Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Chapter 3 - Introduction to Portuguese Man and Book

A blond, green eyed man with a strong jaw and trimmed hair sat comfortably back in the reclining chair at a clean topped mahogany desk. A palm pilot and a silver, jade shaded lamp reflected off its glass like surface. A granite fireplace, tall and thin sat to his right. Shelves upon shelves held innumerous books in his enclave office. The three panel glass, floor to ceiling window behind him silhouetted his face slightly in the midday sun. Long, camel colored, velvet drapes hung to their sides as white sheers covered half of the glass, illuminating the fabric slightly. He sat, elbows firmly planted on his desk, hands outstretched and touching each other at their tips. His face unyielding as his counterpart spoke.


The dark haired man sat in one of the symmetrically opposing fat, short backed ruddy brown leather chairs. His deep grey suit accented his faint olive skin and contrasted the black shirt as it casually flapped open at the collar revealing his graceful neck and groomed wisps of chest hair.  He was set back, his body firmly placed in the seats embrace. His legs were crossed, and his arms lay elbow extended over each arm to accommodate his clasped hands. His watch revealed by the tension on the fabric of his jacket. His brown eyes were full, round and unpolluted complemented by dark, perfect brows. He surveyed the blond man’s face. His lips were full, the bottom plump but chiseled.  They moved smoothly across his white teeth as he amused his counterpart with stories of his family and his home in Portugal. The 5 o’clock shadow only enhanced his beauty. He said,  [in purtugese] “I can not wait for you to meet my parents and my brothers. They are sure to love you. How could they not?” His arms lifted while elbows stayed in their place. His hands opened and fingers flared out in agreement with his words. His face was bright, his smile extending out to his muscular jaw line.

The blond man spoke, his hands pulling back toward his body and positioning themselves in mimic. [in Portugese] "You appear excited for me to get to know your family. Does this mean that I can expect something more than a visit when you are in the city?” His right hand clasped together and his forefinger remained extended, pointing down and poking the desk gingerly, “ Perhaps I could arrange a stay in Bordeaux for a week, just the two of us? Then, we meet your family for a few days in Alto Alentejo. This would be bliss.”

The dark haired man responded with a chuckle saying, [continuing in Portugese] "With you, I would stay in a swamp. How about we make it for about a month from now? I have a few things to clean up with the Ambassador and I know my mother will need that long at least to start cooking."

The blond man’s eyes squinted as he responded with a smirk. Bordeaux is not so glamerous as a swamp but I am sure it will prove adequate. Now as for this little adventure, I know we cannot be together every moment and that you have some duties to attend to, but I am still hoping that we will be able to spend some time together at least part of the week. You do not have to be as busy as you are, you know? I can make it so that you would never want for this business again - other than that international relations aspect.”

His brows released his smile and his face reflected a sarcastic response. “Yes. Well, Mr. Bishop,” he said as his eyes rolled, “I have no ring on my finger so I shall not become a housewife just yet. I will make time to be with you of course. We will see each other enough, you will see.

Okay. your plane leaves at Eleven O'clock this evening. Don't over pack like last time. We can pick things up as we go,or at least, I would love to be able to dress you if you let me and we can't if you pack so much they do not let you on the flight.” His attitude changed as he said this, he was now half requesting and half enticing.

Fine, whatever you say. You want to buy new shoes so I can't pack a suitcase. I promise not to over pack my luggage. Now, you have to promise me that you will not buy more than three pairs of shoes." Both men burst out laughing. After a moment, the men fell silent again.

 Valério, I would promise you anything in my power. If it is six shoes that will make you happy, then so shall it be." The blond mans eyes softened as he said this. The sincerity was clear in his voice.

 “Justin, Valério paused thoughtfully, you take things too seriously sometimes. Have all of the shoes in Europe if that is what you want."

