Saturday, December 10, 2011

John Wayne's Ghost - A Yuletide Story

John Wayne’s Ghost
Wiliam Z. Snyder
© 2008 William Snyder

It was late. Another perfect Christmas was in the books. Family and friends had been by for tamales and eggnog. That’s right - I said it; tamales and eggnog. Something wrong with tamales and eggnog? There had been plenty of Christmas music; the entire family had watched Jingle All the Way straight through, twice in a row. The wife and kids were upstairs fast asleep with visions of Schwarzenegger slugging it out with the dopey mailman dancing in their heads. I was trying to hash out my time travel story. This could be construed as something of a coincidence – working on a time travel story; you’ll make the connection soon enough. I’ve never been a late night writer, but the words just weren’t coming. I needed a change-up. The story was all in a mess; too many characters, each with an individual plot line. And I’d been told that too many of these people sounded like the same character. I was working downstairs at the old oak lawyer’s desk by the window, going at it John Steinbeck style, with twenty freshly sharpened number two pencils and a yellow legal pad. Although I’d been sitting at the desk since midnight, the first pencil was still sharp enough to draw blood.

The Christmas tree was beautiful. Heck, the Christmas tree had always been beautiful. That Christmas tree would always be beautiful. Our family Christmas tree was a place where the past and present came together, a place where new ornaments shared branch space with ornaments that were a hundred years old back when I was a starry-eyed boy. The oldest were pretty ragged. They were white bearded Santa Clauses with their eyes painted crossed, and their noses broken off. One of their hands had fallen off and all of their red suits had faded to pink seventy-five years ago. Poor little bastards. There were the wooden reindeers and wise men my aunt Lois had painted in the late 1960s when my uncle was in Vietnam. And there was the little fuzzy bear in a crocheted Christmas box my mother had crafted during her last Christmas season. Just above the bear was the handmade Grinch ornament my daughter, Sophia, had brought home from school this year. Yeah, I couldn’t help doing a little time traveling when I looked at that handsome Christmas tree.

But there was the business of the book. I had put the book aside nine months ago, after a friend read the first hundred and twenty pages and proceeded to absolutely rip it to shreds. This was new genre for me and it was the first time I tried writing in third-person. The scathing review truly took the wind from my sails. Somehow, somewhere along the line, I got into my head that I wanted to be a serious writer. And I’d been chasing the dream for five years. The agents and publishers had rejected my novel and short stories hundreds of times, but it was tough to hear it from my closest writing ally. Recently, I had decided I would finish the book, good or bad, come hell or high water. I didn’t believe in that writer's block business. It was like shooting slumps in my old basketball days. There was only one way out of a shooting slump and that was to shoot my way out. Likewise, I would have to write my way out of this writing slump. Writing was easier than basketball; I couldn’t go back and fix my missed shots, but I could always go back and clean up bad writing.

Determined to make something happen, I pushed the pencil to the paper. As Murphy’s Law would have it, headlights filled the front window. The shadow of a big man slowly, unsteadily emerged from a limousine. The chauffer climbed out and began gesticulating. The big guy waved him off and headed up the brick walkway to my front door. He walked a little like John Wayne. Maybe he was drunk. Standing, I moved toward the porch. Who was this guy? He wrapped quietly on the front door.

“Who is it?” I asked quietly, not wanting to wake Gail and the kids.

“It’s Duke Wayne. Open up, will ya?”

Looking through the peep hole, this character did look like John Wayne. And he was big, John Wayne big. He was dressed in slacks dress shoes, a polo shirt and a grey tweed coat.

“C’mon friend, I need a drink.”

You can read the rest of the story in my next book.

In the meantime, I suggest you read "The Spirit Guide Bar," available at this link:

The Spirit Guide Bar


JJ said...

I notice the copyright of 2008. I think I have read this story before. Have you posted it previously? Good stuff.

#167 Dad said...

Thanks, JJ. Yes, I posted this one last year. Thought I'd repost since it's abit of a seasonal story...