Mysterywriter's Final SpringbyMysteryWriter©
Note from the author
I hope you enjoy this piece but I don't much care if you like my grammar or my spelling. So don't bother sending me email about it please. If you want more of the same there is a free web site with nothing for sale, no adv, and no popups, just about two dozen novels and short stories galore. Email me for the address. If you hate it, let me know that too as I always love to hear from people who can write better. C Gurkin
Mysterywriter's Final Spring.
When I saw the lights ahead, I was almost as happy as I had been the first time I got laid. Since I had been nodding off for the last hour, I really needed the coffee that the truck stop sign promised. The number of eighteen wheelers at the truck stop alongside the two lane road surprised me. I had left the four lane at least twenty miles back. The map didn't show any other major highways before I reached the coast.
As I pulled the Mini Van into the parking lot it all became obvious, the trucks all had the same logo. There had to be a freight company nearby, I thought. It must have been breakfast time for them before they began their day. I parked the mini van in a spot far away from the real trucks. I didn't want to block one of them in. It sure as hell wasn't to save the van. That van had been worn out when I bought it. Buying junk was one of the benefits of having a best friend who ran a salvage yard. It might have been the only benefit.
John could put together about anything I wanted at a dirt cheap price. The van had been his idea actually. I told him that I wanted to sell my novels at festivals during the spring so he suggested that I buy a mini van. It would be good to carry all the junk from town to town and would be comfortable enough to sleep in as well. The deal was struck. I gave him all winter to do it. In exchange he sold me a van with the best of his junked out engines and transmissions for a song. Perfect bodies seldom go to salvage so the body was mess. The fenders on one side looked as though they had been straightened with a claw hammer. The paint was most likely house paint from home depot. The front seats didn't match at all, and there were no rear seats.
As was my habit, I took my antique cane with me. I did it so that my staggering would look as though it were physical, rather than the moves of a drunk. The fact is that it was physical, I just didn't need the cane. It was window dressing, as were most of the things I did that spring.
I found the restaurant to be warm on that chilly spring night. The barstools were all taken so I found a small booth where I seated myself. When I looked at the menu, I found that it made me hungry. I knew I shouldn't have the waffles but what the hell difference did a few pounds make at that point. I resisted the urge anyway.
"Hey there," I said to the waitress before she could greet me.
"You want coffee?" She might have been more asleep than me.
"Coffee would be fine," I replied.
"You know what you want to eat?"
"Nothing thanks, just the coffee and some information."
"Coffee's a buck for all you want, the information is free. We guarantee the coffee is good, the information might or might not be any good." She smiled showing me crooked and yellow stained teeth.
"That sounds perfectly reasonable to me," I said smiling back.
"I'll be back with the coffee then you can try the information bit," she said it while turning away. She returned in less than a minute with a coffee cup, it was about half the size of the one I traveled with.
"Now let's try that question thing."
"Okay, I am headed for a small town called Rosehill, do you know it?"
"Know it hell, I live there. You headed to the festival?"
"Yep, I'm a first time vender there. So could you tell me where the fairgrounds are."
"Ain't no fairgrounds honey, they are having it downtown. Gonna block off the streets."
"I know but they said we could camp on the fairgrounds." I was a little worried at that point.
"Never heard of a fairground let me check with someone." The waitress with the bad teeth left me to ponder my next move. That night was pretty much shot anyway. I could ask at the show the next day I supposed. The very best I could do would be two hours sleep that night anyway. The setup downtown began at 5am.
The waitress came back a few minutes later with the coffee pot in her hand. "Okay Mister, I found out I think. I never been there mind you, but when they have the youth carnival they have it at the stadium complex. We are pretty sure that is where you want to be. It makes sense since it has bathrooms.
I thanked her while I sipped the scalding coffee. When I left the circle of warmth, it was almost 3am, I figured I had just enough time to find the high school stadium from her skimpy directions, then just go straight to the set up coordinator. The coordinator who was supposed to be downtown at 5am handing out assignments.
