Went to a bookstore yesterday to sign Pearls books.
I took a stack of books to the counter. The clerks were busy with other customers.
So I did something I’ve never done before. I started signing them without asking.
But no one asked. The clerks didn’t care. Even after they finished with their customers, they said nothing to me. They just talked to each other. That was bad.
Bad because it encouraged me.
Because halfway through the stack, I saw that one of the books I grabbed from the shelf was not a Pearls book. It was a Calvin and Hobbes.
I looked up at the clerks. They still weren’t paying attention to me.
So I signed the Calvin and Hobbes book.
Wasn’t sure how Watterson liked to sign his books, so I had to use my discretion. I chose to make him touchy-feely.
“All my love, Bill Watterson,” I wrote.
I had to return to the humor section to get more Pearls books. As I did, I paused. What would stop me from signing any book I wanted to?
So as I laid the next stack of Pearls books on the counter, it included one additional book.
A novel by Danielle Steel.
I opened the front cover. I looked up at the distracted clerks.
And took Sharpee to paper. With gusto.
“I hope you enjoy this work half as much as I enjoyed writing it…A thousand kisses, Danielle Steel.” I sketched a huge heart and a big smiley face.
The rush was overwhelming.
I had now signed a book by both a man and a woman. Neither of whom were me.
But both were still living. And that provided a bit of protection. Because I told myself that if I was caught signing the Calvin and Hobbes book, I would claim to be Bill Watterson. And I told myself that if I was caught signing the Danielle Steel book, I would say she was my aunt, and that she liked me to go around to bookstores doing this.
So I needed a new challenge.
I grabbed a book by Edgar Allan Poe.
I took it to the counter. I took out my pen.
I heard a voice.
“Can I help you?”
It was the once-distracted clerk. He was now undistracted. He was now staring down at what I had written in the Poe book. So far it said, “Best Wishes…”
“Yes,” I said, thinking as fast as I could. “I’d like to purchase this.”
“Is there a reason you’re writing in it?”
Good question, I thought.
“It’s a gift for my niece. I like to inscribe the books I buy for her.”
To prove my point, I signed my name and added, “P.S. Happy birthday!”
Fortunately for my alibi, I had not yet signed “All my love, Edgar Allan Poe.”
The clerk then noticed the stack of Pearls books.
“Are you buying these too?”
“No,” I said, “I’m the guy who does that comic strip. So I signed the books.”
“Oh. Okay,” he said, thoroughly unimpressed. Fortunately for me, he didn’t notice the Watterson book sandwiched in between.
“So you just want the Poe book?”
“Yeah,” I said, happy to escape with just having to buy this one book. Oblivious to the one mistake I had made. The one mistake that the clerk was now staring at.
“And what about this Danielle Steel book?”
Panicked, I pressed my hand on the top of it, to keep him from opening the front cover.
And then I uttered a string of words I never thought I’d say about a Danielle Steel novel.
“I’d like to buy that too.”