I read about it in the paper, Elmore Leonard would be signing his books today, in a shop, in town, 12:30 till.
I was in the bathtub when I read it, thought James Ellroy first, always did, always confused the two before I got it right. I had a book of short stories by Elmore. That was all, he wasn’t Ellroy he was Elmore, I pondered as I played with foam bubbles and tried to keep the paper from drowning.
Elmore, 12:30, the signing was close to where I worked. I could make it there and back during my lunch hour with some time to spare for a sandwich. The idea was formed. I left work 50 minutes after I got there to get my book signed and maybe buy another while I was there.
I took some of my short stories to give to the man in return. An exchange of goods and appreciation. I would take them out of the bag as I was to retrieve his book and casually push them over.
He would look up, raise an eyebrow in a questioning manner and I would nod at him as if to say, ‘It’s ok, these are for you, you can keep them and read them and perhaps if you find time, you can get back to me with some words of encouragement and we can be friends.’ Something like that anyhow.
Then I stood in the queue that stretched to the nearest corner outside the shop. The sun shone down, it was a bright warm day, one of the first that year, the queue was slow to move. It took twenty minutes till I saw the man, sat behind a desk, spare pens to his left, a pile of his books between me and him and two people ahead. I browsed the titles on the table, none meant anything so I picked up the latest, somehow thinking that it was good to read either the early works or the late works then compare, and as a writer myself I would look at how things were done, then and now.
One man in front of me now.
I ruffled through my bag, to retrieve the book I had brought to avoid any queue, it had been a needless exercise.
My short stories were in the same bag, just that I couldn’t bring myself to take them out. Least of all put them on the table in front of the man, nodding. My palms got sweaty and my mouth went dry when it was down to me to move up, I put the two books down and he said something I couldn’t make out. He was 81 then, and I couldn’t hear.
My knees trembled.
I told him my name.
C U S he asked. I didn’t understand, then it dawned on me that he spelled it out and I nodded. ‘All the best’ and ‘Take it easy’ he wrote. ‘For Marcus’ he wrote above, and underneath he signed his name.
I said thank you, took the books and moved on, my nerves calmed, I relaxed, somewhat excited.
Later that day I wondered why it had been me who’s nerves gave in when I stood in front of him, clearly it was down to him to be nervous.
Later still, I regretted that I hadn’t been bold enough to push my stories across the table, nodding.
We could have been friends.
In the end I had to fly out by myself.
It seemed that nothing could be easier than booking a flight and heading out. Only that her passport was no longer valid, so had to be renewed, and that took time. Sadly a little longer than anticipated and that was the reason why I was sat next to a stranger on a plane now, wondering why I was always doing things that we were meant to do together, by myself.
That morning a kid slipped into the canal by my house.
I was lucky enough to see the incident.
He held his mums hand as he slipped, being to close to the edge. A man who passed by pulled him out and his mum pulled some algae from his pants and threw it back.
The man walked on.
Mother and son turned and walked back to where they had come from.
It was 9 am.
Wanted me to write about her.
‘Like what,’ I said, ‘I don’t even know you. Give me something and I’ll try.’
She looked into my eyes then. Took my hand and put it on her thigh, under the thin fabric of skirt. I felt, I squeezed, I caressed. She moved my hand away. Looked into my eyes again.
‘Now you got something to write about,’ she said.
At the bar.
‘You know,’ he said after a while, ‘ we could have sat in the middle of nowhere, somewhere like a desert together, and apart from the heat, you and me would have had a decent time there,.’
‘You think,’ she said?
‘Definitely,’ he said, took another swig of beer and burped.
I saw her again, she gave me smiles and goose pimples.
She came from Rome, couldn’t cook and wanted four children by another man.