Geoffrey Long
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The Love of the Library.

I wrote this short story for Valentine's Day in 1999, and published it in Inkblots shortly thereafter. It wasn't a Valentine's Day present for anyone, just another romantic little story about love, albeit considerably quirkier than Auld Lang Syne.

The Love of the Library

Mrs. Dexter would only make love in the library.

This wasn't to say that she could only experience desire when surrounded by her books -- far from it; Mr. Dexter often found himself accosted by his wife for a quick passionate embrace at random moments all over the house, or for that matter most of New Haven. However, such passion could only be consummated when the curtains had been drawn and the heavy wooden doors of their immense Victorian library had been closed and satisfactorily locked behind them. Then the clothes would be shed as so many dust covers, and then the couple would set about riffling through each other's pages, if you will. Then, satisfied, they would slip back into wrinkled wardrobes and off to the quiet, safe, tranquil haven of their bedroom. A bedroom whose walls, truth be told, had never heard a single moan or quickened breath.

This drove Mr. Dexter nuts.

At first Mr. Dexter had thought this had been brought about in some strange fashion by his wife's previous husband. Both of them were writers (Mrs. Dexter and her former husband, that is; Mr. Dexter couldn't write a sentence to save his life), and so Mr. Dexter suspected that maybe it was some kind of cult thing that writers did. But then on a long plane ride on a business trip to Omaha Mr. Dexter struck up a conversation with the gent in the seat next to him, who turned out to be a mildly successful science-fiction writer, and the gentleman assured Mr. Dexter that he and his wife enjoyed each other in the standard environment of the bedroom, with the occasional go in the kitchen. So, the theory that it was a "writer-thing" was out.

Next Mr. Dexter hypothesized that maybe it was a kind of nocturnal neurosis that his wife's previous husband had forced upon her. The disproving of this particular theory required a little bit of work, as one might imagine, and finally his selected tactic was a little unorthodox, at best. His wife's previous husband had remarried after their divorce, and after a little bit of research on the Internet Mr. Dexter managed to acquire his wife's old husband's new wife's email address. That set of adjectives alone made the opening line to his email particularly difficult, but Mr. Dexter wrote the letter as best as he could, as pleasantly and gently and humbly and honestly as he could, and sent it off to her. Two weeks later he receieved a reply. Luckily, the woman didn't embarass him at all but simply wrote back in the negative, that she and her husband enjoyed each other in the bedroom, as well as the bath, the garage, the basement, and even once in a fit of passion on the rooftop, late on an absolutely starless night when they were convinced they wouldn't be seen by their neighbors or any passing planes. So that idea, too, was out.

Finally Mr. Dexter theorized that perhaps his wife was just insane. Deeply saddened by the idea that this wonderful woman might be just a few crackers short of the Sunday Soup Special, he rang up an old friend of his from college who had gone on to become a fairly famous psychiatrist, and asked him if he'd ever heard of such a thing. The old friend hesitated, and then replied in his slow southern drawl, "Naaaw, cain't say I have. Mebbe yerright, mebbe she's nuts." Saddened even more, Mr. Dexter thanked his friend and hung up.

That night, deeply depressed but convinced that it was for the best, Mr. Dexter did what he should have done in the first place. When his wife leaned over and kissed him when they were reading side by side in their library, and began to kiss him ever more passionately until there was absolutely no doubt in his mind as to what she had in hers, he pulled back and asked her about it.

"Dear wife!" he cried. "We have been married now for three amazing years. You are an absolute angel and I love you with all my heart, but I have to know. Why will you only make love here, in our library?"

And the woman blushed down to the roots of her hair and looked at him coyly from under her long, beautiful lashes. "Well, husband," she replied slowly, "As you know, this wonderful mansion of ours is financied primarily by my books."

"Yes," he admitted, because this was true. Mr. Dexter worked as a salesman for a fairly unsuccessful vaccuum cleaner company, and made barely enough for his pockets to jingle.

"Well, husband," she said a second time, and she blushed even deeper, so that the backs of her hands even began to redden. "You know how I always have a new book for publication, but I never seem to be writing them?"

"Yeees," he said, somewhat slower, because this was also true, although he hadn't realized it. His wife was always cooking and cleaning and reading, but she never seemed to be doing any actual writing, now that he thought about it.

"Well, husband," she said for a third time, blushing so deeply that he was certain even her toenails were a bright scarlet, "The books reproduce themselves."

Mr. Dexter stared at his wife in disbelief. "They do what?"

"They reproduce themselves," she repeated, and she gestured around the room. "The nights after we make love, I come in early the next morning, before you're awake and before I make breakfast, and the floor is scattered with new books. Pages, really -- little baby manuscripts. I pick them up and dust them off and carry them to my study. I go through them and pick out the best ones, and then I clean them up, make sure they can stand by themselves, and then send them off to my agent, and after a while they go out in the world, all grown up."

Mr. Dexter stared at his wife, even longer. "You’re kidding."

Wordlessly, his wife stood and crossed the library to the far wall, where a long, low cabinet ran around the room beneath the lowest shelves. Mr. Dexter had never seen her open the cabinet before, but when she opened the cabinet doors he saw that they were full up, brimming, even overflowing with manuscripts. Mr. Dexter goggled at this.

"These are all the stillborns," Mrs. Dexter said sadly, "all the ones that couldn't make it out into the world. I bring them back here to be with their parents."

Mr. Dexter couldn't think of a word to say, but slowly he began to see his wife in a new way: someone who couldn't write a sentence to save her life, but who spent all of her time helping others to live theirs. Instantly he fell in love with her even more than he ever had before, because before he had always respected her and looked up to her but could never understand her magical gift for words, which made her into his goddess and he her lowly servant. Now he understood her, and he loved her as deeply as a man can love a woman.

Then it dawned on him that he really hadn't received an answer. He stood and walked over to the woman he loved more than anything in the world, took her in his arms, and asked again. "But tell me, dear wife," he whispered happily, "why do we only make love in the library?"

And she kissed him then, passionately, and when she managed to bring herself away enough to speak but no further, she whispered back to him, "Because love needs inspiration." Then she folded herself back into him, and he into her, and they lay down together on the floor of the library, as happy as two lovers ever were.

And that is where stories come from.

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