Friday, August 23, 2013

Yes Cecil, A Long Story Short, Part 49

Chapter Five

Sunday October 28, 2012.

There had been as many seats left on the flight as deadly sins. Pavor Loveridge, the last to board, had wondered what sin his aisle seat had represented. He had settled upon covetousness. Common enough. Though looking around him, gluttony appeared to have gained adherents. He had imagined a tug-of-war between the sins and the cardinal virtues with Gluttony as one anchor versus Diligence as the other. How could the virtues not lose? Pavor had eased his head back into the padded headrest and had imagined the straight-laced virtues holding the heavy twined cord in their chaste hands before letting it drop sending the seven deadly sins cascading backwards with a sling-shot effect, a tumble of legs and feet in the air, the rope like a serpent coiling and swirling about their concatenation of primordial cries. The virtues could win. It was all about a shift in perspective.

Pavor awoke from this comforting illusion as the flight attendant approached with the beverage trolley. He preferred the aisle seat. It allowed for the ease of stretching, the ease of washroom access, and the ease of observation. Other passengers could be vital source material as they travelled the aisle like white mice in a psychology experiment. Descriptions of physique, facial features, clothing, whether they looked at the other passengers as they passed, or kept their eyes ahead, could all be of interest and value to him in his fabrications upon the page.

The embarrassing voice of a macaw quietly murmured from his midsection. He was still peckish. A coffee and a croissant would help. The retired couple beside him—ideal travelling companions in their tweedy calm crossword and bookish preoccupations—had been dozing but awoke to wave the stewardess off and had resumed their siesta. Pavor sipped his coffee, the seven virtues and sins imbibing along with him. Seven, seven, seven. He remembered a story Mélisande had told him, a religious legend of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus. Something about seven Christians escaping a pursuit—of who he couldn't remember—finding refuge in a cave only to be held captive as their pursuers blocked the entrance with rocks. The seven had fallen asleep, and when they awoke, two hundred years had passed. One of the first time-travel narratives he had thought. Rather Rip Van Winkle-ish. Was seven an integral number to that tale he had wondered? Ephesus, Pergamum, Ctesiphon, Byblus, Persepolis, Ur, Trebizond, Petra, Caesarea, Jericho, Ballbek, all those extraordinary ancient cities with romantic notions carried in their syllables like life blood, whose sorrows and pleasures could never be measured by a handful of their dust. Ephesus, she had told him, had been the centre for the worship of Artemis, and she had stirred his interest by telling him how a British archaeologist had discovered a cache of jewels and statuettes—the offerings to the temple—under the pedestal of the statue to the goddess, a tale that had conjured up the enchantment of youthful reading. Perhaps he should add a bit of swash and buckle to his latest Rex novel. Lost treasure beneath a Montreal building. He licked his fingers of their buttery croissant crumbs, his inner macaw having succumbed to silence.

He finished his coffee feeling he'd the energy to read the few pages he had managed to write over the last three days. Time had been limited. He had arranged for someone to look in on the house while he was away for a week, and then he'd driven into Trieste to sell his Richard Francis Burton curiosity to the antiquarian bookshop, a welcome surprise for the dealer whose dusty eyelids had come to life as he listened to the story of its provenance and discovery, a volume, the dealer had said, would be a rare companion to the author's A History of Farting. Pavor had felt like he was playing a role, speaking the lines as he followed the script of a one-act play, a farce called The Haunted Book. It seemed inevitable, as if the book had been waiting for a lost soul to flounder by and discover its existence. He'd played his part, and been well-paid for his efforts. He'd also taken time to visit with Tullio in the hospital to leave him a replacement copy of his book he'd irrationally bestowed upon Carina as if she were his long lost daughter come to life in an ancient Italian fort's drainage duct. Tullio had been alone, and he'd lied saying he was family to gain beside access. Standing over him, book in hand, he had cast his shadow over Tullio's comatose body like the shadow of an imagined past joining his own shadow of guilt. When touching his arm, feeling the cool pasty skin, he had recalled the visit to the morgue to identify Victoria so many years ago. Her arm had been smooth as an alabaster statue, and as cold. There had been no words in that sanitized hell. Language had imploded into darkness, a darkness he'd been drawing from ever since. But Tullio, Tullio was in stasis, between dimensions, words strung together could be dropped down to him like a rope in a deep well, something to grab on to, something to hold. He had managed a few words of encouragement, whispered entreaties to get better soon with the added incentive of further Rex novels in the works, one with an Italian mathematician and his motorcycle.

