Tuesday, February 01, 2005


Sifting amongst the books, I was anguishing over more Austen, balking at the banalities of Banks, calmed by the cool, contemplative Calvino, delightfully detecting the delectable Doyle, estimating Eliot’s eschewing of evangelicalism, frowning at Franzen’s flictions, gaping at the gap of Garland’s gone, hugely hopeful about hundreds of Hemingway’s, inching past the ignoble I’s, jostling with the jinormous jenius of Joyce, kontinually kourting the konvoluted konfusing K’s of Kafka, loving that long-lost loser Larkin, mocking meddling middle-class McEwan, nabbed by Nabakov’s nefarious nymphet, ordering ’opeless Orwell orf, passing over the prick of Palhaniuk, quietly quaffing the quasi-Quixotic Queneau, reading Reading – couldn’t resist that fictional one, btw, scratching the surface of Salinger, tutting at that twit Tolkein’s turgid untailored tales, umming at the utter umbrage of the U’s – worst of letters for an author’s surname it seems, and yes, that includes you, Updike, veering my voyage avay vrom Verne, winking at weird and wonderful West, X-ing X, Yes-ing Yates – actually I can’t stand Richard Yates, however, for the sake of alliteration and expediency, a simple Yes following by a swift move on to the final letter of the alphabet seemed best – I hope you forgive me and agree? probably your impatience proves my point and so, and finally, and after all, and in conclusion, and last but not least, and now ladies and gentleman drum roll please, I zoned in on Zola and his zero-weight, zoom-lens look at Zeds, and wondered about maybe picking up an Auster instead.

It was then that I noticed Thomas: he was crouched down, and peeping at me through the stand of discounted calendars, his eyes amongst those of painted cats, dogs on bikes, dying pop-bands and gooney footballers. I pretended I hadn’t noticed and turned my back, marching off to Auster. I’d been in a bad mood on the rush-hour tube: bookless, and with him blathering on about how wonderful the tube is, but why didn’t the commuters talk to each other? or have a bit of fun even with each other? If my blunt, obvious answers had hurt his feelings, I didn’t want to face that now, meandering in a soothing mind-mist amongst the shelves.

Or perhaps he was upset because he was getting manoeuvred into a job in the post-room? I woke him this morning, lent him a shirt and tie, informally introduced him – and the interview proper is early next week. But spying on me from behind the calendars? Why was I making excuses for his weirdiosity, I thought – turning back to see Thomas jump – literally, jump – behind the shelf of novels running N – Q.

I decided to go and ask him what the matter was – but when I got back to N – Q, I realised he was gone. Not browsing at all. But was that a flash of his yellow jacket over near the magazines? I marched over – thinking I might have a look over the newspapers while I was at it – to see him creep out of the section via the bit with all the stuffy magazines – The Economist, The Ecologist, The Scientific American – that kind of thing – and then zoom through Cookery and up the stairs.

There, I finally caught up with him near the World Cinema DVDs – where he was kneeling in a corner, facing the wall.


“Ahh, you got me. Want to play again? No – enough’s enough.”

“Thomas, what’s going on?”

“Didn't you get my text message?!”

“Your text message?”

“Yes – on your mobile – I said I thought you needed some fun after a stressful commute, so let’s play hide and seek, like we were kids again - you know, the stuff I was going on about on the train. I sent it just after I’d checked to see if any posthumous Milosz was out – you didn’t? You didn’t get it? Then I’ve been – O no, how embarrassing! I feel so stupid!”

“No – you look as happy as Larry.”

“Well... Going to buy anything?”

“I can’t, for the life of me, remember,” I said.