Myfanwy Collins

My toothbrush smelled like sweat or a stain (the scent lingered on my upper lip like a scratch ’n’ sniff). Then the sun was so bright, the light clutching at the hair on my arms and tugging it, that it made me think death might be near.

In the library my stomach churned in that way that made me think I might shit myself. Must find a toilet. Must find a book. Must find a toilet and a book or a book and a toilet. It’s that clenching gut “grab hold of your bowels, boys!” feeling.

At the core of the problem, at its very center, I think, are the books; in that there are so many of them, the books are making me sick.

The librarians have very carefully placed certain ones on display at the end of each aisle—three per each on bite-sized shelves. “These are the ones,” they say (the ones that you should read) desperately.

But I must start in Aa. And now I fear that I may never even make it to Da because whenever I get into Ba and sometimes Ca I start to feel the ring-ting-tingling, stomach-juicy-juicing down into your deep heart feeling.

By the time I make it down the stairs to the desk, the feeling is nearly gone and one of the library ladies is laughing and shooing the idiot through the door who just set off the alarm. She looks at me, shakes her head, rolls her eyes. We’re sharing our annoyance at the dumb ass who did/didn’t set off the alarm. “Just go,” her headshake says. “Dumb ass,” her eye roll.

By the time I’m at my car again, it’s the sun lighting up the street like a cat on fire, a funeral pyre, a rolling tire or whatever, then. It’s the sun pinching my nose and dragging me along to the final time when the grass is in shadows. And it is the sun alone bringing me back to the books every time.

Start at Aa. I dare you.


Then the dog was skunked and they said try tomato juice, try hydrogen peroxide, try Massengill douche. The skunk smell was all on his face. That was the problem. All day long I could not kiss his nose. I would forget and get close and then come face to face with the smell of feminine unfreshness.

Instead of letting me wash him, he slept under the porch in a circle of dirt he’d bolstered up for himself and looked at me with red-tinged eyes.

Try it.


It’s a foggy day, so I try a used bookstore. There is no order among the shelves, merely strident headings: “Architecture”! “Travel”! “Poetry”!

I may be saved.

“Trade Paperbacks”! do not hold my interest. Neither does “Philosophy”! It is only “Literature”! where I feel that I might find a book.

They are not ordered by any sort of alphabetic system, rather jammed haphazardly onto slivers of shelves. My hand pauses over a Signet Classic Great Expectations and I feel a twinge, a clawing, a desperation and release.

I leave the store, disgusted, lost. In the distance I hear a fog horn calling me to the rocks.


The dog refuses to come out from under the porch. He’s found his place, smell or no smell. He’s living the life. He has become a skunk.

We call him Pepe; we call him Flower.

He is unmoved.

When I put my fingers to my nose they smell of him. The smell lingers there as a vapor just below the nostril.

All night long I smell skunk and dream of rows and rows of books rotting on the vine.

“It is that fear of the written word and why, why, why (???) am I putting it all down in writing when there is already so much unread? I love my dog like a child but he really will never learn that skunks are not cats. We are the same then—it is a compulsion.”


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