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Signed Copies

The antique streetlamps along Houston Street cast an eerie glow filtered through the rain that arrived after closing time, thumping against the tinted-glass display windows at the front of the shop. The light, however, illuminates nothing and the rain drenches no one; the streets are empty. Inside the shop, Sal leans back against the front checkout counter. The receiver of an ancient rotary phone rests on his shoulder, an unlit cigarette dangling absently from his lips.

“Yes, sir,” he says into the phone, “I’m quite familiar with the book. It is, after all, a classic.” He pauses while the person on the other end of the phone speaks.

“Yes, I understand that we say we can find any book for any customer.” The store motto is etched in the glass of the front window, after all. There is another long pause.

“Yes, sir, if you are willing to pay the price it’s typically not that difficult to find a signed Hemingway.” There’s a longer pause while the caller speaks more loudly.

“Again, I’m sorry to say there simply are no signed copies of A Moveable Feast available anywhere.” This time the pause is much shorter.

“Because it was published three years after Hemingway died.” Long pause.

“Yes, sir, I’m quite certain.” After yet another pause, Sal gently places the telephone receiver back in its cradle. The caller has hung up.

Sal laughs out loud in the empty store as he turns to watch the rain outside grow heavier. A signed copy of A Moveable Feast. It was a crazy request, of course, but then he had seen more than a few crazy things since he went from burglar to bookseller.

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