I’m happy to have my story The Rule Book published on Flash Fiction Magazine. The story can be found here or read it below.
THE RULE BOOK
I’m at a bookshop author event. Beaming Bookseller has pulled off a coup by inviting Bestselling Crime Author to speak in this cultural backwater.
There are four people in front of me in the queue.
Rucksack Older Man
Selfie Obsessed Teenager
Wheeled Shopper Lady
I’m not obsessed. I certainly don’t suffer from OCD as anyone who picks up a duster more than twice a week seems to claim. I like reading. I read A LOT. What’s the problem? I’m not hurting anyone but people love to criticise and tell me I read too much.
I’m not a book hoarder either. I only keep books that are signed. I have thirty-three signed books – I won each of them in prize draw competitions. One of them has my name spelt wrong. Why would somebody do that? How hard could it be to copy a name and spell it right. There was a bit of a clash of rules with that one. It’s signed so I keep it, but my name’s spelt wrong and I don’t keep stuff with my name spelt wrong. Every time I walk past the bookcase my eyes flick towards that book. Lying in bed at night I imagine a grating sound coming from the next room, trying to draw my attention to that book. But for now the ‘signed’ rule overrides the ‘name spelt wrong’ rule so I keep the book. I hope that changes some time soon so I can get rid of that book and have a moment’s peace.
I’d like to own more signed books, and I’d actually like to meet the authors, but until now the rules have stopped me. The rules say I can only go to an author event if it’s free or if I win tickets. The rules also say that the event has to be within 50 miles of where I live.
So here I am in the queue.
Bestselling Crime Author has just finished a fascinating talk about her latest book and we’re lining up to meet her and have a book signed. A book. In my book that means one book but at the head of the queue Suitcase Guy is emptying what seems to be an entire shelf of books onto the table. A quick glance at my watch and some mental maths tells me I won’t make the next train.
Up to now I’ve managed to avoid thinking about trying to break the rules. The rules say I can’t buy a book I’ve already read just to get it signed. I borrowed Bestselling Crime Author’s latest book from the library and devoured it in two days. As I near the end of the queue there’s a table piled high with the paperback that’s just been released. I have to convince the rules that buying the paperback to be signed doesn’t count as it was the hardback I read. A subtle difference but it might just be enough.
Rucksack Older Man’s up next. I was hoping the rucksack would contain just a few books so I’m gutted to see him shake out at least a dozen paperbacks onto the table. Each one makes catching yet another train an impossible ambition.
Selfie Obsessed Teenager has made it to the front of the queue. She only has one book to be signed but spends at least ten minutes trying to achieve the perfect selfie shot. Give Bestselling Crime Author her due, the fixed smile never quite degenerated into a grimace.
I’ve written my name on a post-it to make sure she spells it right. I mean, that’d be just my luck wouldn’t it? To get the book home and just as I’m putting it on the shelf I notice my name spelt wrong. And just to rub salt in the wound it’d be right at that moment that the rules priority changed and I had to get rid of signed books with my name spelt wrong.
Wheeled Shopper Lady takes me by surprise. I expected her to unpack a library load of books but she only has the latest one. I just have time to pay for my copy and present it to Bestselling Crime Author along with the post-it with my name on. She signs my book and tries to make polite conversation but I’m tongue-tied and miss the opportunity, even forgetting to ask if a photo would be ok.
As I walk out of the shop and head towards the station I run through the rules several times to make sure I haven’t broken any.
It’s so tiring, trying to keep to the rules. I think it might be easier for those OCD people who say they have to do their rituals because otherwise they or someone they care for would come to harm.
But I don’t have OCD. I’m not obsessed. It’s just the rules.