy’s 2ro2erty and get out of town.sevent"#one =ewis reluctantly agreed that the only sensible thing to do was to find an e$cuse to turn down . but the fact was.
utenberg #ible3D he asked.family. Aithout the store’s regular clients coming in and out. but =ewis sus2ected she was looking for a job. That left him and )rawford to sit morosely in the store and wave away the few customers who hadn’t heard that the <ragon was selling nothing but books. A gri55led old man hauling three bags of bottles and cans stuck his head in the door. :ou’re not going to just find one in a bookstore.D he said.D CThat’s what everybody tells me.D said )rawford. C:ou got a . CThere’s only like forty-eight of them in the world. C4o. the cra5y 2eo2leHwhat )rawford called the Ty2e Four customersHseemed to take u2 all their time. Cbut 1 kee2 lookingKD .
orHD . serene. 1t was everything a bookstore should be 0uiet.D =ewis said. low 2atch of sun across the entryway. when the light shifted and hit the windows. The dust danced in the light. They leaned back in their chairs and listened to the ticking of the clock on the bookshelf behind them. =ewis loved this time of day in the bookstore the late afternoon.BThere you go. slightly mussed.B C. And un2rofitable.ood.D he finally said. )rawford was starting to wonder why =ewis was 2aying him to sit there.B he said to =ewis after the man left. BThat6s a book we could sell to somebody. sending a long. C1 could be cleaning out the back room. man. CEhHhey.
ac0uire the <ragon. Ae6ll get to it.B )rawford’s feet had been 2ro22ed u2 on the desk.B CAell. She doesn’t know what a book is. then--B C=ook. leaning toward =ewis.D . She sells digital media. really. but he slammed them on the floor and sat u2. That bitch .=ewis shook his head. BThose assholesK Are you kidding me3 They ruined my life. 1 wasn6t even going to bring this u2. #ut she doesn6t sell books. B1t6s all right.a$ine Rogers3 She goes around telling 2eo2le that she only wants to make books available to everybody. )rawford. =icense it. Yeroes and ones.com to sort of -. 1’ve had an offer from 4ile. but 1 think you6ve got a right to know.
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 . #ut you’re not even curious enough to read a single 2age 1’ve written.ood friend of your uncle Sy. C<id you even read my books3B 4othing. 8e had no idea he would set )rawford off like that. =ewis3 Right now.=ewis was stunned. 1 think she knowsHD #ut )rawford wasn’t done. C1 am your em2loyee. before you go to bed. 4ot to mention that my novel s2ent in nine months on the bestseller list. CAell. Ahat6s the name of the book you6re in the middle of3D =ewis didn’t say anything. .
CAhat did she say about me3B B"h.B BShe told you that3D )rawford said. Aas that her3 BAait a minute. wasn6t she3B B:eah. Forget it. mister million-dollar bookseller.#ook Award. you can6t even bother --B Then it hit him. )rawford. what3 She wants to buy the bookstore3 Ahat for3D =ewis tried to su22ress a smile. 8er name was . suddenly interested. And you. That woman who had come into the bookstore and 2raised his novel. She said she met you. for chrissakes.B )rawford said.a$ine. CShe’s im2ressed by the <ragon’s unlikely success. .D C4o. but he knew how ridiculous this would sound. BShe was here.
Ahat3 Ae can6t. <o the deal. B=et6s do it. <on6t you see how 2erfect is this3 They’re the ones who did this to us.She wants to take it nationwide.D )rawford 2ulled himself back into his chair. Take their money. And she wants to hire you.D C:our uncle Sy would have jum2ed on this. BThat6s brilliantKB Then he rolled over onto his back and looked u2 at =ewis. B"f course we can.B This was too much for )rawford.D C:ou are talking like a cra5y 2erson.D . and now they will 2ay.B B)rawford. 8e fell out of his chair in mock astonishment and rolled around on the floor. BThe <ragon6s unlikely successKB he howled. )all her.
looking nervously at )rawford. looking over his shoulder at them. <o you still have that book3 1 want to get the rest of it on my chest. C1t’s based on a 2icture from a book 1 found in this store. CAhHD =ewis said.D )rawford wasn’t saying a word. e$2osing a tattoo of naked figures moaning and writhing. 2artially obscured by a swath of hair. 8e un5i22ed his jacket as he walked in the door. then lifted his black =ed Ye22elin t-shirt and turned around. 2ulling his shirt down and turning around to face them.They were interru2ted by a mountain of a man in full motorcycle leather.D the guy said. CThis tattoo. . C<o you have this3D he said.
gilt edges. in his best erudite bookseller voice.D C:ou still have it3D he said. shooting =ewis a meaningful look. . unbelievable engravings. yes.D he said. 1 remember it well. do you remember the name of the book3D C<ante’s 4nferno. CSold it to one of our best customers last year. C8ow much did you sell it for3D CAbout five hundred bucks.D C1 should have bought it.D the man said. 1t was an ama5ing book. e$actly3D =ewis asked. CAh.D )rawford said. C4o. tooHbig folio si5e. CThe <orW engravings.D )rawford said.CAhat was the tattoo.D )rawford said. C4oHwaitH1 mean. 2rom2ting the man to lift his shirt again.
C.D =ewis said.D CAell. good luck finding it.!robably an ounce. =ewis thought.D )rawford said. C:ou know3D =ewis said. C1’m sure you can find a scan of the engravings online. C1 kind of like being a bookseller.D After he left. =ewis and )rawford just sat and grinned at the em2ty doorway. CSo how’d you get the tattoo if you didn’t have the book3D he asked.D C1t grows on you. . CAell.D C"nline3 :eah3D the guy said.uy who used to own this 2lace loaned it to me. fuck that.
alway had been assigned the dreary task of gathering s2eculation from local 2ersonalities on the identity of this mystery tenant.sevent"#two . The 2lans included a mysterious anchor tenant from out of the area. #etsy had a daughter-in-law who worked at )ity 8all7 through her #etsy had learned that =e$ Trevino’s 2roject was finally u2 for a vote.alway’s boss had decided it was time for him to do some actual re2orting. And now . and then interviewing local . some national chain that was also 2roviding ca2ital for the first 2hase of construction.
4aturally. B#ut 16ll tell you one thing. in this 2roject3 She usually stays as far away from them as she can.D .alway. She6s got the 8umboldt =egal 2eo2le all involved. he wasn’t talking to the 2ress.business owners and civic leaders for their reaction to the s2eculation. dro22ing into a chair across from . And 1 heard he was setting u2 a meeting with his friends. he started with . 8e knew that =e$ took her off-site meetings at )ontra )offee.B .uillermo had any information.uillermo said.B BAhat.D . C4ow she’s having lunch with Todd =arson. #ut if .B C4ot any more.uillermo.uillermo said. BShe never brought anybody from out of town in here.
