...perched conveniently off the curb along Highway 174, and only a mile or two inland, boasts the only literary hot spot on the entire Island of Edisto.
"The Edisto Bookstore"
We were scooting along under a row of shaded elms, their branches groping overhead, forming a canopy of branches and moss, when the store's neon magenta sign lured us into a parking spot.
Upon staggering into air conditioning from an outside world suffering in drought, we were greeted by the owner, whose first impression appeared more than fitting for the role of one's typical high school librarian, or in this case, proprietor of one's book-cluttered establishment.
She offered my younger kids a grimace, then, as politely as she could muster, ushered them toward the back room where a children's play area awaited. My son reacted with a scowl, yearning to stay and browse in the adult section, but I nudged him forward, whispering into his ear that our visit would be short.
That matter settled, my wife and I parted ways, scanning the shelves in search of whatever chose to catch our eye.
Highlighted on display was a collection of work from the Low Country's local writers, the majority of covers splayed in beach scenes.
Then I spotted one I recognized, and a thought, far too ornery to pass up, led me to action.
"South of Broad," I said aloud, my forefinger running along the glistening hardback.
The fifty-something shop owner glanced up from her Toshiba lap top, resting upon the counter, then back, mumbling something to the effect of, "hmmph."
I wasn't deterred. "Say, you wouldn't happen to have a copy of, "South of Charm," by any chance?"
"South of what? Broad? Why...your finger's restin' on it."
"Not Broad. Although Conroy did a marvelous job with it. Charm. 'South of Charm,' by Elliot Grace."
At this, a giggle caused her lips to part before a wiry hand could wipe it away. "I'm sorry, it's just that, my cat's name is Emily Grace. For a moment there, I pictured her in front of my computer, paws just tapping away."
I lowered my brow, watching her shoulders rise and fall with a second bout of muffled laughter. Then mumbled, "Well, we're a large family, so who knows. Anyway, it's written by a writer from Ohio...Elliot Grace. South of Charm. It was released about a year ago."
"Never heard of it. And we pretty much only stock the best sellers and some local flare. Nothin' else would do very well, I'm afraid."
"Oh yeah? Well..."
I felt an elbow in my side, turned to my wife, who'd caught the tail end of our conversation. "Stop playing games with the lady. We're on vacation."
I huffed, then grew quiet, carousing the "Best Sellers!" shelf.
A minute later, I spotted one I recognized, yanked it from its home, flipped to page 2 out of memory, and read aloud the grim paragraph that I knew would still be there.
"I pulled back too hard on the wheel, which sent me once again towards the guardrail. The cables snapped and flew everywhere at once, like the thrashing tentacles of a harpooned octopus. One cracked the windshield and I remember thinking how glad I was that it hadn't hit me as the car fell through the arms of the convulsing brute..."
I stopped reading, looked up at the whimsical librarian, whose grin had faded with the mood. A moment passed before she lifted both palms in defeat. "Well...it sold over a hundred thousand copies."
"Yes," I agreed. "Life indeed throws us turnips at times...or something like that."
My wife claimed a couple of books for the long ride home. I decided to leave empty-handed. We paid, offered our good-bye's, and were about to leave when the shop owner held us up.
"What did say that book was called again?"
"South of Charm. Elliot Grace."
"Well, maybe I'll give it a look-see. And who knows?"
I couldn't help but grin. "Tell ya what...I'll run out to the van and sign a copy for you..."