I liked them fine, except they asked a lot of questions I couldn’t answer as we walked around the city. What’s the population? they asked. What’s the name of that church? I didn’t know. I had only lived there for a month, and I had spent most of my time watching the river rise and fall with the tide. I knew the history of why the citizens ate offal, and where the thieves gathered to sell their goods, and how to avoid the sudden cascades that poured from the broken roof gutters during cloudbursts. I didn’t know the rest. Why are there so many shoe stores? they asked. It’s a city of readers, I told them. There are dozens, maybe hundreds of bookshops here, new and used and antiquarian, and they sell books for everyone–poets and priests, architects and adulterers. The people wear out their shoes walking to the shops and carrying the many books home. Really? they said. Absolutely. It’s also why you find so many shoe stores, oculists and lamp sellers here.
None of this was strictly true, and some of it wasn’t even remotely true, but it didn’t matter. Fiction can be better than truth. And they must have believed me, because they asked to meet again the next day to shop for used books and espadrilles. I had to decline. We have something new to release, I said. It took a long time to assemble and it can’t wait any longer. It’s number 21—a Fibonacci number. It’s the atomic number of scandium, our current century and the winning hand in Blackjack. It’s the US Highway that runs from Wytheville, Virginia to Beaufort, South Carolina. It’s also our brand new issue.