Arrogance doesn't become you
March 19, 2012
Bob Williams plopped down on his beach chair, his Kindle in his hand, as he watched his grandchildren cavort in the emerald waters of the Florida Panhandle. A few yards to his east, another man about Bob’s age sat under a beach umbrella reading a paperback.
Curiosity got the better of Bob.
“The name’s Bob Williams. What are you reading?” he called out to the other man over the sound of the crashing surf.
The man looked at him, a little miffed. Rather than speak, he displayed the front cover of John Grisham’s The Litigators.
Out of a sense of courtesy to his fellow beach bum, the paperback reader said. “I’m Mr. Ellison, owner of Unit 402.” He waved at the four-story gulf-front condominium complex behind them. “How about you? What are you reading?”
Bob held his Kindle high enough for his neighbor to see it.
“I’ve seen a Kindle before, but I wanted to know what you were reading,” the man said. He had an edge to his voice.
Bob ignored Ellison’s attitude.
“Right now, I am reading Rebels on the Mountain. It’s historical fiction about the Cuban Revolution from a new independent author named Jack Durish,” he said.
“Never heard of it,” the man said.
Bob developed his own attitude.
“You will,” he said.
Ellison rolled out of his chair like a walrus and trudged through the sand until he came next to Bob. He grabbed the Kindle out of Bob’s hand.
Williams didn’t speak as he watched Mr. Ellison play with the device, push a few buttons, read a page.
Ellison handed the Kindle back to Bob.
“This guy’s writing is good, but if he was a real author like Grisham, I’d see his paperback in the racks at the bookstore,” Ellison said.
“Bookstores like Borders, for instance?” Bob asked.
“Not any more. They went out of business,” Ellison said.
“Do you buy your music at record stores?” Bob asked.
Ellison said, “I used to, but now I download it from iTunes.”
“I heard that Grisham had hell trying to sell his first book, A Time to Kill. He had a bunch of copies printed and hawked them out of the trunk of his car until he caught a break,” Williams said.
“I heard that, too,” Ellison said.
“Independent writers are doing the same thing now,” Bob said. “Only they don’t sell them out of their car trunks. They use this instead.” He thumped the Kindle.
Ellison looked at the thin eReader, glanced at his paperback.
“Name a book you would like to read,” Williams said.
“My wife says I should read Freedom by Jonathan Franzen,” Ellison said.
Williams went to the Kindle store on his device. He pulled up the title.
“If you had a Kindle, you could start reading it right now. It would cost you nine dollars and ninety-nine cents,” he said.
“Durish’s book costs less than four dollars.”
“It must not be any good if it’s that cheap,” Ellison said.
“I thought you told me the writing was good,” Bob said on cross-examination.
Ellison defended himself. “Like I said, if this guy was any good, he wouldn’t be an independent.”
“I thought America was all about a guy who could make his dreams come true,” Bob said.
“Damn straight. Didn’t nobody give me nothing,” Ellison bristled. “I earned people’s respect with hard work and a good product.”
“Sounds like the profile of today’s independent author,” Bob said.
He pushed himself out of his chair, gathered his stuff, extended his hand to Ellison.
“It was a pleasure to visit with you, Mr. Ellison.”
Ellison shook his hand. “Which unit is yours?” he asked.
“We’re renting 101,” Bob said as he turned to leave. He walked a few steps and looked back over his shoulder at Ellison. “It’s a whole lot cheaper than buying a fourth floor unit, and we can still see the ocean just fine.”
Ellison watched Bob walk along the boardwalk until he was out of sight, took his iPhone out of his pocket and purchased a Kindle for seventy-nine dollars.
(Written for The Writers Collection to the prompt “Vanity.”)