I LOVE copy stores. There's something magical about hot paper with instant words written all over it. Just those sounds and smells make me giggle.
I'm always happy when I visit the copy store, usually because that means I've finished a manuscript and am getting ready to submit it somewhere.
The other day I e-mailed some files (a couple queries, a full manuscript and some sample chapters) to the store by us. I specified that I'd pick them up later. When I got to the store a lot more than papers awaited me.
I walked in and the cute girl behind the counter said, "Are you, Elisa? The author AND the seamstress?"
"Well, I'm not a published author. I'm an aspiring one." Then it hit me. How did she know me? "I am a seamstress though. How . . . did you know that. Have we met?"
"Oh, no." She giggled. Then, like an eccentric magician, she produced a pair of pants from behind the counter. "I liked your writing so much that I googled your name. I wanted to see if you had any books for sale."
"What . . . writing?"
She put her hand to the side of her mouth and whispered. "I read a bit of your attachment. It's been really slow today, but I couldn't stop reading. Did that witch really take Jack?"
Was I hearing right? Had she really read my stuff? It honestly didn't bother me especially since she's so young. It was actually a huge compliment, something I'd needed to hear because it's hard getting rejection after rejection in the writing industry.
"So, I found you online and I'm in love with your clothing designs too. Do you ever do alterations?"
"For pants?" I looked at the pants on the counter. I actually loathe altering things. A few years back someone put my name on a list of people who like donating time to the community. I didn't think that was bad until realizing I was listed as "Elisa the Alterer." When you're little and dreaming about what you'll be after growing up you think; I'm going to be an astronaut. I'm going to be a famous preacher-lady. I'm going to be Minnie Mouse at Disney Land . . . NOT I'm going to be "Elisa the Alterer." Plus donations are great and everything, but then people expect more and more--FOR FREE. I don't want to go broke just donating. My husband would kill me and my kids enjoy eating more than Top Ramen!
But that snoopy employee was so cute, so darn sweet, I said I'd alter her pants. She ran to the back room and put them on. She'd even brought a measuring tape so I'd know how much to hem them. That's when her manager came out.
"What in Heaven's name are you doing?" the manager asked the young girl.
"I'm getting some pants hemmed," Snoopy said. "What does it look like I'm doing. I told Elisa I googled her name after I read her . . . " She let the words trail off. Her manager's eyes lit with fire.
"You told her you did what?" the manager fumed.
"It's okay," I said. "She actually gave me some really great feedback. I've been wanting to know if teenagers would be interested in my manuscript." I turned to the girl. "Looks like I just need to take off two and a half inches."
"And now she has you hemming her pants?"
I bit my lip. What were we going to do, stand around talking about that girls sins? I had places to be. "It's no biggie. I LOVE hemming pants." It was a lie, but meant for the best possible outcome.
The manager's eyebrows arced in opposition as if they prepared to fight a well groomed duel. "Go to the back room," she said to Snoopy. "I'll take care of this customer."
As Snooppy left she turned and said, "I'll bring these pants out in a minute."
The manager put her face in her hands. "I am so sorry. How unprofessional."
"It's really okay. She's a cute kid."
"So, you have over three-hundred pages . . . at six cents per side." She paused. I wondered what she was thinking. She tapped the papers next to her. "I don't want you to think I go reading everyone's stuff, but I . . . found a couple typos. I took the liberty of fixing them."
I snorted. I didn't mean to, but I did. She'd read it too! It must have been the slowest day known to man. "Thanks for fixing them. That was nice."
"I didn't read it, I swear." She turned red. "My eyes just fell to these two spots." She opened a couple of pages, one of which rested deep inside the manuscript. "Did you mean for it to say this?"
I read the sentence. "I don't know what you fixed, but that's exactly what it was supposed to say."
"Oh good," she mouthed. "I just notice those things because I'm a writer too."
That made me smile. I think everyone's a writer in one way or another. We all have something to say.
Just as I finished paying, Snoopy trotted from the back area and handed me the pants. "Thanks for altering these," she said. "Do you mind if I finish reading the rest of your book?"
The manager seethed, but when she looked at me I raised an eyebrow--who was she to judge? She'd read my stuff too!
"Sure," I said. "Maybe I can talk to you about it after I finish altering your pants."
"Sure. Why did you write it anyway? I feel like there's something more to it," she said before I could leave. "Why did you write that book about Jack?"
"I had a baby who died." I felt the sadness swelling as I spoke. Sure it's been eight years, but I don't like talking about it. "My little girl wanted to know why, so I told her a story about how he went far into the ocean. She loves the ocean and I knew that was something she'd understand. Anyway, I said he had to leave us, even though we didn't completely understand why, but at the end of his journey he found everything my daughter always dreamed of. He found love, adventure, pirates, mermaids and treasure.
"Even though he's gone, she realized it was something meant to be. We're the ones left with the pain and the heartache. He's no longer suffering."
"What was wrong . . . with him?" Snoopy asked.
"He was so sick." Tears choked my voice and I continued babbling. I don't know why I went on. I used to burden strangers with Zeke's death all the time, right after it happened. I don't do it often now. But sometimes I guess you just need someone to talk to--someone to say it'll be okay. "I made the decision to let him go. I made the decision! For years I felt like a murderer." I'd gotten emotional during the speech. "Sorry, to be standing here crying. I don't know what's wrong with me?" It was the strangest trip to the copy store ever! "Anyway, I ended up writing the whole thing down so she'll always have it. The story might not mean anything to other people. It might never get published, but it's special to us because that's how my daughter came to terms with death. There's a part where she got to see her brother again--after he grew up. She said it was pure magic because it felt so real. I think that's how she got closure. Maybe it's how I did too. I cried when I wrote that section, just thinking how he would have been, if life was perfect and he was born healthy and all."
Snoopy and the hardened manager had tears in their eyes. The manager wiped her cheeks. "Do you mind if I read it too?"
I laughed so hard my stomach hurt. Then we all laughed. I clutched the pants closer to my side and smiled. It was hilarious, really it was. Those two women were cut from the same stone.
"Sure, I'd love that. Thanks for asking." When I'd gone to the copy store, I'd expected to find a pile of papers; instead I'd found a pair of pants and two new friends.