Introducing Charles Craig Curtis
Now, after 90 pages about Doctor Emma Everly Hancock, it is time to introduce the hero of this book — Charles Craig Curtis.
I (the author of this book) was sitting at a corner table on the second floor of the new Moise Pipecks by myself. I always sit by myself when I am alone. I had been told this was the place to go for writers of any genre, gender and age in the greater Boston area. I had not been lied to. I couldn’t believe who was there. Doc Hancock had done a great job in transforming the former radical bookstore into a shrine of modern day capitalism.
The first floor was designed to attract the 21 — 30 year old customers, two pool tables, an Internet jukebox and bar-top touch-screen games dominated the décor. Even better, they were all being played. There was a small dance floor and small stage set up next to it. Over the stage there was a sign that listed the daily specials and the night’s entertainment. There were high tables scattered about. Each table had three high back swivels chairs placed at them. All the seats were taken which made the Doc very happy. The bar was long and had a huge mirror behind it. Neons from the various products sold at the bar dotted the other walls. There was one very good looking male bartender at one end of the bar and an equally good looking female bartender at the other end. The place was hoping and it seemed everyone was having a good time.
The second floor was where all the famous and not so famous writers congregated. It was set up more like a living room with chairs, tables, couches, and bookcases scattered about. A small kitchen was located up here and the people who worked in the kitchen could be seen bringing an order of wings downstairs or a cheese plate to the people who were enjoying the second floor atmosphere. The small bar on the second floor served mostly wine and high end liquor. The bathrooms to the entire
location were located on the second floor and if you walked past the men’s and women’s restrooms you would come to what Emma called ‘the third floor’ but it really was an extension of the second floor.
The ‘third floor’, as Emma called it, was the stuff of a legend. Not only did the Doc get writers to sign their novels and perform a reading and stay for a question and answer session — she used it as a therapy room, no matter what was happening business wise on floors one and two. This is how that happened….
After Emma had closed the deal to purchase the bar and the building, the renovations began. Emma put her budding private practice on hold to oversee the rehab.
One day, she was talking to the carpenters about bookshelves she wanted in her author’s reading room, when one of her patients came bolting up from the second floor demanding that she see him then and now.
Emma agreed and the session was very successful. She ended up buying out the lease of her small office in Cambridge and using the third floor for seeing patients. She hoped to set up an office in a house when she found the right one to buy. It is in the third floor setting where Charles Craig Curtis met Emma Everly Hancock.
Charles had received an open invitation to come and perform a reading, signing and a question and answer session at Moise from Emma (she had sent invitations out to all local, famous and not so famous, writers in the greater Boston area).
Charles had never heard of Emma, but had heard that the new bar Moise Pipecks was a swinging place to party at and that it also had a book signing once in a while. Charles like to schedule dates with women around book signings. The dates were always memorable. Charles always saw to that, because he had a big problem.
And Boston was a small/big city where he knew a lot of women from his past that he liked to invite to his signings would love to visit.
Charles wandered around the place and asked, the attractive female bartender manning the first floor, about the second floor after he downed a shot of tequila. The bartender couldn’t look Charles in the eyes, because she found him that good looking. This made the female bartender feel inadequate; because she was used to having men look away from her. Charles left the young lady a $20 tip and ventured up the stairs.
It was time for the two to meet. It was time to get Charles’ problem repaired, and only Emma could do that.
I watched Charles recognize some of the writers who were there in Moise Pipecks with us. I was at the table closest to the bathrooms. I always sit at the table closest to the
bathrooms at bars. Why should I walk far when I have to take a leak? Some writers were famous and some were not so famous. Charles knew who was who and ordered and paid for drinks for the ones he knew had no money and were starving to death. After they received their drinks, he went over and introduced himself to them. These unknown writers knew who he was and were flabbergasted that such a rich and famous writer would even talk to them, let alone buy them drinks and offer up words of encouragement and good cheer. This is a trait that made Charles Craig Curtis so popular with others. He never forgot where he came from, and like the writers gathered at the table — Charles Craig Curtis had toiled in obscurity for years, and hoped this small token would help out in a small way.
