“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose…”
from Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)
So if any of you have read my blogs or have met me, you already know that I have rather…unusual luck. Well, let’s say a tendency to run toward the unfortunate side. Okay, my life is a hot mess and I walk around with an antenna/goon finder that works overtime even when I think it is shut off.
But not this time. No sir, not last weekend. This is one time I stepped into my usual mess with my mouth but was granted not only a reprieve, but also a gift. A gift of wonderful friends. Here is what happened:
I had a booth at the Spirit of Vincennes Rendezvous May 28 and 29. It was awesome. Being fairly new to this writing business and having two published novels to display, I was nervous but excited. I had never participated in an event like this one before, so I arrived early, all dressed in my colonial gear, and all set up with my two little novels spread out to cover as much of the table as I could. I sat patiently in my chair, smiling as the patrons strolled by. The wind blew.
A bit later I saw this gentleman, looking about in his 70’s or so, coming in with several boxes to set up at the adjoining table to my right. I sat there for awhile, and then I got up, hiked up my skirts and hopped over the divider between us. I squatted down so he could hear me and asked if I could help him set up his books. He is probably new to this, I thought. I will do what I can to help.
He politely declined, saying that his wife would be along shortly to set things out. He then asked me if I was an author. I beamed. “Yes, I am,” I proudly announce, waving my hand toward the table where my two piles of books lay. “I have written a YA historical fiction novel about George Rogers Clark, and it is set right here in Vincennes,” I added, in case he needed clarification.
He nodded. “I have written a couple of novels about George Rogers Clark myself,” he said mildly. One is called From Sea to Shining Sea and the other is titled Long Knife.”
I grin with encouragement. “That is awesome! I will have to wander over and take a look.”
“What is your name?” he asked.
“Pamela Horner. And yours?”
“I’m sorry; Jim what?”
“Nice to meet you,” I said, taking the hand he proffered, smiling and thinking what a nice person he was. How lucky was I to be neighbors with such a nice man? And this must be his wife, I think as a beautiful woman sits beside him and begins to unpack the boxes. And pull out more boxes. And here came even more boxes brought in by staff. Wow. He has brought a lot of stuff. I hope he does well, I think to myself, worried.
It didn’t take long for the crowd’s numbers to increase. It didn’t take long to notice that the crowds had gathered at my neighbor’s table, yet I had only had a couple of people wander by my table. What the heck? And then I began to listen to some of the comments from the people in line, as well as noticing the excitement on their faces. Huh? What is going on? It went something like this:
“Red Heart? That is my favorite!”
“Really? My favorite is this one!”
“I love all of his work!”
I sat there. Alone. I began to think. I replayed our conversation over in my mind. What have I missed? I nod to myself as it unfolded like a film in my head, all the way to the point where he introduced himself. Jim Tom, right?
And then it hits me. Like in the movies, you know, when a bunch of things happen at once, and it’s like:
Jim Tom? Jim is short for James.
Tom? Or could it be Thom?
One excited patron says, in slo-mo, “I love Follow the River!”
…all at the same time that my stomach rolls over and I am in danger of losing my breakfast, I have armpit sweat and sweat in other parts that I shall not name here, and I close my eyes and whisper, “James Alexander Thom”, just as another patron squeals, “Aren’t you…?” and my whisper fills in the blank as she simultaneously says his name. I don’t even look. I start straight ahead, just like my dog Baloo did when he stole some food he wasn’t supposed to have ~ and if he looked straight ahead, well then, you know. He didn’t do it.
I wait for the crowd to thin, and then I slowly get up. I gather my skirts, but this time I do not hop over the divider. No, I walk with what shred of dignity I had left, which was none, to the front of the table. I stand in line.
He looks up at me and smiles.
“You tricked me.”
“I did?” This with a twinkle in his eye.
“Yes. Jim Tom? Jim? You knew I did not put it together that Jim was indeed James Alexander Thom, one of my favorite authors, someone whom I have admired for years and is one of my mother’s favorite authors, as well. I pretty much want to kill myself right now.”
And it went from there, ladies and gentlemen. That is how I met one of my favorite authors, and probably one your favorites, as well. And the fact that I was a complete buffoon did not faze him in the least. He and his wife are some of the most gracious, kind, and genuine people you will ever meet. In minutes you can feel their peaceful auras, and you can’t help but benefit from their generous spirits.
His lovely wife brought some gorgeous flowers from her mother-in-law’s garden and was kind enough to share them with me, even giving them to me to take home. What a wonderful weekend; what a gift I was given! I shall treasure that memory for as long as I can keep it.
But when I do, I shall replay it in my mind, just like in the movies. And I will do some careful editing, like perhaps cutting out some parts, starting with some faux-colonial girl hopping like a large cricket over a divider and saying, with an encouraging smile to help out a fellow author, “May I help you set up your books?”