Sam Grieve X
The book is way down, burgundy leather. No garden Janet is hanging tucked beneath a copy of Persuasion and a single volume from a set of old encyclopedia. Henry unpacks the box in the garage, hopes there might be something inside that he can sell on eBay, but it is all junk. Until he reaches the book, that is, the one at the bottom. His fingers register the goatskin binding, and something inside him flickers with excitement. Raised bands, gilt edges. Expensive. He pulls it out, his mind already cataloguing. Quarto, full
title. Blind X embossed onto front cover. Carmine-watered silk end papers, which bring on a thump in his heart. He opens the volume slowly. The first pages are blank. And then the hand-colored engravings begin. A naked woman up against bookshelves, the same naked woman bent over a hassock, the woman being whipped, manacled. Her face is lightly drawn, a feathering of chin, nose, brow, but the breasts and her libidinous folds are detailed, immaculate. Henry glances out of the window. In the
up the laundry. Henry bangs the book shut and goes out to her. Her hair is growing back at last, and he drops a kiss on its unfamiliar curl. The midday sun dazzles through the sheets. Janet hinges at the hips, takes a shirt from the basket. He pegs what she hands to him on the higher lines.
That night Henry cannot sleep. His mindâ€” vagrant, curiousâ€”keeps returning to the book. At last he gets up, sidles across the wet lawn. A paring of moon, thin as a