CONTEST: Based on the above photo, e-mail one entry, any genre, one page, single spaced, due August 1. No fee. Winners published on Authors' Page. Photograph by Russell Lee
Take That, Stephen King; Buzz Off, Sue Grafton
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stranger flirts have happened,
Did you intend then to touch my rump?
Off I went on a self-service trip…
At last the artists are the art,
A freeing has at last begun,
For we are all to serve as proof,
For each of us is here to speak,
Noël Patoine ©