It seems like a long time ago now, but the Borders store at River Crossing, near the Fashion Mall, used to stay open until eleven every night—probably because they were just down the road from the Barnes & Noble at Clearwater Crossing, and all the Barnes & Noble stores used to stay open until eleven. Then there was the financial crisis and the Kindle and, of course, the iPad. Now books are practically anachronistic, and Borders has filed for Chapter 11 and announced that they plan to close roughly one third of their stores.
The Borders at River Crossing no longer stays open until eleven, but I used to enjoy walking over there after I got off work at ten on Friday nights and browsing the shelves for half an hour or so. I rarely bought anything, but sometimes I did. I had no intention of buying anything the night I walked over there and saw the second season of Night Court on DVD, but I wasn’t about to pass that up—and right there Borders made thirty bucks because they stayed open until eleven. My weekly trips and occasional purchases, however, were certainly not reason enough for them to stay open that extra hour, particularly when their industry was beginning to convulse toward oblivion.
But the idea that they might stay open for me if I made some kind of deal with them sort of got itself stuck in my head and wiggled around there for awhile until I decided to sit down and write about it. Even then, though, it failed to germinate properly, so I let it go for awhile. I don’t remember when I first had the idea for that story, but I brought it back out again last December, when it was time to work on something to submit for Ichabod’s Sketchbook. I didn’t have a lot of time to work on it, and I was having trouble coming up with any new ideas that sounded like they would work in the format specified by Ichabod’s Sketchbook’s submission guidelines.
The deadline for Ichabod’s Sketchbook is typically a week or so before Christmas, which meant that I had to shift almost immediately to thinking about that submission deadline after I had just spent the month of November going at a breakneck pace to try to “win” National Novel Writing Month. I had the “deal with Borders” idea in my head, and I also started toying with a little story on a parenting theme. I’m not sure either was particularly well-suited for the less-than-1000 words stipulated for prose pieces submitted to Ichabod’s Sketchbook, but I worked both of them up anyway and used the magic Internets to zap them in just a day or so before the deadline.
I felt “clicker’s remorse” almost immediately. I did not think that either was really very good work—the parenting theme story because it was quite dark and probably needed some more time, and certainly more words, in order for the theme to be able to breathe; and the “deal with Borders” story was, at least a little bit, a backhanded slap at the fact that we don’t have very many good indie bookstores here in Indianapolis. In point of fact, we don’t have any good indie bookstores that have both a good selection of new books and a newsstand. There used to be a couple of decent newsstand places downtown, but Bookland on Market Street closed after one of those exploding manhole covers basically obliterated its storefront. There was also one on Delaware Street, but it has also closed. Northside News, at 54th and College, has apparently also bit the dust. As for indie bookstores, there are still a few places—including Bookmamas, which publishes Ichabod’s Sketchbook—where you can go for secondhand books; but none of them (that I know of) have anything close to a decent selection of new books, and none of them have newsstands.
So I was pretty surprised when I checked my e-mail at work on Saturday and found a message from the editors of Ichabod’s Sketchbook, letting me know that they wanted to accept “The Deal” for publication in the next issue of the journal. Much like last year when I got a similar message (also at work), I immediately started to grin like an idiot. That grinning did not last as long as it did last time, but getting the news definitely helped improve a day that had started out pretty crappy. The next issue of Ichabod’s Sketchbook is due to come out in July, although it’s not outside the realm of possibility that that release date will be pushed back, as it was last year; and once again I will have the opportunity to get up in front of people and make an ass of myself while trying to read fewer than 1000 words out loud. I wasn’t able to make it to the launch party last year because I had to work, so I guess I really have to give it the old college try this time. The launch party is open to the public, and they will have copies of the journal for sale—so anyone who wants to come and see me make an ass of myself is welcome!