CAre they still o2en over there3D CAell. 1 guess they’ll shut it down.D . Sounds to me like she’s talking to growers. but they sure don’t seem to be 2acking u2.CAell. CShe took him to dinner a cou2le times. he’s been through a lot.D . This was not turning into much of a story. !oor kid. today they are. already regretting the .uillermo said.D C8m.uillermo said. but she didn’t meet with him in here.alway looked glumly out the window.D C1 heard (dith’s garden was 2retty much destroyed. that could mean--D C1 don’t know.D CAhat about this mystery man from out of town3D C1 never saw him.D . C=ewis can’t seem to stay away.alway said. 1 don’t know why.D .
alway smiled and shook his head. #ut by then the 2olice hadHyou knowHdone the minimum they had to do to clear the 2lace out. right.D C"h.loss of (dith’s horticultural contributions as much as the rest of the community. CA lot’s changed over the years.D . you know what they used to do with all the 2ot they confiscated3 They took it to the 2ul2 mill . 1 heard that a few growers went out there to try to get hold of some 2lants. :ou didn’t grow u2 here.uillermo said.D . no. C1t was a cou2le of days before anybody reali5ed that the garden was even involved. when 1 was a kid.D said . Aell. CSan Antonio. C:eah. anyway.uillermo. did you3D C8ell.
uillermo said.ood times.D .uillermo said admiringly.alway said. The sheriff would drive by in this covered 2ick-u2 truck and 1’d follow along on my bike and 2ick u2 whatever fell off the truck. CThey really were. C:eah. .once a month or so and had them burn it.D .D C. And we lived out there on this logging road that led right to the mill.D C4o shit3D . :ou could smell it all over the bay.
sevent"#three =E)L RE4S "ET F"R 9""<"" #""LS F4ew "rleans. one of the city6s most beloved institutions announced that it was closing its doors for good. witchcraft. 9oodoo #ooks owner Anita 8awkins 2acked u2 the last of the store6s inventory of rare and out-of-2rint books on vam2ires. and haunted houses-.and she . =AG As 4ew "rleans residents once again leave their homes in antici2ation of the arrival of 8urricane )arla.
B said . B"ne of our favorite things to do is to come into 9oodoo #ooks and look at all . B8e6s already told me to e$2ect a rent increase. BAe come here every year.y lease was u2 for renewal. and the owner wants to do some renovations after the evacuation. B. but 1 just don6t see how 1 can kee2 going.B 9isitors to the French Nuarter reacted with shock and disbelief to the news that 9oodoo #ooks was closing.reg <elgado of .D she said from her mother6s home in Shreve2ort. Alabama.ontgomery. 1 hate to close.doesn6t intend to return to the French Nuarter after the hurricane threat 2asses. And 1 was three months behind to begin with.
The French Nuarter won’t be the same without 9oodoo #ooks. holding u2 his .com )(" . CShe created an evocative setting and hel2ed trans2ort her customers to another time. CAnita 8awkins managed to do something with her bookstore that no digital media could do.i5mo.a$ine Rogers said that she would be BhauntedD by the loss of 9oodoo #ooks. C1 do have all of Anne Rice’s books on my 2hone. 4ile.those cra5y witch books they have.D She added that .D he added.B #ut .r. <elgado admitted that he had never 2urchased a book from the store.B Rogers said. 1t6s 2art of the whole e$2erience of the French Nuarter.
D she admitted. said that she Cwould mourn the 2assing of 9oodoo #ooks the way you’d mourn the loss of a friend.she took comfort in the knowledge that anyone could carry 9oodoo6s entire inventory around in their 2ocket. Cbut at least those books will live on.D . but 1 try not to think about that. 1t’s .ordon now has the distinction of being one of the last two booksellers left in the Enited States. owner of Seattlebased #lack and Ahite #ooks. C1’m surrounded by books every day.ordon said. C1’m not sure how much longer 1 can hold out either.D . C1t’s not the same as being there.D (laine .ordon.
was not available for comment. owner of the (ureka.D =ewis 8artman. .hard for me to believe that the rest of the country doesn’t want to e$2erience what 1 do. )A bookstore Firebreathing <ragon.
sevent"#four :ears from now. That would have worked.com had bought and remodeled it.a child. =ewis would reali5e that he was not forced to do what he did ne$t.a$ine. claiming that he and )rawford . he could have closed the store and reo2ened it only after 4ile. 8e could have followed (mily back to San Iose and re2aired his marriage the easy way. "r even if he did insist on doing the deal with . a media room. a timeshare in Tahoe. by a2ologi5ing and getting his old job back and doing the dishes more often than necessary and 2aying off their bills and whatever else (mily wanted --.
And his run-in with the 2olice at the scene of (dith6s . That might have worked. #ut that is not what ha22ened. just a few omissions --. There would have been no lies. with books on the shelves and joints under the counter. After all.needed a break before they began their new venture. furious that =ewis was making no 2rogress toward closing the store and ho2ing that a dramatic gesture on her 2art would shake him u2.aybe their bestselling 2roduct was illegal. After (mily left. too.and no illegal activity. . he became even more fi$ated on the idea of kee2ing the store o2en and running it the way it had been running all this time. but so what3 1t was already for sale all over town. the <ragon had su22orted Sy and two em2loyees without doing anything terribly wrong.
. =ewis and )rawford could sit behind the counter and sell over2riced books to enthusiastic customers all day long. weren6t they3 !eo2le were being e$2osed to books and they were taking them home. it made sense to just kee2 going. 1t was never the role of a bookseller to actually make a 2erson read a book once they6d bought it. .a$ine could send her 2eo2le down to the <ragon to observe the store in action.death had convinced him that local law enforcement was all too willing to look the other way. was it3 So in a strange way. #esides.a$ine’s 2eo2le would . That was really the job of a bookstoreHto get 2eo2le to ac0uire the books. they were still selling books.
but when =ewis asked him what they could do about getting a . 1t never occurred to =ewis that this scenario --. The only 2roblem was that (dith6s garden was 2roducing nothing but a22les and honeysuckle nectar. )rawford wasn6t o22osed to the idea of reviving the <ragon.a$ine --was the very scenario made her decide to leave in the first 2lace.com.the one in which he stayed in (ureka and clung to the 2ossibility of doing a deal with . whatever she wanted. She could 0uit her job. they would go legit. (mily would come back. And when the money came through from 4ile.see what they wanted to seeHa busy bookstore that made a remarkably steady 2rofit. she could travel. she could 2aint.
was federally controlled. even taking the time to identify the red and white signs marking the boundary between "ld Town. The officer was e$traordinarily nice about the whole thing. BThis one6s on you. which was under the jurisdiction of the local 2olice. attem2ting to buy ten 2ounds of marijuana from an undercover officer of the <e2artment of 8omeland Security. The officer slowed his cruiser down and 2ointed . which. They 2assed the signs on the way to the jail. )rawford just shrugged. as everyone but =ewis knew.B And that is how =ewis found himself on the old cargo dock on (ureka6s waterfront.B he said. B:ou6re the boss.new su22lier. and the 2ort.
them out 2olitely. . the way you6d show the sights to a tourist.
