, Reading Group Guide
, Literature: Classics
, Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
, General & Literary Fiction
, Literary Collections
, Married Women
, Administration of estates
"How recent?" blurted Oedipa, louder than she needed to be.
"Is anything wrong, Miz Maas?" She told him first about the letter from Mucho with a cancellation telling her report all obscene mail to her potsmaster.
"Odd," Cohen agreed. "The transposition," consulting a notebook, "is only on the Lincoln .04. Regular issue, 1954. The other forgeries run back to 1893."
"That's 70 years," she said. "He'd have to be pretty old."
"If it's the same one," said Cohen. "And what if it were as old as Thurn and Taxis? Omedio Tassis, banished from Milan, organized his first couriers in the Bergamo region around 1290."
They sat in silence, listening to rain gnaw languidly at the windows and skylights, confronted all at once by the marvellous possibility.
"Has that ever happened before?" she had to ask.
"An 800-year tradition of postal fraud. Not to my knowledge." Oedipa told him then all about old Mr Thoth's signet ring, and the symbol she'd caught Stanley Koteks doodling, and the muted horn drawn in the ladies' room at The Scope.
"Whatever it is," he hardly needed to say, "they're apparently still quite active."
"Do we tell the government, or what?"
"I'm sure they know more than we do." He sounded nervous, or suddenly in retreat. "No, I wouldn't. It isn't our business, is it?"
She asked him then about the initials W.A.S.T.E., but it was somehow too late. She'd lost him. He said no, but so abruptly out of phase now with her own thoughts he could even have been lying. He poured her more dandelion wine.
"It's clearer now," he said, rather formal. "A few months ago it got quite cloudy. You see, in spring, when the dandelions begin to bloom again, the wine goes through a fermentation. As if they remembered."
No, thought Oedipa, sad. As if their home cemetery in some way still did exist, in a land where you could somehow walk, and not need the East San Nar-ciso Freeway, and bones still could rest in peace, nourishing ghosts of dandelions, no one to plow them up. As if the dead really do persist, even in a bottle of wine.
though her next move should have been to contact Randolph Driblette again, she decided instead to drive up to Berkeley. She wanted to find out where Richard Wharfinger had got his information about Trystero. Possibly also take a look at how the inventor John Nefastis picked up his mail.
As with Mucho when she'd left Kinneret, Metzger did not seem desperate at her going. She debated, driving north, whether to stop off at home on the way to Berkeley or coming back. As it turned out she missed the exit for Kinneret and that solved it. She purred along up the east side of the bay, presently climbed into the Berkeley hills and arrived close to midnight at a sprawling, many-leveled, German-baroque hotel, carpeted in deep green, going in for curved corridors and ornamental chandeliers. A sign in the lobby said welcome california chapter american deaf-mute assembly. Every light in the place burned, alarmingly bright; a truly ponderable silence occupied the building. A clerk popped up from behind the desk where he'd been sleeping and began making sign language at her. Oedipa considered giving him the finger to see what would happen. But she'd driven straight through, and all at once the fatigue of it had caught up with her. The clerk took her to a room with a reproduction of a Remedios Varo in it, through corridors gently curving as the streets of San Narciso, utterly silent. She fell asleep almost at once, but kept waking from a nightmare about something in the mirror, across from her bed. Nothing specific, only a possibility, nothing she could see. When she finally did settle into sleep, she dreamed that Mucho, her husband, was making love to her on a soft white beach that was not part of any California she knew. When she woke in the morning, she was sitting bolt upright, staring into the mirror at her own exhausted face.
She found the Lectern Press in a small office building on Shattuck Avenue. They didn't have Plays of