Valério stood up, straightening his jacket and his tie. He walked casually beside the tapestry rug that covered the mahogany floor that matched the desk where Justin sat. Justin’s chest held his breath. Valério’s proximity, Justin’s inability to see Valério excited him, though his breathing slowed, his eyes closed and he recovered. Valério’s shoes tapped mutely with each step. “Justin,” the man said in English through his thick Iberian accent, “I am going to the cottage now. I will be showering and then I am going to pack my things and I am going to have the driver take me to the airport. The Embaixador [Ambassador] is meeting with some colleagues and wants me to attend him in Valença [Valencia] next week, you see me, Okay?


The corner of Justin’s lips tipped up with a smirk and his eyebrows furrowed compassionately at Valério. “Very well,” he said, “I will be at the 5 Maddox Street Hotel by Monday morning. London. 9:00 A.M. GMT. Meet me downstairs for tea.” Valério winked at Justin. He put his right foot out, placing only his heal on the ground and forced his weight between the toes of his left foot and the heal of his right. His arms cocked back in dueling L-shapes, and Valério pivoted as his arms juxtaposed. He walked through the door to the nook office and out into the main chamber of the private library. As he crossed under the exaggeratedly elongated archway and lifted his feet off the ground bringing them back down in a triplet of taps before moving forward. The muted clicks of his shoes slowly disappeared out into the distance as he descended the stairs in the towering library.


Justin stared blankly out into the library for a few minutes. The books lining the shelves were a fine collection that gave him a great source of pride – every subject of even modest interest lay in his collection. The walls of all four stories were striped with a rainbow of books in sizes great and small, thick and thin, old and new. Some old, some fantastically old or interesting books lay in his collection. Those sat under UV shielded security glass in this literary palace in the center of the room on the first floor in a venerated position. He had a running of Benjamin Franklin’s, “Silence Dogood” letters, an original, signed copy of Huckleberry Finn, a manifest from a Dutch slave ship, an authenticated copy of Miguel de Cervantes’, “Don Quixote” circa 1670,  a signed, first printing of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s, “Hound of the Baskervilles,” among dozens. He had been collecting since he was just a boy. “Alas, Babylon,” by Pat Frank actually by Harry Hart Frank, 1959, his first signed first printing, but his favorite contemporary work, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” John Berendt, now that was a book he had  read at least a dozen times.  It was his favorite. His head snapped from the library as the bell rang for the gate.


He reached over and adjusted the black acrylic screen that sat atop his desk. The display revealed a clean schematic drawing of the grounds and all of their contents in a ready, managed way.

A moment later, the screen displayed four angles of what appeared to be a delivery vehicle inside of which was a burly, slack-jawed man with a look of confusion and impatience. A voice spoke from it say, “Uhhh… Hey there, I have a delivery for this address.”

“Wait there...” He responded. His hand move slightly to the side where it hit a button that looked like a bull-horn. His voice flowed throughout the house as he again spoke to the monitor saying, “Marshall?”

“Yes, Justin,” The screen responded.

Marshall, open the gate and escort the driver to the delivery entrance please.”

“Of course, Justin. I’ll instruct the gentleman now.”

“Robert, there is a delivery here. Please see to it that the package is placed in the library. I have been expecting it for some time.” 

“Yes, sir,” a voice responded back. He overheard the voice call out to the gate, “After the gate opens, please follow the driveway to the far right side where you will find a small road leading from the main drive. There are lights to assist you. Follow them and a man in denim by the name of ‘Chad’ will sign for the package if you please.”

“Uhhh… Sure” said the delivery man. A buzzing sound followed by the mechanical clicking and humming of the retracting gate followed. The engine of the truck accelerated and faded out of shot of the microphone. Justin followed the progress of the delivery vehicle from the weight sensors in the drive as well as camera triangulation. “What a marvelous device,” he thought to himself.


Justin pressed his finger to the loud speaker icon on the screen again. “Robert?” he said. The screen spoke as a man about his own age came into view. "Please do not forget to have my luggage ready. Pack lightly – only the necessities please. I plan to pick some things up while I am gone."

