His round, bald head rose above the pile of tattered magazines and creased paperbacks like the Moon above the
Pyrenees. The white hairs on the side of his head were
trimmed to a severe crewcut and looked like the glow of mist at the sides of
the full Moon. His nose was flat, a bare
shadow on the lunar landscape. Pale from
his years behind the desk, from breathing the dust of the stacks, from being
crammed into his space a life sentence behind his oak desk, his skin was nearly
the same color as his white shirt, open at the collar, no tee shirt underneath,
the cuffs rolled and turned back on his forearms. But his skin at least seemed cleaner, the
shirt musty from a closet of yesterday’s dirty shirts, smelling of sweat, dust,
and the air confined to the solitary of the back stacks.
“You want books?” he said, “I’ll give you books! You want poetry? I’ll give you poetry!” He twisted around in his wooden office chair and a book off the shelf behind him and threw it. It hit the desk in front of me and spilled to the floor, its spine split. I bent to pick it up. “There’s plenty more where that came from,” he growled.
I looked at him, not sure what to believe, his wild rage or the dead book in my hands. It was Homer, an old translation from the Victorian era, a green binding with ornate gold trim. The brittle brown-edged pages were chipping as I opened it, pieces fell to the floor like confetti. I wondered why I thought of a wedding. It was more like dust.
“Here’s another!” I ducked and the book hit the shelves behind me, exploding into an empty red binding and loose pages. Dust flew in my face and a picture of Evangeline fluttered to the floor.
He met my astonishment with a scowl, then turned back to his desk, shuffled a stack of mail. I swear he actually said “Harumph” under his breath. “Here’s your books. Shit on ‘em,” he muttered.
I backed out the door. Outside it was still raining. I had plenty of unread books at home.