My heart thumped louder, tears played along the rims of my eyes, and what felt like an octopus rolled around in my tummy. I couldn’t stay still as I waited for that first magical glimpse; that moment that would give me just a piece of a long-buried childhood dream.
From my reaction one would think that I’d been transported back in time to February 7, 1964, to stand with thousands of others to wait for Pan AM flight 101 to land on the JFK tarmac. But no, it was 11-11-11 and I wasn’t waiting for British pop icons to stroll off a plane and shake their bowl-cuts, I was waiting for my idol and inspiration: a 60+-year-old man who spends most of his time holed-up in a room, hunched over a keyboard. He is the one person that can induce swooning from this girl: Stephen Freaking King!!
He is the writer that inspired me and my writing style. Sure I grew up reading tons of classics and even helped turn Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary into American classics themselves, but Stephen was special. Stephen was dark and forbidden; rebellion bound in a foreboding cover. He was the first “adult” writer I read; borrowing it from a fellow 11-year-old and lying to my parents about its content. Pet Sematary changed my life. It scared the crap out of me…and I loved it!! Christine, Salem’s Lot, and The Shining followed and they just kept coming. I was an addict.
So there I was, a bona fide crackhead waiting for her fairytale fix with a thousand other people in a high school auditorium in McKinney, Texas. (I only discovered after it was sold out that there was a more intimate, expensive gathering the night before–and I would have paid!!) While I waited, I answered all of the King trivia correctly that had been flashing on the screen and then listened to the owner of A Real Bookstore give her introduction, and then held my breath as an unassuming man wearing a t-shirt, jeans and glasses walked onto the stage. We all jumped to our feet, clapping wildly, and for myself, wiping away tears. He was really in the same room with me.
The first thing you have to know about Stephen King is that is damn funny. I don’t think many people knew this, but I did. He had to be funny, because I had seen the signs and I knew I could only be in complete worship of someone who was brilliant and funny (it’s the law). He proved my instincts about his humor correct with beginning the night by suggesting that statics showed that 1 out of 25 people in the auditorium had left their car unlocked and that 1 in 75 had left their homes unlocked. He went on to talk about the likely hood of the psychopath happening to find that unlocked car or home. He kept us mesmerized with all the facts until he declared it all bullshit. “I made that all up, because that’s what I do.”
He went on to tell stories about giving autographs while stuck on a public toilet with a bought of food poisoning. He told us about being mistaken for Stephen Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola and how he always says, “Yes, I am.” He told a fantastic story about being invited to dinner with Bruce Springsteen back in the Born in the USA glory days. A young teenage girl had ogled their table all night from across the restaurant and finally worked up the nerve to come over to them. Bruce pulled a pen from his pocket, preparing himself but in Stephen’s words, “She never even f*cking looked at him! She was there for me!!”
I’m not going to bore you with a blow-by-blow replay of his speech because it just wouldn’t be the same. I will say that one of the things that struck me the most as a writer is how that even now when he sits down to start a new book he worries if it will be good enough. It makes me feel better about the little parasite that eats away at my confidence so it can fill the holes with doubt.
Anyway, the evening was magnificent and ended with each person receiving a copy of his newest release 11/22/63. The catch was that 250 signed copies were mixed into the books, so I had a 25% chance of picking up the Holy Grail of my book collection!!! I was positive that God, the universe, and Karma were all on my side. I mean, how could I not get one? I was crazy fangirl for goodness sake!
Myself, my hubby (also an uber fan), my bff, and another good writing chum and her hubby all got in different lines. We ran outside and met, flipping open the books. My bff-Yes! Got one! My chum-Yes! Her hubby-yes! My hubby-no! Me…
I almost cried as I stared at the page so obviously void of his signature. I looked at my friends all holding their prizes and felt completely swindled. Between the three of them only one person had read one— ONE(!!!) book by Stephen King. I love my friends and I was genuinely happy for their fortune but there was a large toddler inside of me that wanted to cry and beat the ground and throw diapers at Karma and her friends that had obviously overlooked me. But I managed to keep shreds of my dignity in place until I made it to the car where I promptly had my baby fit (lucky hubby). It took a moment of pouting and cursing and then I was able to finally wrap my brain around it.
I decided that they all got their books because they are awesome amazing people and my little tantrum over my hurt feelings wasn’t going to make a book magically drop in my lap (probably because Karma had snuck one for herself–skank). So I decided to just concentrate on feeling good for my friends and bury my disappointment in the shallow grave I was already digging in my mind to bury Karma and her buddies).
And just as I found my peace (and maturity), I got a text from our sitter that informed us that our oldest son (who is autistic and has told me more than once that he “just isn’t a lucky guy”) had won a brand new Wii playing bingo at the school fundraiser. So I found myself quietly thanking God, Karma, and the universe, because just maybe they had known what was best. Just maybe they had decided that for one night any good energy meant for me could be channeled to him instead. He got the luck that night and him getting to experience that in front of the entire school and especially the kids who bully him was worth a thousand books. Even ones signed by Mr. King.