Chuck Thurston: Buy my book, darnit!
I was talking with my wife the other day. “Sooner or later, we have got to start thinking about a new vehicle to get up the hill to our cabin. The minivan isn’t much good on those roads and your Subaru is getting old enough to vote.”
“Well,” she said. “Maybe you can make enough money on your book to buy something.”
“That is a harsh scenario,” I said. “I know a writer who claimed that after the publisher’s cut, the bookstore fee, and the gas he burned to get to book signings, he lost money on every sale. I asked him — how do you stay in business? Can you imagine what he said?”
“I couldn’t guess,” my wife replied.
“’Volume,’ he told me. That was certainly eye-opening, but I am an optimist, as you know. As I thought about it, that ‘volume’ remark gave me a great idea. Would you like to hear it?”
“Do I have a choice?”
“Here’s what I would hope for: The more of these books I have out in the environment, the better my chances of having something wonderful happen. Because it is such an inexpensive little volume, people will be inclined not to keep a really close eye on it.
“Say a guy lays a copy down on the seat next to him in the airport gate area. His flight number suddenly gets announced. He jumps up, grabs his carryon and heads for the gate. My small, lonely volume of the Scribbles is left behind.”
“Surely you are not getting into pathos on this,” my wife said.
“Hear me out, Dearie. Passengers begin to filter into that gate area for a subsequent flight. A young woman who is secretary to a bank president takes his old seat.
“Now get this. She has just missed buying the last copy of Cosmopolitan at the newsstand after getting all worked up by a front cover blurb that promised information on ‘100 Different Positions!’ A Dubuque schoolteacher had grabbed the Cosmo, and headed to the newsstand checkout, taking it from under her outstretched fingers.”
My wife rolled her eyes.
“The secretary is desperate for an inflight read and sees the book on the seat next to her. She looks around, makes a couple of inquiries and determines that it is abandoned property. Finders Keepers!
“Enroute to Los Angeles, she discovers that these Scribbles can’t possibly measure up to the excitement she would have found in Cosmopolitan and shoves the little book in the seat pocket in front of her. There it joins candy wrappers, used napkins and a couple of mini-bottles left from the day’s flights.”
“Well, when you’re hot, you’re hot. What then?”
I was on a roll. “Then,” I said “an airline cleanup crewmember finds the book. Hmmm, he muses. Something about seniors. His old Romanian grandfather’s birthday is coming up and this looks to be in decent shape. He takes it home, giftwraps it and takes it to the old man’s house the next day.
“A few days after this, Woody Allen is in a Hollywood agent’s office. He wants a ‘distinguished older gentleman’ type to play a part in an upcoming film. It is about a May-December romance, and he has already signed Scarlett Johanssen – obviously the “May.” Now he is scouting around for the dead-of-winter role.
“An elderly janitor is emptying wastebaskets in the agent’s office. As he bends over to pick up some trash, a slim volume drops out of the back pocket of his coveralls and lands on the floor at Allen’s feet.”
“Let me guess,” my wife said. “The janitor is the old Romanian Grandfather! Surely Woody doesn’t want him to play an old lover!”
“Well, you are half right. It is the old grandfather, all right. But, get this — movie directors have great visual acuity. He spots the book and his eyes home in on the graveyard scene. A wilted flower lies atop a fresh grave. A particular cog ratchets up a notch in his brain.
“Now Woody had figured that he would have Scarlett — at the end — bid a tear-laden graveside farewell to her old lover. But this cover suggests a really bizarre twist! Suppose the May role in this movie actually checks out before the December, so at some point the old gentleman visits his young sweetheart’s grave!”
“Right there, big as life, are some wilted flowers. He didn’t put them there. Who did? Was Scarlett fooling around on him? Was he being cuckolded? His weakened heart skips a beat or two –— will he have enough time left to change his will so he can cut her relatives out of it?”
“Well, that would be Woody Allen, all right,” my wife agreed. “Are you telling me that he is rewriting his movie while he looks down at the book?”
“Woody has a quick mind. I see him bending down, picking up the book and quickly determining that the old janitor is more than happy to take a $50 dollar bill for it.
“Allen runs through the slim book on the taxi back to his studio office. Nothing in the contents lights his fire, but later, he checks out my Facebook page. Now I might not be the most distinguished older gentleman he has ever seen…’
“No understatement there,” from my beloved.”
“I’ll ignore that,” I told my wife, “ but I look passable and sufficiently decrepit, so that my anticipated final demise will have some screen cred.
“And consider this — Woody and I are about the same age, and this is the kind of role that he would have taken for himself not so long ago. It is a risky business, though. If your film flops, it is bad enough to be the director, but to be the leading man in it suggests to the critics that you can’t even direct yourself. If an egg is to be laid, better to get an unknown to do it. He figures, what harm would it do to give this Thurston fellow a screen test?
“I hate to think where this is going,” said my wife.
“Sneer if you want. A week later I am on a plane to Hollywood. My cardiologist has already warned me that shooting love scenes with Scarlett Johanssen may void my health insurance, but I am sanguine about it. Who wants to live forever?
“Now, I am not completely unrealistic. Of course, I know that Scarlett and I are never going to cohabit, or be a Hollywood item, but I also know that just this brief little collaboration will give me enough fantasies to last the rest of my life.”
“As if you need any more,” my wife remarked, and I realized I was entering dangerous territory.
“Well, you don’t have to worry. I don’t get the role. Scarlett says something to the effect that she wants ‘someone willing to die for her – not ready to die on her!’ They fly in Sean Connery from Scotland – who looks, incidentally, even a little more decrepit than I — and has even less hair. He does have much more panache though, and has apparently ignored any warnings his cardiologist might have given him. To my chagrin, Scarlett is relieved at the substitution. As I fly home, I resolve to overlook this slight and not let it dampen my fantasies.”
“So where,” said my wife, “does the big money come in here?”
“I get an expense account for my trip. Allen doesn’t pay nearly as well as some of the big producers, but years of corporate travel have taught me how to make a fair profit on this — I used to carry my own tea bags and instant oatmeal — and I get back with some jingle left over. Woody also feels obligated to compensate me for use of the cover idea — another nice piece of change , although I should share some of this with Curt, to be fair.”
“I should say,” said my wife. “It was the cover that did the work. None of your scribbles.”
“I will overlook that sarcasm, wifey, but all told, my take would be enough to get me a good used Subaru Forester and I would be able to climb the mountain — safely — to my cabin. Surely destiny wouldn’t deny me this modest reward?”
“I hate to delude you any further — you’re doing a pretty good job on your own, but I wouldn’t pin my hopes on some pipe dream like this! If that Walmart greeter job is still open, you might want to check there!”
I ignored this obvious insult to creativity, rose from my chair and strode to the windows overlooking the Brushy Mountains. I raised my head high and clasped my hands behind my back, as I gazed at this vista. I sighed deeply. I imagined this would be the pose that successful writers might take if considering plots. If I’d had a pipe I would have clenched it between my teeth to complete the effect, but I stopped smoking some years ago.
“So,” I said, “Woody’s project is less than successful. But imagine — working on the set is a cameraman who just happens to play golf once a week with — you’re going to love this — Stephen Spielberg! Now can you guess what happens next?”
I turned around, triumphantly, to confront her…but she had left the room.
I hate it that writers are reduced to such shameless self promotion, but The Kardashian Girls have set the bar so low, that it is no effort at all to hop over it.
Buy my book, darnit!
Chuck Thurston lives in Kannapolis. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and a book of his collected columns “Senior Scribbles Unearthed” is available on Amazon.com.