“Of course, Mr. Bishop. Shall I place them in the keep of your driver when finished or did you wish to see them before you are ready to go?” The man said. His face was grainy in the monitor and his mouth ever so slightly out of sink with the sound of his voice. The man had very trimmed hair, closely trimmed Van Dyke beard and strawberry blond hair though it appeared rather dirty blond on the monitor.

“No Robert, that will be fine. I trust you to pack for me. Thank you.” Justin replied passively.

“You are welcome. Were you ready for lunch?” Robert asked.

“No. I’ll just go and snack in the kitchen when I get hungry. Once you get the luggage to the car and the package here in the library, please feel free to take the rest of the day to yourself.” He said. His smile was sincere and pleasant.

“Sir?” Robert asked back trying to give the illusion of contesting the statement and hiding his happiness that he would have an early long weekend while his employer was away.

“Robert… Shut up with the ‘Sir’ crap and enjoy your long weekend. I’ll be returning Wednesday. Just see to it that the maid fights back the cobwebs and the gardener isn’t putting lurid designs in the grass again. Everything else will be fine until then. Tell Rebecca I said hello and Oh! – That reminds me. I have a surprise for you and her. Go over to the island on the side by the refrigerator, in the 3rd drawer down where the saran wrap is kept. There is a manila envelope. Bring it back over to the monitor where I can see your face.

“Okay…” he responded, not knowing what to say. He just turned and did as instructed. Once he found the envelope and brought it back to the station he was previously. His face illuminated with curiosity and quiet, uncomfortable worry. “Alright. I have it,” he said. His voice cautiously rose.

“Excellent. Open it.” He was practically beaming through the screen. His voice was excited at the surprise of it all.

“Well… what is it?” Robert questioned.

“You’ll never know if you don’t open the damn thing, so now go ahead.” Justin laughingly chastised Robert.

“Alright.” Robert unclasped the prongs the held the end of the envelope closed and then lifted back the flap, reaching his hand to find some pieces of paper and something else he could not quite identify. His eyes looked up to the left as he tried to image what his hands were holding inside the envelope before he managed to remove its contents. Justin laughed and said, “Pull it out! Pull it out and take a look at it before I just burst through the screen and do it for you!” He jolted a smile out of Robert at this statement and a small, patient laugh.

“Mr. Bishop!” Robert gasped. “What have you done?” Roberts face was crossed between glee and horror.

“Robert… now seriously, sit down. It will be just fine. Now either you accept it or I will have to go ape-shit. No one likes that and it’s just something else for the maid to avoid cleaning. Now say something, damn it and it had better not be something trite like, ‘Oh I couldn’t possibly’ or ‘you shouldn’t have.’”

Robert simply stared back and forth between the papers in his hands and the screen. His eyes welled up a bit but didn’t say anything. “Robert, are you alright?” Justin said, his voice turning not to concern. “Don’t move, I’ll be right there.” He jumped from his seat and trotted out the doors of the office and into the library. The massive room bore down three levels up and one more down. He took the stairs that lead down one level. They were made of the same beautiful mahogany that the floor and his desk were. They banister too was made of this and inlaid teak that made subtle crisscrossing patterns and lined the base of the rail with exquisite scalloping. The grasped the railing with his left hand as he jumped the last three steps and hopped over the rail landing on the floor beneath and to his left. His shoes smacked the ground with a hard “clack” that echoed over the tapping sounds from the steps in the very tall room. He made his way into the hallway; wainscoting lined the beige walls of the wide path. He made the turn into the kitchen where he saw Robert standing unmoved. “Robert,” he said catching his breath. “Are you alright? Come here.” He walked over to the man. Robert stood taller than Justin by at least six inches. Justin stood only about 5’10” tall and came only up to Roberts chin. He placed his arm around his shoulder and grabbed him with his other hand by the arm as he ushered them over to a stool situated at the island in the middle of the kitchen. Its beautiful, thick butcher block top held a farmers sink, an array of drawers as well as a large basket of fresh fruits and another of vegetables. Two hoses fell from the 12’ ceiling below the pendant lighting and the rack that held the copper pots and pans. Once he’d seated Robert, he removed his suit coat and laid it on the side of the island. He reached to a glass shelf where he removed a clear glass. He moved to the refrigerator and pressed a button where semi-crushed ice poured itself into the glass. He lifted his finger and pressed another button and chilled water poured into the glass causing the ice to slosh and crack a bit. “Robert, here. Drink this.” He said as he handed the man the glass. Robert reached for it. He lifted it to his mouth and took a gulp. His eyes welled a bit as he placed the glass off to the side.


