Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Chapter 14

"I don't know, these covers and from what I've read in these books, they're kind of well, controversial, if you will."
I look around her bookstore. The place could have potential, if she wasn't such an uptight piece of shit. Her whole demeanor was laughable. She smelled like cigarettes, and she had this near British annunciation to her words. It wasn't her resistance that got to me, though. If you have a piece of work that pleases everyone, the work is not remarkable. If it pleases no one, it's not clear enough or refined or it's just plain bad. If it pleases most people who are intelligent to reasonably intelligent to at least human, then you probably have something pretty damn good. I can't complain about her not buying the books, because everything in life comes down to numbers and balance. But there was something extra about her that got to me.
"My bookstore, it caters to a different crowd, if you will. I just don't see work this graphic selling here."
"What about Henry Miller? Surely you stock him here."
"Have a good one."
I walked out to the van and looked over to the entrance. It was hot outside, humid and grey.
I should have just stayed back at the house and written today, or read or watched TV or anything. Lots of bad shit on my mind. I haven't felt like this in a while. Sometimes the road glazes over your reality. I have to sell these books, I have to keep heading onward. I think back to Hamsun's Hunger, when a cop stops him and insults him, and the character stops himself from going after the cop by reminding himself over and over, "He doesn't know any better."
I go back to the house and watch a movie with my family. In bed I watch the ceiling and think about my life from age 17 forward.

I set up my fold-out table and some books at the Riverfront Market. Twenty bucks gets you a booth. It's hot outside, and everyone has umbrellas and signage, shade for the people walking the market to stand under while they look at their wares. I set up a pathetic display, along with the dirty fold-out lawn chair from the back yard. An hour passes and the other vendors are looking at me like I'm insane. Maybe they're right, or maybe I just haven't figured out a formula for success with being an independent writer and publisher. Or maybe I'm just being a giant pussy. I fold the chair up and stand, and start talking to people as they walk past me. I say shit like,
"You like to read?" or "Are you a reader?"
Here and there, people walk over and check out the books, they flip through, read a few lines and buy. An hour and a half later, I have a few books sold. Not a ton of them, but at least I made some sales. I pack up after noon and go back to the house. There's a market in Bloomington the next morning at 7 am, and it goes for 9 hours. I call the lady and set up the space. It's 75 dollars for an outside spot but I don't care. Only problem is that it's my niece's 35th birthday party tonight. I'm not a big drinker, never have been, but tonight I will probably have a few. I have to be awake at 5 am to get showered and feed the dogs, load the van and get fuel, coffee, and be Bloomington, 3o miles east, by 6:30 to sign in. Piece of fucking cake.

I hadn't seen my cousin Brad since the summer of 1993. He's six foot five now, a father, and sells gas stations for a living, and does really well for himself and his family. We start off at The Eagle's Club, where there's karaoke and Miller Lite flowing mercilessly, so Brad buys me Jack and Cokes and we drink and kind of trip out on each other. My brother Bob is there, in all his white, crisply feathered hair glory, and the bar is lined with small buckets of miniature bottles of beer, which we drink from en masse, between the whiskey and soda. We wind up at a bar called The Dormitory, where I am now liquid. I am angry at myself because tomorrow will suck ass, hungover in the sun for 10 hours. But I have to do it. It could be a thousand dollar weekend. But the important part is that I'm here for her 35th, that I'm buzzed with family and that right now what really matters is the night at hand, which has now bled into 2 am, then 4 am at the house, then 5 am, where I turn off the alarm and shower, feed the dogs and sit in the van while it starts up.

Back in bed 20 minutes later, I stare at the ceiling again in bitter hatred for myself. Never again. Never again before I have to work. I had put the van in drive and then back in park and then pulled the keys. I'm still drunk. I'm already sweating and feeling sick. The sky is overcast but already hot. I can't in good conscience drive like this, and I can't make myself sick for a chance to sell some books. I danced with the devil, and the music hadn't stopped, so I had to get out of the van and go back inside. I had slept maybe half an hour. I admit to myself that I'm too old to pull this off today, and I walk back upstairs and lay down. Fuck it.

Andrew's friend Wally owns a boat. I've known Wally all of a week
and every night he's been raging like a fucking maniac, in between mornings of dealing with bad renters with drug and hygiene problems and living out his two week vacation from his life as an engineer. He's hard not to like, in spite of his obsession with sports. They have a friend named Brian, also known as Cowboy, for some reason. Brian is a good guy who can say a lot really fast at one time. He's animated and hyper. Aunie tells me we're going out on the boat, that it'll make me feel better for skipping the Market and sleeping until 1.

Out on the water it's beautiful. Peoria looks like a real city from there. We fuel up, head out into the river and boat south. We toss chips in the water and watch the seagulls and ducks battle. The sun is on and off. I look over the city and the industry off the river's shore.

I'm feeling better now. We're anchored in the middle of the river and I'm staring at Peoria and we're somehow drinking canned beer, or I'm somehow drinking canned beer. The rest of them are seasoned, and it made me feel lucky but also a bit green.

We pull anchor and tie off at some docks by the city. Upstairs we order pizza and joke around. It's been a good day. The food is good and we're back outside, back in the summer air, then back on the boat, where we get off track in the dark, and wind up with the propeller grinding out a muddy wake in the shallow water. It causes Andrew to lose his Captain status, and from behind the wheel Wally yells at us to get ourselves down into the cabin, to weight the front end so we don't get stuck in the mud. It's almost 10 at night and the boat curses and spits and bucks. There's a brief moment of total immobility, then the boat breaks free and we're headed back to the right part of the river, where we dock, tie off and fasten the covers.

I take the wheel of the truck and we drive back across the bridge. Sunday, 10pm. We're heading to Walmart to rent Deliverance.


  1. "We're heading to WalMart to rent Deliverance." Awsome!!

  2. So... I thought you were crazy when I saw you at the Farmer's Market early that morning in Peoria but I bought the books anyway. I can't bring myself to read the end of Kurt's book.I left off where he and Jenny bought the engagement ring. I can't wait long to find out what actually happens to Lupus and Tia Correlia.I think I have a pretty good idea though. Jeff, your book made me writhe, made me feel the work and the jobs and the women and the places. It gripped me by the throat and shook me loose only when we were finished with each other.Thanks for the ride. ~Laura

  3. Thanks, Laura. I tried to send you a letter to your blog but it says it's not viewable due to your public view settings or something. I'm glad you liked the books. And you should really finish Meat Won't Pay My Light Bill. It's a hell of a read. I smiled large at your paraphrasing/comment about March of Time and Skin. Thanks for reading and writing to me here. Means a lot to me. Only wish I could put a face to the name Laura. Were you the one with the coffee mug? Thanks again. stewartlives@hotmail.com

  4. Nope...not the one with the coffee mug..although she must have made quite an impression. I don't know what the deal is with my "settings." I'll have to look into that.
    I finished reading Meat Won't Pay My Light Bill lastnight. I just have one word for that...GENIUS.

  5. The one with the coffee mug is on the blog, in the photo, which is why I thought you were her. I left you my email at the bottom of my last post, and I think it's on the blog itself. Glad you finished Meat. Eisenlohr has a blog. He'd like to hear from you, I'm sure. He's following bookmeetsroad also. Your blog still can't be viewed... How funny is this modern age?