After a quick turn at the corner of Forest Avenue, she brought the car to a stop along the side of the street, not quite in front of McCoort and McCoort Publishing. There seemed to be an unusual number of cars parked up and down either side of Forest. Walking up the steps, they entered the front door, causing a bell above it to ring.
The publishing house had recently been renovated with the printing presses moved next door to the building that housed the Birmisia Gazette. This allowed McCoort & McCoort Print Shop to expand into a spacious bookstore. A dozen large counters were filled with books, and a glass case along the back wall even featured antique editions. In the center of the room, a table had been set up and a dozen people were waiting in queue to meet and receive an autograph from world famous writer Isaak Wissinger.
“Why, I didn’t even know Mr. Wissinger was here today,” said Terra, stepping to the back of the line. “Did you?”
“I confess I had heard words to that effect,” said Iolana, taking her place beside her cousin. Esther fell in behind them.
It was more than thirty minutes before they reached the front of the queue. Iolana had stoically endured the wait, but Terra had fidgeted the entire time. At last they stood at the table opposite the Freedonian writer.
“Lady Iolana, Lady Terra,” he said, jumping to his feet. “What an unexpected surprise.”
“It shouldn’t be a complete surprise, Mr. Wissinger,” said Iolana, offering her hand, which the writer shook. “Our whole family are admirers.”
“My father had several first editions of your books,” added Terra. “And that was when he lived in Brechalon and you lived in Freedonia. It’s a pity he never had the chance to meet you.”
“Indeed,” said the writer, sitting back down on the metal folding chair. “Were you interested in this book?”
At either end of the small table was a stack of 6×9 hardbound books, each about an inch thick. The cover was crimson felt, with gold lettering: A Portrait of Zurfina the Magnificent.
“One for each of us,” said Terra. “Three in total.”
“Yess, the third one is for me,” said Esther.
Wissinger stared up at the lizzie, his mouth unflatteringly agape.
“She reads at a post-primary level,” said Iolana, proudly.
“How long did it take to teach her?”
“Twenty-two hours a day, seven days a week, for about six years.”
The writer shook himself and pulled the top book from the stack on his left. In practiced script he wrote, “To my dear Lady Iolana, from one writer to another with great respect, Isaak Wissinger.” In a second volume he wrote, “To my dear lizzie friend Esther, may this book aid in your language acquisition, sincerely Isaak Wissinger.” In the third book he wrote, “My dearest Lady Terra, please enjoy this book, though you should probably skip chapters four through twelve, sincerely Isaak Wissinger.”
“Thank you,” said Iolana, looking over her shoulder at two men and a woman behind them. “We shan’t hold up your queue any longer.”