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Don’t wait until it’s too late to write a book

March 5, 2013

 

Jack was going to write the great American novel. He just knew it. After all, Jack was a raconteur. No one could tell stories like Jack. He’d sit in barrooms and regale his friends, and strangers too of the fantastic life he’d led.
Jack had left home at seventeen and jointed the Navy and seen the world. When he got out of the military, life had been tough for a time. He’d told of kicking a cocaine habit, of riding the rails like those old-time hobos, of panhandling on the streets of Los Angeles.
But Jack was a survivor. He wasn’t afraid to work, and he’d done a million different things. He’d worked on a shrimp boat in Texas, done a stint in the Oklahoma oil fields, toiled on a Wyoming ranch, bartended, sold insurance, served as a short order cook. Jack’s life had been an itinerant one for much of the time.
But Jack had always dreamed of going back home to Ohio. He was getting tired of the vagabond life. He even thought it might be kind of neat to live in a nice big house out in the country, where he could spend weekends sitting on the front porch and dreaming. And, he’d write that novel too.
Finally, he’d returned to his hometown, scraped together some money with a couple of old high school buddies and bought a few run-down properties. At the ripe age of forty-seven, Jack became a property owner and landlord. He figured that he could make a killing renting out properties to the numerous college kids in town. A born talker and salesman, Jack had a knack for finding kids and other people to live in those few houses they’d purchased at sheriff’s sales.
Jack liked a good drink and good times. He liked to get on his motorcycle on weekends and take road trips. Sometimes, he’d stay away for weeks at a time. He’d go camping and fishing, only to return back to his hometown where he’d have more tales to tell. His two buddies agreed to look after his real estate holdings when he was gone. After all, Jack knew how to find the bodies for those rentals.
He was still going to write that novel, he vowed. He had all the time in the world, it seemed, to make it happen. His properties were doing real well. There were always college kids looking to spend their parents’ money to live in what had once been run-down Victorian homes. In a couple of years, he bought out his buddies. He had a good man to pretty much look after them and keep them in good repair.
He also got married, to Joan, an old flame from high school. They bought a big house in the country a few miles outside of town. The home sat on small bluff, and there were were woods to the rear of the property.
Jack settled into the comfy life of land baron. He bought a few more properties and hired a couple of more men to collect the rents and keep the homes in good repair. Joan kept the books. Life was pretty good. Oh, there was that bit of diabetes he’d been battling for a number of years now, mostly brought on by a weight problem. Jack had never been one to exercise, and his lifelong diet of hamburgers, cheesesteaks and fries washed down with cold beer had put on the pounds. Sometimes he’d get short of breath. He’d taken up golf in recent years, and it was all he could do some days just to play nine holes.
One day, just before his fiftieth birthday, Jack sat down and made a bucket list. He wanted to fly a plane, he wanted to see Ireland and visit all those great pubs of his ancestors, and, of course, he wanted to write that novel that’s “always been in me.”
The night of his fiftieth birthday there was a party for Jack. Joan invited all their friends. There was plenty of booze and food. Jack spent much of the night, having a great time being the center of attention. He told stories of his days in the Navy, of catching big, fat trout in Montana, of crazy times in the oil fields of Oklahoma.
Jack woke up groggy the next morning, hungover from the previous night’s revelries. He groaned as he got out of bed. This was the day, he’d told everyone,that he would begin that novel. His joints ached as he walked over to the coffee pot. The house was empty. Joan had already gone to work. She was supposed to meet with some kids at the office to get them into one of his rentals. But that was okay. He’d have the house to himself on this initial day of writing his big book. Jack felt a heaviness in his chest. Oh well, he got those now and then.
He went to the back room of his house, where he’d set up the computer. It sat on a gorgeous maple desk that he’d purchased a few weeks earlier. He had the desk set up so when he sat, he could look right out on those woods. It was a fine, early May, and Jack figured what better time to start writing than today. Boy, he didn’t feel good though. This was one ass-kicking hangover. That heavy feeling in his chest was annoying. Maybe he shouldn’t have eaten so much last night.
Jack turned on the computer and waited for it to fire up. He had a pretty good idea what he wanted to write. And why not? He’d been carrying around this story in his head for years. When he began feeling the pain go up and down his arm, he knew it was more than a hangover. He began to sweat and pace the room. The pain was getting worse. He knew the signs of a heart attack all right.
Jack called 911, but by the time the ambulance arrived to his home, Jack was on the floor. And he wasn’t breathing. The paramedics tried desperately to revive him. But Jack was dead. He’d never write that book.

 

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