REALITY CHECK: C’mon, Mike, don’t fear the reader …

Reality Check | Mike Taylor

You are SUCH a chicken, Mike Taylor; a coward; a complete and total wimp! You are pathetic! What are you, a man or a mouse?

(Squeak.)

Nope, it’s not working. I was hoping that by berating myself I could work up some nerve, in much the same way as did the Cowardly Lion as he approached the throne of The Great and Powerful Oz.

I’ve mentioned before how terrified I am of making public appearances, right? I know I have. Yet, for reasons I can’t fully explain (greed), I have a book signing coming up Saturday, Oct. 27. It’s at Robbins Book List in Greenville, just for a couple hours beginning at 1 p.m.

Sounds easy, right? I mean, I already know how to sit; I know how to sign my name; I know how to smile and say thank you. One would think this gig had a zero learning curve.

So why am I suddenly beginning to smell like poultry?

Well, first off, there’s the very real possibility nobody will show up. Maybe, just maybe, I’m not as wonderful as I think I am, nor as universally loved.

I base this possibility on the fact nobody showed up for my 50th birthday party except my then-wife and kids. Despite my having mailed out a dozen invites a week earlier, it was just the four of us. At that party there was tequila and a live band, so whatever embarrassment I felt at being stood up was soon assuaged through the liberal application of Cuervo and classic rock.

As I understand it, there will be no tequila at the book signing; no live band. If nobody shows up, I will have to face the humiliation without, um, distilled assistance or rock ’n’ roll.

Then again, maybe people WILL show up, people who read my column or have already read my book. They will expect me to be funny, clever, articulate; all things I can easily fake in print but never seem able to pull off in real life.

I’ll stutter, I’ll mumble, I’ll blurt inappropriate things I will deeply regret later on. I’ll make a fool of myself.

Regardless of whether anyone actually shows up, I’m doomed.

This is all made so much worse by Helen Simonson. Simonson’s book, “Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand,” chosen as this year’s One Book One County selection for Montcalm County. Everyone who’s read it says it’s a great novel.

That’s fine. What’s NOT fine is Simonson herself. She was in town Tuesday night to speak to an audience of about 400 readers (myself included) and she was brilliant. She was articulate, interesting, entertaining … everything one expects an author to be at a book signing.

I sat in the front row, enthralled — like the rest of those gathered at the high school — with her clever stories, witty observations and wry sagacity. Her book was a best seller and she’s done a lot of these appearances; she made it look easy.

And maybe for her, it was. If so, that serves only to make me feel even worse about my own pathetic lack of social graces.

Sure, part of Simonson’s charm came from her British accent. “Put your hand up! This is a robbery!” sounds altogether charming when you say it with an English accent. An English accent is the polar opposite of a German accent, where even a statement such as, “I love you, darling,” tends to sound like wine glasses being cruelly crushed between two large, wet stones. I’m fairly certain German is the language Klingons revert to when they want to sound scarier than they do in their native tongue.

Anyway, her accent was part of her charm, but not all of it. She was collected, cool and in complete control.

I hate her.

No, that’s not true. I thought she was great. I just hope folks who attended her signing don’t show up at mine. I can’t follow an act like that.

Sweet Annie has agreed to accompany me to the signing to offer moral support, but I suspect she plans to wear dark glasses and a fake Groucho mustache. No need for us both to go down in flames, I guess.

Dallas Ford Lincoln, a fellow author, friend, and man with the names of two car companies in his monicker, also will be there signing his latest book. So if nobody shows, at least I’ll have another writer there with me suffering a similar fate. I don’t know if misery loves company, but I do.

Ah, if I only had da noive.

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