Nebraska Center for Writers

by Robert Reed

Say what you will about women. List your personal tastes according to tits and perversions and religious persuasions. Define beauty along whichever rigorous line leaves you fulfilled. But to my way of thinking, in those always difficult matters of love, no woman can love you as deeply or half as passionately as the profoundly neurotic woman.
I own a little bookshop. I was in the backmost aisle, shelving my latest box of dusty treasures, when I heard the gentle clearing of a throat. Turning, I discovered a small young woman with a wide, wide mouth and a rugged prettiness that nicely accented the beauty of her dark brown face. With that wide mouth, she smiled at me. I smiled back. But I didn't take much hope from her expression. Women often flash their teeth at strange men. It's an instinctive reaction buried in their primate genetics: Because men are large and potentially dangerous animals, it pays to start on our good side.
"Can you help me?" she inquired.
She was wearing a delicious gray sweater and tight black slacks and the oddest, pinkest shoes this side of Oz. I was staring at her shoes, and she said, "I'm looking for a certain book."
"I don't have any books," I replied.
Incredibly, she accepted my silly joke as fact. An expression of utter disappointment emerged, and she sighed, grieving even as she looked at the tall shelves. Second- and third-hand books were jammed together, my inventory reaching to the water-stained ceiling.
"I'm kidding," I allowed. Then with my most patient tone, I asked, "What sort of book are you looking for, miss?"
She touched the nearest shelf, two narrow fingers running down the long spine of a trout fishing How-To.
"Not this book," she said.
Her hand dropped, and again, she smiled at me. It was a hopeful expression, and an equally hopeful voice said, "The future."
"It's a book about the future." She grew serious, and sober, and with a deliberate air, she pulled a tiny piece of paper from her tight hip pocket. "I don't know the author's name," she confessed. "But it's called, I think, Music of the Spheres. Or something like that."
"And it's about the future?"
"Very much so," she assured. "A person mentioned it to me. A friend did. The book explains what's going to happen from now until the end of time." She seemed pleased with herself, speaking about such lofty matters. "Do you have any books like that?"

Reprinted with permission
from "Melodies Played Upon Cold, Dark Worlds"
Copyright © 2002
by Robert Reed

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