...the table's mostly hidden from view, round and smallish and fit for two. It supports my elbows, a bottled water, and a stack of paper, as a congestion of bookworms carouse an endless supply of literature.
I look up from my scribblings. Watch the readers, some youthful, others hobbling about on failing joints, pull novels from the shelves, skim back covers, then replace it for another. The lucky ones, those stories just aching to be read, are opened to the first page, a few paragraphs being absorbed, tickling a reader's interest. Then the moment of truth...whether the story is deemed worthy, or sent back to the shelf, a book waiting to be found.
A row to my right, sitting Indian style on the floor, her back resting against the shelf, is a young lady absorbed in vampire lore. Blazing curls the color of cinnamon cover the majority of her freckles. Her nose is buried in paper, the story of a girl named Sookie, her romantic drama of the undead holding the girl's attention at bay. She's oblivious to the many pairs of legs stepping around her.
A boy of ten or maybe twelve struts by, casting me glance, a pair of Harry Potter's clutched under an arm. From the shape of his eye wear, the design of his attire, I find myself wondering if perhaps his magic wand is poking out from the back pocket of his Levi's, the resemblance too uncanny for it to be an accident.
From my hidden spot in the cafe, I spy an elderly couple reclined in a nearby sofa. The gentleman's flipping through the pages of George Bush's new release, his wife thumbing through a Rachel Ray cook book. They hardly notice each other's presence, yet I suppose one would be lost without the other.
Sitting front and center near Barnes & Noble's entrance, her smile contagious, her pen gliding over copies of her newest release, Dandi Mackall converses with her readers, signing their books, a line of fifty or so teenage girls, mouths yapping, shoulders rising and falling in penned up excitement.
The tables next to mine are occupied. Steam rising from plastic cups like newborn spirits, each one accompanied with an opened book, a reader engrossed. Grisham and Meyer, King and Verne, Peretti and Hoag, all of their work finding a home on this day.
I watch them and I wonder. And I think, "Gee, what if..."
I give a start, turn to the person standing behind me, looking over my shoulder. A young man of no more than twenty. Coke-bottle glasses causing his eyes to appear twice their actual size. Hair like straw peeking out from under a woolen cap. In his hand he's clutching the latest Koontz, the silhouette of a Golden Retriever on it's cover.
"It's a galley," I say.
"Like, a pre-book," he says. "The way a book looks just before getting published, right?"
"You an editor?"
I can't help but grin. "Today I am."
His brow wrinkles, then relaxes, realization dawning. "You wrote this?"
"Hmmph...think you're good enough to sit over there signin books like that lady's doin?"
My gaze follows his to Ms. Mackall, still signing, ever smiling. "One can dream, I guess."
He leans against my table, his attention drawn to the page I'm working on. A baseball scene. A boy with a gift.
I wait, curious, as the young man reads. A minute or two pass before he looks up. A smile forces his jaw open. I realize that his parents decided against investing in braces for him as a boy.
"That's pretty good," he says.
He folds his arms, lost in thought. The smile fades. Then, "That kid...the ballplayer...really, that's good stuff, man. When's the book come out?"
"Late Spring, early Summer...hopefully."
Together, we turn back to Mackall, a writer in a chair, sharing her work with others. Then he says, "When you're sittin over there...I'll show up..."
I called David, my editor, on the way home.
"David...it's done. It's ready."
I heard an exhale. Then, "How do you know?"
"Lemme tell ya what just happened..."
"South of Charm"--2011 :)