He took to his new life. The days were almost endlessly long, measured in the slow passage of light tracking across the floor from the window, light which seemed somehow different from what he'd been used to, simple and flecked with dust.
He opened at 9 o'clock and he closed whenever he felt like it, locking the door with a feeling that resembled contentment (or would have if not for the press of loneliness and grief that was almost always with him, and which he pictured as a gust of dry air.) When he was finished counting the day's receipts he climbed the narrow stairs to the apartment above the shop, where he made himself tea or drank a glass of red wine or two and cooked before going to sleep. During the day he sat behind the desk and read, choosing a book at random from the limitless shelves and moving through it without hurry, pausing to look up and stare at the far wall or the stacks of books on the desk or at his own hands, thinking of nothing.
One year moved into another in much the same way as one day to the next: Elliot grew older, but gradually and without much pain, although there were days when his back bothered him, and the arch of his feet. It wasn't until he had passed his sixtieth birthday that he found the book about the other store.
It was still early, not yet 10 o'clock. The only customer had been a young female student with poor eyes and hair so blond that it was nearly gray, and who left without buying anything or speaking a word. Elliot came across the book on a shelf below the window. It was a light blue hardcover, and the title, Another Bookstore, was written on the spine in thin gold font. The author was a man named Francis Sheldon. It was a slim volume, barely 100 pages long, although the text was small and cramped, and extended nearly to the margin of the pages. The printing was bad and the paper was of poor quality. The only publishing information was the year the book had been printed, 1901, and Elliot guessed that it was self-published, a vanity project by an author with more ambition, perhaps, than talent. On the first page he read the following:
"He was already middle-aged by the time he took possession of the bookstore. He'd come into it through a friend, and after the death of his wife (who was struck with a sudden affliction and taken from him before he had the chance to understand what was happening) he conceived of the small store as a kind of refuge, or a cell, in which he could spend the remainder of his time on Earth, growing old along with the books."