I was doing a meet-and-greet front-of-the-store event for Barnes and Noble in Philadelphia. Just me and an enormous, somber-faced bouncer. (Who knew bookstores needed bouncers?) The weather outside was chilly with episodic splatters of wind and rain, making the bookstore an appealing refuge. "Like mysteries?" I crooned to the steady stream of shoppers, sounding more like a hooker than a writer. Most refused to look at me as though I was collecting for Terrorists United. A few that did needed a bath and their medication adjusted. The bouncer took it all in stride, his face a neutral screen. Just before shutting the operation down, having sold three books, I noticed a small boy, about ten years old, dressed in a school uniform waiting at my side, no parent in sight.
"Like mysteries?" I asked.
"I want to write a book about snakes," he said. "Can you help me?"He spoke so softly I had to bend over to hear him.
We chatted for several minutes about his pet boa constrictor. I encouraged him to ask his science teacher or his English teacher for help. He thanked me quietly and disappeared into the stacks.
The bouncer looked at me. "That was cute," he said. And I thought I saw tears in his eyes.