The Tale of the Kissing Bandit
If you joined ACFW when it was ACFW and not ACRW (or if you’re not an ACFW member at all), you probably haven’t heard this story. To get you excited about the Conference Prep Series that starts next Monday, I wanted to share this story of something that happened the last evening of the first national ACRW conference in Kansas City.
One of the running jokes of the conference was that of “Floating Body Parts”—what we writers call disembodied hands, eyes, arms, etc., that seem to move or do things of their own accord without being attached to a character who’s making it happen. Brandilyn actually had some rubber eyeballs (the kind you see around Halloween) that she used to tease Tracie Peterson about FBPs throughout the conference. Also, Brandilyn was running a contest for people to give her their best (worst?) mixed metaphors.
(This account was written shortly after the event happened.)
“Can you train Cocker Spaniels?” Brandilyn Collins asked.
The last night of the conference had arrived and many of us tried to stretch it out as long as possible. We commandeered two tables along one wall of Christopher’s Tavern—the small bar/game room/restaurant just off the lobby of the Kansas City Clarion Hotel.
I sat with my back to the room at large, just across the table from Brandilyn, enjoying the opportunity to get to know the vivacious red-head.
As I launched into my experience of trying to train the Cocker Spaniel my family had gotten when I was a teenager, Brandilyn’s green eyes grew wide and her focus shifted to just above my right shoulder.
Allison Wilson, seated to my right, leaned away slightly and I sensed someone standing behind me.
Probably one of the new friends I’ve made here this weekend, I thought.
Then something changed in Brandilyn’s expression. A sense of trepidation washed over me.
A hand touched my shoulder and suddenly a face entered my peripheral vision. It was a MAN!
Not only that, it was a MAN I didn’t know!
My heart stopped and my stomach twisted as this unknown man KISSED MY RIGHT CHEEK and asked, “Are you ladies here for a convention?”
“Yes,” I answered in a strangled yelp. By this time, I was practically in Tiff Miller [Stockton's] lap, who had the misfortune of being seated to my left.
“That’s what we thought.” The man—probably in his late thirties with thinning blonde hair and light eyes (okay, I may be making this part up because I really did my best not to look at him)—smiled and walked across the room to rejoin his two male companions.
My hands flew to cover my mouth — OOPS, FLOATING BODY PART… let’s see… The tide of emotion overwhelmed me in a patchwork of shock and utter astonishment… OH, WAIT, THAT’S A MIXED METAPHOR…
Anyway, I put my hands (attached to my body by my arms) over my mouth and looked across the table at Brandilyn.
Apparently, the expression on my face was her undoing – she laughed so hard tears formed in her eyes and she put her head down on the table.
I struggled to breathe as the stunned silence around the table was broken with:
“What did he say?”
“Did he KISS you?”
“I’m glad you didn’t turn to look over your shoulder,” Allison said. “You’d have gotten it right on the mouth.”
“I probably would have slapped him if that had happened,” I said.
As I explained what had just occurred, everyone at the table burst into raucous laughter. I laughed so hard my sides hurt and tears rolled out of my eyes, not bothered that the “Kissing Bandit” and his friends were still in the bar. But hey, he’s the one who walked up to a table full of romance writers! I doubt if he has any idea what he really did to himself!
“Well, that’s going to be in my next book,” I commented.
Mere minutes later, anxiety once again gripped my heart when across the table, Brandilyn’s and Gayle’s gazes drifted just over my left shoulder.
This time, I turned to see a tall, dark-haired man—one of the Kissing Bandit’s friends—approach the table.
He stopped a comfortable distance away. “Did he just come over and kiss you?”
“Yes,” I answered. “He asked if we were at a conference and I told him we were.”
“Was it a dare?” Tiff asked.
“No,” the handsome stranger said. “We were just sitting there talking and he left the table and came over here.”
“So there wasn’t any money or betting involved?” I asked.
“No.” Mr. Tall Dark and Handsome grinned and returned to his table.
Although still amused and enjoying the laughter, my mind whirled. Why me? Of the dozen women gathered around the two tables, why had he singled me out? Had I been talking and laughing louder than anyone else? Was it because I was the one talking when he walked up to the table?
Why not Tiff with her gorgeous, long, strawberry-blonde hair? Or Allison whose blue eyes sparkled when she laughed?
Had it been a bet? You know, I’ll give you ten bucks to go kiss that heavy-set girl in the white t-shirt with the short dark hair.
Before this occurrence, Brandilyn had cast [one of the rubber] eyes around the table. Now, she crossed to the table where the Kissing Bandit and his friends were seated, plopped the fake eye down on the table with a splat and said, “I just wanted to let you know, I’m keeping an eye on you.”
For non-writers, I was surprised they actually got it.