I’m working on condensing, tightening, de and re-constructing my manuscript for “Swamis.” In the process, the plot has changed- just as thick, just not as dense (weak joke). As promised, I am posting some of the stuff being deleted or shortened here. Even with that, I couldn’t help but add a little to this to bring it slightly more in line with where the someday-finished book will end up.
I feel compelled to add that “Swamis” is fiction. The characters Phillip and Ray are named after my two best surfing friends, but most of what happens to and with them didn’t actually happen. Most, not all.
Oh, and now I should add that Joey is not me. Yes, he knows all about me; I am still finding things about him. Yeah, and the other fictional characters I am trying to make real.
CHAPTER ELEVEN- THURSDAY, MARCH 20, 1969
There were, at Fallbrook Union High School, several large, flat-topped (for seating) concrete planters between the administration building, the Senior Area, and the majority of the school’s classrooms. On the downhill side there was a parking lot, the gymnasium/cafeteria, and two trailers that served snacks and pre-made sandwiches and ice cream at lunch and ‘nutrition.’
From my first days in the ninth grade, I spent most of my non-class time standing, usually with a book in my hand, in the planter closest to the action, studying, memorizing; and, increasingly, not-exactly-secretly, observing the rites and rituals, fights and romances, the cliques and the loners. Eventually this became the spot where the surf crowd hung out.
It was lunch time. Murder was the topic. A crowd had gathered and grown. Murder. I pulled Ray up onto the planter. He continued talking about the blackened wall and the cops and the TV crews; not loud, but for Ray, who I have only witnessed being uncool once (and not that uncool) since he moved to Fallbrook in sixth grade, somewhat enthusiastically.
Wearing a tie but no coat, the Vice Principal approached the crowd. He had been my Biology teacher when I was a Freshman. Because I had asked him on one of my trips to his office, he admitted to not enjoying this job. More money. Resume’ builder, he said the job seemed more tolerable around paydays.
Ray stopped talking. Squints (nickname- big, thick glasses), who had jumped onto the planter and stood by Ray, nodded along, interrupting occasionally with something like a cheer.
“Rah, rah, gooooo… Squints,” I pretty much whispered. He pushed me into the tree before he jumped off the planter.
“Saw you on the news, Ray,” the Vice Principal said, as Ray crouched, then jumped down from the planter box.
“Busted,” someone in the crowd said.
“Where’s your running mate; Phillip?” The crowd separated. Phillip stuck out both hands, as if ready for handcuffs, then looked at Ray. Ray followed suit. Both had smiles that looked more like smirks.
“Busted,” one of the Billys said; though it was more like, ‘Busss-ted.’
“DeFreines,” the Vice Principal said, “kindly step out of the planter box.”
Ray and Phillip walked toward the office, followed by the Vice Principal. B-2 Bomber Billy yelled, “Free-dom!” Even before the end of lunch bell, everyone had pretty much turned away.
I was still in the planter box, running the TV scenes back through my mind, freezing the image of Ginny Cole watching Ray walk past her for a moment. Again, with Ray turning toward the TV camera, giving it that smile, as if he knew something. Then again, with Ginny looking at Phillip as he passed, then at Ray, as if she should know who he was, then at the TV camera. Freeze.
“DeFreines, you’re late.”
“Oh.” It took a second. “I, um, thought, maybe, over at the office; maybe you’d be needing… me.”
“No; we know you didn’t ditch. It’s more than that. Please, get down.”
I did a cross-step to the outside corner of the planter, a quick hang five. The Vice Principal didn’t look overly impressed. I dropped to the ground, collected my notebooks from the woodchips, restacked them. “Okay. It’s Earth Science. I’m the…”
“I know, Joe. Uh, back at the office; it’s more than truancy. We have a Detective and a Deputy in the office, and the Superintendent. What…” We were halfway past the first block of classrooms when he asked me what I knew about marijuana, and, specifically, who one would buy it from.
“Nothing about any of this is… shared with… me.”
“No.” We stood outside the door to the Earth Science class. “That goes along with what Ray said.”
“Over at the inquisition?”
The Vice Principal looked more tired than anything else. “Earth Science, science for dummies. Sounds good right now.”
“In between paydays, huh?”
“My, um, guess is, some kid got caught with a joint or something, started squealing.”
“He didn’t give your name.”
“But someone did, um, mention me?”
“Can’t say.” The door opened. The new Earth Science teacher let me pass. I was opening the door to the little store room hang out between classrooms when the Vice Principal led one of the science for dummies students out and into the glare.