?New York Times
Beloved author Peter S. Beagle (The Last Unicorn) returns with this long-anticipated new novel, a beautifully bittersweet tale of passion, enchantment, and the nature of fate.
It was a typically unpleasant Puget Sound winter before the arrival of Lioness Lazos. An enigmatic young waitress with strange abilities, when the lovely Lioness comes to Gardner Island even the weather takes notice. And as an impossibly beautiful spring leads into a perfect summer, Lioness is drawn to a complicated family. She is taken in by two disenchanted loversdynamic Joanna Delvecchio and scholarly Abe Aronson visited by Joanna’s previously unlucky-in-love daughter, Lily. With Lioness in their lives, they are suddenly compelled to explore their deepest dreams and desires.
Lioness grows more captivating as the days grow longer. Her new family thrives, even as they may be growing apart. But lingering in Lioness’s past is a dark secret and even summer days must pass.
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|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.50(d)|
About the Author
Beagle has won the Hugo, Nebula, Mythopoeic, and Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire awards, as well as lifetime achievement awards from Comic-Con and the World Fantasy Convention. He lives in Richmond, California, where he is working on too many projects to begin to name.
Read an Excerpt
By Peter S. Beagle
Tachyon PublicationsCopyright © 2016 Peter S. Beagle
All rights reserved.
With so many flights coming in, from so many different points of the compass, he had no way of knowing certainly whether this one was hers. All the same, when he heard the airplane he stopped working and went out to the woodpile, away from the trees, watching the 767 crawl across the gray sky, beginning to circle for the descent into Sea-Tac. She'd be making her final walk-through, reminding people to return their seatbacks to the full upright position. He went back inside and called her number, leaving a message for her to come home to.
"Del, hi, it's me. I'll catch the five-forty, and we'll hit the Ethiopian place. Love you, cookie."
Sitting at his worktable, once again trying to play "Midnight Hour Blues" on the A-flat harmonica, he could see the two great blue herons stalking the shallows, dividing the rocky shoreline between them in silent, professional cooperation. He leaned on his elbows, watching the birds, marveling as he always did at the perfect stillness that attended their daily hunting. He had seen them stand as long as half an hour, waiting for prey to forget they were there. Far beyond them, two sailboats were racing down the Sound, the one in the lead canted over so far that its bowsprit was nearly touching the water. I always think I'm going to like sailing, he thought, and I never do. What the hell am I doing, living on an island?
On the ferry, he stayed below decks because of the wind. He drank a weak beer and read the paper without looking up, finishing as the first warning horn sounded. His car was parked on the left side of the boat, making it easier to turn onto First Avenue in the Friday rush-hour traffic. He got all the way to Denny without hitting a single red light, which was rare enough to be taken as a good omen. First to Denny, Denny to Aurora, get over and hang a fast right — careful down the hill, watch out for the skateboarders from the schoolyard across the street. The elderly station wagon coasted smoothly into the one vacant space of the three allotted to visitors by the condominium Homeowners' Association.
Joanna Delvecchio was shooting hoops by herself: even before he saw her, he could hear the basketball pounding harder and harder against the backboard mounted above her garage door. When she came to meet him, he said, "Must have been a real stinker. You're going to knock that thing loose again."
"It snowed in Chicago, and there were seventeen planes ahead of us to get de-iced, and we had a reserve because Tamara was out with some kind of family crisis, and there were these huge college kids who wouldn't stay in their damn seats, and I'm so glad to see you." As soon as the door closed behind them, she hugged him so hard that her chin dug painfully into his collarbone. "God, I really don't know if I can hang on another three years —"
"Well, four, practically. Because of that leave you took —"
"Right, when Lily was so sick. So, four more years of being a head waitress in a flying Burger King, training gravel-brained girls to tell the difference between tonic water and ginger ale." She widened her eyes and let her mouth go slack, miming bewilderment. "Smiling at people who know it's my fault that we've been sitting on the runway for two hours. I'm never going to make it, Abe."
He loosened her grip slightly as he kissed her ear. "Yes, you are, Delvecchio. You're going to serve the full twenty-five year sentence, no time off, and then you're going to start traveling every which where they fly, and for free. And that will make it a whole lot easier for a retired elderly gentleman, barely scuffling along on a professor's pitiful pension, to accompany you, which is good, because you always overpack." He kissed her properly this time, easing her toward the coat closet. "But right now you're being taken out to dinner, because you're starving. Your blood sugar drops like a rock, and you get all glumpy. I can always tell."
But she pulled away, shaking her head. "I don't want to go out. I don't want to go anywhere, ever, in my whole life. I'll do spaghetti, you throw one of your salads together. It's all in the fridge."
"I hate making salads," he grumbled.
She laughed for the first time. "I know. That's why they're so good. There's new dill coming up in the window box." She hesitated for a moment. "Make it a big one, with everything. Lily said she might be coming for dinner, if she gets off early at the station."
"She won't show," he said. "Give you four to one."
