I lend books to just about anyone who wants them. Sometime even to people who don’t. I never worry about getting the books back because I have a handy-dandy book embosser. I stamp From The Library of MH Donley right on the title page. Most people returned embossed books.
Oddly, I never get back my Elizabeth Boyle novels.
It took a lot of detective work, but I think I’ve figured out why.
Many years ago, I volunteered to collect books from published authors for a charity function. A few authors handed me books at our local writers’ meeting, but most mailed them.
Bertha, my mail lady, being kind and gentle instead of a soulless bureaucrat, walked the book bundles up to my door rather than leaving them stuffed inside my tiny mail box. On the fourth day of lugging books, Bertha asked, “Why are you getting mail from people I know?”
I was startled. I had never been questioned by my mail carrier before. Did receiving mail from friends of postal workers violated some obscure government code? Curious, I asked, “Who do you . . .”
“Elizabeth Boyle,” Bertha interrupted.
“You know Elizabeth Boyle?” I asked.
“I love her books,” she said ignoring me. “I’ve read every one.”
“She’s an excellent storyteller,” I said, “I always enjoy her books.”
Bertha narrowed her eyes and handed me another parcel of books. “But why is she sending YOU books? And all these other authors. I recognize all of them.”
I explained about the charity function. But she kept staring at the packages of books in my arms as if I were hiding some evil secret for getting, authors in general and Elizabeth Boyle, in particular, to send me five copies of their latest book. With a frown on her face, Bertha stepped down from my front porch and walked back to her mail truck. Just before she got in, she turned back to me and asked, “So are you an author?”
“I’m working on it,” I answered.
“What exactly are you writing?”
“Right now, a murder mystery,” I said.
Bertha backed up so fast she bumped into her truck. “Dead people? You write about dead people?”
I laughed. “Not real dead people. I do make them up.”
“How do you do that? Are there research books on how to kill people?”
“What?” Bertha’s voice squeaked. “Do the poisons work?”
“Haven’t tried any . . .yet,” I said. I thought she would laugh, but she hopped into her truck and zoomed off to the next set of mailboxes without even waving good bye. I lugged my armful of books through the front door and didn’t think much more about her until I caught her hugging my husband in front of our mailbox two days later.
Now seriously, Dennis gets hugged by everyone. Checkers at the grocery store. Tellers at the bank. The principal at a local school who turned out to be his mother’s Avon Lady’s second daughter. So I didn’t think the hugging part was all that unusual.
“Hi, Bertha,” I said. “Any more packages for me?”
She leaped into her vehicle, did a quick u-turn and took off down the street.
“That was weird,” Dennis said as he walked up the driveway to where I was standing. “She jumped out, hugged me, said she was so glad to see I was still alive. Then started quizzing me about your cooking and a book on poison.”
“Hummm,” I said.
“You wouldn’t happen to know what she was talking about?” he asked when he put his arm around my shoulder and we strolled into the house together.
“Not a clue,” I said.
“If anything happens to me, Bertha will testify,” he said.
“Maybe,” I said.
“What do you mean by maybe?”
“I’m pretty sure Bertha could be bought for a few Elizabeth Boyle novels.”
“Indeed,” he said.
We have a new mail carrier these days, but I have noticed that Elizabeth’ novels seem to disappear from this house the second I finish reading them. No one I lend books to admits having them. And they are never in the returned book pile.
Marianne H. Donley makes her home in Tennessee with her husband and son. She is a member of Bethlehem Writers Group, Romance Writers of America, OCC/RWA, and Music City Romance Writers. When Marianne isn’t working on A Slice of Orange, she might be writing short stories, funny romances, or quirky murder mysteries, but this could be a rumor.
No husbands, mail carriers, or authors were harmed in the writing of this blog.
You will find Marianne’s short romantic story “The Widow Next Door” in: