Okay, here’s the UPDATE: Although I edited the shit out of the manuscript as I went along, once I (finally) got to THE END, I began re-editing. Now, I did think this process would be easy and quick. Not really; it’s kind of like work. And, it’s not really getting shorter. I was at about 110 thousand words and somewhere around 240 pages. Now, having re-edited, “Swamis” is up to 114,000 or so words and I’m up to about page 60, so, somewhere around a fourth of the way through. And, the thing is, every time I open it up I want to make some sort of change, including when I moved two chapters over here, somehow managing to get four copies of what I copied, this forcing me to either backspace or highlight and delete. I couldn’t help reading a bit, couldn’t help thinking this could be just a bit… better.
I’ve included TWO CHAPTERS from fairly early on in the manuscript. I did, previously, put the first so many chapters on this site, but, one, finding them might require scrolling down quite a ways, and two, they’ve been changed. By way of explanation, the notes at the beginning of each chapter are those, supposedly taken at the time, of the fictional author of the fake memoir.
Since I am sure that “Swamis,” once published, will have significant changes from whatever the manuscript, once I take my hands off the keyboard and get, once again, to THE END, and because I’m always looking for some way to support my writing/drawing/surfing/surviving addictions, other than painting my ass off; I am seriously considering printing up TEN COPIES of “SWAMIS,” including some of the illustrations, all on cheap white paper, probably using both sides, putting them in a cardboard, three-hole binder (as one would a screenplay), maybe printing up the color version of the “Swamis” title page, glue-sticking it on the cover of the binder, signing and numbering each one, and offering them for a cool $100.00 each, American currency. Again, this will be the original manuscript; unexpurgated, uncensored. I say this is an investment, and like all investments, it’s a gamble. When others are binge watching episodes on Netflix or Amazon, the proud owner of the manuscript will have the opportunity to say; “Oh, here’s another place where they Hollywoodized the shit out of “Swamis.”
Anyway, I’ve been betting on this for a while. MEANWHILE, I do plan on reading something from it at the PORT TOWNSEND PUBLIC LIBRARY on THURSDAY, MARCH 5, 6:00 PM. Whoa, that’s coming up; I better get to editing.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 25, 1969- BEANERS
-Grndvw, 2-4, bigger sets. 2 swim-ins. Jumper at Grocery. He knows Tony. Check cashing f/workers. Hung posters in my new room-
It was mid-afternoon, early in my shift at the San Elijo Grocery in Cardiff; and I was bagging groceries for a particularly talkative woman; somewhat older than my mother, dressed in a house dress, some sort of white scarf thing on her head, curlers bulging in some sort of random alignment under it. So, since women my mom’s age tried to look younger, hipper; this woman was, yes, older.
“Durn Texans,” she said, “worst kind of tourists.” She was talking more to the similarly aged checker, Tony’s sister-in-law, Doris. Doris was nodding politely, looking at price tags on some items (most she knew), hitting keys. It was more than halfway through Doris’s shift and some of her willingness to chit-chat enthusiastically had worn off. “Surfers,” the customer said, kind of looking at me. “Surfers from… Texas. Texas? What do you think… (looking at the name tag on my apron) Jody? Jody?”
“Jody?” I mouthed, looking at the nametag on my bright green apron; acting as if it wasn’t my name. It wasn’t. I’d been looking for another, better nickname for years. Jody was my father’s joke. Jody.
“Jody’s got your girlfriend,” my father would say, drill instructor voice pop-pop-popping the cadence. “One-two, one-two, one-two-three-four… one-two…three-four.” Jody.
I shrugged, said “Texas,” pretty much under my breath. I had noticed the woman had some sort of east coast accent; northeast, not that I could discern Philadelphia from New Jersey from anywhere else; but she hadn’t lost the European edge, that inflection; rhythm, maybe.
She pulled several items out of the bag I had, probably, overloaded. “I would rather make more trips… Jody. If I had big muscles, like you…” She smiled. I opened another bag. She put her heavy purse on the counter. “They all seem to have money. They want to rent by the week. They get sand in the shower; make a mess. Drink; leave cigarette butts on the patio.”
