Wednesday, December 4, 2013
An autograph for Gloria
Houdini skills, fashioned out of necessity from no more than, as his grandfather might have said, spit and baling wire, had long ago seen Mr. Apotienne through some near-misses. For decades now that segment of his life seemed to belong to someone else. As one of the volumes shelved in his interior library, it took on the aura of a family fable, the truth of which had become so embellished, so overworked with satin stitches and French knots of conjecture and pure fiction, that invention was accepted as fact for it was all that remained. He had no wish to liken himself or a slice of his past to a character introduced by Graham Greene.
It wasn't often that he felt even distantly connected to certain aspects of who and where he'd been. Holding the book again, reciting a portion of the review, took him to the room where he he wrote it. A folding metal typing table, too narrow and low for his legs to fit beneath it, his Royal portable, a still-useful window air conditioner moved from a previous house, fluorescent lights - not a favorite - and the shallow wooden drawers of typing paper and carbons, it was a familiar lair. He couldn't remember why or for how long he put up with that impossible gray typing stand. After the flight from Australia, he needed sleep. As soon as he awoke, all he could think of was Maura, distilling her unique embodiment of wonder if the right words could find him.
At the Sagging Shelf, he bought the book and gave it to Gloria. She asked if he would sign it, date the signature and any note he cared to add, and describe, briefly, the circumstances of their outing. He showed her the lifted eyebrow, she laughed, he began to fill the slightly aged end paper with foolishness that almost masked his feeling that if he just kept writing, the moment would not have to end.
"For Gloria," he wrote, "whose best efforts to see me wearing fisherman's pants have been thwarted by brisk and rigorous striding in fair weather and foul." He went on to add that day's date, then rhapsodized about the countryside between Billington's Cove and the shop in which they stood, assigning the characters about whom he wrote the names LeMar and Valencia and making them pre-adolescent children who were somehow permitted to drive a car. He thought the driving could be explained by letting them be badgers or foxes but figured he had started down an absurd road and he might as well stay the course.
Gloria watched him write, not exactly hovering and not reading over his shoulder. She stood next to the shelves on the other side of the aisle with Dan. When Mr. Apotienne's exaggerated description required the back side of the end paper, she smiled at the shop owner. At last Robert handed Gloria the book, unsure whether he wanted to watch her face as she read the two pages or not. For the time being, he stayed put. She looked up once, said "LeMar and Valencia?" then resumed reading and turned the page. "This will do nicely," she told him. "Thank you."