summerlong

Summerlong

Peter S. Beagle

“Dreamy intense passions rising and arcing and then spinning away; like beauty underlaid with a tinge of sadness because it is ephemeral. Beagle has captured that seasonal warmth here, beautifully, magically.” New York Times

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Summerlong

by Peter S. Beagle

ISBN: 978-1-61696-244-9

Published: September 2016

Available Format(s): Trade Paperback

Description

“A rare story of summer that feels like the summer—like dreamy intense passions rising and arcing and then spinning away; like beauty underlaid with a tinge of sadness because it is ephemeral. Beagle has captured that seasonal warmth here, beautifully, magically.”
New York Times

Beloved author Peter S. Beagle (The Last Unicorn) returns with this long-anticipated new novel, a beautifully bittersweet tale of passion, enchantment, and fate.

It was a typically miserable Puget Sound winter before the arrival of Lioness Lazos.  An enigmatic young waitress with strange abilities, when the lovely Lioness comes to Gardner Island even the weather takes notice.

As an impossibly beautiful spring leads into a perfect summer, Lioness is drawn to a complicated family. She is taken in by two disenchanted lovers—dynamic Joanna Delvecchio and scholarly Abe Aronson—visited by Joanna’s previously unlucky-in-love daughter, Lily. With Lioness in their lives, they are suddenly compelled to explore their deepest dreams and desires.

Lioness grows more captivating as the days grow longer. Her new family thrives, even as they may be growing apart. But lingering in Lioness’s past is a dark secret—and even summer days must pass.

Praise for Summerlong

A Kirkus September 2016 Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Historical Fiction Book You Won’t Want to Miss
A Washington Post Best Science Fiction and Fantasy to Read in September
A Verge Most Exciting Science Fiction and Fantasy Books Coming Out
A Pop Culture Beast Best Book of 2016
A Powell’s Staff Top Five Books of 2016
2016 Locus Recommended Reading List

 

“A rare story of summer that feels like the summer—like dreamy intense passions rising and arcing and then spinning away; like beauty underlaid with a tinge of sadness because it is ephemeral. Beagle has captured that seasonal warmth here, beautifully, magically.”
New York Times

“[STARRED REVIEW] Retired history professor Abe Aronson and his longtime lover, Joanna Delvecchio, encounter an enigmatic young beauty, Lioness Lazos, waitressing in a local diner. Abe offers her his old garage as a temporary home. From the moment she becomes part of their lives, changes—some miraculous, some devastating—begin affecting Abe and Joanna. Lioness’s presence inspires Abe to fulfill his cherished dream of playing second harmonica with a small jazz band and Joanna to learn the dicey sport of kayaking, even though she can’t swim. As their heady summer phases into early autumn, Lioness’s mysterious husband appears on the ferry from Seattle, bringing with him the chilly and inevitable resolution to Beagle’s strange and lovely lyric vision.”
Publishers Weekly

“Best-selling fantasy-author Beagle crafts a tantalizing picture of an atypical Pacific Northwestern couple whose lives are interrupted by myth and mystery. When Joanna and Abe meet a young waitress named Lioness, they are immediately drawn to her primavera aura and offer her a home in Abe’s garage. Life on Gardner Island blooms in an endless summer during Lioness’ stay. The couple’s lives and their relationship continue as usual until Lioness’ attempt to run from her past begins to unravel when her mother and husband arrive in town . . . Themes of love, loss, nurturing, and adapting are wrapped up in this deliberate and bittersweet tale of what it is to love in your own time, in your own way.”
Booklist

“In his first new novel in more than a decade, Beagle creates an intimate drama . . . A beautifully detailed fantasy.”
Kirkus

 “A quietly glowing and elegantly written revelation of the magic beneath everyday life.”
Chicago Tribune

“Beagle uses an ancient myth as a backdrop, creating a brilliant stage to explore the personal dynamic of Abe and Joanna’s vibrant yet deteriorating relationship.”
Washington Post