She looked from me to Doris, Doris now looking for the original price on a dented can of string beans. “One threw up on the sidewalk. Awful.” Back to me. “And… and they chase around our young girls. Believe me, if I didn’t need to keep my rooms rented, I’d…”
I was distracted, not sufficiently interested. I did nod, but the woman could tell I wasn’t even pretending to listen. Still I could tell she was looking me over; me; Jody, in the apron, my hair not long enough to pull back (but parted in the middle), my attempt at a mustache more like peach fuzz. She turned back toward Doris. “Believe me, Doris, if I didn’t charge them Texicans extra, I’d never…” She kept talking; I continued bagging, but I wasn’t listening.
No, I was listening enough to hear when the East Coast Woman whispered something to Doris.
I heard Doris say, “He’s Hawaiian.”
The woman said something about Hawaiian statehood and 1958 and passports.
Jumper Hayes, over by the big front windows, was talking to Tony, the owner of San Elijo Grocery. They, obviously, knew each other. I guessed this might be the first time they’d seen each other since Jumper’s return; each with a hand on the other man’s shoulder; laughing at… laughing at things that weren’t actually funny: Weather, traffic, the effects of the I-5 freeway. Laughing.
Jumper pulled up the left sleeve of his t shirt, poked at a scar on his bicep with his right hand, laughed. Tony started to roll up his right pant leg, stopped, sort of grabbed at it, kicked it out to show it still worked. They both looked over as two young men entered the south doors, each in lightweight white pants and shirts, clothing appropriate for working in hothouses (though more than I would have worn in that wet heat), moving, then standing, obviously nervous, closer to the big bags of dog food, fertilizer, and charcoal; each with a piece of paper, possibly a check, in his hand, each with his straw version of the cowboy hat in the other.
“Wetbacks,” the woman, Motel Owner, said. “Beaners,” she added, louder, in case Doris or I hadn’t gotten it. I put her ice cream in a white, insulated paper bag, placed it in with her TV dinners. “Guess they can’t just go to the bank like regular folks, and…”
Tony, an older man (in his mid-40s, I now calculate, well within my category of ‘older’ then) with a bow tie, a vest, and one side of his dress shirt untucked, did his sort of half-limp walk over to the other register, opened it with one of the keys on his belt. Jumper followed him, stood beside him. The two workers, on a signal from him, backed up by a nod from Jumper, approached. Jumper handed one a pen, pointed to the back of the check.
“Y’all need some help out with that, Ma’am?” It was the closest I could come to a Texas accent.
A woman with two children, one in the cart, her free arm holding the older child’s right arm pretty much straight up; approached the other register. She looked at the two men taking their cash. Each one folded and pocketed the bills, nodded toward Tony, then Jumper, put on his hat, nodded, slightly, to the woman before backing up and stepping away. The woman looked at Tony, rearranging bills in his cash drawer. She looked concerned. She looked at Jumper.
Jumper gave her a sort of matador ‘you’re next’ sweep, stepped back. Tony stuck his hand out, grasped Jumper’s, looked at the woman, put his other hand on Jumper’s shoulder.
“You’re next, ma’am,” Tony said, brushing his hand across the counter in a lesser version of the matador sweep.
Jumper smiled at the child in the cart, smiled at the kid not yet released from his mother’s grasp. He nodded at Tony and smiled (no more than a friendly smile) at the woman.
I may have neglected to mention that Jumper Hayes was quite handsome. The woman smiled back, let go of the bratty child, who, immediately, grabbed a candy bar from a nearby rack, stuck it, wrapper and all, in his mouth.
“Walter Maxwell McKay,” she said, a bit louder than she’d probably expected it to be. She gave Jumper an apologetic smile. He gave her an understanding smile. Tony gave me and Doris and the Motel Owner a different kind of understanding smile. He then gave me a nod that meant I would be helping the Motel Owner out to her car.
Jumper, Tony, Walter Maxwell’s mother, and her two children; with Walter Maxwell now back in the cart; seemed to be enjoying the moment. I didn’t look over as the Motel Owner and I passed Tony’s register. “I went to Hawaii once,” she said, “On the ‘Matsonia.’ Me and my… my husband.” Just past the only other checkout station at San Elijo Grocery, she stopped, pointed toward the north exit. We got to pass Tony, Jumper, Mrs. McKay, her two kids again, Motel Owner clutching the strap of her purse, her receipt, and her green stamps in one hand, close to her body, her other hand on the cart. As if I needed her help.
