I was between them on the ledge, standing next to another, one like myself, similar though taller, and with a broader spine too. An old foreigner, so worn at the edges that none could make out his youthful profile. A careworn import. There were many like him, above us, to the left and right above. Together we formed an orderly trio of triplets. One and another. Three fictions. Factual surrogates imbibing daylight. Self-absorbed, when not pining. Mostly pining. In fact, languid. Like lap dogs waiting for the sightless, if not our own blindly ignorant proprietor. Them and I. The third was, well, she was my Victoria. We were distended, disquieted, distant of a sort. Futile to apportion a trio of grief to one undivided utterance. T’would be soundless compliance. Better kept shut. Under a trilogy of patience: three invisible pieces of surreptitious wonder, shipped, with accompanying baggage, from shore to keepsake harbour. Wandering through shade. Inside and out. From corner to pine bookcase. Paper armadas armed with paperclip attention. Braille lives – fingertip stuff – waiting for Lambert’s mind to open. Summer cortex. Hopeless shape. Not fit for his autumn concentration. Not yet held in hand. Not upright either. Erect. In line of sight. Neither his iris nor his pupil. Upon us. Breathing overtly. In. Out in expectation. Out, at large. Four fingers curling. Somewhere. Anticipating their arrival. Touching. Beside me. Here alongside Victoria. Our sides held taut. Pulled in tight. Hers and mine. Left cover closed on right. Stroking neither paperboard nor hem. Standing rigid. Anonymous as shush. Frontispiece debonair. Elegant as Englishmen. Void of national clamour and pride. Jacket to jacket. Self-contained. Hands clasped tidy to darkness. Unwrinkled. In thrall to quietude. Holding firm against the pale yellow wall. Awaiting air sheathed to thumb. Finger inclined to palm. Spacious. Nameless inclinations. Stitch and page united. Open. Breathing. From cover to corner. Contemplation afoot. To wonder. Jackets on. Coattails sober. Lights off overhead. Close. Close together. Closed. Dull. If permanent. Headlong. Pressing life behind us. Earnest.
Be gone, he said. That was Lambert.
Swallow solemn. Naught. Repeatedly. Take in air. Chest heaving. Exhale, then sucking, explicitly. Square leaves absorbing carbon light. Stationary. Things humming. What indefatigable. Monday afternoons. Comes Sheila – what a Lambert. Dust and stuff. Tow-tone conversation. Mother Olga. Lambert Lambert. Midday radio. Quizzical Lambert frown. A lit cigarette. The usual Lambert bother. Often left waiting. All on standby. Edgy. Inhalation. Gulp. Shelf lids down. Lambert, like us, gazing at the greedy pigeons. At other Lamberts afoot beneath. Uneven surfaces. Lumens refracting. On the windowsill. Brick canvas. Above the street-lit night. Glistening when wet. Pining. Artificial light. Filtering through shades. Linear hours. Lambert cataleptic. If not dreaming himself better read. Then another Tuesday booms. Artless Lambert motion. Stock-still body. Anal shelf rectitude. Our resolve stiff. Unrelenting patients. Another day of hushed labour. The manual toil of waiting. To be patient. An imperceptible pressure to exhale. And be read. A sudden urge for evening. Evening comes without effusion, tardily. Lambert later. Later than shadows extending. Longer. Belatedly. He said go, the lot of you, be gone now. Not a word from his lips. Double-dealing. Lambert’s mouth in motion. We read behind his lips. Red did with fixed attention. Message: a new expression of his old intentions. Lambertisation: the shifty expedient of changing Lambert habits.
Velvet eyed our bottoms as he lifted us up and over. Before? Never. Turning us out. Velvet sensed the tipping before we felt his handiwork come lifting. Lambert finger compilation. Quick as gravity. Fast we fell. Like Lambert copulates. Spine forward leaning. Paper bag action torn from the day. Into black packet. Tossed thin. Heady fall. Novel sensation. Cheap. Tumbling. No outer e-motion. Inert. Halt. Creased Jackets, where not bent. The foreigner lost his footing first. Victoria and I fell fortunate. Together. Knowing not what had pushed our garters over. Across our pages, wonder: was it a foot? a fart? a finger? A mere Lambert foible. Space for a lighter fiction? A tug from the boutique window at his knotted tie. Page 53. Pull yourself forward. Shall we go? Unfold the first chapter. All together now. Digital. Smile for the Lambert. No time to say Alphabet. Voiceless. Was it the new recruit? The nippy local from the High Street store? Slim body. Shifty colour. Caught his eye she did. Platinum frame. Soft turn. No whet corners. Judging from the shiny jacket. Well rounded. An easy lift. Light, that undemanding body, ***k. One night on Lambert’s bedside table. He’ll be jaded. A harem of books in hand. No more lingering. No more flipping or folding pages. No more use for us. A new form of fictitious pressure. Candle to lumen. All self lit like Lambert Christmas. No eye-burning leaves. No misanthropic labour. Gone. Out the pouring over pages. Lambert agape at new. Gone too. Pausing. Paw screen. No endurance. Passion for theatre past. Hold. Unfold. Mould in the Lambert mind. Whence he’ll flex a finger. Flip through suburbia. Cheap stalls. Wan scenes. Squeeze in his paper props behind the flat glass screen. Novel dialogues gleaned through windows. Once. To forgot. Forever too. No lasting flavour. No vanilla ice-cream. One lick Lambert. A giddy fall. From mouth to pavement. The familiarity of a bygone savour. Turning pages. Mnemonic of an ancient ritual: tongue tip to finger tipping corner. Lambert rabid. On the edge of a novel rage: Eye-nipping. Anew. Seamless distraction. So contemporary. A modern flirt. Fast creation. Lighter pages to fondle. Lumbrical flexing. Finger recreation. More titles compressed together. Like Lambert’s brain. Weightless. More shelf space to sink into. Poor Velvet.
The bygone world of books in bed.
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