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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA



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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

To Nab a Tab

(AKA How I Paid Forty Bucks for a Free Paper That I Didn’t Even Get, Because That’s the Crap That Happens in My Life. All. The. Freaking. Time.)

The short version of the story is this: A few days ago, a very nice young lady from the local Brookline Tab newspaper asked me some interview questions via email, because I’d contributed a story to the Mug of Woe collection.

“I’m eagerly awaiting a call from my junior high school weekly student flyer, any day now.”

(And because MoW editor Jenn generously blanketed the contributors’ local papers with press releases. I’m eagerly awaiting a call from my junior high school weekly student flyer, any day now.)

Those questions begat answers, and together they turned into a nifty write-up on the Tab’s website, which I stumbled onto today.

Fun story. Happy ending. Good times all ’round.

So that’s where it ends, right?

Nah. Only in the short version. In the real world, that’s where I take over to shoot myself in the foot. Which is also probably in my mouth at the time, which is not exactly a prime foot-shooting location.

And yet. Here we go.

On discovering the piece, I thought I might like to have a printed copy, if one were available, for the old scrapbook. Or the shoebox full of ticket stubs and photographs and a guitar pick that might have once belonged to someone in a band I once saw, only I forget who and when I actually got it, and it’s quite possible it’s actually the plastic hood off an old Matchbox car, which makes it significantly less likely to impress any impressionable groupies of questionable moral fiber who might be hanging around the area. Who would now be in their forties, probably, which is not a good age for groupies. Impressionable or otherwise.

We should probably go back to the interview article again, before this starts to get weird. Yes. Let’s.

So I resolved to set off after work to look for a hard copy of this interview. It first appeared on the website yesterday, apparently, so I reasoned that if the Tab is a daily, it would likely be in today’s edition.

Only I didn’t know if it was a daily, or a weekly. I haven’t actually seen the Tab in a little while. But I knew it was free, and it comes in those little newsstand boxes on the street, and a lot of those papers are daily, so that’s what I went with. The Tab, I decided, is very probably a daily publication.

(Wrong. It’s weekly. But I’m jumping ahead — it took me at least an hour to find that out. And it didn’t much help.)

So I set out around my neighborhood to find a Brookline Tab box. Down to the nearest corner — nothing. The next corner had news boxes — USA Today, the Boston Globe, the Herald, but no Tab. Two blocks down, there were freebies — the Boston Metro, Stuff at Night, Improper Bostonian — but still no Tab. I wandered for half an hour, and still slumped home, Tab-less.

That’s when I remembered the website. When I’d discovered the article, I’d also seen a link to where the Tab could be found, live and in print. So I hopped back over, scanned the list, and found three close-by likely sites to scratch my throbbing Tab itch.

The first was the Trader Joe’s down my street.

(The very same one I mention in the article. This is ‘circles within circles’ stuff, folks. Like Hemingway, or something.

I’m not sure which one. But definitely like one of the Hemingways. Probably Muriel.)

Armed with solid intel, I burst through the T-Joe’s doors and cased the joint. Racks of wine. Kosher pastas. Cracker spreads from every corner of the globe. And hippies as far as the eye could see. But a single Brookline Tab? A sign, stand or label suggesting such a thing was ever offered there? Nada.

So much for everything you read on the internet being true. Color me aghast.

The next place was just down the block; the website promised that outside the local post office was a Tab sidewalk stand. I walked over, and sure enough, there it was. White and dented and a little run-down — like looking in a mirror, it was! — I’d finally found a fabled Tab stand. I yanked the rusty handle down, and–

Empty. No papers. All gone, but thanks for your interest, valued would-be reader.

That left option number three — my local bookstore.

Now, I didn’t want to go to the bookstore for this paper. Not that I don’t like the bookstore — it’s a lovely shop, and well deserving of patronage. But I’ve got books. I’m up to my ears right now in books I haven’t read. For books, I’m good. And then some.

On the other hand, I couldn’t very well walk into the bookstore, pick up a free paper — assuming such a thing actually existed, which I was beginning to wonder at that point — and leave without a book. That would never do. I couldn’t live with that kind of guilt, using a struggling book shop in that way.

(Actually, I have no idea if they’re struggling. I mean, they sell books. And the place is made of bricks and, presumably, mortar, so I just assume — struggling. But that’s just based on what I hear in the news these days. Which is probably sponsored by Amazon. So, you know — draw your own conclusions.)

Reluctantly, I made my way into the Booksmith, still on my quest for the Tab. And happily, I found it there, a whole stack sitting on a rack among other papers. So I snatched up a (precioussss) copy and moseyed back deep in the shelves to sneak a peek. That’s when I found out — the Tab is a weekly. Not a daily. And the current weekly came out last week, which means I’m nowhere within the pages. Bummer.

Still, that left me with a dilemma. Now I was in a bookstore. And a bookstore that, as fate would have it, the Mug of Woe folks are hoping to have carry the book in the near future. And maybe even have a few stories read by the authors. Like me, who lives right down the street. Seems natural.

Unless they ban my mooching ass first for walking out empty-handed — or coming in just for the free papers. Of which I’ve now read one, right smack in the middle of their store. And probably on security camera. If I walk out now, it’s over, man — GAME OVER.

So I put the Tab back and bought a book. Two books, actually, because books are like beers and ruffled potato chips — one is never enough. You really need multiple for the effects to work properly. So I found two books that looked interesting, and by god, I supported my local bookstore. Hopefully, they’ll keep that in mind when Mug of Woe comes their way, and they’re debating having a bunch of mouth-breathing wild-eyed humorists invade their space for a reading. We may be scary looking — and sounding, and on occasion, smelling — but we buy the occasional book. We’re cool in that way. And in nearly no others.

And that’s how I went out for a free paper this evening, and walked home without the paper — though I held it in my hands, and even read a bit — but instead with two new books where the forty dollars in my wallet used to be. And while checking out, I found that the Tab — the WEEKLY Brookline Tab — comes out on Thursdays or Fridays. So some time in the next forty-eight hours, I’m going searching again. And god only knows what the hell I’ll come home with on that trip.

But I bet it’s not a Brookline Tab. That’s just not how it works. Not in my world.

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