=ewis wasn6t allowed to sit with him in the usual visitation room7 federal 2rocedures re0uired that any meetings with his lawyer be held a2art from the other inmates. #ecause =ewis was a federal 2risoner. 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.sevent"#five 1t took a week for #illy <alton to get in to see his client. being housed tem2orarily at the county jail.
and he was allergic to either the county-issued orange jum2suit or the laundry detergent it was washed in.B 8e looked grimly at =ewis and fiddled with a 2en. .B #illy said. That was a big buy for your first time out.B =ewis looked terrible. looking around a22rovingly. buddy. This is not the . yeah. to which two folding chairs and a broken com2uter desk had been added.arriott. Red welts ran u2 his arms and across his neck.B B#illy. B1t6s going to be a long 2rocess.for storage. B16ve never had a 2rivate meeting room over here before.B said #illy. !lease tell me you6ve been working on getting me out of here. BEh. 8e obviously hadn6t sle2t. BThis is nice.
we6ve got to tell them something. right3 1t was a misunderstanding. 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. They have video cameras down on the docks and the agent was wearing a wire. 8ow much money have you got3B .what do you think is on that ta2e3B BAll right.1 mean -. 1 didn6t say what he thought 1 said. BAell -.B1s that all you got3B said =ewis. but --. Ahat about bail3B BAe6ve got a hearing ne$t week. Ae6ll get a chance to see the video. sur2rised. They6re 2retty sure you were trying to buy ten 2ounds of 2ot.
B4ot much. standing u2 and sla22ing =ewis on the back.B =ewis mumbled. Ahat about the house and the store3B BThe feds will 2robably sei5e those. . BAell.B #illy said. 8e felt like crying. B1 just have to stay here3B #illy laughed and tugged at his 2onytail. )an6t (mily come u2 with some money3B B(mily’s not e$actly taking my calls right now. Their time was u2. B:ou didn6t think they were going to let me take you home. The guard knocked on the door. did you3B B1 don6t know. there is one 2iece of good news. BSo that6s it3B =ewis said.B =ewis said.
BAhat6s that3B BThere6s a rumor going around on the 1nternet that )ongress is about to outlaw cigarettes and legali5e marijuana. Aouldn6t that be cool3B .
but he6s not answering.B )rawford said. two little girls ran into the store and tore u2 the .aybe.B BAas that a little too cute3B B.sevent"#six .B BAell. B1 was in your store a while ago --B B1 remember you. B4ice 0uote to the 2ress. B)rawfordK 1 don6t know if you remember me.B #efore )rawford could say anything. 1s he there3 16ve been trying him on his 2hone.a$ine called the <ragon the day after the story about 9oodoo #ooks broke. listen.B she said brightly. J8aunted.’ That6s cute. 1 was actually calling for =ewis.
they6re not . B1t means you have all these young 2eo2le interested in books.a$ine said.a$ine said.B )rawford sighed. B"h no. jee5. B%M'MKB the other one said. They6re interested in 2ulling them off the shelves and cracking the s2ines. B%M*%KB "ne of them shouted. but they6re not interested in reading them. B1t6s this game that kids 2lay in here sometimes.stairs. that6s kind of cool.D BSo have they found the oldest book in the store yet3B )rawford listened to the thudding of their footste2s overhead.B B:eah.B . B"h. BAhat3B . They come running in and they try to find the oldest book in the store.B BAell.
The oldest book is down here. B 4o. 1t’s a %+'? treatise by .reek 2hysician. %R*?. you only have one 2age3B .D CSeriously3 %R*?3D B1 guess you6re going to ask me what the 4uremberg )hronicle is. 1 have it right here on my 2hone.B )rawford said. 1t6s a single sheet from the 4uremberg )hronicle. Ahat. 1t6s a history of the world u2 to that time.anywhere close to it.D BAhat6s the oldest thing --. . no. There was a 2ause.D CAho’s he3D CAncient . #ut that’s not actually the oldest thin. BActually. And 1 have the com2lete volume. in the store.alen.a$ine.a$ine said.the cobwebs3B .
B.a$ine.D BAre you going to let me talk to =ewis3B B8e just ste22ed out. 1 will show you a leaf from the 4uremberg )hronicle. :ou make it sound so-seductive. B4e$t time you come into the store.B )rawford said.B . 1 will 2ut a 2iece of 2a2er in your hand that dates to the voyage of )olumbus. his voice warm and serious.D C1t is. )rawford. 16ll tell him you called.B BAow. Actually. :ou try doing that on your 2hone.
and after (dith’s sudden death. . regardless of the subject matter. 2e22y blog 2ost that was e$2ected of him.alway if he didn6t 2ost something on his blog about the situation at the <ragon. 8e6d been reluctant to blow the store6s cover when he himself was a regular customer. and nobody else had re2orted it.sevent"#seven #etsy .iers finally had to threaten to fire . So he 2aid a visit to the 2ort authority office and wrote the kind of short. a long e$2osW seemed 2ointless. #ut the arrest of an "ld Town merchant was news.
. but the bookstore itself was located outside our area of jurisdiction and we were unable to obtain coo2eration from local law enforcement.r. BAe6ve known that it was a cover for a drug dealing o2eration. BAe6ve been monitoring the activity at the Firebreathing <ragon bookstore for some time now.B said !ort Authority s2okes2erson #rian Anderson. 8artman entered the .8ere’s A Ti2 <on’t Re-E2 Aith the Feds 4ewbie bookstore owner-turned-2ot dealer =ewis 8artman was arrested after attem2ting to buy ten 2ounds of marijuana from a federal agent on (ureka6s waterfront.
B So --. Ae mean it this time. Seriously.lessons learned3 Anyone3 "ne There is nothing for sale at the Firebreathing <ragon but books.2ort area voluntarily and attem2ted to solicit drugs from an undercover agent. @ . Iust a cou2le ti2s for out-of-towners. Ae intend to 2rosecute to the full e$tent of the law. 1t’s where all the federal officers hang out and enforce their laws. "ur mission is to kee2 our nation6s 2orts safe and free of illegal and dangerous activity. Two That area right around the water where boats 2ull u2 and unload their stuff3 That’s called the 2ort.
