PROLOGUE to George LaCas’ novel The Legend of Jimmy Gollihue:
Tell us, O Sorceress,
of Jimmy Gollihue, man of such cunning and trickery that his exploits shine
like the stars of the sky, a firmament of tall tales eternal. Tell us of a great pool hustler, and what horrors led him to battle the red-haired man, the monster, in New York City. Many were they whose pool halls he
played in, many who lost their bankrolls as Jimmy journeyed forth.
Jimmy missed Iris, Jimmy missed his girlfriend, his mind mocked him with the phosphorescent memory of her naked form kneeling before him, her green eyes upflung and wicked, aglow in motel room dusk. Even when the man he was playing lifted his blue work shirt to show the butt of a gun nested there in his happy trail, Jimmy missed his girl.
“I’m here to play pool,” said Jimmy. “I don’t want no trouble.”
“Well, kid, sometimes you get a two-fer,” said the delivery man. “You come through my town lookin to hustle honest workin men, reckon you got to roll with it.”
“I ain’t no hustler, mister, hell, I’m just out of high school.”
The man with the gun in his belt smiled an ugly smile, full of mangy fossil teeth, the best looking ones, Jimmy thought, the ones that was missing. If this dude is an honest working man, he thought, then I’m the tailgunner on the space shuttle.
“Uh huh, and the check is in the mail,” said the man with the gun. “All three hundred dollars of it.” Then he wasn’t smiling anymore.
The three hundred dollars was in Jimmy’s pocket, which was why the man was moaning and crying, but under the circumstances Jimmy didn’t mention that. Not because he was afraid, though he was, but because he wasn’t done yet. Three hundred wasn’t enough. The man had more.
And damned if Jimmy was running out of there before he had it.
Sing of the road and a boy on the road, and how your knight in shining armor wandered through days dark as Hell. Sing of a knight benighted
by thoughts of glory, and deluded by hubris, whose beacon was the memory of a pool room sprite—sing, fair witch, of money lost and money won, of money plundered and in fury flung down upon green baize.
Sing, O Iris, of Jimmy, and his journey down the crucible road.
Old Cody sat in his skiff in the middle of the river. His
old fishing pole lay alongside the splintered oar. A pieced-together line dipped baitless in the murmuring water, offering only a rusted hook to whatever fish were down there.
The old man lifted a half-gallon of Wild Turkey to his quivering lips, one gnarled thumb hooked through the glass ring, and as he swallowed his gullet jerked and not a stray drop of whiskey was wasted. The old man drank, and when he was done he spun the cap back on the bottle and stashed it in the cool under the skiff seat.
“If you only knew what I used to be,” he muttered darkly to the river, to the dusk in the woods around him with its strange figures lurking in the Spanish moss, the looming elephantine kudzu shapes. “If you knew what I once was, you wouldn’t never cross me.” Not a voice was raised to disagree, but every figure small and large, every windblown ivy visage, waited in judgment.
An alligator rose beneath the boat. A purple-black cloud passed in
front of the late afternoon sun. Old Cody floated along. In the growing darkness he didn’t notice when his line snagged the bottom and his old fishing pole flipped over the side.
Tell us, O Iris, you Tinker witch, you angel of Travelers, you dowser of forest shadow: tell us about Jimmy, who became your knight in shining armor, and of his keen hound dog, who never left the noble knight. Tell us, you trafficker in shades and faeries, tell us of the dream you dangled before him, and how you made him run the Devil down.
Tell us, O Iris, about the great hunter.
The alligator rose to meet him, and when it broke the surface and opened its jaws to receive Old Cody there was no one to see its mythic size, its mossgrown embarnacled hide. Seeing judgment rendered, the figures
withdrew into the forest, and the breeze brushed the kudzu back into vapid
vegetable life. Old Cody’s skiff floated to one bank, and the bottle rolled in the muddy water of its bottom.
A few birds flew at Old Cody’s scream. A possum ran behind a palmetto
at the crunch of the brittle old skeleton. In the wide strip of sky above the river, a black buzzard circled briefly, but he was no fool—he saw the size of the monster, and he flew off to the west.
The giant alligator, if that was what it was, slid back into the river and headed upstream. North.
Tell us, O Iris, you weaver of wicked tapestries, you penitent of foxfire light: tell us of your Knight, the dragon handler. Tell us of the road you laid
for him, buttered in blood.
Weave, witch, a tale of Jimmy, and how he battled in your name, tireless and true. With colors fair and foul, dark dabbler, weft with thy bobbin of bone on the cartoon of night, and show him of proud visage even in the heart of thy rainbow smithy.
They stood by the river, Jimmy and Iris, and the night drew down upon them.
In the west, past the field of dead yellow grass and the thick woods beyond, the orange coin of the sun melted into dark red and pooled at the bottom of black trees, a jagged horizon of blood. It was getting cold,
and Iris nudged up against Jimmy in the dark. Above them was blue-black, and a sky that gave nothing back—no sign of a cloud, no moon or stars.
He knew he should say something, that she wanted him to, he felt her frantic heart beating against him. But all around was the sound of the
river, its coming and going, its sinister flowing, murmuring messages only for ears that could hear them. The light in the west was a purple echo, and then nothing.
Like a shroud, the night fell down upon them, and in the river was the whisper of some dark seamstress, muttering behind lips pursed with pins and needles.
Tell us, O Iris, you Tinker Goth, while you have us here waiting, for the dusk is drawing down like deadly nightshade, and the foxfire light is dawning. Sing gently, you fey and reckless spirit, as you forge rainbows across the Lucifer night.
Tell us, O Iris, about Jimmy Gollihue, and smooth the cobbles of his road.
Artist’s statement, from George LaCas:
If I can offer one clue to the writing process from my own experience, it’s this: don’t lose sight of your vision. The writers know what I’m talking about. By vision, what I mean is that picture in your mind, or your soul, of the book you’d like to see, of the book you’d like your dreams to turn into. It doesn’t have to be clear as a photo, or anywhere close. It can come and go. It can change, or grow, or die and be reborn. When I wrote The Legend of Jimmy Gollihue my vision of the book changed three or four times.
In the book, a young pool player named Jimmy becomes his girlfriend’s knight in shining armor. The story is a variation on the heroic quest, and it takes place in the present. The structure can be considered mythic, though I decided to twist up the narrative, in places, into a tug-of-war between competing narrators, one of whom is a confirmed liar. Though there’s plenty of raw humor in the story, the overall tone is dark, and it flirts with such questions as identity, good vs. evil, dream vs. reality, the scary power of love, and the way in which we can become blinded and misled by obsession. If the reader comes away with the suspicion that she/he has been conned into accepting a bizarre and unlikely fairy tale, then I’ve done my job.”
For more, including additional excerpts and author information, visit LaCas’ website: magic9realist.com
At present THE LEGEND OF JIMMY GOLLIHUE is available only in a signed, numbered limited edition (trade paper).