But he made the extra salad. Joanna reheated the spaghetti when it became obvious that her daughter was not going to join them. Over dinner she asked him about the book, and he shrugged. "No word from the NEH, and they'll be announcing any day now. John Ball and the Peasants' Rebellion are just not grant material these days. I knew that when I applied."
"Well, but you've never been writing it just for that. I mean, not just to get a grant."
Abe blinked at her. "I'm not? Boy, shows you what I know. I could have sworn —"
"You're doing it because John Ball matters to you," she said. "Seven hundred years, or whatever it is, and he still matters to one crabby old fart out on Puget Sound. You wake up thinking about him, and you'll go on doing it, grant or no grant. Beats the hell out of waking up thinking about Burger King."
He patted her arm. "When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I think is, I have to pee. The second thing I think about is you. I don't get around to John Ball until after I've had my English muffin. Sometimes not until after coffee."
Joanna's butterscotch-brown eyes, very slightly mismatched, turned up at the corners when she smiled. "For a crabby old fart, you've still got some moves on you. Practically worth breaking out the Vouvray."
They cleared the table, washed the dishes in companionable silence, and went to bed. In the night he woke to the bedside lamp and saw her standing naked at the full-length mirror. He said quietly, "Mirrors lie. This is a scientific fact."
"So is a double chin," she said. "So are stumpy Sicilian legs and spider veins. Not to mention a butt that's practically got skid marks, it's dragging so low. God, my body's really gone south this last year — I mean, look at me, Abe, really look." She turned to face him, spreading her arms wide. "The tits are still okay, just barely, but look at that belly, you'd think I'd had a dozen babies instead of only one. I never used to look this bad."
"Come here, Del," he said; and, when she shook her head, "Right now. You want an old man to have a heart attack, you standing there like that? Come here, damn it."
She came back to bed then, feeling smaller than usual when she curled in his arms. He said, more harshly than he meant to, "You listen now. At this very moment, I promise you, both of my exes are out there growing meaner and uglier by the day, just like me. You, you just keep growing prettier as I look at you, and I've been looking at you for a really long time. You want to know what you look like, you ask me. I'm ten and a half years older than you, and I know I'm still hot stuff because you tell me so. Same thing, exactly."
"No, it's not," she mumbled into his chest. "You're so much better-looking than you were twenty years ago, with that cool white beard and everything, and I've turned into this walking mess. My crew, they're all little bunnyrabbits, all of them, the men too. I should have gone for international, day one, before Lily was born. Europeans don't care if you look like the Night of the Living Dead. And at least I'd have seen Florence."
But his hands were slipping down her back, pulling her close. She resisted at first. "Ah, you're crazy. Wait, wait, I'll get the light."
"No way, lady. Us old guys need all the stimulation we can get."
They slept late, and wound up taking the noon ferry to Gardner Island, using both cars. On deck they watched for orcas, and Joanna talked about Lily. "She's got such lousy taste in women, that's what gets me so pissed at her. I don't care that they're usually grocery clerks or construction workers — hell, the lawyer was the worst of the lot — but they treat her so badly, Abe. I know, I know, she practically asks for it, and it's her life, not my business. I know all that. It shouldn't break my stupid heart, but it does."
"I should talk to her," he said. "We used to have such long, serious talks when she was little. About death and sex and dinosaurs, and why some people can raise one eyebrow and some people can't. It's been a while since we had one of those."
"She always liked you." Joanna's voice sounded determinedly toneless. "You never disappointed her. Unlike me."
"Come on, I never had a chance to disappoint her. I've been Uncle Abe almost all her life. Uncles get away with lots more than mothers. Uncles go home."
The ferry turned slowly into the wind, approaching the island. It was a curiously warm wind, surprising Abe with its unseasonal caress, but Joanna shivered and shoved her hands deep into her jacket pockets. "Lily was born disappointed in me. They put her into my arms, and we looked at each other, and I knew right then: I'm never going to please this one, not ever. Everything she does, every dumb choice she makes, it's all got to do with that very first disappointment. Does that sound absolutely weird?"
"No, just absolutely vain." He put his arms around her from behind, nuzzling into her hair. "God's sake, give the kid some credit, let her be independently dumb. You can't be snatching all her idiocy for yourself, that's just plain greedy. Think how dumb her father was, ditching you for a real-estate agent. It's in the genes, cookie."
"Don't call me cookie," she said automatically, but she pressed herself back against him. "I thought of a way we can prop up that saggy porch of yours. I'll show you when we get there." The arrival horn sounded then, and they went below to their cars.
Following the tomato-red Jaguar — her single luxury — off the dock, they paused at the lone traffic light of Marley, Gardner Island's only real town, then turning up into the green-shrouded hills. Sixteen years. Sixteen years I've known I don't belong here, and there's still nowhere else I want to be. Somebody else ... that's another matter.
He thought about Lily as a child, playing contentedly with skeletal horses twisted out of pipe cleaners. An undertow of memory caught him there, summoning the night drive sixteen years before, and the blood that had looked so black on Joanna's new skirt. Another girl, it would have been. Lily wanted a sister so much.
