Imagine me, swaggering out of the saloon doors into the dusty cross-section of town, whisky firing my gut. The unwelcome sun beats and blinds me for a moment – then I see in the middle of the dirt-lined street, a little way down the road: a gunslinger stands at ease, fingers playing invisible piano keys by each slim hip, its shadow a stretched twin, right down to the same arrogant ‘tude.
This ‘cowboy’ goes by the name of Man Booker, and he hasn’t been welcome in this part of town for years.
I don’t when me and this Booker’s feud started exactly. Chock it up to a number of run-ins on opposite sides of the law: The Line of Beauty too pretentious; The Gathering – deathly boring. The White Tiger and The God of Small Things? Well. You know what mother says. Keep your meanest thoughts to yourself.
And now its time to blast this rattlesnake for good.
As we take 3 paces, backs to each other and ready to swivel for our lives, I remember that pretty little sweetheart Possession. You know the type: big blue eyes, characters in love, writin’ you could grow old with. And then rememberin’ all of a sudden, like old friends, Life of Pi, with his crazy eye-deers, and The Blind Assassin. What a beyootiful book.
And I gets to-thinkin: Hey, maybe this fella aint too bad after all.
The long list is out for the 2010 Booker, and he has a chance to make things right with me; just about square. There’s only room for one horse in this town. Goes by the name of The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. And what’s more? According to The Guardian, ol’ man Mitchell has a fightin’ chance. I ain’t a bettin’ man, but…
[A tumbleweed skips, stumbles and stutters away through the middle of our stand-off…]
So here, right now, me and Booker – we’re at an uneasy truce. And so, pistols untouched, we suddenly find ourselves more in the mood for a hearty saloon-served meal than a bloody battle and a death, possibly a double, in a dead-end town.
A final spit in the dirt serves as his warning and we make our fragile peace.
The sun drops like a drunken head finding a pillow. Our star-spurred boots scuff lazily under the swinging saloon doors, Man Booker keepin’ his distance behind me, of course.
A little later: a saucy wench on each lap, and we have a real man’s fight, via a well-played four-hand poker. But not before I let my feelings be known: this town’s a one-horse type of town, cowboy. You better live up to your promise this year. Or else.