Pavor retrieved the printed pages from the travel bag at his feet. Here he was travelling from Trieste to Montreal to surprise Mélisande, while his character Rex was flying from Montreal to Prague to surprise Dashmore. He looked across his companions and out the window but didn't see a plane. Only a faint glimmer of light supporting a horizon of clouds like burnished pewter.


Rex Under Glass – Part Four

Sitting upright, the sleeping mask in his hands, Rex wondered what it must have been like to face a firing squad. Were the blindfolds secondhand, soiled and blood-specked? Did they really provide you with a last cigarette? He thought of that romantic television series he never tired of watching on DVD, Reilly, the Ace of Spies. Reilly was finally captured and shot in the back while walking towards the border. A better way to go. A false sense of hope. The more he thought about the blindfold, the more it seemed it was for the benefit of the firing squad than of the condemned man. A preventative measure to keep the soldiers from being distracted by the humanity behind the eyes. If he were ever held before a firing squad, he felt sure he'd decline the blindfold. Defiant, he would capture a last glimpse of the world as he collapsed, the falling sun, the passing cloud, the beetle in the sand. A beau geste.

Putting the sleeping mask away in his carry-on bag, he stretched his legs out in the aisle. He preferred the aisle seat for the additional convenience of appreciating the approaches and departures of the attractive attendants. He liked a woman in uniform. Crisp neat suits, crisp neat smiles. Men had, unfortunately, stumbled into the profession, tripping over the new century and finding themselves the equal opportunity fantasies of high-flying women. But soon, he felt, all flight attendants would look like armed border guards, or perhaps even androids. The romance of flight had withered for him. A wink and a fling. Ephemeral fantasies nipped in the bud.

The flight attendant, his latest infatuation, was approaching. Smiling, he asked, “Excuse me, how long till we touch down?”

Blonde, petite, she braced herself with his seat as if they were at sea and whispered it would not be long now, the winds were with them.

Thank you. It's good to know something is,” he said winking up at her. Fantasy. His life was a series of fantasies.

Pavor looked up from the pages. The light snores of his seat companions were a syncopated distraction, and possibly an offstage chorus offering its opinion on his latest work. It was at such times that doubt, like a leaden blanket, would wrap itself around him leaving him weak with inertia, making him feel as heavy as solid granite, yet light as a balloon the merest edge could pop. He had to fight off the sensations otherwise those unruly twins, atrophy and entropy, would render him senseless of all nimble aspirations. When work was going well, he often felt like he was holding an old mirror before him, slowly scratching away the reflective coating off the back with his nails, working from the edges towards the centre, leaving the face and the eyes for last, until finally, seeing through the glass clearly, he would offer his manuscript to his agent and the whole process would begin again. He had created euphemistic terms for his literary life: the prose and coins of his narrative life, the whorls and burls of his publishing firm, the legal brocades of Bramble & Thorne his lawyers, and the dues and don'ts of Chatter & Prattle his literary agents, all helping him to become the unavowed author of his own forebearance, and allow him to submit his latest creation to be sepulchred in a storage space devoted to the remnant belongings of his wife and daughter, an archive of finite grace, a hidden shrine with a modest monthly fee.

He looked up at the ceiling of the plane with its oddly carpeted surface and remembered what Mélisande had called him once. She had called him the arranger of disorder, a term he had liked very much, but one that was not original to her, having taken it from a song by one of her favourite singer songwriters, Suzanne Vega. To lift a phrase from a song and apply it to someone out of context, was always contentious and unfair, but he thought the phrase apt. He had sensed a negative barb inherent in its use, but Mélisande was unaware of the source of his disorder enough to make him feel like he was a sailor lost at sea, and she, an inquisitive sea nymph offering guidance. It hadn't been that long ago, they'd walked a seven circuit labyrinth she had made in the sand on an empty beach. He had experienced a cleansing stillness, but one that had worried him. Would he lose his attachment to the prefigurements in black and grey he'd lived with all his life, from his initial creation of his rogue art dealer Ormond Develle in his Olivaster Moon, to his latest Rex Packard diversions?