.alway6s 2hone rang five minutes after his 2ost went live. <oes this mean 16m not going to get a second date3D )lick.. :ou6ve known about this along. C:ou 2iece of shit.a$ine.B C.
broadcasting a stream of talk shows and infomercials. There wasn6t much else to do the television stayed on one channel all day. and white bread and baked beans at dinner. 1t . 2eanut butter at lunch.sevent"#ei ht =ewis decided that his time in jail would be best s2ent reflecting u2on his 2ast mistakes. accom2anied by a mealy a22le and a sugary juice substitute. The meals were astonishingly bad V chea2 corn flakes for breakfast. but there was no one to call but (mily. 8e could have lined u2 to use one of the four 2hones available to inmates. and she had made it clear that she didn6t want to hear from him.
visitors had been banned from bringing books to 2risoners after the com2uters had been installed. . Anyway. . there was no library. and he had not so much as a sheet to muffle the light and noise. which made =ewis wonder if he could convince )rawford to bring a few of them back.ost of the 2rison library’s books had ended u2 at the <ragon over the years. And of course.wasn6t the kind of meal you would linger over. and no 2rovisions had been made in the 2olicy for the machines’ inevitable system failures. the jail had a digital media center that housed four broken com2uters. 1nstead. #ut )rawford was so far not willing to visit =ewis in jail. And slee2 was a thing of the 2ast the lights were on day and night.
if he could be considered to be on his own in a dorm with si$ty other men. "f course they did. 1n fact. 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. And a few of them recogni5ed him from the bookstore. most of whom were either 2assing through on their way to !elican #ay.So =ewis was on his own with his miserable thoughts. it was a trio of skinny white . 1t was. after all. although he found that most of the guys were sur2risingly easy to talk to. or biding their time until they were released and 2ut back under the su2ervision of their 2arole officers. a hotbed of criminal activity. =ewis tried to stick to himself.
C8e didn’t want to sell do2e to do2e dealers. 8e gave no volume discount and he 2riced his shit so high you couldn’t buy from him and sell it on the street. B!rices on the street are falling.B 8ank added. B:our uncle Sy wanted it that way.B Tim said. Anybody who wants a medical card can get one. and Tim-who e$2lained the rationale for the <ragon6s high 2rices to =ewis. Aill. They just grow their own or buy it at the clinic. .8ank.B Tim said.B B:ou can buy fucking 2ot brownies at the clinic in Arcata. B4o resale market.B Aill added glumly.D B1t’s getting harder to sell that shit anyway.guys in their twenties --.
have you had those brownies3B Aill said. Ahat had once seemed like fateHhaving a bookstore dro2 in his la2. Ahat landed him in here was greed and stu2idity.D Aill said.D =ewis reali5ed that he wasn6t really too different from these guys. BAhen 1 get out of here. C:ou3D =ewis asked. as he listened to the maddening . CS2rained my ankle. turning to Tim.B C8ow’d you 0ualify for a /%+ card3D =ewis asked. he thought. That was the difference between the 2eo2le out there and the 2eo2le in here. that6s the first 2lace 16m going. C8eadaches.B<ude. as if he was meant for a new lifeHnow seemed like the kind of trouble he should have known how to avoid.
The 2eo2le out there knew how to kee2 their lives on course. and in fact. no one seemed to care whether his bills got 2aid or his 2hone got answered. 8e had a wife and em2loyees. 4o one had any urgent business to discuss with him. Entil his arrest. 8e had bills to 2ay and 2laces to be. !eo2le called him and sent him e-mails. 8is morning coffee de2ended on . 1t was ama5ing how 0uickly you dro22ed out of sight in jail. =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.sound of car radios rising u2 from the street that ran 2ast the jail. no one seemed .uillermo being o2en for business across the street. #ut then he got locked u2. and he sim2ly ceased to matter.
but he was wrong about that. =ewis had always assumed that he mattered a little.to wonder where he was or when he would be back. and that his absence would cause some disru2tion in the world he inhabited. And maybe that was just as well. 8e hadn6t just been arrested7 he’d been erased. . too.
4ews of the legislation’s swift 2assage already dominated the tiny T9 screen in the back of the cab.1A4T SE.!’ )="T814. S"-)A==(< 8(A=T8: S."L14.sevent"#nine After the signing ceremony.(R1)A4 8(.R(SS Q T"#A))" . Tom and Richmond ducked away from the re2orters at the Ahite 8ouse and caught a cab back to their hotel. #RA4<.AR(TT(S E4<(R 4(A AET8"R1T: FR".A=1Y(S !"T A4< #A4S T"#A))" read the crawl.4(R A44"E4)(S 4(A JA. )"4. F<A (U!()T(< T" "ET=AA )1. barely . Two newscasters. 14T1T1AT19( =(.
onday morning. <oing what we do.B Tom said.B he said. BAe were lucky to get a Friday afternoon signing.B B1 don6t know how you can be so calm about this. as if he . BThat tri2 to )alifornia must have been good for you.B Richmond shrugged.B 1n fact. BAe6ve got to make sure we stay ahead of this story.B said Tom. Richmond did miss 8umboldt )ounty. B1t6s not so bad. fumbling around with the controls to turn off the sound. 8e felt strangely at home there. Then we just go back to running our business. sat in front of a giant digital image of a marijuana leaf hovering above the Ahite 8ouse.able to contain their mirth. The media shitstorm will have died down by . BIesus )hrist.
not just because of the 2lants he managed to shi2 back alive.B Richmond could get used to that kind of lifestyle. they would just shrug and say. The idea to launch a line of hem2 2roducts . he would have asked out the girl in the bookstore. And it had been a 2rofitable tri2. 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. 1f you asked a 2erson in (ureka what they did for a living. BA little of this. 1n this other life.had caught u2 with some alternate version of his life that had been ticking by in northern )alifornia all this time. a little of that. 8e would have bought a house in the mountains and hired <on )antrell to build a deck around it. but they all got by somehow.
and notebooks. once the kids had bought into the idea. with the source of every ingredient 2rinted on the menus.rown.rown name had been ins2ired by 8umboldt )ounty.ahead of their more lucrative cro2 had come from his visits to all the little stores in "ld Town that sold hem2 sweaters. down to the name of the farmer who grew the ho2s for the beer and the name of the woman who jarred the 2ickles. The cannabis would just be marketed as one more . The American . and then roll out the chain of brew2ubs. which they were calling American . They could get a line of clothing out to the college market to start building their brand. back2acks. too as a nod to its 2ro-local farmer attitude. the brew2ubs would be 2ositioned as a celebration of American farmers.
The retail smoking 2roducts would come last. after they were sure they had built enough acce2tance among consumers to e$2ect 2eo2le to sim2ly dro2 into a convenience store and ask for a 2ack of American . 1t was considered a sacrilege to go it alone like this. #ut the real outrage would come a cou2le of days from now.American-grown cro2. Their com2etitors. Sumner had managed to get the legislation ready for 2assage 0uietly. and made a backdoor deal with the Ahite 8ouse to arrange an immediate signing ceremony. when they found out that Sumner had 2atented every commercially available strain of . The other tobacco com2anies didn6t even have time to call their lobbyists.reen. were livid. Esually #ig Tobacco stuck together. of course.
cannabis.D CAhy wouldn’t she be3D Richmond asked. smiling.B Tom said. and was in a 2osition to challenge 2atents on any other strains their com2etitors might dig u2.B Tom said as they 2ulled u2 in front of their hotel. B8ave you called your new real estate 2artner out there3B B4ow she6s my real estate 2artner.B Richmond said. grabbing his briefcase and handing a twenty to the driver. buddy. B:ou6re in charge. it’s yours. . and s2eaking of )alifornia. Iust make sure your little friend in 8umboldt )ounty is ready to break ground. C:ou wanted to run the brew2ub 2rogram. B"h.