Finding the stadium proved to be easy since someone had thoughtfully placed temporary signs for the vendors. I didn't bother making room in the van for me to stretch out, I was afraid that I would over sleep. What I did was to set the traveling alarm clock, then push the seat back. I slept in ten minutes increments until the first of the pickups pulled from the grass covered parking area for the small town stadium.
I found the bathroom, where I deposited the dregs of the coffee both from the styrofoam cup and my body. When I returned to the van, I waited for someone else to leave for the downtown. When they did, I followed behind. The coordinator set my site on one of the side streets. If I had been selling jewelry or some such, I would have been angry. I wasn't expecting big crowds anyway so I just smiled. Since the rent was the same on them all, it was my guess that the prime spots were saved for the locals.
I had never set the booth up for real before so I had planned a little extra time for it. I started at 5am, which was way too early. Unlike some of the more elaborate ones mine could be set up in just a few minutes. That is once I had the bugs worked out. That morning I planned on an hour.
The coordinator was a gray haired lady whose age I wouldn't even try to guess. She gave me detailed directions and a map. She also told me that my space had a chalk number on it. The instruction, to have my beat up old van in the parking area by six, was delivered as she stared at my wreck of a vehicle. That ragged out old van might prove a liability but I really didn't care. It was all part of the image.
The very first thing I unloaded was the folding chair. I expected to spend a lot of time in it, then came the blob of concrete in the shape of a milk container. The reason for the shape was simple I had used an empty gallon plastic milk bottle as a form. A steel pipe was buried inside the blob of concrete. The beach umbrella came next. It had come from a discount stores close out sale in November of the year before. That should tell you how long I had been planning the spring and summer tour.
When I turned my hand to setting up the tables, it was dawn or a little after. The sun was still below the horizon but it was still pretty much lighting the downtown. That was probably because there were only few tall buildings to block the bent rays.
The two folding tables had come from the local goodwill store. I had kept them stored with the umbrella in my studio all winter. I had erected them at home just to make sure that they weren't going to come crashing down like the walls of Jericho. I had also purchased a coverings for my tables. It had been suggested to me by my ex wife that I use fake fur. That material would not wrinkle while being folded, she explained. It worked just exactly as she had predicted.
With the tables assembled, I moved on to the product. The product was two and a half dozen mystery novels. They were on CDs, since I not only wrote them I also recorded them. The PC along with a program from a cell phone company allowed me to record, then edit them digitally. The CDs were just the easiest thing to produce. I had all the equipment to produce mass quantities of cassettes as well, but they were just a pain in the ass.
I had intended to bring a small number of CDs with me, but again my ex wife convinced me to bring more than I ever expected to sell that summer. "Make it look like a bookstore," she advised me. Hell, they were easy and not very expensive to produce so why not, I thought.
That being the case, I removed a small plastic box of CDs for each title. Thirty one titles meant thirty one six by six by twenty-four inch boxes of novels and two more boxes of assorted short stories divided by tabs. Each CD was in it's own plastic box. The only label was on the CD itself.
With the boxes set up, I was almost finished. Not much more a writer can do you would think? Since I was a photographer most of my life, I had also produced a set of posters for the booth. There were a dozen twenty inch by thirty inch posters in round tubes from the post office. From them I selected six for the stands I carried with me. I would have loved fancy stands that broke down but I just couldn't justify it so I build half dozen.
Each stand was fitted with a cork board after it was erected. The posters were then thumbtacked to the board which had been wired to the stand. I had figured to keep the posters to a minimum during outside shows, to prevent wind damage. I put them up just to attract the crowds. Most were scantily clad women but a couple were male friends of mine holding their pistols. Thank god for redneck friends who own their own guns. Since the digital revolution, I was able to make posters with titles on them. I expected that the posters would help. Then again, I hadn't been on the road before so I couldn't be sure.
