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BY SLIM RANDLES

Sarah McKinley has a real problem this time of year. Sarah owns and runs (and is the only one there) at Read Me Now bookstore. Since this is the only bookstore for about 30 miles, you'd figure its success would be a slam dunk, but it doesn't work this time of year.

"During the holidays," she says, "most bookstores make a bundle from women buying cookbooks."

But that isn't so here.

"I believe it's a fem-cho thing," Sarah says. "You know ... the women's version of macho," she explains.

We won't find that particular word in any dictionary, she said, but if we'd care to look, she'd be glad to sell us one.

"Fem-cho is the art of being just a bit more woman than the next girl," Sarah says. "You know how it is when a woman's pregnant, right? Every old biddie in town has to tell this poor woman horror stories of when she was giving birth, about a hundred years ago. 'Women have it easy today,' they say. 'Why, when I was having my children, it was like being torn apart by a bulldozer wrapped in barbed wire!'"

Sarah says this starts a pain auction that carries on until the poor pregnant woman wishes she'd never even considered having children. Each woman who tosses chips into the conversation ups the ante on pain and misery just enough to keep the conversation heading for the total destruction of all female parts.

"It's that way with my cookbooks here, too," Sarah says. "We have these new low-carb cookbooks and everything ... and you can't tell me there aren't plenty of us who could stand to lose a few pounds ... but they won't buy them. I don't care if they're the worst cook in the county. If they are seen buying a cookbook, it's an admission of defeat, a very real confession that she isn't as much woman as the other cooks in the area."

Sarah grinned. "And let's face it, there are some cooks around here who could use some new recipes!"

Brought to you by Raven's Prey, a thriller of the far North. Available at www.slimrandles.com.

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