Booksellers Incorporated
by Marilynn Wilkins                            

Before I met Mr.Horowitz at the restaurant in Malibu, I knew about his sex change operation. Word gets around. But,I was there to pitch my book to one of the best literary agents on the west coast and not to wonder why a guy would put himself through all that pain to become a woman.                     

I had only one hour to pitch my book, a privilege I had won in a contest the previous winter. I arrived wearing a borrowed pima cotton sun dress, manuscript in hand, heart pounding.                                                    

Gladys Horowitz (formerly Grady), leaned forward as I sat down, "Pretty dress! Don’t you just love summer when we can wear all these fabrics that flow?"                        

"Yes." I answered. With a feminine wave of his hand, he summoned the waiter.Seven minutes of my pitch time was spent thumbing through the menu. I glanced at my wristwatch every 30 seconds.                                                                 

"I’ll have the lobster," Horowitz said."And, the lady will have the same." He had retained the masculine tendency to order for a lady. Some habits die hard. Horowitz launched into a travelogue about Thailand and sex change operations. I suspected it was a way to escape reading my novel.         

"My doctor was the best. He let me choose the size of my breast implants. Had to match my large frame you know. What do you think?" He thrust his chest forward and lightly placed his hand on the curvature of his breast.                       

"Cool." I said, just as my salad was served.               

"It was the culmination of years of soul searching and therapy. It was a thrilling experience." Horowitz said, glowing.                                                  

I raised my eyebrows in response and punctured the cherry tomato with my fork, pretending it was his eyeball.                 

"I saved a lot of money by going to Thailand for surgery and my partner, Hugo, went with me. Didn’t leave my side for a moment. Oh, there he is now. Oh, Hugo-o-o . . ." 

Hugo strolled up to the table as I took a bite of cucumber. Seventeen minutes of my pitch time had elapsed. Hugo was wearing a white sport coat, a blue handkerchief sprouting out of its pocket. The discussion about their gardener and pool man took ten more minutes. The lettuce stuck in my throat. It’s hard to smile, chew, and stuff down disappointment at the same time.                                                  

When the lobster arrived, I moved my manuscript from the table to the floor beside my purse. I twisted a claw from the lobster as though it was the nipple of Horowitz’s implant and recalled how my mother stuffed my unread stories I had given her into the drawer in the kitchen.                           

Through the window I saw the waves crashing against the rocks. I couldn’t hear the sound. Silent crashing waves. Just like me.                                                          

I dipped my lobster in the butter and took a bite.It squished out and dripped on my chin. Horowitz’s cell phone rang. He agreed to rush dinner and meet someone shortly. My hour was almost up.                                                  

"My architect."He said.Hugo nodded.                       

"Yes, your architect." I said,devouring the lobster.I bent down to retrieve my novel from the floor.As I sat up, I caught the view of Gladys’s backside, already a full twenty-five feet away. I sat alone, contemplating suicide, chastising myself for being so passive. Around the room sat scores of people who had no idea how I felt nor did they care.

I stood up to leave and discovered my napkin had long since fallen to the floor. Throughout dinner I had wiped the butter on the skirt of my friend’s expensive summer dress.           

In the parking lot, I slid into the seat of my car, an old Volvo left to me by my grandmother and laid my head on the steering wheel, staring down at the dress and the greasy butter stains.                                               

A soft tap- tap- tap on the window startled me. The waiter stood outside the window, white apron blowing in the breeze, jabbing his finger at the balance on the unpaid dinner check. ****

Marilynn M. Wilkins lives and writes in San Antonio,Texas. Since July of 2004 she has had 15 stories and/or poems published online. A print magazine, Penwomanship recently accepted a story and a poem. Marilynn is a grandmother and great-grandmother. Look for her stories in Penwomanship, Skive Magazine and, and Longstoryshort. Contact Marilynn.

Read our interview with Marilynn.