Ironically Flipping the Peace Sign

It’s another outtake from my manuscript for “Swamis,” re-edited, because I just can’t help it, and posted here because I just can’t leave it in some bound-to-get-lost file. I like the story. It is based, mostly, on two incidents: My running into a classmate on the night of the homecoming game, five years or so out of high school, and my being declined for purchasing cigarettes when I was seventeen. Gordy was with another classmate, a girl who was my chemistry lab partner, and with whom I had gone on one date, just before I met Trish. Gordy had gone full-on hippie, did put the emphasis on the ‘ing’ part of the word ‘fuck-ing.’ All a bit anachronistic.

This was the first image in a search. I wasn’t lazy, it just works the best.

SO FUCK-ING COOL… MAN

Gordy claimed to be a surfer, though I never saw him actually in the water. On the beach a few times, talking surfing as if he had just been in, somewhere else, somewhere better, or just about to get in. Later, if it got better. He was two years ahead of me in high school and regaled the other non-surfing jocks at school. Gordy was not one of the older students Gary and I bugged and begged for rides to the beach. Once, maybe.

I was in a liquor store in Vista. Gordy was sporting a full-if-sparse beard and long hair (Fallbrook High had a dress code), parted in the middle (of course), and clothing, Hippie-garb I called it, that denied his quite-upper class upbringing.

“Still fuck-ing’ surfing, Jody?”

I took the usual few seconds to replay his sentence. He had separated the syllables, put the emphasis on the second one. “Ing!’”

“Of course.”

“So fuck-ing’ cool, man.  We just don’t fuck-ing’ see each other, man; like, like we used to.” 

Gordy was, obviously, stoned. He had his left arm over the shoulder of an even more-stoned girl, younger, possibly still in high school. She was wearing a headband, her boutique-chic top hanging precariously on her breasts. She was nodding, giggling, her eyes unable to focus or even adjust to the light from the coolers we were standing next to.

The girl looked at me, squinting, then nodding, a finger pointed way too close to my eyes. Big smile. “My brother Larry,” she said, “he says you’re a fuck-ing’ stuck-up asshole; oh and…” She lost her thought. 

Emphasis on the ‘ing.’

“Larry?”

“Larry,” the girl said. “Larry Walker.”

“Oh. Larry Walker? Yeah.”  

“Yeah. Larry. You did punch him out, Jordy.” Gordy didn’t wait for my response. “Freshman football. Practice. I was J.V., just before I went varsity.”

I replayed the incident in my mind. Larry was the ball carrier. I had tackled him. Open field. He and I were both on the ground. The play was over. He gave me an elbow shot to the groin. Someone pulled him up. He pulled his helmet up and back, smiling at me with his plastic mouth guard smile. “Gettin’ tackled by a beaner’s bad enough. Some fuckin’ half-Jap…”

Straight shot. No broken teeth. Mouth guard.   

“Yeah.” Gordy and Larry’s little sister had walked away. I walked toward the counter. The guy behind it looked at me for a second, continued leering at the girl as she and Gordy came up behind me. “Larry’s little sister,” I said. The Counter Guy nodded. Appreciatively (by which I mean creepily). 

“She’s probably going to be, like…” I turned, looked at her (questioningly, not, I hope, creepily).  “…a Junior?”

Larry’s sister nodded, her nod a bit uncontrolled. “Uh huh.”

“Class of, uh, a second…”

“Seventy-one!  Yea!”  She made a bit of a cheerleader pompom gesture, one hand, a jump motion without actually getting off the ground.  Junior Varsity.

I looked back at the Counter Guy. He looked at Gordy. A little judgey, not that Gordy noticed. 

Gordy took his left hand off Larry’s sister’s shoulder and put it on mine. I looked at his hand. He took it away. I put two one-dollar bills, my package of Hostess donettes and a quart of chocolate milk on the counter, pointed to a pack of Marlboros (hard pack) on the back wall, turned back to Gordy and Larry’s sister. Gordy sort gave me a specific look. Disappointment.

“I know, man… Gordie; you probably don’t fuck-ing’ smoke… cigarettes.” He and the girl both giggled.

The Counter Guy set the cigarettes on the counter, rang up the carton of milk and the donettes. 

“Pack of matches, too; please.”

Counter Guy put two packs of matches on top of the Marlboros. “You’re seventeen, huh?”

I didn’t think. “Yeah, I am.”

“Well,” he said, “You got to be eighteen.”

Gordy laughed. The girl laughed a moment later.

The Counter Guy slid the cigarettes away from me, slid a fifty-cent piece and two dimes and two pennies back to me.

“Oh,” I said. “I’m eighteen, too. I meant…”

Counter Guy looked past me, to Gordy. “And you, sir?”

“I left my license in my other pants,” I said. Counter Guy ignored me, smiled (still creepily) at Larry’s sister. I looked at her. She seemed to take the leering as flirting. Gordy handed his date a bag of potato chips and returned a six pack to the cooler. 

Gordy returned, surprisingly quickly. He put one hand on the cigarettes, the other on my change.  “I’m eighteen,” he said, “and I can fucking’ prove it.”

“Twenty-six cents more then, for the chips.”

“Didn’t mean to be so… fucking’ uncool, Gordy,” I said, as he and I stepped outside, Larry’s sister a few steps behind us.   

“Nah; it’s cool,” Gordy said. He flipped me the cigarettes, one pack of matches, making sure I realized he was keeping the other one. He pulled Larry’s sister closer to him, slung his left hand over her shoulder and perilously close to her breasts, extended his right hand as two (obviously) off-duty Marines approached (obviously Marines, obviously off duty), both looking more at her than at him. “Either of you two gentlemen twenty-one?” he asked, pulling out several ten-dollar bills.

