Now he looked grateful. "Idn't it?"
I thanked him again and headed for the door. But I turned back before I opened it. "Could you tell me what town this is?"
He pointed to the floor. "This here town where we're at now?"
He straightened, made himself taller. "This is Stewart, Illinois, and I'll tell you what, it's only forty-nine miles from Chicago. Exactamento. I been here my whole life. It's a good town, Stewart. Is this what you're looking for?"
I hesitated, then answered, "Yes."
As I started to open the door again, I heard him clear his throat and say, "Miss?"
I turned back. He was blushing, but with a kind of borrowed confidence, he said, "Would you like to be on my radio show?"
I tried hard not to let my astonishment show. "You have a radio show?"
"Yes, ma'am, Talk of the Town. I get guests from town on, and we talk. That's the show."
I thought of the empty miles I'd driven through to get to this town, the few places of business I'd seen thus far. I didn't recall anything that looked like it might beor housea broadcasting studio. "Where?" I asked.
"Right at WMRZ a few blocks over. It's above the drugstore. I've had Louise on my showwe talked about yogurt: Where has it been and where is it going? Louise liked being on a lot, you can ask her. She got dressed up and everything, got herself a new purse for that show." He lowered his voice and leaned over the counter to say, "Louise is the one sponsors me. Her bite is way worse than her bark, if you know what I mean."
I hesitated, then refrained from correcting him. Instead, I said, "Yes, I know exactly what you mean."
"So do you want to be on? I tape every Sunday morning. Six-thirty. You'd have to get up early, but you're going to church, anyways, just get ready sooner."
"Well, I . . ."
"You don't need to answer now," the man said. " If you want to do it, just come back and see me here. Or you can call me. My name's Ed Selwin. My number's in the book. It's spelled exactly more or less like it sounds. You can think on it. Just, I figured if you's moving here, it'd be good to interview you. You being a new person and all."
"But I . . . did I say I was moving here?"
"Not exactly. I just saw your loaded-up car with out-of-state plates, and then you said this is the town you were looking for . . ."
"And since you'd be a new person here, it'd be interesting to see where you came from and such. Like that. And don't worrypeople get nervous being on the radio, just a natural thing, but I'll settle you right down."
"Okay, well . . . I'll let you know." I waved goodbye and began licking the quickly melting yogurt. Inside the car, I started the engine, turned on the heatthe weather had finally become seasonally appropriateand finished eating. I had an odd but familiar feeling inside, a kind of surety without grounding. It was something I often felt as a child, and it drove me to do things very quickly and without regret. I wondered if I should say, Yes, here, this is the place, just like that, and then go in search of somewhere to live. Why not? What had I to lose, really? I was in the middle of the country, as I'd wanted to be. It looked to be a charming little town. And anyway, I wouldn't mind moving back toward a certain boldness of spirit, a reliance on a kind of luck I'd always enjoyed. I remembered a story I once heard about a couple from a farm in Iowa looking for a place to live in Washington, D.C. They weren't having any success; everything was incredibly expensive, and to make matters worse, they had three dogs. They became greatly discouraged, and then one day the woman threw up her hands and said, "All right. Let's just drive ten minutes one way and then turn left. And then drive ten minutes more and turn right. And then ten minutes straight, and if we don't find something, we'll give up." What they drove to was a huge farmhouse just outside the city, and a man was standing outside of it. Feeling more than a little foolish, the couple asked if the man happened to know of anything around for rent. Turned out he had a little house on his property he used for hired hands that was newly vacated. Freshly painted. They could have it for next to nothing if they'd help a bit with chores. And three dogs? No problem. John once said, "Sometimes serendipity is just intention, unmasked." I think I answered him with some sort of vague Mmm-hmm, right, hidden as I was behind the Globe's book review. But I'd always remembered it. And now I thought I knew what he'd meant. When you were willing to say what you really wanted, something just might help you along.
Excerpted from The Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg Copyright © 2005 by Elizabeth Berg. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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