Locals Only Kooks Go Home

Locals Only Kooks Go Home!

“IT’S SUNNIED-UP,” Scott ‘Scoots’ Walter said, into his cell phone, as his truck, mid-sized, an eight foot board on the canopy rack, made a turn onto a residential street. “You there? Mark? Evidently not. Okay. I’m going dark.”
It was, and this was surprising,  going to be one of those days where it clears up just before sunset; the sideshore winds just stop. Scoots found the pullout on the bluff was empty except for the old Subaru four door. The car was a faded mildew green/gold color, any hint of former shine accidental, and most noticeable near the driver’s side door; where arms had rubbed against the roof while tying or untying a board from the obviously-homemade wooden racks. There was, if one looked, a little more shine near the hood and trunk latches.
Scoots, without checking the lineup, was looking at the car, the flattened tires. The car appeared empty, though tough to tell with the side windows darkened. And then there was the windshield.
“Fuckin’ Mark,” he said. Then, pulling alongside the Subaru, he did look at the waves, just over to his left…
“WHOA!” Scoots leaped from the truck, leaving the door open.
So clean, so lined-up. One surfer out. Only. It was The Guy, obviously, the guy who owns the car with the flat tires and “Locals Only Kooks Go Home!” in wax on the windshield.
That Guy, in the glare, two-stroked into an almost-glassy peak, angled to the left, waited until he reached the bottom to stand, that move melded with a too-casual bottom turn, rising back to mid-face, gliding higher. He kick-stalled near the top, crouched, tucked in.
“Owww!” No one, really, could hear Scoot’s uncontrollable (or merely uncontrolled) hoot. Two steps toward the bluff; look, stop. The Guy was just slicing back from the shoulder, the spray up and lost in the sunlight. Scoots walked backwards, eyes on the waves. He opened the hatch on the canopy, dropped the tailgate, pushed the twisted hose and a compressor over to get to the cracked plastic bin. He pulled it over and out, allowing it to drop to the ground. He grabbed his inside-out, cold, sandy, twisted wetsuit. Water flew when he flung the suit out and around.
A wet wetsuit will cling to your legs, your arms, and Scoots couldn’t get his untangled or pulled-up quickly enough. He’d hit a window of opportunity, and windows can close quickly. And the sun was angling toward the glistening horizon like…
“Fuckin’ Mark” he said, looking at the tires on the Subaru as he threw the straps off his board.
“Fuckin’ Mark” he said, as he threw his gloves out of the bin, joining his booties on the tailgate. Grabbing a partly-worn bar of wax, he shook his head, looked for his leash in the dark, crowded truck bed.
“Fuckin’ Mark” he said, reminding himself that he had put the stem caps back on; realizing he’d have to, at least, refill the tires before he could… “Fuck.”

THE SUN WAS MELTING at the horizon when Scoots ran the last twenty feet or so from the path at the bluff to his truck. Still, he took a moment to look back. Melting, this was the metaphor Scoots had thought of, even in the water. Music; jazz, really; from “The Endless Summer,” was playing in his head, though, looking, again, at the words waxed onto the Subaru’s windshield, a faster, newer tune took over; his background tune for riding pumping point breaks.                                                                                                                               His wetsuit pulled down, Scoops was cleaning the windows on the Subaru with a six inch broad knife and acetone-soaked rags when The Guy came up from behind him.
The Guy’s eyes, suddenly too close to his, were bloodshot. Saltwater. Dehydration. They had to be more bloodshot than his. The Guy didn’t seem overly curious about what Scoots was doing. He stepped around him, setting the board on his car’s rack.
“Your last wave…” The Guy said, “it might have been the wave of the day.”
Scoots was too busy to do more than nod; saltwater dripping on the Subaru, some squeaking from the wetsuit rubbing on the fender; scraping and smearing with serious strokes.
“Fuckin’ Mark, huh?” The Guy said, reaching around to his back, feeling for the cord for the zipper, throwing it over his shoulder, let his comment hang.  “Huh, Scoots?”
Scoots pointed at the fully inflated tires with a cold acetone rag. “I, um, have a compressor and, and a, a generator. It was…” Scoots knew it was too late to… to lie; he just couldn’t quite think of a reasonable… “Yeah, that was a great wave.”
The Guy had a key, evidently out of the little pocket most wetsuits have (though Scoots had never used one), and unlocked the driver’s side door. He reached in, unlocked the back door, then opened it, threw a blanket onto the back of the front seat, passenger side, pulled out two large aerosol cans, and set them on the roof. “Guess I’ll save these for next time. Scoots. Oh, and thanks for coming back.”
“Fuckin’ Mark,” The Guy said, slightly behind the same words from Scoots.

