The Book Critics!

The weather turned warm and dry after a month of steady cold and rain. I was walking the neighborhood hoping I might run into Mark. I still hadn’t heard from him what he thought of The Old Crow Book Club book.

It always occurs to me that one day, I might never see Mark again because he got off the streets or passed away.

I rounded the corner and there was Mark and Donny taking up residence on their usual sidewalk. I called out and they called out to me like they always do, if I was Norm on Cheers.

Mark was sporting sunglasses and eating a chocolate concoction from Ben and Jerry’s. A slim book with a title I didn’t catch rested near him. Donny was smoking a Lucky Strike.

Mark was in jovial mood. Earlier that morning, he’d found a $20 bill on the street, thus the spendy ice cream treat. I bought a copy of the newspaper advocating for the homeless from him and tipped him a few bucks. We then discussed his current health status and next attempt at securing housing, or at least temporary shelter. He said he was feeling much better and would be trying again with the bureaucracy. I didn’t pin him down on the particulars but did insist he follow through: many people were concerned about him and expending a lot of effort. Mark acknowledged that and I hope that meant something to him.

Then I got to the point and asked Mark about the book. Before he could answer Donny interrupted and praised it near rhapsodic enthusiasm. He’d even sold a copy for $5 and wanted to give me the dough. I laughed and refused. He also said the local bookstore was selling it, which was news to me because I hadn’t approached them about carrying it. Donny had taken several copies from various street libraries and handed them over to the store! The dude was gigging my book! Without my permission!

I got back to Mark.

“I loved the book,” said Mark, “but there are few errors.”

“Yeah,” said Donny. “A couple of errors.”

The critics! Apparently Mark had four grandchildren, not two. I got something wrong about Donny’s past as well. I apologized and told them to mark up a copy for changes in case I decide to print a second edition.

We then dove into certain chapters of the book they particularly liked. We all agreed that the story about the crate of coconuts left behind/donated by the nearby Thai restaurant was a a top pick. That was such a ridiculous and hilarious encounter and also included a conversation about the Time Warp dance from the Rocky Horror Picture Show!

Donny interrupted the narrative again and exclaimed he wanted to write something. I said “WRITE IT UP!” and I’ll publish it somewhere.

An elderly man approached. Donny introduced him as a local from the neighborhood, Reid, I think his name was. Donny told Reid my name and Reid said he was reading the book. He stuck out his hand and I shook it.

“Thank you for writing it,” he said.

“You’re welcome,” I said.

It was the first time I had ever been thanked with a handshake for writing a book. I will never forget it.

It was time for me to go. Mark, Donny and Reid continued talking about the book. It was a de-facto meeting of The Old Crow Book Club talking about The Old Crow Book Club but there was no Old Crow and no crows around!