The cane was leaning up against a chair, marking his spot with the ivory ram’s head carved in its top.
The man himself came in later, stooping a bit, tall and thin. He limped noticeably, but I never saw him use that carved cane.
We took our seats around the folding table on the second floor of the library. He pulled out his papers, letters stamped in ink with the sort of square look of a typewriter’s keys.
To read, he held the papers up close to his face, long back hunched over the table, eyes squinted at the words just inches from his nose.
And his handwriting was cramped, and slow, and small, filling just a few lines while our pens scratched loud against the papers.
He didn’t talk much and I barely caught his name.
But in the words he wrote so painfully he showed he liked corny jokes, even as he himself called them corny.
And when the hour ended and we stood, grabbed coats and hats; while I headed out into the cold night to the car parked along the curb, and two girls chatted while waiting for their mothers, he moved slowly to collect his books and papers. He kept interlibrary-loan cards there with the rest, filling them out in pen, and it seemed as though this were a habit for him.
I never saw him use that cane.
But it fascinated me: that cane, with the ivory – or something similar – carved into a ram’s head, a great horn curling out of the side of its head, hard folds of neck falling away into the wooden shaft.
I wondered if the horn dug into the palm of his hand; if he used it for balance, or for show; and it had a story to go along, or maybe he just liked the look of it.
I hope I see him again.