He looked down to his papers and resumed his reading:

The taxi ride along Evropska to the Diplomat Hotel, had been swift and uneventful. The sidewalk advertising bill-boards for such things as Volkswagon products, the banners for major American movies featuring comic book heroes, the graffiti scrawls, and the signs for MacDonald's and Shell gas stations all provided a soft entry to Prague. Even the street pole banners with the word 'welcome' in ten different languages were reassuring.

Vernon Smythe had arranged for one night at this modern hotel. In and out, he'd said. A favourite phrase of Vernon's. In and out. After finishing his registration, the front desk clerk, a formal young man whose shirt collar seemed rather tight, gave him an unmarked slim envelope saying it had been left for him. Thinking it was instructions from Vernon, he opened it while ascending to the seventh floor.

Dear Rex,

So glad you arrived. I look forward to meeting you.

I know you must be tired, but after a short nap and a scrub, please meet me today at 3:00 o'clock at the base of Petrin tower. I know you're somewhat familiar with the city, but nevertheless, I suggest you get your Hertz and make your way down, Prevnostni, U Brusnice, Jeleni to Keplerova and at Phorelic drive round to the Strahovska and walk the rest of the way. No need for the funicular. No need to go through the Mala Strana.

We have much to discuss. Don't worry. All will be revealed.

Evan Dashmore.

Rex held the stiff card in his hand sensing he'd heard that phrase often enough. All will be revealed. A favourite of Vernon's. He turned over the card to see the image on the front, a winged angel holding a golden branch. The back of the card revealed it to be an allegorical figure of Victory on Niklas Brucke.

© ralph patrick mackay

Monday, August 05, 2013

Yes Cecil, A Long Story Short, Part 48G

Jerome's sense of guilt was a lament to his complacency. Why had he not involved himself more? Why had he not enquired further as to Thérèse's journalistic assignments? He felt as if he'd been using unstable pigments all along. The colours were fading, the paint flaking, cracking.

Mr. Roquebrune sat on the wooden chair in the living room explaining the events to him—the Ashemore request, his recommendations to Thérèse to cease investigating when any resistance was encountered, the unexpected severity and the single-minded thoroughness of this resistance—but Jerome wasn't listening. He'd grasped the situation immediately. Yes, he would fly to Bergen to meet Thérèse. Yes, he would bring his small sketches of her and their photographs together to help her fill in the swaths of white canvas devoid of colour.

“I'll book the flight Jerome, right away,” Mr. Roquebrune said. “The Ashemore file will pay for the expenses. Stay over one or two nights and then escort her home. Having you beside her will be a tremendous benefit.”

Jerome was nodding, envisioning a discouragement of ruins.

“Once again, I'm so sorry. I firmly blame myself for what's transpired. As for shining a legal light into the affair,” he hesitated, shaking his head, “I fear it would be reflected back at us, a blinding proposition for all concerned.” Mr. Roquebrune took off his glasses and massaged his eyes. “We would be scaling an endless staircase in the dark.” He stood up to leave. “The important thing is to bring Thérèse home and secure her health.”

Jerome remained seated in the shadow cast by his landlord. “Yes . . . I'll get myself ready to leave,” he said almost absentmindedly feeling himself pulled deeper into the circle of intrigue. “I'll . . . be ready.” He followed Mr. Roquebrune to the door. “I'll wait for your call.”

“We'll get through this Jerome, we'll get through this. A fresh start, a clean slate, a . . .” the idiomatic phrases failed him. He touched Jerome's arm and then made his way down the outside staircase, and was halfway across the back lawn before he realised he'd left the flashlight on a side table in Jerome's flat.

Jerome stood at the door, his memory a scattered series of dark silhouettes. The whereabouts of his passport was paramount. Approaching the oak sideboard, an inherited piece valuable for its storage space, he pulled open one deep shallow drawer and began to rummage. Double 'A' batteries rolled in the wood dust beside Italian wine corks stained on one end, pierced on the other as if wounded. Miniature plastic sealed bags with thread and buttons for long forgotten clothing—orphans that would never find their chosen fabrics. Keys to forgotten locks whose teeth would never again taste the steel of a tumbler, miniature luggage locks lacking their flimsy notions of a key. Unused index cards, their red lines fading, old thin-papered and blurred purchase bills, a nail file with a Chevron design, a thumb drive in the shape of Batman, a dual headphone adaptor plug—memories of shared musical pleasures. Shading sticks on their way to becoming substitute charcoal, coins: pfennigs, pence, francs, and a lira with the fine profile of what he took to be Casanova, multi-coloured elastics, scuffed-edged white erasers, a black leather bookmark with a crest of green and gold, stamps framed by the clipped brown and white envelopes sent to him by Thérèse and others: Norge: a train, Sverige: a lighthouse, Hellas: Pegasus, South Africa: the long tailed blue swallow, Strzelec: a figural piece. A purple plastic pencil sharpener with a remnant shaving of yellow painted wood protruding like a diseased tongue, paint brushes, their bristles hardened into pointed uselessness, pens whose ink substitutes had evaporated with time, a clutch of multi-coloured and scented eraser ends like a school of tropical fish, and an old black and white series of 20 mini snapshots of Holland, the topmost revealing a dated photograph of the cheese market, white clad and hatted men carrying a low slung wooden sleigh-like device surmounted by a hillock of white melon sized cheeses ready for sale. But no passport. He almost slammed the drawer shut out of frustration, but caught himself and eased it back. Each item, silent dusty vestiges of shared experiences, could possibly be memory triggers for Thérèse.


