After That Christmas

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Hey. It’s been a couple weeks. A lot has happened that I’ll eventually blog about, but today I need to finish the story of Ralph and the book he saddled me with at that Christmas party lo those many years ago.

Did that sound profound? I was going for profound.

I have to. I still chaff.

Anyway. When we last left our hero—me—I had just read Ralph’s “great American novel” and was actively hiding from him. Because if I saw him or spoke to him or maybe even dreamed about him, I’d have to tell him the truth about how I felt. I hated, hated, hated the book and, frankly, I was a little perturbed with myself that I finished it.

Damn honor system.

But I didn’t want to tell him any of that.

Here’s the thing: Writing a book, even a bad, nasty, wretched, horrible, soul-sucking book like the one Ralph wrote, is a lot of work. It takes commitment. And dedication. It takes creativity (yes there is bad creativity, just like there are stupid questions) and planning. It costs a piece of your soul, and souls don’t come cheap.

YA Author Tom Hoover on Hang-GlidingSome people think that for that reason alone, I should tell Ralph that I loved the book but that all of my Hollywood connections died tragically while hang-gliding from the Hollywood sign.

Tempting as that excuse would’ve been, and cheaper than moving and changing my name, art isn’t something you lie about. Unless you’re a mom. Because in your eyes, the child you brought into the world can do no wrong.

But despite what they called me in high school, I was not Ralph’s mother. And so I was, therefore, compelled to tell the truth.

Hence the hiding.

No surgeon ever fixed anybody without first cutting into them. And no one ever did anybody any favors by blowing smoke up their butt.

The phrase is actually, “blow smoke up his skirt,” but Ralph was a pants man all the way.

I imagined all kinds of scenarios.  Ralph would call and tell me he was joking—“Dude, you shoulda seen your face!” He would join a cult where writing was wrong and evil—not just his writing (sorry, but that was just too tempting to resist).

But, much like my immediate book deal for a million-billion-dollar advance, nothing I imagined came true. And Ralph got a hold of my phone number. And for the first time since my one psychotic girlfriend, I answered without checking my caller ID.

Yes. I know.

“So, what did you think of the book?” he asked right out of the gate. To be fair, it’d been eight months. He earned a little impatience.

“No hablo inglés.”

“I recognize your voice.”

“That doesn’t mean I speak English. I could’ve forgotten.”

“Uh-huh. You didn’t like it, did you? Nobody does. I hate my life.”

“No, no, no. That’s not it at all,” I said, bungling right past the out he gave me. “It’s just … I’ve been in mourning.”

There was a long silence on the phone. A guilty silence.

“Dude, I’m sorry. What happened?”

“Um, did you read about that hang-gliding accident at the Hollywood sign?”

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