"Darling, it was such an inspiring story. A woman organized a gang of juvenile delinquents into a baseball team. No one thought she could do it, especially since both of her legs were amputated, but she was determined."
Ivy wedged the phone under her chin and made another sale, all the while muttering "uh huh" noises to her mother. Customers roamed the bookstore aisles like cats on catnip: aimless wandering interrupted by sudden strikes. Ivy watched a woman pile a box of Georgia O'Keefe notecards and a One-A-Day meditation calendar onto the already teetering stack in her arms.
She tipped everything onto the counter, laid a memo pad on top, traced a pen down the list, and made two checkmarks. She looked at Ivy. Ivy covered the receiver with her hand and mouthed "my mother" at the woman. Another customer crowded behind her.
“And on top of it all, she included colored children on her team. It was a wonderful movie. You
can always count on Hallmark, can’t you dear?”
Yeah, that Hallmark, Ivy thought, they love cripples. It’s either a saintly super hero or a
convenient victim who waits to be rescued by the real character. And neither type ever gets laid.
"There's a customer waiting. I've got to go."
“What time will you be here on Christmas Eve? I’ve already put fresh sheets on the bed for you. So, about six?”
“Uh huh. No, wait Mother, no. We talked about this. I work that day. It’s better for me to rest
and, I promise, I'll drive out very first thing in the morning.”
"Ivy, I don't understand the difference. It's the same trip no matter what time you make it."
"Remember Mother, those articles I sent you about post-polio, how they said it was important to pace things and not get overtired – ”
"Ivy, don't keep that customer waiting."
At the sound of the dial tone, Ivy let the phone fall out of her neck. She had her standard stock of apologies ready, but the two women looked at her kindly. One of them said, "Tidings of good joy?" in an ironic voice. Everyone smiled, and Ivy slipped into retail gear as she rang up sales and made book suggestions at the same time. The phone, for once, stayed silent.
“Here you go. Need a bag?”
“I want something for my father.”
“And he’s, what?”
“Oh, loves that Reagan's president, hates I’m a lesbian but deals, World War II vet.”
“Here, take this.” Ivy handed her Genet: A Biography Of Janet Flanner and turned the book over to the picture of a monocle-wearing lesbian. “ She was a war correspondent in the European Theatre. The troops adored her.”
Next, a young woman, a student at one of the universities perhaps, slapped both Coming Out To Parents and Now That You Know down between them. She and Ivy grinned.
“Going home for the holidays?”
“Yeah, this time I’m doing it.”
Ivy gave a “right on” hand gesture and wondered, once again, how many of these books (and they sold a lot of them this time of year) ever made it out of the bottom of the suitcase. As she watched the customers leave, Ivy also wondered when she had started thinking of college students as young. More and more, being thirty-six resembled middle-aged.
People needed tending in the other room, but Ivy closed her eyes and let her head fall forward into a long stretch. She was feeling the pull between her shoulder blades when Kate’s voice snapped. “Ivy, hang up the phone." Without raising her head, Ivy turned it toward the
office. Kate had cracked the door and, from her sideways view, Ivy saw a four inch strip of cheek, shoulder, knee, and chair leg. Sometimes it was hard to remember they’d ever been lovers. Ivy looked for the receiver and found it buried in the bag of bags at
“Sorry, just a second.” Ivy slid a section of the cord out from under one of her push handles. She lifted an armrest to untangle another length and pulled until it uncoiled from around the brake lever. Twisting the wheelchair to the side, she rolled the casters over the cord, releasing it, and gathered the loops into her arms. Holding them high, away from the wheel spokes, Ivy dumped the tangle onto a shelf and put the receiver on the base. "It’s all yours."
A door couldn’t slam with only a four inch start, but it tried.
The main problem here is that it's set in the 80s. So much has changed since then that it's hard for a novel set in that time period to feel fresh...but it's not far enough back to feel nostaligic about yet.
I really really like the mother character though...what a piece of work. And I like the last line a lot.
This is probably going to be one of the best examples of "not right for me" that really means "nothing's wrong, it's just not right enough". I'd probably give this careful read on the five pages with the query but probably not a partial. THAT is why you query a lot of agents-what I don't connect with may be just exactly what someone else is looking for, and wildly enthusiastic about.