"She's pretty pissed off at Heidi?" Carol asked.
"Wouldn't you be? This was supposed to be big time. He'll be there," Lawrence added, putting his pudgy finger on an advance reading copy of our new Arthur Summers collection, which will be published in September. "Professor Poet Laureate. He'll be handing Heidi the award. I want to see that! Please, Guy, isn't there somebody you could ask?"
Carol said, "Lawrence, we're not scalpers, we're publishers. And right now we don't have time to walk the aisles shmoozing and begging for tickets."
"But your booth is finished, and maybe "
"And maybe it's time for us to go have a cool shower and a quick nap at our hotel. Sorry, Lawrence. Ready, Guy?"
"In a minute," I said. "Lawrence, maybe you should wander over to the Random House aisle, over in the three thousands. Maybe you'll fi nd Charles Levin. He probably has plenty of party invites to give out. You should hit him up for the Linda Sonora party tomorrow night. Those invitations are going fast." Lawrence nodded quickly, smiled quickly, and scurried away like an overdue white rabbit.
"What was all that about?" Carol asked me. "Levin won't be helping with the setup."
"I know. I wanted to get rid of Holgerson before we left the booth. I don't trust him."
"Come to think of it," Carol said, "I put out five advance copies of the new Summers book. Now there's only four."
We were staying in the Landmark Hotel, right across the street
from the Convention Center. The good news was we didn't have
to drive to the show and pay for parking. More good news was
that the Landmark was cheap, forty bucks a night, which was
because of the bad news: the Landmark was a dump. It looked
like a mushroom from Mars from the outside; from the inside,
It had seen better days, even great days on the Las Vegas scale. Built by Howard Hughes back in the sixties, it was once the tallest building in town. Hughes lived like an eagle at the top, and nobody ever saw him leave; but his money was like a magnet that brought in the high-rollers and celebrities. After Hughes died the place was sold a couple of times and now nobody would buy it. It was bankrupt and there were rumors that it would be leveled by dynamite later in the summer. It had managed to stay open long enough to be in business during the ABA, but that was it. Half the staff had been let go, the rest of the staff was surly, the halls were dingy, the carpets were threadbare, the casino downstairs was oddly quiet, and our room reminded me of the Schooner Inn in Santa Barbara, which I remembered with nostalgia but not with admiration.
Who cares? It was cheap, and it was close. And it was air-conditioned, which was a blessing after the short hike across Paradise Road. Besides, the only reason we needed a hotel room was to crash when we were too exhausted to notice the peeling wallpaper or the rust stain in the sink.
We walked through the muted casino to the bank of elevators and pressed UP. We could hear the machinery grinding for a couple of minutes and then the door opened and we walked into the elevator and I hit the button for the twelfth floor. As the door slid closed, we heard a voice call, "Stop!"
I put my hand on the rubber just before the door closed, and it backed open again and another passenger got in with us. She was a young woman, a short redhead, pretty if a bit pudgy, sweaty and blown by the desert wind, wearing jeans and an I Love New York tee shirt, and she had four camera bags hanging from her shoulders.
"God," she said, with a toothy smile. "Whew. This is one hot town, I'll tell ya. Where are you staying? Oh, right, the Landmark. Yeah, me too. Some place, huh? What's wrong with this elevator? How come it's not working?"
From The Poet's Funeral by James M Daniel. Copyright © 2005 by James M. Daniel. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in, or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, or by any means without the prior written permission of both the copy right owner and the publisher of this book.
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