Off the coast of a South American resort, Bill Danser quietly surrenders to the mindless chaos created by too much Tanqueray. As he sits alone on a small boat and burns everything he has written, he toasts to the future; his decision is made. Danser is the poignant tale of one man's misadventures as he travels from South America to America's heartland in search of sanity, love, meaning, and laughter.
There's little that can make a man feel more foolish than starting a fire on a boat at sea. But Bill had been drinking gin for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and feelings of shame had long given way to mindless chaos and Tanqueray.
He had purchased this small outboard boat to host the funeral pyre off the coast of the resort. All of his recent writings and old books and manuscripts lay scattered on the deck next to a hibachi and a box of matches. He started the fire by stacking his first two novels like playing cards inside the barbecue. The flames curled and blackened the pages into plumes of spiraling ash. Bill added his third novel to the flames and watched them burn even quicker than before. When the three works were reduced to flaming husks, he added his most recent book and a pile of notes and loose-page drafts.
Bill stirred the flames and ash using the top half of a fishing pole he had discovered in the dried flotsam of the old boat. The stirring caused a cloud of spinning orange embers to rise above his head. He thought of using words to grace this act of cleansing. Instead, he stayed silent and let the flames have the final say.
With the past consumed and the present now burning away, Bill found himself irritated by a plume of gray smoke from the bow. He waved it aside, but more smoke followed. He tried to ignore it. The fire in the small grill between his bare feet was burning hot. He had rolled the manuscript into what he thought was a clever log, but the log wasn't getting enough air between its curled pages. He proposed a toast to the future and splashed Tanqueray into flames.
Lucky for Bill, a gasoline fire doesn't always explode. The stern was a clutter of oily rags and hand tools and a leak of gasoline from the tank. He was watching the bending and rising pages when a cloud of black smoke surrounded him. Bill ignored it, still focused on his past and current lives burning between his feet. So it wasn't the smoke that caught his attention, even as it changed from gray to boiling black, but the scent and the stinging of his eyes.
Bill turned around, glass of gin to his mouth, and stood up in the rocking launch. He stepped back and his leg hit the bench board, nearly tipping him. The flames were in brilliant contrast to the black water and black sky.
Bill thought of the fire extinguisher and looked about the clutter. Not seeing one, he uncapped the bottle of gin and poured the rest of it into the hibachi. As the flames from his cremated works rose upward, Bill turned and dove without looking back.
The boat burnt itself to death on the sea.
Excerpted from "Danser" by Greg Jolley. Copyright © 0 by Greg Jolley. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Greg Jolley earned a master of art in writing from the University of San Francisco. He is the author of Danser, published in 2014, and eleven novels and a collection of short stories about the fictional Danser family - mostly passionate lunatics that work in the film industry. He divides his time between homes in Pleasanton, California, and Whitmore Lake, Michigan.
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