July 11, 2016: The Day I Met an Android and a Poet (Part 2)

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After leaving Collins Mortgage Company, I didn't feel like going straight home. After all, I'd gone to all the trouble of dressing up in a frilly blouse and pencil skirt for the meeting. I'd even put on tiny pearl earrings to make us look like hoity-toity rich people. If I went right back to the house after a single hour, my snazzy outfit would go to waste.

I told Dad I wanted to stop by the public library, and that I'd walk the two miles back to our neighborhood.

"Library, my foot," he teased. "I see how it is--sending me into the lioness's den alone with the bad news."

I waved goodbye as Dad drove off, then stretched and took a look at my sunny surroundings.

Across the street was a massive red brick building with the imposing stone sign, "Deschutes County Courthouse." From Google Maps, I knew the building directly behind it contained the office of the District Attorney.

I've never been inside either building before, but I'm sure they're horrible dark, drafty places full of withered vampires in stuffy suits.

I smothered the childish impulse to stick out my tongue in the general direction of the vampire den. I turned in the opposite direction and strolled down Bond Street, into the tree-lined shopping district.

When I was born here in the eighties, Bend was a rustic little mill town of thirty thousand people--an insignificant speck in the Oregon high desert. Then the timber industry collapsed, and Bend reinvented itself as a paradise for outdoorsy types and retirees. Like a teenager hitting puberty, in the 1990s and 2000s Bend went through a rapid growth spurt and identity crisis. The city shed its "cute" image and strove to become "cool."

Now, with a population of more than ninety thousand, Bend is not so little or rustic anymore. The downtown area is jam-packed with trendy restaurants, posh art galleries, luxury outerwear emporiums, and high-end spas that advertise services like "airbrushing" and "microblading."

And so, Diary, you can imagine my surprise and delight when I turned onto a lesser-used cross street and stumbled on a tiny independent bookstore.

I'm telling the truth! It was a real bookstore, selling real printed books! In 2016! I felt like I'd just discovered the rare bones of an ancient species, beautifully preserved in amber.

The logo painted on the window read Annie's Bookstore & Cafe. I stepped on the woven welcome mat and opened the cherry red door. The bell on the handle jingled cheerfully.

Inside, bookshelves lined one long wall, and sepia photographs of classic authors decorated the others. Fairy lights crisscrossed on the ceiling, illuminating the customers in the eclectic vintage seating. An older man in a cowboy hat lounged in a paisley armchair, reading a hefty presidential biography. A college student in a hoodie and ripped jeans curled up in a rocking chair, typing on her Macbook.

"Welcome to Annie's!" An employee called out to me from the register. I waved hello and walked along the shelves, browsing the options.

In the nonfiction section, I spotted several books about real estate and financial planning. I picked out a book that claimed to be "the authoritative guide" to mortgage programs. The price printed on the barcode was thirty dollars.

To be honest, Diary, I can't afford to spend thirty dollars on a book. I live off a thin trickle of royalties from a novel I published three years ago. My family is in dire financial straits and might soon be on the streets. Thirty dollars is ten loaves of bread. Sixty pounds of potatoes. One hundred twenty packets of ramen noodles.

I should have put the book back on the shelf and kept walking towards the public library, which would certainly have many similar books. Mary would have an aneurysm if she found out I'd paid so much for a single paperback, when her whole career is dedicated to getting people the information they need for free.

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