I had this second half totally done, but then the flashdrive it was stored on committed some sort of weird digital seppuku and I lost it. If this one is not as funny, clever, and interesting as you expected, let’s just say it was better the first time around, k?
Ok, so we were at the coffee shop, discussing the fact that we may or may not be reading our work as well as signing. Time was creeping along, and Jude/Kelly still had not shown up. We eventually decided that she was probably not coming to Ritual Roasters and we’d have to meet her at Borderlands. My wife, the timekeeper, reminded us that we needed to get moving, so we did.
Moving along the sidewalk, I was starting to feel more and more nervous and out of place. Rob and Jasmine and their respective partners, being locals, blended in fairly well, and Kate did a great job of faking it, but I was gawking at all the little shops and restaurants like the former Hoosier I really am.
I should stop here and take a moment to explain the other thing that was worrying me. Wel,, not really worrying me, but … My family was coming. No, not my children, because I wanted this bookstore to still be standing once this event was over. My mom, my aunt Linda, and my cousin Alisha. I love them all dearly, but there was a distinct possibility of shenanigans, which are something of a family pastime. These are the people who showed up to the door all wearing billy-bob teeth when my other cousin brought her fiancée home for the first time. No part of me really believed they would where the billy-bob teeth in public, but I am paranoid, so …
When we reached the bookstore, they weren’t there yet. We went inside, happy to let Jasmine take the lead in finding out what we were going to do. Already there was, of course, the mysterious Jude/Kelly, who turned out to really be Jude-Marie Green. Since she’d been coming up from LA, she was running just a bit behind, so had come directly to Borderlands. We bravely decided to let Jasmine be the one to find the person in charge, whose name also turned out to be Jude.
As she did, my wife grabbed me by the shoulder and leaned in with “hey, you’ve got a … you’ve got a yucky thing there.” It was, of course, my shaving cut, which had re-opened, bled a little, then congealed in a crusty black mass. When I pulled the lumpy scab off of my face, it was the size of one of those beads people use to make those leather reminder bracelets. Yes, gross. Worse, pulling it off made it start bleeding again as if I’d just cut it, so I had to beg Jude for some Kleenex to keep it from getting all over my clothes.
Once again, yes, gross.
While this was going on, Jasmine, Jude-Marie, and Jude had decided that we would, indeed, all of us read an excerpt from our stories, so I went to the back of the store and practiced while I held a wad of toilet paper to my face, absorbing the blood, hoping for the bleeding to stop before everything got underway.
I ran through the section a couple of times until I was happy with how it sounded, and until I could pull the tp away from my face and see no new blood there. This took a few minutes, during which time my family arrived.
I went to the front of the store and hugged my mom and my aunt and my cousin and did a surreptitious check for billy-bob teeth. If they had them, they were in purses or something waiting to be taken out mid-reading. Not even I was willing to go in there. They were excited foe me when I told them what was going on, exactly, and they had the good manners not to comment on my bleeding face. I’d like to think that’s because it wasn’t at all noticeable.
So, it’s time now, and the 10-15 chairs set out in the middle of the store have filled up, which was nice. I think most of the people belonged to me and Jasmine, but at least it wasn’t an empty room. I have visions of having to stand up in front of these people and read (and bleed) and I’m starting to get really nervous.
Jude introduces us. We’re described as “up and comers” and that they can say “they knew us when.” It felt good. We decide we’re going alphabetically down the table, and that Jude-Marie will read first. She just stayed in her seat and read from there, which was at once a little strange, but also comforting, knowing that I could hide behind the table that way. So she reads and everyone is, of course, enthralled, and then it’s my turned.
I actually turn in my chair a little, ostensibly because this allowed me to face the direction where my voice would be loudest, but it was really because this put the side of my face that was bleeding on the other side. The books might get blood-splattered, but at least the people will be safe.
And I read my stuff. Out loud (gack!). For the first time. Ever.
And it felt really, really good. The audience responded the way I wanted them to, it felt like they were into it, they chuckled at the right places (as much as you can in a story like this one), and there was a while where I forgot I had even written it, and just read the way I used to read to my classes. I even forgot to worry about my cut.
When I was done, people clapped, and then it was Jasmine’s turn. She sounded about 300% better than I imagined I did, but I had survived it. Now I put my finger on my face, and rejoiced when it came away clean.
After we were all finished, we spent about thirty minutes signig books. My aunt had thoughtfully written out what she wished me write in her copy. I edited it down from a full typed page to a couple of lines. Kate had asked me how I was going to sign, and suggested I use a line from the story as an inscription, so I did. (“Those that remained were Free” was the line).
After a while, Jasmine, Jude-Marie, and Rob had to leave, but my family was still in line making purchases, so I lingered a bit. I kind of didn’t want to leave because it had been such a good experience, and the store is the kind I can get lost in anyway. Before everyone else left, we signed the guest book, so my signature is now contained in the same book that also holds Neil Gaiman’s, Tad Williams’ and Neal Stephenson’s among hundreds of others. Also cool. Oh, and I signed a bunch of Store copies, so if you want one, signed by me, get in touch with Borderlands. I believe they ship just about anywhere.
Somewhere in here, My mom accidentally insulted the cat that is the bookstore’s mascot. She’s really, really, sorry. She didn’t realize that was a picture of a real cat. And when we saw the kitten later, completely revised her opinion on the hairless cat’s adorability.
While walking my cousin and aunt back to their car, we saw a white-boy rasta homeless guy brushing fallen eucalyptus leaves back to the base of the tree in the sidewalk planter. When he saw us, he just said, “hey, just putting things back where they belong.”
Remind me to tell you sometime about the drunk people we met on Bart on the way back, and the old man the drunkest of them molested. Word to the wise: watch out for over-beering at the Oakland Colliseum.
And of course, later my wound would, Inigo-Montoya like, reopen, but by that time it didn’t matter. We did learn we need to stock more Kleenex in our car.