The Inscription

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


The poet Byron makes a challenge. ‘To the lady that cannot be moved.’

Submitted: January 20, 2018

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Submitted: January 20, 2018

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What strange things people write in books, what hopes, what dreams, what platitudes. Often it's with scarce a thought that an inscription is scribbled, ‘to one from another on occasion of,’ how easy we find it to sum up a relationship. Will the sentiment be treasured for a lifetime or merely appreciated for the moment it takes to turn the page? Not that she cared, just one more present to cross off the list.

What would it be, madness or an early death, after all it was for her sister, but a good second-hand bookshop is like a loyal friend to whom one has obligations and she felt she ought to make more of an effort.

First, there was a leisurely punt through the memories of childhood, then a quick change of direction to avoid all things rational and scientific, a moment to consider the infinite variety of ways to murder those we do not like, until journey’s end when she stepped ashore on the Isle of the Poets. Confronted by the madness of Clare and Cowper, she considered them interesting but far too expensive; then the tragic brilliance of Keats and Shelley, repetitive; a more interesting Astrophel and Stella, but was she really in the mood? Then a slight leather volume caught her eye, Byron, the man who dreamed of glory and awoke immortal. To some he was the crippled genius who limped down from Mt. Olympus, to others he was Don Juan incarnate. It was said a woman who had not read Byron had denied herself one of the most intimate of pleasures available in life. She did not believe it to be true, but indifference was tinged with curiosity and that was her undoing.

The first thing she noticed was the signature on the front endpaper, ‘Byron’. She doubted it could be genuine, not at $9.99. The next was the inscription which read: ‘To the lady that cannot be moved.’ She wanted to put the book down, but there was something about the boldness of the challenge that held her. A challenge set down all those years ago, but seemingly meant as much for her than as to the long dead recipient. Such arrogance!

She turned the pages. He was by turns outrageous, mean, and spiteful, and yet with each finely wrought line he captured a lifetime’s emotion in a moment of a smile. He made her angry, he made her cry. He lifted her to the stars and cast her down into the pit of despair. He tickled, he teased, he provoked; her pretension and preoccupation he sliced apart with wit. The carnal thought of each verse was to her, personally directed.

With each turn of the page she passed from reality into the realm of pure spirit, a realm forever in revolt against conformity and banality. The walls of her indifference and coldness slowly crumpled under his assault of myriad sensual pleasures. The merest touch of his genius sent tremors through her body. She was losing herself, her mind drifted towards erotic pleasures.

‘Are you planning on buying that?’

'I'm thinking about it' she replied, without looking up.

The crippled genius smiled to himself and went back to his stock-taking.


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