the biology & ecology of the asteroidea

Mr Woollens mobilises slowly and with great precision, inching his way along the great mass of textbooks on the book shelves; along the backs of chairs and cabinets covered with fossils and specimens in jars and ethnic carvings; tentatively feeling his way along the walls hung with diplomas and certificates and photographs of awards ceremonies and antique taxonomic prints; moving hand by foot by hand, securing each purchase and only then transferring his weight, as slowly and meticulously pinpoint as a giant starfish moving over a span of uneven coral – ironic, given that starfish were his speciality.
‘Yes,’ he pants, pushing his wild white hair over to one side, exposing the great tangle of his eyebrows and the partially paralysed slant of his mouth. ‘I spent years looking at the damned things.’
I ask if there’s anything I can get him, some water perhaps, a cup of tea?
‘There is one thing,’ he says. ‘You can get me a package of something to enable my own destruction.’
Those great eyebrows tremble as he studies my response.
‘No?’ he says. ‘Thought not. In which I suppose I shall just have to settle for a cup of tea.’

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