Home > The Serpent King(5)

The Serpent King(5)
Jeff Zentner

Lydia leaned on the counter. “Okay, April. Here’s the deal. I’d love it if you’d sell us all this for fifty bucks, and I’m prepared to make it worth your while.”

April gave Lydia a sympathetic head tilt. “Aw, sweetie. I wish I could. Tell you what. I’ll do one hundred, the friend price, because I wish we were best friends.”

Lydia leaned over the counter and motioned at the laptop. “May I?”


Lydia typed Dollywould into the browser and waited for it to load. She turned the computer toward April.

“Ever been here?”

April squinted at the screen. “Yeah…looks familiar. I’m pretty sure I have. Was there an article on here about the best vintage stores in Tennessee?”


April scrolled through. “Okay, yeah, I’ve been here before. That was a great article.”

“Thank you.”

“Wait, you wrote that?”

“That and every other article on Dollywould. I run it.”

April’s jaw dropped slightly. “No way. Are you serious?”


“What are you—maybe eighteen?”


“Where were you when I was in high school?”

“Forrestville, Tennessee, wishing I were you. How do you advertise?”

“Word of mouth, mostly. I don’t have much of a marketing budget. I’ll run the occasional ad in the Nashville Scene when I’ve had a good month.”

“How about I prominently feature your store on Dollywould in exchange for you cutting us a break on this?”

April drummed her fingers on the countertop and thought for a second. “I don’t know.”

Lydia whipped out her phone and typed while April mulled. She set her phone on the counter, stepped back, and folded her arms with a broad grin. Her phone buzzed and beeped.

“What’s that? What’d you do?” April asked.

“Thought I’d give you a taste. Are you on Twitter?”

“I have an account for the store.”

“I tweeted to tell my 102,678 followers that I’m currently standing in the best vintage store in the state of Tennessee and that they should come check it out.”

“Wow. Thanks, I—”

Lydia raised a finger and picked up her phone. “Hang on. Let’s see what we’re getting. Okay, we’ve got seventy-five favorites, fifty-three retweets. Thanks for the tip, will def check it out…Always trust your taste…Need to make a trip to Nashville, maybe we can meet up and do some shopping…”

“What if—”

Lydia raised her finger again. “Oooh, here’s a good one. This is from Sandra Chen-Liebowitz. That name probably doesn’t ring a bell, but she’s an associate features editor at Cosmo. Let’s see what she has to say: Great tip, actually working on Nashville feature as we speak. Thanks! So you maybe made the pages of Cosmo. Convinced?”

April regarded Lydia for a second and threw up her hands with a little laugh. “Okay. Okay. You win.”

“We win.”

“So, you’re basically the coolest girl in school, I guess?”

Lydia laughed. Dill and Travis joined her. “Oh my. Yes, I’m the coolest. Now, most popular? Let’s just say that being Internet famous carries little cachet among my classmates.”

“It kind of carries negative cachet,” Dill said.

“What he said. Not much high school cachet to be had in being a female who has, you know, vocal opinions about anything.”

“Well, I’m impressed,” April said.

“Fantastic. Now, while you’re ringing up my friend, I’ll be figuring out how best to spend three hundred dollars here.”

“How about you?” April said to Travis. “I’m not sure we have much that fits someone as tall as you, but we might.”

Travis blushed and looked up with a crooked smile. “Oh, no thanks, ma’am. I mostly wear the same thing every day so I can think about other stuff.”

April and Lydia shared a look. Lydia shook her head. April’s face registered understanding.

Lydia had no trouble whatsoever spending her clothing allowance. Before they left, she had Dill take about fifty pictures of her wearing her new outfits in various combinations. And she had him take about twenty more of her and April. She and April exchanged phone numbers and promised to stay in touch.

They began sweating immediately upon walking outside. It was at least ninety-five degrees. The late-afternoon sun blazed. The cicadas’ hum throbbed like a heartbeat on an ultrasound.

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