Charles shook their hands, and walked over to a table where Kilgore Trout and Eliot Rosewater were talking. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but if I had to guess, it was probably about Eliot Rosewater’s upcoming sanity hearing. I couldn’t tell what they were drinking. Trout looked to be doing most of the talking. Rosewater had a big checkbook next to him, and was listening to every word that Kilgore was saying like his peace of mind depended on it. Charles knew he wasn’t going to be able to get a word in with Trout making point after point after point or even get Rosewater to listen to him while Trout was talking. He signaled for the waiter to give them what they wanted, and to put it on his tab. He left the two men and gave each one of them a pat on their shoulders. As Charles was leaving, he noticed Trout handed Rosewater a brown paper bag. Charles wondered what was in it. Of course, I knew.
I watched him go over to the next table where I saw Ruth Cole and Eddie O’Hare welcome him with big bear hugs. Before he sat down to chat, Eddie demanded a toast. Ruth poured Charles a glass of champagne from the bottle that was on the table. Eddie raised his own glass which was full of Diet Coke, and said “to the best book for children since Ted Cole entertained children!” They clinked glasses and took a sip. Charles signaled for the waiter and ordered a glass of Pinot Noir for himself and bought a bottle of champagne for Ruth and another Diet Coke for Eddie.
I am sure that before Charles came to their table, that Ruth and Eddie were talking about Ruth’s mother, Marion, or maybe the next book that either Ruth or Eddie was working on. Regardless, Ruth started to heap praise on Charles for his last novel. Charles blushed, which Ruth later told her friend Hannah made him even that much more attractive to her.
And Ruth knew about success. Charles Craig Curtis’ last novel Domestically Wild had been wildly acclaimed as the best children’s book in years or at least since Ted Cole (Ruth’s father) ruled the roost as a children’s book author all those years ago.
Domestically Wild was not only critically acclaimed — it sold millions of copies, was
translated into 30 foreign languages, and already had gone through several printings. Sir Steven Spielberg was in the process of making a movie out of it, and every “hot” Hollywood actor and actress wanted to lend their voice (for a price) to the characters that Charles had created, which had delighted so many children and their parents. Stanley Tucci had just signed on to supply the voice narrative for the audiobook version.
Charles Craig Curtis had come a long way since self-publishing his first two novels. The first one was about a half-deaf baseball player who traded his wife for his best friend’s wife. It sold 35 copies and Charles joked that it paid for his dry cleaning bill of one shirt.
His second novel was much more ambitious. It was a love triangle that had a lot of Al-Anon philosophy sprinkled throughout it, because one of the main characters’ spouse is an alcoholic. It sold 79 copies and garnered very good reviews. Charles joked that he had two shirts dry cleaned and paid for from the sales and royalties earned. However, the reviews were so good, it got him noticed and landed him an agent.
Gary Harte was a young up-and-comer in the new and ever changing world of publishing and stumbled upon Charles’ work because of a review he had found in a magazine while taking a shit in a public restroom at Boston’s Logan Airport. Gary was suffering from a very bad case of diarrhea and had run out of toilet paper to wipe his ass with. As he looked around for something to use as toilet paper, he spied a magazine on the floor in the stall next to him. Luckily for Gary, no one was in the stall; he quickly bent down and scooped up the magazine as he pooped away. While he pooped and pooped and pooped he read the magazine before shredding it into pieces to use as toilet paper. In the magazine there was a great review of Charles’ second novel. Gary kept that page and set out to meet Charles. A team was founded and Gary landed a contract with a reputable, but very small publishing house for Charles’ third novel, which was a road trip for a middle aged man back into his past to find out what had just happened to him (and why) in the present.
“Scatological found us and scatological will make us,” Gary said to Charles when they signed their contract.
“I hope you’re not full of shit,” Charles replied.
“Luckily for you, I was that fateful day.”