She’s not going to be your best friend forever.D . Rich.Tom laughed. 4ot just to the growers. but to the whole economy out there. CSooner or later those 2eo2le are going to figure out what this means.
ei ht" (mily was the first 2erson to reali5e that the news from Aashington could hel2 get =ewis out of jail.uillermo wrestle out a rusted 2i2e and re2lace it with something that would meet code before the ins2ector came back at noon. CSonofabitchKD he yelled as the 2i2e crumbled in his hand. sending a shower of brown water and flakes of rust into his eyes. 8e sat u2 and reached for his 2hone. She got #illy <alton on the 2hone as he was s2rawled under the sink in the back room behind )ontra )offee. hel2ing . CAhat3D .
8e doesn6t get a lot of visitors. not even from his wife. that6s very nice.B .B BAell. Ahy3 16m not a divorce lawyer. #ut 1 am calling about =ewis.B (mily said. if that6s what you6re wondering.B#illy3 1t6s (mily.B . #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.B B1t6s not that. B1 was trying to find out if =ewis was going to get out now that this legislation is 2assed. CSto2 being such a smartass. <id 1 get you in the middle of something3B BLind of. but 16m sure he6ll be glad to know he at least got a 2hone call.uillermo motioned for #illy to get out of the way so that he could slide under the sink and kee2 working.
uillermo was still flat on his back under the sink.B #illy said. like guns or ta$ evasion. but the attorney general says she isn6t going to 2rosecute any 2ending cases unless there6s some other crime involved. your husband tried to buy shitload of 2ot from a federal agent well before it was legal.D (mily said. . B!ot is not legal yet.B B:eah. This law isn6t going to hel2 him. BThey6re going to have to issue some rules and work out the details first.uillermo’s customers. . he thought. #esides. CSeriously3 She said that3D #illy 2oured a cou2le of refills for . #illy waved away their money7 he didn’t know how much to charge for refills anyway.#illy rolled his eyes. for what seemed like the four hundredth time that morning. (verybody6s a lawyer.
uillermo had managed to re2lace the 2i2e on his own. . #ut 1 don6t like the idea of him sitting in that jail. 1 am not coming back. for god’s sake. BAhat a sur2rise.(mily sighed. 4o. 8e6s going to have to work this out on his own.B #illy said.o be a lawyer. Are you coming back anytime soon3B B:ou sound like =ewis. BSee3 :ou didn6t even need me. #illy. <o you want me to send you the article3B BThat6s okay. Aas that (mily3B . that6s real com2assionate of you. C"h. 16ll look into it.B #illy said. #illy. CRead the news once in a while. where .B BAell.D #illy hung u2 and retreated to the back room.
B BAhat6s that3B BAhole lot of 2eo2le are about to get out of jail.B:eah. She had some interesting news.B .
"n the back of the agenda she was sketching out a 2roject timeline. CThat2s your anchor tenant3D came a hushed voice behind her. 8e was clutching a stack of 2a2ers from whatever meeting he had just suffered through. waiting for her finance subcommittee meeting to begin. CAe can’t .ei ht"#one =e$ sat in the em2ty )ity )ouncil chambers. trying to figure out if they could 2our the foundation before the rainy season hit in "ctober. =e$ twirled around in her chair and saw Todd leaning in the doorway that led to the warren of council offices behind the stage.
y thing starts in ten minutes. BThey are freaking out over at 8umboldt =egal.D Todd leaned across the table and s2oke right into her ear. C. They are going to want to know how 1 can vote for your 2roject after Sumner has made this big announcement.D =e$ whis2ered. a smoke sho23B =e$ looked around to make sure they were alone. B4ot e$actly. Ae really should not talk about this here. =e$. These 2eo2le got me elected. 1t6s all a little sus2icious.B . Ahat are they going to 2ut in that big s2ace they6re leasing from you. it’s more like a 2ub.B she said in a low voice. B1 told you.talk about this here. C:ou knew all along that Sumner Tobacco was going to start growing 2ot.D #ut Todd sat down ne$t to her anyway. 9ery wholesome.
all these growers just became fine. u2standing. fast. two things just ha22ened here. She followed him reluctantly into the hallway. C1sn’t this what they wanted3 =egali5ation3D Todd grabbed =e$ by the arm and 2ulled her out of her chair. BFirst of all. B1 don6t see what 8umboldt =egal’s got to be u2set about. Sumner’s going to make sure that all these small growers all over the country get 2rosecuted if they don6t 2ay their ta$es or follow the labor law or meet every building code or . =e$ and Todd sat back in their chairs and tried to look as if they were just killing time. before =e$ could 2ull away.B =e$ muttered. law-abiding businessmen.B Todd said. B"kay.!eo2le were starting to file in for the meeting.
1t is now illegal for 8umboldt growers to grow their own 2ot.D Todd said.B C1sn’t that good news3D =e$ said.B =e$ felt her stomach turn into a stone. Sumner is 2lanting thousands of acres right now. And the other thing3 Sumner 2atented every goddamned strain of cannabis they could get their hands on. They6re going to 2ush the 2rice down right through the . And that doesn6t even get into the economics. CThey would have even shut the <ragon down. BAait. C4ot for them.environmental regulation. That can6t be ---B B"h. if the <ragon hadn’t managed to shut itself down first. including the ones your friend Richmond 2icked u2 while he was here. There6s going to be no more diesel do2e in the woods for these guys. yes it is.
And there goes your cannabis tourism idea.floor. :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. So =e$3 Forget it. 1 just can’t. but still kee2 it kind of underground. what e$actly did your grower friends think was going to ha22en when marijuana was legal3D C1 don’t know. Aould they really sell 2ot at the mall3 CAell. turning and leaning against the wall ne$t to her.D .D Todd said. 1 can’t vote for this waterfront thing. They’re going to own the whole market. you know3 This is so much more mainstream than anything they ever imagined. 1’m sorry. C1 think they e$2ected to chi2 away at the law little by little.
This 2roject was going to have everyone in an u2roar Hthe growers. She didn’t have the energy for this fight. but there was no 2oint. the downtown merchants. She’d send them back their earnest money and find a way out of the develo2ment deal. 1t framed the . the civic boosters who had been trying for years to distance (ureka from its cannabis culture so that 2arents wouldn’t be afraid to send their kids to college here.D She should have marched back into her meeting and started thinking about how to turn Todd around. they’d have to find a develo2er with more nerve than she had. They stood together and looked out the small window across the hall.CShit. Sumner would have to figure something else out. 1f they wanted to o2en their so-called brew2ubs here in )alifornia.