“In Summerlong, Beagle presents a rich, vibrant tale of romance between two older, savvier partners and enlivens it with his special brand of literary magic.”
San Francisco Chronicle

“Beagle’s literary affinity for the proto-European myths at the heart of Greek and Norse mythology takes readers deeper and deeper into that ancient wilderness, via the relevant and resonant paths his work has always favored.”
Seattle Times

“An excellent story of love, relationships, and responsibility with much to think about after the last page is read.”
SF Revu

“Peter S. Beagle’s latest novel is a bewitching, impossible-to-categorise masterpiece.”
Starburst

“By turns achingly beautiful and sober­ingly down-to-earth, it is a fantasy for those who have grown up with fantasy. . .”
Locus

Summerlong is a delicate and interesting work of speculative fiction that should please old Beagle fans and win him a few new ones.”
LitReactor

Summerlong is an exercise in masterful, hopeful heartbreak.”
Green Man Review

“Beagle harnesses that long summer, that summer long, to tell a story steeped in myth and mystery, but with such fine portraits of its principles that its otherworldliness remains grounded and tactile. It’s a book that makes me shiver in anticipation of a winter that hasn’t quite come.”
Barnes & Noble.com Sci-Fi & Fantasy Book Blog

“Beagle is a master of fairytale, deftly creating a gossamer magic on the page. Summerlong is a tale that merges classic myth with modern storytelling. Absolutely beautiful.”
Pop Culture Beast

“Peter Beagle’s novel Summerlong is a lovely, tantalizing read that moves through a finely-detailed, familiar world into a tale as old and as urgent as language.  Its strong-minded characters grab threads of the tale and try to pull it into wildly different directions, tangling passion, comedy, love, despair into a study of life on the B-flat harmonica, accompanied by a soundtrack of wind and waves, and, always, good smells from the kitchen.”
—Patricia A. McKillip, author of Dreams of Distant Shores  and Kingfisher

“The world and people of Summerlong will linger in my memory for more than a season, leaving traces of beauty, wisdom, and heartache behind.”
The Emerald City

“Peter S. Beagle’s Summerlong is a rare treat. It revels in texture and music and the ordinary pleasures of life, while the mythic sneaks up on you in tiny ripples and currents, building and growing until suddenly, you realized you’re submerged in it. An urban myth for adults, a book of joy and love and worn edges. And a book of magic, wondrous, tragic and unending.”
—Kurt Busiek, author of Astro City and The Avengers

“Like a warm summer afternoon, Peter S. Beagle’s upcoming novel, Summerlong, is charmingly quiet yet deeply thoughtful, with an ambiance that will keep readers spellbound to the final page . . . exceptional writing.”
Fantasy Faction

“One of the best literary speculative fiction novels of the year . . . a masterpiece of subtle storytelling that enchants you with its beauty and wistfulness.”
Risingshadow

“Romantic, bittersweet and heart-wrenching.”
Hindustan Times

“Beagle’s prose is as always, beautiful.”
Critical Writ

“If you like mythical fantasy, it is a wonderful treat. Even if that’s not a genre you’re familiar with, you’ll struggle to find a more absorbing, beautiful novel this year. 5 out of 5 stars”
—Bastian’s Book Reviews

Summerlong is myth made flesh: a novel that makes real not just the force of gods and powers, but the hair’s-breadth between them and fragile, mortal things—and how the transfigurations they visit can grace us, destroy us, and ultimately push us into blooming again. Soft, suffused with awe, and wryly, unflinchingly honest about the human heart, Summerlong is beautiful in its love for our messy complexity; for the first step into cold water, for the death that lets us grow again, and the ways we learn to love each other—and ourselves—wiser and better.”
—Leah Bobet, author of An Inheritance of Ashes and Above

Summerlong is charmingly quiet yet deeply thoughtful, with an ambience that will keep readers spellbound to the final page.”
The Quidnunc

 “Peter S Beagle weaves myth and magic into a modern setting in a way which is truly magnificent.”
Life Has a Funny Way

