With upcoming plans to visit my ailing father, who lives in Chapel Hill, I’ve been worried—and feeling a bit guilty—about leaving the toy store in the middle of the busy summer season. To compensate for being gone, and to starve my guilt, I’ve put in extra hours, which is why I agree to open the store on Friday–a last minute request. I arrive without eating breakfast, and do not pack a lunch or snacks. If all goes well, two employees will arrive around noon.
At 12:30, I am free to go, I write myself out on my timecard and then head outside, accompanied by my rumbling stomach. Suddenly a thud . . . thud . . . thud captures my attention. The Fed Ex guy is unloading large boxes from his truck onto a not-so-small metal dolly.
I hit the button to unlock my car.
Thud . . . thud . . . thud!
I dare to look back. The dolly is piled so high, I can no longer see the Fed Ex guy, though I hear him grunt. I hit the remote to lock my car, and then walk back across the parking lot to follow a hunch. Across the numerous boxes are manufacturer names in bold print: Bruder, Creative Education, Harper Collins, Crocodile Creek and Madame Alexander. I know what this means.
“Are these boxes for the Toy Soldier?” I ask.
“All of what’s on this dolly, plus there’s still more big ones in the truck.”
Grumble, grumble, grumble.
Nagging guilt settles in. Nag. Nag. Nag.
I stare longingly back at my car, but my feet don’t move. The owner is alone with a relatively new employee, who I have been training. Groups of people walk into the store. Customers walk out carrying red bags. A young boy plays with his newly purchased popgun. Pop! Pop! Pop!
If I’ve waited this long to eat, what’s a few more hours? A man walks by, ripping a piece of powdered fried dough and I start to follow him, really it is the dough I am after. Then, visions of turkey and cheese with avocado wrapped neatly in a tortilla come to mind, as does lemonade, freshly made, and—
Thump-thumpity-thump. Here comes the darn dolly. I dash ahead of it, run into the store, cross through the 12:30 departure time on my time card, and then tie my apron back around my neck.
“What are you doing, I thought you—”
“Don’t ask,” I tell the owner.
“No, I tried to leave, but . . . you need a little more help right now.” I sidestep so a young mother can wheel in a baby stroller.
“We’ll be fine,” says the owner. “You’ve been working too much.”
I gesture to the open door as the dolly arrives. “Do you want me to still leave?” I grab the scissors so I can start opening cartons.
“Welcome back, Betsy!” she says.
Until nearly seven that evening, we unpack over twenty boxes, price close to five hundred items, and manage to rearrange the store in preparation for Saturday. (Thank goodness, the Blue Squid is two doors down from us. I don’t know what I’d do without their scrumptious bakery. If you are ever in the area, trust me, you have to indulge in their award-winning cupcakes! And their famous four-cheese macaroni with lobster.)
“I can’t talk, we’re really busy here,” I tell him, taking Playmobil boxes from a child’s arms for purchase.
“Just listen while you ring,” he says, sounding excited.
I run the register with the phone cradled against my shoulder, which is how I learn that I am the runner-up for the 2011 Barbara Karlin SCBWI Grant. My picture book manuscript, Norman and Rose, won the hearts of the prestigious judges.
I am incredibly lucky, humbled, and in a bit of shock. Since May of this year, my writing has been recognized three times. My other wins were for my middle-grade novel, Savannah’s Mountain. I float up the ramp to tell my boss, and then I resume pricing dress-up capes. Pink capes with sequins. Purple capes. Red velvet capes. Capes for knights. Capes for kings. Capes for queens. Superhero capes. Batman capes, which reverse to become Spiderman capes and are really cool.
Once the capes are priced, there are princess wands and headbands and jewelry and sparkly crowns and dinosaur tooth boxes and pirate tooth chests and lunch bags with matching backpacks, sandwich containers, thermos, and drink bottles. Fancy Nancy dolls arrive, along with Pinkalicious sets and books, books, and more books.
When I finally get home—seven hours past my scheduled departure—all I want is to sit at the table on our soon-to-be finished wraparound porch, put up my feet and relax.
There is a slight glitz in my plans.
My table is not empty.
A certain someone is sitting in one of my chairs . . .
And that certain someone is using my computer—without my permission.
No, it is not Goldilocks, nor the three bears, though three creatures are clearly discussing something important. (For those of you unfamiliar with the Baby Bossy Frogs, read http://betsydevany.wordpress.com/2011/04/22/a-bath-for-bear/ )
“He’s a star, he’s a star, he’s a star!” sings the less bossy Baby Bossy Frog. “And we are checking his Amazon ratings!”
“Norman has no Amazon ratings, it’s not an actual book and–“
“I am in charge!” says the bossiest of the Baby Bossy Frogs. “You are supposed to do Norman’s hair, while I type submission letters.”
I try to get the frogs’ attention, but they pay me no mind.
I try to capture Norman’s attention, and all he wants to know is: (1) Where did his porch swing disappear to (2) How soon do we leave for our book tour, and by the way, he needs his own suitcase.
“But he won, he won, he won!” says the less bossy Baby Bossy Frog.
I congratulate Norman (he is the inspiration for Norman and Rose), and then I lead him back to reality. “We haven’t sold the book yet. And we still need an agent.”
Norman corrects me. He, at least, already has an agent—as of this afternoon. I have yet to read the contract, which the bossiest of the Baby Bossy Frogs offered to Norman, but I have concerns. I know how Baby Bossy Frogs can be.
Once Norman understands the actual status of the winning manuscript, I leave the Baby Bossy Frogs to console him while I call my father.
He is weary and in pain, but welcomes my news with all the enthusiasm he can muster.
I may have missed the important phone call to learn of my win, personally, but I do not miss the opportunity to share the news with my father. When he begins to sound tired, I ask to speak to my younger sister, who is visiting him first, but she is not there.
“Where did she go?” I ask.
“She’s running an errand,” my father says, and then he pauses, as he likes to do before he reels me in. “She’s getting my Skittles and candied Baked Beans, I ran out in the hospital. The doctor forgot to write my refill, so he had to call my prescription for Skittles in to the pharmacy.”
Oh Dad, how I love you. You are a hard act to follow.
For everyone who has wished me well and sent congratulations for my most recent award, I thank you, as I thank the SCBWI for this recognition. I am deeply honored.