.by joining them he might become one of them-. Too much 2artici2ation in 2rison life made him nervous-. A bail bondsman even used the familiar noise as the soundtrack to his radio commercial.view of the county jail. reminding 2eo2le to call him if they ever got too close to that basketball court. The sounds from the basketball court could be heard all over "ld Town on a calm morning. where =ewis had just reluctantly agreed to shoot hoo2s with Aill and Tim.but he was getting tired of sitting all day.
BAell. somehow.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. and most 2eo2le were willing to let it dro2 after a few evasive answers. if that’s what you read on the 1nternet. )rawford continued to show u2 to work and 2reside over the store in =ewis6s absence. . which meant that he s2ent his days saying things like. it must be true.D #illy had advised him not to admit directly to anything.ei ht#two . still o2erating as a bookstore and were ama5ed and titillated to learn the truth.
B16ve never been in here before. BReally3 4ever once3B )rawford would answer wonderingly. looking around in wonderment before finally making eye contact with )rawford.otes. as if this fact would be as astonishing to )rawford as it was to them. A few 2eo2le would linger and look wistfully through the books.These new visitors to the store cre2t in slowly. with torn covers and unfortunate stains but breathtaking .B they would say. trying to strike that balance between sarcasm and false cheer that was once the s2ecial talent of bookstore clerks everywhere. There were still a sur2rising number of good finds at the <ragon a cou2le of battered old editions of Alfred Stieglit5’s "amera .
2hotogravures nonetheless. all of them signaling the beginning of 2hotogra2hy as an art form7 one of those nice signed and numbered co2ies of 4n "old $lood that Random 8ouse issued in a sli2case in %*'+7 and an entire shelf of 9ictorian marriage guides that included the crowd2leasing title 1o! To $e 1appy Thou. Ahat novelties these books wereK A few 2eo2le 2unched the titles into their 2hones to download later. nodding 2leasantly to )rawford on the way out the way you might smile a22reciatively at the curator of some historic home for letting you come in and have a look at their things.h Married. )rawford was sitting behind the desk 2ricing a stack of anatomy te$tbooks from the %*/&s that he found in the . but they all left em2tyhanded. "n one such day.
There were fu55y black-and-white 2hotogra2hs of naked women and men in these books. undoubtedly looking for a little local color to round out their story on the im2act of the new marijuana legislation behind the redwood curtain. had asked him to. 2assing the message by way of #illy. )rawford thought he could at least sell the books to someone who wanted to cut the 2ictures out. The 2hone rang. but it had been a slow afternoon and )rawford was . 1t was the San Fran is o "hroni le. somehow. their genitals so gently rubbed out that it looked like they had just forgotten to grow any. This only made the 2hotogra2hs more 2ornogra2hic.back room. 8e had been ignoring calls from the media because =ewis.
C<ragon. B1s this =ewis 8artman3B came a woman6s voice. )an 1 hel2 you3B BAow.D he said when he 2icked u2 the 2hone. B:ou are not about to tell me ---B BAre you still o2en3 1 mean -. no.getting bored. 1 was ho2ing to get a res2onse from =ewis on the news about #lack and Ahite #ooks in Seattle.B )rawford said.are you -. is he still in jail3 This is #eth . 8e could just take a message.D B"h. . he didn6t have to answer their 0uestions.still a bookstore3B she asked.ardner from the "hroni le. #esides. B=ewis isn6t here right now.
how handwritten volumes were . BThen 1 think that6s it.CAellHyeah. 8e thought of Sy and how he loved to issue declarations on the history of books and bookshelves. standing u2. he could imagine himself saying brightly to a grou2 of schoolchildren on a tour. )rawford just stood and looked around the store.D )rawford said. Ae faced the s2ines out because that6s where the titles of the books were written. as if he needed to rise and face the news she was about to deliver. 8ere is how we arranged the books.B @ For a long time after he 2ut the 2hone down. already as still and 0uiet as a diorama in a museum. :ou6re the last bookstore in America.
And then movable ty2e came along and ruined everything for the monks with their 0uills. and the title inscribed there in 2en.once 2laced on their sides in cu2boards. !eo2le think that the book never changed after that. Ahat di55ying s2eed that must have been. And then came the monster steam 2resses that could make a thousand sheets in an hour. back when a wealthy 2erson might only own four or five books and would have these 2ieces of furniture s2ecially built to hold them. "r they might have stood u2 on a shelf with the edges facing out. getting u2 from behind the counter and running his hands along the . and what a strange and heartbreaking new develo2ment for 2ractitioners of hand-set ty2e. Sy used to say.
:ou’re old enough to remember that.shelves the way =ewis did the first time he came into the store. huh3 A thousand dollar book if we had a collector who wanted to buy it. #ut do you know what it would cost in a dust jacket3 A hundred thousand dollars. C:ou see this nice old first edition of Anne of Green Gables3 !retty book. !eo2le took them off the books and threw them away. That’s a ninety-nine thousand-dollar 2iece of 2a2er. Iust an e$2eriment. they didn’t know. . :ou know why3 #ecause dust jackets were so rare. C<ust jacketsKD Sy once roared at )rawford right after he started working there. right3 :ou’d bring a new book home and throw the dust jacket right out3D . #ut the book changes all the time. kiddo.aybe they’d 2rint ads on them.
C4obody has an Anne of Green Gables in a dust jacket. rising to his feetG they brought out 2a2erbacks and everybody thought we6d gone straight to hell. they used to bind cigarette ads right into science fiction novels. . 4obody.D 8e knew the rest of the lecture by heart.oroccan leather3 And then they bound books in cardboard and cloth. 1n the seventies you could be reading along and . The book changes constantly.)rawford could almost hear the echo of Sy6s voice around the room. and that was not so long ago.y god. of all thingsK !a2er went from silk to cotton to hem2 to mushy 2ressed 2ul2. Ahat about re2lacing grand old bindings with that awful leatherette. the crumbling 2article-board cousin to . kiddo. Then FSy would say.
there would be an ad for Lote$ or )anadian )lub. . when he could s2eak again. whee5ing and coughing and choking on his own laughter. The utter absurdity of booksK he would say. <idn’t that 2iss the authors offK And then Sy would colla2se into himself.
B #illy had decided to let that one go.ei ht"#three BAelcome back.B =ewis told him.B #illy had e$2lained when he was arranging =ewis’s release. B1t was fake anyway. BThey6re kee2ing the money.B #illy said as =ewis came through the automatic door at the jail. and the crum2led back2ack that once held the cash he had offered to the undercover agent. 8e ho2ed that the feds and the local district attorney would both be so busy 2rocessing . 8e was wearing the clothes he had been arrested in. BThat6s okay. and he carried a 2lastic bag under his arm that contained his 2ersonal belongings wallet. 2hone.
