o r p h e u s E m e r g e d

"Paul stood in the Book Shop facing a shelf of books. He came in every day at the same time, shuffling in his old shoes, and pored through the same score or so of books with his dirty fingers. And despite the complete disreputability of his appearance--the shabby clothing, the matted locks of dark hair protruding over the collar-and his constant smoking that filled the bright little Shop with smoke and its clean floors with cigarette ends, no one seemed to pay any attention to him. His daily visits had by now assumed the character of routine. One or two of the clerks, however, commented on his habit of looking at the same twenty or so books every day. Nietzsche's complete works, a novel by Stendhal, Dostoyevsky's The Idiot, Ulysses, The Oxford Book of English Verse, and many others of this kind, he peered at impatiently each and every day, and always walked away from them with a preoccupied frown on his face. It was a beautiful day in early spring-Spring Day Eve, in fact-when Paul was interrupted in his perusal of Kenneth Patchen's Journal of Albion Moonlight by Leo, a student at the University. Slim, dark haired, wearing blue horn-rimmed glasses, the boyishly ugly Leo hurried across the Shop and slapped Paul on the back. "Paul!" he cried. "I heard you had been fired from your job. Is that true?" Paul, glancing up to see who it was, and annoyed by the question, returned his attention to the book. "You have!" ejaculated Leo, leaning toward Paul anxiously. The other waved his hand and sent Leo stepping back. "Don't annoy me," he hissed sharply. "It's my affair. Don't start asking for details. Please shut up." At this, Leo began to smile sporadically, and he bowed from the waist as a sign of deference. He could always manage to conceal his feelings. "Where's Arthur?" Paul inquired curtly. "In class. I'm headed there now." "I'll come," Paul said, and replaced the book on the shelf. He gave the shelf a last frowning look and started out to the street. Leo, at his heels, shrugged his shoulder doubtfully. "You know, don't you," he said, "that the Professor is beginning to dislike your sitting in on his class. After all, you're not an enrolled student here…" "I know, I know. He can do no more than throw me out of the class." "Well that's true." "Then come." Paul led Leo hastily across the street onto the green grass of the campus. He began to talk all at once. "Those books! If only I had time to read them, and more. This morning, after I lost my job, I went to the University Library itself, and do you know, there were hundreds of thousands of books there I honestly felt I should read! And the ideas that rush through my mind. The impatience I feel! The time running off like sand."

© Jack Kerouac, 1958; The Dharma Bums; first published by Viking Press, 1958

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