Abacus

He read his entire life. Shampoo bottles, instruction manuals, ingredients, street signs, washing directions on bleached out necktags, each of these he devoured with the same fervor as the books that yearly arrived in clusters of paperback and hard-bound boils, like a rash no speed of eye could itch in time to bleed back to the rooms’ bare furnishings. The books covered his shelves, and the piles of them supported his bedside lamp. Everything which could remotely interest a young man or an old man or a cocktail, he took it. And though the menagerie of ragged volumes far outweighed his opportunity to tend them, his insatiable habit at least relegated to the stack of finished novels a mountainous and vicarious departure from reality that marked him wherever he went as a man who had ventured into thin air and not come back down whole. He would have learned braille to read in the dark, but he never met anyone who could teach him how. So he bartered strictly in the two worlds of visibility and the menacing incorporeality of the gathering blur inside him. Still words entranced him, from the antiquated typography of pilgrims’ journals to the dreck of restroom grawlix.

He went blind of course. He counts his hours with an abacus. And when he mumbles out stammers the hidebound leather, the bargain strip mall, warnings, creeds, blues in the Chicago soup kitchen, blues in the Chicago cold, blues, and the yellow pad of paper, torn green potatoes. He spits a rainbow.

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