I drove into a perfect parking place at the local St. Louis Bread Company, and decided to finish listening to a wonderful Christmas carol playing on JOY FM. We were in the midst of what we used to call a “gully washer” in my home state, and I hoped that by staying in the car a few minutes more maybe the rain would slow down a bit and I wouldn’t have to regret the fact that I forgot my umbrella at home.
I glanced up and saw a man—probably 40ish—exit the door. My sympathy went out to him as he had no umbrella, no raincoat, and no hat (as it turned out, no sense, either). That didn’t seem to be a problem for him, however, as he wandered over to the shelter of a covered area by the front window and —with rain pouring down around him—proceeded to take out a cigarette and light it. And inhale deeply. And then, very sloooooowly, exhale.
Every once in awhile, he would wipe the occasional raindrop from his brow. “Wow,” I thought. “That cigarette is powerful. That man is willingly standing in the pouring down rain so that he can ingest that nicotine.”
But, the best was yet to come.
He pulled a book out from under his arm.
A book! For ten minutes (yes, a whole ten minutes) he puffed away and brushed drops of rain off his nose all the while caught up in the writing of Vince Flynn. The book stayed amazingly dry considering the weather conditions.
It slowly dawned on me that maybe the cigarette was actually secondary to the book. Maybe the cigarette gave him the excuse he needed to read for a few minutes. Maybe he was in the midst of a chapter so good that he excused himself from his friends claiming he needed a smoke when what he really needed was to find out if the good guys caught the bad guys yet.
At last the weather calmed down and I turned off the car and made a mad dash for the restaurant and a cozy table with my friends. But I have not been able to shake the image of that man, wet and cold, puffing and reading. As someone who is about to publish her first book, all I can think is that I hope I can write a book compelling enough that a reader would rather stand in the rain reading it than put it down for even a single minute no matter what the circumstances. Then I will really have seen it all.