Spill

Yesterday about noon I was at my desk when loudness I can’t describe, except to say that it sounded ominous, made me look up as the wall spilled forward in an avalanche of books. I raised my arms against three heavily laden shelves the width of the room, against all their contents – books, papers, magazines – and against the shelves themselves and their twisted metal bracing. It was Samson bringing down the walls of the temple and I was the helpless Philistine.

I’m not hurt. But where is my coffee cup? Underneath the heap of books at my feet, that’s where. A puddle of milky sweetened decaf underlay the mess.

I rescued books, wiped them off, made stacks against the far side of the room, sponged the floor, set the wettest books out to dry on the porch. Then before self-pity got the better of me, I walked up to Bank Street and went to the Hitchcock double bill at the Mayfair. Rear Window and The Trouble with Harry. Several hours later I emerged quite cheered up by Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly handling their steamy-summer frustrations in 1954 and by John Forsythe and the young Shirley MacLaine still profiting in 1955 from early Hitchcock, for whom a corpse on a grassy hill provoked, not horror but bemusement, drollery, delight.

I walked back home and into my study that’s been on the edge for months, if truth be known. It was in a state of collapse. My study the nervous wreck.

The wall wasn’t heavy anymore. It had thrown off its staggering load, most of which were editions of my work or related to my work somehow or other, and turned them into coffee-stained rubble.

This is what I’ve been needing, too, I thought. A drastic sorting, tossing and emptying out of my brains.

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