Before sitting down at Top Pot, I scanned the titles of the books that decorate the shelves near my table. A dirty gray volume with the title An Almanac For Moderns caught my eye. I pulled it down and looked through the first few pages. It was published in 1935, written by Donald Culross Peattie. The name “Richard G. Allen” was written on a bookplate pasted onto the inside front cover.

I looked through the book. Starting with the first day of the astrological calendar, there’s a page for every day of the year. There are twelve Lynd Ward illustrations scattered through the book, one for each star sign. For each day there’s a half-formed story, a short reflection on nature, or a “this day in history” anecdote.

I read a few random pages, then turned to the last page to read the essay for my birthday. I skipped back and read today’s essay. Then I flipped back a few pages, stopping where I saw some handwriting. There was an unpunctuated sentence penciled in so lightly that no impression had been made on the page – just a faint lead mark.

I skimmed through the rest of the book, looking for more handwritten notes. There were several words underlined or marked with question marks. A few paragraphs were marked off with a bracket in the inside margin. A handful of pages had an “x” or a checkmark at the top of the page. There were names written on the corner of some pages – “Norman”, “Mike Gates”, “Dad”. These notations were spread sparingly throughout the book – maybe one page in twenty was marked in some way. The line I’d found written under the November 22 essay was the only notation of more than two words. The essay on that page was short – ending halfway down the page. Handwritten right beneath the last line:

Today I went into the army
R.G.A 1943

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