Luke leaned over and whispered, “You get the medal, not me, OK?”
We had been sitting at a banquet table in Orlando for about two hours, watching as nervous book authors waited for their category to be called and to learn if they’d won an award. The presenters would project the cover of a book on the screen and you’d hear squeals of laughter and congratulatory claps when an author realized it was their book. They dashed to the front of the room and bowed as the president of the Florida Authors & Publishers Association draped a hefty two-inch silver or gold medal dangling from thick ribbon around their neck.
We both had noticed there was only one medal for each award. I decided if we won in our category, Luke should get it. After all, he’s the guy. We had co-authored Blasted by Adversity: the Making of a Wounded Warrior, but it was his story. As a wounded warrior, he’s a celebrity figure of sorts and it made sense that he should wear the medal.
In strained whispers, I tried to convince him, “No, Luke. It’s your story. You need to get it.” He kept shaking his head, “Nope. Yours.”
Our category was fast approaching and I was thinking, This argument’s going to get settled in front of an audience of 200 people.
A few minutes more and they announced, “Autobiography/Memoir,” and projected our competitors first – which meant they were getting silver awards. Luke kicked me under the table with his good leg and I looked toward the ceiling in an expression of gratitude.
I heard the presenter say, “And the gold goes to, Blasted by Adversity: the Making of a Wounded Warrior, by Luke Murphy with Julie Bettinger.”
My legs managed to move me toward the front of the room and I hugged the outgoing president of the association. I knew Luke was right with me as we approached the woman holding the medals. She looked at me, then Luke. “Which one of you wants it?”
I turned and motioned toward Luke and he surprised me by reaching for it. He said, “Give it to me.” He turned back, faced me and said, “She gets it.” I bent over slightly as he placed the bright red ribbon with its shiny jewel over my head and around my neck. Luke turned and looked directly at the audience. “I lived it, but she wrote it.”
Then he calmly walked back toward our table and took a seat – to thunderous applause.
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