The Bookman's Wake
dramatically, and I was hooked by the woman and pulled
     in among them. The man gripped my arm and the woman herded
     us all inside. “This place is a shambles,” she
     said, picking up a magazine and shooing us on. I was swept
     through a hallway to a well-lit kitchen where a tall, thin
     man sat at the table. He got to his feet as we came in, and
     we all got our first real look at each other. The woman was
     young: she might easily have passed for Eleanor’s
     older sister, though I knew she had to be at least my age.
     But there wasn’t a wrinkle on her face nor a strand
     of gray: her only concession to age was a pair of
     small-framed granny glasses. The man was burly: my height
     and heavier, about the size of an NFL lineman. His hair was
     curly and amber and he had a beard to match. The man at the
     table was in his sixties, with slate-gray hair and leathery
     skin. Eleanor introduced them. “This is my father,
     Gaston Rigby…my mother, Crystal…my uncle,
     Archie Moon. Guys, this is Mr. Janeway.” We all shook
     hands. Rigby’s hand was tentative but his eyes were
     steady. Archie Moon gripped my hand firmly and said he was
     glad to meet me. Crystal said that, whatever I had done for
     their daughter, they were in my debt—doubly so for
     bringing her home to them.
    There was more fussing, those first awkward moments
     among strangers. Rigby seemed shy and reserved: he hung
     back and observed while Crystal and Eleanor did the
     talking. Hospitality was the order of the moment: Crystal
     wanted us to eat, but Eleanor told her we had stopped on
     the road. “Well, damn your eyes, you oughta be
     spanked,” Crystal said. She asked if we’d like
     coffee at least: I said that sounded wonderful. Eleanor
     said, “I think what Mr. Janeway would like better
     than anything is some dry clothes,” and Crystal took
     my measure with her eyes. “I think some of your old
     things would fit him close enough, Gaston,” she said.
     “Get him a pair of those old jeans and a flannel
     shirt and I’ll get the coffee on.”
    Rigby disappeared and Crystal bustled about. “Get
     down that good china for me, will you, Archie?” she
     said, and Moon reached high over her head and began to take
     down the cups. Eleanor and I sat at the kitchen table,
     lulled by the sudden warmth. Impulsively she reached across
     and took my hand, squeezing it and smiling into my eyes. I
     thought she was probably on the verge of tears. Then the
     moment passed and she drew back into herself as Moon came
     with the cups and saucers and began setting them around the
    “None for me, honey,” he said. “I been
     coffeed-out since noon, won’t sleep a wink if I drink
     another drop.”
    “I got some decaf,” Crystal said.
    “Nah; I gotta get goin‘.”
    “What’ve you gotta do?” Crystal said
     mockingly. “You ain’t goin‘ a damn place
     but back to that old shack.”
    “Never mind what I’m gonna do. You
     don’t know everything that’s goin‘ on in
     my life, even if you think you do.”
    They laughed at this with good humor. They spoke a rich
     Southern dialect, which Crystal was able to modify when she
     talked to us. “This old man is impossible,” she
     said. “Would you please talk to him while I get the
     coffee on?—otherwise he’ll run off and get in
    Moon allowed himself to be bullied for the moment. He
     sat beside Eleanor and said, “Well, Mr. Janeway, what
     do people call you in casual conversation?”
    “Cliff sometimes brings my head up.”
    “What line of work are you in?”
    “Why is that always the first thing men
     ask?” Crystal said.
    “It defines them,” Eleanor said.
    “So, Mr. Janeway,” Moon said loudly.
     “What line of work are you in?”
    “Right now I’m between things.”
    “An old and honorable calling. I’ve been in
     that line once or twice myself. Sometimes it can be pretty
    “As long as you come up smiling.”
    “Just for the

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