“Absolutely worth the wait”
Pixelated Geek

“Very, very beautiful”
Booklikes/Witty Little Knitter

“Inventive, sexy, and lyrical, Summerlong will make you fall in love with myths all over again.”
Bustle

“Beagle’s prose is undeniably brilliant.”
Nerds of Feather

“Reading this retelling of a classic evoked visceral feelings at summer’s turn. I highly recommend it!”
Penguin Girl

“I was enchanted by this book. I was transported, surprised, and amazed by it.”
The Warbler

“…a marvelous meditation on an old myth in new clothes, looking at aging and youth in some very perceptive ways.  Beagle started this several years back, and I’m glad he finished it this year.”
Locus, Year in Review

“Would I recommend starting your reading of Peter Beagle with Summerlong? Yes I would, so long as you don’t end there.”
—Richard Parks, author of the Yamada Monogatari series

“Altogether, Summerlong is a beautifully written novel. It has an intriguing tone that keeps you reading and its characters and the relationships they share stay with you . . . [a] lovely novel.”
Between Human and Truth

About the Author

Peter S. Beagle is the best-selling author of The Last Unicorn, which has sold a reported five million copies since its initial publication in 1968. His other novels include A Fine & Private Place, The Innkeeper’s Song, and Tamsin. His short fiction has been collected in four volumes by Tachyon Publications, including The Rhinoceros Who Quoted Nietzsche, The Line Between, We Never Talk About My Brother, and Sleight of Hand. He has won the Hugo, Nebula, Mythopoeic, and Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire awards and the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Praise for Sleight of Hand

“Multiple Hugo and Nebula award–winning Beagle opens readers’ eyes to wonder with his latest collection of 13 short stories. Each piece bridges the rich intersection of fantasy and fairy tale, reality and possibility, exploring predestination, fate, and the power of love through characters that come to vivid, three-dimensional life within a few short pages. Beagle’s lyrical writing is set in a wide range of landscapes both familiar and fresh, with twists on Jack and the Beanstalk, monsters and dragons, a singing enchantress, ghostly photographs, and a modern werewolf tale. ‘The Bridge Partner’ is more noir than fantasy yet fits within the collection quite well, as does the deeply chilling, experimental, and dark ‘Dirae.’ ‘The Woman Who Married the Man in the Moon’ features two lost children and an encounter with an early version of Schmendrick the Magician from his classic novel, The Last Unicorn. Each story is introduced with some background about its origin.”
Library Journal

“Wise, warm and deep.”
The New York Times 

“This bittersweet collection of 13 recent stories pays tribute to the complicated power of family ties. ‘Sleight of Hand’ lauds the good magic of parental love, while ‘What Tune the Enchantress Plays’ shows its dark side. ‘Children of the Shark God’ addresses children’s influence on parents, and in ‘La Lune T’Attend’ a grandfather protects his descendants from the family’s longtime enemy. Slighter but still entertaining are ‘Up the Down Beanstalk,’ the nostalgia-heavy ‘The Rabbi’s Hobby’ (Brighton Beach Memoirs with magic), and ‘Oakland Dragon Blues,’ whose title character deserves better than his pat ending. The surprise hit of the collection is ‘The Bridge Partner,’ psychological horror in the best Twilight Zone tradition. Fans of The Last Unicorn will also appreciate ‘The Woman Who Married the Man in the Moon,’ a Schmendrick prequel in classic bittersweet Beagle style.”
Publishers Weekly

“Satisfying.”
Washington Post Book World

“This 13-story anthology will entice even the most jaded reader to read long hours into the night…. Sleight of Hand will beguile and enchant.”
New York Journal of Books

“Beagle still has the power to surprise…a new collection of stories by one of the all-time greats.”
The Guardian

Sleight of Hand is a strong collection by an author whose skill has only improved with time…a must-have.” —Tor.com 

“Few can match [Beagle] when it comes to a particular mix of the fantastic and the ordinary, with a tinge of nostalgia. As one character observes, the magic is in the telling, always.”
Interzone

“After reading Sleight of Hand, I know exactly why Beagle has this mythic reputation as one of the best of the best in fantasy and science-fiction literary circles. The man is amazing. Nearly every story in this collection was like a spell.”
Drunken Zombie