Last, but certainly not least, I removed a CD player. The player had been extensively reworked. I am a bit of a tinkerer you see. The four C cell batteries had been replaced by a wet cell lead acid battery that could be charged from the cigarette lighter of the van. The snap on connector had been added because I had two more charged batteries. The tiny plug in speakers had been replaced by larger speakers with their own amplifiers. I figured I could pretty much make myself or my stories heard all over that part of the festival. The player ended my equipment setup, thank God. I finally took a few minutes to look around the area.
The side street had come alive while I concentrated on setting up my show. I noted with some satisfaction that one of the vendors, on my tributary of the main street, was a food vender. Not only that he was a vender of some kind of French bakery items. At least I wouldn't starve, I thought. The very best thing about the booth was that it had coffee. I wasn't their first customer of the day, but I was damn close.
It was almost six thirty when the both next to be started to be assembled. I watched as the man and women worked diligently on it. It was obvious that they had done the assembly before and probably often. Instead of a beach umbrella they had a tent like contraption. It looked more like the tent over a grave site, since it had no sides.
"Hi there neighbor," I said to the man when he had finished the canopy."
"Hi, " He replied as he proceeded to pointedly ignore me. Screw you, I thought as I returned to my chair.
I drank coffee from my travel cup while I waited for the people to come or the space on my right to be filled. The woman, who drove up at the ten till seven, quickly unloaded a folding table, two large plastic boxes, and a chair.
"Sir, would you watch my stuff while I park my car?" the woman who asked was the owner of the afore mentioned articles.
"Sure, I would be glad to." It wasn't exactly a big deal since I couldn't go anywhere anyway. When she returned, we introduced ourselves with a handshake. I left her alone to finish her setup while I walked up the small backwater spot we occupied. When I got to the main street I realized the full extent of the show.
There must have been fifty booths on the main street with several more side streets filling up. The show looked much bigger than I had expected. There were crafts ranging from stained glass to painted saw blades. I didn't see anyone else selling books probably because no one will want them, I thought.
Sell or not it didn't make any difference to me. I was out just for the experience of being on the show circuit. I am not going to lie, I hoped that the books would do well. Truth is what the hell was I going to do with the money even if they did sell?
"So you're a writer," My neighbor on the right asked upon my return.
"I'm afraid I have to duck that by asking what your definition of a writer is?"
"Okay have you sold a book?" She was grinning as she asked.
I smiled sadly at her when I asked, "Sold to who? I have sold copies on Ebay, but none to a mainstream publisher."
"Selling anything at all counts with me. I always wanted to write." I gave her a close look while she spoke. She was probably twenty years younger than my fifty eight. She was probably just as many pounds underweight. She was thin as death but still had a kind of figure.
"I am going to find out today if they do well or not." I said it as I moved to my chair. I noticed that the man and woman next to me listened to our exchange but they said nothing.
The people began to drift in before the show officially started. It was probably a good idea to have the cars out of the streets before seven, since there were people walking in the middle of the streets by that time. I began the loop CD at exactly 8am. I turned the volume up enough to be heard by anyone walking by. It was eight minutes of book blurbs, plus a carnival barker calling people over in between them. The voice of the blurbs and the barker was mine of course.
"You aren't going to play that thing all day are you?" The man on the left asked.
I had finally had enough of him. "Well you know friend, I asked them about the CD Player before I took the space. I expect it is why I am off on this side street one step from hell. So yes sir, I am going to play it. I am damned sorry if it bothers you, but it is going to play it as long as I am here." Of course the exchange wasn't real good for my heart but then what the hell nothing else I did was either.
"Seems to me you would give a little thought to your neighbors," He suggested.
"Gee whiz Beaver, it seems as though we are neighbors now. We weren't twenty minutes ago when I tried to have a conversation with you." I turned my attention to the girl on my right.
"So have you done many of these shows?"
"Just the local ones. This is kind of a hobby with me, one that makes me a few dollars but still just a hobby." I noticed that she sold hand made jewelry. I expected that there was a festival market for it but not much of a market anywhere else.
