As Good As Can Be
by William A. Glass
GENRE: Coming of Age/Historical Fiction
Dave Knight is a wayward child growing up in a
military family during the 1950s. His older sister wants to kill him but
settles for regularly beating him up. Other siblings join in the mayhem while
their alcoholic father contributes to the chaos with his unique approach to
As the Knight family moves from one army base to the next, Dave develops a give-a-damn attitude that often leads to trouble. In high school, he joins other delinquents in a series of escapades, some dangerous, others funny, and a few that would be worthy of jail time should they ever be caught.
After barely graduating, Dave is drafted into the army and sent to guard a nuclear weapons depot in Korea. There, he gets into trouble with his sergeant and tries to avoid dishonorable discharge.
Two rocking chairs are arranged in front of the fireplace. On the mantle is a signed photograph of General Nathan Bedford Forrest. Mr. Lawson takes the picture down and shows it to Dave. “My pappy rode with Forrest,” the old man says. “He killed a lot of Yankees, you know, in the war.” Mr. Lawson looks at Dave expectantly but is disappointed by the uncomprehending expression on the child’s face. Carefully he places his prized possession back over the fireplace.
Dave and Melissa return to Gram’s house in time for lunch. After eating, the Knight children have another quiet time. Then Ethel comes up with an idea. “Let’s take a ride out to the river,” she suggests.
“What for?” Knight asks.
“I want to see if the rain the other day caused it to rise.”
“Come on, it’s something to do,” Bobbie says impatiently.
The family piles into the Plymouth and rides a short distance to where the Trinity River flows. Knight parks on the shoulder of the highway, and they all go onto the bridge to peer at the muddy water. It’s an evil-looking stream, full of snags and home to alligators, cottonmouths, gars, and snapping turtles. No one in their right mind would go swimming in the Trinity, so all the natives can do is look, check the water level, or maybe drop a line in to see what manner of creature takes the bait. “Can we go now?” Marie asks.
“Hush. Gram wants to look,” Bobbie says.
“At what?” Dan asks.
Bill is a retired business executive now living in South Carolina with his wife, Bettina. She teaches high school German while Bill coaches soccer at a small college. Their three sons, Alex, Robert, and Gordon, have all graduated from college and moved away to pursue careers.
For recreation, Bettina and Bill enjoy hiking and camping out. Usually, they take their dog, Scout, along. When the weather permits, Bill commutes to work on his motorcycle.
GUEST POST FOR READERS ROOST
William A. Glass, Author of As Good As Can Be
I’m in my office at a small southern college looking at the blank screen where a guest post for Reader’s Roost should be. The topic has been left up to me.
Struggling for inspiration, I gaze out the window. It’s early, but the Carolina blue sky promises another bright fall day.
Across the way is a building where my office used to be. A Spanish moss-draped oak partially blocks the view. For the thousandth time, it hits me how lucky I am to be here going on fourteen years. Of course, some would say luck has nothing to do with it, that a higher power guides our destiny.
The idea that God’s grace extends to the wicked, not only to the righteous, is a hidden theme in my novel, As Good As Can Be. So, I just let you in on a secret!
There have been numerous reviews of As Good As Can Be, and I’ve received many comments on my website. Still, no one has wondered how in the world my main character, Dave Knight, survives so many close calls. He’s not a bad guy, but his reckless behavior should have either got him killed or in prison many times. To me, the only plausible explanation for Dave’s narrow escapes is that someone up there has plans for him. There are two hints about this theme in the novel. See if you can find them!
A method I use to discern a novel’s subtext is to look for out-of-place scenes. Authors like to pare their stories down to the essentials, so finding a superfluous passage can be a clue. Here’s one from As Good As Can Be that would have ended up on the cutting room floor if it didn’t reinforce my hidden message:
At the duty formation, Dave draws tower 15. He’s absentmindedly walking up the path to it when movement just to his right catches his eye. It’s a coiled-up snake making warning strikes that come within inches of his leg. Dave hastily steps back, removes the M16 from his shoulder, and chambers a round. As he looks over the sights, the reptile stares back at him calmly. It’s no longer bobbing now that Dave has backed off, and he realizes it could have bitten him if it chose. Dave lowers the rifle and steps farther away. With that, the intricately camouflaged viper uncoils and moves off.
Ironically, the only harsh criticism of As Good As Can Be has come from religious zealots who object to the drug use, violence, and profanity while completely missing the central theme. One called Dave, “an alcoholic, pot-smoking bum!” To them I say, “Wandering lost souls need love too. Those are the sorts of folks Jesus gravitated to.”
Thanks for having me as a guest on Readers Roost! It’s an honor.
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