Everything Is Fair
I have many favorite writers. Most of them are dead, but some are still here. Each time my favorite author publishes a new book it’s like a holiday. When I learned that Julia Peters was coming to sign her new novel in a book shop just an hour drive from my neck of the woods, I was on cloud nine. But not for long. Something was wrong with the date: June, 15th — my brother’s wedding. No way could I be at both events on the same day.
I smashed from my happy cloud back into reality — no book signing for me. Other lucky readers would get their books autographed while I participated in the wedding proceedings. Don’t get me wrong — I love my brother, but why did he have to marry on June, 15th? Murphy’s law, as usual.
I met Greg for lunch and told him about my book signing disappointment.
“No problem,” he said, “you’ll get your signed book. Leave this to me.”
“How? You’re going to be at the wedding with me.”
“Sure, just wait and see.”
Greg and I were in college together. Back then we never exchanged anything more exciting than “Hi!” or “Good morning”, but three months ago Greg spotted me on a movie swap page on Facebook (a place where you can trade a copy of an obscure movie with Clark Gable for an equally obscure movie with Walter Matthau or anybody else you can’t live without). We discovered that not only did we share a passion for forgotten movies, but we also worked just one block apart. Our reunion was inevitable. Soon we were spending our lunch time together as well as most of the evenings and, of course, weekends.
My brother’s wedding took place on June, 15th, as planned. I was too preoccupied to dwell on my book signing misfortune. A week later I almost forgot about it — the wound had healed.
A parcel awaited me when I returned from work. I read the sender’s name: Julia Peters. I tore open the envelope and extracted the book – it was her last novel. My heart beat resembled the sound pattern of Fred Astaire’s step dancing as I opened the cover and read a handwritten note on the front page:
Please accept this book as a sign of my admiration for your strength and courage.
I’m proud to be your favorite writer.
A book signed by Julia Peters, for me. Wait, I could be dreaming. No, it was real — I smelled the book and reveled in an inebriating aroma of freshly printed pages (a moment of bookworm’s ecstasy). This dream come true had to be Greg’s doing. But how?
I reread the front page again. Not something I would expect to find in an autograph. “Admiration for your strength and courage” — what was that supposed to mean? Julia Peters was proud to be my favorite writer — a bit over the top. I’m not exactly a celebrity that one would be proud to have as a reader. I entered into an endless loop of rereading Julia Peters’ dedication. Definitely, there was something fishy about it.
Greg arrived at the scene.
“Surprise!” he shouted spotting the book in my hands. “Are you happy?”
“Shocked. How did you do it?”
“I’ve got my methods.”
“What methods? How come she admires my strength and courage? And why is she so proud to be my favorite writer?”
I showed him the front page. Greg whispered something; I suspected it was “women” but I couldn’t be sure. He’s got methods. I’ve got a guess.
“Did you write to her?” I asked.
“If you really wanna know,” Greg said, “it was something along these lines: ‘Dear Julia, you are my favorite author, I can’t live without your books, and they’re the only joy in my life’. The rhetoric has to be convincing. You don’t expect her to send signed books without a good reason.”
“No, I don’t. What else did you add to your rhetoric — that I’m terminally ill or what?”
“Not terminally. You’re struggling with cancer, a long struggle. There’s still hope.”
The book suddenly felt like a slimy snake in my hands and slipped to the floor. Greg picked it up.
“Take it away,” I said.
“Your methods – they’re disgusting.”
“Come on,” Greg said, “everything is fair in love and war. I promised to get this book for you and here it is. Enjoy.”
“Not everything is fair. Auschwitz wasn’t fair. Hiroshima wasn’t fair. That’s war. And love — using my name to tell lies is not fair. It’s a shame. My shame.”
“A shame, big deal. As if she would send you the book otherwise.”
Greg tried to thrust the book into my hands, but I jumped away.
“How could you invent this nasty scheme?”
“I didn’t. I’ve got it from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, one of your dead favorites.” Greg put the cursed book on the table and landed into an armchair. “Have you ever read his memoir, ‘Memories and Adventures’?”
I was silent.
“Now, that’s a real shame. It’s all there. Doyle received a heart breaking letter from Poland. A woman wrote that she was an invalid, paralyzed, and that adventures of Sherlock Holmes were her only joy. Naturally, he sent her a signed set of his books. Soon afterwards Doyle showed this touching letter to a fellow writer. The writer produced an identical letter, with one tiny difference — the name of the only joy in this woman’s life. How cool is that? I gave a signed Stephen King to my dad for Father’s Day. He was thrilled!”
Greg smiled, victorious. I imagined what he wrote about his dad to get this thrilling present and felt sick. Too bad, Greg. We are not twin souls after all.
Irena Pasvinter divides her time between software engineering, endless family duties and writing poetry and fiction. Her stories and poems have appeared in online magazines (Every Day Poets, Every Day Fiction, Madswirl, Camroc Press, Fiction365, Long Story Short and others) and in Poetry Quarterly. Irena brags about her publications at https://sites.google.com/site/ipscribblings.