Sue Cross

Sue Cross

The Event

I wake up with a start.  Today’s the day and I feel the suspicion of a sore throat coming on, reminding me of school days when an exam would herald an imaginary malady.

Deciding that it would be fine after all the invitations that had been left around the area, I face the day with a stout heart.  However, I waver as I imagine the worst.  What if no one turns up? Then what? It could happen. According to the great Marian Keyes no one turned up to one of her events.  Get a grip. If no one turns up, so what – at least you’ve had a go.  

By the time I get back from San Pedro, after a radio interview, I’m on a high and hurry to get ready for the next event.  There’s only time for a swift change of clothes and a touch up of lipstick.

Ever the optimist, I take two boxes of books out to the car.

“Be realistic, you may only sell a few books you know.”

Why is my husband such a killjoy? Or maybe he’s a realist and I’m lost in literary cuckoo land.

When we get there, John the café owner, has arranged a table near to the kitchen so that the smell of cooking wafts over to the display that I eagerly set up in anticipation of the huge crowds that will soon be forming.  How kind of him to ask me to hold an event in his café and how generous to bestow the guests with wine and canapés, although he has naturally put a limit on the wine that he is to donate.  All in exchange for publicity for his business, of course.

Having worked in the cosmetic industry in the far off past and being an expert in setting up displays at trade exhibitions, all this seems a trifle, well - hick.  Instead of taking five hours to fix the stand, all is completed in less than five minutes.  I stand and look at my books and wonder what the heck I’m doing putting on an event in a café that is mainly frequented by tourists.

I glance at my watch – only five minutes to go and the only visitors are a few friends who already have the book.  After the obligatory kisses on both cheeks, they tuck into the wine and canapés whilst chatting amongst themselves.

It’s time to use up a little adrenaline and so I venture out onto the patio where a couple are just finishing their coffee.

“May I interest you in a book signing?” I ask in a non-intrusive sort of way.

The woman takes a deep drag of her cigarette and rasps through half closed eyes, “Don’t like books.”

I hope that this is not a bad omen but smile brightly before butting into the huddle that my friends have formed.  Here I feel safe.

“I’ve got some drinks vouchers here.  Would you mind handing one out to each visitor as they arrive?”  I ask Don who has offered to greet the throng at the door.

He takes the vouchers from me and puts them with a dismissive air onto the table next to the wine.  This is not quite how I had planned my first professional book signing.

“Chuck the vouchers.”

I glance over to the café owner who is balancing two plates of steak and chips that he serves with aplomb to his two customers in the eating area.

By now I wish that I were at home watching television.

John returns, looking florid from the heat of the kitchen. “Chuck the vouchers, it’ll make you look tight.”

I chuck the vouchers, not wanting to look tight. My first customer, who looks vaguely familiar, arrives looking dapper in a pink sweater and bearing my book.

“Would you mind signing this – I bought it a few weeks ago?”  He grabs a glass of wine and stuffs some canapés into his mouth.

“Haven’t I already signed it?”

He laughs, “Oh, so you did.  Must have forgotten.”  And with that he grabs another glass of wine before sitting comfortably outside to enjoy his complimentary refreshments.

And so the evening progresses as more friends who have already bought the book arrive for the event.

At last, a stranger approaches and my heart soars.  He avoids the snacks and heads straight to the book table.  I can’t believe it when he says, “I’d like to buy your book.”

“It’s a women’s book.”  It would be unfair not to tell him.  Maybe he wants to buy it for his wife.

“Yes.”  He nods with enthusiasm.

“How would you like me to sign it?”

“To me.  Tom.” 

As I sign his book with a flourish and relief, I feel it would be good to give him a thank you kiss but I’m not that desperate – yet.

A party atmosphere has now developed as more friends gather to enjoy the refreshments.  Some even come over to the book table to say hello.

“By the way, it’s my birthday tomorrow.”  A friend whom I haven’t seen in a while looks at me with expectant eyes.

I grapple with my conscience.  Should I give her a free book as a little gift?  I resist and feel mean.

Although I had promised myself no alcohol, I think that a glass of white wine might be a good idea as tiredness has now replaced zeal.  After a couple of sips, a dishevelled lady staggers in and demands a drink from the barman.

He refuses.

She spots me sipping my wine and takes a lunge, ”You gotta drink,” she slurs.

I laugh nervously and hide my glass under the table.

At that moment a well-dressed couple of prospective customers stroll up to the table and the drunken one decides to join in.  She has found the complimentary red wine and splashes a little as she sways.

I quickly remove the books from the table and put them in a box.  Someone is taking photos and I smile stiffly into the camera.

“What’s shish?”  The drunken one burps and takes a slug of wine.

I retain the smile and try to explain as she offers me a sixties peace sign, at least I think it’s a peace sign.  With dismay I watch the well-dressed, well-read looking types back away as if suddenly in contact with typhoid.

The drunken one has now become abusive, is swearing loudly and ordering another drink.

“This is a private party.” John is assertive as he and his chef carry the poor soul out.

She resists and with much ripe language is thrown out onto the pavement.  I sip my wine, feeling weak at the knees.  So, this is the world of book signing. Never mind, it will soon be over, I reason as I nibble the last of the peanuts.

It was not quite what I had hoped for but the visitors had a blast. 

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