“We're just going to give Hugh a short walk,” Amelia said to Duncan who was in the process of putting the dry dishes away, “and then I'll drive Mélisande home, she's had a long day. Come and say goodbye.”

“Always nice to see you Mélisande,” he said hugging her. “Thanks for bringing the Latin text back. I'll make a photocopy of the pages and drop them off one day so you can take your time over it.”

“Sure. Sorry I didn't get to it over the past few days.”

“Oh, not at all. No rush. Thanks again.”

Duncan waited as they descended the stairs and winked to his wife as she closed the door behind them thinking Mélisande did seem rather tired.

He made his way to the office and started the laptop, the glow of the screen capturing him in a beam of leaden white. He'd remembered wanting to look up the publisher of Noel Welwyn Gough's edition of the obscure George Chapman book, and also the unimportant curiosity as to Washington Irving's middle name. But first he opened his word processing file to add a title to his list, one that came to him as he had scrubbed the pot gilded with butternut squash remnants.

Knots of the Argonauts, and Other What-Nots of the Dreadnoughts of Old
by Ariadne Brightsides

He added the title, pleased with himself and then opened Google to search for Washington Irving's middle name. He came up with an article from 1914 demonstrating he was certainly not the first to look into the meaninglessness of Irving's middle name. There had been, according to this intrepid early inquirer, a Minister Plenipotentiary to Spain from 1814 to 1819, named George W. Erving, and the author of this article had assumed it to be a misspelling, and therefore assumed the famous American author's first name must have been George. But on further investigation, this inquirer discovered the dates were wrong, for Washington Irving had been Minister Plenipotentiary to Spain much later. So, with further hard research he had discovered there had been two ministers to Spain with almost identical names. But oddly enough, the author of this article, Duncan read, assumed that George W. Erving's middle name must have been 'Washington,' and Washington Irving's first name must therefore have been George. Duncan doubted such assumptions. He wondered how many other individuals had sought out the middle name of Washington Irving and come across this swirl of Borgesian doppelganger confusion.

Oxtoby and Snoad seemed wholly more attached to reality. Their web page was elegant with touches of maroon and blue, and seeing a drop down menu he chose About to discover who exactly were Oxtoby and Snoad. He read the short paragraph to learn that they were, in fact, two well-fed Corgis, pets of a retired married couple with backgrounds in academe and art, Sebastian and Clare Bishop, the true purveyors of the finely printed and the well-bound. From the menu, he chose Authors to find Noel's name but his eye flitted past N. Welwyn Gough out of curiosity as to whether he'd recognize anyone else in their stable of wordsmiths. He drew in a breath when he came upon the name P. K. Loveridge. There could only be one P. K. Loveridge. Clicking on the familiar letters he was brought to a simple page for one book of verse, Alacrity and Karma on a Yacht Off Palmyra. He remembered the book hiding under Mélisande's modestly illustrated arms and realised it must have been this very book. He knew Mélisande's friend wrote suspense thrillers—he'd managed to get through Pavor's Olivaster Moon, a literary detective story featuring a protagonist named Ormond Develle in a style that reminded him of the work of Dibdin or Gill—but hadn't suspected him a poet. A black and white photograph of the author with his face half in shadow was clearly the P. K. Loveridge he knew of, the angular features, the blond hair curling down over his right eye like a question mark. There was a brief description of the poetry collection as one describing a series of excursions around Montreal on foot with a companion—Mélisande he assumed. One poem, a teaser, was provided and Duncan, eyebrows pinched with judgement, read the lines:

