On my way to my very first book club meeting, I passed by two halves of a white aluminum Christmas tree jammed under the guardrail of the northbound lane of the perpetually under construction Kingshighway Bridge. When I saw the tree, a representation of chilly wintertime wonders and a reminder of Christ as the reason for the Christmas season, I wondered if Satan had been traveling through St. Louis, got caught in the bridge traffic, and in a fit of rage had taken out his frustrations on the unsuspecting Christmas tree.
But let me back up my story just a bit.
Earlier in the day, as I returned home from dropping off TB at school, I saw a devil pickup truck. TB’s school day begins at some insanely early hour, so it was still dark as I sat under the overpass behind the red truck. As the sun came up and traffic inched forward, I glanced at the truck and thought, Are those horns on the sides of the cab? Of course they were.
Once we cleared the underpass, a face materialized on the truck’s tinted rear window. A red, manical-looking face. I again wondered if I should trust my eyes, as it was still dark, and I was still sleepy, but yes, yes that was a satanic decal adorning the entirety of the rear window.
Then as we picked up speed along the on-ramp, I saw the license plate, which confirmed my suspicions. The license plate number was undeniably an approximation of the word Lucifer.
As I followed the Prince of Darkness’ pickup, thoughts came to me in quick succession.
Am I that bold about proclaiming my faith in God? Do I really need a decal of Jesus on my car’s rear window to affirm my convictions? Who drives a decked-out devil pickup truck? Should I be concerned that whoever is driving the truck is roaming about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour? Is this some sort of company car? But what company would have this car?
I interspersed these thoughts with prayer.
And then, and I’m not proud, I chuckled.
I laughed because I thought of the novel Clovenhoof by Heide Goody and Iain Grant. The premise of that novel is that Satan got kicked out of hell for poor management and was banished to the UK to live out his days under the pseudonym Jeremy Clovenhoof. And I knew that Jeremy absolutely would drive a big red pickup truck in homage to himself.
I also knew that Jeremy, if stuck in traffic on the Kingshighway Bridge, would definitely destroy a Christmas tree in a fit of rage and stuff it under a guardrail.
So as I made my way to my very first book club meeting, I pondered satire and whether I should be more easily offended by some novels than I am.
Our book for discussion, The Sellout by Paul Beatty, tackles important topics in strategically offensive ways.
The Sellout is smart and interesting and beautifully written satire. If you can’t stomach the n-word or the f-word, this novel may not be for you. If, however, you enjoy Ishmael Reed and George Schuyler, then you will find Beatty solidly seats himself in their tradition.
I couldn’t wait to discuss Beatty’s novel with the other participants. I couldn’t remember the last time I had sat around and discussed a novel. I think I was in grad school, which means much too much time had passed since I had read a novel with a mind for discussion and not merely entertainment.
After spending 20 minutes looking for a parking spot and trekking several blocks from my car to the venue, I entered the book store excited, undeterred, and late. I grossly underestimated the time it would take to find parking on a beautiful spring evening in the Central West End.
I asked at the check-out desk where the book club was meeting, and I was ushered downstairs and told I would see a table as soon as I turned right. And I did. But I didn’t see anyone at the table. I anticipated finding a few people around the table, and I mentally rehearsed my apology for arriving late as I descended the stairs. But alas, I never had the opportunity to give my apology a whirl.
No one was there at the table and no one showed up.
Fortunately, I find sitting and waiting an enjoyable pastime, if I’m alone and free to ponder, so the 40 minutes flew by. I figured if no one had shown up by then that no one else was coming, so I left.
I trekked back to my car and started for home. And when I drove past the white aluminum Christmas tree shoved underneath a guardrail on the going-on-three-straight-years-of-construction Kingshighway Bridge, I smiled because I realized that despite not having the book club meeting, I had experienced the almost forgotten joys of critically reading.
I’m looking forward to our next meeting and the adventures it will bring.