Sunday, April 11, 2010

Encounter: Sid Fleischman

Being a teenager with lofty dreams has its advantages. First, I wanted to work in publishing. Second, being a Sandwich Artist by trade, I was really good at offering mustard.

Sid Fleischman was behind me in the sandwich line at the 2005 SCBWI Annual Summer Conference in Los Angeles, a couple years after I was no longer a teen by years, but still felt like one. When Sid appeared, I saw The Whipping Boy cover between my elementary school fingers, between the shelves of my elementary school library.

Being a teenager (an again feeling like one) is something like being stuck in one of those I-am-immobile dreams, only your limbs still move and don't do what you asked them to do.

It gets worse when you are being stared at. Like "interviewing" to get into a prestigious private school and losing my voice entirely. Or starting my period the day of the yearly ballet performance. (That's when periods were a big deal.)

Obstacle One: Pour yourself a drink.

First the ice cubes. Using the shallow spoon provided as a scooping tool, I managed to get one ice cube into my cup and three onto the floor. Behind me. In front of Sid Fleischman.

Obstacle Two: Decide what to do with the ice cubes on the carpet.

First, stare at them. Next, think of what you would even do with the sullied cubes if they were picked up. Or should I just let them melt? Third, decide to abandon them. Finally, look at Sid awkwardly.

Obstacle Three: Complete the assembly of the sandwich.

Sandwich-assembly being my specialty, I sped through the bread, turkey, cheese, and lettuce. I left the lunch line oddly, wishing I had something to tell Sid other than "OHMYGOSHIAMSOEMBARRASSED" OR "OHMYGOSHIREADYOURBOOKWHENIWASLITTLE." I couldn't think of anything, so I said nothing. I missed my opportunity.

Until I hear a voice behind me.

Paired with the voice was a smile.

Paired with the smile was patience.

"Did they have mustard over there?" Sid Fleischman said. There was a secret in his voice, and I suspected he did not actually need my help.

"Yes," I said, proud. "I can get it for you."

The old instinct kicked in.

"Would you like any mayonnaise?"

Sid, thank you for seeing me. You will be missed and always remembered.

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