One hot spring day, I was walking with EUDORA WELTY through a little shopping mall. It was her birthday, April 13. There was a surprise party waiting at a bookstore down the way. She was 86. As we walked rather slowly along the glass storefronts, we came to where a wide, smiling, pink-faced man was inflating colorful balloons. As each balloon filled and fattened, the cylinder emitted quite a loud whoosh of air. Eudora looked about to find the sound. "Balloons," I said. I had her hand. "Someone's apparently having a do." "Oh," she said. Those luminous, pale blue eyes igniting,...

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