EVERY time I find time to work on this novel (and it is fiction, mostly), I seem to start out at the beginning, edit, change; so much so that, when I’m out of time, I haven’t really advanced the story. SO, this is a chapter a little way into it; setting up some sort of romance I haven’t totally figured out yet. YET. I will.
WHAT is surprising is how much my partially-planned story changes as I get farther into the plot. AND what I do, after I write something new, is think about how this can be better said, better written, better told.
AND I enjoy this part of writing also. More to come.
Ginny Cole was like the magazine photos; like my best rides; I could bring her image into my mind at will; images from the few times I’d been on the beach or in the water with her. Not with her, around her. It’s not like she knew me; another teenage surfer, awkward out of the water, not skilled enough to be noticed in the water.
Ginny wasn’t the only girl surfer in the North County; there were others; but she was good. I had seen Barbie Barron, Margo Godfrey… Barbie in the water and in the parking lot at Oceanside’s shorter jetty; Margo with Cheer Critchlow at Swamis on a day that was uncrowded, big and nearly blownout; both just casually walking out, chatting; paddling for the outside peak. My two friends and I shoulder-hopped, choosing only the smaller waves on the inside.
Coolness, casualness, some sort of self-confidence, some sense of comfort in one’s own skin.
Things I lacked, things I appreciated.
The days were just getting long enough to make it from Fallbrook to the beach before dark. My 9’6” Surfboards Hawaii pintail, last of my (youthful) longboards, was on one side of the rack on Dave’s VW Super Bug, his pre-graduation gift. I think he his newer-but-stock Hansen was on the other side. Dave had picked me up as I raced from my last class. Dave floored-it across the Bonsall bridge, chose going through Vista rather than toward Oceanside. “Faster,” he said.
“Faster, then,” I said.
We were just coming down the ramp at Beacons when Ginny and another girl (no, didn’t know her name) were coming up; side by side; laughing. The stainless steel turnbuckle closure on Ginny’s shortjohn wetsuit was disconnected, unsnapped.
There was skin showing. Freckles on her shoulder. I was 17. Ginny was perfect, and she might just look at me as we passed. I gave Dave a hip check, my only basketball move, pushing him toward the railing.
“Virgin-e-ya,” a voice from behind her said; “Virgin-eee-yaaa.”
If I said everything stopped, it would be an exaggeration. But it did. I stopped.
And Virginia Cole did look at me. She blinked. She and the other girl lowered their heads, their smiles gone. They passed Dave and I single file, Ginny in front.
There were three guys, in street clothes, at the bottom of the ramp, kind of congratulating each other. They weren’t surfers. The guy who had made the remark was in the lead, crushing and tossing his empty beer can into the brush as they headed up. Dave shook his head, tried to step in front of me. He wasn’t fast enough, convincing enough. At the halfway point of the path, at the curve, I blocked them with my board, held sideways at my chest.
“What?” It was the lead guy; maybe a bit flushed; his smile changing to a sneer. Maybe not quite a sneer; just one of those ready-for-confrontation looks.
“Nothing, A-hole; just thought you might want to rest a second.”
“Fuck you.” The front guy, and I probably should give a more complete description of him and his high school-aged buddies, both adding their backup “fuck you;” but I won’t. He was just another high school jerk.
“You were a little disrespectful. Don’t you think; Jerk?”
Jerk’s crew and Dave looked up at the top of the bluff. Evidently Ginny and her friend were looking down.
“Ginny… Ginny Coldddd. She’s a stuck-up fuckin’…”
I’m trying to go through the words a teenage jerk would give for a girl in 1969. It would have been stronger than bitch, but certainly not cunt; that would be nuclear. Twat was almost nuclear. Not so much a west coast slang. It didn’t matter. I dropped the board. Jerk and his friends looked at it.
Hitting someone in the face is nuclear. The shoulder, maybe; was acceptable. “Harder!” “That all you’ve got?” Push, push back, a few glancing blows and a tie up; this was suburban teenage fighting. And, as Jerk pulled his right arm back, I hit him with a straight shot that bloodied his nose and lip.
It wasn’t full speed. I had held back.
The other two guys were, obviously, trying to decide between fight and flight. Everything stopped. Again. I looked at my hand. Jerk put his left hand to his face, looked at the blood. The other two guys looked at the blood on his face and hand, stepped away from their friend.
“Devil Dogs,” Dave said to the friends, his biggest smile on his (slightly-pimpled, had to add this) face; “Joe’s a fuckin’ Devil Dog.”
I picked up my board. There were several drops of blood on it. I wasn’t sure if I was thrilled or sorry. Not enough of either.
“It’s just… um… you were rude.” Jerk looked like he might apologize; or, worse, cry. “Hey,” I said, taking Dave’s towel off his board, handing it to Jerk. “My dad made me go. It’s really… it’s Devil Pups. Marines. Didn’t want to go.” I stood aside, opening the ramp. “We’re going to go surfing now.” I took the towel back, handed it to Dave. He took it with a shrug. “Just, um; you’re okay, huh?”
Jerk nodded. We walked on.
“Hope he doesn’t cry,” Dave said. “Your dad… I mean; if you ever even…” As we reached the sand, the sun way too close to the horizon, Dave ran next to me, looked closely at my face.
I wasn’t crying, quite, but I was not thrilled. I wasn’t sorry. I’m pretty sure I smiled, maybe even laughed. “Devil Dogs!” I ran for the water, didn’t look back at the bluff until I was knee-deep. The sun bounced back at me off windows, car windows, house windows. Silhouettes. Maybe one of them was Ginny, I thought. Maybe I was wrong.
Dave caught a wave before I did.