“You ain’t got much in here ‘bout nutria hunting,” the old man declared aloud while scrutinizing through the pages of my latest book.
In my limited experience at book signings I’d come to learn that listening to people ramble on and on about any and every random thought that entered their head while they judged my work was just came with the territory. The best thing to do was be polite, make small talk, and agree with most everything they say. Eventually they’ll buy a book or walk away.
“Well, the book is really more of a guide,” I smiled. “It details the animal, where it can be found, the most popular methods of…”
“These calibers are wrong.”
“Best way to pop a nutria is with a 12 gauge. Everybody knows that.”
I nodded and continued smiling.
“Ya’ hit a nutria wrong with a .22 n’ you’ll have lost a good trophy.”
Nod again. Smile.
“See I been hunting nutria all my life. Guess I’m about as expert as you can get.”
“Them orange teeth. That rat tail…it’s like a lure to me. Like, oh, what do they call it? Like cat nip. I’s just hungry for ‘em. Nutrias just call to me.”
“You member where Aquarina Springs was?”
“Yeah,” I agreed, recalling a sort of water amusement park that sat atop a series of large gin-clear watered springs. “Over near San Marcos. They used to have a mermaid show or something there didn’t they?”
“They had ‘em a nutria show is what they had before they asked me to come by there. Me n’ a buddy went out there one night with a spotlight n’ done filled up two 55 gallon drums just a full ‘ah nutria rat.”
“That’s a bunch of rats,” I politely exclaimed.
“Ye’ damn right it’s a bunch of nutria. A chucker-block full.”
Keep nodding. Smile.
“N’ I didn’t take ‘em with no rifle, no .223 or .243 neither. I got up ah’ close n’ personal to ‘em with a 12 gauge.”
Please don’t stroke out here at the table old man. Please.
“It was like one of them horror shows, they was so many.”
“Sure sounds that way,” I complimented. “What’cha do with them all?”
The old man was taken aback.
“What I do with ‘em?”
“Yes sir. What did you do with all of those nutria?”
“Well…well…well we had us a ton of ‘em that’s for sure.”
The old man flipped once more through my work.
“Good looking book though. Wish you luck.”
And with a twist of his geriatric hip he walked away leaving me with nothing but memories.
Memories of a man, a nutria hunt, and a sale I didn’t make.
And people wonder why writers drink so much.