The next morning, at ten o’clock, May opened the bookstore herself. Barbara was coming in later, closer to noon—probably weighed down with pastries for their tea-break.  May sighed.  She’d had enough pastry for a lifetime.
     A couple of hours before May opened up, Michael was sitting in the living-room he used as a studio and finishing a cup of instant coffee, now grown tepid and, oddly enough, rather waxy.  After pushing back four or five books from the edge of a shelf, he then put the empty mug on the free space, making a mental note about where he’d left it—which, as it turned it, was right in front of two books by Rebecca Solnit: River of Shadows, about 19th century photographer Eadweard Muybridge, and Wanderlust: A History of Walking.  Careful not to dislodge his cup, he wiggled Wanderlust from its place and riffled through it.  “I like walking because it is slow,” Solnit proclaimed on page ten, “and I suspect that the mind, like the feet, works at about three miles an hour.”
     “I’ll go for a walk,” Michael said to himself. 
”At about three miles an hour.”   
     Michael smiled to himself at how associative he was, about how easily he was led about, from interest to interest from idea to idea.  He was Toad of Toad Hall, he thought, and then laughed at how even this brief thought about Mr. Toad was enough to send him back to reread The Wind in the Willows.  It would be all too easy, Michael felt, to head into an endlessly burgeoning, blossoming retroactive life, his sensibility borne backwards, association by association, until had lost track of the present entirely.
     “I need an anchor,” he told himself, not entirely understanding what he meant.  He knew that one of the things he meant was that he really didn’t find the present all that hot a place to spend his time.  He also felt, sometimes, that he needed to know somebody else exceedingly well.
     He took his glance at Solnit seriously and began to get ready to go out.  For some reason he was more depressed these last few days than he usually was.  Well, actually, he knew some of the reasons: a brief—but not nearly brief enough—acquaintance with Bliss Carmen and her silly dog Fish, meeting and putting up with her strange pal, the surly Homer Rubik and his new Old Master drawings and watercolours, and even the stale brownie clerk at the convenience store.  It wasn’t all that much, he thought, it wasn’t anything, but it was enough to keep him disconsolate for several days now.  He can scarcely believe that he had offered to write an article about Homer and his outlandish facility.  And the thing of it was, he’d probably go right ahead and do it too.
     Anyhow, walking had always helped to restore his good spirits in the past, and this morning he would walk.  He would walk and walk and walk and would begin to feel better, he felt sure, with every step.
     Where should he walk to?  For Michael always found that while aimless, goal-less walking had a certain beauty—a metaphysical, for-itself meaning—any walk-off-your-depression walk pretty much required a destination. 
And what invariably made Michael feel better when he was feeling down, anxious or angry, was to browse for awhile in a used bookstore.
     The used bookstores had been disappearing steadily over the past few years, falling dark and silent to the easy inrush of stay-at-home bookbuyers, clicking their purchases through on Abebooks, Amazon, Alibris, or just settling into the little lighted lozenges of Kindle and other ebook readers.  And of course a lot of people had just stopped reading entirely.  Books, which had once been seen as sites of ideas, wisdom, eloquence and the necessary truth, books which had once been regarded as the agencies of ascension, were now looked upon as merely oppressive.  Books, Michael supposed, just took up entirely too much space in this weightless, speed-of-light world.  Michael understood this, but he didn’t want to.
      And so, for him, the used bookstore had become a haven.  A place of sanctuary.  A soft, quiet way-station on the superhighway of a proliferating pseudo-culture that amounted to little, as far as Michael could tell, but the bureaucratic onrush of me-first practicalities.  It was a world he had to live in—as everybody else did too—but when it got too abrasive and therefore too silly, he could at least repair to a used bookstore.
      Which was where he was headed this morning.
     Michael left his apartment, in an old house out near High Park, walked up to Bloor Street and turned east.
He strode along steadily for a couple of hours, pausing now and then at two different Book City stores, to flip through their glossy remainders, stopped once at a Second Cup for an unnecessary and unsatisfying cup of coffee, browsed quickly through a couple of video stores, and, finally getting as far east as Spadina Avenue (all the while trying not to think about the always looming Bliss Carmen, who lived in the subway station), turned south and walked three blocks to one of his favourite remaining book stores—a dusty, fecund place called Books At Large.  He hadn’t been there for six months.
     He glanced at his watch.  It was ten fifteen.  He gazed for a minute of two at the books in the front window (some Sherlock Holmes, Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night,
a handsome pocket-sized edition of Don Quixote, Jacques Derrida’s The Post Card, Roland Barthes’ The Eiffel Tower, Alan Mooreheads’s The White Nile…Studs Lonigan...Alfred Kazin’s A Walker in the City….).  And then opened the door and went in.
     May was sitting at the desk at the back of the store.  She looked up when she heard the door open and, for some reason that was not yet clear to her, smiled warmly at Michael.  He smiled back, and made his way carefully down the aisle towards her.
     “Good morning,” he said.
     “Good morning,” she replied, wondering if she could help with the strange purposefulness that seemed, at the moment, to animate him.  “Is there anything in particular you’re looking for?”
     “You know, “ Michael  told her, “the fact is that when I started out for a walk early this morning, and decided to end up you here, I just wanted to walk for a long time and then…well, you know…browse for a bit.”
     “Yes?” said May.
     “Yes, but now, suddenly, I have this sudden desire for a particular book by a beautiful, not-very-well-known Welsh writer named John Cowper Powys.  The novel is called Wolf Solent.  It’s pretty hard to find, I think, and you probably don’t have any of his books…really, I’d be surprised if you had!”
     May looked at him in some amazement.
     “But we do!” she told him, rather taken aback herself that they actually did.  Indeed she’d been looking at it just a few days ago, wondering about its odd title, not entirely certain how to pronounce the author’s name.  “Come, I’ll show it to you.”
     She got up and wandered along the far wall of shelves until she got to the “P” section.  Michael followed her, all the while admiring, more than he had intended to, her grace, the litheness of her moments, even the swing of her long, shiny black hair. 
     “Look!” said, pulling from the shelf a superb, two-volume boxed set of the novel.  The slipcase carried a noble photograph of the theatrically handsome John Cowper Powys.  May loved the book already, though she hadn’t read a single sentence of it.  She glanced again at the slipcase.
     “I’m afraid it’s rather expensive,” she told him.
     “How much is it?”
     “It’s sixty dollars—for the two volumes.”
     Michael was suddenly flooded with happiness.  He didn’t have a lot of money, and he knew he ought not to be so extravagant.  But he wanted the book with a deep, ecstatic kind of hunger, not because it was a beautiful edition of a truly great book, and not because of the bravado of its price but….it was hard to explain it to himself…because he had already—albeit inadvertently-- made the book into a sort of connection between him and May.  He smiled at her.
     “I’ll take it,” he told her.
     “I want to read it now too,” she said, with the beginnings of a sudden new passionate shyness in her voice.
     Michael looked again at the book.  Then he looked again at May.
     “I don’t mean to be forward or anything but…look, will you come and have a cup of coffee with me, after you’ve finished here today?”
     “Yes,” she told him.