Bookworm

He was born into a scrawl of wriggling letters

vocabulary assailed him as he strove to swallow

his surroundings, emulate the sounds jabbering from

a pair of moon-shaped faces with crinkled

vortices and echoing parrot-like expressions.

 

Somewhere between gurgles, dribbling water music

and pacifier, he identified the gist of it, phenomes

and syllables struggling for comprehension in bubble-soup.

Oceans of understanding solidifying slowly in waves

of liquid vowels and drifting consonants.

 

Kindergarten and first schoolrooms were a cruise.

He discovered books! Heaps and heaps of them, colored,

fanciful, pop-up and pop-out cows, ducks and elephants,

travels to wonderlands, flying carpets, alligators and

allegories, wise old owls, legends, bible stories and

wow! Superman, Captain Marvel, Desperate Dan, Aristotle,

Madame Blavatsky, Chaucer, Dante, Homer – the list

was endless.  He gobbled patiently, a literary caterpillar,

word after word, fable after legend. History. Philosophy.

Riddles and myths. His appetite was insatiable, overpowering.

 

By eleven he was a quiz kid, entertained on television

won several spelling bees, internationally broadcast.

Before his voice broke he was quoting whole pages

of King James, almanacs and rabbinical interpretations,

needlepoint and musicology, the origins of planets, names

of Latin-sounding creatures and crustaceans, the art of

solving thousand piece jig-saw puzzles, Chinese cooking,

angling, baseball heroes, lists of scores and years – all bubbled

flawlessly from somewhere in his photogenic, pre-teen, hairless

grinning lips and cheeks.

 

Then one spring morning everything came to a premature end.

He fell in love with a crash that was heard by all the librarians

sending him their overdue and expired borrowing notices. She

was tall, had long red hair, longer legs, soft curves in all the

places his questing eyes could hope for. And she was Norwegian,

couldn’t speak a word of English.  For the first two luscious

groping-and-discovery months they communicated in sighs and

sign language. What they failed to understand they translated

with fingertips, lips and genitals. Life was ecstatic. Books faded

into distant history.

 

 

She mastered elementary English conversation. Got a job in a

music store. Entranced customers with her phenomenal knowledge

of plainsong, baroque and medieval Gregorian chants. Worked

long hours. They hardly saw one another except on weekends.

Eventually she met a married rock-and-roll guitarist, quit her

job and left town with him, never to be heard of again.

 

Devastated, our hero went back to reading. Studied French, Greek,

Mandarin, Russian. Spent all his time in reference libraries and

on the Internet looking up linguistic theory, morphology  and

derivative cross-cultural word-pattern similarities. Nothing helped.

The itch in his lower regions reminded him of liaisons and whispering

that no amount of language could compensate. No words could calm.

 

He joined a monastery, shaved his head. Took a vow of silence and

abstinence. Slowly he became accustomed to a life devoid of

language and lust. Today he lives high on a mountain top

in Tibet. The only sound that escapes his lips is one continuous

and monotonic om. Occasionally he dreams of dictionaries and

silken sheets, of libraries and lust. Nightmares. Brushing them out

of mind he goes back to prayer and chanting. Fasts for a day or two.

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© Johnmichael Simon

2015

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