Pat and I had a nice lunch as far in the back as we could get seats, and then dawdled along in the sun, looking at books for sale on the street. Right off I gravitated to a hardcover copy of Eudora Welty's One Writer's Beginnings -- I'd seen it on the guy's table before and thought it was something I'd like, but never picked it up. I find I'm a little more adventurous when I'm browsing with someone else, though, especially if we're trying to kill some time. So I opened it and there, on the flyleaf, was this:
"How much?" I asked.
"Four dollars," he said.
I had a pang of guilt. It didn't last long. In 25+ years of buying secondhand books, I've never found any buried treasure, not once. This felt like the universe patting me indulgently on the back of the hand -- "That's nice, dear" -- but right around now I could use a little babying from the powers that be.
I Googled the signature when I got back to the office and yes, it's hers. The book's not a first -- more like a tenth -- and while it might have netted the guy a bit more than $4 it wouldn't have made him rich. On the other hand, it made me very rich indeed. On a day that was hard in need of a ray of sunshine, a $4 copy of One Writer's Beginnings with Eudora Welty's handwriting in the front -- "Jackson, Missippi / March 23, 1984" -- was just fine.