My dad and I shared the love of reading books—all kinds. And he knew that my dream was to become a published novelist. He read several of the chapters of IN POLYESTER PAJAMAS while it was in the works and told me to keep on going with it. Unfortunately, he passed away before it was finished and accepted for publication. The good news, though, is that he was alive to at least see me get published. In 2005, I won a monthly writing contest with Writer’s Digest. The prize was $125 and publication. My dad was thrilled! It now seems appropriate, as I think of him, to share that winning essay with you.
Chronicle Winner for March 2005
It’s the end of summer and I’m sitting at a lunch counter in a small general store in Center Lovell, Maine. My husband and I finish a delicious club sandwich and he goes to pay the bill. A small bug traveling around the bottom of my water glass mesmerizes me. My attention’s diverted when someone enters the store. I look up briefly and then take a second look. I can’t believe it—it’s Stephen King!
Well, so much for the bug watching. I now have a new species to look at, a much more interesting one—the very famous best-selling author. After grabbing a drink from the cooler nearby, he walks stiffly over to the lunch counter and sits three stools away. The counter bends, so he’s in clear sight. I try not to stare.
A bit grayer than expected and rather tall, he’s wearing faded blue jeans and a red T-shirt with “Democrat” boldly written on it. If his recognizable thick glasses and face didn’t give away his identity, I’d never think this guy’s well off.
Holding onto a book with half of the pages curled back, he begins to read while waiting for the waitress to come and take his order. Loving books myself, I’m curious about its title and author, but his hand’s concealing the cover. Darn!
None of the 10 other people in the store seem surprised by his presence. The waitress waltzes over and doesn’t give him any special treatment. Why? Then I remember he owns a summer home around here and they consider him one of the locals. It comforts me to know he’s treated normally somewhere. I walk up to discreetly tell my husband we’re in the company of Stephen King. Does it bother him to make a scene? Nah! He struts over and says hello. By now, King’s head’s buried in the newspaper. Peering over it, he appears apprehensive, but smiles warily. They exchange a few words and shake hands.
“What a strange guy,” my husband comments after we leave the store.
I’m still wondering why I didn’t talk to him myself. I’ve read some of his stories and especially enjoyed his book On Writing and I’m already making plans to call everyone when we get home to share the exciting news.
As we’re driving away, it occurs to me that I didn’t talk to him because that’s not what’s important to me. I was there to observe and that’s what I did—something every writer engages in because that’s how stories are born.
Hmm . . . I wonder what he saw.