was staring at my computer,
paralyzed by a massive case of writer’s block, when my doorbell rang.
And rang. And rang. I knew right away it was my plumber, Sam, because
he’s not a guy who goes easy on doorbells.
I went to the door, wondering if
my wife had called Sam on some plumbing emergency without telling me.
So far as I knew, our pipes were in perfect order.
was wearing a gorilla suit.
I am not making this up—a gorilla suit—but without the head. To be
quite honest, Sam doesn’t need a gorilla head. He stepped inside out of
the cold and headed straight for the living room, where he plopped down
on the couch. “Hey, nice wood-burning stove!” he said. “When’d ya get
I followed him in, but didn’t
sit down, because I was wondering how much this visit was going to cost
me. “Got it last week. It’s so new, we haven’t even got any wood for it
yet.” Which was almost true. The stove had turned out to be pretty
expensive, and I was waiting for my next royalty check to buy a couple
cords of wood.
I studied Sam for a minute. “Um,
Sam, I’m kind of busy today. That’s a nice . . . gorilla suit.”
Sam grinned at me. “Well, hey,
that brings me to the point of this visit. My niece Samantha just got a
book published! Isn’t that great?”
“Yeah, um, it’s . . . great,
Sam.” I didn’t ask what this had to do with a gorilla suit, because I
could already see where this conversation was heading.
“Anyways, I’m just checking
with all my regular customers to see how many you might want to buy.”
“Buy?” I looked at my watch as
pointedly as I could.
“Yeah, you know, for presents.
If you stock up now, you’ll always have a birthday present handy. Or a
Valentine present, St. Patrick’s Day present, Mother’s Day present,
Father’s Day present, Fourth of July present, Labor Day present,
Halloween present, Thanksgiving present, Christmas present. Books make
great presents, and they’re cheap, which is real important when the
economy’s tight, know what I’m saying?” Sam said all this very fast,
like he’d memorized it and wanted to make sure it all got out in one
piece without breaking. “But you know all about that—you’re the big
shot author, right?”
Sam just sat there looking at
I didn’t say anything.
Finally, Sam said, “Bet you’re
dying to know what the book’s about, right?”
“Who’s the publisher, Sam?”
“See, it’s a romance.” Sam
produced a copy from the depths of one enormous paw. The cover was a
ghastly pink, with lacy white letters. “The title is Samantha
Gets the Guy.”
“Wow, that’s the most . . .
striking title I’ve ever heard.”
Sam’s face split into an
enormous hairy smile. “Glad ya like it. The title was my idea, but
Samantha loved it right from the get-go. It’s kinda autobiological.”
I fought to keep my face
“Yeah, autobiological.” Sam
stuck a thick finger in his ear and plumbed its hairy depths. “Only
Samantha hasn’t quite landed her guy yet, so it ain’t exactly—”
“Who’s the publisher, Sam?”
“I’m real proud of her. She
takes after me, see.”
Sam weighs about three hundred
pounds and has an inch of stubble on his chin by 9 AM. And he looks
absolutely at home in a gorilla suit. I had no trouble imagining
Samantha. “Who’s the publisher, Sam?”
“I’m getting to that. Listen,
my sister—that’s Samantha’s mama—says this book is about the best thing
that ever got wrote. I ain’t read it yet, myself, but the title’s great
like you already said, and you gotta admit that the cover is real
catchy. Samantha done it herself in PornoShop.”
“Right, that’s what I said.”
I fought the urge to scream.
“Who’s the publisher, Sam?”
For a second, I wondered if that
was remotely possible. Then I asked, “How do you spell the word club—with
a C, or a K?”
Sam grinned at me. “Anyways, I’m
just wondering how many cases you’d be ordering.”
“Actually, I don’t usually buy
“Well, look who’s getting all
hoity-toity. Listen, Samantha loves your writing. She’s read every book
you ever wrote. About sixty times.”