This ruddy stone I touch, not quite the same.
This New York Life Insurance pile that plays
Audacious red amongst the limestone greys.
The urns, the garlands, arabesque, the name-

less masks—green men in red—Renaissance style
In modern dress. The first to scrape the sky,
This jolly corner with a clock. The spry
Old arrows point the time, an office dial-

alectic still. The hour-hand with the sun
And moon, a mythic touch, a piece of time
That Harold Lloyd's intrepid eyes would climb.
You say not long ago the view was won-

derful, a spyglass on the roof and you
Could see La Chine, but now on view, the west
Is one dark sentinel, a Kubrick jest,
A non-reflective tower in the blue.

He recognized the buildings in Old Montreal facing Place d'Armes that Pavor was making reference to. The Kubrick sentinel reference would be that tall dark banking tower from the late 1960s on the west side of the park blocking the view from the first Montreal skyscraper. The poem seemed an odd choice. “Not quite the same” as what he wondered? Perhaps that's why the publisher chose it for a teaser. Make the reader interested perhaps.

Having satisfied his errant curiosity, Duncan thought he'd look over the Latin manuscript pages before Amelia returned. The computer bag appeared unusually fresh to his tired eyes but he swung it up from the hallway floor and opened the zipper. Keenly attuned to the feel and sound of books, he sensed that something was amiss. Books were moving against each other like tectonic plates. Two stout softcover volumes in heavy paper boards lay in the plush black synthetic nest in place of his family business cashbook. He sat in the chair by the front window thinking some poor sucker would be going to do a stint of study and come across Strand Cordage, Cash Book, 1881, and not the two volumes of philosophy he or she had anticipated. He noticed the price marked in pencil on the flyleaf and recognized the bookshop. The cost seemed fairly representative of their recent second-hand values and he theorized they were newly bought. A small blue circle stamp with three initials within it was also on the flyleaf. A previous owner's subtle ex libris sign perhaps. The three letters however could be in three possible arrangements due to the circular device. He looked at them and saw PMR which reminded him of Place Ville Marie, PVM. The scent of the ink and paper roused memories of similar books by this publisher, Princeton University Press, and he carefully fanned the pages remembering handling older versions of this two-volume set of the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard's Either/Or. A long slip of paper fell out of the first volume and he failed to snag it before it found it's sinuous way under the chair. Retrieving it from the dust along with one of Hugh's yellow plastic chewing toys in the shape of Bart Simpson, he looked at the paper inscribed with notations in purple ink, two quotations:

In the labyrinth of metaphysics are the same whispers as one hears when climbing Kafka's staircases to the tribunal which is always one floor higher up. - John Wisdom, Other Minds, 1952.

My propositions serve as elucidations in the following way: anyone who understands them eventually recognizes them as nonsensical, when he has used them—as steps—to climb up beyond them (He must, so to speak, throw away the ladder after he has climbed up it). He must transcend these propositions, and then he will see the world aright. -Ludwig Wittgenstein Tractatus 6.54.

If the slip of paper was a provisional bookmark, he'd lost the reader's place. He randomly flipped pages until he saw the name Mozart and slipped it between the pages. He would have to drop by the library and explain to Mélisande that a mix up had occurred. She did seem preoccupied and fatigued tonight.

He walked over to the bookshelf and reached down to the bottom shelf with an assortment of reference works to get a thick blue cloth biographical dictionary of philosophy and began turning pages towards the W section. Warnock, Weber, Weil, Whitehead . . .

Wisdom, John (Arthur John Terrance Dibber ) 1902-1993.

Duncan read over the details of his career as a well-loved Professor of Philosophy at Trinity College, Cambridge and later at the University of Oregon. Influences, Moore, Wittgenstein, Freud. Author of numerous works. Not to be confused with his cousin, John Oulton Wisdom, vide infra.

Wisdom, John Oulton, 1908-1993.

Duncan could see that this cousin had had a more circuitous academic route but likewise had been a well-appreciated professor of philosophy ending up at York University in Canada and had written an early book on Bishop Berkeley which was controversial due to its treatment of the Philosopher's fascination with Tar-Water.  Duncan found it charming that contemporaneous cousins both known as John Wisdom—the surname punningly apt for such a calling—had both been active as academic philosophers with interests in psychoanalysis, and had both seen the metaphysical light in 1993. Librarians must have had disambiguation tags for them. Duncan wondered if they had looked alike.