Charles’ first non-self-published book did pretty well. It found an audience with men
who liked ‘road’ stories and bumped up the sales of his first two novels. Book number one sold 17 more copies and book number two sold 29 more copies. More importantly, book number three sold 1,705 copies.
“Enough to break even on all my expenses,” Charles bragged to anyone who would listen.
“So, what’s next for Charles Craig Curtis?” Gary instant messaged him.
“I’m really getting into wine, so I better come up with a damn good book,” Charles wrote back.
It was a beautiful day, his divorce was final. He texted his three children; didn’t get a response and decided to take his dog for a walk.
He was listening to the audio book version of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer as read by Grover Gardner. This got him to thinking about dictatorships, Fascism, the Constitution and its precious civil liberties (amongst many ideas he was having) as he walked his dog around the Charles River.
His golden retriever went to the bathroom and he took out the plastic bag he always carried with him when he was out walking his dog. He picked up the waste and deposited into the waste container provided by the caretakers of the river walk.
“I’m glad to see you using a plastic bag when picking up after your dog,” a happy dog walker pointed out.
“Why is that?”
“Brown paper bags are for far more important reasons. Besides, the plastic bag masks the smell better.”
Charles nodded. He had never thought about using anything but a plastic bag for picking up dog crap. For some reason, the crap became a metaphor to him about the two dominant American political parties and how they were screwing up the country at every level.
He felt a book idea coming on (No, not about plastic bags vs brown paper bags).
He watched as a couple squirrels darted in and out of the walkway he was on and held back his dog from chasing them. He spotted a wild rabbit and so did his dog. He held on for dear life as the dog lunged at it. He saw a chipmunk run around and thought it would make a great scat back if the wild animals ever played back yard football together.
Then, he and his dog came across a huge cat lying on the walkway slowly tossing its fluffy tail from one side to the other and not yielding to people, dogs or wild animals. The cat just washed its face with its huge paws and rolled on its side. Charles’ dog wanted to lick it.
Domestic versus wild, he thought.
He couldn’t do an Animal Farm type story, but what about a story using wild animals as democrats and domestic animals as republicans?
Bingo! He mused as he turned around his dog, turned off the audio book, and sprinted home with his dog to make an outline.
Instant messaging wasn’t going to work. He had to Skype Gary, which he did.
It was Gary who suggested he make it a children’s story with a hidden message or two or nine for adults.
Within a week Gary had a big time publisher lined up.
Charles found the illustrator — a very talented woman by the name of Patricia Saxton and the rest was, as they say, history.
Now, he was rich, famous and in big trouble. He needed help. He laughed some more with Ruth and Eddie and had another glass of wine. When he finished his glass they bade each other goodbye.
I could have sworn that Ruth told Eddie that if she wasn’t married, she would have taken Charles under the table. Eddie suggested to Ruth that she should call her best friend Hannah Grant who would do just that.
I watched Charles go over to another table. This table was inhabited by the great capitalist Milo Minderbender and the even bigger radical John Yossarian.
Charles talked to them and paid for a round of drinks for all. Milo was trying to get Yossarian to run for political office. Yossarian was begging off, saying he was far, too radical to be a politician. Milo said the people that were with him wanted a radical that they could control, and that he was their man whether he liked it or not. Charles told them both he had his fill of politics with his latest book and all the talk shows he had been on where the hosts either heaped praise on him or abuse, depending on what political party they belonged to. They all shook hands.
Charles was heading for the last table that was full of people before he came to my table and then went to the bathroom and then into the room where he would find Emma and one of her patients.
I wanted it to happen this way.
Charles said hello to everyone at the table. The people at the table were celebrating a graduation. One of them had just received his degree at the local community college. His name was Boo Radley. Jem, Scout and Atticus Finch were very proud of their neighbor. Charles bought them all a drink. But, because Jem and Scout were underage, they received Shirley Temples.
Shirley Temple was a famous child movie star. The drink was named for her, because it was sweet, cute, and had no alcohol in it.
