500 Miles to Go — by J. Conrad Guest

Over the years I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve devoted many words to the past—I’ve reminisced over my youth, written about both my parents, even written a letter to myself that was left undelivered to my younger self, aged eight. Two of my novels, One Hot January and January’s Thaw, are time travel yarns that largely deal with regrets, and living life right, of the importance of making the right choices simply because they are right. In my latest novel, A Retrospect in Death, the protagonist conquers the Great Divide and must review with his higher self his past life, searching for the bread crumbs that led to his great dissatisfaction with the corporeal world in preparation for his return to the lifecycle. In Backstop: A Baseball Love Story in Nine Innings, I wrote the autobiography I wish I could’ve written (sans the infidelity) had I the courage to go against my parents’ wishes that I not play organized baseball to see if I could’ve had a career in major league baseball.

J. Conrad Guest

J. Conrad Guest

In my forthcoming novel, 500 Miles to Go, to be released by Second Wind Publishing this fall, I turn my pen to writing about the importance of, and the risks associated with, the pursuit of dreams. The Declaration of Independence grants us certain inalienable rights, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But when pursuit of a dream affects others, causes them angst and results in their concern for our well being, turns them away from us, what then?

Alex Król made his dream come true to drive in the Indianapolis 500 eight years after seeing his first 500, in 1955, the year Bill Vukovich was killed in his bid to become the first driver to win three consecutive 500s. Alex had been following the career of A.J. Foyt since he’d broken onto the scene in 1958, and he wanted to pattern his driving style after Foyt’s catch me kiss my ass technique.

Then there’s the girl: Gail Russell. No, not the Gail Russell, who starred opposite John Wayne in Wake of the Red Witch and was in her own right downright gorgeous. Just not as gorgeous as Alex’s Gail. Alex’s girl since high school, Gail fell for Alex before she learned that he risked his life on dirt tracks during the summer months to the delight of fans who paid to see cars crash—the more spectacular the wreck the taller they stood on their toes and craned their necks to see the carnage. By the time she learned the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth—that Alex had vowed to one day drive in and win the Indianapolis 500—it was too late. She was in love with him.

Below appears a short excerpt.

“Who’s that?” I asked. It was the second week of the new school year, and Vince and I were walking to our next class when I spotted the raven-haired goddess walking toward us. It was a rhetorical question. I didn’t really expect that Vince would know.

“Her?”

Don’t point, you idiot! Yes, her.”

“Gail Russell. She’s in my second hour History class. I hate History.”

“That’s because you don’t think anything of any importance happened before you got here. Don’t you want to leave behind some legacy of your own – have people read about you in a history book after you’re gone?”

“I never thought about it that way.”

Gail passed us and I stopped to turn around to watch her retreating figure – which was divine – the way her hips swayed in the floral skirt that bared just enough of her shapely calves.

“You go on, Vince. I’ll catch up to you.”

“But –”

“Go on. I won’t be late.”

I then hurried to catch up with Gail.

“Excuse me,” I said, putting my hand on her shoulder. She stopped and turned to look up at me.

“Yes?” she said in a soft voice; her accent told me she wasn’t from around these parts.

“Has anyone ever told you that you look like a young Gail Russell?”

She looked confused. Apparently, it was a line she hadn’t heard before. I was pleased I was the first.

“But I am Gail Russell,” she said.

“Really? Imagine that. But I was referring to the actress who starred opposite John Wayne in Wake of the Red Witch. I think she’s the most beautiful woman in pictures.”

This Gail blushed and averted her eyes at my homage.

“I need to get to my next class,” she said.

“Yeah, me, too. But listen, I know it’s short notice, but how would you like to go to the dance with me tomorrow?”

Gail blushed anew, but she bravely looked up at me. She took a moment to consider; eventually a smile came to her lips – she had a beautiful smile – and then she nodded.

“I think I’d like that,” she said.

“Great! Meet me on the front steps after school, and we can exchange phone numbers and particulars.”

“Okay,” she said and hurried off to her next class.

I stood a moment to admire her departure and wondered at my great good fortune – that she hadn’t yet been asked to the dance by some other guy. I was still too young to understand that the cutest girls were often left to spend Friday night home alone because guys figured they either had already been asked, or that they’d get shot down for presuming the gal would consent to going to a school dance with a mere mortal.

And then it hit me that I’d neglected to tell her my name. Apparently, this sort of thing was new to her, too, since she hadn’t asked for it.

Click to purchase.

Click to purchase.

4 Comments

Filed under books, Excerpts, writing

4 responses to “500 Miles to Go — by J. Conrad Guest

  1. Thanks, Christine. This project was the first one I ever started that I considered not finishing. I wasn’t sure I could pull off writing from the perspective of a teen-aged boy.

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