Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Third Man

   “I thought Uncle Billy was coming,” I said.
   Clara took a sip of her coffee, and said, “I called him this morning and he said he was ‘all stove up’ from helping Eb move the other day.”
   “Hmmm … did he know Alex was coming?”
   “I mentioned it to him at dinner last night.”
   “Was he ‘all stove up’ then?”
   “Well, he did say he was a little stiff, but he looked okay to me.”
   I glance out the window at Back-in-the-Day apartments across the street. “I’ll go over after breakfast and see how he’s doing. What time did Alex say he was going to be here?”
   Clara glanced at her watch. “I told him eight-thirty … he’ll be along any minute … he’s not usually late.”
   “What brings him into town?”
   “He wants to go to the Eastern Market to get some plants for his storefront.”
   “Don’t they have anything like that in Saginaw?”
   “I don’t know. You would think so, wouldn’t you?”
   “Well, maybe they don’t have one that big.”
   “Probably not.” Clara took another sip of her coffee. “I heard you did pretty well at your book signing.”
   “Yeah, but not as well as you.”
   She blushed slightly. “That was primarily due to Alex’s help … he did such a wonderful job on the promotion.”
   “He did for me, too … but I don’t think my stuff has as big an audience as yours.”
   She reached across the table and patted my hand. “Don’t sell yourself short … there are a lot folks who like the kind of stories you write … you just need to do a better job getting the work out.”
   I nodded. “I just don’t have the marketing savvy you do.”
   “It’s not about savvy … it’s about follow-up … you just have to keep at it.”
   “That’s my problem … I don’t.”
   “I can help, you know.”
   “Thanks, Clara.” Then I saw Alex making his way toward our table. “Here he comes.”
   Grinning broadly he said, “Well, if it isn’t my two favorite authors.”

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Four Men, Two Women and a Truck

“Hey, be careful there, Sonny,” said Uncle Billy.
I steadied myself on the steps. “Hold on, let me get a better grip.”
Uncle Billy frowned and braced himself below me while I adjusted my hold on the large Rubbermaid container we were wrestling down the stairs of Eb’s mother’s apartment building.
“Okay, I’m good now.”
Billy stepped gingerly backward down the steps. “This is the last time I help that idiot move.”
I felt for the next step. “I just hope he knows what he’s doing,” I grunted.
“Somehow I doubt that,” Billy snorted. “Okay, I’m on flat ground.”
“Keep your end hoisted up, will, you?” I pleaded as I navigated the last three steps.
Billy pushed his back against the door at the bottom of the steps. “Almost there.”
I followed Billy through the door to the truck standing in the parking lot.
“Watch the curb, fellas,” said Eb’s mother, Mary, who was waiting near the rear of the truck.
Eb’s new girlfriend, Rebecca, was standing next to her. “Need any help,” she asked.
We hoisted the container up on the deck of the truck. “Not now,” said Billy.
“Thanks, guys,” said Eb who was standing inside the truck.
Billy leaned against the bumper, panting slightly. “Here’s a head’s up for you, Eb, next time you move, I’ll be out of town, so you, Hank, and Wonder Boy, here, will have to handle it.”
“How do you know when I’m going to move?” asked Eb.
“I’m psychic.”
Hank appeared around the back of the truck. “He means ‘psychotic’.” He handed a small box to Mary.
“Don’t strain yourself there, Magnus,” said Billy
Hank ignored the dig. “The UPS guy dropped this off at your apartment door, Mary.”
“Oh, I’ll bet that’s my new Kindle Fire,” she said.
“You bought a Kindle Fire?” I asked.
“My book club is ga-ga over it, so I ordered one as soon as the eagle squatted this month,” she answered.
“What the heck is a Kindle Fire?” asked Rebecca.
Mary set the box on the truck deck and started to open it. “I’ll show you.”
“It’s a digital book,” I said.
“Oh, I’ve seen those things … I see people looking at them at Starbucks,” said Rebecca.
“You go to Starbucks?” asked Hank.
“That’s where I met Eb,” she answered.
Uncle Billy, Hank and I looked at Eb.
“What? They have great coffee,” he said. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


   We watched the ball sore in a gentle arc and land one-hundred and sixty yards away, rolling to stop a few yards further, still fifty yards short of the two balls already sitting in the fairway.
   “Nice shot, Mr. Tysinger,” said Jimmy.
   Uncle Billy smiled. “I don’t get it out there like I used to, but at least it’s in the short grass … and how many times do I have to tell you it’s ‘Billy’ … my dad was Mr. Tysinger.”
   I stepped up to the tee and took a mighty lash. The ball started out on a promising flight, but quickly changed course and ducked hard left, landing behind an imposing oak tree.
   “Nice shot, Arnold,” said Uncle Billy.
   “You gonna use your mulligan?” asked George.
   “Naw … I can hack it out of there.”
   I followed Billy to our cart, slid into the drivers side next to him, and took off in pursuit of our tee balls.
   “It’s good to get out with your golfing buddies again.”
   “They’ve been wondering where you’ve been.”
   “It’s been too damn cold to golf … this is the first decent day we’ve had.” He took a swig of his coffee just as the cart went over a mogul. “Hey, take easy there … damn it.”
   He wiped at the coffee spill on his pants. “So, how’d it go in Saginaw?”
   “Okay … not as well as Clara did, however.”
   “Why don’t you write one of those young-adult fantasy books that seem to be so hot right now?”
   “Not my thing.”
   “So, you’d rather write stuff that has no audience, eh?”
   “I don’t think about the audience … I just write what appeals to me and hope someone else likes it too.”
   “I guess that’s why you need to borrow money for book signings.”
   “Well, thanks, for the loan.” I veered the cart to left. “By the way, I was surprised how well you took my signing in Alex’s store.”
   “What did you think I’d do?  I don’t have any papers on Clara.”
   We pulled up to my ball. The lie was worse than I thought.
   “Good luck with that,” said Billy.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Wanna Buy a Book ... Anyone?

        He smiled and set down his coffee cup. "Please, call me Alex."
I returned the smile. "Well ... Alex ... I really appreciate you letting me set up shop in your store."
“Not a problem. I totally understand how hard it is to survive in the publishing world … especially these days.”
“Clara was right about you.”
Alex blushed slightly. “Speaking of Clara, I wouldn’t mind it if you could put in a good word for me.”
I blushed too. “You know that Clara is a friend of my uncle’s?”
“Oh yes. William. Clara has told me all about him.”
“Really? Do you mind me asking what she said?”
Alex picked up his coffee and took a sip. After a moment he set cup back down and said, “Well, she said that they had been dating for a while, but that it was fairly casual.”
“No, I mean, what did she say about Uncle Billy?”
“She said he was a … um … a ’complex person’ … that he would be outgoing and happy one minute and reclusive and introspective the next.”
“Introspective? Uncle Billy?”
“That’s what she said … oh and that he was often hyper-critical, but that he could be funny and self-deprecating, too.”
I nodded. "Hmmmm ..."
Alex continued, “Anyway, I find her to be a fascinating and lovely lady … I’d really like to get to know her better.”
“She seems to think a lot of you, too, Alex.”
“So, how about it? Can you help me out here?”
“Gee, Alex, I really appreciate the help you’re giving me … hosting this booking signing and the advance publicity and all … but the thing with Clara … it kinda puts me in a compromising position … something Uncle Billy does to me all the time.”
“I understand your concern, Chris … William being family... ”
“Honestly, Alex, I prefer to let these affairs of the heart work themselves out … without any involvement from me.”
“Fair enough.” He stood up and grabbed his coffee cup. “Now, let’s see what we can do about moving a few of those books of yours.”