B B<one. taking =ewis6s bag from him the way you might grab your buddy’s suitcase when you met him at the air2ort.D =ewis said. com2lete with a guy in Ray-#ans and a suit . B:ou6re looking good. in that order.B #illy said. They walked across the street and down a cou2le of blocks to the brewery.re0uests for release from small-time marijuana criminals that they wouldn6t notice a bag of counterfeit bills. and a na2. a beer. a shower. BAhat 1 want is a burger. C1 look like shit.B #illy said. The 2ost-jail burger was actually his favorite 2art of being a lawyer. =ewis was a little disa22ointed that #illy was on foot he had been ho2ing for a 8ollywood-style release from jail.
At least someone came to meet him. striding determinedly across the 2arking lot and disa22earing into the neighborhood behind )ity 8all. hands in 2ockets. 1nstead he had #illy with his thinning 2onytail and his )rocs.D =ewis said. C4o word from (mily3D #illy asked as =ewis turned his 2hone on and checked for messages. just a cou2le of guys on their way somewhere.and they had each walked out on their own. C4othing. 8ank and Aill had been released as wellHTim was still locked u2 for a <E1-. CShe sent me the link to the "hroni le story. but she didn’t even include a note.driving a big black =incoln.D .
B1 don6t think Sy would6ve been 2roud of a single thing 16ve done.C:eah. 1 .B =ewis shuddered at the first foamy. B:ou make it sound like it was a contest. who 2oured a cou2le of 2ints. =ewis headed straight for the two em2ty seats at the bar and signaled to the bartender. kind of. B:our uncle Sy would be 2roud. how about that3D #illy said.B #illy said. C=ast bookstore in America.B he said. and everything he owned is going to be thrown away or sold off.B BAell it was.D They walked into the brewery. BAhy do you say it like that3B he said to #illy. bitter si2 of beer. :ou made it. (dith is dead. B8is business is ruined. which was crowded and boisterous and slightly smoky from the heat coming off the grill.
: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. Ahy’d he 2ick me3D Their menus arrived and #illy waved them away.inger. 8e didn6t dwell on the 2ast and he didn’t worry about the . but 1 don6t. Reliving it in your mind and trying to figure out what you should have done differently. leaving all this to me. #illy3 1t should’ve all gone to (dith. ordering burgers and fries for both of them.B 8e thought about that for a minute and then he turned and looked at #illy. BAhy did he leave this 2lace to me. =ewis. "r at least to )rawford and .don6t know what he was thinking. B8ere6s the thing. 1 wish 1 had some kind of easy answer for you.
and he looked around the store and said. 8e didn6t think about dying. 1 asked Sy who he wanted to leave it to. That kid’s going to need something to do. To tell you the truth. he 2robably never gave that will another thought. 8e made that will a long time ago. C:ou’d been u2 there not long before to s2end the summer. J!ut down =ewis. 8e only did it because 1 was just starting out as a lawyer and 1 needed a client. =ewis decided to walk over to the bookstore and check in on )rawford before he went back to Sy’s to catch u2 on his slee2.’D @ #illy headed back to his office after lunch. 1t was a gorgeous.B BSo you don6t remember why he 2icked me3B =ewis said.future. #illy shrugged. .
=ewis could hear the clanging of shi26s rigging in the harbor. either from the <ragon or from his recent notoriety in the news. The seagulls circled high above "ld Town. . 8e rounded the corner and . what these 2eo2le did for a living. and the sidewalks were filled with 2eo2le drinking their coffee at the tables and chairs they’d dragged outside.late summer afternoon in (ureka. as he always did. The doors to every cafW were o2en. #efore he came to 8umboldt )ounty. 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. 1t occurred to =ewis that it didn6t bother him in the least that all these 2eo2le knew his 2ersonal .ost of the 2eo2le he 2assed seemed to recogni5e him. =ewis wondered.
8i. he could not have imagined s2ending time in jail and then having to face an entire community who knew what had ha22ened. they 2robably knew that (mily had left him. A year ago. C"h.D =ewis sto22ed on the sidewalk in front of the store. They knew that the <ragon had been a sham. C(mily3D he said.business.a$ine. 8is 2hone rang just before he reached the <ragon. #ut these 2eo2le seemed to just take him at face value.a$ine. . 8is life was 2laying out alongside theirs7 his situation was no more or less remarkable than anyone else’s. =ewis. 1t’s . C4o. not even checking to see who was calling.D CThey let you out of jail3D . they knew about his arrest.
Iust now.D 8e 2aused.D . C1’m really sorry. =ewis3 1’ve got another idea.D CActually.C:eah. 1 guess 1 killed the deal.
ONE %EAR LATER .
turning around and giving =ewis a kiss. 1 just got off the 2lane. Ahere are you3D CEm. B8eyKB she said. 1’ll meet you there.ei ht"#four C8ave you landed3D C:eah. C8ow was your flight3D . <id you eat already3D C4o.ate S'. there’s a food court around . She was making her way to the last 2air of em2ty seats in the food court when she felt an arm reach around her waist.D (mily ordered a sandwich and looked around for a table.
C1n San Francisco3 Ae’ve got what.D she said. BShe is so cra5y. Ae have got to hire somebody in #oston.D =ewis said. C. CSo have you checked your messages3D C4ot yet.a$ine wants to o2en u2 a location here. three stores already3D C4o.C=ong.D (mily said. <oesn6t she know they don6t allow smoking in the air2ort3D BThat6s what 1 told her. BAnd3B . 1n the air2ort. 8ere.B (mily said.D CAe will.D =ewis laughed and 2ut his head in his hands. dro22ing his overnight bag on to2 of (mily’s suitcase and sitting down ne$t to her.
=ook. 8ow was =A3D CSucked. CAhat3D CThis is the first time 1’ve seen the sign. 1n s2ite of the fact that it was illuminated by what seemed to be a hundred thousand =(< lights. 1 don6t want any more air2ort food. the sign managed .B C"f course. 1 hate =A.D C1 know. C"h my godKD =ewis said when he rounded the corner at . Finish your sandwich and let6s go into the city.eary.D They took #ART to the !owell Street station and dragged their luggage across Enion S0uare.D Across the s0uare an enormous mar0uee read F1R(#R(AT814.BShe said to let Richmond worry about that. #""LS.
1 think it’s bigger than the . C4o. you do remember that your wife does all the design work for this com2any. he had to admit that they did 2retty good job on Enion S0uare.to look like the sort of hand-2ainted signboard that once hung above the <ragon. Ahat does )rawford think3D C8e loves it. trim.D =ewis assured her. and floorboards from .D They crossed Enion S0uare and walked through the store’s wide double doors. (mily had 2ersuaded the architect to salvage banisters. 1t was his idea to go all the way across the building like that. C1t’s hugeKD C4ow. Although =ewis would always like the (ureka store best.D (mily said. it’s great.acy’s sign. C1t’s just the biggest thing in Enion S0uare.