Between the exchange of the computer bags and the mirrored Irvings and Wisdoms, Duncan felt lightheaded. The front door opened and he heard Amelia and Hugh coming up the stairs. He shelved the reference work and put the two Kierkegaards back in the computer bag and placed it beside the chair as Hugh made his way towards him, tail wagging.

“Did you have a good walk Hugh? Did you have a good walk?” he said giving Hugh a rub up and down his spine and then a kiss on the nose. “You'd probably enjoy meeting Oxtoby and Snoad wouldn't you Hugh, yes, yes you would.”

“You won't believe what Mélisande told me on the way home,” Amelia said leaning on the door jamb looking like she'd just taken Hugh on a trek up the mountain.

Duncan raised his eyebrows and held himself mute while he rubbed Hugh between the ears.

“She learnt from a colleague today that Pavor had, when young, been married and had a daughter and . . . his wife and daughter perished in a car crash. No one knew.” She made her way to her chair and slumped down upon it, legs out and head back. “Poor Mélisande never knew.” Her mouth was open in astonishment and Duncan realised his had fallen open as well. This trumped his Irvings and Wisdoms hands down.


The door lock of Strand Cordage Ltd. had been an effortless endeavour. It was unfortunate, he thought, that the fog had dispersed, for it would have added a touch of atmosphere to his surreptitious pursuit. His directions were to search the premises of Lafcadio & Co. Booksellers, on the second floor, for an alpha-numerical manuscript. No fuck ups, or you'll be looking for ice in Greenland. He switched on his wrap-around silicon LED flashlights on each wrist and found his way to the staircase at the side of the cordage offices. The striking scent of sisal and hemp followed him up the stairs like a sinuous shadow. Wooden picture frames kept pace with his ascent, photographs or prints of famous authors, names in the corners, Lafcadio Hearn, Jane Austen, Henry James, Joseph Conrad, Arthur Machen and a nameless photograph of a bald headed man in stout shoes, long socks, shorts and a waist length wind breaker carrying a butterfly net, an expression of youthful content on his clean-shaven face. He recognized the name Jane Austen from the cover of a zombie book. The young woman who'd been reading it at a café had given him the full ninety degree shift when he gave her his best pick up line: “I think something's wrong with my auto-aim. I can't take my eyes off ya.” Really. No sense of humour. He stood at the top of the stairs and scanned the area, moving his wrists about like a martial artist or Keanu Reeves in the Matrix movies. The large desk covered in books and papers was the natural first choice. Bingo. This was too simple. A large envelope on the blotter revealed itself as the target text. He now had time to kill. He listened and relaxed, just the ticking of a clock. He started the laptop computer and looked at the stacks of books on either side of the blotter. The Lone Rider of Sante Fe with an illustrated dustjacket caught his eye. On the other side, a piece of paper lay upon what looked like very old books. He read the words written on the paper: Enthusiasmus Triumphatus, Or A Brief Discourse of the Nature, Causes, Kinds and Cure of Enthusiasme, by Henry More, 1656. Must be nice to be your own boss he thought. No one telling you what to do and how to do it. From an inside pocket, he retrieved a flash drive and began the process of copying the computer files. While he waited, he swung round and faced the rows of bookshelves behind him. The light from his LED's brought the shelves to life with glimmers of gilt and reflections of mylar. Bookselling! It seemed unreal that someone could make a living selling this junk. He approached the aisle and turned to face the first alcove on his right; a sign above in gold letters, Sir Percivale drew him in. Who'd have thought there would have been so many writers with names beginning with W, X, Y and Z. Waugh, Wells, Wharton, White, Wilde, Williams, Wilson, Wodehouse, Wolfe, Woolf, Yates, Yeats, Yoshimoto, Yourcenar, Zafon, Zamyatin, Zizek. All of the names were but names to him. He made his way out of the alcove and paused. Something glinted at the end of the aisle in the darkness at the back of the shop. He raised his wrists and shone the lights as if into a cave. He was startled to see a large porcelain winged angel staring back at him with blind porcelain eyes. A shiver ran along the back of his neck. The angel was holding an open book in its hands and as he got close enough to inspect it, he saw that the pages were as blank, smooth and glistening as Antarctic ice.  

End of Chapter Four - Wednesday

photograph and text © ralph patrick mackay