Never Respond to a Flyer Tacked to a Public Library Bulletin Board

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You have a new message, recorded today at 11:43 p.m.

[Beep]

Phone tag, you’re it! Thanks for responding to my flyer. The name’s Steve. Are you as excited about this year’s science-fiction book discussion group as I am? You’re the first and only person who called, which lends a nice symmetry, because I’m the only member of the group. Current member. We used to be bigger. But as with most things, I guess, it’s cyclical. Much like the Hindu concept of Time. Or a concealed pit with fire-hardened punji stakes at the bottom. Oh wait, that’s circular. At least mine is.

So, where are you at 11:43 at night? Do you go to the gym? What gym?

I’m expecting this to be a great season of sci-fi book talk. Yes, yes, I know. These days, people tend to do this kind of thing over the Internet. Call me old-fashioned if you will, but I prefer the give and take of live discussion. Person to person. Face to face. Boot to neck. Whatever. You just can’t get that from a chat room. Hey, this is weird, but I think there’s a chat room about me! Have you heard about that? Seriously, have you?

Okay, I need to get you up to speed on a few guidelines. Just so you know the ropes. I think ropes are important. I’ve used them on several occasions. Not quite as often as piano wire, though.

First rule — I mean, guideline. I assign the book we will read for each meeting. I’m open to suggestions. But I assign the book. That just seems to work the best. And don’t worry, I like to mix things up a bit. So our first book, say, will be something from the TekWar series by William Shatner. But next time, maybe Shadow Planet by William Shatner. I’ll let you know for sure next week. You’re going to be home, right? When? Maybe I can stop by and let you know in person. If you’re not home, I’ll just wait inside. Don’t worry about leaving a key.

We meet the first and third Friday of every month — at my house. In the coal cellar. Behind the water heater. You can thank the little lady for that; she doesn’t like me entertaining guests upstairs. And, no, I’m not married. The little lady is literally a little porcelain lady on my coffee table. Who talks to me.

[Two seconds of silence]

A week before each meeting, I’ll send you our discussion questions, which must be answered in advance. Now, you may have heard that questions like these don’t have a right or wrong answer. That’s not true. They do. They have one right answer. There are many, many wrong answers. So spend a little time on these questions, okay? This has been a bone of contention in the past, but I think by mentioning it up front, we’ll avoid any unpleasantness. And I promise: no more talk of bones! Huh- what? I’m on the phone! Sheesh. Excuse me a sec.

[Five seconds of silence]

Sorry about that. The little porcelain lady says I shouldn’t make promises.

On to the snack policy: I’ll be responsible for snacks. I take some trouble preparing them, so I hope you’re not the type to say “I’m not hungry” or “I prefer someone else to taste them first” or “What did you just pour into the guacamole from that secret compartment in your ring?” That gets tiresome, believe me!

Okay, then, that about does it. Welcome aboard! I’ll be honest; I was a bit surprised to hear from you. I thought the library took down all my flyers just a soon as I put them up. And it was a real hat trick to get this last one through. I guess they didn’t count on me hiding in the men’s restroom all night, did they? Don’t mention that to them.

Oh, one more thing. I assume you’ll be thoroughly prepared for a lively, positive discussion on the works of William Shatner. I hope you’ll display the level of commitment one would expect from someone who responds to a flyer that someone else crawled through ductwork to tack up. If not, I will be greatly disappointed. I’m just saying this to avoid what’s happened in the past. But, as they say, the past is buried. In my crawlspace. Now, come on, that’s just a little joke. I’m joking! But then again, there is a certain amount of truth in that, I mean, in a metaphori–

[Beep]

You have a new message, recorded today at 11:46 p.m.

Okay, I really hate getting cut off. Really. But that’s fine. You didn’t know that. We’ll have a discussion about my phone message policy next week. Behind the water heater.

[Beep]

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