My family’s second home is in western Massachusetts, in Huntington, which holds bluegrass concerts on the public lawn during the summer months. My brothers and I spent our childhood at the Huntington country store, trying our hardest to convince our parents to raise the one-dollar cap on root-beer barrel purchases; at the Bridge Store, devouring blue-raspberry slurpies before our Sunday-morning garbage run; grabbing canoe rides to Polka Dot Rock, which boasted a patriotic redesign sometime during the last decade.
I’ve been catching up on my woodwork, and decided to take a break from my oak relief, an anniversary present for my girlfriend, Lucy. There’s a bookstore down the road, which Lucy and I visited several years ago. It’s a forty-minute walk, so I brought a book along, and a raincoat, as the weather was a bit melancholy. It took me fifteen minutes to find the store when I arrived, because it’s hidden behind an overgrown brush on the side of the road. When I walked in, the bookstore was dark, with a light, fungal stench, which unites used-bookstores the world over. Books lay on the floor, and those on the shelves had tilted on their sides; ephemera (Victorian-era postcards, mostly) sat in boxes, attracting dust. Dirty dishes gathered in the sink, and the refrigerator’s cord dangled, unplugged, on the kitchen counter.
I wandered over to the house next door, set aside a collection of half-potted azaleas, and knocked. A short woman, probably my mother’s age, answered the door.
Is the bookstore open, I asked.
She sighed, and opened the screendoor. The bookstore, well, is closed, she started. My mother–Barbara, the bookstore’s founder–had a few strokes, and my nephew’s been living there off-and-on for a couple of years.
We’re not sure what to do with this stuff, she continued. There’s so much of it, and it seems a shame to throw it away.