I know the internet is a dangerous place, but it seems to me that the timing of this attack is awfully suspicious. I just let the festival’s dirty little secret out of the bag and the next thing you know, I can’t publish to the web. Hmmm, I wonder who could be responsible? Could it be.....the writer’s festival? You bet it is.
You see, yesterday afternoon I took in the 2:30 book chat at McNally Robinson. Well, “took in” makes it sound like I had a choice. I assure you I didn’t. The drugs made me do it. The need to be at the festival has gotten worse. I actually risked getting fired just to hear Pasha Malla and Rebecca Rosenblum read. This festival has turned a hard working, dedicated family man into just another junkie looking for a fix.
Instead of doing my job, shelving books, answering questions, avoiding management, I found myself doing everything I could to get to that events alcove. First I begged them to let me set up chairs for the reading, hoping they might let me stay and watch.
They said I could setup the chairs.
Then I pleaded with poor little Rebecca to relieve me at cash a little early so I could sneak over and watch. And like the enabler I knew she could be, she did. Even though that meant a 4 hour cash shift for her, God bless her.
But I digress; the point is I was there.
As I entered the alcove, I was struck by the most startling image. There, between Pasha Malla and Rebecca Rosenbloom was the perpetrator of my drug-induced madness, Charlene Diehl.
While seeing Charlene at a festival event is by no means shocking, what was, was the way she seemed to tower over the other two writers. It was as if she was lording over her minions. It was as if her stool was just a little bit taller. But I knew that was impossible. I set them up. The only explanation was that she switched stools before the event. It was narcissism at its worst.
I shook my head and quickly moved to the position of security I had scouted out earlier. There between mythology and maps, I could see and hear everything, without limiting my ability to escape unnoticed. You see, I have come to believe that this festival would not be above using thuggery to silence a whistleblower such as myself. I have to take precautions now. So, with my three exits in place, I listened.
Now I’ll have to say the reading was a delightful affair. Each writer read a story from their respective books and then answered questions from the audience. This led to a very interesting discussion about the writing process. I found it informative both as a writer and as a fan. I also enjoyed...wait a minute...I...sorry, that was the drugs talking. Overall, the chat was fine. The real moment of interest came after the event was over.
As the place cleared out, I saw Ariel over by a table near the front. Being a suck up, I made a bee line straight for her. We chatted for a bit and everything seemed fine, until Ariel looked at me with this wicked look and said “Have you met Charlene yet?
And then out of nowhere, as if by some dark magic, She was there. I couldn’t speak. Charlene could see my fear and smiled, “oh hello. Yes, we met on Sunday.” I might have nodded.
This was not good. I was face to face with the mastermind of this whole operation and I was trapped. They were on both sides of me and home field advantage meant nothing. Suddenly, things got worse.
“Jay thinks the festival is like an infection.” If I hadn’t known better I would have thought it was my sister ratting me out.
I don’t really know where my resolve came from, but just like all righteous men before me, I made a decision to speak the truth, no matter what the cost.
“Actually, I said you guys were using addictive psychotropic drugs to make people keep coming back.”
“Yeah, so. Is there something wrong with that?”
“No...I...umm...I guess not.”
And they both laughed. They thought they had won. They thought they had shut me up. But they didn’t.
You see, I’m really just a fantastic actor who possesses the ability to stammer on command. Just like crying on command, it can get you out of many sticky situations. By stammering uncontrollably, I made them think I was not a threat. I made them believe their strong arm tactics were working. Never! It was clearly a strategic withdrawal.
I swear to you dear readers, I will never bend to their will. I will never stop seeking the truth. And no matter what obstacles this festival throws in my way, be it limited connectivity or other, I will get that truth to you. I am a writer, I will write.
* * *
Jason Diaz is a Winnipeg-based writer and bookstore employee. His poems and prose have been previously published in dark leisure magazine. He was interviewed for the Uniter once and is probably the only blogger here licensed to drive forklift. He doesn’t have any books coming out, but would most likely write one if asked.