The nursing home was done up for Thanksgiving. There were stuffed turkeys on bookshelves, twinkly lights on the nurse’s station, and one of the cafeteria workers wore a puritan hat shaped like a traffic cone.
I was here to make an appearance at the book club.
The nurse buzzed me through the front doors. She gave me a name tag.
“They’re ready for you,” she said. “Follow me, please.”
We walked past a hallway adorned with colorful artwork. One wall featured a dozen tempera-paint handprints on individual sheets of construction paper. The handprints were decorated to look like turkeys.
“Art therapy,” the nurse explained. “Our residents just did fingerpainting. I’ll be cleaning paint off the ceiling till June.”
I felt vaguely like I was touring a kindergarten classroom. All that was missing was a portrait of George Washington and the class hamster.
She led me to the garden area where a small group of elderly people sat in a semicircle beneath the North Florida sunshine, waiting for yours truly. They were seated in folding chairs, wheelchairs, and roller walkers.
“Okay,” announced the nurse.
“Let’s give today’s guest author a warm welcome.”
When the deafening applause from my six-person audience finally died down, club meeting was in session.
It bears mentioning that I don’t get many requests for in-person book club visits anymore. I used to, but these days most book clubs prefer internet video calls.
I faithfully fielded questions from club members. The inquiries about my book came in all shapes and sizes.
“Your chapters were too short,” said one man.
“You bounce around topics too much,” said another. “I couldn’t follow your writing.”
Another woman weighed in. “The print was too small. I had a headache five minutes in. I couldn’t finish your book.”
Another lady cheerfully added, “Did you bring any peanut butter?”
And then it was time for lunch.
On my way out, I listened…