I belonged to a neighborhood book group and it was my turn to choose the book. I chose Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton. As the hostess and presenter, it was my responsibility to find out how many copies of the book were available at the public libraries, price the book, and take orders from anyone in the group who wanted to buy their own. I did this, and then ordered the appropriate number of books from a local bookstore. When they came in, I distributed the copies and collected the money from those women who had ordered them. Except for one. I had trouble catching one woman at home. The book sat on my kitchen counter for a couple of weeks. The date for book group was approaching. I needed to get the book to Laura Hughes so she'd have time to read it before our meeting. And besides, the woman owed me money!
I had just returned home from somewhere, and as I had driven past the Hughes's house, I had seen signs of life. I hurried into the house and picked up the book off the counter.
"Kurt!" I called to my son. "I need you to do me a favor, Bud. Take this book over to the Hughes's and tell Sister Hughes* she owes me $7.35." (or however much)
Off he went.
A few minutes later, he returned, still in posession of the book. And he looked a bit upset.
"What's the matter?" I asked. "Weren't they home?"
"Yeah, but they didn't want it."
"What do you mean 'they didn't want it?' Did you talk to Sister Hughes?"
"No, Brother Hughes came to the door."
"Did you tell him his wife owes me $7.35?"
"Well, what did you say?"
"I said, 'My mom's selling these books and they're $7.35. Do you wanna buy one?' and he said 'Aahhh, it looks like a really good book, but I don't think we'd be interested.'"
I could see his ears burning and he was about to cry. He felt humiliated.
Somehow I guess he thought I was trying to bring in a little extra money for the household budget.
"Kurt!" I exploded. "I'm not selling books! She ordered this book and I'm just trying to deliver it!"
I guess I should have taken the time to explain to him what it was all about before I sent him off on my errand. And now I was feeling a little humiliated as well; Jim Hughes was under the impression that I was sending my kids around the neighborhood peddling books!
I took Ethan Frome from Kurt and headed over to the Hughes's. Jim Hughes answered the door. He looked surprised.
I immediately spoke up.
"I'm not selling books door-to-door," I assured him. "Laura ordered this for book group. Would you please give it to her and tell her she owes me $7.35? She can get it to me whenever."
Poor Kurt. We still argue about it.
"It's not my fault!" I tell him. "If you had just said what I told you to say, it never would have happened."
"Mom," he insists, "How could I have known? It sounded to me like you were selling books. I felt so stupid."
Scarred for life.
I don't know. Maybe I should offer to pay for therapy.
*In our church, we call each other Brother or Sister So-And-So. In Utah, since almost everyone is L.D.S., this is what the kids call everyone instead of Mr. or Mrs. Except at school. At school, they say Mr. or Mrs. When I substitute teach for neighbor kids, sometimes they slip up and call me Sister Gassman and then they say "Whoops! I mean Mrs. Gassman!"