As the excerpt below shows, there are times when distractions creep into his path. Not so different from the internet after all...
For access to a broad range of research materials, Brick frequented The Grand Grimoire, a social club and voluminous book archive. Entry was available with the purchase of a day-pass or a long-term membership. Unique in both its metaphysical architecture and content ranging from the mundane to the arcane, it was one of the great attractions of The City. That was not to say it drew people in like the nightclubs, much in the manner that neither Bangkok nor Las Vegas were visited for their bookstores, but were The Louvre an option some people would certainly go there, too. Some speculated that The Grand Grimoire was something akin to what the Library of Alexandria might have grown into had it survived the ages, which was an easy argument to make given its accessibility through the special collections wing. Admittedly, some of the club's more ancient patrons found the cash bar and gift shop to be something of a surprise, but Socrates never complained past his first Long Island Iced Tea and was usually good for a spirited debate--especially after his third.
“I’m sorry to disturb you,” the clerk said as their eyes met to one side of the thick book. Holding out a serving tray to the rattled reader, she explained, “For you, from the rakish rogue in wildlife and outdoor recreation. Gift receipt enclosed.”
“Oh?” she asked, craning her neck to scrutinize the tendered gift even as her slender fingers lifted it from the tray. “e. e. cummings? Curious,” she decided.
“Intriguing,” the clerk volunteered.
“Rakish, you said?”
“With a lean toward the rugged,” came the reply.
“We are intrigued then,” she conceded with a wry smile and a tilt of her head. “Thanks.”
The clerk stood again and drifted away. Brick let her wait a minute before he approached, his folded overcoat tossed over his left shoulder and his slouch hat in hand. He gave her just enough time to wonder if he was more shy than bold, but not enough time to cool off.
“I suppose I have you to thank for this,” she said, setting the book on the table beside her chair. “They were out of flowers?”
“None of them smelled like books.”
“Thanks,” she said, “but I already have a book.”
“That’s obvious,” he said. “Hiding those curves behind it brings out the starlight in your eyes.”
“Aren’t you smooth? Most men just send a drink, y’know, or try to show off with some flashy magic.”
“I’m not most men and you’re already intoxicating enough. For now, at least one of us should keep a clear head. May I?” he asked, gesturing to an empty chair opposite hers.
“Oh, I insist,” she said, failing to fight back the smile her full lips formed at the left corner of her mouth.
“Well, how could I not then?” he asked, tossing his coat to the back of another plush chair and placing his hat and his own book on the table between them. “I’ve never seen you here before.”
“You sound certain,” she said. “You know everyone here so well?”
“Right now, you’re the only one I care about knowing,” he told her as he unbuttoned his suit jacket and sat, “and I’d remember having seen you before, doll.”
“Impressive,” she said, studying him as he moved.
“You see something you like?”
“The way you move, mystery man,” she answered. “You carry yourself with confidence and control. You sit in a chair, rather than fall into it. Very…manly.”
“I am what I am.”
“Does all that manliness file under a category I’ll remember?”
“Really? A category all your own, huh?” she asked, losing a little more restraint over her smile as she looked him over again. “Does Mr. Dewey know about you?”
“Sure, Melvil and I go way back.”“I guess he just couldn’t figure out what to do with you. What makes such a manly man think he wants to get to know me?”
“Something in the way your eyes sparkled when I saw you reading,” Brick said. “You attack a book with a certain…gentle intensity.”
“Alright, I guess,” she said.
“I’ve known a lot of women,” Brick said. “Hot ones, rich ones, crazy ones, deadly ones, dangerous curves, first kisses, and mixes of all that and more. At best, they had maybe half your sparkle.”
“So that told you…?”
“You could probably break my heart.”
“Oh. Shouldn’t that send a sane man running?”
“Of course not,” he smiled. “The best dangers are met with passion.”
“You know, Mr. Stone, Yeats or Shelley are the usual first-strike when someone’s making a play to drop my panties. Why cummings? Is it enchanted?”
“I don’t use tricks to drop panties,” Brick told her. “You can try the cummings if you like. He’s simple and makes me smile sometimes. Give me a call,” he said, handing her a business card, then fitting his hat back to its perch as he stood tall once more. “We’ll banter over dinner, I'll find out interesting things about you, and we'll have some laughs. Maybe I’ll make you smile.”
“Wait…You’re going?” she asked, almost uncurling from her cozy nest.
“Research is done. Places to be, doll,” he said. “Evil to stomp.”
“That’s it? You don’t even want to know if I have a boyfriend?” she asked.
“You were pretty clear,” he said. “You prefer men.”
“Oh. I…You don’t know my name.”
“I already told you: I’ll remember you, doll,” he assured her. “Save a little mystery for next time.”
“You’re so sure I’ll call?”
“If you don’t,” he said, looking back at her from the shadow of his hat brim, “then at least I’ll be able to go on without carrying the heart-crushing weight of the name that ties all that beauty together and makes it real. You’ll just be a vision that passed by.”
“Oh,” she managed, starting to breathe again and noticing her heart slowing back to a normal pace as Brick Stone got a few steps away and vanished into a crowd of patrons.