“Domestic life is something a man can grow accustomed to. If he behaves himself, he may receive his daily sustenance and the occasional flurry of physical affection. With these he will be content; or else.”
The above thought came to me and formed in my mind—and until I wrote it down wouldn’t allow me to sleep—shortly after reading a series of articles about my writing inspiration and favorite author Mark Twain. I think it sounds “Twainesque”. The more I read about him, the more I see similarities in his writings and mine. Not in style, but in themes. He wrote fondly of his youth and the entire coming of age experience and so do I. Not that I’m in his league by any measurement, but I have taken to heart a quote of his, “Write what you know”.
In the few short years he lived in Hannibal, Missouri, Samuel Clemens met and befriended a number of people who later inspired the characters in his most famous writings, Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. My first attempt at fiction, The Boat, is similar in the sense most of the characters in the book are based upon people I’ve either known, or known about. I’ve sent query letters to a number of literary agents hoping to get the manuscript published, and I await their responses. In the meantime, I’ve started my next book titled Lost Highway, and yes the characters in the book are all based on people I know or have known. I’m enjoying writing these books as much as anything I’ve ever done. I hope someday others will enjoy reading them. Here is an excerpt from The Boat.
Three Years Earlier
After the pickup game the rest of the boys mount their bicycles, with gloves, bats, and balls in tow, and ride away; each to his own home. Alec, Jason, and Robbie sit around a picnic table within a few yards of the baseball diamond and are engaged in conversation; a familiar conversation they’ve had on numerous other occasions. It is the summer prior to their freshman year, when boys begin to think man thoughts, and Alec, always a deep thinker, starts the conversation with a question.
“Do either of you guys have any dreams?”
Robbie answers, “What kind of dreams? I have nightmares all the time. When I saw The Exorcist for the first time I couldn’t stop having dreams.”
“No, smart ass. I’m talking about life’s dreams. Do you have dreams of your future? Do you think about yourself ten years from now? Where you’ll be? What you’ll be? Who you’ll be with?”
“So, you mean like the show and tell or five hundred word ‘What I want to be when I grow up’ themes from grade school?”
“Yeah, like that.”
“Okay I’ll go first.” Jason has a far off look on his face and his eyes stare out at nothing in particular. “I’ve always dreamed of being a vet; veterinarian for you Robbie. I love animals, all kinds, and being in my own clinic, having dogs and cats and horses brought in with all kinds of ailments and diseases…”
Robbie interrupts, “Horses? What do you know about horses?”
Lying on the picnic table, staring at the clouds in the sky, Jason continues, “Yes horses. I would go to vet school and graduate and then become an intern at old man Miller’s veterinarian clinic. After a few years he would give up the practice and hand it over to me. I would know everyone’s pets by first name and send out birthday cards for each occasion. I could have a plot of land out behind the building for a pet cemetery; for those wanting to participate. We could have funerals and I could say a few words over each animal; at least the ones I knew. I can just see the decorations on the walls; for the dogs I could have trees and fire hydrants as well as squirrels and rabbits. For the cats? Not sure what I would have for the cats. My assistant would be my wife, and then when our kids got old enough, they could come and help out by changing out the cages and feeding the animals. I can see it now…”
If fate is an equitable thing, then Jason will definitely have his dreams come true. There isn’t a soul that anyone knows who has as much love and tenderness for animals as Jason. He would be a great veterinarian.
Alec now turns his attention to Robbie. “What about you Robbie? What dreams do you have?”
Robbie fidgets in his seat, but then begins, “I would love to be a professional baseball player. A pitcher. I would be like Sandy Koufax; feared throughout the league for my devastating fastball and knee buckling curve. Every batter…”
Alec interrupts Robbie’s speech and says, “You can’t be Koufax.”
“Why can’t I?”
“Because Koufax is left-handed.”
“So what. I can still be Koufax. He was a great pitcher.”
“He was indeed. But you’re right-handed and there are plenty of great right handed pitchers.”
“Okay. I’ll be Bob Gibson. A feared pitcher if there ever was one. In fact, they lowered the mound after his great 1968 season when he had an earned run average of…”
“You can’t be Gibson.”
Robbie’s agitation is evident. “Why can’t I be Gibson? He’s right handed.”
“Gibson is black and you’re white.”
“So what. What difference does his color make? He was a great right-handed pitcher, so I want to be like him.”
Alec uses an analogy, “Look. You know Jessie, on the basketball team?”
“Yeah, I know him.”
“Okay, if we asked Jessie what he wanted to be and he said a professional basketball player and then went on to say he wanted to be like Pete Maravich, what would you say? Would that make any sense, when he has so many others to choose from? It’s not like there aren’t plenty of great black players in professional basketball to emulate.”
“I understand your point. I’ll change from Gibson to Tom Seaver. Now Seaver is a great pitcher and he’s white and…”
“You can’t be Seaver.”
Robbie cries out, “Why not? Why can’t I be Seaver?”
“Seaver has a totally different delivery than you. He uses his lower body and has huge thighs. You have bird legs and throw a three-quarters delivery. You can’t be Seaver. You could be Jim Palmer though.”
“Okay. I won’t be Seaver. I’ll be Nolan Ryan. The Ryan Express with a fastball over 100 miles per hour. Yeah, that’s who I’ll be like.”
“You’re an idiot Robbie. Nolan Ryan. Ha.”
“No, screw you. I’ll fight you right here. Let’s go.” Robbie stands up with fists clenched and glares at Alec.
Jason jumps up and separates the two. “C’mon you guys. Let’s calm down and get back to the conversation. I’m anxious to hear Alec’s dreams, assuming Robbie’s finished.”
“I’m done. Let hot dog give his speech.” Robbie sits back down and pouts.
Once everyone has settled down, Alec begins, “My dream is a lot different than the two of you. It isn’t so much what I want to be as much as what I want to do. Ever since I was a little kid I dreamed of building a boat and sailing to Aruba…”
It’s Robbie’s turn to interrupt. “Aruba? Yeah right. What a loser. How are you going to get there from here? And how are you going to build a boat? Where will you get the wood and tools? You don’t even know how to sail.”