Byron Walton sat on an uncomfortable folding chair near the back of the small bookstore.  The card table in front of him held a dozen copies of his book and a laminated copy of his biography.

Even in this independent bookstore in this small Midwestern city, his presence attracted very little attention.  Byron was beginning to doubt the wisdom of embarking on this self-financed book tour, against the advice of both his agent and his publisher.

After six days on the road, Byron had sold exactly eight copies of his book.  Far from being a big money maker, this trip was actually costing him money.  Byron sighed and wondered if he would manage to sell a book today. 

By late afternoon, Byron had sold exactly one copy – to the girl working behind the counter.  Byron thought that she probably bought the book out of pity for him.  On the bright side, Byron had finished the New York Time crossword and several Sudoku puzzles.  Closing time was quickly approaching, and Byron put the unsold books bag in his duffel bag and folded up the card table and chair.  He was chatting for a minute with Ashley, the girl behind the counter, when a last minute customer popped into the store.

“Am I took late for the book signing?” asked the tall, middle-aged man.

Byron was speechless for a minute and then recovered his composure.  “Nnnno, Mr. President.  You’re not too late.”

The President of the United States beamed a smile at Byron and Ashley.  “I apologize for stopping in so close to closing time.   I had a couple of town hall meetings to attend, and time got away from me a bit.  I hope I’m not making you stay late.”

“That’s perfectly alright,” responded Ashley.  “I have to finish up some paperwork anyway.  Take as much time as you need.”

“My wife read your book and absolutely loved it,” said the president, turning back to Byron.  “I must say that I agreed with her after I had chance to read it.  I’d like to buy two copies.  Can you make them out to Bob and Brooke?”

“I’ll be happy to give you a couple of copies, Mr. President.  I couldn’t possible charge you for them.”

“Oh, hogwash.  I can certainly afford the price.”  He pulled a wallet from his pocket and pulled out three twenty dollar bills.  “In fact, keep the change.”

Byron decided to stop looking a gift horse in the mouth.  He took the money offered to him by the most powerful man in the world.  Byron signed two copies of the book and handed them to the president.

“I noticed that you don’t have a foreword for the book.  I’d be very much interested in writing one, if you’d like.  I couldn’t do it while I’m still in office, of course, but I’ll be a private citizen again in a couple of months.”

“That would be, uh, great,” replied an awestruck Byron.  Certainly a glowing recommendation from the president would cause a spike in sales.  He was sure that he’d sell at least two copies of his book at every stop on the next book tour.

“I’m starving,” commented the president.  “Is there a good pizza place around here?”

“Sure,” replied Ashley.  “Mickey’s Pizza Parlor is a few blocks from here.  You just take main street two blocks and then …”

“How ‘bout you guys hop in and join us for dinner, instead.  I’m not very good with directions.”

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Kosmo is the founder of The Soap Boxers and writes on a variety of topics. Many of his short stories have been collected into Kindle books.

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