Judging Books by Their Covers

I met my imaginary friends Bertie and Bob at Logan's Tavern. The Brunette and I had eaten there recently to support Food and Friends (Dining Out for Life). The twins were interested in rehearsing their new radio show -- the one where they review books by title alone. They didn't want to be influenced by actually reading the books, but they needed to make sure that they weren't too close to the mark.

"It's not so funny if we're close," Bertie said.

"Fine," I said. "As long as I get some wasabi meatloaf." The meatloaf at Logan Tavern has bits of wasabi smeared along the crust. It sits atop delicious mashed potatoes. I never thought I'd order meatloaf at a restaurant, but there you go.

Bob ran off to the restroom while Bertie and I discussed whether the Chinese character for taleswapper really is a combination of the characters for danger and opportunity. Bertie thought that it and full of were more likely. Bob returned in time to suggest a single word: syzygy. Once we ordered, we got down to the pile of books I brought. I held up the first one.

"Shear," Bob said nervously, "is a modern retelling of The Emperor Has No Clothes. It's set in the seamy world of Paris fashion in the twenties. Our protagonist finds initial success, but ultimate failure, in introducing translucent clothing to an unsuspecting populace."

"Um, I think that kind of sheer is spelled differently," I said.

"I think it might be funnier, too," Bertie said, "if people have actually heard of the book." I put the book away.

"What's it really about?" Bob asked.

"Rocks," I said and held up another book.

"Death of Vishnu," said Bertie, "is the story of an autistic boy in India who discovers a dead god on his doorstep. Initially accused of the crime, he sets out to investigate the murder with his whacky sidekick, the Cokewalla. "

"Why does he have to be autistic?" Bob wanted to know.

"Because that gives him special empathy for the god," said Bertie. "Who's more autistic than a god?"

"Besides," I said. "Autism is all the rage." I held up a science fiction book: Larry Niven's Ringworld's Children. I couldn't get Bob's attention. Bertie tapped him on the head.

"What are you doing?" he asked. "Stop fidgeting so much."

"Sorry," said Bob. "I have to go to the bathroom."

"You just went," said Bertie.

"It was for Women and Children only," Bob said. "Nowhere for Men."

"Do you want me to ask for you?" I said.

"Oh, no no. I'll be okay. What's the next book?" I showed it to him. It was Larry Niven's Ringworld's Children. He took a deep breath. "This is the true story of chickens coming home to roost. Thirty years after portraying angst-ridden teens in '80s movies, an actress is forced to confront bad behaviour in her own children. Hijinks ensue."

Bertie and I stared uncomprehendingly.

"You know," said Bob, eventually. "Mollie -- Breakfast Club and all that."

"Dude, that's Ringwald, not Ringworld--" Bertie started, but Bob's shaking legs were vibrating the table so much the water glasses were moving. "Why don't you go to the bathroom, already? You can go over to the Fresh Fields. They probably have a restroom."

"I -- I'm okay," Bob said. "What's the other book?"

"The Stupidest Angel," I said.

"Probably ought to say something about baseball. You got anything?" Bertie said, but Bob was staring at the ceiling. "C'mon dude. Go to the bathroom already."

"I can't; it's for women and children only," he whined.

"Women and children? I never heard of such a thing. You're off your head."

"Is that what the doors say?" I asked, more gently than his brother.

"Not exactly. There's a C and there's a W. What's it really about?"

"What? Oh, the book? An angel accidentally unleashes a mob of ravenous zombies on a Christmas party."

They just stared at me.

"No, really," I said. "Of course, it's not half as funny as it thinks it is."

"Neither are you," said Bertie.

"Water closet!" I shouted, making the brothers jump. "Dude, it's not for women and children only; WC stands for water closet. You can go in."

With a barely audible "phew!" Bob jumped to run off to the restrooms again.

"I should write a book," said Bertie. "I'll call it The Stupidest Brother."

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