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Binary System (extract)

Cosmos, Frozen Star, Stephen Hawking's Universe ... His heid tilted back, he ran arthritic fingers slowly doon the spines, strokin the titles lik he wis a blin man readin Braille, aa the while hummin saftly tae hissel 'Keep The Home Fires Burning..'Noo an then he wid pull doon a volume, leafin through its pages an screwin up his nose afore lettin oot a grunt that showed plain eneuch it wisna fit he wis efter. Suddentlie a thocht hit him an he fummled aboot in his weskit pooch, pulld oot an aal watch an, wi a shakin haan, heeld it up tae the licht. He pulld his glesses further forrit on his nose an squinted at the Roman nummers. "Twinty past fower," he muttered. "Time Ah wisna here." He gied a seich an stared at the shelves a minit or twa. "It's a bit o a lucky dip, onywye." He took doon twa volumes an hurried ower tae the libree coonter.

He wis weel kent there, an weel thocht o. He'd hid tae leave the skweel at fowerteen, bit hid nivver lost his drouth for lernin. "Afore Ah ging ony further, let me speir this at ye," he said. "Thon book Ah've jist handed in said that fan a man ca'ed Go-eth wis dee'in, his last words were 'Mehr Licht, mehr Licht!' Noo, tell me this. Foo diz at come aboot? It says he wis a namlie German aather, an fit Ah canna unnerstaan is, fit wye he wid be wantin tae spik Scots fan he wis dee'in. Wis his mither fae hereaboots, maybe?"

The lassie ahin the coonter gied a wee laach. "No, Jim, no. Goatie was German, right enough. But 'Mehr Licht' is just German for 'more light'."

The aal man stood dumfoonert for a minit. Syne "Nivver!" he said. "Funcy that! Fitna coincidence! It's a sma world an nae mistak!" He thocht a bittie, then speired again: "Bit fit did he mean bi't, onywye? Wis he wintin a caunle, or fit?"

"Oh, your guess is as good as mine, Jim," the assistant said. "Maybe he meant it in a philosophical sense."

Bit Jim wis nae philosopher. "Oh? Aye, Ah suppose, maybe," he said real quick, an handed ower his books.

The lassie took them an zipped her pencil ower the bar codes. "Reaching for the stars now, are we, Jim?"

"Aye," he replied, wi a nervous laach, "Ah thocht Ah'd gie the secrets o the Great Pyramid a rest, an it wis a toss-up atween astronomy an the dinosaurs."

He pulld his bunnet ticht doon ower his bald heid, pulld up the collar o his raincoat an, pushin through the revolvin door, gaed cannily doon the steps tae the street. "Michty, this win' has mair teeth nor me," he muttered, turnin awa tae get his breath back. 'Fasten the tap button o yer raincoat, noo, Jim!' He could aboot hear her sayin't, an felt a lump comin intae his thrapple. His fingers gaed tae the button. A quick look alang the road. Na, nae bus comin.

Better hoof it. Nancy Graham'll be wantin awa tae mak her man's tea. Heid tae ae side, bit wi shouders back, he stepped boldly oot. Aal sojer; left, richt, left, richt, books stappit ticht intae his oxter, richt airm swingin.

Stephen Pacitti

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