“Demonstrates yet again why [Beagle’s] perhaps the finest fantasy writer at short lengths working today.”
Locus

“…not only one of our greatest fantasists, but one of our greatest writers, a magic realist worthy of consideration with such writers as Marquez, Allende, and even Borges.”
The American Culture

“Engaging and wide-ranging selection of fantasies…the perfect book”
Strange Horizons

“There’s quiet power here, and delicate craftsmanship, and most of all, a genuine emotional response that few short-story collections can generate.”
Green Man Review

Praise for Peter S. Beagle

 “Short story and fantasy lovers will devour these tasty tidbits that whet the appetite for more.”
Library Journal

“[Beagle] has been compared, not unreasonably, with Lewis Carroll and J. R. R. Tolkien, but he stands squarely—and triumphantly—on his own feet.”
The Saturday Review

“… One of my favorite writers.”
—Madeleine L’Engle, author of A Wrinkle in Time and A Swiftly Tilting Planet

“Peter S. Beagle illuminates with his own particular magic such commonplace matters as ghosts, unicorns, and werewolves. For years a loving readership has consulted him as an expert on those hearts’ reasons that reason does not know.”
—Ursula K. Le Guin, author of A Wizard of Earthsea and The Left Hand of Darkness

“The only contemporary to remind one of Tolkien.”
Booklist

“Peter S. Beagle is (in no particular order) a wonderful writer, a fine human being, and a bandit prince out to steal readers’ hearts.”
—Tad Williams, author of The Dragonbone Chair and The Very Best of Tad Williams

“It’s a fully rounded region, this other world of Peter Beagle’s imagination…an originality…that is wholly his own.”
Kirkus

“Not only does Peter Beagle make his fantasy worlds come vividly, beautifully alive; he does it for the people who enter them.”
—Poul Anderson, author of The High Crusade

“Peter S. Beagle is the magician we all apprenticed ourselves to. Before all the endless series and shared-world novels, Beagle was there to show us the amazing possibilities waiting in the worlds of fantasy, and he is still one of the masters by which the rest of the field is measured.”
—Lisa Goldstein, author of The Red Magician and The Uncertain Places

“Peter S. Beagle would be one of the century’s great writers in any arena he chose; we readers must feel blessed that Beagle picked fantasy as a homeland. Magic pumps like blood through the veins of his stories. Imparting passionately breathing, singing, laughing reality to the marvelous is his great gift to us all.”
—Edward Bryant, author of Cinnabar

 Praise for A Fine & Private Place

 “One of literature’s most beautiful works about ghostly times and places…told with wit, charm, and a sense of individuality.”
New York Times Book Review

“Both sepulchral and oddly appealing…. [Beagle’s] ectoplasmic fable has a distinct mossy charm.”
TIME Magazine

A Fine & Private Place is just as wonderful as I remembered it to be: beautifully written, the characters warmly drawn, the pages filled with conversations that run the gamut of the human condition…. [I]t’s a great book in a lovely affordable package.”
Fantasy & Science Fiction

“Delightful!”
San Francisco Chronicle

“A sweet, sad, and smart novel about life, death and love…a book that has endured for a reason.”
The Agony Column

“A wonderful work of literature…a gem of a novel.”
BookLoons

“Over a cold beverage and a hot bowl of chili, Peter Beagle recently told me how he came to write A Fine and & Private Place. He was just 19 years old at the time, the length of time that Mr. Rebeck spent in that cemetery. He was working as a counselor at a boys’ summer camp. Once the campers were settled for the night there wasn’t much for the counselors to do. Those who had sweethearts at the girls’ camp across the lake would borrow canoes and paddle across to see them. Peter had no such luck, he told me, so he warmed up his rattly little portable typewriter, cracked open a ream of paper, and starting writing a book. We are all incredibly lucky that Peter had no girlfriend that summer.”
—Dick Lupoff, SF Site

“One of the great fantasy novels of all time.”
ICCFA Magazine

“An amazing read…. If fantastically developed characters trapped between love and death appeal to you, this is a nearly perfect book.”
Paperblog

Visit the Peter S. Beagle website.

