Charles couldn't speak on matters he hadn't read. So the self-minding thinker was always prying the bindings of old books. The friendships he kept with the spiders of thought by those wonderful people inside his books were weightier indeed than any of his traipsings outside the cabin library.
Sometimes he met a faiery or sprite on the page. Elsewise it were the precarious philosophies of the brave which grabbed at his neck. If we were to summarize for you what he really chased, it was his own pure face, unsullied by the laughter of the age which surrounded him.
The good witches in Charles' books told him he was someone the world should like to meet--if only its mind could reorient toward wisdom. The mockish ones told him he was a silly fool, ridiculed by the beautiful and ripe for the morgue.
Charles came to our store once, asking if we could take some treatises off his hands. "Too many temptings", he tried to explain. We never inquired further about what he meant, just paid him the twenty-eight dollars and lent him our copy of "Descent into Hell".
Sometimes the old bear would just crawl in his bunk and stare catatonic for days. Visitors would knock. But the mind of the recluse was spinning preoccupied, working strange puzzles from a speech he'd just read.
Once the Post-woman asked him about the mail in his box. She couldn't understand why it spilled on his porch. He never argued once with her. She was his only sign of beauty which transcended the papyrus.
He liked the smell of her, despite her clinical dress and her often being barred away by the headphones in her ears. He'd listen for her at times, in hopes to answer the door at just the right moment. She was a catapult to life outside. But then the books would steal him deeper.
A "voyeur of ideas" was what the neighbors who sometimes took out his trash called him. But even they could never quite write the loner off. Just when you'd counted him gone past the "outer reefs", he'd say something brilliant and touch your soul.
But there were other moments too. Glimpses of prism, where you could see straight through to his crazy. These were the ones which justified his quarantine, moments where he took a step away from the books. To pursue other hobbies.
The female postman had seen these sides. He'd be out in the wood, catching butterflies, but with a pool net. And she would spy him there, just smiling away like a kid with his marble collection. She couldn't help but keep a soft spot for the monast. Her own father had kept his own soup.
Though somewhat outside of her rules, she'd once stopped by at her regular time, but this on a day she hadn't been working. Charles didn't recognize her at first, but then he thought it through, and said "Hey, I know you."
"I'm trying to solve a riddle", she baited the man, and asked if she could come in. "Oh, I'm a bit good at those", he'd responded. And so had begun a friendship over tea and cherry-marmelade.
One thing Charles did well was roll out a spread. Keeping good table talk going was another matter. Marilyn, as the Post-woman was called, carried much of the conversation, talking about her nephews and about starling birds she liked to watch.
"I've never much read on those birds" confessed Charles "You don't have to research them", said Marilyn, "you can just go be where they are. They don't bite." He thought about that.
"Can I share something with you?" asked the hermit. "Of course," said Marilyn. "It's just over here; I'll read it to you right away", said Charles. The Post-woman grabbed his wrist. "I'll steal your glasses", she said. "You need to spout certain things, straight from your gizzard!"
"I can't really say much", he answered. "I'm afraid I've lent my soul to them books". Marilyn leaned over and kissed the poor man. "Perhaps that will loosen your lips," said she. Like a little boy, Charles smiled and wiped his mouth. "I do have a riddle for you then and I don't need a book to quote it."
"Go on," said the mistress. "Thirty White Horses on a red hill; first they champ, then they stamp, then finally they stand still." "Why it's a stable, you silly.", replied the Postwoman. "Wrong", smiled back the reader championishly.
Charles gave her a very wide grin, raised out his lips with his leathery old finger, and revealed the mystery. "It's teeth", he pleasured. "I see", said the Postwoman. "And you have all yours it looks like?"
Never in all of Charles' numerous years had he imagined sitting in a situation this prime. Marilyn was actually a decent catch. And here he was with her in his actual home. But then the mystics caught him. "I have a confession to make.", said Charles.
"What is it?" asked Marilyn. "Your toast was quite nice." "I'm a married man.", said Charles. There was some awkward silence, as beautiful Marilyn picked up her stuff to go.
The serious work of delivering senstive material had prepared Marilyn for strange and awkward moments. "I saw you chasing the butterflies the other day. Did you end up catching any?"
"I did," confessed Charles. "In fact they were for her, my betrothed" he stammered. "Well, she's a lucky lady then," said the Postwoman as he hustled to see her out. "Thanks for the toast." It was a sad and confusing thing. But then she was gone.
Charles sighed and rejoined the loneliness he was much more familiar with. He grabbed his cane and found the books where he'd deposited his recent finds. This was the wife he knew how to keep.
Yes, there were books, and there were living things also. Charles knew how to separate what must be apart. He knew he'd consigned himself, to an unusual pain. But devils you dealt with, were trustier indeed than the ones from distant parlors . . .