“This is the kindest thing anyone has ever done for me, Mr. Bishop,” he said as he placed the envelope in the air and waived it around indistinctly. “I mean, no one would do things like this for other people. I am utterly amazed and I can’t quite tell you how grateful I am for this. I will never forget this – Never. His voice cracked a bit and his face grimaced to match.

“Its fine” Justin started but was quickly interrupted.

“No. It’s not fine, it’s most miraculous. No one, no one would do this but you. You are the kindest man I have ever met in my life,” he said, his voice exasperated and passionate. He stood wandering around the kitchen, the envelope pressed between his four outstretched fingers and his thumb made it bend into an arch at the end, causing the flap to stand open.

“Stop.” Justin said. “Come here and sit down. “Look. I know that you would not otherwise be able to do this kind of thing with her. Now, give that over here.” Justin grabbed the envelope from Roberts hand once he’d reseated himself. Justin pulled the contents from the packet and placed them on the surface of the block. There sat several papers, what looked like tickets and some smaller envelopes with things written on the outside of them. “Listen. This is what you are going to do, so pay close attention to me.” He picked up the first paper and placed it in front of Robert. He pointed gingerly at it saying, “This is the general itinerary that I had planned. You can do whatever you want, but I thought out a few things that I thought you all would really enjoy. Now here are your plane tickets. You’ll want to get there a little early to clear security. Don’t bring anything stupid like nail clippers or a hair dryer or anything made of liquid or metal because God knows the last thing I need is to hear about you on CNN when I am in Europe.” He laughed and managed to pull a slight smile from his assistant. “Who am I talking to? You’ll be putting that shit in my luggage and laughing at me as you watch CNN in your hotel room as I get stopped and detained in Heathrow,” He laughed and pointed again to the tickets that said ‘Orlando Florida” and “Disney World” and “Disney Cruise” among the various other cards and so forth. Robert grinned and laughed as he wiped his eyes. “Very cunning of you Robert. In fact, damned clever I’ll say. We can’t have any of that going on so I’ll just be off packing my own luggage while you run along after we’re done here to pack your own. The limo will leave first thing Sunday morning, 7:00 AM sharp.”

“Are you sure you” Robert started to say but was cut off quickly by Justin.

“Again, here are the tickets. Make sure you get there early. Have Rebecca prepared for a surprise but do not tell her until you get to Orlando. When you get to the airport here, a nurse by the name of Kelly Simms will be there by the counter to greet you.” He pointed toward the itinerary and looked back toward his assistant. His hand rose about to his shoulder from the tall stool where he sat and said, “She’s about 5’6”, straight brown hair, big smiles, lots of charm, great with kids. She has worked with kids with Lupus before and knows how to handle the situation. So do not be thinking ‘what happens if…’ Everything will be just fine. She’ll be staying with you the entire trip and I know the girls will hit it off just swimmingly.”

“I just can’t bel…” he started but again was cut off.

