I was taken aback when I saw the cheque for my first reading in The Poet & Pachyderm Tour was classed under the heading "rural readings". Not that it was in any way false advertising - even the organizer taking us to the event mentioned that it was "further out" than expected. And we indeed drove a goodly way through forest interspersed by vistas overlooking ocean, with many farms and fields of corn and herds of cattle to contemplate. I was just surprised that it was given this designation - almost as if I was receiving some sort of hazard pay.
The Community Hall was large, and we were offered a choice of three venues, starting with the library and ending with a gymnasium if the throngs overwhelmed us. However, as it was mid-evening of a hot Sunday night, we felt the library was large enough - and it had easy chairs. There was concern that it might be too hot, but opening windows solved the problem, plus the sun was already slanting into its repose. Water was offered though it is always wise to take your own, and we helped with the mild chores of set up.
There was only a five minute delay past the staring time in case of stragglers, and the readings began. It was a small audience (though larger than some of our pre-reading imaginings), made snug by the surroundings. As my book has "God" in the title, I have learned to say up front that it is all right to laugh - if they find something funny. We each read for twenty minutes, and shared one of my stories where the Elephant recites his 'poetry'. It is not good poetry (one newspaper review claimed it was the worst poetry the reviewer had ever read), so I made certain my partner-the-poet did not take the blame.
Part way through my reading (at the end of one story) two ladies stood and apologized that they had to leave. They did this graciously, and even shook my hand. One of them was elderly, and my handshake was tentative until her firm grip told me her frailty was in the eye of the beholder.
There were few questions or comments at the end, but perhaps that was because we were led to a table with chairs and home made refreshments to share. Fresh, heavenly country bread with jam, tea, coffee, cookies and then a bit of talk - not necessarily about the reading. There was one fellow present who had recently won a prize for his novel manuscript in a regional contest, and had even had the offer to send it to an agent. He and I conversed - perhaps to the exclusion of the others.
I realize I had been conscious that I was going to deal with a 'country' audience, and had some thoughts of giving, for want of a better term, a less 'literary' reading. One concentrating on the broader humour of the Elephant. I'm not sure why this wisp of condescention drifted past - I spent my earlier years in rural surroundings and know they are neither soft nor ignorant. Too much literary exposure, perhaps. Too many university venues. Dealing too much with the publishing world.
As it was, we got to take the left over loaf of bread with us.