Originally created 02/16/99

Off the Wall



"Honey," the woman exclaims, "your book is the best weight-loss book ever written!"

Artists should never question the public's interpretation of their work. Translation: The Titanic is in shallow water compared to the depths I will sink in order to sell a book.

I'm standing in the bookstore skimming through a biography on Jackie Kennedy Onassis. Sweetie has me on a book budget, and I can't quite decide whether to blow my allotment on a book about a skinny rich woman. Every week, I read a few pages to try and make up my mind. So far, I'm on chapter nine.

"I've tried the Scarsdale Diet, the Suzanne Summers Diet, the Sauerkraut Diet ...," the woman is saying, counting on her fingers with eyes rolled to the ceiling.

"Excuse me," I finally interrupt after my second pang of guilt. "My humor book is about my Sweetie -- not sweets. Are you sure you don't have it confused with Sugar Busters?"

"No, no," she insists as she digs in the bag slung over her shoulder. Pulling out a box of Godiva chocolates, she brushes off a few hairs and passes it my way. I'm diving for a truffle when I realize the box has been gutted. Inside is a copy of my book. It smells like milk chocolate.

Pulling out my pad, I jot down: Insert a chocolate scratch 'n' sniff in next book.

"Bad hair day?" she says as we stare down at my photo on the cover.

"Bad hair life," I say, "but at least I have my health."

"Anyway," she shrugs, "it all started when I heard on the radio that laughing for 15 minutes burns as many calories as running a mile. So I decided whenever I got the munchies, I'd read your book."

"Uh-huh," I nod, taking notes.

"It's not as easy as you'd think," she says.

"Reading?"

"Laughing for 15 minutes. Your throat gets really dry."

"I bet."

"And I'm starting to get these little laugh lines," she says, pointing to her dimples.

Glancing up from my pad, I study her cheeks, then quickly write: Get product liability insurance.

"But the good news is," she chirps gleefully, "I've lost 12 pounds, and my husband is chasing me around the house like a raging bull!"

Holding her arms up, she takes a little spin.

Life is not fair. I sweat blood writing the darn book and don't lose an ounce. She kicks back in her recliner and peels it off like a banana.

"Exactly how much of this weight loss would you attribute to your husband chasing you around the house?" I ask.

"Oh, not that much," she says, nose wrinkled and shaking her head. "He's not that fast."

Note: Market book for weight-loss, self-help, and as a marital aid -- and call Oprah.

"If you write about this," she says, watching me write, "I want you to swear you won't use my real name."

"Cross my heart," I say, crossing my heart.

I would never betray reader Sue Burgess and her husband, Bill, in Detroit.

Write P.S.Wall c/o Universal Press Syndicate, 4520 Main St., Kansas City, MO 64111.