Neither of them was, but the next guy approaching, not a Marine, definitely was. The citizen looked at the two Marines, at Gordy, at Larry’s sister.  He put his hand out, said, “it’ll cost you.”

“Peace, man,” I said, walking away, waving my free hand in a peace sign. Gordy, his hands off Larry’s sister, left hand holding his wallet, flipped me the peace sign with his right hand, but quickly, and not where the Marines could see the gesture. Not that they or the Citizen taking money from Gordy were looking past Larry’s sister. She gave each of them a very quick, weak smile, and, in a moment of self-awareness, pulled her top up a little higher on her breasts.

Flipping the peace sign was, for anyone under thirty or so, pretty much over by this time, the winter of 1969. On special occasions, perhaps; the act was shared with friends as a sort of code, an action we would only later” refer to or try to explain as having been done “ironically.”

IF YOU’RE STILL WITH ME, thanks. I should add that the football punch part is actually derived from an incident in which classmate Bill Birt, in practice, sophomore year, pulled off a teammate’s helmet and slugged him in the face. Kicked off the J.V. team, the coach, allegedly, said, “Now, Bill, if you only played that way in a game…” The result of blending in all the real stuff is fiction.

All original writing contained in realsurfers.net and anything taken from manuscripts for “Swamis” is protected under copywrite and is the property of Erwin A. Dence, Jr.

GOOD LUCK SURFING. And I don’t mean that sarcastically or ironically.

Payday, the Falcon, and Usury

An early 60s Falcon, factory racks, custom tires (pretty sure)

This is another outtake from “Swamis.” If writing is trying to put the puzzle pieces together, this was written to support something later in the manuscript and taken out because I figured out another way to get the information on the page.

I will reveal where the idea that a small, independent grocery store would have tabs for customers. It is based on The Village Store in Quilcene, Washington, known at the time when Trish and I moved here, late fall, 1978, as “Mary’s” Village Store. Mary and her husband, nicknamed Pard, offered credit based on a quick conversation. “We’ll set you up with a tab.” Nearly everyone in town had a tab. Mary also offered a sort of ‘payday loan,’ with, like ten percent interest, as in, if you borrow a hundred bucks on Tuesday, you pay a hundred and ten on Friday. Good money.

Because you had a tab, you had some obligation to buy locally, as in not going to a supermarket in Port Townsend or elsewhere for groceries. And Mary kept tabs, so to speak, on those who had tabs. Her standard greeting was, “What do you know?” She was persistent and serious in this. She wanted to know.

We, of course, had a tab. Trish worked at the store for (I’d have to ask her) some amount of time. I painted the store to pay off the tab. I wasn’t happy with having one.

Still, it worked well for Mary and Pard. They had stacks of thin pieces of cardboard, tabs, in order, alphabetically. If Mary was at the counter, she would survey the card. Her expression would reveal whether or not you should put this purchase on the tab or give some explanation on when you might pay the amount owed down.

When Mary and Pard attempted to sell the Village Store, local gossip/legend has it, they had to eat a lot of the debt accumulated over the years. There have been several owners since. I have no idea whether the current owners take this kind of casual credit. My guess is… no. I haven’t asked.

Okay, here’s the outtake:

                                SIDESLIPPING- OUTTAKES FROM “SWAMIS”

I loved the Falcon. My first car.

No, it wasn’t a gift. I was making payments, money withheld from paychecks at the job my father set me up with. “Responsibility has to be learned,” my father said each time he picked up his half, straight from the middle register at the San Elijo Grocery. It was a sort of ritual, every other Saturday night, my father taking cash from the hands of his old Marine Corps buddy. “We all have to learn how to work hard. Huh, Tony?”

Tony, Mr. Tony to me, would look at the cash, look at me, and smile. “Right, Gunny.”

With my first payday, December 28, 1968, Tony gave me my half, which, at a dollar fifty an hour, for sixteen hours on weekends, plus a few more days during Christmas vacation, paid for the gas to get to Cardiff from Fallbrook, and not much more. He winked and said, “It’s Kind of like…” Mr. Tony nodded and smiled, the nod with a certain and meaningful rhythm, a bit of a jaw thrust included in the motion. There was a bit of a twist of the lips in Tony’s smile. Suggestive.

My father gave Tony a look I was very familiar with. Disapproving. Disappointed.

“Sorry, Gunny.”

“It’s all right.” Tony seemed relieved when my father laughed and pushed me away. “Real world, huh?” Tony nodded.  “The boy keeping his tab clear?”

“Chocolate milk and those little donuts are all he’d put on a tab, Gunny.” My father looked at Tony with another expression I was familiar with, the just-try-lying-to-me look. “No tab for Jody, Gunner, no little loan ‘til payday with exorbitant interest.”

                “Usury, it’s called, Tony.”

                “Yeah. Jesus doesn’t like it.”

                “But you do.”

                “Brings in customers. Kind of makes up for the folks who skip out.”             

“And you and Mrs. Tony love having people… owe you.”

“We do.”

I loved my job; bagging, stocking shelves, sweeping up; I described myself as a nub at a family grocery store with a view of Cardiff Reef.

I already said this, but I loved the Falcon. This was the family wagon in which my mother, and then I learned to drive. Three on the tree. Pop the clutch. Stall. Try again. My father, frustrated enough teaching my mother, gave her the task of teaching me when I was fifteen and a half. Exactly. She was so much calmer than he had been. I knew, even as my father turned the Falcon over to me, that I would be expected to teach my brother, Freddy. I didn’t plan on being calm. I didn’t plan on being around. I had other plans.

As always, thanks for reading. All “Swamis” outtakes are protected under copyright, as is all original writing and original illustrations contained in realsurfers. Almost all the photos are borrowed.

Good luck and good surfing.