Excerpt

They slept late, and wound up taking the noon ferry to Gardner Island, using both cars. On deck they watched for orcas, and Joanna talked about Lily. “She’s got such lousy taste in women, that’s what gets me so pissed at her. I don’t care that they’re usually grocery clerks or construction workers—hell, the lawyer was the worst of the lot—but they treat her so badly, Abe. I know, I know, she practically asks for it, and it’s her life, not my business. I know all that. It shouldn’t break my stupid heart, but it does.”

“I should talk to her,” he said. “We used to have such long, serious talks when she was little. About death and sex and dinosaurs, and why some people can raise one eyebrow and some people can’t. It’s been a while since we had one of those.”

“She always liked you.” Joanna’s voice sounded determinedly toneless. “You never disappointed her. Unlike me.”

“Come on, I never had a chance to disappoint her. I’ve been Uncle Abe almost all her life. Uncles get away with lots more than mothers. Uncles go home.”

The ferry turned slowly into the wind, approaching the island. It was a curiously warm wind, surprising Abe with its unseasonal caress, but Joanna shivered and shoved her hands deep into her jacket pockets. “Lily was born disappointed in me. They put her into my arms, and we looked at each other, and I knew right then: I’m never going to please this one, not ever. Everything she does, every dumb choice she makes, it’s all got to do with that very first disappointment. Does that sound absolutely weird?”

“No, just absolutely vain.” He put his arms around her from behind, nuzzling into her hair. “God’s sake, give the kid some credit, let her be independently dumb. You can’t be snatching all her idiocy for yourself, that’s just plain greedy. Think how dumb her father was, ditching you for a real-estate agent. It’s in the genes, cookie.”

“Don’t call me cookie,” she said automatically, but she pressed herself back against him. “I thought of a way we can prop up that saggy porch of yours. I’ll show you when we get there.” The arrival horn sounded then, and they went below to their cars.

Following the tomato-red Jaguar—her single luxury—off the dock, they paused at the lone traffic light of Marley, Gardner Island’s only real town, then turning up into the green-shrouded hills. Sixteen years. Sixteen years I’ve known I don’t belong here, and there’s still nowhere else I want to be. Somebody else . . . that’s another matter.

He thought about Lily as a child, playing contentedly with skeletal horses twisted out of pipe cleaners. An undertow of memory caught him there, summoning the night drive sixteen years before, and the blood that had looked so black on Joanna’s new skirt. Another girl, it would have been. Lily wanted a sister so much.

The Sound came into view at the top of the first ridge; then vanished again behind the shaggy hemlocks that had long ago replaced the logged-off pines and Douglas firs. Ahead of him, the red Jaguar handled the turns with autopilot ease, just as he did making the run from the ferry to Queen Anne Hill. He saw two deer browsing in someone’s tomato patch—they never looked up as he passed—and a family of raccoons prowling the roof of the elementary school. I wonder if they crap up there, the way they do on my beach stairs. Probably.

The last descent to the coast road always felt to him like tumbling straight into the gray sky and the gray water below. He could see her riding the brakes, as he was forever telling her not to do. He ordered himself not to say anything about it, though he knew he would. She turned left at his battered green mailbox, crept down the steep driveway—paved once again last year, and already fracturing like arctic ice in the spring—veered sharply right at the fork, and nosed the Jaguar into her favorite space under the burly wisteria vine. He parked by the woodpile, and they stood silently together, regarding his house. Turk, the neighbors’ enormous hound, dimwitted to a point of near-saintliness, came and barked savagely at them, and then settled down to insistently snuggling his head between Joanna’s knees.

Abe said, “The porch isn’t that saggy. We could go another year, easy, without messing with it.”

“What’s that thing on the roof?” She pointed to a peculiar bulge near the attic window, barely visible beneath a winter’s humus of hemlock needles. He blinked, then shrugged. “What? It’s always been there, you just never noticed it before. Doesn’t leak or anything.”

