As I advised in the last post, Dreamspinner Press has named March 18 as the release date of JOHNNY TWO-GUNS. I suppose I should admit to being excited. I’ve never before had a date certain for the publication of a book, so it’s a new experience for me. One I will unashamedly enjoy. So let’s find a little something to excerpt from the novel.
In the scene below, which is lifted from Chapter 1, Roger Mackie, a recently divorced Denver architect, experiences a life-changing event when he pulls into a remote trading post to gas up his Mercedes.
By Mark Wildyr
After a hearty breakfast, I-90 led me out of Butte, and an innocuous turnoff to the west drew me deeper into the Bitterroot Mountains. I must have been recovering from my foul mood because the scenery started to hold some interest again. These hills were a part of the same great Rocky Mountain chain as those around Denver, but they had a different feel… craggier, wilder somehow. If I had been the outdoors type, I would have bought a tent and camped out in the crisp mountain air.
Nonetheless, before long this trek started to look like the latest in a series of mistakes, because the road degraded, the traffic evaporated, and I was absolutely alone without an idea of where I was. My anxiety level soaring as the gas gauge dipped, I came to a place where the road widened. An old log building stood to the left. At the sight of two antiquated gasoline pumps in front, I pulled over and stopped. The sight was so novel that I grabbed the Canon and clicked a couple of shots of the place.
Inside, the building was low ceilinged, but much larger than it looked from the outside. If I had been on the Navajo reservation, I would have guessed this was an old-fashioned Indian trading post. I had no idea if they had such things up here, although there were plenty of Native Americans in Montana. The trading post or store or whatever it was had goods crammed in every corner, was dimly lit, and gave off a pleasant, homey atmosphere. A grizzled man of about sixty waited on an elderly woman buying a few basic groceries. The Caucasian trader stood six foot three or four—brawn going soft. He finished with the lady and turned to me.
“Come right on in and look around. Got a pot of coffee on, and you’re welcome to join us.” He gestured toward a distant corner dominated by a potbellied stove with a few cane chairs grouped around it. At this altitude the warmth was inviting. Someone was seated in one of the chairs beside the stove.
“Thanks. I’ll take you up on the offer. But first I’d like to gas up the car.” I halfway expected him to say he was out of gasoline.
“Easy done.” He turned to the stove at the rear. “Johnny, can you come pump this fella some gas?”
“Yessir, Mr. Beasley.”
An indistinct figure rose from his chair with animal grace. A moment later, a young Native American emerged out of the semigloom and walked toward us with the strong, languid movement of a mountain lion… unhurried, efficient, powerful.
“Give Johnny your keys,” the trader said. “He’ll gas up for you. You want it filled?”
I nodded. “Yep. To the brim.”
When I told him what I was driving, he told the kid to give me the premium. I agreed and asked for a restroom. The shopkeeper directed me to the back of the establishment, where I took a leak and puzzled over my reaction to the young man now gassing up my car. Occasionally you run into someone who catches the eye and won’t let go. Someone whose physical presence engages the entire you. I’d experienced it only once before in my life.
And thus, Roger Mackie first lays eyes on Johnny Two-Guns and begins a journey he could never have imagined, during which he learns things about himself he had never before suspected.
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