Some of my fondest memories of my father take place fairly close to the end of his life. “Fairly” close, mind you—he still had a bit of time left, and in that time he was able to find joys I don’t think he’d ever known, or certainly hadn’t known for a very, very long time.
I think, if memory serves me right, I talked a bit about this in last year’s introduction. Hanging out with my father late at night, chatting, talking about this and that and whatever else happened to come along. We talked a lot about books, but also music, movies, etc. Most anything creative. He was sick but still at home, and had taken to stretching out on the couch and writing on legal pads.
There are two periods of time (not two times), while this was the situation, that I enjoyed the most. Being a playwright myself—I wrote my first play during my senior year of high school; it was even performed—I was tickled and enthralled as he wrote his one and only musical, Godson: A Play in Three Acts, a rather lighthearted retelling of the Brothers Grimm’s “Godfather Death,” I believe. At night, during our hangout time, he would read me new scenes, or the lyrics to one of the songs he written for it. It was funny, clever, and pure, no-doubt-about-it Roger Zelazny. I loved it. I loved the play, but moreso I loved the time I got to spend with Dad, and the bond that created much as a result of things like Godson. I have a copy of the play somewhere. I gotta find it and give it a reread; it’s been too long.
The other period, still hanging out at night, Dad on the couch with his legal pads and pens and pencils, was when he told me about a new book he was writing, confessing that he was supposed to be writing another book, but this one just wouldn’t let him go.
“May I read you a bit from the first chapter?”
I said sure, made sure my Pepsi was full (we drank tons of Pepsi at that time) and took my seat.
Stretched out lengthwise on the couch, he held up a legal pad and cleared his throat, and said, “I am a watchdog. My Name is Snuff. I live with my master Jack outside of London now.”
He read what I believe was the entire first chapter, and I sat enchanted by the Things in the Mirror that Jack and Snuff guard, and possibly to this day still a favorite piece of Dialogue:
“Hi. I’m a watchdog.”
“I’ve been watching you.”
“And I’ve been watching you.”
“Why is your person digging a big hole?”
“There are some things down there that he needs.”
“Oh. I don’t think he is supposed to be doing that.”
“May I see your teeth?”
“Yes. Here. May I see yours?”
“Perhaps it’s all right.”
Anyway, when he finished with what he’d written, or at least what he wanted to share at that point, I told him that I loved it. And I did.
This went on for a while. My father would read bits and chapters from this book he was writing in place of a book he was supposed to be writing.
I don’t know how long this had been going on. What I do recall is, almost every night, sitting down while my father stretched out on the couch with his legal pad (or pads), each of us having a Pepsi, and Dad reading from this book he was calling A Night in the Lonesome October. Sometimes him reading from it was the first thing we did, sometimes it was the last thing, and sometimes it just hopped in at some point along the way. I remember him laughing more, and smiling a lot more, and one night him telling me, “I don’t think I’ve had this much fun writing in years.”
Boom. There it is, and it shows. He was having fun writing again, and if you’ve read the book it shows.
It doesn’t mean it isn’t hard work, but when you’re having fun, even if it’s not your best work or your best-selling work, don’t you forever after look back at that piece with a certain fondness? Feel a slightly warm and fuzzy feeling come over you? I know I do, and I witnessed that magic occur twice with somebody else, with my father, while he wrote both Godson and A Night in the Lonesome October.
We all know the importance of hard work. To me, having witnessed this with my father, reminds me how important hard work is, but also, beyond anything else, how important it is to have fun along the way.
The amazing talent in this issue, based on what I’ve read and what or who I know, they all understand the concept of hard work and fun. So sit back, relax, and maybe you’ll find yourself enthralled with these stories, just as I was enthralled as my father wrote his book.
But first, may I see your teeth?
Trent Zelazny is an American author of crime and horror fiction. Of Trent, Neil Gaiman writes: ”A powerful and good writer… someone who’s been through hell and come out, I hope, the other side.” Joe R. Landsdale writes: ”Trent Zelazny’s work is as powerful as a .45 slug and as memorable and pleasing as a scar obtained during feverish sexual activity. One of the best of the new breed of writers.”
Read Trent’s latest novel, People Person.