When I was downtown at the used book store the other day, I was working my way north to south from the Z end of the fiction section toward the poetry aisle when I heard someone cough and then, of all things, begin to gargle. I have no idea what he was gargling, but I was grateful and a little surprised when he didn�t spit.
I peeked at him from behind a tall shelf of essays. He wasn�t holding anything. Perhaps he had a plastic bottle of water tucked inside his long overcoat. Among other things. Dirty magazines, a half-eaten baloney sandwich, a dead goldfish he had forgotten.
Then he began to moan and groan and sigh, as if he were chewing on his tongue in his sleep. He was extremely thin and had a hood up over his very small head. His glasses were dirty and much larger than his face.
Worst of all, he was rummaging through the books exactly where I had planned to rummage � in the area where I remembered seeing a little volume called Holiday Memory by Dylan Thomas, which foolishly I didn�t buy the last time I was there when I picked up another of his stories in a similar format, The Outing.
Now this tall skinny coughing smacking gasping gargling guy seemed to be performing some sort of ritual, a laying on of hands, an exorcism. He was breathing heavily and expelling horrid fumes, all the while holding various titles up to the light and raising them above his head.
I took the long way around to the A end of the fiction section. No books by Richard Brautigan. A disappointment. I glanced at a story by Stephen Crane. My heart wasn�t in it.
Suddenly, the guy found a book he wanted and walked with it toward the cash register, his long coat brushing against dozens of volumes along the way.
When he was at a safe distance, I asked myself how badly I wanted the book by Dylan Thomas. Then I thought, had the man been there ten minutes earlier and left the store before I came in, I would never have known he was there, and would have handled some of the same books he did without giving it a thought. Furthermore, this sort of thing goes on all the time. That�s why we wash our hands after we�ve been out in public. And so it would be silly to hold back.
I found the book I wanted and examined several others. In the process, I happened upon a nice lump of poetry by Jack Kerouac, published under the title Book of Sketches. I picked that up as well. I went to the counter and gave the girl the exact change. Then I went outside and collapsed on the sidewalk. I�ve been in the hospital ever since.
Also by William Michaelian
52 pages. Paper.
Another Song I Know
80 pages. Paper.
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