Frank and Ted love writing books. Franks writes romantic stories and Ted writes thrillers, and both are self-publishing. Both have sex in their books but they try to keep it above the porn-line. They never show these sex pieces to their writing group to avoid embarrassment, even though their writing group team members are waiting for them with lusting eyes and are utterly frustrated when they don’t get them for critique.
“Sex pays,” Ted says. “But outside the bedroom.”
“There’s an opportunity for a book signing on Brook Street,” Frank says. “An art show. Let’s go there and sell some books.”
They rent a tent and showcase their books on a table with posters.
Art on the Avenue – Alexandria VA October 2017 – www. AlexandriaNews.org
Courtesy George Vercessi (www.vercessi.com)
Frank’s poster shows a wrestler-type torso with a busty girl in his arms, carrying the title, “Lust on Devil’s Island.” He uses the pen name, Franca Bianca, because Romance Writers of America has only female writers who write for women, and stats prove that eighty percent of readers are women. Most men don’t read as most of them are illiterate morons watching football. Ted’s poster reads, “Killing Joan,” because he writes about the last of many (women) agents who rejected his book. The cover design shows a knife piercing through a crying heart with blood dripping down in large blots. Not very original but blood sells too. Both sell their books at ten dollars a piece.
“If this does not attract people, I’ll be damned,” Frank says, looking at the tent from the street side.
When crowds are filling Brook Street, all patrons pass by and look at other tents instead, selling cheap jewelry, pots and pans, fake antiques, starving artists paintings, dog collars, T-shirts, and popcorn. The tent next to theirs sells party ornaments.
“You should sport a female facemask, Frank, because you ain’t looking like Franca,” Ted says.
“Great idea. And you should wear an O’Reilly facemask because you stole his title series,” Frank says.
“Let’s stand in the middle of the street carrying our posters to attract people to our books,” Ted suggests.
“But I’m not wearing a skirt,” protests Frank.
“Go to that tent over there,” Ted says. “They sell Halloween masks and costumes.”
Frank leaves their tent to follow up on Ted’s bright suggestion. He buys a Hillary mask and a blue plastic skirt, walks back, and dresses up in the back of their tent.
“Did anybody come by to buy my book?” Frank asks.
“Somebody came and asked if that guy with the torso was Arnold Schwartzenegger. When I said ‘yes’ he didn’t buy the book.”
“You should go to that tent too,” Frank says. “They have O’Reilly masks and bloody knives for sale.”
Ted goes while Frank sits with his Hillary mask on, hoping to attract book buyers. One man stops, looks at him, or rather his Hillary mask, comes nearer and gawks at the torso poster. “Is that book about what happened to Hillary?”
“No, it’s about a handsome man like you who shipwrecks on an island in the Pacific and meets the girl of his life in the midst of crocodiles, snakes, donkeys, and elephants.”
“Why do you wear a Hillary mask then?”
“Well, Hillary’s world is devil’s island, don’t you think?”
“I only read non-fiction, thank you.” The guy walks on, leaving Frank frustrated.
Ted comes back with his O’Reilly mask and a few bloody knives. “Sold any books?”
“No. They think my book is about Hillary. I have to buy another mask. You look terrific, O’Reilly.”
Frank walks to the party tent again, buys himself a Melania mask, and hurries back, just in time to see Ted in a furious discussion with a woman.
“How do you dare to show off that womanizer’s face? Shouldn’t your book be titled, Killing O’Reilly? Shame on you!”
“I guess you didn’t sell any books,” Frank says.
“No. You saw that woman’s reaction. I have to buy another mask.”
Ted leaves for the party tent. Frank dons his Melania mask and waits. A couple loiters in front of him.
“Is that Donald Trump’s torso?” asks the wife.
“No, it’s Tarzan’s,” answers Frank wrily, grumbling through his mask.
“You don’t sound like Melania, she has a foreign accent,” the husband says.
“That accent doesn’t come with the mask,” Frank says. “Buy my book and you’ll find out whose torso it is.”
“My husband doesn’t have a torso like that. That girl in his arms must be scared-shit. Is that Melania what the book is about?”
“Just imagine you as beautiful as you are, left alone on an island with snakes and crocodiles, and a guy with that torso swims ashore, naked, saves your life, takes you in his arms, and makes love to you. Would you not want to read that story?”
“Come on, Elena,” the husband says, pulling her away. “You’ve got other books to read. You haven’t even finished Nora Robert’s latest.”
“Okay, Melania,” the woman says. “I’ll look it up on Amazon. Goodbye…”
Ted comes back with a Bruce Willis Mask and a Die Hard-flagged plastic pistol.
“Sold any books, Frank?”
“No, Melania does not sell because people don’t want her to be pulverized by Donald Trump’s torso. I need another mask.”
Frank leaves for the party tent and Ted reinvents his author bio, waiting for people to come and buy “Killing Joan.”
“Hah,” a man says to Ted. “I hate my wife Joan. Is that a “How to” book?”
“It’s about Joan of Arc, burned at the stakes,” replies Ted. The man walks away, disappointed.
Frank comes back with a Sylvester Stallone mask and a fake carton torso piece. “If this doesn’t do it, I must change genre,” Frank says.
He sits behind the table, watching onlookers passing by, not even looking at them. “We should be more proactive, Ted. Yell at them, ‘Come by and read for pleasure.'”
Frank and Ted yell, but people stare at them as if they’re crazed idiots.
“I repeat: Let’s go on the street with our posters and draw people to our tent,” Ted says.
They leave the tent for the street, Frank with his Sylvestor Stallone face and fake torso, and Ted in his Bruce Willis costume, swaying his Die Hard pistol in the air.
Two cops swerve in front of them, out from nowhere, guns drawn. “Hey, you, you have a weapons permit?”
Curious onlookers are immediately crowding around them. “It’s plastic, man! We’re selling books over there, you see?” Ted responds, pointing frantically to their tent. “We paid one hundred dollars for that piece of junk. Hi everybody, come and buy our books! Half price!”
Throngs of people suddenly stand in line. Frank and Ted sell all their books, emptying their boxes. Even the cops buy a couple.
After the art show, they have a beer at the nearby bar, smiling broadly.
“Frank, you must be goofy, writing those books,” Ted says, wiping the foam off his lips.
“And you must be cracked selling them,” Frank says. “What’s your next book?”
“Killing Frank, and yours?”
“The Kiss That Poisoned Ted.”
Coming Soon: Francine – Dazzling Daughter of the Mountain State –
Kirkus Reviews: “A corporate novel chronicles a young woman’s meteoric rise at a coal mining company. A dramatically taut tale propelled by artful characterization and political relevance. “
Audrey – A Cherished Memory – A Short Story in print for the benefit of the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund.
Customer Reviews on Amazon.com of the 2014 e-book version:
“An engaging story from start to finish. Evocative of a particular time and place but ultimately timeless and universal in touching the human heart.” Mark Spencer
“A pleasant account of an exceptional person. There’s always something poignant about beautiful people recovering from ghastly times. Thanks for the read.” Micah Harris
“I adore Audrey Hepburn and love to hear new stories about her. Can’t get enough. And this short story was a nice little peek into her life, especially pre-fame, as a young girl… loved it.” Kendal Brenneman