Jesus’ son stories describe the lives of drug addicts as well as their struggles to survive in American soil. Be that as it may, Johnson focuses on showing people the dark side of America that people do not know. He manages to incorporate his own experiences and memories to portray the loneliness, drunkenness, and suffrage of drug addicts. Nonetheless, he mentions the occurrence of events to people who he knew personally. Car crash while hitchhiking is one of Denis Johnson’s stories.
The story is narrated by a clairvoyant narrator who claims to possess prediction powers of future events. The dominant theme in this story is telepathy and drugs. The short story illuminates the state of mind of a psychic narrator. The narrator is high on alcohol, hashish, and amphetamine that have been given to him by strangers he had met on the road (Johnson 4-5). Additionally, the narrator appears to be suffering from delusional disorder since he can’t distinguish between reality and imaginations. The first evidence of the narrator’s delusional effects is when he says that a man was ‘killed forever’ by the family’s car (Johnson 1). Moreover, this highlights that the narrator knows another form of dying, which is temporal and reversible.
After a vivid description of a series of cars he has ridden, the narrator states that he knows that there will be an accident. Nevertheless, he falls asleep as the drives through the downpour only to be woken up by the wreckage. One wonders why the narrator failed to act to stop the wreck even after having prior knowledge of the occurrence. Instead, he fell asleep, knowing precisely what is going to happen. The narrator mind has been choked up by the drugs since he doesn’t remember anything. When the narrator is asked if everybody is dead after the wreckage, he admits that he can’t tell who is and who isn’t. His memory is distorted due to the massive intake of drugs (Johnson 9). On a similar note, this comes after having the conversation with the driver and confirming that the driver’s wife; Janice and the baby are injured, but they are alive. Although the driver died some moments later, the narrator could not tell the police exactly what happened despite being the passenger in the wrecked car.
It seems like the narrator is a permanent hitchhiker, thus confirming that he has a chronic drug problem. In retrospect, drug abuse has affected the narrator’s daily life experiences, and it has also changed his thinking pattern. In connection to this, the ‘out on bail’ story confirms the prevalence of the drug and substance abuse menace in society. The narrator highlights the life of a young man who spent his time drinking at the vine bar. Additionally, to fund their drinking habit, the narrator, alongside jack Hotel, steals a check. Jack hotel is a chronic heroin user (Johnson 34). They both live a hopeless life in a tiny, dirty house.
Additionally, Jack Hotel was almost convicted for twenty-five years, but his charges were dropped. Since then, he has always been well-groomed, and he has managed to keep it a secret from his friends. Contextually, also the theme of crime is well manifested in this story. Crime has a positive correlation with drug abuse. Drug abusers commit, such as robbery to fund their addiction behavior. The vine bar was a den of criminals who have either reformed or escaped from somewhere (Johnson 30). One example is that of Kid Williams who wear a hospital band on his wrist. He has escaped from a rehabilitation center where he has been undergoing a detoxification program. The issue of addiction is also prevalent in the story, as highlighted in the following phrase, “buy me a drink, buy me a drink” (Johnson 33). Kid Williams is highly addicted to alcohol such that a day can’t pass without taking alcohol. He climbed the hospital walls at night to mingle with his ‘addicted’ friends at vine bar. One would, therefore, ask what the point of the detoxification if the patient is not committed to abandoning his addictive behaviors.
The narrator highlights that they have wasted their lives through drugs addictions .at the end of the story, jack succumbs to a heroin overdose. However, the narrator is amazed that he is still alive despite his perennial habit. Ideally, this clearly shows the adverse effects of drug abuse. Nevertheless, the story is well connected with another Johnson’s account ‘dun dun’ that also focuses on drug abuse and addiction. The story starts with the narrator visiting Dundun to get some pharmaceutical opium (Johnson 37). The Dundun welcomed the narrator with a beer. Also, it is evident that Dundun was an alcohol addict, and even after shooting McInnis, he was reluctant to take him to the hospital. He claimed that the wound was not bad since the cap didn’t explode. On the other hand, Hotel was smoking hashish.
The theme of crime is also prevalent in this story, as it is clear that Dundun shot McInnis willingly after being called a ‘fuckhead.’ Insults don’t warrant anyone to kill somebody. That is absolutely a wrong judgment emanating from drugs and alcohol abuse. Dundun coerced McInnis to say that it was an accident on arrival to the hospital although McInnis knew it was not. However, he died before reaching the hospital. Dundun was a hardcore criminal, as highlighted in the following phrase, “I wouldn’t mind working as a hitman” (Johnson 41). Also, Dundun tortured jack Hotel in an attempt to retrieve information about his girlfriend’s stolen stereo. The narrator also states that Dundun had beaten a man to death in Austin, Texas, which made him be incarcerated at the Colorado state prison. The aforementioned confirms that crime is inter-connected with drugs abuse, and it’s clear that it doesn’t pay.
Further, reiterating the theme of drug and substance abuse, the ’emergency’ story expounds on both the narrator and George addictive behaviors. The anonymous narrator and his friend George works at a night shift in a local hospital (Johnson 57). The narrator works in an emergency room while George doubles up as a cleaner and the orderly. George is experiencing delusional effects as he claims to see blood on the floor, but the narrator cannot spot it. George steals no-prescribed drugs for sleep suppression from the hospital’s pharmacy (Johnson 59). The narrator approaches him to get some drugs to keep him awake through his night shift. Contextually, the narrator is also seen to be a chronic drug addict.
Due to drug addiction, George is suffering from constant hallucinations and dementia. His condition is evident by the fact that he can’t remember the name of the patient. Surprisingly, George is the one who received the patients and asked his name (Johnson 60). The narrator doesn’t seem to be affected much by the sleeping pills. After George had prepared the patient for the surgery, he experienced dementia and forgot he was done preparing the patient as he held a hunting knife in his hand. Also, he forgot that his shoes were untied despite being reminded to tie his shoes by the narrator. Moreover, while driving, he knocked something that he thought was a snake, only to find out that it was a pregnant rabbit. George’s memory loss disrupted his daily life as well as thinking and reasoning capabilities.
On the whole, the dominant themes throughout the texts are clairvoyance, crime and drugs, and substance abuse the drugs abuse leads to health complications, involvement in crime, incarceration, and death. In addition, there is interplay between crime and drug abuse .As witnessed in the readings; drugs addicts commit crimes to fund their addictive behaviors. Therefore, Johnson has successfully managed to depict the social evils in the society as well as it’s negative impacts.
Johnson, Denis. “Car Crash While Hitchhiking.” Jesus’ Son: Stories, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015, pp.1-12
Johnson, Denis. Jesus’ Son: Stories. , Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009. Pp.1-203