Saturday, May 19, 2007

Three Wishes

We took the N-Judah train to Ocean Beach today, as we usually do. When the train's traveling aboveground, I always love looking at the buildings and imagining living in them. San Francisco has real architecture almost everywhere, whereas it's a rarity in Reno.

Today, I found myself idly wishing that I'd see a cat in a window. And then I did: a black cat who reminded me of Balthazar (I couldn't find a picture of a black cat in a window, so I used this one instead).

That was pleasant and a little startling, but not terribly odd: after all, lots of people have cats, and cats like windows.

A little while later, I was walking along the beach with Gary, collecting rocks. I love rocks, and always have: when I was a kid, my family always said that when we went to the beach, only my back got tan, because I was always looking down at my feet, scanning for rocks. This is the only thing I don't like about Maui, or at least about the beaches we've gone to there: they're too smooth. No rocks!

Good beaches, in my book, are rocky beaches. Ocean Beach has wonderful rocks, along with lots of sand dollars. The last time I was there, this past July, I found a rock with intriguing quartz veins that looked sort of like a cross, and today, I idly wished to find another rock with a cross on it.

And then I did.

You won't find a much clearer cross than that! It's much more distinct than the cross on the rock I found last year. Mind you, there are lots of cross-like (cross-ish?) rocks on Ocean Beach; I found two others right after this one, although this was the first and clearest. So again, as with the cat in the window, I wasn't too surprised, although I was very pleased.

A few hours later, we showed up for my Borderlands reading. About ten chairs were set up, which showed me that they expected a small crowd: that was my estimate, too. We got there about an hour early, so of course no one was there to hear me yet. I bought some books, and we had a very pleasant conversation with the owner, Alan, who's a fascinating guy, and then Jacob and Rina from Tachyon showed up and I introduced them to Gary, and we all stood around schmoozing for a while.

Alan had told me that the 5:00 reading would probably really start at 5:10, on "San Francisco time." At 5:05, no one had come. I said to Jacob and Rina, "So if nobody shows up, can we just go out to dinner?" But I love reading, and I really wanted to read. Jacob told me that if nobody showed up, I could say all kinds of things about the reading on my blog. An audience of thousands! Celebrity listeners! Wild party tricks! I'm kinda too honest for that, though.

At 5:15, we were still schmoozing, and no one was there, and I found myself wishing, "Please, let just one person come. Just one. Then I can read a story."

At 5:20, a voice from the front of the store said, "Is the reading over already?" It was a homeless man Alan knows pretty well, someone who brings in used books hoping that the store will buy them.

"It hasn't started!" I told him. "You're my audience! Thank you for coming!" Alan didn't want to buy the books the man had with him today, so he asked if anyone could give him a dollar to buy two chicken wings for dinner. I happily gave him a dollar, and he settled into his chair, and Alan and Jacob and Rina and Gary settled into theirs, and I read to my tiny but attentive audience.

I read "Beautiful Stuff," because Alan likes zombie stories. The homeless man seemed to be enthralled: he was leaning forward with his eyes fixed on me, and once or twice I heard him murmur something in response to the story.

When I'd finished reading, he came up and we chatted. He said, "This is my first reading. I loved it. Thank you." He kissed my hand and said, "You're a lovely lady." He told me about having a photographic memory and how annoying that can be, and he told me he'd been in Vietnam. (Those of you who've read "Beautiful Stuff" know that it's a very unsubtle anti-war story, so I'm grateful that he responded so well to it.)

Gary told me later, "I was proud of you for doing a reading just for that one guy," but I was grateful to the one guy for giving me an excuse to read. And I enjoyed talking to him: it felt like talking to homeless patients at the hospital, which is so often my favorite part of any given shift.

And after three answered wishes, I no longer believed that any of it had been coincidence. The universe was very generous to me today. Thank you, universe.


  1. That was a lovely story. I didn't realize you were in town. (Not that I go to San Francisco much.) I really enjoyed THE NECESSARY BEGGAR. I have your latest book but haven't had a chance to start it yet.

  2. Entertaining lots of angels on this trip, aren't you? They seem to be enjoying you, too! Glad your trip is turning out so delightfully! Safe home, Susan!

  3. Thank you, Berni and N=1!

    Berni: is that Mythsoc Berni? What a pleasure to see you on my blog! And even if you aren't Mythsoc Berni, I'm really glad you enjoyed TNB!


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