So, it’s a chilly Tuesday night in Seattle, and Ernesto, his girlfriend Lae-Lae, and I are racing on foot down Broadway to a Bob Mould concert. We don’t want to miss a second of the show, but dinner took longer than expected, we’re tipsy, and Ernesto’s sense of direction is such that we’re always in danger of getting lost, even though he’s lived in Seattle for two years. I’m not slowing down to notice what I normally notice—pretty girls, reflected light on puddles, whimsical architecture, people with interesting hair—and it’s only when Ernesto yells “Stop!” that I slow down.
There it is: a white, dry-erase board with this quote written on it:
“It’s a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful.”
Three days earlier, driving into town from the airport, Ernesto had explained: “Everyday, Bailey/Coy Books writes out the first line of a book on a board outside the store. If you go in and give the right answer to the clerk, you get a discount on whatever you buy.”
“Uh huh,” I answered. It was a cool idea, but I was marveling at the city’s skyline and how it emerges from the trees and mountainous terrain. Besides, there are millions upon millions of books in this world; what are the chances that anyone ever wins this contest? I brushed the comment aside like dandruff, and wondered openly instead how one city could support so many coffeeshops.
But here we are, zooming by Bailey/Coy Books, already running late, and I was going to slow us down even more. I had to, damnit.
I’m not sure I slowed down until I hit the front desk of the store. And there was one of the gorgeous women I hadn’t been paying attention to as I was running at breakneck speed—tall, brunette, with dark brown eyes and a sneaky, inquisitive face, as if she was amused and delighted by something on your shirt, but she wasn’t going to tell you what it was. Her hands fluttered, but with purpose.
“Is today’s quote the first line from Matilda by Roald Dahl?” I blurt. I phrase this as a question only because I’m smitten by the woman and because I’m winded. There’s no question in my mind about the source of the quote.
She grins. “Well, let’s see what they put up this morning,” she says, but I think she already knows. She peeks at a folded bit of paper on the corkboard behind her. “Indeed, it is,” she says.
I’m already midway to the poetry section. I’d been waiting for an excuse to pick up Gary Snyder’s new poetry collection, Danger on Peaks. The store’s so great that it has multiple copies. I slap a paperback copy on the desk, unaccountably pleased with myself.
“I like a man who knows exactly what he wants,” she says. “Sometimes, but only occasionally” I say, “my life works out like that.” She giggles more than necessary at my lame joke, and I realize that we’re quietly flirting. Look at that! A gorgeous woman is flirting with me. It’s been a while, and I’m not sure which is today’s best little triumph: a surprising vindication of the useless trivia in my head, or a wide, graceful smile for a pretty girl directed at me.
Half of me wishes I didn’t have to rush off to the Bob Mould concert, but so it goes.
*With apologies to Keith Knight.