The fat man pored through a stack of recordings (Boismortier, Verdi, Skriabine, Dutilleux, Wagner, Wagner, Wagner, Wagner, Strauss, Penderecki, Coleman Hawkins, Bach, Couperin, Wagner, Mingus, Mingus, C.P.E. Bach, Vinicius de Moraes) and came up empty-handed; he bent down, made a grunt, came up with Jacques Brel, put it on, "La vie ne fait pas de cadeaux," took it off, turned himself over to Boismortier with a certain chagrin, placed himself at the window for staring down at the Rue Dauphine with its catastrophe of leaves. (Directly opposite, on a balcony lined with telescopes, a young man was feeding an ocelot.) Then he went in and fondled what had been resting on one of the Louis XV end-tables, mother's wedding spoon, the soft long pointed silver animal with a motto engraved on its handle, "Aut agere aut mori," and with a small piece of card tied to the neck with a thin blue string, "Orchid." Of all objects he cradled it. Of all useful things he could feel obliged to do--catalogue the new recordings, polish the copperware, wash the bindings of the Henry James with dishwashing liquid (lovingly sponging the gilded j-a-m-e-s, harmonizing with Boismortier to the lyric, "Only connect"), give a solid hour to practising arpeggios in F#--he chose instead to stand once more at the window looking down into the mammoth motionlessness of leaves in piles in the street, imagining beneath every pile a child or two hiding. Without effort he could remember a vague afternoon like this when he was younger (smaller), and he lingered near a window in a warm room, and the room and the street outside were married in cautious noiselessness. He picked up a pencil and conducted Boismortier.
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