Peter Boardman would have entered his 70th year tomorrow, had he not disappeared on Everest in 1982.
An antique store on the east side of 101, coast of Oregon, where the young man behind the counter announces his name, asks yours, and where’re you from? Then, he says, pick a color, and a pin of the color you just named is placed on a map on the ceiling on the place you just claimed to be from.
A few books, the Moncrieff translation of Proust in three volumes, paperback, the first volume missing and the second apparently much read. There are probably only a hundred books in the whole place, but one of them is an unread copy of Peter Boardman’s The Shining Mountain, first American edition with no price penciled in.
Context: Peter Boardman disappeared with his climbing partner, Joe Tasker, on the unclimbed northeast ridge of Everest in 1982. They were uncommonly fine climbers, and writers. A prestigious annual award for mountaineering literature was established in their name.
I don’t even ask the price because I know I have a copy somewhere back at home in Alaska, maybe, probably, even two copies, and I let it pass.
The guy behind the counter, he’s a little off, yes, insisted we each take a beach agate out of the basket on the counter, as we leave empty-handed.
Fighting through the rain I take note of the piles of rusting junk everywhere outside the place. Perhaps at one time the idea was to sell some of it, but now it’s more of a display: an old cigarette machine, a car body with a mannequin driving, a phone booth occupied by another mannequin, a pair of mannequins in a boat, one waving, the other a babushka tied around her head, various other mannequins planted among the shrubbery. It’s like one of those abandoned nuclear test cities.
Was he a little off? My wife asks.
This place creeps me out, my wife says as we drive off.
Later that night, randomly on the internet I see someone make the claim that The Shining Mountain is the best mountaineering book ever written. I take this as a sign that I should acquire this particular copy.
Back to the antique store. My wife announces she will stay in the car. It’s raining, she says.
The young guy is still behind the counter, but an older guy, his father perhaps, emerges and I find the book, ask him what he wants for it. The internet is the ruiner of bargains. He looks it up on and says the going price is eight to sixteen, he’ll take twelve. Twelve is a lot more than I want to pay for a book I already own two copies of, but eight to sixteen is probably for a used paperback in questionable condition. I hesitate, reach into my pocket. Normally I never have cash, but I do today.
I have a five and four ones. He sees this and says, I’ll take eight. My old man told me you never take a man’s last dollar.
Take another agate, the kid says. And one for your wife, he adds.
I fight my way back to the car. It’s raining sideways now. My wife sees the book under my jacket. How much? she asks.
Five, I say.
The mannequin in the forever beached boat waves good-bye as we drive off.