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The Sentence by Louise Erdrich

The Sentence by Louise Erdrich

Author:Louise Erdrich [Erdrich, Louise]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Published: 2021-11-04T00:00:00+00:00


THE DAY after we closed the bookstore, everything shut down. That night, Pollux and I drove to Eat Street to pick up Chinese food at Rainbow, a place we’d been going to for years. It was only six p.m. but it felt like three a.m. Shop windows were hollow blurs. The parking lot was clear except for an ominous, idling Humvee. I slid out of our car to get the food. Had the urge to tiptoe or sneak. Two young people sat in the Rainbow’s entryway talking on their phones about a party. One of them said, Nah, I’m young. The owner, Tammy, brought the order and said thank you in a tone I’d never heard. I took the order to the car and put the bag on the rubber mat next to my feet. The complex smell of Chinese food seeped up like a drug. I glanced down at the stapled paper bag on the floor. Soft circles of oil from the takeout containers had soaked into the brown paper. I thought they were beautiful. Honey walnut shrimp, crispy tiger beef, garlicky green beans. I reached over and held Pollux’s wide hand as we slowly drove along. There was a slick of rain on the empty, peaceful streets.

‘Why can’t it always be this way?’ I asked Pollux.

He gave me an odd look. I turned aside. The empty street swished beneath the tires. Perhaps I should have been ashamed. Why was it that I felt this was the world I’d always waited for?

LOUISE WAS the opposite, so despondent after we’d closed the store that she kept sending out long garbled emails that were supposed to buck up our spirits but did the opposite. The store was nearly twenty years old. That’s a big chunk of life. Jackie, especially, had been through some lean times with her and knew she would be casting frantically around for a solution. But how to find a solution when we didn’t yet know the shape of the problem? I also knew in these times Louise relied on something else. She had this weird sense of destiny about the store. It was more than a place, it was a nexus, a mission, a work of art, a calling, a sacred craziness, a slice of eccentricity, a collection of good people who shifted and rearranged but cared deeply about the same one thing—books.

One morning Louise called, jubilant.

‘We got essential worker status, Tookie.’

‘Yeah?’

‘It means we’re essential.’

‘Okay.’

‘It means we can stay in business. Not open our doors, but keep selling. It means our state considers books essential in this time. I’m surprised we got word so soon. It was practically the day after we applied.’

I was silent.

‘Essential,’ she gloated.

‘Well, yeah, we’re doing school orders.’

‘I know but we didn’t say that. We just applied as a bookstore. It means books are essential, Tookie.’

‘I guess.’

She hung up on me. I know that this meant something huge to her, but to me it just meant more uncertainty and jiggered-together adaptations. I wanted to stay in the shuttered serenity that Pollux and I had traveled through on our trip to the Rainbow.



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