"Hello, Lawrence," I said, turning around. There he stood
in a self-deprecating slouch, his wispy goatee jutting forward. I shook his clammy hand. "Have you met Carol Murphy, my business manager?"
"Of course, of course," Lawrence said, with a broad smile and a bow. "A pleasure to see you, my dear."
"Likewise," Carol answered. "Guy, give me a hand with this table. It needs to go back about three inches."
"May I help?" Lawrence asked, rubbing his hands together. "I'll give you a hand, or I'll go get you a beer or whatever. Really. My pleasure. And I mean it about that poster. If you're not going to use it, I'd love it for my collection." He pulled a pack of Salems out of his shirt pocket and shook one into his mouth.
"Can't smoke in here," Carol told him.
"Those guys are smoking," he said, nodding at a couple of men pushing a loaded dolly.
"Those guys are teamsters," I said. "You're not."
Lawrence put his cigarette back into the pack and put the pack back into his pocket. "Anyway, about that poster"
"You collect posters too now?" I asked.
Lawrence shrugged. There was a mustard stain on the lapel of his rumpled linen jacket. He couldn't help being a shlemozl, but I wished he'd go away.
"You know I'm addicted to Miss Yamada," he admitted. "An ABA poster would look nice on my wall. I could pay you for it. But if you're not planning to use it anyway, well, I mean how much did it cost to have made? I could reimburse you for that, I suppose, or I could help out here in the booth." He started to take off the jacket.
"Don't strip, Lawrence," Carol said. "We don't need any help. We're almost finished. What do you say, Guy? Give the lucky man a poster?"
"After the show," I said. "Sorry, but I want that thing up. Heidi's finally getting a lot of attention again this year."
"Really?" Lawrence said. "I can have that poster after the show?"
"Yes," Carol said before I answered. "Guy and I have just struck a deal."
"How did you get into the building, Lawrence?" I asked him. "The convention's not open to the public till tomorrow morning."
"I'm not public." He pulled an exhibitor's red badge out of his pocket and showed it to me. His name all right, and the name of the company, Ongepotchket Press.
"You're working for Mitzi?" I said.
"Just during the show. I volunteered."
"For a price, I bet."
"Let's call it a swap. An energy exchange is how I like to put it."
Carol said, "I thought Mitzi decided not to display after all."
"That's right," Lawrence said. "But she'd already paid for the booth and we already had these badges, so even though the booth will be empty, we're here."
"I'm sort of sorry Mitzi isn't displaying," Carol said. "Just think of what she might do with an ABA booth. Ongepotchket indeed!"
"What does ongepotchket' mean, anyway?" I asked. "I've always wondered."
"Overdecorated," Carol said. "In a word, Mitzi."
"Anyway," Lawrence continued, "that leaves me available to help you out. By the way, are you going to the WESTAF party tonight?"
"Sure," I said.
"Ugh," Carol said.
"Any way you can get me an invitation?" Lawrence said.
"I don't have an extra," I told him. "Can't Mitzi get you in?" "She's not going," Lawrence grumbled. "She's embarrassed because the book hasn't come out. I said she still needed to be there, but she said no way. Heidi will be there of course, collecting the award even if the book didn't come out. Everyone will be there. Mitzi doesn't want to show her face. She tore the invitation up. That bitch."
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.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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