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Take That, Stephen King; Buzz Off, Sue Grafton
David Howard

I quickly tore page after page from Stephen King’s latest paperback. I’d bet he’d never had one of his 200 or so novels adorned with a Bargain! sticker. In the spirit of equal opportunity, Sue Grafton was next. My narrow spot of floor between A and L in the Borders fiction section was becoming a small lake of paperback print.

The customers thought I was part of a program to attract people on a winter morning, a way to boost sales on a slow day. I nodded in the direction of a person saying “origami artist,” and folded a few of the loose pages into triangles.

I had surrounded myself with as many paperback bestsellers I could lug off the shelves, along with copies of my own book, The Things We Are, the shiny cover emblazoned with a bright orange 75% Off! sticker below its $1.99 price tag. I’d done the math, even though I knew I shouldn’t have. My book, my novel, my life now cost 49 cents -- less than any bookmark in the store.

I began gathering up the pages from the books I’d torn apart, arranging them a bit. “I think it’s about getting rid of clutter,” someone standing close to me said. I smiled and squared off my stacks of bestselling paperback debris.

“Excuse me, sir, what are you doing?” A manager type. I could tell from the oxford cloth shirt and pulled down tie, and, of course the name badge above the pocket. He pushed through the audience to face me.

“They didn’t tell you?” I said with an exasperated expression, handing him a copy of my novel. “I’m promoting my novel. Corporate should have sent the announcement out weeks ago.” He looked at the remaindered copy of my first and only publication, as one might if handed a Big Mac while perusing the menu at the Capitol Grille.

I continued to tear apart the Grafton; about to reach for Mary Higgins Clark’s latest when the manager took a step closer, saying, “You are destroying those books. Stop it at once. I’m calling the police!” He still held The Things We Are, so I reached out, asking if he wanted it signed. “Stop this, stop it now!” he said. I took my pen and inscribed on the title page: “To the best book store manager in Rhode Island…I signed my name, crossing out the printed version as I’d been taught by the publishing house assistant, two years ago.

I’d hoped for a longer time there. At least the Higgins Clark, maybe even a Stuart Woods or two, but there were other Borders, more remainders of mine to give away. With the sound of distant sirens from outside, I took copies of my book and passed them around to shoppers as I hurried toward the door, pausing only to oblige the elderly woman who asked me to sign her copy.


Reprinted from the 2008 Writers’ Circle Anthology. David Howard has recently published short fiction in Black Fox Literary Magazine, Crack the Spine, Boston Literary Magazine, Blue Lake Review, Eunoia Review and Apollo’s Lyre. He lives and writes in Rhode Island and can be reached at



Stranger flirts have happened,
the subtler kind.
let’s rewind,

Did you intend then to touch my rump?
barefoot sliding beneath now-wet cunt…
you left it there once you knew
how turned on I was by you.

Off I went on a self-service trip…
giggling, you tease, just take the dip!
I call and you of all men answer,
Not knowing why
You do
As do I
Respond to our outrageous pairing,
one set deep in inner sharing.
Strong enough to break some rules,
sure enough to act like fools.

At last the artists are the art,
subject to the collective smart.
A wisdom I can often claim,
clear when I feel cleansed of shame.

A freeing has at last begun,
you of course, my chosen one
shall within my lips find sweet
kisses kindly let us meet…
to consummate a world’s intention,
joining having learned our lessons,
gleaned of theory and of lust,
reshaping tales of dust to dust…

For we are all to serve as proof,
all life changes--this is Truth.
And yet amongst a spinning globe,
is a core which speaks in code,
a genetic map to read and write
of love’s existence and it’s might.

For each of us is here to speak,
our voices joining remain unique.
And when all find our inner light,
free shall all be day and night.
Our judgment must now leave the room
Clearing space for all to bloom.

Noël Patoine ©