The Black Brook

Overview


An utterly original and compelling novel from “one of our living masters (McSweeney’s), originally published in 1998 and now re-issued by Grove with a new introduction--a conversation between the author and Daniel Handler.

Paul Emmons has his faults—envy, lust, naiveté, money laundering, and art forgery to name but a few. A fallen accountant and scamster, Emmons and wife Mary are exiled abroad, though they enjoy frequent and inadvisable ...

See more details below
Available through our Marketplace sellers.
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (6) from $1.99   
  • Used (6) from $1.99   
Close
Sort by
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Note: Marketplace items are not eligible for any BN.com coupons and promotions
$1.99
Seller since 2014

Feedback rating:

(4021)

Condition:

New — never opened or used in original packaging.

Like New — packaging may have been opened. A "Like New" item is suitable to give as a gift.

Very Good — may have minor signs of wear on packaging but item works perfectly and has no damage.

Good — item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Acceptable — item is in working order but may show signs of wear such as scratches or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Used — An item that has been opened and may show signs of wear. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Refurbished — A used item that has been renewed or updated and verified to be in proper working condition. Not necessarily completed by the original manufacturer.

Good
Book shows minor use. Cover and Binding have minimal wear, and the pages have only minimal creases. Free State Books. Never settle for less.

Ships from: Halethorpe, MD

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$1.99
Seller since 2009

Feedback rating:

(7254)

Condition: Very Good
Very good condition book with only light signs of previous use. Sail the Seas of Value

Ships from: Windsor, CT

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$4.79
Seller since 2014

Feedback rating:

(2)

Condition: Good
2000 Paperback Good Connecting readers with great books since 1972. Used books may not include companion materials, some shelf wear, may contain highlighting/notes, and may not ... include cd-rom or access codes. Customer service is our top priority! Read more Show Less

Ships from: Mayfield Heights, OH

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$5.99
Seller since 2014

Feedback rating:

(0)

Condition: Good
2000 Paperback Good Connecting readers with great books since 1972. Used books may not include companion materials, some shelf wear, may contain highlighting/notes, and may not ... include cd-rom or access codes. Customer service is our top priority! Read more Show Less

Ships from: Chesterfield, MO

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$19.99
Seller since 2014

Feedback rating:

(43)

Condition: Good
Buy with Confidence. Excellent Customer Support. We ship from multiple US locations. No CD, DVD or Access Code Included.

Ships from: Fort Mill, SC

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Standard, 48 States
$199.92
Seller since 2006

Feedback rating:

(60180)

Condition: Good
Shows some signs of wear, and may have some markings on the inside. 100% Money Back Guarantee. Shipped to over one million happy customers. Your purchase benefits world literacy!

Ships from: Mishawaka, IN

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Close
Sort by
Sending request ...

Overview


An utterly original and compelling novel from “one of our living masters (McSweeney’s), originally published in 1998 and now re-issued by Grove with a new introduction--a conversation between the author and Daniel Handler.

Paul Emmons has his faults—envy, lust, naiveté, money laundering, and art forgery to name but a few. A fallen accountant and scamster, Emmons and wife Mary are exiled abroad, though they enjoy frequent and inadvisable returns to New England, the region of his crimes, to check in on the property they own but cannot claim.

With this, the stage is set for Drury's darkly comic novel of love, death, guilt, redemption, and the various forms of clam chowder. Through a series of flashbacks and bizarre encounters, we see Paul's life as a college student in Quebec; his unfortunate professional beginnings in Rhode Island as business associate of Carlo Record, the one-armed president of the fraudulent company "New England Amusements"; and his stint as an investigative journalist.

As time passes, Paul is tracked down by Carlo's cronies--Ashtray Bob, Line-Item Vito, and Hatpin Henry--who try to coerce Paul into stealing the infamous John Singer Sargant painting "The Black Brook" from the Tate gallery in London. Instead, Paul begs Mary, a painter, to reproduce the Sargant, in an attempt to outwit Carlo and his henchmen; a plot that produces comic consequences.

Through it all Paul strives to find and accomplish his mission in life, and myriad characters contrive to tell their stories—of broken promises, nightmarish evenings, and identities lost and found in this "irresistibly droll portrayal of an All-American liar, loser, and innocent" (Kirkus).

