My lust for knowledge is beyond grotesque. Honey mixed with vinegar, antique in hue, drips steadily from the stacks. I have my own sense of order that must be followed and certain eggs are to be hatched while others spoil.
The redistribution of resources is a speciality of mine. Index cards are to be marked in green ink and all neophytes persuaded to immolate rare proofs on induction day.
My wish list is scrawled in blue ballpoint pen on the blank pages of an old master’s sketchbook. Hunger is often appeased by the decaying tissue of a rejected biography. The old guard can be soothed, just polish their claw legs with wax.
I observe the interlopers like a bird of prey as they browse my ancient tomes, making a note of their names. Little do they know I have a drawer lined with secrets. Slay all the pretenders, especially the keen young things bearing tawdry certificates. Keep the solander boxes firmly sealed and send the summer interns out to purchase useless postage stamps. Make everyone none the wiser, muddle their bookmarks--the truth is always sacrosanct.
Over the years, I have built a nest from discarded rags, bones and epithets steeped in faded glory. High on the shelf are the brains of old men, riddled with contradictions, desiccated and obtuse--fodder for my interpretations. Call me a whore of history, but I know what they had for lunch, how much they drank and what they thought of their wives. Their sepia portraits, badly foxed, remonstrate with me. How they yearn for reincarnation, kissing my feet at night, hoping for a footnote.
Crumbling volumes are heaped upon the desk and I breathe in the miasma of horse glue and indiarubber. Their disintegrating skin stains my fingers. Alas, I was never one to wear cotton gloves.
The neophyte is there to type all my letters and answer calls. My ears are closed off to the hoi polloi, but should an academic of brilliance stroll by, I will bask in his dreary shadow and allow him to survey my treasures. The curious clay head excavated in Alexandria, the dog collar and the visiting cards, the ink spill on the Persian runner, the briarwood pipe and the billet doux, the mind-bender’s warped cutlery and the smeared wine glass.
And before he departs, I shall beg him to sign the visitors’ book.
Lise Colas writes poetry and short fiction and lives on the south coast of England. She used to toil in the archive of Punch magazine, weaving silken cords from old rope. Her work has appeared in Litro online and Literary Orphans.