I’ve been looking forward to the Bay Area Book Fair, an annual spring event where we’ve rented an exhibit table a couple of times in the past. Very few indie folks like us make big bucks, but it’s still a sweet event and I was happy to be going again after a couple of years of Covid layoff. And hey, the first volume of my memoir was in print, and I had the feeling it might see some action.
By an odd coincidence the fair was at exactly the same time our daughter was able to visit from Italy, her home for the past 25 years. That’s a big deal. We figured out how to make it work: Saturday I’d handle the table solo while Conrad and Johanna would have a free day to schmooze and spend quality time with each other in San Francisco, and on Sunday she and I would go visit the Berkeley Arboretum while he book-sat. Nice.
Crowds were sparser than I remembered, and not as many were actually interested in buying books. Money is tight. I had some good conversations but none of the authors were selling much except in the kid-book sections. Maybe Sunday would be better. At the end of the afternoon we packed up everything except our big sign and went back home to enjoy dinner together and get a night’s sleep before heading back down to Berkeley to set up for Sunday. We left most of the display in the car overnight to simplify the turnaround, and had a very detailed list to make sure we wouldn’t forget anything we brought into the house.
I was grumpy about the fact that our reorder of my memoir hadn’t arrived in time: we had exactly one copy left and couldn’t do a sales job on what we didn’t have on hand. The display of novels and play collections looked nifty but it didn’t have a single focus, so we thought we’d simplify, putting a more effective push on our joint fifty-year memoir. There were little stacks of leftover books here and there in the living room and office, but repacking could wait for morning. The cats were peeved about having been left alone all day, so we petted and played a while before flopping into bed.
Come morning the bins got repacked and we checked the list. “Where’s the money envelope?” “I think it’s still in my backpack.” We have a nice little multi-zipper pouch for $100 in change, our inventory and sales list, and the Square that allows us to turn our iPhone into a credit card processor. It wasn’t in my backpack. “Maybe it’s under books in one of the bins. I know we didn’t leave anything in Berkeley.”
We took everything out of the big bin and the little bin. No luck. I went out and searched the car. Nope. The velvet tablecloths were folded into a big package: maybe the envelope got folded into the middle? I brought the pile in and we spread both cloths out. No luck. My heart sank. Time was getting short so I located our old backup Square, ransacked petty cash for enough fives and tens for change, and put everything in a different pouch. Meanwhile, Conrad searched his laptop bag and Johanna searched her own backpack. Rats. We could cope, but we’d just lost more than a hundred dollars and felt pretty grim. It was time to go, but I needed a last-minute pee stop. Through the closed door I heard Conrad make a weird little noise and then say, “It’s here.”
“What? Where?!!!!!” “Under the ottoman.” And there it was, with four or five foam-rubber cat toys and a book of poetry I’d bought from our next-table neighbor. During the night the cats had knocked stuff off the ottoman and shoved it under. Never underestimate peeved cats.