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
"A Brontë for the '90s"

Tom Drury calls me from a pay phone outside Wrigley Field, about 15 minutes before game time. He and a friend are waiting for the friend of another friend to show up with their tickets. Drury's on a book tour for his second novel, The Black Brook. I've been trying to catch up with him for a week now, to tell him how much I loved his new book, how many passages of it I've been reading aloud to cornered friends, how many deadpan-quirky parts of it had me cocking my head like the locked-in-a-car dog in the first chapter, whose head is actually cocked so far it's upside down. It tells you a lot about the fictional world of Tom Drury that the dog's head is like that not because it's suffocating but because it's always like that. Who knows why? Just is. Whattaya want, a treatise on dog genetics or a good novel?

I tell Drury I loved the priceless ball game set piece in The Black Brook, a minor league game between the Ashland (Connecticut) Matches and the Roscoe (Ontario) Tigers, full of reckless base stealing and the possibility of hitting balls into a lake and a deeply funny exchange in which the novel's fallen-accountant hero tries to help three drunk teenagers fix the grammar but not the profanity of their ungrammatical and profane cheer: an exquisite fan's-eye view of watching a ball game that nobody but the players cares about.

"Hey," Drury says. "Tell 'em [meaning you, barnesandnoble.com visitors] about the time you threw that baseball that broke my finger," he says, "and I bled all over the place at the banquet."

"I'm sorry," I say.

"I'm over it," he says.

"I'm really sorry," I say.

"Well, you should be, I guess."

The incident happened three years ago, at the Wesleyan Writers Conference, which is where he and I met. In between classes and readings (and bourbon-soaked nights in the faculty hospitality suite with Richard Bausch, Henry Taylor, and Robert Stone), we stepped out one fine Connecticut afternoon to have a catch. An errant throw of mine somehow busted up the guy's finger, causing this future honoree as one of Granta's Best Young American Novelists to be a bloody mess during the final conference banquet and impeding his progress on The Black Brook -- at least insofar as he was temporarily without the use of the finger whose job it is to type the letters y, u, h, j, n, and m.

---------

"Growing up where I grew up," says Drury, which is to say Mason City, Iowa, "you can't see any career path from high school to novelist."

Tom Drury's father worked for the Chicago Great Western Railroad, and his mother worked for People's Gas and Electric of Mason City -- which, in tandem, is so perfect I hardly know where to start. Straightforward and relentless movement mixed with different sorts of power. Brawny urbanity mixed with earnest Hawkeye-state charm. Real names that sound so perfectly midwestern one suspects they're made up, even though I'm sure they're not. Plains-flat details about Drury's past that for some reason make me grin, waiting for the joke these details set up, until I realize there is no joke -- and that, somehow, is the joke.

Drury attended the University of Iowa but wasn't affiliated with its famed writers' workshop. He definitely wanted someday to write fiction, but he enrolled in the journalism program. "I didn't have near enough distance on my own life to write fiction," Drury says. "Journalism seemed like a much more attainable goal."

He graduated and got a job at the Danbury (Connecticut) News-Times, his first in a series of newspaper jobs. "I was a swing reporter," he says, "covering odd stories here and there."

It's a job similar to the one Paul Emmons lands in The Black Brook. Emmons -- an accountant who worked for a minor mob figure, laundering money and arranging art forgery (a long, delightful story) -- is AWOL from the witness protection program: He's supposed to be in Spokane but instead runs a B&B in Belgium (you'd think this would be a long story, too, but it's not; it's just a semi-arbitrary decision he and his wife make) and not infrequently visits Connecticut, the scene of his crimes. Emmons leaves his wife (the cockeyed civility of this is masterfully portrayed), returns to Connecticut, and blunders into a swing-reporter job.

While The Black Brook isn't an autobiographical novel (quelle surprise!), Drury says, "It does draw on my experience as a journalist. The ridiculous randomness of the assignments," he adds, in which you can be covering the Royal Lipizzan Stallions one night and a highway fatality the next, "feeds the tempo of the book."