Atticus let his two children have a sip of his beer, and the bartender and the waiter didn’t say one thing.
No one messes with Atticus Finch.
Charles told those at the table to say hello to their mutual friend Dill He was visiting with his aunts), and then spied me. I waved for him to come over and signaled the waiter to come over. I wanted to buy both of us a drink before he did.
Now that Charles was wealthy, he was always buying for people. I admire that trait in the more well-to-do, but not enough of them do, in fact, do just that.
They hoard it.
Then again, maybe that’s why they have more than me.
“Hi,” Charles said. “You look familiar.”
“And so do you,” I said.
“Where do I know you from?” Charles asked.
“Here and there,” I said.
“Oh,” he said. “Thanks for the drink.”
“The pleasure was all mine,” I said.
We both took a sip of our drinks. He looked around. He seemed antsy.
“You seem antsy,” I pointed out.
“I am. I’m checking this place out. I received an invitation to do a book signing from the owner,” he said.
“I know,” I said.
“You seem to know a lot about me, but all I know about you, is that I can’t place where we would have met before,” he said.
“Sometimes life isn’t very fair, is it?” I stated.
He shot me a nervous glance.
I didn’t blame him.
“Why don’t you take a leak and go see where the person, who invited you, is,” I said as I pointed to the bathrooms and the big room where Emma was conducting a therapy session.
“Do you always give orders?” he said in a huff as he got up to walk to where I had pointed.
Only when I am writing, I thought. “I hope you clean up your libido and your writer’s block from hell,” I said to him.
If looks could kill, I would have been a dead man, as they say.
Charles Craig Curtis walked to the men’s room and took a leak. He finished, washed his hands and checked himself out in the full length mirror on the wall.
Not bad for forty-eight, he thought.
He came out of the bathroom and looked back at the table where I had been sitting. I was gone and he smiled. I had annoyed him, because I knew that he needed serious help. He knew he needed help, but he had no idea how he was going to find it.
He walked over to the big room and heard a voice. It was coming from beyond the bookcase. He couldn’t see through the books and figured that the person talking couldn’t see him. It was a man’s voice. He quietly crept up to the bookcase and parted a few books so he could see who was talking and who was listening (besides himself). He was going to eavesdrop and the only thing that bothered him was that he didn’t have a drink in his hand.
He peered down at a man that he guessed was his own age. The man was lying on his back whining about his parents.
Oh geez, he thought. Who airs their problems in a place like this? Obviously someone who can’t afford to go to a doctor with a private practice, he thought.
Then he looked at who the man was talking to.
Of course, it was Doctor Emma Everly Hancock, and Charles first reaction was to figure out how to get her pants down until she started to talk to her patient, and then Charles wanted her to help him.
The session ended and Charles scampered back to the men’s room. The patient walked in right after him. Charles asked him what he thought of the doctor.
“Are you a patient, too?”
“Yes,” lied Charles.
“She is the best,” the man said.
Charles nodded and walked out to make an appointment with the doctor.
He opened up the men’s room door and walked right into Emma, knocking her over.
“I’m so sorry,” he blurted out as he helped her up.
“You would think the owner of the place would know that a bathroom door could open up at any time,” she said. Emma shook her head and then got a good look at who had just bowled her over. “Good god,” she gasped. “You’re Charles Craig Curtis!”
“So I am. I have decided to say yes to your written invitation on one condition,” he said.
“Which is?” she asked.
“You take me as a patient,” he said quietly.
“When do we get started?” she asked excitedly, as she went to the big room to get her appointment book.
“Are my sessions are in that room? He asked, as he pointed back to where Emma had just emerged from with her appointment book.
“Non-negotiable,” she said forcibly.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have a book signing in New York City coming up this weekend. It will have to be after that,” he said.
“How about the Friday after you return?” she asked him.
“It’s a date,” he said. “Can I text you until then, if I need to discuss something with you?”
“Sure, but if it gets out of hand, I’ll want a real large retainer.
They exchanged numbers.
If you missed the earlier Chapters you can find them here.