About My First Novel
Dante Bryce Johns
My father died as a result of his attempt to light a doobie with a wooden match while traveling at a speed in excess of 100 mph on a desert road south of Las Vegas. The high-strung Lamborghini Countach he was driving refused to become a dune buggie when it drifted onto the soft, sandy highway shoulder, instead becoming something more like a whirling dervish at first, and then a pinwheel. His wife, a free-spirit herself, at least had the good sense to buckle up, so she alone remained in the car until what was left of it came to rest. She suffered a few bad bruises and whiplash. My father succumbed instantly to a broken neck when he landed in a concrete culvert.
The first time I met the wife was the day she brought me the letter he had written for me to read should he die. She was his third wife, my mother was his first. I'd never met his second but she was purported to have been a highly regarded French poet who died from exhaustion trying to keep up with him. My father was drawn to artists and reckless living, according to my mother. She taught classical piano and was a painter of watercolor landscapes that sold briskly in the few small galleries around our Oregon home. She died of a broken heart the year after he deserted us.
My father, before he discovered psychedelic drugs, was a sculptor. His works of chiseled stone and cast bronze can be seen in museums across the nation. I happened to see one in Los Angeles that so diluted my hatred for him that years later I was almost thinking of him more with pride and admiration, mixed with the regret of not really knowing him. I was eleven when he disappeared from my life.
Given my parentage, it is amazing that I displayed no artistic bent at all. My mother spent years trying to teach me to play piano. I believe the day she gave up in frustration was one of the worst days of her life. I did have a good musical ear however, and that led me into a career as a piano tuner and repairman. I never got rich at it, but it provided me with enough money to maintain the booze habit that was my mistress for much of my adult life, resulting in several breakdowns and, of course, my eventual state of homelessness.
My father's third wife is the woman who wrote the critically acclaimed novel about a tribe of tree people in New Guinea. When production of a film based on the novel was mysteriously shut down, she withdrew from the limelight, married my father, and never wrote another novel. Her ensuing reclusiveness itself has been the subject of several minor dissertations.
She was able to find me due to the publicity surrounding the trial that cleared me of any involvement in the murder of a prostitute whose body was found in Woodcock Park. Much was made of the piano wire that was used in her strangulation, but the prosecution had little else to connect me to the crime, and could not establish a believable motive. There was none really. It was just a crazy, impulsive thing.
So the third wife was able to find me after a lengthy search; to give the news of my father's demise, and to deliver the letter. She must have truly loved him to have gone to all that trouble. I was surprised when this trim, well-preserved woman approached me on the street and said my name, then offered to buy me a warm meal. It was over a bowl of barley soup that she passed me the letter, telling me how important it was to my father that I should read it. She insisted I waste no time in opening it. So I did. Folded in the letter were several little squares of what looked like blotter material. They fluttered to the table as I began to read.
Dear son,
No doubt you are aware of how exciting and fulfilling my life has been. Given your parentage, I am certain your life has also been one of creativity and acclaim. It is my desire that you should have two of the things that were most dear to me during my life. The first is my Lamborghini Countach, a splendid machine by all measures, and one of only eighty of this model that were built. The second is a few hits of authentic Owsley acid. They will reveal to you the meaning of life. Enjoy.
The third wife was anxious to learn of the letter's contents. I told her that my father had apologized for deserting me and my mother without notice of any sort, that his inexcusable behavior had weighed considerably on his mind thoughout his life, and that he'd ended the letter by begging for my forgiveness.
She nodded and told me my father was a marvelous man, and that I must be honored to be the flower of his seed. We talked a bit more and it became plain she felt concern for the sad state she'd found me in. I encouraged her to talk more about him, and then we talked about me. It was but an hour later that she foolishly revealed to me where she lived.
She'd started to write again. Her laptop computer contained the bulk of an unfinished novel based most certainly on her life with my father. The money and other valuables I took from her house enabled me to rent a quiet little room where I was able to finish the novel in a few months, then shop it around to various literary agents. I'm happy to report that Random House is definitely interested.
Dante Bryce Johns is an itinerate bartender, currently living in and around San Francisco. Between gigs he writes, paints, and listens to the songs of birds.