The geography was pleasantly disorienting. Colorado bordered Washington, Egypt bordered Spain and Ancient Mexico was northwest of 21st-century Florida.
This bookcase at Goodwill was marked “Travel.” Nobody tried to organize it any further, by state or country or whatever, because the stock of books changed every day. Today Audrey spotted a few titles which must’ve taken a wrong turn at the corner of Fiction and Nonfiction: Postcards from the Edge. The Gulag Archipelago. Travels With My Aunt. She held two books side by side (the first by Patricia Schultz, the second by Bill Bryson) and ran the titles together: 1,000 Places to See Before You Die… In A Sunburned Country. This was worth considering. She read the first line of each book:
“As surprisingly comfortable as it is overwhelmingly grand, this National Trust property is England’s most majestic country-house hotel.” And:
“Flying into Australia, I realized with a sigh that I had forgotten who their prime minister is.”
Quite a difference in their approaches, Audrey thought. This one read like touring the wondrous rooms in the Museum of Travel. That one read like driving cross-country without a map. Her own youthful travels had more resembled the wrong turns on the bookshelf: sending postcards from the Gulag Archipelago while visiting a lunatic aunt. So why, in the twenty-five years the family had barely ventured beyond the Pacific Time Zone, had she just applied for a passport?
It was those damn postcards, the ones Jeannie had sent from France and Belgium. Audrey put the books back on the shelf. She could feel her jaw tighten, picturing her half-sister posing for a snapshot in front of the—
“Excuse me,” a woman said. “Are you taking that one?”
Audrey realized she hadn’t let go of one of the books. She tucked it under her arm.
“Yes, I am,” she said.
©2010 Pam Wells