So I was up at the bookstore and two guys stopped me. One guy in a trench coat, who really looked like an extra from a mob movie. He just looked like a tough guy. You know, an older guy who used to be a tough guy. And then his younger friend, hooh, son? Or… nephew, or… just acquaintance, who was wearing glasses that had those little flip… flip-up and flip-down sunglass attachments. On them.
They stopped me… they cornered me on the stairway and said, “Hey, aren’t you… weren’t you in that… that TV show with Anthony Bourdain?” And I said, “Yes.” And then the guy in the trench coat said, “Yeah, my… friend…”
Did he say “friend”?
“My friend said you were…”
“Hey. My friend said, ‘Hey, that’s one of the writers I saw on the Anthony Bourdain TV show.’”
[Throat noise. Lip noise.]
They said, “Whatta… what have you written?”
And I… said, “Oh I’ve written a… couple of books.”
“What’s the best one you’ve written?”
“Well, there’s one right down there you could… check out. It has a blue cover. It’s my latest one.”
[Nose whistle. Exhalation.]
And then I said, “I’m not wearing sunglasses tryin’ to be cool. I’m just… I had [laughter] eye surgery.” Why am I tellin’ ‘em my life story? I didn’t want ‘em to think I’m—I was on a TV show once so I walk around wearing sunglasses inside.
[Throat clearing. Sniff.]
Oh, but at the bookstore later today there’s a woman—I previously mentioned seeing this book over there, a… book about [laughter] fireflies and glowworms. And… part of me wants to go—well, after my meeting, I think I could make it maybe to the end of her… talk. If I hurried.
[Breathing. Throat noise. Breath.]
But do I really… do I really care that much? About fireflies and glowworms? I like… nature books. I like thumbing through them. I like the idea of nature books.
[Breath. Throat clearing.]
Well, what I was looking for… I have a book around here… I used to work in a strange, rundown bookstore in downtown Mobile, Alabama. There was almost nothing downtown. There was the Catholic Seaman’s Center. [Throat clearing.] Overseen by a guy named Brother John, who was a… a lay brother of the Catholic Church, I think, and he was obsessed with the Indigo Girls and he liked to cut himself with a box-cutter. But he was an enjoyable… I said, “Why do you do that, John?” I was worried about him. And he said, “To let the demons out.”
[Lip smack. Sigh.]
And then there was…
But he made a good hamburger there behind the grill.
But I had this book that I picked up there, and I wanna… find it. One of these shelves—oooh! There it is! It was right in front of me. It’s called Living Lights: Marvels of Animal Life Series. And it’s all about, if I recall correctly, all about the different animals that glow! I believe its purview, if that’s the correct word… that’s one of those words… I’m never sure about.
[A huff of breath.]
I believe it concerns itself with a much broader array of life than the glowworms and fireflies… [loud scraping sound] under discussion today.
Whooh. It’s falling apart.
Yes, yes, it’s 1888. Well, it was first published in 1887.
[Pages being turned.]
Then there’s a chap—Chapter Ten is called “By Crab Light.” Which really sounds like one of the least pleasant kinds of light. [Laughter.]
I wonder—I didn’t know there were glowing crabs. We do have, later on, luminous flowers! Luminous birds? I’ve written of such in my second book. I read in a Charles Fort book about a… [pages flapping] a guy who found a glowing owl.
There’s a chapter called “Phantoms.” Does that really mean ghosts?
Luminous mushrooms… phantoms!
“Phosphorescent light plays an important part in the composition of ghosts and phantoms.”
Man, this guy covers all the bases!
This man or woman. C.F. Holder. I’m not sure whether C.F. Holder is a man or a woman.
I did go, after my meeting, I went to hear the woman talk about fireflies. I thought, “No one will be there! I feel sorry in advance for this firefly expert.” But it was, you know, I think there were about thirty people at the reading. I’ve had much smaller readings than that myself. And I got there a little late so she was done with her slideshow. [Lip smack.] She was taking questions from the audience and people had more questions than you might… imagine… about fireflies. Well… well, these were people who came to a… firefly lecture, so… you know… they had fireflies on their mind. On their minds.
And soon I began to resent the firefly expert. I started to think [laughter], “Please!” [Laughter.] “Please say you don’t… please say ‘Just one more question.’” You know? “I came… I thought you needed me and now I see that I was the fool!”
I got there when she was explaining that bats… uh… spit out fireflies because they’re vile-tasting and also poisonous. And… thrrrrrehhhhlluuhp… oh, I did see, uh… Pegeen! And I should’ve known she would be there. She, she gives nature walks. She, you know… knows about spiders. She used to work for the Audubon Society. And she told me that… what’s the name of these lizards? Sh—she had the correct name for these little green lizards. Uhm… [breathing; pause; lip smack] no, maybe she wasn’t talking about green… what are those called? Anole? Lizards? She was talking about some other kind of lizard. But… you know, just eating one or two of these fireflies can kill a lizard. Bats eat one and they’ve learned their lesson. They don’t eat any others.
Monarchbutterflies, I believe, have the same… poison in their… souls. So Pegeeninforms me.
This way, please, to the next chapter.
Jack Pendarvis has written five books. He won two Emmys for his work on the TV show Adventure Time. During a period of light employment, he spoke into a digital recorder whenever the mood struck him and transcribed the results, accumulating the two thousand pages from which this column has been extracted.