Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Life in the Fast Lane

   I stepped on the gas to get around the truck before the left lane clogged up again. "I swear, ninety-four is just conveyer belt between Detroit and Chicago."
   "Relax, dear, I'd rather get to Jenny's in one piece, than early," said Cheryl.
   I slipped into the right lane in front of the truck as a giant SUV roared impatiently by in the left.  I relaxed my foot on the accelerator pedal. "You're right ... I just got caught up in the game."
   "So, Uncle Billy is going to loan you two hundred and fifty dollars to purchase books for a signing?"
   "How about that."
   "How'd you pull that off?"
   "Guess he was still a little flush from that trip to Vegas."
   "No, I mean, how'd you get the nerve to ask him in the first place."
   "We were talking about Clara's recent success on her book tour ... she netted over twelve hundred dollars ... and he asked why I didn't do something like that. I told him I didn't have the money to buy enough books to make it worthwhile. The next thing I know, he offered to loan it to me."
   Cheryl shook her head. "Will wonders never cease? So, where are you going to sign?"
   "Alex Heath is setting me up at his store in Saginaw next month."
   "Alex Heath? Isn't that Clara's new friend?"
   "Does Uncle Billy know that he's helping you with this?"

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

No Regrets

     I watched a squirrel jump from one skinny branch to another. "What did you expect?"
Uncle Billy placed his beer can in the cup holder on the side of the chair. "I sure as hell didn't expect to see another hound dog sniffing around."
  “So, that gave you license to embarrass the heck out poor Clara?”
  “I didn’t mean to embarrass Clara … I just meant to put a little fear into that stuffed shirt she was having breakfast with.”
“Alex Heath is not a stuffed shirt … he’s a gentleman … and a nice guy to boot.”
“He’s a putz. I can’t believe Clara would be even remotely interested in him.”
“Just because he’s intelligent, well-mannered, thinks Clara is fascinating woman … as well as a good writer … oh, and bookstore owner who is helping her market her book?”
“He’s a putz.”
   Cheryl slid open the screen door and stepped out onto the deck. "I'm heading to the store. Do either of need anything?"
   I shook my head. "I can't think of anything."
   "How about you, Uncle Billy?" she asked.
   "As long as you have enough beer, darling, I'm all set."
   "That's Chris's department." She looked at me. 
   “There’s plenty,” I said.
   "Okay, see you later."
   "Be careful out there," I said as she retreated through the door.
   "You sure got a peach there, Sonny," said Billy.
   "That's a fact, Uncle." I slid my chair back under the shade of the umbrella. "So, I think you owe Clara … and Alex … an apology.”
   “I’m not apologizing to anybody.” Uncle Billy pulled his beer can from the holder and took a swig. 
  “Even if it means losing Clara?”
   “She’ll come around. Hell, I think she liked it when I called that four-flusher a bespectacled book worm.”
   “No she didn’t Uncle … she was embarrassed.”
   “You don’t think she knew I defending her honor?”
   “No. I think she thought you were being a jerk.”
   “Well, that’s how much you know.” He shook his beer can. “How about another?”

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Four's a Crowd

   I grabbed a couple packs of salt and some napkins for my tray, and started looking for an empty booth. I was surprised to see Clara sitting at a table with a man I didn't recognize.  She spotted me and waved for me to come over.
  "Clara, I didn't think you were back from your book tour."
  "Oh, I got back on Sunday. I'd like to you meet a friend of mine, Alex Heath." She smiled to her breakfast companion. "Alex, this is Chris Hudson, the nephew of a friend of mine and a fellow author."
  "Well, well, another writer." Alex, who looked remarkably like Martin Landau, stood to shake my hand. "Nice to meet you, Chris."
   I awkwardly held my tray and accepted his outstretched hand. "Good to meet you, Alex."
  "Chris, put your food down and join us," said Clara.
  Alex let go of my hand and I grabbed my tray with both hands again. "Thank you both, but I'm supposed to meet Uncle Billy."
   "Oh, is William coming over for breakfast?"
   I glanced out the window across the street at Back in the Day apartments. "So he said."
   "You never know with William." Clara smiled. "Why don't you join us until he gets here."
   "Well ... "
   "Please. I'd love to hear about your projects," added Alex as he sat back down.
   I glance warily out the window again. There was no sign of Billy. "Well, okay." I set down my tray and slid into a chair.
   I pulled the lid off my coffee. "Do you live at Back in the Day, Alex?"
  Clara answered for him. "Oh, no. Alex owns a book store in Saginaw. We met while I was signing books there ... he's just visiting for a couple of days."
  "Are you in town for business?"
  "Partly ... there is a GLIBA event at the Mariott."
  "Saginaw was the first stop on my tour and Alex told me about the GLIBA event ..." Clara spotted the puzzled look on my face, "... Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association ..." I nodded and Clara continued. "Anyway, he said we should get together while he was in town."
   "Clara is such a fascinating women, I just had to get to know her a little better."
   Clara blushed slightly. "Alex was so helpful. He made sure there were plenty of publicity for my signing and I sold over a hundred books."
   "A hundred books? In one stop?"
  "It's a marvelous young adult book, Chris. I was pleased to have her in the store."
  I blew on my coffee and gazed out the window. Uncle Billy was standing across the street waiting for the traffic to clear. "Oh, oh, here comes Billy, now."
  "That's great," said Clara. "We can all have breakfast together."

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Gambler

  "So, what did you say?"
  "I told her you were in Las Vegas."
   Uncle Billy winced. "You told her I was in Vegas ... you didn't tell her Clara was with me?"
   "I didn't have to, she figured that."
   "What do you mean?"
   "When I told her you were in Vegas, she said, 'with Clara, I suppose.'"
   "And you said ...?"
   "I said, 'yes'."
   "You sure are a help with my love life."
   "If you want to play both ends against the middle, that's your business ... but I told you I wasn't going to lie for you."
   "Okay, but do have to be so damn truthful?"
   "Alma asked me a direct question ... any answer other than 'yes' would have been a lie."
   "Listen to Reverend Hudson."
   "I'm not trying to tell you how to live your life ... hell, Clara doesn't even care what you do ... just be honest with folks. Alma Beeler is an adult ... don't treat her like one of your high school dates."
   Uncle Billy folded his arms on the bar and gave me a sideways glance. "You sure do know how to take the fun out of life." He pushed back his hat and rubbed his forehead. "You know Clara is leaving on her book tour next week."
   "Her book tour? No, she didn't tell me."
   Billy folded his arms on the bar again. "How about that? You don't know everything."
   "Where is she going?"
   "She's lined up stops at a bunch of independent book stores in Michigan ... she said she'd be gone three days."
  "And you were planning on seeing Alma when she's gone."
  "I was ... until, Dudley Do-Right here started questioning my morality."
   I let out an audible sigh. "Uncle, I don't care what you do ... just don't drag me into the middle of it?"
   "Okay, okay, enough preaching." Uncle Billy took a long pull of his beer and slammed the empty class on the bar.
   "You want another?"
   "I'm a little short this week."
   "It's on me."
   I looked at Billy. "You had some luck in Vegas?"
   He smiled. "Yeah ... for a change."