Sunday, November 20, 2011

Remaindered, Rejected And Irreconcilable part seven

Price Breaks And Heartaches

A journal of retail and failed romance

Chapter Eight

Remaindered, Rejected And Irreconcilable

part seven

Every day Tallulah grew a little colder towards me and I still didn’t understand what I was doing wrong. I wanted to call a time out but the cycle of work and college still spilled out around me.


I got home from school to find a pile of manila envelopes waiting for me. I didn’t even have to open them to know what that they were rejection slips, if they’re going to buy your work they don’t send your manuscript back. Grumbling with resignation I opened each of them and read the rejection slips contained inside.

“...too violent.” One said

“...we don’t take stories about vampires, werewolves or other horror tropes.” Said another.

“...we really enjoyed this story but it was not quite for us.” That kind bugged me the most, it was the literary equivalent of a girl telling you “I love you like a friend.”

I dutifully marked these manuscripts off on my checklist and began thinking about where to send them next. Should I send the super-violent story to a low-paying market that was looking for extreme horror? Should I send the story about vampires and werewolves to my favorite magazine The Horror Show?

“Did you sell anything?” a familiar voice asked.

“Hi Grandma.” I said.

She asked again, “Did you?”


“When are you going to stop wasting your time?” I looked up from my papers and saw she was scowling, “You’re not a writer.”

“Sure I am,” I tried to keep my voice neutral, “and when I get published I’ll be an author.”

“No one is gonna publish you. I’ve read your stories they’re crap.”

This was all I needed, a rejection slip from my grandmother. “I need to get ready for work.”

She called after me, “You think your girlfriend is going to support you? You’d be better off selling shoes!”

I was simmering with rage by the time I got into my car, there were a thousand hateful things right on the tip of my tongue but I choked them down. My family and I had spent most of the 80’s saying hateful things to each other and I wanted it to stop. I really did.

It wasn’t like I hadn’t heard this thing before, my grandmother had also worked hard to crush my mother’s dreams of being an artist and when my father had been a young man his entire family laughed him out of his ambition to be a singer. I’m sure that when my grandparents were young their elders mocked their dreams as well. It didn’t make sense to me. Was it something embedded in our genetic codes? I didn’t know.

All I knew was that in a matter of a few years Tallulah and I would be married and living lives of our own. I just needed to get us over this rough patch.


No matter how bad things were in Northway Mall Ivanhoe Books Incorporated was always busy around the holidays. Shoppers crowded into the store, trying to find just the right Christmas gift for that special someone in their lives. It always amazed me how quickly that holiday cheer would become white-hot rage when you told them that the book they wanted was out of stock, or worse yet, not available in paperback.

“What do you mean it’s only available in hardcover?” A customer glowered at me.

“It just came out last week,” I explained. The crowd at the register was growing, Frank McDaniels was hard at work ringing out one customer after another after another.

“This is twenty-four bucks! That’s robbery!” the glaring cheapskate said to me, “Will it be out in paperback by Christmas?”

“Oh no,” I said, “it takes at least a year for the paperback edition of a new release to come out.”

“That’s not a very good way to do business.”

“It is if you want to sell hardcover books.”

Yasmin was hard at work taking special orders but for every one she finished two more people approached. I tried to excuse myself so I could help her but my customer wasn’t done with me. “What about that ‘Chivalrous Discount’ you guys are always talking about?”

I replied, “That is for books on the New York Times Bestsellers List only.”

“If you give me the Chivalrous Discount I’ll buy the book right now.”

“But this book isn’t on the New York Times Bestsellers list.”

“Do you want to make a sale or not?” the glaring cheapskate asked, “Don't you guys make commission?”

“No sir, there isn't really a way to make a commission on book sales.” I explained, “In fact you might say it's 'Commission Impossible'! Ha ha!”

Despite my clever play on words and the Christmas music blaring everywhere my customer remained neither holly or jolly. He said “I 'll just take my business elsewhere then.”

With that done I made my way to the front counter. Frank McDaniels was ringing up one sale after another, there were so many people lined up that it almost seemed claustrophobic. Of course the counter being so crowded with last minute impulse items like 50 different kinds of bookmarks didn’t help. There was a miniature Christmas tree perched at the other end of the counter, it was balanced precariously like a poorly hung version of Chekhov's gun.

I asked Frank, “Want me to bag for you.”

“Sure,” he said as a customer handed him a check. He smiled at the next customer and said, “Will that be cash, check or charge?”

“I’ll pay by check.” the customer said.

Frank nodded “I’ll need to see two forms of ID.”

That’s right, back in those low tech days if you wanted to pay by check you had to show two forms of ID. We also asked for two forms of ID with a credit card but credit card sales had the extra steps of filling out a manual form and then flipping though a little tract sized booklet to make sure it wasn’t stolen or canceled.

On days like this you just pretended to look through the little book but if the purchase was over $50 you had to call the credit card company and get an approval code.

No wonder we had lines all the way to the back of the store.

Anyway I bagged this customer’s books, one copy of the Cat Who Came For Christmas and one of Wealth Without Risk. If there was one thing I had learned working in a bookstore it was that the least risky way to get rich was to write a book about cats.

I wondered if I could write a book about cats without there being a body count. Probably not.

Frank asked the next customer, “Will that be cash, check or charge?”

“Credit card,” the customer said.

Frank nodded “I’ll need to see two forms of ID.”

This was the guy in the beret that seemed to come in every day, he was always buying Mac Bolan novels and today was no different. There was a time when I had considered trying my hand at a men’s adventure novel. The damn things came out with a new book every month so they must need a lot of writers. I had even read a few in preparation and realized that they were a lot like romance novels except that had detailed scenes of carnage instead of long winded sex scenes.

Once that sale was done the next customer moved up. Frank asked Frank asked, “Will that be cash, check or charge?”

“Check,” the customer said, “and you really need more cash registers.”

Frank nodded “I’ll need to see two forms of ID.”

Instead of listening to the customer complain I merely marveled at the fact they were buying a bible and a book of astrology. The bible had all of Jesus’ words in red, the astrology tome had lottery number predictions that had probably been pulled straight out of Uranus.

The next customer set a tall pile of books in front of us, every one of Piers Anthony’s Xanth series of novels by the look of it. I had read a good number of those book myself, the first trilogy being my favorite of the bunch. I had the entire series myself, the Sci Fi bookclub had made me its bitch long ago.

“Will that be cash, check or charge?” Frank asked.

“Cash,” the customer said as he brought out an enviable money clip.

Frank nodded “I’ll need to see two forms of ID.”

“I said I’m paying with cash.”

Again Frank nodded “I’ll need to see two forms of ID.”

“He said he want’s to pay with cash,” I said in a stage whisper.

Frank turned to glare at me, the whites of his eyes were wide, the pupils were small, “And I said I need to see two forms of ID.”

The customer was just as confused as I was “Why the Hell would you need to see two forms of ID when I’m paying with cash?”

“I need to see two forms of ID!” Frank insisted.

The commotion made Yasmin abandon her post and head over. She asked, “What did you do this time Al?”

“Nothing!” I said.

“Look,” the customer said, “Are you people going to take my money or not?”

“I’ll take you money,” Frank pounded his fist on the counter, the miniature Christmas tree toppled over, the glass ornaments shattered, “as soon as you show me two forms of ID!”

Yasmin blinked, “What is he talking about?”

I sighed, “I think Frank’s sanity is temporarily out of print.”

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