I lead a boring life. I teach, I write and I go to the movies. I’ll watch television a little bit before bed and that’s about it. My book signings are just about as exciting. People show up, I give readings and talk to them, then l pack up and go home. I never get many sales from these events, but it’s always nice to meet others. I never expect a turnout like Stephen King or J.K. Rowling would have.
Then things changed.
On a sunny day a few months ago, I was doing a book signing at a Barnes and Noble. The good weather meant that people were out having fun and not that many were in the store buying books. A few readers were in the store milling about, stopping to check out my children’s novel Connie Cobbler: Toy Detective and sometimes purchasing one. Not a great turnout, but it was nice to meet people who enjoyed reading. After a few hours, I had a chance to grab a cup of coffee and a brownie. As I walked back to my table, I heard a woman loudly say, “Where is he?”
A salesclerk pointed at me. “There he is.” She had a young boy with her. He looked to be about nine or ten. She waved me on hurriedly as she gave me a piercing look.
I had no idea who this woman was. Had I insulted her without knowing it? Did I scratch her car? Did I owe her money? I rushed over to the table, almost dropping my brownie.
She turned to her son. “David, this is Mr. DeSalvo. This is the man you wanted to meet.” He kept his head down, looking at the floor.
“Hi, David. You can call me James.” Still no response.
Then something amazing happened. He looked up and recited a full page of Connie Cobbler. Word for word, beat for beat. He stopped and returned his gaze to the floor.
“That was incredible, David.” He was fiddling around in a bag he brought in with him.
He pulled out some papers and slid them across to me. His finger touched mine for a quick moment. He pulled it back with cat-like speed. I was taken aback. His mother must have seen the look on my face. ‘It’s okay,’ she mouthed.
I looked at the papers and was yet again astounded. David had drawn pictures of several of the book’s characters. They were wonderful and looked just like I had imagined the characters. There are no illustrations in Connie Cobbler: Toy Detective and I was now glad there weren’t. No other artist would have done justice to the characters the way David did.
“Those are for you,” he whispered. His mother smiled.
His mother asked David if he would like to look for a book in the children’s section. He went on his way as she kept an eye on him. “Hi, I’m Amy. I want to thank you for talking to David.”
“He’s a talented child.”
“David wanted to see you when found out you were coming. He’s read your book so often out loud that I know it backwards, too.” She paused. “David has autism. He enjoys reading. He came across your book from another child at school. I had to get him a copy.”
I was unsure of what to say. This was partly because of what she had just told me and the fact that I was becoming emotional and didn’t want to cry my eyes out in front of the entire store.
David came back with a book. Amy and I said our goodbyes. “Good bye, David.” He walked away.
I framed the pictures and keep them in my office.
My book signings may never get the attention that the big authors get, but they never got the chance to meet David.
Take that, J.K. Rowling.