“Once in Orlando, here are the passes for everything Disney, these will get you, your wife, the nurse and Rebecca in any of the parks so do as you please. You have nine days there. You will need to be packed and ready to go from there and ready to go to the airport. Again, the limo will pick you up at 7:00 sharp. Be ready in front of the hotel and make sure to have the staff do the lugging of the baggage. Your task is to be there with your family and enjoying yourselves as much as possible. Once in the limo, you’ll be taken to the dock where you’ll be boarding for the cruise. You’ll be gone another 11 days on that. Again, do not worry. Not only will you have Kelly, but Disney has medical staff and facilities aboard ship. If things get really bad, we can fly you out by helicopter back to the mainland.” He paused and opened a booklet about the cruise and pointed out the things to do aboard ship. “Once you are back to land, I have you all being flown back here where you will have another 7 days to recover and bond.” He grabbed the items all together and placed them in the envelope again. He then handed him over the smaller envelopes. “Listen, it is rude to discuss issues of cash but there would be no point in going if you could not totally enjoy yourself. So, rather than say amounts, there are cash-cards in here with various amounts on them. Some are for special surprises that I have arranged as well so don’t spoil it by peeking. The dates are on the outside of those cards. He put the lot back in the envelope. He handed it back to Robert who took it graciously.

“Thank you. Thank you so very much.” That was all he could muster saying before he again was cut off.

“Now listen, slacker. You’ll never get packed if you don’t get your shit packed up and get on your way. So what are you doing hanging out here? Run over to your place. Go on, get going. I’ll give Chad a call and have him bring me the delivery. Out, Out, Out!” He lifted his finger and smiled, pointing at the door.

Robert pulled himself off the stool, holding the envelope in his hand. He walked toward Justin, placed his arms around him, picked him up and squeezed him. Justin returned the embrace and then feigned choking. Robert placed him back on the ground. Justin said, “Robert! I am flattered but you know that I am already spoken for. Not very gentlemanly of you I think.” He smirked and gave Robert a wry look.

“Yes sir. I’ll keep that in mind.” Robert collected himself, and walked out the side door.

Justin felt the warmth of the soul that comes from doing something good for someone. That was a happy man and that made him happy knowing it.

He picked up Roberts glass and placed it in the dishwasher. He walked around the island and back to the console where he’d previously been talking to his assistant. He pressed his finger to the screen on the radio icon marked ‘Chad.’ “Chad,” he said “where are you?”

“Out by the garage, Mr. Bishop,” Chad responded.

“Excellent. Please bring that package the delivery man brought here a little while back and put it in the library on the table so that I can go through it, please.”

“I’ll be right there with it.”

He closed down the communication and walked over to the refrigerator and pulled out a plate with roast beef and a jar of mustard. He reached back with his bounty and placed it on the butcher block island. From a drawer inside it he grabbed a knife and from another, a loaf of French bread. He slathered a sandwich together and put everything back away.

He walked toward the office retracing his steps. Once he reached the office, he decided to fix himself a drink. Scotch, on the rocks, lemon rubbed on the glass.

He sat at the table in the center of the library where he’d instructed Chad to bring the package for him to go through. He stared at the stained glass images that climbed nearly the full height of the very tall room, reaching just short to the vaulted ceiling high above him. The glass illuminated by the sunshine cast various colors down into the room. Timing being everything, just as he finished his sandwich and knocked back the last of his cocktail, Chad trotted in the room with a large, soft wheeled dolly burdened by a large card board box. The box was clearly very heavy as Justin could see the bulging tires and the sweet on Chad’s brow. “Listen. Just go ahead and leave that right here beside me. I’ll go through them,” he said as he motioned for him to drop the box by his side.

“Great job, great job. I really appreciate it, Chad. Why don’t you go ahead and clean up and head home early. I’ll be back on Wednesday. See you then.” Chad wiped the sweet off of him with his sleeve and put his hand down on the dolly. Chad stood about as tall as Robert. He was much younger though then either of the other two men having just turned 21 and only having been in Justin’s employ for a couple of months. The young man had been very athletic previously or was one of those gifted youths with perfect musculature which made him handsome in a real and rugged way. He lifted his hat off of his head, revealing a bush of slightly curly brown hair. He placed it on his chest over his heart and took a bow toward Justin.

