September 11, 2012

KES, 42




“—I should write it down or I’ll forget,” said Serena.  She pulled a small sketchbook from the pile on the end of the table and opened it.  There was something that looked rather like one of Edward Gorey’s unknown-to-biological-science creatures on the first page.  “And . . . Albertine—?”

            “Aldetruda,” I said.  “Her most recent is BLOOD WHITE MOON.  Not that I wish to take business away from a live bookstore with a door and shelves and human fingerprints on the stock and everything, but if you wait a few weeks I can give you copies of anything you like.  I’ve got most of my backlist in a friend’s storage space, back in the city.  I promised to reclaim it as soon as I had a place to put it.  Not having realised I’m going to need it to build furniture out of.  Fifteen book boxes and a tablecloth and I’ve got a sofa.”

            “I don’t wish to diminish the possibilities of furniture-building,” said Serena.  “And Bookfolly should be encouraged to respond to the needs of its community.”

            “Okay,” I said.  “On your wallet be it.  I’ll warn you about the cover art later.  Or maybe I’ll just let it be an education in the ways of genre, and a dreadful awakening to the fact that there may be worse things than Schnauzers in dresses.  And Gus, let me know the minute your mom’s web site goes live,” I added.  “I plan to be one of your first paying customers.”  

            “That shouldn’t be hard,” said Serena, “supposing that I agree to this, which I haven’t yet.”

            “We’re learning about market economy in Mr Friedman’s class,” said Gus.  “This house is way full of supply and we’ve just demonstrated a demand.  I’ll get Jin over here tomorrow.  We might have a basic working model up by Monday.”

            “It needs a name,” I said.  “The web site.  Since my names run to—well—you’ve heard examples of what they run to, I disqualify myself for this discussion.  Except to draw your attention to the fact that you should have it.”

            “Wicked awesome mom art,” said Gus, grinning.  “With boa constrictors.”

            “There’s only one boa constrictor and he’s not for sale,” said Serena.  “I learned everything I know about knitting in the eighteen months it took me to make him, as you will immediately see if you examine him.  A lot of his more exotic markings are a virtue of necessity.  And may I please remind you, preferably without raising my voice in an unattractive manner, that I still haven’t agreed to this?

            “You just stipulated an item that is not for sale,” I said.  “That clearly implies there are other items that are for sale.”

            “Of course there are other items for sale!” said Serena.  “If I had a real live three-dimensional gallery with—with a door and shelves and human fingerprints on the stock, I’d finish a lot more and lots and lots of it would be for sale!”

            “I think she’s raising her voice,” I said to Gus.  “Does this count as raising her voice?”

            “Pretty much,” Gus said judiciously.  “Although she can get a lot louder.”

            “Exceptions are made for mothers who come home to flames shooting out the living-room window because someone had set a hot pan of just-made popcorn on the sofa and then wandered away.  At which point, after beating out the flames, I bought a plug-in air popper, which I had to ask for at Moriarty’s Department Store in a small hoarse voice.” 

            “That was years ago,” said Gus.  “I don’t do stuff like that any more.”

            I’d had enough experience with Norah and her kids to know to insert hastily:  “What happened to the sofa?”

            Serena, eyeing her son with disfavor, said, “Oh, it’s still there.  I patched the worst of the burns, turned the cushions over, and bought a throw.”

            “Maybe Rhys can come over too,” said Gus, unconcerned.  “Then we could have something really awesome by Monday.”

            Serena put her head in her hands.  “Why did I think it was a good idea to invite a poor lost lonely new person in town to dinner?  It seemed like a kindly, welcoming act.  I am punished for my hubris.”

            “I’m sorry,” I said, genuinely feeling rather guilty.  “The gremlin made me do it.  Er—do you want to take me back to the motel?”

            Serena turned the same dour look on me she had been using on her son.  “Do you mean is this the moment when I turn you out the door and tell you to find your own way, and then tomorrow report you missing?  No.  You are required to stay long enough to eat some pear and ginger crumble and tell me, with some semblance of enthusiasm, how good it is.  The convincingness of your enthusiasm will determine whether I take you all the way back to the Friendly Campfire or if I stop at the edge of town and let you walk the final half mile.  I should perhaps add that there are sidewalks for only the last three blocks.” 



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