Blogs by J.B. Kohl
Dora; Dame in a Straw Hat
4/3/2008 8:41:38 AM
Saturday, March 29th was blustery. Everyone who toppled in through the bookstore's front door was windblown. Haggard looking. They all had those bright pink cheeks, red hands, and clear snot running from their noses that comes from standing in the wind on a clear spring day. And that's what it was. A clear spring day. But it was also cold. And, as the bookstore rests three blocks or so from the Daffodil Festival festivities, I knew anyone showing up in such a state was truly determined to buy my book...or a book written by one of the other two authors offering signings.
I prefer to think they were after my work. Because the work is good. And honest.
I'd worn black for the occasion. I like black. It was the color of my hair in my youth. It's how I take my coffee now. And it's the color of treachery. Let's face it. In the book business, treachery is everywhere.
It started out innocently enough. A few signings, inoffensive Celtic music over the in-store sound system, a few sips of coffee. It was nice. Almost too nice. But I was on my toes, pulling books and signing them as fast as people stepped to the table, barely catching names as my pen flew.
She showed up just before lunch. Typical for a dame like her. From my position in the mystery section, I couldn't see her at first. But I heard that voice. Like a pack of unfiltereds washed down with a shot of sulfuric acid. "Where's J.B. Kohl?" It wasn't a question. It was a demand.
Cold sweat broke out on the back of my neck. My fingers, posed in the middle of an autograph, froze. I'd been found. Discovered. The jig was up.
"She's up there," the owner said. Was that a tremor in her voice? Was it so easy to sell me out?
I finished the signature and handed it to the star-struck fan standing before me. "Get someplace safe," I said, taking a swig of coffee, wishing I had something stronger on hand.
Already, footsteps drew near, shiny dust jackets shivering with the heaviness of the tread.
The mystery section was clearing out fast, patrons hurriedly taking their books (all of them signed copies from yours truly) to the register to pay and then get the hell out of dodge. Danger hung thick in the air.
As the steps drew closer, I stood, ready to guard my coffee and my books--with my life if necessary.
I saw the straw hat first. Huge. Its width cut a swath through the crowd with ease. The room vaporized. I focused on that hat. That huge hat creeping closer to me as I stood, dressed in treacherous black, to face whatever came next.
In my mind, I lit an unfiltered and offered one to her. In reality, I nodded. "Yeah. I'm Kohl."
She gave a nod and stared at me with cold eyes. "I been looking for you."
I squared my shoulders. "Really. Well, you found me."
She almost smiled. Almost. Her cheeks were red. She swiped at the clear ooze running from her nose. I reminded myself not to shake her hand. I wondered if she needed me for a job. What would it be? What distasteful task would she demand? Copyrighting? Editing? Proofreading? I could take it. Whatever it was, I could take it.
She sneered a little as she sized me up. She was bigger. But I was scrappy. I could tell she was figuring that out.
The owner peeked from behind a shelf, her eyebrows raised in silent question. Is everything ok? But I didn't dare break eye contact.
Slowly, I sat, my eyes never leaving her face. She dropped a copy of The Deputy's Widow on the table.
"Make it to Doris," she said.
Now it was my turn to almost smile. "Right."
I scrawled my signature out for this dame in the big straw hat and, despite my earlier promise not to, I shook the very hand she used to wipe her nose. It was then I realized that fame is just as dirty as anything else.
As I watched her leave, the owner stopped by my table. "Everything ok?"
I leaned back and drank some coffee. "Everything's just fine," I said. "Just fine."
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More Blogs by J.B. Kohl
Noir's New Age - Sunday, April 06, 2008
Shame on amazon.com - Friday, April 04, 2008
This Life - Thursday, April 03, 2008
Dora; Dame in a Straw Hat - Thursday, April 03, 2008