"So where you gonna be next?"
"Next month I will be in Clinton for the fertility festival." She almost looked embarrassed at having to repeat the name. I nodded since I had no idea where or what it might be. I turned back to my display when the woman stopped talking.
I was a little surprised that the people responded to my voice wafting down the street but they did. Several drifted over to listen a moment. Some engaged me in conversation, others drifted to my neighbors. I sold my first novel on four CDs shortly after 8am. The short stories became more popular as the morning wore on. I sold them until they were all gone. I sold a few novels before the show ended for the day.
I spoke to the jewelry maker beside me several times before the show ended. It was only natural that I ask her for a restaurant recommendation. I understood that even small towns had several diners and at least one class restaurant. I was looking for the best of the diners.
"The best place in town is LucyLou's it has really good food and it is clean. Now if you want a fancy steak you can try Rolling's Steak house."
"Lucy Lou sounds more to my pocketbook's liking."
"Yeah, that is were I go when I go out."
I had the feeling she wanted to be invited along. Probably so she could say no. Nonetheless, I decided to give it a try. "So Wendy would you like to join me for dinner. You are safe, since I am twice your age at least." I felt like the appendage was needed even though I really was harmless.
"I thought you would never ask, and you just think you are harmless. You my friend may well be the devil." She broke into laughter which made me smile broadly even as I shook my head.
The couple on the left side did not look happy anytime when we laughed and talked. It looked as though it was a case of paranoia to me. I didn't count my take until I had finished taking the display apart. Some of it I packed away for fear of weather damage and some for fear of theft. The cops couldn't hope to protect it all even though they planned to keep a large presence downtown that night.
We were in the restaurant waiting for our food when she asked, "So you gonna come to Clinton?"
"I don't think so. I have already made my schedule for the summer and Clinton doesn't sound familiar."
The food that came quickly was excellent. While we ate, Wendy told me about her marriage, her divorcee and her child. "You know I am probably the only woman in America who has a better ex than he was a husband. Willie, my husband, loves Mark and looks for any excuse to goose up his visitation time. He took Mark for the whole weekend since I am going to be home late and leave early." I wasn't sure but it sounded a lot like an invitation to me.
Since I had to sit beside her the whole next day, I was moving carefully. I smiled a lot and made a lot of statements that were pretty noncommittal. Dinner was almost over when I asked, "So if you don't have to rush off home, would you care to show an old man the ocean?"
"No," She waited just long enough for me to think I had been a fool to ask before she continued, "I would gladly show you the ocean." She grinned at me. I smiled at her with what I hoped was a rakish smile. It had been a long time since I tried to use that smile.
"You know both of our cars are full of product. Unless you really do want to see the ocean why don't you just come to my house for coffee?"
"I can see the ocean on Monday," I replied. I looked to see if she understood and she did.
"So just follow me," she said it when we were in the parking lot. Following her proved to be only slightly difficult. She drove like a crazy person for a few miles then settled down to a reasonable pace. She probably realized that I wasn't going to get lost after all, so she slowed
The house where she lived tuned out to be a nice clean mobile home. I figured it was at least a step up from the back of the mini van, but then I might still be misreading her. I used the cane to steady myself as I climbed the free standing concrete steps with no handrail. Once inside the tin can I found furniture much better than that which came with the firetraps.
"Why don't you take a seat while I fix the coffee." It was an invitation not a question and I knew it. Instead of answering I dropped to the comfortable sofa. Wendy slipped off into the kitchen first. I presume she started the coffee pot before she walked past me with a smile.
"Make yourself at home, I need to get into something more comfortable," She replied to my unasked question. Now when a woman says that, it could anything from a sweat shirt to a spider web. I sat waiting to see what her idea of comfortable might be.
I was almost asleep when she returned from whatever women do while the coffee brews. I had in fact nodded off since I hadn't really had a full nights sleep in several days. It was due some to the drive and some to the need to make last minute preparations and all to the excitement of the journey.