Thursday afternoon Louis went out with his friend Will to drink beer and ‘watch the game.’ This took until Saturday morning. Louis spent the rest of Saturday and then Sunday glued to the couch, spinning through the channels, landing on each for either three seconds or 15 minutes. One of the longer pauses was a program about counterfeit books from the middle ages. The techniques were simple and mostly relied on people simply not looking too closely. All of which made Louis think he should get in on this.
It took him about a month. Most of that month was spent refining than he expected but in the end he had a set of impressive books, to him at least, that he was sure he could move. The selling he left up to his girlfriend, Anna. She was a better talker and besides, why should he put his neck on the line?
To keep her from immediately saying she wouldn’t do it and also to see how good they really were, he told her he got the books from his uncle’s attic. His uncle was a weirdo, an academic, and had been rich once. It was plausible he’d have books like this.
Anna went to college, a good one. Suggesting that she was smarter than average. But she studied art which suggests maybe she wasn’t. She was also with Louis which was the biggest strike against her. But she’s still young, and he’s mostly just a mistake, even if she doesn’t know it just yet.
She had an idea of how to sell the books and she still believed in Louis, even if she shouldn’t have.
Despite her plan and though she expected it, the day was full of surprises. The first bookshop had no idea what to do with them and suggested she sell them online. The next dealer asked her some pointed questions which made her realize something was probably up and she should not answer any direct questions she did not actually know the answers to. To the inevitable suggestion that the books were not authentic she answered, somewhat lamely, “I didn’t know, they were my grandfather’s.” “Well, then your grandfather got cheated.” “Dammit.” It took her three more days, and at the end she was able to sell four.
One bookseller in particular gave her an especially thorough explanation of why the books she was trying to sell were a fraud. As he talked she realized that these books had never belonged to Louis’ uncle. Louis had put her up to this and probably without a second thought. And then she realized, everything else she had ever suspected about him was probably true too. She kicked Louis out of her life as soon as she stepped out of the shop.
She made good money, for all the shock the revelation came with. A little more than a thousand dollars. Louis was unimpressed. Nor with her moving out. Later she heard he had moved on to counterfeit handbags and watches made in Burma or somewhere.
Anna, though, when she realized how easy it was decided maybe she could do something on her own. But she wouldn’t pretend they were old. She could do something even more interesting.
I like pizza. It’s easy and if the people making it aren’t cretins, it can taste between very good and delicious. I have a place I go to regularly enough that the food (particularly good in its own right) is only part of the whole experience. The other part is the clientele. Probably my ‘favorite’ is Paolo, who claims to have been a stage hand at ‘La Scala’ for twenty years. Before he retired. To Brooklyn.
Unsurprisingly, I ran into Tommy there last week. He looked a little better than the time before, like at least he’d gotten some sun.
-Well, I was down there.
-Where do you think?
-Right, looking after Bern? I thought you said January. I was wondering, is that why I haven’t seen you ’round.
-I wasn’t sure he was gonna make it, from what I was hearing. So, yeah, I went down.
-He’s fine. I mean, he’s all fucked up. But he’s fine. Or will be.
-Yeah. And it was nice to get a little sun.
-I’m sure. Hey, how’s that thing coming?
-Oh. Man. I should have picked a different book.
-What’s wrong with Daisy Miller?
-She went off. Jesus. I sent her a copy and she was like ‘She’s a fucking Whoor!’ and like an idiot I didn’t understand her, I was like, ‘A what?’ ‘A WHOOR!’ I was like, what the hell is she saying? ‘A professional. You gave me a book where my daughter is a street-walker! What kind of asshole are you!’
I was like, damn, it’s literature. I didn’t say it was gonna be easy.
But she wasn’t having it, wanted her money back! I was like, no, Lady, I did the work. You bought it. It’s yours.
I don’t want this trash! How could you do this to my daughter! You’re a monster!
What a pain in the ass.
-So you finished?
-Sure. And she’s pretty much right. Daisy’s kind of a tramp. Mostly she’s just in over her head. But still, I get her point. Hey, I’m going out to watch the ponies. What are you doing, you busy?
-Come on. I’m gonna throw a hundred bucks at ’em, see if I can’t win the money I gotta pay to Malinovskiya. I fucking hate having to go into my own pocket for that.
-Sure, what the hell. Sounds like a winning plan.
This was what did it for her: after seeing the wolf around her property for a couple months, one afternoon as she was getting out of her car the wolf came out of the forest and started towards her – its eyes fixed on hers. Like the last time she froze for a second, wondering if it was coming to say hello, or maybe to beg for something, but this time when she looked into its eyes she saw how intent it was to simply close the distance between them. It just wanted to get to her and it was staring at her simply to make sure she didn’t escape.
Panic whispering at her, she climbed back into the car and without thinking, started it up. The wolf kept coming, it seemed to take her vanishing into the car as merely something else to be figured out. When it was maybe a yard away from her door it took a sniff and looked up at her. Then turned and started to walk around the back of the car, clearly with the intent of checking for some other way to get at her. When it was directly behind her she put the car in gear and floored it, feeling a combined nausea and relief when she heard the wolf get knocked down, and then felt the car bump over its body. The wolf made no sound. She put the car back into forward and drove over it again, then backed over it one more time, now really feeling sick, and then a little further down the drive so she could see its corpse. It was certainly dead. She called the local wildlife control office and within the hour an officer came out and took the dead animal away.
She waited for his arrival inside the car and even after he’d gone, she didn’t feel safe. Throughout the night she kept waking up and going to the living room to look out at the stain on the driveway, as though it could come to life and turn into yet another.
(I called him up, ’cause I hadn’t heard from him lately)
So what page you on?
Somewhere in the 40s, I gotta go. I’ll call later.
(that’s all I got)
He brought me a coffee. I had the flu for, like, ten days and am kind of only now getting back on my feet. And he called me up and was like,
What can I get for ya?
For real? Don’t you have a machine?
Yeah, but I want one from Tolluci Brother’s
(the girl they have there makes the best cappuccino – she’s not a ‘barista’ or anything, she’s just some nice girl from Grosseto who want to hang out in NYC and maybe get married – and work for the brother’s. I don’t know what the place is really called, it’s not Tolluci’s but that’s who owns it right now and how everyone knows it.)
You don’t ask for much, do you? Gimme about half an hour.
(So he brings me the coffee which was nice, though it’s on the way. And he looked like shit, I gotta say.)
You look worse than I feel. You OK?
Nah, things are kind of fucked up lately. I got a call from Bern the other day; he’s back in jail.
Sorry to hear that.
Well, jail, you expect that, a guy like Bern. But he’s sick as shit and they’re not gonna take care of him right.
You gonna go down there? Help him out?
No, maybe in January. And then, look, don’t laugh but I was kind of worried that you had the Ebola.
Yeah, your neighbor just got back from there and all.
He’s a doctor.
Don’t matter. They have no idea how it gets around.
Sure they do.
I don’t think so. Not really.
Well, I’m on the mend. How’s your book coming?
Valeriya Malinovskiya? I dunno. It’s coming. they gave me some money, so I gotta finish it but damn.
It’s not as easy as just bullshitting.
Yeah, that’s why Clive Cussler and them get the big bucks.
So how’s it going Tommy?
Oh man. That guy, that Henry James is one weird fucking guy.
Well, he lived in a different time, right?
Weird is weird. Don’t matter when he lived. He was weird then, he’s weird now.
So how far you get? You done?
I’m on page twelve.
It’s hard. Plus I’ve been busy.
Yeah, but I can’t talk about that. Maybe later.