Sturdy nineteen-seventies shelving of wood and steel support a wall of books. Mostly paperbacks, with the odd hardback amongst them. Imperceptibly, the weight of these tomes pulls at the weakened wall plaster which supports them until one day in the future, Alasdair Kettering will return to his study to find all of his precious collection lying face-down on the floor, sprinkled with a pangrattato of metal, wood and plaster.
To catalogue this collection would be insurmountable. For the books to be placed on the shelf in any kind of order would be uncharacteristic. So, if we begin at the top-left shelf, we find A Collector’s Guide to Railway Memorabilia, next to Intertextuallity in the films of Jean-Luc Godard, adjacent to Contributions towards the resolution of conflict in Guyana. Despite this apparent chaos, if you were to ask Alasdair for a book, he would know immediately if it were in his possession, and roughly the shelf on which it resides.
Besides his library, the study is sparsely furnished: an oak desk (inherited from the previous tenant) on which sits a telephone, a laptop and, contained within its black leather case, a Windsor B flat clarinet. The chair is a green plastic garden chair which he has been using temporarily since his last office chair lost a leg. This incident happened over six months ago, though Alasdair would estimate it only a few weeks since.
On the back of the study door hangs an ‘inspirational’ poster featuring a penguin, and beneath it the words “INDIVIDUALITY. Have courage and follow your own path”. Alasdair enters his study, then closes and locks the door behind him. He circumnavigates his desk, tugging at one of his ears as he walks. As he sits down in his chair, adjusting his spectacles, he slowly reaches out for his clarinet case. Suddenly, the phone rings. The noise so startles Alasdair that it takes him a moment to regain the composure necessary to pick up the receiver. The phone reaches his ear, but he does not speak. He absorbs the digital silence on the other end of the line. Though no sound is communicated, Alasdair seems to understand this exchange, and wearily, knowingly, he replaces the phone in its cradle, and hangs his head.
Behind him, the shelves creak.