Drury's last newspaper job was at the Providence Journal-Bulletin. After a few years there, he applied to the graduate creative-writing program at Brown. One night when he was on the copy desk, Drury's wife called. The novelist John Hawkes had left a message. Drury had a place at Brown if he wanted it.

He wanted it. Soon after he finished the program there, he began -- under the tutelage of the late, legendary editor Veronica Geng -- publishing short stories in The New Yorker, stories that would be connected to make up his first novel, The End of Vandalism. The book centers on a love triangle in Grouse County, Iowa, involving the county sheriff, a sometime burglar who wrecks the community's "Dance Against Vandalism," and the burglar's wife, who, sensibly, falls for the sheriff. That doesn't tell the half of it; the genius of the book is equally Drury's Dickensian ability to create a memorable, believable minor character in a line or two.

For his next book, Drury says, "I didn't want to do 'Vandalism Rides Again.' I wanted to stretch."

Without sacrificing one of contemporary fiction's best deadpan deliveries, Drury's done just that. The first novel is set in one place and is very much about the permanence of place; the new one is set all over the place and is largely about temporality. The first was told from several points of view, the second from a single character's. Whereas the first is chronological, the second begins in the present, goes to the past, and maintains its felicitous zig-zagging thereafter.

The genesis of The Black Brook, Drury says, came from a letter a reader sent him after one of The New Yorker stories, comparing Drury favorably to other contemporary writers who are trying to "Brontë the '90s."

Drury had no idea what that was supposed to mean, especially in verb form. He'd never read the Brontës. Instead of taking the compliment at pokerface-value, he went on a reading jag: Emily's Wuthering Heights, Anne's Agnes Grey, and Charlotte's Jane Eyre and Villette. It was Villette that most influenced Drury, directly inspiring The Black Brook's Belgian setting (Drury had never been to Belgium) and the loopy chunks of untranslated French ("I just liked the way that looked," Drury says).

As he tells me this, I can hear the National Anthem playing. This is quite probably the first time Villette, often praised as British literature's best depiction of unrequited love from a woman's perspective, has been discussed by two men, one calling from a pay phone outside Wrigley Field, in the moments preceding a Cubs game.

"Are your tickets there yet?" I ask.

"Just got here," Drury says.

"Play ball," I say.

"We're just watching," Drury says.

"Watch ball," I say.

—Mark Winegardner

From the Publisher
"Every page of THE BLACK BROOK yields wonderful surprises—of invention, of insight, of language."—Richard Russo

"A unique voice, Drury will nonetheless appeal to fans of Richard Ford and Raymond Carver." Booklist, ALA, Starred Review

"Is mild-mannered Paul the hapless victim of American social breakdown? Or is he the devious master of his own screwed-up destiny? Tom Drury ranks right up there with fellow Connecticut writer Robert Stone when it comes to depicting the futility of American wanderlust." Boston Herald

