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Wipe Off the Dust

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Nestled against the street, partially underground, sits the old resale bookshop. Working in the cluttered center of this sprawling literature tomb is Edith. Unscathed by the relentless passage of time, her ivory hair remains the untamed war-zone of curls that once ensnared a pair of boyish hands. The door creaks, a man tentatively enters. She flicks her eyes over him like a razor nicking flesh: sharp, stinging, and quick. Meatball-round cats roam shelves of books stacked to the ceiling as a jewel-throated parrot squawks, tearing through the heavy winter quilt of silence. The man stands hunched, bedecked in a sad costume of frayed, fading plaid. Through cloudy windows, the late afternoon light casts shadows on his face; a face carved with the deep crevices of opportunities forgone and love shelved away onto dusty, brittle shelves such as these, turning it into a stencil of what could have been.
He prowls the catacombs of second-hand words aimlessly, running callused, trembling fingertips over weathered Latin readers and gaudy sci-fi novellas. His insides twist and hiss like a florescent-light scathed pet store snake, each throb of pulse threatening to bring down buildings with its Richter-scale intensity.
His footsteps shuffle towards Edith, slow and lumbering like an arthritic horse ambling towards a palm outstretched with cubes of sugar too sweet to fathom. She lets the pen slip slowly through her fingers, tumbling noiselessly to the carpet-softened floor below.

“Marry me.” His voice is horse with the sickness of forty-seven years of longing. Her eyes, still the slow-burning smolder of gray against green that once sent him smoke signals of desire across a long-ago classroom, meet his. Edith sucks in a lungful of musty air, parts a pair of tenacious scarlet lips.
“Milton, it’s about time.”

Six words. Enough to pull a volume from that lonely top shelf, swipe the dust away and begin again.





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