The following is the last of four "lost chapters" excised from the published version of Honeymooners, Chuck Kinder's 2002 novel based on his friendship with writer Raymond Carver. Pared down from an original 3,000 pages, Honeymooners depicts the literary exploits of Jim and Ralph -- fictional stand-ins for Kinder and Carver, respectively -- and their troubled relationships with the women in their lives: Lindsey and Alice Ann.
We begin a new story by a new author next week.
Back when the "fearless foursome" (as Alice Ann was wont to call them) were running together, they once motored down to Santa Barbara to attend a big shebang thrown by the writer Thomas Sanchez. Sanchez had made big bucks on his first novel, Rabbit Boss, and had purchased a hallucinatory Conquistadorian dream of a hilltop hacienda which he called "Casa Coyote." The "fearless foursome" had found themselves among fancy folks who leaked some sort of lustrous radiance, as though the assholes had just arrived fresh off the boat from some enchanted existence, who all looked beautiful, flawless, nimble, hip and happy to be securely among the chosen -- tall lean handsome men tanned from endless hours of tennis, sleek women with silver bracelets flashing noisily on bare brown arms, who wore flowing filmy affairs through which Jim and Ralph could ogle ripe, suggestive, heartbreaking shadows of perfect nipples. Jim and Ralph swooned in the heady air lifting off of slender perfect necks and bare supple shoulders and rolled their eyes at one another wildly.
Thomas Sanchez, the hero and host of this fabulous frolic, the center of this resplendent arch-reality, was wearing tight black leather pants and a white silk shirt with billowing sleeves and a high collar, whose ruffled front was opened over his tanned hairless smooth chest nearly to his enormous silver-and-turquoise belt buckle. He had thick jet-black Elvis hair and a broody intense face too handsome to be true.
One thing led to another over the course of the evening, and at some point after an insult real or imagined, Jim decided it would be necessary and satisfying to clean Thomas Sanchez's clock. When Jim went in search of Sanchez, the other members of the "fearless foursome" scattered to the winds, made their getaways, vamoosed into the night.
Jim finally found Sanchez posing all handsome and rich and famous and holding forth among other famous and beautiful fuckheads before a huge fireplace you could walk into and live like a contented caveman. Jim had cocked his trusty right behind his back and grinned mightily as he closed the distance with the serene knowledge that in about two fucken seconds Sanchez's pearly teeth would be little moons in orbit. Not a moment too soon Sanchez had spotted Jim, whereupon a great friendly smile had flashed upon his pearly kisser, and he picked up something from a nearby table. It was a copy of Jim's first novel. A splendid novel, Thomas Sanchez had exclaimed right there before the beautiful people, who turned their beneficent, momentary attention upon Jim. Before those beautiful people Thomas Sanchez requested that Jim autograph his splendid novel. Jim had clutched Thomas Sanchez by his handsome hand and kissed the thing.
Jim had found Lindsey waiting down the hill where they had parked the car. The engine was running. She had no idea what had happened to Ralph and Alice Ann. They had staggered off in a different direction. Jim and Lindsey had waited for a time, listening to the radio, smoking, while Lindsey railed at Jim for being a redneck asshole. Finally they decided to return to the motel without Ralph and Alice Ann, figuring they could get a ride if they hadn't already.
They started down the winding narrow hillside road, Lindsey driving of course, which was a torturous, slow-going business, Lindsey being about as nightblind as Jim, only not so drunk. They had rounded three, maybe four, curves (and this is the event Jim would tell the audiences in the barrooms and classrooms and around the late-night kitchen tables of his future that was so serendipitous no contrivance of fiction could begin to support or pull off, which would provide him with the definitive, haunting image of Ralph and Alice Ann as a couple he would carry in his memory always), when Ralph and Alice Ann emerged from a path in the woods directly into the headlights of the car.
Lindsey braked, and Ralph and Alice Ann froze in the car's high-beams, clutching one another, their frightened, wide eyes points of pure light. There they stood, Ralph and Alice Ann, like startled deer, astonished at where they had ended up, first lost in the woods and now there on some hillside road illuminated in headlights, too drunk to have memory one about why they were there or where they had been or what in the world they had been doing. But they were not one bit more astonished than Jim was at that moment by that amazing congruence of events.
Ralph and Alice Ann had looked like lost deer in the headlights that night truly -- two white dreamdeer, the final couple of their kind, who had been forced at last to flee from the forest, emerging directly from a pure past without memory to be suddenly transfixed in a future they could not safely inhabit. They would become innocent, easy targets for old, armed-to-the-teeth coots to spotlight illegally, get a good bead on, and blast off the face of the Earth. How could things have been different for them if they could have moved together through magic into maturity, through mystery and revelation into reality? Is it always criminal to teach time to the animals?
Thinking about the four of them being locked so tightly in chance the way they were that night, Jim, over the long years, would sometimes let himself believe that there might be a mysterious, karmic conjunction to their lives after all, just as Alice Ann always claimed. And in that so-called ageless soup of seeds and ancient eggs they had, sure enough, shared countless incarnations jam-packed with lust and love and loss, with all of that messy, lucky stuff of life and death, and just maybe they could all carry forward the hope with some conviction that they would, indeed, have other chances in other lifetimes to do better by one another.
Lindsey began honking the horn, and Jim stuck his head out the window to hoot at them, the crazy, lost drunks beside the road. As soon as they realized who was in the car, Ralph and Alice Ann hooted back, and came clamoring toward the car, everybody calling out each other's names in the night, laughing uproariously and calling out, laughing to beat the band, laughing as though there was no tomorrow.
Their voices are in those trees still somehow, in those woods where for a time they were not sure who or where they were, or where they had been or were going, and for those timeless, magic moments it did not matter to them, those moments when they were all a part of this world and a part of another.