LA Times
Although Drury has been compared to Garrison Keillor and Raymond Carver, he's really in a class of one.
Granta
One of America's best young novelists.
Time Out London
It is a long time since I have heard such a strange new voice...a true storyteller's voice...Tom Drury is a major new find.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Drury follows his winning debut, "The End of Vandalism", a laugh-out-loud funny portrait of small-town eccentrics in Connecticut, with a diffuse and unfocused attempt at, one guesses, social satire. This novel, too long, insistently not funny and seemingly enamored of the non sequitur, reads like the script for an unmade John Cassavetes film. The protagonist, Paul, is an unremarkable fellow from New England attending college in Quebec, sharing a house with Loom and Alice, his best friends, who later marry. Paul weds Mary, the widow of a man for whom he interned during the summer, filing police records in Boston. After graduation, Paul takes an accountancy job and bumbles into money laundering for one of his clients. This earns him a subpoena and eventual entry into a witness protection program, a short stay in the Pacific Northwest and then a spell in Brussels, where Mary has inherited a hotel. Paul and Mary split up, and Paul lands a newspaper job in the small New Hampshire town where Loom and Alice live. Paul has an affair with Alice, speaks with a woman's ghost (she committed suicide or drowned), goes searching for the woman's daughter, whom he finds working as a golf pro in Scotland. And so on. Since Mary is also a copier of famous paintings, Paul returns to Belgium to ask her to make a copy of Sargent's 'Black Brook', because (perhaps) one of the stories Paul worked on at the newspaper was about a stream that disappeared. This book will try the patience of anyone who does not equate feckless with funny. It's a tremendous disappointment from a writer once called a mixture of Keillor and Carver.
New York Times Book Review
Drury has taken a genre plot—standard issue but fairly somber—and used it as a frame on which to hang a novel of deadpan whimsy. . . .Drury. . .has an abundance of dramatic material on hand here: crime, flight, marital discord, pursuit. . . . .All these matters are crowded by so much random trivia, however, that they are drained of drama and emotional consequence. . . .the book left me with a residual impression of enormous sadness.
Tim Warren
Paul is certainly no saint, but he commands our attention and our understanding. What a lovely book.
Hartford Courant
Judith Wynn
Is mild—mannered Paul the hapless victim of American social breakdown? Or is he the devious master of his own screwed—up destiny? Tom Drury ranks right up there with fellow Connecticut writer Robert Stone when it comes to depicting the futility of American wanderlust.
Boston Herald
Stephen Deusner
One might get the sense that the author is nostalgic for the failed American Dream, but what he has ultimately crafted is not an elegy for a way of life or promise of national prosperity but a meditation on life and death.
Memphis Commercial Appeal
Kirkus Reviews
An irresistibly droll portrayal of an All-American liar, loser, and innocent dominates this edgy, captivating second novel by the author of "The End of Vandalism" (1994). Drury's protagonist is Paul Emmons (formerly Nash), an accountant whose hapless complicity in a money-laundering scam sets him and his wife Mary on a furtive odyssey abroad (thanks to the Witness Security Program), then frequently back to the US to gaze longingly at the New England property they own but don't dare claim. Drury manipulates his quirky narrative expertly, flashing backward to Paul's college days (at a Quebec diploma mill) and friendship with housemates "Loom" and Alice (who later marry) and then to his unfortunate business alliance (in Providence) with Carlo Record, one-armed president of "New England Amusements." Paul is hired as "swing reporter" by the 'Ashland (Rhode Island) Sun'; investigates the death of a teacher who may have committed suicide; reunites with his old roomies (and begins an affair with Alice); then is tracked down by Carlo's musclemen and promised his life if he'll agree to steal a valuable painting ('The Black Brook) from London's Tate Gallery. The deliciously stark denouement follows Paul's successful plea that Mary (who's an artist) copy the desired painting, thus duping Carlo and his surly band (who sport such wondrous monikers as Ashtray Bob, Line-Item Vito, and Hatpin Henry). This funky novel exhibits some of Thomas Berger's genius for rendering sheer insanity in bland colloquial terms, and it bristles with off-the-wall conversational non sequiturs ("I consider you the lowest form of human garbage.'/'Well, you look good"). A deft cataloguing of outrageous behavior, presented ina deadpan style that will have readers humming with pleasure as they turn the pages. A trip and a treat.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780395957950
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 2/28/2000
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 5.15 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.85 (d)

Meet the Author


Tom Drury is the author of Pacific, longlisted for the National Book Award; The End of Vandalism; Hunts in Dreams; and The Driftless Area. His fiction has appeared in the New Yorker, Harper’s, and The Mississippi Review, and he has been named one of Granta’s “Best Young American Novelists.”
Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt


1

It was a hot dry dusty summer day in New Hampshire. Mary and Paul Emmons had just taken a booth in a diner called Happy's when Mary noticed a dog in a car in the parking lot with its head turned upside down.

"What's the matter with that dog?" she said.

"Where?" said Paul.

Mary touched the screen. Rust flakes fell to the windowsill. "Down there."

"I don't see it."

"I don't think it has enough air to breathe."

"I don't see a dog."

Paul and Mary were natives of the United States who had lived in Belgium for the past six years. Before that, they had owned a house in Providence, where Paul had been an accountant. Then he came under indictment and eventually testified in a well-publicized criminal trial, for which the federal government gave him a new identity.

When the trial was over, Mary and Paul moved to Spokane. But they did not like Spokane, things did not work out so well for them there, and after seven months in Spokane they got on a plane and flew to Belgium, where Mary had relatives whom she had visited during her childhood summers.

