May 11, 2010

Dean Interviews Odd

Through a mutual friend — the renowned mystery writer, P. Oswald Boone, the only acquaintance of mine who both weighs 400 pounds and has eleven fingers — I arranged to meet Odd Thomas in a back booth at the Pico Mundo Grille, in Pico Mundo, California, where he has worked as a short-order cook. I agreed in advance that I would not ask about his heroic actions at Green Moon Mall last year. He is embarrassed by the subject and does not consider himself a hero. When I arrived, he was drinking a cherry Coke and had taken the liberty of ordering one for me.

OT: Or you could have a lemon Coke. I can get you one.

DK: Cherry is fine.

OT: I feel funny about this, sir. I’m afraid I’ve never read any of your novels.

DK: Well, you’re only twenty-one, and you’ve led a very full life. Not much time for reading.

OT: Actually, I’ve had a lot of time for reading. I’ve just never tried any of yours. I thought they were about vampires, but Ozzie tells me they aren’t.

DK: You don’t like vampire novels?

OT: Vampires, werewolves… I don’t find that kind of story convincing.

DK: Yet you see ghosts.

OT: I see the lingering dead, yes. But that’s just between us, right?

DK: Absolutely.

OT: That’s a secret. Only a few friends know about it.

DK: Your secret’s safe with me, son.

OT: Ozzie says never trust a writer.

DK: He’s a writer.

OT: Ozzie says that’s how he knows what swine they are. No offense, sir. I’m just quoting him.

DK: But he’s a writer, and you trust him.

OT: Yes, but he’s Ozzie.

DK: And I’m not half the man that he is.

OT: Barely more than a third, sir. But…I think I can trust you. I almost feel as if we’ve met before.

DK: I understand Elvis Presley hangs out with you.

OT: His spirit. Yes, sir.

DK: That must be cool.

OT: Cooler than if it was the spirit of Lawrence Welk, I guess.

DK: Why hasn’t he moved on to the next world? Has he told you?

OT: The dead don’t talk, sir.

DK: Or sing?

OT: No, sir. But now and then he does some fine dance moves.

DK: Does he still like fried peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches?

OT: The dead don’t eat, either. Which is a good thing. I don’t earn enough to feed them. And there would be an awful lot of dishes to wash.

DK: What does Elvis do when you hang out together?

OT: Sometimes we listen to his music. And he cries.

DK: The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll cries?

OT: Sometimes he’s a faucet, sir.

DK: But you like having him around?

OT: I do. Yes, sir. There’s something sweet about him.

DK: He’s not the kind of guy to shoot someone at the Vibe Awards.

OT: No, sir. In Elvis’s day, singers didn’t shoot or stab one another.

DK: Maybe they weren’t as passionate about their music as the new guys are.

OT: Or maybe they were sane.

DK: Why do these spirits come to you, Odd?

OT: Mostly for justice.

DK: Because they’ve been murdered?

OT: Not Elvis. But others, yes. And sometimes it’s just for comfort, reassurance.

DK: You’ve been given quite a gift. But the dead showing up all the time — that must be disconcerting.

OT: And they don’t respect the privacy of the living. I’ll be in the bathroom, and one of them will walk right through the wall.

DK: That would be annoying.

OT: Yes, sir. And constipating.

DK: Every gift has a price.

OT: I’m never caught up with the laundry.

DK: Laundry?

OT: All the running, jumping, and chasing — seems like it always leads me through one filthy place or another. I sometimes go through three pairs of jeans a day.

DK: What laundry detergent do you use?

OT: Whatever’s cheapest.

DK: Do you always wear jeans?

OT: Not always. I own two pair of chinos, but those are mainly for dressy occasions.

DK: When do you feel the need to dress up?

OT: Never. What do you wear when you write, sir?

DK: Jeans and Hawaiian shirts. But fortunately writing isn’t a filthy business.

OT: Ozzie says it can be when you’re dealing with Hollywood. Have you ever seen a ghost, sir?

DK: No. And I’m not sure I’d want to.

OT: Well, at least they don’t shoot at you.

DK: Do people often shoot at you, son?

OT: More often than I’d like.

DK: What kind of gun do you carry, Odd?

OT: I don’t carry a gun, sir. I’m a short-order cook. I don’t need much more than a spatula.

DK: Have you had strange experiences other than with ghosts? For instance, have you ever seen Big Foot?

OT: I haven’t had the pleasure of making Mr. Foot’s acquaintance.

DK: Extra-terrestrials?

OT: Like everyone, I’ve seen Mr. Donald Trump on TV, but I’ve never had a face-to-face encounter with a being from another world.

DK: So for you, it’s just ghosts.

OT: Yes, sir. I just see the lingering dead. But that’s enough. Believe me, that’s plenty.

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