FRIDAY, JUNE 27, 1969- CHUBASCO
Pre-dawn chk Grndvw; Closed out. Chubasco. Jumper. Talked. Clld me bagboy. Swamis. 6-8. 3 tubes. Mostly inside peak, some connected f/outside. Jmpr told some locals I’m his neighbor, might be allright-
I was taking one last look from the bluff at Grandview, trunks and towel over my board; just in case the waves were not what they sounded like in the dark; the loud crack of an outside wave over the almost constant roar of those already broken. It had to be surf from some distant storm, some hurricane, some chubasco off Baja, or… I didn’t really know; I had heard some swells come from as far away as New Zealand. The fetch. Energy. Traveling. Hitting islands, wrapping around headlands; peeling; like the images from the magazines; perfect, a slideshow in my mind.
No, this wasn’t that; this was disorganized energy spread out, waves overtaking other waves, closing out in deep water on a couple of miles of fairly even shoreline.
I was listening to the heavy ocean rhythm, peering into the darkness, watching the slideshow.
“One thousand seven, one thousand eight.” Fingers snapped close to my right ear. Someone’s face was very close to mine. Too close. “Oh. Okay.”
“What?” I blinked. The face was gone.
“Bagboy.” He may have said it more than once. “Bagboy; it’s closed-out.” I didn’t respond. “Fallbrook.”
“What?” I turned to my right.
Jumper Hayes stepped around, from my left, and was almost in front of me. “Fallbrook. Bagboy. You.”
“Don’t live in Fallbrook anymore. After graduation, we…” He cut me off with a swipe of a hand.
“Man,” he said, “you were just so… focused. I circled you three times.” He held three fingers pretty close to my face. “Focused.”
“But you’re back now?”
“Yeah.” I blinked a few times.
“Pretty scary. The staring. I’ve seen that kind of thing before.”
“I was, um, thinking. Focused, I guess; like you said.”
“Focused then. Sure. Thought maybe you were stoned out.”
I shook my head, chuckled at the very idea. Stoned out. “Three times, huh?” He nodded, put the three fingers back up. “Not stoned out.”
“All right.” There were conversational delays, pretty typical. Coolness etiquette requires one not to be too rushed, too enthusiastic. Surfers were expected to be cooler than most. Jumper was skilled in coolness etiquette. Though we had never been introduced, and neither of us introduced ourselves at that time, we both acted as if we had. “So, not a valley cowboy; huh?” He bowed his legs in a sort of stage cowboy movement.
“But you did live in Fallbrook. Right?” I nodded. “Maybe your daddy knew enough to not live where he worked.” I probably looked suspicious, guarded. I was suspicious of anyone who mentioned my father. Apprehensive would be more accurate. “Don’t blame him.” I didn’t have time to respond. “You going out here, Bagboy?”
“I, um… it’s pretty, uh, big. Got to be tough to get out. Not too many lulls. Maybe it’ll…” I stopped myself. With there now just enough light, though pretty much only in shades of gray, I could see long, almost unbroken lines, ugly green gray, no discernible peak, closing out farther out than I’d ever surfed. “You?”
“Hey, Fallbrook; I will if you will.”
“Really?” I may have been a little too thrilled (or petrified) by this statement.
“Fuck no, bagboy; it’s fuckin’ closed out. There’s no glory in surfing this shit.”
“I guess not,” I said. ‘Glory?’ I thought. I would rerun this brief conversation, as I do with almost every conversation, back through my mind. Later. Always. Glory?
“Now, Swamis…” He waited a second. I tried to nod slowly, like I hadn’t already thought of Swamis. “Tide’s dropping. Swamis should be… fun.”
Jumper turned, walked away. I followed. He turned around, walking backward, about halfway to the street, at the place where I could go down the washout or back to my car. “Should be,” I said, breaking into a run as I passed him.
“Swamis,” copywrite 2020. Erwin A. Dence, Jr. If you are interested in a copy of the original, you can email me at email@example.com