Mary and Paul ended up living and working in a modest hotel in the Ardennes. Mary managed the inn and Paul kept the books, and between them they had to perform every sort of hotel duty except fixing the electrical wiring. It felt like, and was, a life in exile. Paul had more guilty knowledge than Mary, but Mary had some too. She was not a CPA but she understood numbers.

They had been warned never to come back to New England, but this was the third time they had done so. The urge to return is great among protected witnesses, and the more Paul and Mary came back, the less threatened they felt. They drove past their old house in rented cars with their arms resting in open windows. It was a shame how the place had fallen apart, with tall scorched grass and sagging gutters. They visited Paul's family down in South County, neither making a show of their presence nor trying to hide. In movies it may seem that gangsters have nothing better to do all day than hunt down and shoot turncoat accountants, but in the Emmonses' experience the opposite was true.

During these rare visits to the States, however, Paul and Mary found it difficult to get along with Paul's family. His mother and father, and especially his aunts and uncles and cousins, seemed both jealous of Mary's Belgian relatives and hostile to Mary and Paul themselves. The truth is Paul's family had never been that wild about Mary, who even before her banishment among French speakers would lapse into French for no particular reason. And Paul had thrown a cloud over the family, first by conspiring to racketeer and then by informing on people who had once considered him, if not their friend, at least their associate.

After a week of visiting Paul's relatives in Rhode Island, Mary and Paul were always more than ready to drive up to New Hampshire, where they owned thirty-nine acres of maples and meadows and evergreens, not far from Carr Mountain and the Polar Caves.

A waitress in red shorts and a white sweatshirt brought laminated menus that felt sharp enough to cut paper, Paul and Mary ordered, and as the waitress walked away they could see the small flags of many nations printed on the back of her sweatshirt.

Mary pressed her light thick hair back along the sides of her head, her eyes widened, and she stabbed Paul's hand with the prong of a barrette. "There that dog is," she said. "Look now. You can only see him when he's on this side of the car."

Paul looked. He saw a tan dog whose neck was twisted so that the bottom of the jaw pointed almost straight up. The dog seemed to be staggering in circles. It would climb onto the passenger seat again and again, only to stumble down onto the floorboard each time.

"He doesn't look very good," Paul conceded.

"He must be suffocating."

"Hard to say from this angle, Mary."

By the time the waitress in the flag sweatshirt brought food to the booth, other patrons had gathered at the windows, making the dog's predicament harder for Paul to dismiss. A thin man in a black baseball hat spoke up loudly to ask if the driver of the car -- a gray Audi with a Princeton sticker in the back window -- was in the diner. No answer.

"Some people," said a redhead who held a pack of cigarettes in one hand and a lighter in the other. "You don't leave a dog with the windows rolled up in heat like this."

"It's not right," agreed an old man whom some of the others had called Judge, although he did not necessarily look like a member of the judiciary.

"And they're from Princeton," said the man in the black hat. "You'd think they would know better."

"They have education, all right, but no common sense," said the woman who gripped her smoking materials like pistols.

"You know it, Bonnie," said the old man. "Some people have learned too much."

Mary put her fork down. "I'm not eating."

"Maybe it's unlocked," said Paul.

They walked out of the diner and down a flight of cement stairs to the gravel lot. Sun glinted on the closed windows of the Audi. They tried the handles but there was not even a click that would have suggested engagement with some opening mechanism.

The car had been washed not long ago, and its gleaming charcoal surface, dusted with fine sand, seemed especially closed to Paul and Mary. They stood watching the dog, who climbed and fell, climbed and fell, and whose left ear, they could now see, was turned inside out.

Paul said that the dog almost seemed drunk.

"Of course he seems drunk," said Mary. "Because what does liquor do? It cuts the flow of oxygen to the brain. He can't breathe. He can't breathe and now he's going to die."

"Wouldn't he just pass out?"

"He will if we stand here long enough," said Mary. "He'll pass out and then die."

Paul put his hands on his knees and made eye contact with the dog. It seemed like the usual dog, dealing with enclosure through meaningless repetitive motion, except that its head and ear were very strange. "There must be a tire iron in our car. That's what we're talking about, isn't it? Something heavy."

