It looks like the time has come for me to finally accept that a box containing my author’s copies of the Chinese translation of The Sisters has gone missing. A month ago, I was thrilled when my agent emailed to say the copies had arrived in her office—three years after, in great wonderment, I signed the contract on that sale. The level of my anticipation skipped several notches higher when she said, in comparing the Chinese and American covers, “They couldn’t be more different.” The books would be on their way to me in a day or two.
So, I waited. I knew the box was coming via USPS media mail, so, though I watched my little entry porch daily for the appearance of my package, I didn’t worry for the first week, familiar as I am with low-priority media mail. Nor did I really worry for the second week, even when a bundle of used books I’d ordered from a vendor in Oregon arrived, via media mail, after just five days. In the third week, I was worried enough to go to my local post office to see if, by chance, the postal carrier had left a pick-up slip instead, which had perhaps blown away in recent windy weather. Nope.
Since then, I’ve been imagining what adventures my books might have gotten up to. I think of them in a forgotten corner in a mail truck, re-hidden each day by new boxes that will be delivered. Or maybe my box was misdirected and, though it’s getting a little battered as it journeys back to me, it’s enjoying seeing the country. Some days I think I’ll open my mailbox and find the first of a series of picture postcards, showing my box spelunking in Mammoth Cave, looking out over a Nebraska prairie, teetering amusingly on the edge of the Grand Canyon, sitting proudly in the snow at the top of Mt. McKinley.
Or maybe the box was snatched from my own front porch by someone sure that this small heavy package, come all the way from New York City, must contain some great and valuable treasure. Befuddlement beclouds his face, when at last he slices open the box.
My favorite scenario of theft is one that ends with my thief, whoever he or she might be, recognizing these copies of a book, written in Chinese, could bring a few black market dollars from a guy who runs a little street book stall in San Francisco or New York. Over the years, five or six people, scanning the stall will find a title that strikes their fancy—my title, which, I’m told, translates literally from Chinese as Older Sisters Tears—and new journeys will begin.