Joanna was looking at the little one-car garage, down a slight slope to the left of the house. She said, “You know, a really good spring project would be to clean out that dump so it’d be fit for a self-respecting car to live in. It wouldn’t take that long, two of us working.”

“Del, that’s where I keep stuff, we’ve been over that. That’s my reference library.” She laughed in his face, her warmly derisive, anciently bawdy Mediterranean laugh. After a moment he joined her, as he never could resist doing. “Okay, it’s my stuff library, but some of it comes in useful sometimes. I made that choice way back, keeping the car dry or my papers.”

“Well, if you ever looked at those boxes, you’d see the mildew all over them, never mind how many old bedspreads you cover them with. What’s wrong with moving them to the basement?”

He sighed. “Because that’s where I’ve got all my beer stuff—my boiler and my carboy, all my bottles and yeast and malt and everything. Give it up, Del. I know you’re right, no question, I’ll deal with it. Summer, I promise, after we get back from the rain forest.”

About to continue the argument, she caught herself and laughed again, but it was a different sort of laugh. “I didn’t think I did that so much anymore, nagging you to change the way you live. After knowing you all these years. I’m sorry. You never do that to me.”

“Ah, I do too,” he said. “Getting on you about leaving lights on, not soaking sticky dishes, living on banana-pancake mix half the time. Making fun of the way you scour the whole bathroom whenever you shower—”

“Just the bathtub, come on—”

“Point is, we both do it. That’s how you tell we’re practically in a relationship.” He put an arm around her shoulders. “Look, I tell you what. We go inside—you unpack—I salvage my leftover meatloaf for sandwiches—we maybe take small nap afterward—we work on the porch, or the attic, or the garage, or nothing at all, whatever you like—and tonight we go out to the Skyliner. All Sicilians love the Skyliner Diner.”

“Deal,” she said instantly. “But if I do want to make a start on the garage, that’s what we do. Fair enough?”

“Understood.” But in fact they spent the afternoon peacefully accomplishing nothing of any importance. Joanna dozed, shot desultory baskets into the hoop she had nailed too high on a huge hemlock, threw a pointedly playful fit over a discovered Rosh Hashanah card from Abe’s first wife (“I thought you said she’d found Jesus big-time—what’s she doing sending you High Holidays stuff?”), and sang “Your Cheatin’ Heart” in the bath. Abe hosed raccoon droppings off the stairs that led down to his stony sliver of beach, and loudly searched his sagging bookshelves for a nineteenth-century monograph on fourteenth-century agriculture. (“It was here, it’s always here, I never move it!”) The meatloaf was still edible, the nap sociable; the attic, porch and garage left alone; and four hands of a card game called “That’s All” ended, as usual, in a mild dispute over exactly how many consecutive wins that made for Joanna. Later he washed clothes, while she became entangled in a long, repetitive telephone conversation with Lily that left her depressed, and angry with herself for being so. “Damn her, she pushes buttons I didn’t even know I had—every one, every time. And then she touches my heart, some way, and I say exactly the wrong thing, and I always wind up feeling like such a fool.”

“Well, the buttons work.” He knew better than to say it, and he was unable not to. “If they didn’t work, she’d quit manipulating you the way she does. She’s been doing it to you since she was a child.”

Joanna looked at him for a long time before she spoke again. Her voice was quiet and even, completely unlike her normal tone. “Thank you. I can’t tell you how much I needed to hear that.”

He spread his hands. “Come on, you want the truth or you want comfort? You know I always tell you the truth.”

“Yes,” she said. “You’re the only man who’s ever told me all the truth, all the time. In my life. You’re also the only man I’ve ever wished would lie to me, just now and then. Might show you actually care what I think of you.”

The calm remark caught him amidships, blindside on, and he found himself gasping for words. “I do care, for shit’s sake. Twenty-whatever years, of course I care what you think, you damn well know I care. I just hate to see the same thing happening to you with her, over and over, every time.” He gripped her wrists, and while he could feel her resistance, she did not pull away. “Del, I’m a mean, cranky, solitary old Jew, and I know it, and I like it, and if you didn’t put up with me, who would? You ought to get combat pay.”