Mary ran off, her yellow dress swaying in the wavering heat. When she returned she carried a cruciform lug wrench that she handed to Paul. He hefted the wrench in his right hand and scanned the smooth curving glass. What would a sensible person do? A swing of the tire iron would either save the dog's life or simply break the window of an expensive car with a grotesque dog inside. Perhaps the dog had rabies and would jump out and bite them. Then they would have to get all those shots in the stomach, if that was still the treatment for rabies. Perhaps bits of glass would fly into the dog's eyes, adding blindness to its many other problems.

Mary tapped the glass, chewed her fingernail, placed her hands on her hips. "Vogue la galere," she said.

"What if the dog has rabies?" said Paul.

"I can't see driving around casually with a rabid dog."

"All right. Probably they wouldn't," said Paul.

Just then a short stout man with a long white apron and a gray goatee came running down the stairs. "Wait," he said. "I'm Happy."

"Excuse me?" said Paul.

"They call me Happy. I run the diner."

"Oh, I got you."

"I have an idea where you can find the owners," said Happy. "They're probably down the street at L'Embarras du Choix. That's another restaurant -- they serve French food -- and their customers are not supposed to use this parking lot, but a lot of times they do anyway."

Happy's words made Paul happy, though he understood how keenly Mary had wanted to hear and see that breaking glass.

"Hurry," she said. "There isn't much time."

Paul loped down the street of the New Hampshire town, past young trees with broken branches, past a newspaper store with model airplanes in the window, past a souvenir shop called Not Just Unicorns. A brass plate bore the name of the French restaurant. Paul stood before two wooden doors with opaque windows, of frosted glass. He wiped the sweat from his eyes. He did not want to go in, because he knew what he would find: people with money. He had tried once upon a time to get money himself and instead had been relegated to a tumbledown inn in Belgium. Not long before this trip, in fact, he had experienced a strange moment of self-awareness at the inn. He had been pouring liquid drain opener into a sink, scratching his stomach and looking absently out at cows standing in the Ardennes rain. Suddenly he had the notion that he had been doing these things forever -- pouring, scratching, looking -- and that in arriving at this moment he had come at last to his essence. And now, on the verge of entering the restaurant, he felt as if the customers, when their heads turned in his direction, would not see a hero trying to save the life of a dog but someone frozen ludicrously in time with a bottle of drain opener in his hand.

Nonetheless, in he went. Cool air brushed his ears, brown velvet covered round tables, diners huddled over pale glasses, and candles burned with steady light.

"I'm very sorry," said a waiter, "but you can't come in here wearing tennis shoes."

"Won't be long," said Paul, moving to the center of the restaurant. "Excuse me, folks. There's an Audi parked down the street with Maryland plates and a dog inside. I need to find the owner."

Nothing happened at first. Then a man stood slowly at one of the tables. He wore a canvas jacket with a green suede patch on one shoulder and an expression of infinite patience. "I have an Audi, and I have a dog."

"It seems to be running out of air," said Paul.

"Yes," said the man. "That's what he's like."

"His head is upside down."

"Rusty has a problem with his head," said the man. "What of it?" He laughed quietly. A woman sitting at his table took a drink of wine and gazed mildly around the room. Now Paul heard condescending laughter from other tables as well. It was the very sort of class antagonism that he had anticipated.

"Well, I wouldn't presume to tell you about your own dog," said Paul. "But I can tell you this -- there's a mob of people about to knock the windows out of your car."

The man extended his hand and introduced himself as Raymond Scovill, as if Paul had, through his persistence, passed some kind of test. They left the restaurant together and walked to the diner called Happy's. The sun beat down, but Raymond Scovill stopped to light a pipe and in general could not be hurried. Perhaps by now Mary had broken the window and discovered that the dog was not suffering from oxygen deprivation after all. Paul hoped the window was intact. He hoped that someone cautious had taken charge of the tire iron. He wondered what it would cost to replace the window and clean thousands of slivers of safety glass from the interior. Perhaps a special high-powered vacuum cleaner would be required.

"I don't mind explaining," said Raymund. "And it's a good thing, I expect, that people are concerned. But I can tell you, the dog is fine."

"You've got to leave some ventilation."

