Our first book signing together and it happened on May 7th, the day before Mother’s Day, at Chipola River Books & Tea in Marianna, Florida. Bookshop owner Michael Downum provided a gracious setting for the special event. Candy gemstones friend Jayne Satter found in Mexico were part of the fun. I read, Earline enacted, and friends joined in from this scene from Chapter 17, “On the Road to Sell.”
The New York City trade show was held at the imposing Coliseum on Columbus Avenue, the structure a staggering 323,000 square feet in all, with four floors for exhibition. On the cavernous main level, vendors packed the enormous space with their displays of jewelry, tee shirts, caps, cups, key chains, and other imaginative forms of souvenirs. Merchandise seemed to spill out of every nook, every cranny.
Sounds crowded every space, too. Everywhere was the buzz of excited vendors, buyers, casual lookers, the hum of humanity meandering through aisles, pausing at displays, conferring, acquaintances calling out to one another. Clatter and chatter filled the air.
Petite Earline, dressed smartly in an azure blue pantsuit, a color she knew echoed in her eyes, sat at her booth. She also knew she needed to draw attention to the gemstones Al had sent her to show and, most importantly, to sell.
She’d heaped the stones on the display table so they lolled in happy profusion across the white cloth beneath them. Silky tiger’s eye with wavy bands of color, the blues and greens of chrysocolla—often mistaken for turquoise, tawny palm wood with its dark speckles. Potential customers strolled by, their eyes caught by the mass of little rocks. A few stopped, then moved on.
As a few more potential buyers approached, Earline reached into the mound and pulled out a blue-gray stone. She examined it for a moment then nonchalantly popped it into her mouth. She chewed, and her eyes closed as she savored the delicious rock. She opened her eyes, chose another, this one with a rosy glow, and slowly, deliberately dropped it into her mouth. Again she savored the unique flavor.
By this time a crowd had gathered, blocking the aisle. Several people wanted to eat a gemstone. Some started to reach for them.
“No, no! You’ll break your teeth,” Earline laughed, amazed and delighted that there still were so many folks willing to be gullible, just as there were decades ago when she was with the carnival.
Finally, she allowed one person to take one she’d pointed out. She didn’t tell him some were gemstone candies she’d slipped in, and only she knew which were which. She cautioned him, “Now don’t let it break your teeth.”
Gingerly he raised the stone, placed it in his mouth, and with deliberation bit down. A twinkle crept into his eyes as he chewed.
In the end, she took an enormous order for gemstones. A Kellogg representative wanted several tons of them for Corn Flakes’ trinkets. It was an order to match the size of this exhibition hall.
Later, when she reported to Al about it, he jumped up from his chair and exploded. “There’s no way I can get that many gemstones! And then they’ll just want more, and I can’t get them. Those New York guys will sue hell out of me!”
“Well, Al,” she said. “You sent me there to sell gemstones, and I sold them.” It seemed to her the rest of the deal was his problem.