“Thank you Mr. Bishop, you will surely be sainted one day.”

Justin laughed and said, “Not if the church has anything much to say about it, but thank you all the same. “Also, never call me surely again.”

Chad laughed and said, “Ooooh., Touché!” He grabbed at his heart and backed up a couple of steps. “Thank you very much, sir. I’ll see you then.” Chad started for the dolly. Just paused and said, “Have you any plans this weekend then, Chad?”

Chad stopped, looking up at his employer for a moment. He thought about it. The man never really took much time or more than a cursory interest in his personal life before. “Well… yeah, I guess so.” He shrugged at the neck as he spoke. “Me and some of the guys are gunna”

Interrupting him, Justin said, “Never mind what you and the guys were going to do.” He said sternly. Chad’s face faded from happy-go-lucky to flat as quickly. “If you want to continue working for me,” he pontificated, hand held out with its index finger waving in caution, “you had simply better do exactly as I say. Understand?”

Chad’s mouth crept open without him knowing. He nodded a stunned yes. His face revealed his confusion as to this sudden change in conversation.

“I cannot hear the rocks rattle in your head. Do you understand me? Yes or no?” his tone sharp but his voice kept its tenor.

“Yes, Mr. Bishop. I understand you.” He enunciated. Clearly holding his tongue, Chad met Justin’s gaze. His face taught as he withheld the sudden anger at his lesson.

“Good.” Justin smirked. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a clip of crisp, perfectly folded bills. “Hold out your hand please.” Chad extended his hand from its place atop the dolly. His palm facing upward as his fingers stretched out their length - the dry soil evident in the prints on the tips of his fingers. Justin removed the cash and folded it up again in half so that the denominations were left hidden and placed the neat package of money in the younger man’s hand. “Now then… You are to take this money. You are to leave here for the day once you put your things away. You are then to proceed to the store of your choice and purchase yourself some nice clothes and a decent watch, for Christ’s sake. No girl is ever going to want to be on your arm if you go out like that.” Justin withdrew his hand and pointed his finger out in a figure eight at Chad.”

“What?!” Chad exclaimed while leaving his mouth agape again.

“Hmm?” Justin’s eyebrows raised and a smile cracked out before he burst forth in laughter again. “Man, you are an easy mark!” Chad stood there still holding the cash in his hand with a dazed look about him.

“Look, Chad. Don’t take me too seriously. I want you to take this money and go get yourself some nice things. Seriously – get a nice watch. There is more than enough cash there to do that and have yourself a nice time to boot. Go ahead. The bills are unmarked, I promise.” Justin laughed again.

“You are ate up!” Chad responded.

“You have been working quite hard for me. I appreciate it. You do good work and the property shows it. Since you have been here, I have not had to worry at all about the fountain out by the gate or anything else on the property for that matter. The lawn has never looked so beautiful since I have lived here. I am glad I hired you and I want to reward your hard work. So take the money. In fact, there should be enough there to…” Justin paused. “Do you have a girlfriend, Chad?” His face revealed his curiosity.

“Well not really. Why?” He responded.

“Never mind the watch then.” Justin reached back in his pocket and pulled out the clip again and withdrew a few more bills. “Here. Then take this too. Now you can have a real good time.” Justin smiled and winked. “Now, like I said. Take off early and get your friends and go have fun.”

“Thank you, Mr. Bishop! You were freaking me out there for a minute.” Chad said.

“No. Thank you… Times ticking.” Justin turned back to his books and then waved goodbye to the young man without turning back around. Chad took the cart up behind him careful to not hit anything as his composure broke to a full smile. He headed out the doorway and in a minute or two; Justin heard the chirp of the security system from the desk alerting him that Chad had left.