I’ve heard all this before,
always from somebody who wants something from me. “That’s, great, but I
don’t read romances.”
“Yeah, but your wife does, your
daughters do, your sisters do, your mama does, your aunts and cousins
“None of them read romances.”
Sam looked miffed. “Well, how
about if they start?”
I sighed and turned toward the
door. “I’ll just walk you to your truck.”
Sam didn’t move. “Oh, there’s
one more thing. If you don’t buy nothing, Samantha’s going to come see
you and declare her undying love for you and your books. Like I said,
she ain’t quite landed her guy yet, reason being that after she seen
your picture on your Web site, she’s kinda got this thing for—”
right, all right!” I
growled. I could imagine what the neighbors would say if Samantha came
and camped out in our driveway, howling her undying love at the house.
Sam whipped out an invoice from
the chest pocket of his gorilla suit. “What should I put ya down for?”
“I’ll take one,” I said,
wondering how I let myself get talked into this.
“One . . . case . . .” Sam
Sam pointed toward the
neighbor’s house. “Your next door neighbor is mighty close. Mighty
close. I ain’t one to press, but Samantha’s got a lot of voice for such
a little gal. And I can get you a real good bulk-rate deal on a case.”
By now I was sweating. A case of
horrible, self-published romance novels—what would I do with them?
“And your wife probably won’t
depreciate Samantha singing little love ditties out in the driveway all
night. She gets kinda emotional when she’s upset.”
“One case.” I felt a huge pit
opening in my stomach. I wondered if I could move to Guatemala before
Sam could deliver the things.
Sam stood up, walked to the
door, opened it, and whistled. “Hey, Samantha! One case, coming up!”
My heart slammed in my chest.
Samantha was here? On my property?
I followed Sam outside, wishing I had ordered that assault rifle I’d
been looking at online.
A forklift hummed up the
driveway, bearing an enormous pallet stacked with cases and cases of
books. My first guess was that it had fifty cases on it. As it got
nearer, I realized I’d miscounted.
The pallet held one
case. It was the biggest box I’d ever seen, and it glowed a blinding
fluorescent pink. Stamped on the outside of the box was SAMANTHA GETS
THE GUY—BY BESTSELLING NOVELIST SAMANTHA STRONG.
The forklift stopped at the top
of my driveway. A lithe young woman hopped out of the driver’s seat.
She had long blond hair, green eyes, and a pixie nose, and she couldn’t
have weighed more than a hundred pounds. She looked nothing like Sam.
“You want those autographed?”
I gaped at her. “I . . . guess
“That’s good, ’cause they’re
already signed. I had my autograph printed right on the first page.
Sam handed me an invoice. “Where
do you want your books? Most people want ’em in the garage.”
I looked at the invoice and a
lightning bolt of insight struck me.
Some days my own genius simply
overwhelms me. “Tell you what, Sam, I think I’d like two cases.”
Samantha’s face lit up. “That’s
what I like—repeat customers. There’s just nothing like word of mouth.”
She raced back to her forklift,
zoomed down the driveway, and up the ramp of a truck that looked about
forty feet long. A minute later, she was back with another case. “Just
show me where you want ’em!” She pumped one fist in the air.
I motioned her to follow me
around the side of the house. I had
gone to a lot of trouble to make
sure we had easy access around this way. I opened a wide gate and led
the way to the back patio where I’d constructed a special shelter. It
was empty now, but it was just perfect. Samantha left the pallet there
and whizzed back for the other one.
Sam stood there grinning. “Gotta
love this gorilla marketing thing.”
“Right.” I took out my knife
and slit open the case of books. The lurid pink covers gleamed in the
weak winter sunlight. I didn’t care. As far as I was concerned, those
books were gold.
It took me half a day to unpack
my books, but I’ll be seeing a payoff all winter long.
I don’t know why my editor never
told me that if you buy books in bulk, they’re cheaper than cordwood.
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