The Sound came into view at the top of the first ridge; then vanished again behind the shaggy hemlocks that had long ago replaced the logged-off pines and Douglas firs. Ahead of him, the red Jaguar handled the turns with autopilot ease, just as he did making the run from the ferry to Queen Anne Hill. He saw two deer browsing in someone's tomato patch — they never looked up as he passed — and a family of raccoons prowling the roof of the elementary school. I wonder if they crap up there, the way they do on my beach stairs. Probably.
The last descent to the coast road always felt to him like tumbling straight into the gray sky and the gray water below. He could see her riding the brakes, as he was forever telling her not to do. He ordered himself not to say anything about it, though he knew he would. She turned left at his battered green mailbox, crept down the steep driveway — paved once again last year, and already fracturing like arctic ice in the spring — veered sharply right at the fork, and nosed the Jaguar into her favorite space under the burly wisteria vine. He parked by the woodpile, and they stood silently together, regarding his house. Turk, the neighbors' enormous hound, dimwitted to a point of near-saintliness, came and barked savagely at them, and then settled down to insistently snuggling his head between Joanna's knees.
Abe said, "The porch isn't that saggy. We could go another year, easy, without messing with it."
"What's that thing on the roof?" She pointed to a peculiar bulge near the attic window, barely visible beneath a winter's humus of hemlock needles. He blinked, then shrugged. "What? It's always been there, you just never noticed it before. Doesn't leak or anything."
Joanna was looking at the little one-car garage, down a slight slope to the left of the house. She said, "You know, a really good spring project would be to clean out that dump so it'd be fit for a self-respecting car to live in. It wouldn't take that long, two of us working."
"Del, that's where I keep stuff, we've been over that. That's my reference library." She laughed in his face, her warmly derisive, anciently bawdy Mediterranean laugh. After a moment he joined her, as he never could resist doing. "Okay, it's my stuff library, but some of it comes in useful sometimes. I made that choice way back, keeping the car dry or my papers."
"Well, if you ever looked at those boxes, you'd see the mildew all over them, never mind how many old bedspreads you cover them with. What's wrong with moving them to the basement?" He sighed. "Because that's where I've got all my beer stuff — my boiler and my carboy, all my bottles and yeast and malt and everything. Give it up, Del. I know you're right, no question, I'll deal with it. Summer, I promise, after we get back from the rain forest."
About to continue the argument, she caught herself and laughed again, but it was a different sort of laugh. "I didn't think I did that so much anymore, nagging you to change the way you live. After knowing you all these years. I'm sorry. You never do that to me."
"Ah, I do too," he said. "Getting on you about leaving lights on, not soaking sticky dishes, living on banana-pancake mix half the time. Making fun of the way you scour the whole bathroom whenever you shower —"
"Just the bathtub, come on —"
"Point is, we both do it. That's how you tell we're practically in a relationship." He put an arm around her shoulders. "Look, I tell you what. We go inside — you unpack — I salvage my leftover meatloaf for sandwiches — we maybe take small nap afterward — we work on the porch, or the attic, or the garage, or nothing at all, whatever you like — and tonight we go out to the Skyliner. All Sicilians love the Skyliner Diner."
"Deal," she said instantly. "But if I do want to make a start on the garage, that's what we do. Fair enough?"
"Understood." But in fact they spent the afternoon peacefully accomplishing nothing of any importance. Joanna dozed, shot desultory baskets into the hoop she had nailed too high on a huge hemlock, threw a pointedly playful fit over a discovered Rosh Hashanah card from Abe's first wife ("I thought you said she'd found Jesus big-time — what's she doing sending you High Holidays stuff?"), and sang "Your Cheatin' Heart" in the bath. Abe hosed raccoon droppings off the stairs that led down to his stony sliver of beach, and loudly searched his sagging bookshelves for a nineteenth-century monograph on fourteenth-century agriculture. ("It was here, it's always here, I never move it!") The meatloaf was still edible, the nap sociable; the attic, porch and garage left alone; and four hands of a card game called "That's All" ended, as usual, in a mild dispute over exactly how many consecutive wins that made for Joanna. Later he washed clothes, while she became entangled in a long, repetitive telephone conversation with Lily that left her depressed, and angry with herself for being so. "Damn her, she pushes buttons I didn't even know I had — every one, every time. And then she touches my heart, some way, and I say exactly the wrong thing, and I always wind up feeling like such a fool."
"Well, the buttons work." He knew better than to say it, and he was unable not to. "If they didn't work, she'd quit manipulating you the way she does. She's been doing it to you since she was a child."
Joanna looked at him for a long time before she spoke again. Her voice was quiet and even, completely unlike her normal tone. "Thank you. I can't tell you how much I needed to hear that."
He spread his hands. "Come on, you want the truth or you want comfort? You know I always tell you the truth."
"Yes," she said. "You're the only man who's ever told me all the truth, all the time. In my life. You're also the only man I've ever wished would lie to me, just now and then. Might show you actually care what I think of you."
Excerpted from Summerlong by Peter S. Beagle. Copyright © 2016 Peter S. Beagle. Excerpted by permission of Tachyon Publications.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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