Tag Archives: vignette

Novels by Calgary Smith

More short fiction about Karl, who rediscovers his favorite childhood author and wonders why he ever read his books in the first place.

Bookstore October 21, 2011
So we all made it through post-midterms week without flailing around like a squid in soup. Dr. Corddry calls it suffering week. I guess all the professors go out to bars downtown on this Friday to celebrate the number of students dropping their class or something. I didn’t do too badly, but I really need to work on my grammar, according to Lindsey, in the Honors class. My paper was covered in red marks, like it was knifed.
I guess the thing to do on a Friday night for a typical NAU student is to go wander around downtown so I went downtown with Eddie and Abigail. We went out to this place called Heritage Square, where a bunch of hippies play music and sell magic crystals and beads and vortex passports. It’s a weird place on a Friday night.
We went into this tiny little bookstore that had classic volumes of books set up out front. At first, I didn’t think it was worth checking out, but I saw a first-edition copy of one of the great works of English literature, The Android City of Glariton 3 by Calgary Smith, sitting in the shelf. That’s when I had to go in and see if they had more Calgary Smith novels. Eddie and Abigail hadn’t ever heard of him. I was shocked! I thought everybody knew about Calgary Smith. He’s one of the greatest writers ever. I read almost everything by him back in high school. I almost got a signed copy of one of his other novels, Ginger Bates and the Crawling Brains, at a bookstore in Pocatello run by a drunk guy who plays guitar, but a goth from marching band beat me to it.
Anyway, we rummaged around the little bookstore. It was really compact, but the selection was pretty good. The guy at the counter sat reading a newspaper and drinking wine from a coffee cup. He had a big fat mustache and a perm, and looked like Kurt Vonnegut. He’s dead, right? I’m pretty sure he’s dead now. We looked at different books, and then found a door in the back that led to an alley sealed by brick walls with suspicious stains, and a door on the other end. There weren’t any cameras, but the door said “special patrons only.”
“We’re special,” Eddie said. “We’re very special patrons.”
“I dunno,” Abigail said. “We probably shouldn’t go in.”
Eddie said, “If Thomas Jefferson followed all the rules, where would we be now? Karl, I dare you to go in.”
“Are you living in the ‘50s? Who dares people to do things?”
“So you’re scared?”
That’s when I said I’m not scared of nothing, pushed the door open, and went into the place for special patrons only. Inside was this dimly lit room of bookshelves with all the super-secret rare first editions, editions with flaws, unauthorized reprints, and other books that looked more valuable than everything I’ve ever owned put together. We went in, and I found almost a whole shelf of used copies of Calgary Smith’s Ginger Bates series, and the Glariton 3 series. They even had a book I’d never been able to get my hands on, the cross-over novel he could never afford to publish because for some reason he went bankrupt at like a really early age and had to work in a coal mine or something. It was called Ginger Bates and the Rogue Spacecraft, which was published just before his death. I told Abigail and Eddie about it, and they read the first page.
“Whoa,” Eddie said. “He used the word ‘vigorously’ like forty-seven times in the first page.”
“His dialogue is really bad.”
“The hell are you talking about? This guy’s brilliant!” I said. I spent all of my allowance on his books and had them all lined up at home. Granted, I hadn’t read any for a while, cause I got into this other series, but I can’t remember the name, House of Thrones or Game of Cards or something like that.
“Karl, this is the worst writing I’ve ever seen,” Eddie said.
“Yeah, well, I guess you’ve never read any of your own papers, then.” I looked at the special patron books and saw a bunch of copies of John Steinbeck novels, some really vintage comic books, a copy of V for Vendetta signed by the author. If Calgary Smith’s novels were so bad, why were they here with all the good stuff? I grabbed the book from Eddie and read the first page. Then I read it again, then looked at the cover to see if it was the right Calgary Smith and not an evil twin with an identical name, then read the second page.
“Crap, you’re right. This guy’s terrible. Holy crap, my whole childhood is gone.”
“What about the comic books you used to read?”
“I guess I still have those. But still, I always wanted to be like Calgary Smith. What’s the deal? Was my taste really that bad? It’s not like I had a poster of him, but I was like really obsessed with this guy.”
I flipped through the book and found some notes in the margins. They were revision notes, I think. One note said “Plot hole 37, see page 109.” Somebody found 37 plot holes? At the very back, I saw a long paragraph about giving up on writing, and it was signed by Calgary Smith! That’s why it’s in the special patron section, because it has his own notes about how he’s going to give up on writing and live in a commune in the Yucatan with some escaped coal miners, or whatever he wrote.
“Well this is crap,” I said. “My favorite author turns out to suck, and then I find out he gave up on writing cause he sucked so much.”
Eddie and Abigail tried comforting me. It’s not like I was diagnosed with a terminal disease or anything, but I appreciated it anyway. We left the special patron section and wandered around the bookstore some more, and then to make me feel better they bought me this weird piece of local art at an art gallery next door. It was a little bust of John Steinbeck made of shells. I couldn’t tell it was him, but it was cool to look at. It actually looked like those aliens from that movie with all the aliens, whatever it was called, like Predator Vs. Predator or something. Anyway, that was my first time in downtown Flagstaff. I met like forty-seven hippies that night, too, and lots of hobos playing didgeridoos.
That’s my life now. I think I’m gonna start reading Autumn Bartlett’s copy of The Book Thief. It’s time I had a new favorite author. Good luck with your own Friday nights and creepy shell statues.


A Very Bad Night to Be Out

Karl has an unusual Wednesday when he first is invited to a cheesy dinner, then gets caught in a blizzard, and finally finds himself facing his archenemies, a person in a gorilla suit and the lost-and-found people.


