It would take another three years before Frank would resile from the agreement they had made that day. He and Martha had planned to sow the seeds late, to catch winter by its shirttails and dare it to return. It had been March and winter that year had been particularly harsh, so when they had woken up and noted the absence of any morning frost they had gone immediately to work, even before sunrise, to get the seeds in the ground in one go. Martha had always had her own superstitions and she had planted the seeds in accordance with them, muttering the same sentences over and over again, turning her old body deliberately to and fro with each step in the planting process, making offerings to the bugs and the beetles, glancing at the rising sun as if making a different kind of promise, separate from–and perhaps counter to–the one she and Frank had made. Frank had watched her go about all of this, had witnessed her side dealings with the natural world. And he had continued to love her fiercely, even after the rows of corn sprouted early and the beds of lettuce flowered alongside the peppers and the beans, even after he was certain that her superstitions had been more trustworthy than his own word.


If you were walking on Randall Street in Portland, Oregon, and turned off the sidewalk at a certain point you would turn into Naked City Clothing, a tiny store noted for, if not the irony in its name, the unique personality of its character. You would enter a store that seems unchanged in the last sixty years: while the walls and racks might be covered with modern colors the styles of the clothing itself harkened back to the pin-up girls of the 1950s, and while the sales girls and guys might sport elaborate tattoos and eccentric piercings the customer service suggested the behind-the-counter help of earlier times. The atavisms extended even to the store’s indifferent, inconsistent use of technology: even while the store’s youngest manager updated the merchandise touted on the store’s Facebook page, Naked City’s owners held firmly to a commitment to cash-only sales and to a ban on computers in the store.