Tattered Coat upon a Stick

River view in Hastings-on-Hudson by Chris Kerr. Large photo, from right, Chris Kerr, Shelley Rinehart, and Graham Kerr.

River view in Hastings-on-Hudson by Chris Kerr. Large photo, from right, Chris Kerr, Shelley Reinhardt, and Graham Kerr.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,

A tattered coat upon a stick…

—William Butler Yeats, “Sailing to Byzantium”

Last week, setting out for the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers (NAIBA) show, I wrote boldly how my friend Chris Kerr and I might be dangerous as hurricane Joaquin. I was being ironic, of course, since we’re both well on in years.

But I was flush with enthusiasm, anxious to continue the work begun at the Southern Independent Booksellers Association (SIBA), spreading the word among booksellers and media about my novel, Forsaken, set for February release.

A cold I was about over worsened on my flight to New York, and Chris was forced to endure my sniffling and hacking during two nights in New Jersey. He was my hotel roommate, poor guy.

I made it through the second day on decongestants and lozenges.

Yet I was convinced with two days to rest before going on to the New England Independent Booksellers Association (NEIBA) show, I would be on the mend.

When we drove back to New York, however, Chris took me directly to a doc-in-a-box facility in Yonkers. There I was swabbed, pricked, X-rayed, and diagnosed with pneumonia.

I explained to the very competent and pleasant doctor that I was an author on a road trip promoting my novel. “Mr. Howell,” she said, leaning forward confidentially, her eyes bright as a teen’s, though I admit most young women look like teenagers to me these days, “I understand your situation. But you must take care of yourself.” And she meant it.

She prescribed a powerful antibiotic, and referred me to a pulmonary facility nearby.

After a trip to Dobbs Ferry to a pharmacy, Chris drove us to his apartment in Hastings-on-Hudson. Now his wife Shelley Reinhardt was saddled with helping to nursemaid me. Next morning we agreed it would be best if I could fly home that day.

Yet another chauffeuring trip for Chris, this time to LaGuardia, on his birthday.

Here I sit, when I’m not reclining, back in Greensboro, where Mary Leigh and the dogs have to listen to my sniffling and hacking. I’m feeling better. But I can tell recovery will take a while.

All along I’ve acknowledged I’m an old man undertaking a young person’s endeavor, publishing and promoting a debut novel. I should’ve been listening. And more grateful for true friends.

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  1. Be on the mend dear friend. You are only as old as you think you are. I’m pretty young myself. It’s in the head not the body. Xoxo

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