I had lunch with Pat, my one and only work friend, yesterday. This week marks three years I've been at the workplace, and that's all I'm going to say about that right now. If I've learned only one thing there -- and I have to wonder sometimes if this might not in fact be the case -- it's that you don't sit up front in Tom's during the first week of school unless you want to eat your sandwich with someone's mom and dad mugging on the other side of the window while their embarrassed kid takes pictures. It's like the most famous landmark in New York City for a week, and the folks are lined up three deep to get their photo snapped on the sidewalk.
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.