That project, when we got to talk about it, was a novel he was writing that was to change the concept of a modern novel. He had no doubt that he had conceived an idea that was so unique that it would radically alter the notion of a novel. He had been, he said, slogging in poorly paid jobs, tutoring students for long hours, eating bread and soup and skipping meals all together sometimes, to focus on the novel, the major work of his life.
I avoided him for a while, for I feared a conversation would entail some discussion of his novel and I might not be able to disguise my true reaction. When I met him again, he looked even more gaunt than before and, without mincing words, he said he didn’t have money enough for food and needed a loan of a hundred bucks. I truthfully told him that I didn’t have that kind of money to spare and gave him the thirty bucks I was carrying. That was the last time I saw him.
When the outhouse he lived in was cleared, somebody found and brought to my father the manuscript of his novel. He passed it on to me, asking if I had any suggestion about what to do with it. It was still an incomplete novel.
I wished I could have given him more than the thirty bucks I gave him.