"THE VALLEY"  by Mike Daily

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"Anyways," she said, "in my opinion, the most ironic thing about me finding this is your law of, sort of like, if there's a present inside a book, you buy it. If there's like a little extra..."

"A what?" I said. "A 'present'?"

I was looking in the rear-view mirror.

"Yeah! This picture is like a little present--a little surprise, you know? I mean, that's not the only reason you buy a used book, but you said that if a title is interesting enough for you to pick it up, and then you find something else inside, then you take it as a sign that you should get it."

I didn't say anything.

"And then you're interested in what those photos or markings are all about. There's been a large amount of...I don't know what you'd like to call it, but...ramblings and writings and little notes and photos found in your books, which I think is kind of interesting..."

"Marginalia," I said.


"It's called 'marginalia.'"

"Oh, I didn't know there was a name for it."

We passed Dario's Pizzeria and she said,

"Are we almost there? I mean, do you have any idea where we are? Are you sure we're even going the right way?"

"Yes, yes, yes. Yes."



We drove along in silence for a few minutes.

"It's interesting," Freya said. "I think it is, at least. Because, you know, a book is a one-way deal. The writer writes the book and then it goes out, and then your experience with the book is really personal. It's between you and a writer. And yet when other people are dropping in all these weird things, it tells you a whole different story. It tells where the book has been, and maybe where it's going to, like the trash!"

I laughed.

Chimichango's blinking neon sign rotated in the distance.

I got in the left-hand lane.

"Nice turn signal."




I pulled into Chimichango's and started looking for a place to park...

"Whoa, slow down! These people are getting into their car. Or getting out of their car."

They were getting out of it. I kept looking...

"Here, drive slow because that woman might be walking to her car."

The woman kept walking. I kept driving...

"I think there's something more to it," I said. "I mean, that would be extraordinary if that was by pure chance, you know? You finding something like that in The Dictionary of Art..."

"Well, maybe he was using the picture as a bookmark and then he just forgot about it. Maybe he was studying something. Or maybe this wasn't even his book." She put it back in the bag with the others. "Maybe it was somebody else's book..."

I saw an empty space.

I parked.


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(Excerpt from Valley, Bend #18)