RIP VAN REVOLUTIONARY
It was a cold blistering winter day – near enough to spring but not there yet – hard on us poor writers. I opened the lock to my 1 room efficiency apartment, shook off the chill and unpacked the groceries. The last bag held a cardboard box , 12- pack of diet coke. I emptied the cans into the refrigerator and then noticed something left inside the carton – a small booklet. “What’s this?” I read, ‘A special excerpt from ___ ___ by ___ ___ published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons ” on the cover of the booklet, and “Free Inside! An Exciting Excerpt From ___ ___’s ___ ___. Collect All Six Book Excerpts ___,___,___,___,___,___.” on the cover of the carton.
“Corporate trash writing! Even in my diet sodas! And I starve! Arhhhhhhhhh….”
I fainted, dropping to the floor, hitting my head a glancing blow on the open refrigerator door. Down, down, down into utter unconsciousness…
I wake up. The refrigerator light has burned out. It’s filled with jars of dust I have a ten year beard on my face and breath to match. I look at my computer for the time. It’s blinking ‘January 1, 1900…’
I think to myself ‘I’ll go to my just-around-the-corner favorite Mom & Pop used bookstore – good friends, warm fire, smart book-lovers. They’ll help me make sense of all this.
But on approach I notice that the little bookstore is gone and replaced by a super-market looking “Mega-Books” store.
I walk through the security check columns and approach the man at the counter. He’s about 19. His name tag reads, “My name is Baree. I’m your megabooks manager. Our motto is ‘The Write Stuff’.
“Can you tell me what day it is?”
“Day to fill out our frequent readers discount card application. But first let’s make the tour of our megasaurus store. Anything you’d like to see?”
“Well…uh…now that you mention it I lovvvvvve books and especially literature. I used to come here for all the great masterpieces. I bet a store this big has every classic ever written! You see I’ve seemed to be away (or fallen down a rabbit hole, or been stranded on some deserted isle or been playing 9 pins with mountain folk) so I’m a visitor here.”
“We have books in Spanish. Si!”
“No, I’m not Spanish….well let’s continue.”
“Over here is where the lit used to clutter the aisles. Look, now we have a Starbucks – clean and shiny – shiny”
“I see what seems to be another in store cafe next to it. What’s that?”
“A Starbucks Jr. We cater to kids!”
“Speaking of kids, where’s the children’s classics?”
“Back here. We have ALL the greats.”
“‘Sleeping Beauty’ ? “Cinderella”? “Peter Pan”?
“You bet – every single one of those in our Disney movie tie-in sections. While I’m walking you back, let me point out our main sections. (step step) Here’s the “History Section”. It has the full ‘Ted Turner Presents’ line by CNN. (step step) a full ‘Psychology ‘ section. Look here’s that all time classic of bringing up babies:”
“No. Michael Eisner Presents: Child Rearing for kids with big black ears. (step step) . Here’s ‘Mysteries’ Everybody loves mysteries and our section is the best in town. It has the ENTIRE ‘Murder She Wrote’ and ‘Diagnosis Murder’ lines. Every book in each series. Can you believe it?”
“Any ‘Colombo’? Ha! Ha!”
“Ethnic books are no joke sir. We have bookshelf after bookshelf of women, Black, Hispanic, and Asian studies in our “Velveeta Series” in the back of the bus, so to speak. Way back in that corner. See where all the dust is?
“Oh look this is your lucky day. We have an author signing and today is the FIRST day of the ‘Unasig 2000’ computer signer. Watch how quickly the line moves.”
A line of people clutching the hardback version of the authors book (Yellow Poet?) advance to the machine and one at a time open up their copies to the title page, place it face down on the glass, type in their name plus any sentiment – ‘to Elsie with love’ . Then the author pushes a black button and …
“Viola! The book is signed! Isn’t that just … so… cost worthy? (And don’t tell anyone but we can punch the button after he leaves too).”
“And here is our magazine rack, our pride and joy when it comes to selection. Look at all these choices! Five aisles worth! The other bookstores ( Eurasia and Eastasia), can only salivate when they hear about our full line (just like that Russian Dancer’s dog).”
“We have…drum roll please… the full WB line: there’s ‘Time’, ‘People’,’The Time-People Daily’, ‘Time Life’ for the older readers, ‘Time Sassy’ for the teens – even ‘People Pooh Jr.” for the rugrats. And that’s just the start. Look at all the other choices. And the shelves are so shiny too!”
“I don’t know what to say.”
“Everyone that walks in our store automatically joins our ‘BMG Book Club’ , ( world’s only one left). It’s the German publisher’s book club with the motto: “You WILL Join!”
“Well sir, that’s about it for the tour.”
“What about ‘zines ? You know, zeeeeeenes.”
“That’s a 4 letter word sir!” Four letter plural I might add! Shame on you! but …. ( now he whispers in a french-postcards-under-a-sooty-raincoat voice): I can see by your dress you’re a man who likes the unusual. May I suggest our most outre section, (his voice drops even lower) for only our most adult, open minded readers – those who are very much into experimenting with the extreme edge of things. Heh? Heh?”
“Over here… behind this heavy red velvet curtain, and under these brown paper wrappers are the… (he stops talking and looks furtively to both the left and to the right) “Writers-who-haven’t-been-on-Oprah-yet” line of novels. Go ahead – feed your fantasy!”
And I did. I hit him in the head with a bowling pin – Zen – instant enlightenment – whoosh!!!
I woke up- back in my bed. 1999? Had the dream spirits done it all in 1 night?
I ran to the window and opened it. A youngster was walking by. I yelled:
“What year is it?”
“Why 1999 sir.”
“Do you know the bookseller in the next street but one, at the corner?”
“I should hope I did.”
“A well read boy,” said I. “Do you know if they’ve sold the prize edition of “Orlando Furiosa” by Ariosto?”
“The one as big as me?” returned the boy.