Raymond nodded with a mouthful of smoke. The pipe bobbed up and down. "No, you're right of course. But it's not as if the car is airtight. I drive around with the windows closed, and I seem to get along all right."

"It's different when the car is moving,"

Raymond shrugged. "Point taken."

"What is wrong with the dog?"

"It's a condition of the inner ear. We believe there was an infection that went unchecked when he was a pup. It's a long story. We picked Rusty up at an animal shelter in Bethesda some years ago. He had arrived at the shelter in much the same shape as you see him in today. Smaller, of course, but functionally the same. The funny thing is that Rusty enjoys traveling. Although I admit he can be disturbing to watch. It's a problem for us. Many people want to know what's wrong, what's wrong with Rusty."

Crossing the parking lot of the diner with Raymond Scovill, Paul remembered walking up the courthouse steps with his lawyer back in 1991. Paul's lawyer wore a stiff blue suit with the jacket unbuttoned so that the sides opened like a cabinet, and he carried a briefcase as big as a suitcase. By that time Paul was so familiar with federal agents and their bad jokes that he had welcomed the uncertain prospect of beginning again, with a new name and no friends. The future lay open for him and Mary, as it had on their honeymoon. He held this thought in his mind all during testimony, and no one understood how he could rat on the other conspirators with such an untroubled face.

A dozen people had gathered in the parking lot to argue the merits of assaulting the car in order to save the dog. Calm now in her yellow summer dress, Mary seemed the still center of the commotion. Paul took her hand as Raymond made his way to the car. Everyone understood who he was, and a murmur of anticipation washed over the crowd. Raymond removed his jacket, took the keys from the pocket, folded the jacket inside out, and laid it carefully over the hood of the car. Then he opened the door, leashed Rusty, and led him down onto the pavement -- all while continuing to smoke his pipe.

"So you see, he is all right," said Raymond. "Aren't you, Rusty? Rusty had the people worried for nothing."

The dog was friendly enough, and his deformities and falling seemed less grotesque when they were known not to be life-threatening. Yet the people were not satisfied. It was the wrong outcome. They almost wanted to go ahead and break the car windows anyway. The old man called Judge led the group into the diner, but he turned at the top of the stairs.

"Maybe there's no harm this time, but I tell you that it isn't right," he said.

Raymond Scovill walked Rusty aimlessly around the parking lot, opened a window an inch or two, and shut the dog inside again. His hand brushed the metal contours of the car.

"There's so much dust in the air," he said. "I washed the car yesterday, and while it appears to be dean, if you look closely, you'll see that the entire surface is coated with dust."

Paul and Mary drove away from the diner as Raymond crossed the street on his way back to L'Embarras du Choix. He gestured with the pipe, as if writing words in the air. They waved in return and headed for the motel where they were staying.

"How do you feel?" said Paul.

"Hungry," said Mary. "Hungry and tired."

They took showers and fell asleep with wet hair on a hard flat bed in a room with varnished wooden walls and a painting of a woman holding a bushel basket of cherries.

Between legal fees and fines, the trial had cost Paul and Mary their savings, their car, and the house in Providence. The land in New Hampshire was all they had managed to keep. The title had been transferred to Paul's cousin Lane, who had committed suicide some years before by jumping from a bridge in California. He'd been jilted by someone. If this ghost transfer were ever found out -- which it wouldn't be, thanks to the skillful way in which Paul had set it up and the laissez-faire attitude of the town clerk involved -- they could lose the thirty-nine acres too. So they had the land but couldn't do much with it, just show up once every couple of years, get a motel room nearby, and wander through the trees and grass for a few days before flying back to Brussels.

Paul and Mary woke up and went for a drive as the sun lowered in the sky. They picked up hummus sandwiches and beers on the way out of town and ate hungrily and silently in the car with the crumbs falling in their laps. A quarter mile past an auction house where they had never seen anyone, let alone an auction, they turned onto a sand road that climbed through dark dense evergreens into the hills.

Blue shade covered the crest of the road. Paul pulled the car off in soft grass and they stepped out onto their land. A trail wound through evenly spaced trees, and after some distance the trees gave way to a high golden meadow from which mountains could be seen, miles away.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)