I took the opportunity to stop in the old neighborhood to have lunch at Casa Galicia while on business back in August of 2015. A flier pinned to the wall got my attention as I walked in the entranceway. Lucas Amado, whom I hadn’t seen since high school, was giving a talk on Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood at the Legacy City campus of Copernicus University that evening. Last I’d heard he was living in Seattle.
I went and sat in the back of the room and listened. I felt a little apprehensive as I approached him after his talk. When I told him who I was he seemed puzzled for a moment, but then engulfed me in a powerful embrace. Long ago we were like brothers, but after high school we went our separate ways and somehow never managed to reconnect. We spoke for hours that evening.
At one point I asked him if he had considered writing a book about his experiences in the late seventies. He said yes, he had often thought of it but found the prospect daunting. It was one thing to talk about such things for a few hours with a friend. It was quite another to swim alone in that ocean of memory for months or even years.
I was disappointed. His introducer that evening had cited several of Lucas’s highly regarded book-length studies on the works of O’Connor, Walker Percy, and J.F. Powers. He didn’t lack for discipline or stamina or insight, I thought, and like a fool almost told him so.
How could I fault him? I dropped the subject, but whatever had been left unsaid prompted him to stare at me in a way that made me feel he was discerning my mixed sentiments.
“You write it,” he said, “but as a novel. Layers of separation, fake names. Be as inventive as you like, just let it be true.”
I wanted desperately to let it be true, and I knew fiction offered me the best means to that end. I nodded in glad obedience.
“Whatever you do, don’t screw it up,” he added and laughed at my look of consternation. He sent me two large boxes filled with old notebooks, letters, poems and other writings, all of which I read in a couple of weeks and referenced periodically over the months that followed.
Lucas and I met again in Legacy City the following February. He had finished reading the first draft I had sent him but seemed more eager to tell me about a dream he’d had than what he thought about the book.
In the dream he found himself wandering through a busy town carrying in his arms a young fox. He was looking for a safe haven for the fox, but the task was proving inordinately difficult. Wherever he tried to leave it the fox was set upon by vicious dogs, and Lucas was forced to fight them off. He searched everywhere but could find no place to leave the fox. A safe home for the fox was what he wanted, a place where it could grow strong and thrive and one day set out on its own to share its special beauty with the world.
I was expecting Lucas to tell me how things had turned out for the fox, or at least offer some closure, but instead he looked at me and handed me back the draft. “It needs work,” he said.
Of course it needed work, it was a first draft. I wanted to remind him he had been forewarned about the book’s clumsy genesis and growing pains, but I restrained myself and began flipping through the manuscript while he stood observing me. I couldn’t find a single comment or correction. Confused, I looked up from the pages.
“Take care of my fox,” he said with a knowing smile and suggested we go have a drink at Casa Galicia. It was over drinks that he told me about the cancer. Despite his progressive decline, Lucas always managed to smile when he saw me. After reading the seventh draft months later he proclaimed in full ironic glory, “I can live with this one.”
The day before he died, in front of his gathered family, I handed my friend the first edition of Mr. Galaxy’s Unfinished Dream. He studied the strange cover and then with my help opened the book to the epigraphs page, lay his bony hand there and closed his eyes. In deference to his pragmatic view of death—and in an awkward attempt to dull death’s sting—I said, “Lucas, I’ll come every day and read to you. Death can wait until after the final page, agreed?”
He opened his eyes and I read his lips, “Come closer.” Then he whispered in my ear, “Don’t be a fool, García, you know as well as I, there’s no such thing as a final page.”
R. García Vázquez
* * * * *
* NOTE: The “Author’s Preface” was written into an earlier draft of the novel. The idea of the fox as a metaphor for the novel came to the author in a dream. After some consideration the author decided to remove the preface from the final draft.