Continuing. . .
~ * ~
The afternoon had turned chilly, even though the sun was still bright in a perfect sky. Logan pulled the zipper up on his jacket and tucked his hands in the pockets. He wished he’d thought to bring his gloves; he knew how quickly the temperature could change once autumn got a foothold on New England. The breeze was not all together unpleasant however, blowing the stench of the traffic away from him as he crossed square toward the far end of the marketplace.
Autumn always brought crowds to Boston. Tourists wanting to walk the Freedom Trail, and snap pictures of the historic buildings, bunched around markers and maps, pointing out the landmarks around them. Tour guides led groups, patiently pretending that no one had ever before asked them if they could “pahk their cahs at Hahvahd Yaaaahd.”
“Why would you wish to do that?” Logan interjected merrily, startling the young man who had just asked the guide the obligatory question.
“Huh? You know…that’s how they talk, here,” he replied with a smirk. “Everyone knows that.” His own accent was decidedly southern.
“Oh? Who?” Logan asked. “Who speaks that way, I’m sure I’ve never heard it.”
“You know, the locals. Y’all must not been here long.”
“Long enough to know that a car parked in Harvard Yard would most assuredly be towed. So to answer your query, the answer would be no. We do not park there. Good day.” Logan smiled and walked away, leaving the young man red faced amid a chorus of snickers from the rest of the group.
His amusement soon faded as he hurried through the bustling square. A wave of melancholy settled on him as he glanced around at the businesses that had sprung up in the venerated old square. Where once stood open air markets bursting with produce and seafood, goods brought on ships and where tradesman sold their wares, now stood shops bearing names like Starbucks, Borders and Pier One. He hurried by the windows emblazoned with imports and designer clothing, not giving so much as half a glance to the merchandise on display. He quickened his pace until he reached the far end of the market, and turned into a dark and narrow alley, to find the one shop he had come to loyally, every October the 12th for as long as he could recall; Todd’s Odds.
He pushed the antique door open. The jingle of an old brass bell announced his arrival. Instantly his mood changed as he breathed in the aged and musty smell of the ancient merchandise. Stacks upon stacks of books lined the narrow shop, closing in on all sides. One had to know what he wanted very precisely at Todd’s as it did not lend itself to casual browsing. The books seemed to be arranged mostly by size rather than subject, or author, with the proprietor’s personal favorites obvious by their lack of dust and prominence in the window.
“Todd? Toddy? Are you back there?” Logan called. “It’s me, Logan.”
A shuffling sound and a slight thud, followed by what sounded like an avalanche came from the back room, behind an faded and worn calico curtain. Logan waited a moment, resisting the instinct to rush to Todd’s assistance. After another thud–a crate of some sort hitting the floor–a voice called out, “Logan? Is that Logan? Is it October already?”
The curtain was shoved aside revealing the gnome-like smile of old Todd Franklin, owner and proprietor of Todd’s Odds. His bright eyes widened behind his gold spectacles and he thrust his hand toward Logan. “Come in, come in! It’s good to see you my boy, come, come. Tell me about your year.”
Logan chuckled, grasping Todd’s age-withered hand. He casually pulled a long strand of cobweb off the old man’s glasses, then pulled him close for a hug. “Oh Toddy, what am I to do with you. Still determined to bury yourself in your own stacks are you? When are you going to hire an assistant?”
“Assistant?” Todd scoffed, waving his hand. “When I’m old, and not until then. Uh . . . did you bring any . . .”
Logan reached into the pocket of his jacket and retrieved a silver flask adorned with a red velvet ribbon, and presented it to the old man. “Would I forget?”
Todd’s chubby cheeks lit up in a smile as he took the flask, and went about burrowing under the counter, presumably looking for the two goblets he’d stashed there a year ago, the last time Logan had been there. Logan took off his jacket and draped it on the bell hook on the door, and as was the custom, locked the door and turned the sign to “Closed.”
Todd had since found the goblets and after blowing the dust from them, was filling each with an ample amount of the amber liquid that came from the flask.
Once filled, Logan took his cup and held it up. “Here’s to the way it was. . .”
“And the way it is . . . ” Todd continued.
“And the way it ever shall be,” they said together, clinking the goblets and drinking the contents in one gulp.
“So,” Todd began after a moment, “what will this year be?”
“The last year,” Logan replied quietly, looking into his empty goblet.
“You say that every year, son.”
“A man can hope.”
“A man surely can,” the old man said quietly patting Logan’s hand.
Logan half smiled. “You say that every year, too.”
“I suppose I do. Now, what text will you be teaching from this year? Homer? Plato?” Todd set his cup down and wandered to one the precariously stacked book shelves. “Ah, how about the entire collection of Zane Grey?”
“Zane Grey?” Logan laughed.
“Ah, it was a long shot. I could use the space they’re taking up. Was worth a shot.”
“No, Todd, I’m not even certain you’ll have what I require this time.”
Todd looked over the rim of his glasses, raising a brow. “That’s doubtful. Unless of course you’re looking for something published more recently then 1953.”
“No, I’m sure it’s a bit older than that.”
Logan drew a long breath, then said quietly, “The First Emanation.”
“Are you certain?” Todd whispered, taking a step closer to Logan.
“It’s the last year, my friend. I’m certain of it this time.”
Todd hesitated only a moment then pushed the calico curtain aside and disappeared into his back room. After another round of shuffling and soft crashes, he emerged, holding a small wooden box no bigger than a matchbook in his hand. “Are you certain?”
Todd sighed, and with a trembling hand, gave the box to Logan. “I won’t see you again, will I?”
“No,” Logan answered, almost silently. “Thank you, my friend.” He retrieved his jacket from the bell and put it on, then tucked the little box protectively into the breast pocket. “You know, there’s always hope.”
“Of what?” Todd asked.
“I could be wrong.”
He stepped back into the crisp air of the marketplace, and hurried down the alley not wanting to look back. He knew Todd was standing at the window watching him go, and he knew that by tomorrow, no trace of Todd’s Odds would remain at Faneuil Marketplace.