October 6, 2011

It’s weird how things spiral out of control and then before you know it you’re locked in a building with drug dealing librarians. Maybe I should start from the beginning.

A chick from my German class, Sam, invited me to go hang out with a campus church group thing. I don’t remember what they’re called. Presbythodists or Luthiscopalians or something like that. Anyway, they hide out in this blue house type building behind a big parking lot behind the library. I’m not much of a church guy. I don’t have anything against them, and definitely not the way Maxwell and his herd of cynics do, or the goths I used to hang out with in high school who used to smoke in the parking lot of the Mormon Church. I’m not like those guys anymore, very much, really. It’s just that I’m not really like the church people, either. But Sam seemed nice about it, and she told me there’s free food and that I don’t have to get baptized first, so I decided to go.

                So I went with Sam and some other friends of hers who all wear plaid shirts to get dinner with the Luthodists or Methiscapalians or whateverites. They made these casseroles that must’ve been like eighty percent cheese, and these chocolate chip cookies that were only twenty percent cheese. The Chrisbytarians were nice enough people, but I gotta be honest, I’d never heard so many dirty jokes in my entire life. And not just profanity, either. I mean the really kinky stuff. Maybe they’re all just that comfortable or that liberal, but it was a little freaky to hear so much innuendo when there’s this big cross in the middle of the room. I was confused, but I was filled with cheese, so I was happy.

                Here’s where the story goes downhill. We got done like around 8:30 at night, and I was hoping to get back to Cowden before Todd (unless his name is Tom, and I’m starting to think it is) got there. If I get there first, he takes whichever girlfriend is with him somewhere else, which means I get to sleep in my actual bed and not in the hallway like all the other nights I get there too late. So I wanted to get there early. When I walked out the doors of the Methutherans or Methbrytarians or Methheads, I saw like two feet of snow! It snowed while I was eating casseroles. Can you believe it? And it was still snowing, like a thick blanket of snow that some jerk in the sky kept waving back and forth in front of me. I had an entire parking lot to get through to get back to Cowden, in the middle of a blizzard, in early October, in the “Dark Sky City” darkness. I couldn’t see in front of me, and I didn’t have a coat on or anything. How the hell does Flagstaff get away with crap like this? Flagstaff should be indicted for this sort of thing.

                Anyway, I started my trek back to the dorm, but because I couldn’t see anything except for snow, I bumped into a car in front of me, and the stupid alarm went off. So I did the first thing that popped into my head and ran away. At the end of the parking lot, I slipped on the snow when I was running and hurt my hip. The car alarm kept blaring at me until I reached the sidewalk where Cowden is to the right and the library is to the left. That’s when I saw the goddamned person in the gorilla costume walking toward me from the right, only the costume was covered in snow, so it looked like a zebra yeti, just sort of lumbering through the two feet of snow toward me.

 Maybe the car alarm angered the gorilla. Maybe it felt threatened when I walked into its natural habitat, in the middle of a university road at night during a blizzard. The person in the gorilla suit costume lumbered silently at me like some stealthy predator. I turned around and got out of the snow into this little pathway at the front of the library that’s protected by columns or pillars or collars or something like that.

                I ran, and my hip was throbbing from when I slipped, but I made it to the entrance of the library. When I looked back, the person in the gorilla suit costume was still lumbering toward me through the columned path. I went inside the library, got snow everywhere, and hid for a while in the little coffee shop restaurant thing they have on the first floor and started working on a paper for my rhetoric class, since I had taken my backpack with me to the church thing because I got out of rhetoric late. After a while I tried to get back to Cowden, but the snow outside was like four feet high. Plus, I saw the gorilla pacing around this statue of a dude on a stack of books they have outside the library. It was like the gorilla was waiting for me to come out to attack me.

                How the hell does NAU get away with four feet of snow and zebra yetis? It’s terrible. I went back into the library, which closes at two in the morning, I think, and did more homework and goofed around on the internet. Then things got weird. I was up on the third floor in the farthest corner of a room, when I looked up and saw Maxwell walk behind a shelf, stop for a minute, and keep going. After that, a librarian went behind the shelf, stopped where Maxwell had stopped, and kept going again. I was curious about what happened, and I know they all say that curiosity kills cats, but I wasn’t a cat, I thought, so I prowled my way to the other side of the shelves.

                On an empty shelf close to the ground were two very nicely rolled joints, or roaches. They were so nicely rolled, you’d think a professional had rolled them. I guessed the lost-and-found people worked with the librarians, and I guess Maxwell needs to supply his herd of cynics with joints. What I thought was strange was that they would miss two whole joints. It seemed weird for a business that was so organized to forget two whole joints. I figured they wouldn’t miss them, and I could maybe use them to bargain for something I might need, so I stuffed them in my pocket and went downstairs.

                When I walked to the second floor, I passed a janitor. I was going to check outside to see if the gorilla was still there, but when I was on the second floor, going toward a window, the same janitor came rushing by me, shouting on his cellphone. I think he didn’t see me. Anyway, the snow hadn’t stopped, and it was up to maybe twelve feet. It looked like twelve feet, at least. So I stayed in the library on the second floor, in the furthest corner I could find, hoping the janitor wouldn’t catch me. That’s where I am now. That’s where I’m writing this.

                Oh, and by the way, they shut the power off. It’s 2:30 in the morning, and they locked me inside. I can’t get out. I tried and the doors are all locked. I wonder if the gorilla had something to do with this. It’s dark. I’m cold. I want to go back to my dorm room where I don’t have to run away from gorillas and drug-dealing librarians. So that’s where I’m at right now. I hope you’re having a better night than I am.