Opening chapter: Iowa City author Larry Baker’s ‘From a Distance’ is out Thursday

Wine and Words: A Premiere Party for ‘From A Distance’

Luxe Interiors — Thursday, Sept. 28 at 7 p.m.

Iowa City author Larry Baker’s latest book, ‘From a Distance,’ is out this week from Ice Cube Press. To celebrate, a release party will be held Thursday, Sept. 28 at Luxe Interiors (920 E 2nd Ave, Ste 110, Coralville) at 7 p.m. Signed copies of the book will be on sale, wine and hors d’oeuvres will be served and Baker will give a short reading at 8 p.m. Little Village is pleased to present the first chapter of ‘From a Distance’ for readers to enjoy.

‘From a Distance’ by Larry Baker

Ellie: I Am Born

I kissed a page for him. After I finally found him. I knew it was him because he knew who I was. I told him I was somebody else. But he knew. He gave me the name I never knew I wanted. And he is pretty. I have never seen a boy so pretty. He thinks I am older. I am. But he knows the real me. And he is tiny. I can look down at him. He’s like a giant pretty boy doll.

I was at the dirty bookstore, the one next to SJB. You can see the dust in the air. The light hits the dust, lines in the air. Like that poem I read a hundred times. I had seen him there lots, he never saw me. But he caught me stealing a book today. He never caught me before. I thought I was safe again. It was in my purse and I was almost safe. I heard his voice. He has a proper voice. I stood still. I can be invisible when I want to be. I can go away. But he still saw me. For that first second I was scared, like I am when it happens to me at home, when I cannot escape. But he did not growl at me. He just asked me if I needed any help.

–Are you looking for anything in particular?

I said no. I was fine. But then I looked up and directly at him. He was so pretty. I wanted to cry. But he was on to me.

–Perhaps that book in your purse needs a regular store bag?

So proper. I was caught. More than perhaps.

I was wrong. He had always seen me. The other times. He must have seen me stealing before. But he did not talk about that. He just asked what I liked to read. I told him Nancy Drew, like the book in my purse. I told him that I liked books about smart girls. He smiled at me and held out his hand. I knew what he wanted. I handed him the book. He asked if I wanted to pay for it. I told him that I had no money. And then he did something that made me almost faint. He looked at me but tilted his head. As if it was me that was crooked and he had to adjust his sight to that. And then he handed the book back to me. Told me to keep it.

–A gift from me.

He could have hurt me, but he gave me a book. He introduced himself, but I did not like his name. I know about his father and mother. They are important. I am not. I did not want him to be their son. Then the most wonderful thing happened. He turned his back to me for a second and I saw the paperback book sticking out of his pocket. It was a dirty book. I had seen it at my house. And when he turned around he realized that I had discovered a secret about him. I had power over him. He had been reading Peyton Place. He told me his real name, but I told him that I was going to call him Peyton. That was his name from me, our secret. He turned red. I have never seen any man turn that color from embarrassment. From other things, yes. Anger or other things, but never a real blush. He laughed. Tried not to, but he laughed. And he asked who I was.

He did not know me. I could be anybody I wanted with him. I could be who I was at home, or I could be one of the others. I chose my favorite. I told him my name was Elizabeth Elliott. He could call me Liz. But he shook his head.

–Liz is not your name. Your name is Ellie

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And that was the moment I knew he was the one. I had never known I was Ellie until he named me. He saw the one true me before I did.

— I want you to come see me again.

I stopped teasing. How could I not see him again, ever. I wanted him to hold my hand. But he was still trapped in his old name, his real name. He was still his parents son, but I knew, I knew in my stomach, that he was going to be mine. I took the lipstick out of my purse and rubbed it across my lips. I knew he could not turn away. I asked for his book. I kissed the first page for him. It was a promise. Then I turned to the last blank page. Used my lipstick. I wrote a big red letter . . . E. I know what a whore is. I am a whore. They tell me that. Peyton knows Ellie, not the whore. I handed the book back to him and told him that I would be back tomorrow. I did not tell him that I had no choice. I was going to be his Ellie forever.

As he walked me to the front door, with the old people looking at us, he asked where I went to school. I told him it did not matter. We would never meet at school. We were from different sides of Broad Street. He told me that he was a junior. Me too, I said. He said he was sixteen. Me too. How could I tell him that I was only thirteen. How could I tell him that he would never be as old as me.

This is my new story. All the pages I have written for the past four years . . . I am burning them tonight. I was born today.

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