“Don’t flatter yourself, you’re not that much trouble. I’ve had cats whose company manners mattered more to me than yours.” But she smiled a little, and moved against him. “See, Lily would notice if I was gone—if I just disappeared—because then she wouldn’t have anyone to yell at, anyone to fail her. You, I sort of wonder. Twenty-whatever years, I don’t know if you’d be anything but inconvenienced.”

He stared at her, amazed to find himself outraged; afraid of spluttering like an aggravated cartoon character if he even opened his mouth. He managed at last to blurt out, “Inconvenienced? Inconvenienced? You really mean that?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “I told you, I don’t know.”

It rained that evening—a Gardner Island rain, soft as snow, seeming to blow from all directions, capable of turning to a razor-edged mist within hours—but they drove down to the Skyliner anyway. The diner looked like an old streetcar, sidetracked onto a bare, windy bluff overlooking the Sound. There were no other buildings nearby, and the dark little parking lot was as rutted and potholed as the gravel driveway itself. Even so, the Skyliner was bursting and humming with light, like an acacia tree in spring. They heard music from within, and Abe growled, “Rats, they’ve got the flamenco guy back. I had my face fixed for the trio.”

“Since when don’t you like flamenco?” she asked. “First I’ve heard of it.”

“Since it became music to eat arugula by, that’s when. California cuisine is corrupting everything light beer missed.”

They went in, greeted Corinne, the manager—a dainty retired detective who had always wanted to run a restaurant—and were seated in their usual booth, in back, by a window. The guitarist was flailing doggedly away at a soleares, candles were lit on all the tables, and both Abe and Joanna agreed that the paintings on the walls this month weren’t nearly as horrendous as last month’s exhibit. Abe stole a glass of ice water from a vacant table and let it sit untasted, as he always did. He said, “You look nice.”

“Thank you. You’re cute too, except the beard needs trimming. I wish you’d lose that shirt.”

“Last time, I promise. How’s the bald spot doing?” He bent his head forward for her to inspect.

“You’d have to be looking.” She ruffled his hair, then shook her own head in something more than mock irritation. “Rats, I wish my hair would do that, turn all Spencer Tracy white like yours. Mine’s just going this old-soap gray, just like my mother’s. I think the coloring’s making it worse.”

He touched her hair gently. “Del, I keep telling you, just don’t color it then. United doesn’t care. They’re not allowed to care anymore.”

“The bunnyrabbits care,” she said grimly. “I know it shouldn’t bother me, I know it makes me a bad person, but I’m not going to have them grinning at me, calling me Mom. Lily doesn’t call me Mom, why the hell should they? She’ll probably be calling me Mom too, by the time we get to the salad.”

Abe looked up at the girl standing patiently by their table. “Would you really do that?”

“No,” the girl said. “I would just call her ma’am, and I would say, I’ll be your server tonight. May I tell you about our Special of the Day?”

She was tall, almost as tall as Abe, and slender, and her voice was low and clear, with the slight, warm hint of an accent. Thick and heavy and desert-colored, her hair caught the candlelight and gave it back with the added rawness of a living thing when she turned her head. But her tanned, slightly freckled face—a trifle long by current standards, cheekbones more than a trifle heavy—was at once thoughtful and merry, and her eyes were dark green as elm leaves, and shaped like them, tilting up slightly at the outer corners. She said, “The special is blackened snapper in a ginger-mango sauce, over a jasmine rice pilaf. I really recommend it.”

“Primavera,” Abe said softly. “Primavera, by God.” She looked blankly back at him. Abe said, “Actually by Botticelli. It’s a Renaissance painting of a young girl who represents spring—that’s primavera in Italian. You remind me of her.”

The waitress did not smile, but a shadowy dimple appeared under one cheekbone. “Perhaps she reminds you of me. I can also recommend the pan-seared scallops.”