The Bible Repairman and Other Stories - By Tim Powers Page 0,1

was fortunate that his conclusion was a mistake. Still, certainty is reassuring.

In the stories I most like to read, things eventually prove to make sense. The events might be outlandish, and the resolution might be as objectively impossible as a dog’s explanation of television, but it’s all presented sincerely, not ironically, not tongue-in-cheek. Loose ends are tied up. The writer has taken the characters and their concerns seriously, so I can too, and has shown how all the conflicts and oxymorons are reconciled.

Real life, of course, doesn’t provide this. Edward John Trelawny, whom I used as a character in my story “A Time to Cast Away Stones,” was a real historical person who compensated for the pointless shabbiness of his actual life by inventing a glamorous biography for himself, and eventually he even came to believe that well-plotted fiction himself.

I sympathize. Real life is generally very haphazard in its plotting, and I think a lot of people lament that, and turn to fiction to briefly experience, albeit vicariously, a more satisfying sort of reality. We want to see sense – not necessarily happy endings, but effectual actions and significant outcomes. (Postmodern fiction and metafiction, I gather, aim to call attention to the falsity of these things, which is like selling liquor that perversely makes you more sober.)

Our inclination to look for sense in the world doesn’t, of course, prove that there’s any out there to be found. Being hungry doesn’t prove we have bread, as Matthew Arnold is supposed to have written.

But, as C. S. Lewis points out, being hungry does imply the existence of bread.

So I’m on the side of Phil Dick and the dog.

THE BIBLE REPAIRMAN

“It’ll do to kiss the book on still, won’t it?” growled Dick, who was evidently uneasy at the curse he had brought on himself.

“A Bible with a bit cut out!” returned Silver derisively. “Not it. It don’t bind no more’n a ballad-book.”

“Don’t it, though?” cried Dick, with a sort of joy. “Well I reckon that’s worth having, too.”

– Treasure Island,

Robert Louis Stevenson

Across the highway was old Humberto, a dark spot against the tan field between the railroad tracks and the freeway fence, pushing a stripped-down shopping cart along the cracked sidewalk. His shadow still stretched halfway to the center-divider line in the early morning sunlight, but he was apparently already very drunk, and he was using the shopping cart as a walker, bracing his weight on it as he shuffled along. Probably he never slept at all, not that he was ever really awake either.

Humberto had done a lot of work in his time, and the people he talked and gestured to were, at best, long gone and probably existed now only in his cannibalized memory – but this morning as Torrez watched him the old man clearly looked across the street straight at Torrez and waved. He was just a silhouette against the bright eastern daylight – his camouflage pants, white beard and Daniel Boone coonskin cap were all one raggedly backlit outline – but he might have been smiling too.

After a moment’s hesitation Torrez waved and nodded. Torrez was not drunk in the morning, nor unable to walk without leaning on something, nor surrounded by imaginary acquaintances, and he meant to sustain those differences between them – but he supposed that he and Humberto were brothers in the trades, and he should show some respect to a player who simply had not known when to retire.

Torrez pocketed his Camels and his change and turned his back on the old man, and trudged across the parking lot toward the path that led across a weedy field to home.

He was retired, at least from the big-stakes dives. Nowadays he just waded a little ways out – he worked on cars and Bibles and secondhand eyeglasses and clothes people bought at thrift stores, and half of that work was just convincing the customers that work had been done. He always had to use holy water – real holy water, from gallon jugs he filled from the silver urn at St. Anne’s – but though it impressed the customers, all he could see that it actually did was get stuff wet. Still, it was better to err on the side of thoroughness.

His garage door was open, and several goats stood up with their hoofs on the fence rail of the lot next door. Torrez paused to pull up some of the tall, furry, sage-like weeds that sprang up in every stretch of unattended dirt in

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