I'll back up a bit. The handful of you who read my NaNoWriMo effort of last year may recall (or not -- it was a minor incident) a scene that went something like this:
"I've got something for you."Because I lack the imagination to spew 50,000 words of pure invention in a month, a lot of the things I ended up writing about last November were based on actual events. The book in question was this book and the recipient in that scene, some fictional approximation of an ex-colleague of mine who has just published his second novel, out this past week.
"Oh?" He sat up straighter.
I held up the book, then handed it over the side of the cube. It was a slim volume, small especially for a hardcover -- it didn't look like much. He turned it over in his hands, then opened the cover, flipping to the back flap. "Huh. No author photo."
"That's probably because," I explained, "the author had a stroke and only has use of his left eye."
He closed the book and slapped the cover with his other hand. "I'd forgotten I wanted to read this book!"
So, I was standing there by the New Fiction table, scanning the back cover expecting it to read more or less as the book description on Amazon, only it doesn't. Instead, it says, "... he has succumbed to his mother's guilt-laden pleas that he see his estranged father, who suffers from 'locked-in syndrome,' a condition that leaves him fully intact mentally but unable to speak or move, save for blinking his eye."
And I'm not even in the acknowledgments.
LATER THAT DAY, A got a call from J in the hospital, to report that she'd had her baby. She had been working from home, and called on Tuesday to say that she seemed to be going into labor and thus might not be doing so much of that work, after all. A couple days passed and, strangely, calling us did not rate among her top priorities after entering the state of motherhood. We all clustered around A's cube as she told J that we'd been dying of curiosity, but "figured no news was good news."
"Well, some of us were worried," M said as an aside to group, as if to suggest that she was not included in that number.
"Some of us are like that," R said apologetically.
We got J on speakerphone eventually and got the vital stats. When she told us the baby's name, A and I exchanged glances and said, "Ah, so they did go with S_____."
A couple weeks ago, J, A, L, and I had gone out to lunch together, and the subject of baby names had come up. J and Mr. J had agreed on a first name if it was a boy, but were having a difference of opinion on the middle name. J was pushing the inherent coolness of S_____: "Don't you want our kid to have a cool name that will make all the girls want to go out with him?" We all agreed that S_____ was a fine name, not too common and not too weird, but Mr. J had remained unconvinced.
We talked for a while about middle-naming strategies -- most of us had some sort of family name as a middle name -- and the fact that J wanted names that rendered well in Italian because, despite not actually being Italian, she's spent a fair amount of time in Italy and hopes to do so in the future. S_____ fit that criteria.
"Also, it works in German," I pointed out. Mr. J is German.
"What's Mr. J's middle name?" L thought to ask.
"S_____." A beat. "Did I not mention that?"
FRIDAY, THE MAIL BROUGHT an invitation to D's friend N's wedding.
We were expecting it; we haven't seen much of N since he moved away from the neighborhood to Rhode Island, but we'd heard the news of the engagement from a mutual friend. N is ... eccentric, and famous for throwing large and sometimes elaborate parties -- almost every one of D's friends dating back to the high school era, or at least the ones he's still in touch with, was someone he met at one of N's parties, or introduced to someone else at one of N's parties, or somehow got sucked into the whole N's party phenomenon eventually.
"Are we invited?" D wondered when he heard.
"I think so." N and his fiancee were at our wedding. "Is there going to be popcorn, is what I wanna know." Popcorn, perfectly popped, salted, and served in brown paper bags, was a staple of the N party.
Sure enough, N left us a message asking for our snail mail address. I emailed it to him, adding, "Congrats on the occasion that necessitates the sending of physical invitations!" by way of bypassing the usual ooh-when's-the-big-day smalltalk.
Weeks later, N wrote back, saying, "Thanks for the info. If you didn't hear, I'm engaged, and we are sending out wedding invitations." I guess I was too vague.
That email was immediately followed by another message with the following:
Almost forgot!I wrote back with the answers, but mentioned to D that I thought the second question was a little odd. "Don't you think that's odd?"
- Do either of you have any dietary requirement that you think we should take into consideration when planning our menu.
- What was your 'first dance' song at your wedding?
"It's N," he replied. "If it wasn't odd I would think it wasn't him."
Anyway, the invitation came the other day. The reply card gives the choice of Filet of Beef or Basil Roast Chicken. I always find it a little weird to have to decide what I want for dinner seven weeks from now. Since what I'd actually be in the mood for that day isn't a factor, all these distractions come into play. Will people judge me based on whether I have red meat? Do I trust the caterers to do chicken for N people that's not too dry?
People, just go with the buffet already.
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