between the pages

he opens the draw and he takes out the bible that seems to come with all these hotel rooms and he flicks through the pages – more often than not someone has left something marking a passage in there. sometimes, if he’s lucky, someone will have left a piece of their own wisdom … a haiku, a poem, some social commentary. it was like a private network of communication that he had plugged into.
there had been some back and forth throughout the years – as with his discovery of the first piece of writing, the first reply he received was unexpected; a total pleasure; a new sun in the sky. he was lucky because he passed through the same places regularly, although sometimes he would mix it up and try out a new place just in case there was something he was missing. so there was still a certain amount of serendipity at play when he found the words.
he had always wanted people to think of him as a poet, a man of letters, but most people just thought of him as a travelling salesman – which was fien in some respects (it was a respectable occupation) but it didn’t speak of who he was; didn’t speak of his soul. so when he heard the first whispers on the road about a mysterious poet who left his work in motel bibles his heart leapt. it sank a little after that initial elation though, because didn’t this change everything?
it became apparent after a while that someone was following him – had heard whispers about what was going on, and had decided to write a story on it for their magazine.
some of the purists – those early people in on the whole idea, did not like the idea that their unique means of communication had been hacked by an outsider; but in a flurry of heated arguments that stretched across the country, stretched across the months, many pointed out that this person in search of the poet had discovered him in as natural a way as any of them had.
many felt that this spelt the end though; that the system would be perverted for other uses; would be misunderstood and abused by those who did not see the value in it.
the chase for him continued amidst collapse, amidst a civil war of words. a slow unfolding detonation of anger. it was suggested that the hunter and the poet meet – that if the chase stopped, if it stopped being a story, then attention would turn away. he didn’t want to do it though – if he sacrificed his anonymity to save everyone else then he would have to stop doing it, wouldn’t he? if he gave himself up then he gave up his writing – he had never been able to do it in any other way; there hadn’t been the inspiration or the audience. if he didn’t give it up, then what then? he would be responsible for killing something beautiful. he left a time and a place between the pages of a particularly battered copy of the new testament at the Terminus Motel – a meeting for two weeks time, when he would be swinging back through. he had no doubts that the person would be there.
she was young, punky looking, a cross between courtney love and siouxsie sioux. he walked towards her, noticed he do the body check, sneer slightly, and turn away.
‘You’re waiting for me, I think.’
‘Between the pages?’
‘What’s that?’
‘The motel bible poet, i think that’s what they’re calling me, no?’
‘You’re not what I was expecting.’
‘You either. Do you understand what you’ve been doing to the network by chasing me? Do you get what you’ve done to me by calling me out?’
‘Not sure what you mean.’
‘You’ve killed something.’
‘Hmm, well, I saw a story – something my readers will want to read about. You know it might actually help you. I know there might be some publishers knocking on your door when the article comes out. Might want a bit of a makeover though – although what you look like now makes it perversely more interesting.’
‘Look, I want you to be a part of this article. Since I handed the proposal in to my editor I have to write it, and I’d rather you had some input, instead of me just churning out any old crap that springs to mind, or that I get second hand off of whoever I find that’s willing to talk, and they’re out there, believe me.’
he decided she was right – get himself on the record; try and make amends for whatever part he had in the transformation of the scene. the article was friendly – she’d really done her research. he still checked the bibles when he stayed at certain places but he didn’t write anything for them anymore.
he reached up and pulled down the latest collection of Bukowski poems, held it by the spine and shook: a small piece of folded paper dropped at his feet. this scene was slightly different – people would leave instructions as to what the next book should be that you would deposit your reply in. the book was generally to be regarded as some kind of prompt as to what the reader might like to read. he read about a first love lost, a drink problem, and the book he was to leave his reply in was Klingsor’s Last Summer. he smiled – no one knew him here, he could write again.


a light conversation of rain; it’s unwanted. he was sitting outside turning himself into a photograph – an idea developing slowly. he’d been struck by the angles of the docks the last time he had sat out there, how the change of perspective played with composition; worked a totally different effect.
he lit up; half a cigarette he’d been saving: savouring. had he been close to a choice to stop smoking again? maybe. it was stupid, he knew, but there was a certain romance to the whole act, and he’d been suckered in by those old black and white films, where the thin ribbons of grey appeared as unspooling thoughts from the head of some troubled PI or some French intellectual type.
the wind was picking up, making the waves choppy – he watched the horizon break up in the scattered light of distant storm and calm, and wondered distractedly whether he should get up and go inside. he wished he had his camera with him – his idea was changing.
she’d be back soon; he’d use her eyes – try and see what she saw. he often grew tired of the way that he looked at the world: so studied; so informed by aesthetic considerations, by various branches of philosophy; she was raw, untutored … and that sometimes translated to him as more real.
a fancy caught him up – that he was a kite; dragged out and over that body of water. he was benjamin franklin’s kite, or some replica of it, key and all, and as if his daydream drew it down, lightning struck the water about four feet in front of him.
how often did that happen? he wasn’t sure. a couple of fish leapt and flopped back under the slate mirror, birds evacuated the sky, the rain got heavier. well, he thought, much as i like this and what it does to my surroundings, i don’t want a cold – better go inside.
next time he would take his camera; he knew what he was looking for now … would know it when he saw it. would capture it.