This completed alternate fiction was rejected bt Analog, but since the main characters had their different lives in other Analog yarns, it's hard to see where else it may find a home. The Book Barn in question existed years ago, but eventually went under. Its collection became the Quadrant Used Book store in downtown Easton, PA. The old building in Tatamy, repurposed, still exists.
Moonrise at the Tatamy Book Barn
by Michael F. Flynn
Some books are to be tasted, others to be
and some few to be chewed and digested.
– Francis Bacon, Studies.
The waving branches and fluttering leaves created moiré patterns across the hiking trail beside the creek. The late afternoon heavens were still pale blue, studded with high popcorn clouds, but the restless foliage prophesied stormier weather coming. The westerlies chivvied glowering black cumulus ahead of them, and the fishermen, gauging the sky, had abandoned the creek in a splashing of waders. It was a matter of luck, the locals said, whether storms would roll down the valley between Kittatinny Ridge and South Mountain.
But Cindy did not believe in luck, or at least not in the sort of luck that you didn’t make for yourself. Rain clouds drive out sunshine like bad money drives out good. She had a meal in her belly and some money in her pocket, thanks in large measure to a diner willing to accept hard work in lieu of hard cash, but she really ought to give some thought to shelter for the night. A bedroll and camping gear perched atop her backpack but there had been nothing resembling a campground since leaving that diner.
She enjoyed nights under the stars. As a child, she had dreamt of being an astronaut, and the night sky possessed for her a wistful allure. But the stars tonight seemed destined to cower behind sullen clouds and she was less eager to sleep under driving rain.
Thunder rumbled in the west like God clearing his throat.
Cindy exited the tree-shrouded trail to find herself facing a paved road. To the right, the road skipped over the creek on a brief concrete bridge to join the state highway. To the left, it curved north and out of sight. It didn’t look like there would be much in the way of accommodations either way. The fleshpots of Xanadu might be just around that bend, but she harbored doubts.
That left the big stone-and-wood building directly across the road. A large board sign above the entrance proclaimed it the Tatamy Book Barn: Old and Used Books. In the parking lot three cars and a pick-up truck, also old and used, suggested that the building remained open.
God dumped a truckload of scrap metal on the sky, which turned bright brass for an instant, and that made up her mind. Cindy hitched up her backpack and strode confidently toward the entrance – just as the heavens let loose.
Stride became run, but she was drenched before she reached the door. She ducked through and backed against it, as if the tempest would try to force its way after her. The woman behind the counter looked up at this sudden eruption, took in Cindy and her sodden appearance, and cocked a rueful smile. “Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm.”
(c) 2022. Michael F. Flynn