Tell me again: why is it I love the ABA?
Carol, my partner, thinks the ABA sucks out loud, and of course she's right. If you're a bookseller you're having a wonderful time wandering the aisles, gazing at the new season's splendid goodies, catching sight of Stephen King or the Pillsbury Doughboy or Ed Meese or Barry Manilow, being treated like royalty by the publishers who want your business. But for those of us actually working the booths, it's a lot more standing than walking, and the smiles get to feeling forced by eleven in the morning and there's still at least twelve more hours of smiling before the day ends and you get to sleep a few hours to prepare for the next morning's hangover and hard work.
Yet I love it.
So there we were, Carol and I, Friday afternoon before the show opened, setting up our booth. We had driven over from Santa Barbara that morning in a rented Ford station wagon, and by the time we got to the outskirts of Vegas, where a new casino was being hoisted, a version of Camelot built out of Lego Blocks, we were already hot and tired and cranky. Then for about three hours we'd been rolling our hand truck back and forth between the car and our booth at the Convention Center, then slaving under the fluorescent lights, which were turned up to nine. A boom box blared rock from our neighbors in the next booth, who were frantically fashioning a life-sized model of the Arc de Triomphe out of papier mâché. The music, if that's what it was, was intermittently interrupted by the whir and beeps of teamsters' trolleys and forklifts. Our tee shirts were sweaty and we'd gone through the six-pack. It's this way every year, the backbreaking backstage setup. But we were almost finished, and our booth looked great. I was catching a second high as we hoisted our display panels. Carol spread our tablecloths over the rented tables, then arranged flowers and stacks of booksgiveaways of backlist overstock and display copies of our forthcoming fall listwhile I started to hang the posters.
"Not again," Carol said. "She doesn't get the center panel this year, Guy. It's been ten years since you published that book. Give it a rest. Give me a rest. I'm tired of looking at that woman."
"We still have a lot of copies to sell," I reminded her. "And that book's our main freebie for the show. Besides, Heidi Yamada's a big star this year. Again."
"Bullshit. She's a has-been."
"That's right," I conceded. "And now she's making a comeback. At least she has been somebody."
"She has been a lot of things," Carol said. "She has been your plaything, for one, and all the world knows it, and you like to rub my nose in it."
I stepped back and surveyed the display. There she was, on a blown-up cover of And Vice Versa, bigger than life and still beautiful.
"But that was my first book," I said. "She put Guy Mallon Books on the map."
"She put Guy Mallon on the mat." She gave me a grumpy scowl and gave the finger to the poster.
"I can't believe you're jealous. Of Heidi? Come on."
Carol finally cracked up, bent over laughing. I knew she couldn't keep up the jealous act with a straight face. She kissed my forehead. "I'm glad she gave you a good time, baby," she said. "She's screwed half the publishing industry, so there's no reason you shouldn't have had a turn."
"So can I keep the poster?"
"If you don't want that poster, I'll take it," said a voice from behind me, out in the aisle. I knew that voice. That whine.
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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