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“MOTION ACTIVATED,” The Guy said, dusk filling-in; that grainy grayness you can almost feel. There was some music, mid-sixties Dylan, “Blonde on Blonde,” coming from the Subaru. “Most expensive thing about the car,” The Guy had said. And there was the music rising up from the water; familiar rhythms.
Scoots and The Guy, both now dressed in almost-matching Levis and hoodies, were looking at the back of a camera now perched atop the Subaru.
“Fuckin’ Mark; man… don’t…” could be heard from the camera, the two surfers nodding. At the camera, not each other. The Subaru, now, had its hood up, all the doors open. The generator, a compressor, a gas container, hoses and wires were all spread about, seemingly kicked next to, and almost under Scoot’s truck. “Fuckin’ pussy, Scoots. Whimp-ass coward. We’re making a stand,” the camera said, in Mark’s voice.”
The Guy motioned toward the truck. “Weren’t you afraid someone might…”
“It’s Mark’s stuff.”
“Oh. Okay.” They both laughed. “Maybe Mark was a little frustrated. Crappy waves; crowded; all those city people…I mean; on a Wednesday.  Me, me maybe getting too many waves for his liking.”
“No, he’s just… Mark’s pretty much always an asshole.” There was a brief pause.  “His stuff…” Scoots made a swooping arm movement, “…He just had to tell me how he had unloaded it all so I could go surfing with him this morning. Nice of him.”
“Yeah; nice. But, the asshole thing… Well, that’ll… that… frustration. Anyone….” There was another, longer pause, The Guy was helping Scoots reload Mark’s equipment. “I know assholes. I’m… in real life… a lawyer. No, really; sold my soul years ago. Before law school, even.”
“Sales whore,” Scoots said, pointing at himself, effecting a fake smile.
“Funny,” The Guy said, my Mom… she was from the south, and she always pronounces Lawyer like…’Lie-yer. Lie.'”
“Mark’s a contract-whore,” Scoots said. “Contractor.”
“We’re all surf sluts, though; huh?”

BOTH VEHICLES, lights on, heaters going, were idling, Dylan singing, “Please don’t let on that you knew me when…” Scoots and The Guy, at the edge, were looking at the the waves, defined now, only, by the lines of soup behind the curl. “The problem with being a local,” Scoots said, pausing to think of how to phrase it…
“The problem is,” The Guy, who had yet to reveal his name, said, “is you can’t go anywhere else and still be…”
“That’s true.”
“You know Devil’s Point?” Scoot gave an ‘of course’ nod. “Ever surf there?”
Another nod. “Paddled over a couple of times. Hardly ever breaks.”
“No; not today, for sure. Wrong direction, wrong wind… anyway; if you want to… So, you know those houses by the point?”
“Yeah.”
“Third McMansion from the end; over where the rights… I mean, when they actually do break…so, um, punchy.” There was another pause, The Guy seemed almost apologetic. “Yeah; the house; wife hates it… salt spray on the windows. But, hey, you’ll never see this car there,  and I definitely don’t drive it to work.” The Guy laughed. “Actually, I have to keep it in the garage so the neighbors don’t…” Another laugh. “Assholes.” Anyway; if it’s breaking…”
“Really?”
“Yeah. Park by the greenhouse. Only, one condition, Scoots…”
“Don’t bring fuckin’ Mark?”
Now they both laughed. “No, if you bring him. Oh, and, if you do, it can’t be until after you’ve told him I said he’s a whimp-ass coward. Oh, and incidentally; you cut him off at least twice.”
“Because we’re friends.”
Scoots stuck his hand out. The Guy had a cell phone in his. “Give me your number.”
“Phones don’t work here. No reception… that’s part of why I…”
“No. No service. Fine. Contacts list. Um. Scoots. Still… Just in case. I mean; accessory, accomplice…”

“SELFIE?” THE GUY asked half a second before the camera’s light flashed.
“More evidence?” Scoots asked, wondering if he should give his actual phone number, his actual name; wondering what he’d trade to get access to a fickle, but sometimes-perfect wave.”Remember, I’m still a lawyer; and, well, we’re not friends. Scoot…” The Guy walked toward his car, reached inside the driver’s side door. A spray hit the windshield as the wipers swept across a white-but-oily spot.