D 1t was only noon. but already the 2lace was full.old buildings. and she even found a collection of brass light fi$tures that came out of the old San Francisco library. BSee. Three 2olished mahogany bars were situated around the store. the architectural salvage hel2 to give the stores the creaky old bookstore atmos2here she and =ewis wanted to 2reserve. with four or five stools . The two of them stood just inside the doorway and looked around at the store. B1t makes more sense to have these little stations around the store.B =ewis said. (ven though the bookshelves and furniture were the same at all twenty-eight stores around the country. what 1 like about this one is that we don6t just have one big smoke sho2 in the back.
of course. 2eo2le actually did 2ick u2 a book once they settled into a chair. and in fact most of their book sales were to collectors who were after a 2articular autogra2h or an unusual binding. At first . something close to it. And in s2ite of =ewis6s early doubts. but a 2owerful and sur2risingly 0uiet ventilation system ke2t the 2lace clean and smelling more likeHwell. #ut 4ile.a$ine had worried that the 2lace would reek of stale smoke.dis2ensing joints. 8ardly anyone bought one. Someone worked behind the counter at each station --.com’s data showed that more than half of their customers downloaded a title after seeing it in the store. refilling bowls.at each. .Richmond insisted on calling them cannabis sommeliers --. if not an old bookstore. and chatting with the customers.
And it was )rawford who a22roached them now. whose job it was to scour garages and warehouses for books to rotate through the shelves. 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$2eriment and launch new 2roducts. the fact was that the Enion S0uare location was so much bigger and busier that he was s2ending most of his time here. C1’ll get these sent over to your hotel. 1t was here in San Francisco that he launched a series of writing worksho2s and author events.That satisfied )rawford. )ome check it out. set u2 an old-fashioned 2rinting 2ress and bookbinding sho2 where artists could .D he said. C8ey.
The charred edges around the bullet hole had been carefully 2reserved. and manuscri2t 2ages. all framed and 2riced and ready to hang on the wall. which Thom2son had taken outside and shot. A ma2 dating back to %'+&. andHthis is what =ewis and (mily had come to seeHo2ened a gallery that sold botanical engravings.2ractice those lost arts. when cartogra2hers thought that )alifornia was an island. C)rawfordKD (mily e$claimed as she walked into the glass-enclosed gallery s2ace. A letter addressed to 8unter Thom2son from his editor. engraved in 2ainstaking detail under orders from Iose2hine #ona2arte and colored by hand two hundred years ago. hand-colored ma2s. the letter 2ressed . CThis is gorgeousKD RedoutW’s roses.
between glass. 1t’s out there. CThis stuff is ama5ing. C8ow do you find it3D )rawford shrugged. but he was tem2ted to raise it to a thousand just to kee2 it in the store a while longer.D . )rawford had 2riced it at five hundred dollars. :ou just have to know where to look.D =ewis said. CSame way your uncle did.
#esides.onica’s Third Street !romenade and found herself 2ulled inside.ei ht"#five 1t was only a matter of time before . And 1 can’t believe )rawford went along with it. C1t was a shitty thing to do.inger wandered by the s2rawling new bookstore on Santa . =ewis is a sellout. C1 walked out on them. Sumner. and the <ragon. 8er sister had been trying for months to convince her to call =ewis and ask for a job.D . and 1’m not going to ask. but she’d refused.D she said to her sister when the news broke about the 2artnershi2 between 4ile. They don’t owe me any favors.
#ut here she was. and girls really did roller skate 2ast in bikinis. .inger thought. . She didn’t even think she missed the <ragon much until she walked by and saw that they were hiring. her old job. but she had grown accustomed to it in the last year.onica store had none of the flavor of the original <ragon. drawn to the very memory of a bookstore. unable to stay away. The Santa . essentially. "utside. =os Angeles had always been a caricature of itself.onica instead of (ureka. 2alm trees flanked the sidewalks. but it did look dark and warm and literary in a way that made it seem like a foreign land here in southern )alifornia. Soon she was standing at the counter filling out an a22lication for what was. only in Santa .
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 can kee2 that 2en. reali5ing that it wasn’t even hers. At the other end of the counter. .She leaned over the counter. C1 liked it when it was green.inger twirled the 2en nervously between her fingers and chewed on the ca2. C:ou changed your wardrobe. breaking away from the grou2. C:ou changed your hair.D he said.D CThis color’s called egg2lant.D one of the men said.D she said. trying to decide how to describe her 2revious bookstore e$2erience.D . She dro22ed the 2en on the counter and stared at him. then s2it it out.
D CAell hell. C1 thought 1’d a22ly. .inger.D CAhat else would 1 want3D Richmond swallowed hard and tried to sound casual. :ou’re not in here looking for a job.D . C1 was ho2ing you might want dinner.D she said. 1’ll give you a job if that’s what you want.CTurns out nobody wears a suit in )alifornia. are you3D C1 saw the sign.
The re2orters who had covered the demise of bookstores across the country lined u2 to take shots at this new venture.ei ht"#six Sometimes =ewis wondered if he6d done the right thing by cutting a deal with . late at night. a cynical cor2orate maneuver aimed at co-o2ting the very literary culture it had killed. he heard from 2lenty of embittered former booksellers who accused him of jum2ing into bed with the enemy. when he conjured u2 his uncle Sy’s s2irit and tried to make his case to the old manG what was the .a$ine. calling it a sham. "nce the news got out. #ut F=ewis reasoned.
Real books. Aithout customers. that her stores would connect 2eo2le to literature in some concrete way. And she wasn’t a snob about it. deckle-edge 2a2er and e$traordinary little engravings. And if they 2ersisted in doing most of their reading on their 2hones3 . it wasHwhat3 A museum3 A charity3 A tourist attraction3 At least . either she also filled her sho2s with 2ul2 2a2erbacks and tattered children’s books and anything with interesting notations by the author or some long-ago reader. She was sincere in her belief that the books themselves acted as a kind of touchstone.a$ine saw a reason to get 2eo2le e$cited about books. with sum2tuous bindings and creamy. and 2eo2le weren’t e$actly lining u2 to buy books there.alternative3 The <ragon was the last bookstore left.
was born out of into$ication. he believed. either. and she didn’t see why anyone else would. .a$ine with an im2assioned defense of the 2rinted 2age. like ja55 and 1m2ressionism. 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. was the enemy of literature. bred in bars and coffee houses and o2ium dens. =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. 8ealthy living. Sy believed that literature. and meant to be shared at 2arties and in backyards and living rooms and out on the street..a$ine could hardly object.
C<o whatever you want.CSo lighten u2. kidKD =ewis could hear Sy saying during those late-night conversations.D . Sto2 asking me.
com. 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. visit www. .lastbookstoreinamerica.A&out the Author Amy Stewart is the author of four books on the 2erils and 2leasures of the natural world.com. )A. To find out more.com and www. Ioin the discussion about this book at www.amystewart.eurekabooksellers.