My very funny friend, author Sarah Bird, will be reading from her new comic novel, How Perfect Is That, tomorrow evening at the Borders at Preston and Royal — as you may have read in the News this morning. You may also know Sarah from her humor column in Texas Monthly — she was the Austin writer the magazine turned to when Kinky Friedman decided to channel his jokes into an failed-but-amusing run for governor. (Sarah now trades off the chuckle duties every other month with the Kinkster.)
But I know a different Sarah, one that I remember with great fondness and, perhaps, even a nostalgic tear. Yes, indeed, I know a Sarah hidden from the public, a passionate Sarah — the Sarah of a sun-spangled afternoon long ago, when son Gabriel was just a tyke, asleep in his room, and Sarah and I — modesty commands I say only that we “churned up the water” in the children’s wading pool in her backyard.
Unfortunately, that backyard is located halfway up a limestone bluff in the hills northwest of Austin — they don’t call Sarah’s street Wheezing Mountain Climb for nothing — and well, husband George, all-too-sadly familiar with Sarah’s athletically amorous antics, had, quite deliberately, failed to anchor the pool in any real fashion that morning before he left for work in the Texas State Department of Measuring Something Vague. So our passionate sloshing around (we were younger and more vigorous then) caused it and its heated-up contents to slide over a 40-foot drop. The sudden downpour, the floating rubber toys flying about, the Official Mighty Morphin Power Ranger Wading Pool bouncing down the hillside like a loose hubcap along a freeway and our wet, pink skins stroboscopically flashing through the branches and leaves startled a number of coyotes, deer and grackles, not to mention two members of a lawn maintenance crew and Sarah’s exuberantly incontinent Yorkie, Tinkle.
Many years — too many years — later,
when Sarah had become a much-published, much-honored novelist and I was the long-suffering book drudge for The Dallas Morning News, struggling to get the paper to give serious attention to historical monographs on the stunting influence of Icky Twerp on the intellectual growth of Dallas-Fort Worth children, the two of us looked back on that felix culpa, that happy fall, those bruises and scrapes and the emergency operation on my compound leg fracture aggravated by gangrenous coyote bites — and we chuckled affectionately.
It was a phone call I remember with tenderness. Sarah was on another one of her glamorous author tours, jetting through Dallas-Fort Worth after signing books in London, Bombay and Hollywood and had bothered to call me up in my shabby, dusty, book-crowded cubicle with the battered old Underwood that always needed a new typewriter ribbon.
Was this call, I couldn’t dare to hope, was it to see if we might perhaps … share a little toy-boat-bobbing water again?
No, actually, Sarah just wanted me to give her novel a shameless plug and her bookstore appearance a glowing advance, the better to generate public interest and peddle a few more copies. i gulped. Haltingly, I explained that as a miserable book critic, my professional ethics dictated that I could never review the book of a friend — let alone a companion in near-death wading-pool-hillside tumbles.
There was a silence on Sarah’s end.
“You mean,” she squawked, “I’ve endured you for 20 years solely in the hope of some publicity payoff, some feeble shred of newsprint attention, and this is what I get? It was hard enough putting up with your wandering stories about newspaper management, or your pathetic jokes about other authors that everyone’s already heard and your awful scrounging for tortilla chip crumbs at my house parties, but now — to learn it was all for nothing?“
She groaned and the line went dead.
So now, lovely, funny, talented, Texas Monthly-published Sarah is coming through town once again, supporting another highly-praised comic confection, and I know I will be there when she walks out to the lights of news cameras and flashbulbs popping, strides past the long line waiting at the velvet rope to her author’s table with its stacks of books to be signed, the swarm of eagerly helpful publicity assistants standing by. I will know that for our love-that-dare-not-wiggle-too-much-in-wading-pools I have done my tiny part to memorialize it, to honor it.
By making sure every link in this blog post is inaccurate. Except for one.