The Subaru pulled out ahead of the pickup, Scoots still pondering whether The Guy meant that, because they’re not friends, he shouldn’t take off in front of him when… yeah; Devil’s Point. Yeah. The cell phone chimed when the truck got closer to town.  The third of four voicemails began, “Surf slut Scott, it’s surf slut Jonah…”

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Illustration for “Fortune Point”

Trish thought the drawing looked like a “young kid, kind of chunky, maybe.” Yeah, fine; let’s say that’s what I was… you know what? I’ll just post the drawing, also added to the story by Rico Moore, next down, for your scrolling and reading pleasure.

Image (86)Thanks, Rico.

“No One That Mattered” Short Fiction From Surf Route 101

Mostly Fictional Short Stories From Surf Route 101- No One That Mattered

“‘Vietnam,’ he said; like he was impressed. ‘You, uh, um, kill anyone?'”
This was, just to clarify, my brother, Sidney, talking.
“‘No one that mattered,’ I said. I was hoping he might figure out I didn’t really mean that. Bluster. ‘Posturing,’ you’d say. ‘But, hey, man,’ I told him, ‘you’re the one with the gun.’ He looked at the old pistol, looked at me; almost smiled. Didn’t lower it, though.”
I’m still not sure why Sidney felt he had to tell me the story, but I was already picturing him, grinning; always with that grin.
Not really confessional by nature, he… we all try to have an excuse or explanation, or, something more, some justification for our actions, even those we know are wrong. This is me, then, me now; judgmental, always trying to determine what things mean.
That, introspection, that wasn’t Sidney. We, and this would be my brothers, even our dad, we tried to justify for him.
Sid continued.”Maybe I shouldn’t have let it out that I recognized Humberto; maybe… I was really just trying to save the two surfers from West Covina.”
I’m sure I nodded; support; no, just to show I had heard what Sid was saying; definitely something short of approval. My approval, I thought, at the time, is what my older brother was looking for.

