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HowMuchDoYouCharge

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'from Kate Wenner's Dancing with Einstein,'' Scribner, NY. 2004, via [ZelleNelson]

“Marea turns the notebook in her hands. She opens it. The paper is rough, a brownish color. She moves her fingers across a page to get the feel of it.

“How much are your notebooks?” - M

“How much do you want to pay?” – sv

“How much do you charge?” – M

“I don’t do it that way.” – sv

Marea cocks her head. “What’s that mean?”

“You need to decide why you want it. That way it will have more value to you – and then whatever you decide to give me for it, it will have more value to me as well.” – sv

“You support yourself this way?” – M

“It works out.” – sv

The woman’s serenity puts everything else on the street - even sound – at a distance. Marea examines the yellow-covered notebook again, and pictures her father’s diary on the floor beside her matress. She has read his diary a dozen times, knows his memories as intimately as her own.

“It isn’t only money I’m supposed to offer," Marea guesses. “I have to make you a promise or something.”

“Whatever you like.” – sv

“But I’ll probably never see you again, so whatever bargain I make with you has to be the honor system.” – M

“That’s right.” – sv

“Do you sell a lot of notebooks this way?” – M

“Just the right amount.” – sv

The notebook is already Marea’s. It belonged to her before she saw it, before she turned down Seventh Avenue. It is hers in the way the shells she painted on the Algarve in Portugal were hers before she found them, the way the red coral from the Indian Ocean waited for her, the way the red satin shoe was waiting for the homeless woman with her carts. And yet Marea could put the notebook down and move on without it, a tributary passed by.

“Do you have a use for it?” the woman prompts.

“I think I do, Marea answers, surprising herself. “Would three dollars be enough?”

“It’s up to you.” – sv

Marea puts the yellow notebook back on the table, closer to the edge, closer to herself. She digs into her jeans and pulls out crumpled bills. She has never had much use for money. Now she wants this notebook, feels she must have it, is disturbed that she could easily have passed it by. A five-dollar bill is wadded up with the rest. She flattens it out and puts it on the table.

“Thank you,” the woman says taking the money. “And you said you wanted to make a promise.” –sv

“I guess I’ll write in it.” – M

“Yes, but what sorts of things would you like to write?” – sv

“What I see, what I observe.” – M

“Okay.” –sv

“But I can’t promise. I haven’t been very good at keeping promises.” – M

“Is it an intention?” – sv

“Yes, you could say it’s an intention.” – M

The woman studies her customer. “Okay. I’ll accept an intention.” – sv

“This is a little weird, you know.” – M

“But interesting, right?” – sv

She offers her hand to Marea so seal the bargain and holds it there, as if allowing something to pass between them. When she lets go, Marea prepares herself for the coming good-bye. This has been the nature of her travels, everything said and shed in passing, people let go of almost as soon as they are found.

Marea takes the notebok from the table. “I like it.”

“I’m glad you do.” – sv

p. 173-175


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Last edited March 26, 2005 5:04 am CentralTimeUSA by MichaelHerman
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