this, you can still save yourself.”
In the next book, the French painter Watteau shows himself as a pale, spindly guitar player, dying of tuberculosis as he was in real life. Across the blue sky of the scene, is written: “Do not paint them their pictures.” Signed
To test herself, your wife walks across the library, past the old librarian watching through little round glasses of black wire. In her arms, Misty's carrying the books on Watteau, Goya, the camera obscura, all of them open and nested one inside the next. Tabbi looks up, watching from a table heaped with kids' books. In the literature section, Misty closes her eyes again and walks, trailing her fingers across the old spines. For no reason, she stops and pulls one out.
It's a book about Jonathan Swift, about how he developed Ménière's syndrome and his life was ruined by dizziness and deafness. In his bitterness, he wrote the dark satires
A Modest Proposal,
suggesting the British could survive by eating the increasing flood of Irish children. His best work.
The book falls open to a page where someone has written: “They would have you kill all of God's children to save theirs.” It's signed
Your wife, she wedges this new book inside the last book, and closes her eyes again. Carrying her armload of books, she reaches out to touch another book. Misty walks her fingers from spine to spine. Her eyes closed, she steps forward—into a soft wall and the smell of talcum powder. When she looks, there's dark red lipstick in a white powdered face. A green cap across a forehead, above it a head of curly gray hair. Printed on the cap, it says, “Call 1-800-555-1785 for
Satisfaction.” Below that, black-wire eye glasses. A tweed suit.
“Excuse me,” a voice says, and it's Mrs. Terrymore, the librarian. She's standing there, arms folded.
And Misty takes a step back.
The dark red lipstick says, “I'd appreciate it if you didn't destroy the books by piling them together that way.”
Poor Misty, she says she's sorry. Always the outsider, she goes to put them on a table.
And Mrs. Terrymore, with her hands open, clutching, she says, “Please, let me reshelve them. Please.”
Misty says, not yet. She says she'd like to check them out, and while the two women wrestle over the armload, one book slips out and slams flat on the floor. Loud as a slap across your face. It flaps open to where you can read: “Do not paint them their pictures.”
And Mrs. Terrymore says, “I'm afraid those are reference books.”
And Misty says, No they're not. Not all of them. You can read the words: “If you've found this, you can still save yourself.”
Through her black-wire glasses, the librarian sees this and says, “Always more damage. Every year.” She looks at a tall clock in a dark walnut case, and she says, “Well, if you don't mind, we've closed early today.” She checks her wristwatch against the tall clock, saying, “We closed ten minutes ago.”
Tabbi's already checked out her books. She's standing by the front door, waiting, and calls, “Hurry, Mom. You have to be at work.”
And with one hand, the librarian fishes in the pocket of her tweed jacket and brings out a big pink gum eraser.
THE STAINED-GLASS windows of the island church, little white trash Misty Marie Kleinman, she could draw them before she could read or write. Before she'd ever seen stained glass. She'd never been inside a church, any church. Godless little Misty Kleinman, she could draw the tombstones in the village cemetery out on Waytansea Point, drawing the dates and epitaphs before she knew they were numbers and words.
Now, sitting here in church services, it's hard for her to remember what she first imagined and what she saw for real after she'd arrived. The purple altar cloth. The thick wood beams black with varnish.
It's all what she imagined as a kid. But that's