Justin reached down and grabbed at the box, ripping the tape from the top of it and pulling it down from the sides. He balled it together and threw it gracefully into the trash can a few feet away. In the box laid the books he’d won from an online auction. He was thrilled. Today was going so well for him. He picked up books of various sizes and shapes, reading the binding and placing them into stacks by category as he went.


Under the first layer of books, he saw some fabric pressing between some of the larger books. He grabbed the books on top and lay the on the table in piles to reveal an oatmeal colored burlap sack. He hoisted it out of the box and placed it in his lap. He held the bags opening with one hand and unfurled the drawstring with the other. Once open, he peered in. Feathers filled the bag but he could  make out what looked like a package on the inside of it. He reached his hand into the bag and felt a cloth covered book and he pulled it out, clumsily letting feathers fall from the sack and onto the floor. He put the opened bag back into the box, dropping it, spilling even more feathers. He blew the remaining feathers to from the top of the cloth cover and watched them fall to the table. He swiveled in his seat and placed the article down upon it. Once it lay before him, he investigated the fabric. How carefully it was tucked in on each side, like an envelope. Curiosity began to get the better of him. He took his hand and moved it toward the mysterious object. His fingers flexed as his thumb and forefinger pressed on either side of the white, pressed linen. A tug pulled apart the side and slowly the envelope fell open as the material spread out lifelessly on either side of the book. It revealed a rather plain book with what at first glance appeared to be nothing but tattered edges and torn binding with a rather unimpressive plain, dirt brown leather cover. How odd, he thought, so plain and old, it was both beautiful and ugly to behold. Its spine was in tatters and the leather looked as though it had been dry for so long that it could have been lying in a pile of sand for centuries. He moved his head closer to get a better look at it. Tiny markings in what might be gold leaf. The markings were faint but still barely recognizable. Strangely, the markings were tine and appeared to be almost interwoven in the leather. He grew even closer trying to gather a better concept of what the markings were. They did not appear to be a pattern, but rather, they looked like letters. He reached into the drawer of the table where he sat and pulled out from it a magnifying glass on a stand. He placed it on the table in front of the book, adjusting it to look more closely into the entwined gold work. After a few minutes of intense scrutiny, he recognized some of the characters as Greek lettering.  “Ξέρτε για πάντα” He only knew ‘for always.” Another part had what was definitely Russian. “Знайте никогда не кончаться”   He understood this. He thought to himself, “Know never to not end?” What the hell does that mean? Then he saw what must be Chinese and Hebrew and Arabic and Sanskrit and so on. He could not quite decipher the words there but he knew it must all be saying the same thing. “How old is this book?” he said aloud. The entire binding was a catacomb of lettering. “Amazing.” He said.  He move back the mirror and reached out to turn the book upon its back to see what other items of interest may lay there.


 The flesh of his fingers pressed against the binding. The shock that reached out from the binding was an audible crack. He felt as though his stomach were going to expel its contents onto the floor. His face was flush and he felt his arms go numb. His vision was growing dim. His heartbeat slowed and he felt as though his breathing moved no air into his chest. Several minutes passed as his hand lay against the cover, his mouth agape, his eyes glazed. His hand rose up and he placed it out, palmed turned inward to his face and stared at it in silhouette. He felt so drowsy, so sick. The vigor passed from his graying eyes. He moved to his feet floated over into the sitting room of his library where a long settee with plumb cushions rest by the window to a small garden. The room barely registered as his only thought was to rest his heavy frame and his swirling head upon it. As he reached the makeshift bed’s soft embrace, the light breaking past the slits in his eyes scored them like broken glass. He lay limply across it, limbs out like wilting stalks. He could feel the impending sleep on its way and he could feel what he thought must be the inside of his skull quiver and warp. The Friday afternoon midsummer sun spilled out upon his chest from the tall, thin window above him.