John Steinbeck, Californian

James Fitzgerald, portrait of John Steinbeck, 1935 (via Smithsonian Institution)

From The Log from the Sea of Cortez:

I was sitting in a dentist’s waiting room in New Monterey, hoping the dentist had died. I had a badly aching tooth and not enough money to have a good job done on it. My main hope was that the dentist could stop the ache without charging too much and without finding too many other things wrong.

The door to the slaughterhouse opened and a slight man with a beard came out. I didn’t look at him closely because of what he held in his hand, a bloody molar with a surprisingly large piece of jawbone sticking to it. He was cursing gently as he came through the door. He held the reeking relic out to me and said, “Look at that god-damned thing.” I was already looking at it. “That came out of me,” he said.

“Seems to be more jaw than tooth,” I said.

“He got impatient, I guess. I’m Ed Ricketts.”

“I’m John Steinbeck. Does it hurt?”

“Not much. I’ve heard of you.”

“I’ve heard of you, too. Let’s have a drink.”

That was the first time I ever saw him.

###

About James Thomas Snyder

Former U.S. diplomat, NATO staffer, and U.S. Congressional speechwriter. All opinions expressed here are my own and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. government.
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