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At the time. Sidney was standing in the driveway when we, that’d be Julie and I, were still at the condo; before our first kid. Maybe picture me, a younger me, cleaning out my side of the shared garage; Sid pulling the Surfboards Hawaii out of the back of his jacked-up, four wheel drive truck. Twin fin; six-four, red; one of their last boards before they closed the shop; at least the one in Encinitas. The board would be worth a fortune if I still had it.
“Just tell her you bought it from me,” he said.
“With what money, Sid?”
“Future money, man.” At this he did a sort of succession of non-surfer’s surf moves, grinning, watching me the whole time.
Maybe, now that I’ve (finally) started (resumed, really) writing this… maybe what he was looking for in my expressions, and he considered himself a master of reading people; if not approval; was admiration. Maybe even respect; or, at least, some hint of jealousy.
No; I’d never let him see that. I was working on being a master (not so much any more) of not being read, of not being close. Distant. Never cool; never Sidney cool. But, whether I hid it or not, I was intrigued.
Let me simplify this particular part of the Sidney Grace saga (saga, makes me chuckle); or try to: This was the early 70s, before the old section of 101 that went through San Diego’s North County ‘beach towns’ flourished rather than died from the effects of being bypassed by I-5. There were still cheap motels, marijuana was still homegrown in avocado orchards and hidden greenhouses.  Scoring weed was, it seemed, less corporate. Maybe more dangerous. Maybe less dangerous; but more exciting. LSD was… I really didn’t, and don’t, know. I just had to work and I just wanted to surf: Swamis, Pipes, Grandview, Stone Steps; wherever it was best.
And I was busy. So busy. I didn’t take drugs, did smoke (for too long), but not weed (opposite of the old line, “I don’t smoke… cigarettes.” Smile cleverly); not until later, and not enough to impress even an average college freshman (or high school junior).  Though friends, even good surfing friends, did get involved, none invited me into this part of their lives. I hadn’t even been good at drinking beer, wasn’t comfortable hanging out unless it was after a surf session, and then, not for long.
Decadent. Yeah, I thought that; mostly I considered it a waste of time.
So, it was fine. I was busy.
Anything I knew of a drug subculture was mostly hearsay, other people’s stories, fiction; real life embellished; stories I chose to ignore, avoid, not hear. Still, I occasionally stopped for a moment to try to make sense; always trying to have things make sense, to fit into my version.
People assumed, because of my brothers, four of them, two sisters; and who my brothers ran around with, that I knew things. I just had to know, for example, the dreadlocked white guy who was the “Luther Burbank of Dope;” who came back to Fallbrook from some secret mountain grow area; occasionally, handing out free samples.
“Bombers, righteous shit. Virgin buds,” my brother, Grace number 4, who, along with brothers one, three, and five, did know him, would tell me. “Big parties; everyone would come,” he said. “Not you, of course.” “No.” “Busy.” “Yeah.”
Even when I left home, moved to a crappy rental in Cardiff, someone would assume I knew something about inland weed. North County was that rural.
“Which Grace am I? Two,” I often had to say to random people, each with an a sort of eager, hopeful, and expectant expression, wanting to get some kind of inside information. “You’ll have to ask one of them.” No, I wasn’t being sly; wasn’t judging the person not trusted or cool enough. No, I wasn’t. This was never believed. The person was always angry, I was always a dick or an asshole. “Sorry.”
Sid was the oldest Grace. He didn’t want to be in charge, to be responsible for the rest of us when our mother died. He didn’t want to be like our father, bluecollar, to whom work is ‘so’ important. He wanted… something easier. He took two years in the Army, cannon fodder, because even junior college at Palomar was, he said, “high school with ashtrays (common putdown at the time), full of phonies, anyway, and, anyway, too much like work.”
“Fun and games,” he said, when he got back. “Easy.”
He didn’t look like it had all been easy. Most of his friends had scattered, as did most of mine. As soon as our dad remarried, I escaped, headed for the coast. The underground ‘agriculture’ economy had moved north. Grace brother number three had moved with it. He wouldn’t reveal who he worked for. Still hasn’t. “You know them,” was his explanation; “Can’t say.”
Sid was not interested in being ‘any kind of farmer.’ There were other opportunities, and there were still parties on hills, property parents had bought in the fifties sub-divided by our peers into ranchettes. There were homes, estates to build, orchards to tear out or replace, irrigation to set up. Opportunities. People from money who had more money. Easy.

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That’s only part of how Sid got into a cheap motel room in Leucadia, a block back from the non-beach side of 101; with the two surfers from West Covina gagged and tied together on a bed; with Humberto Lopez and the guy with the gun to my brother’s head; with two surfboards cut open, leaning, rather politely, against a wall; several duct tape-wrapped packages on the other bed.
“You once told me that you can’t really remember pain,” Sid told Humberto, trying not to look at the gun trembling in the hand of the other Mexican. “It’s not really true, I found out…(he laughed at this point, hoping Humberto would at least smile- he didn’t)… but I held on to the notion. It helped.”
Humberto had to soften. This was Sid, confident, grinning, cool. “Yeah; I was talking about… you couldn’t believe my father wanted me to quit high school to work in the fields.”
“I couldn’t believe he had you working in the fields at fifteen.”
The young man switching the gun from hand to hand was unimpressed by that story. White guys don’t know. Sidney and Humberto remembered the story neither would tell; how the usually-slacker PE coaches would, at some random time, have some sort of ‘Hell day,’ and run and exercise the shit out of everyone. They still did it when I went through. Humberto had been suffering more than most, not keeping up. It was my brother who came to his defense.
“Okay then Hotdog; fifty burpees (four count squat thrusts), Grace. No, all you Jockstraps. Everyone. Not you, Lopez; you just relax.” The coach went to his version of a feminine voice. “Just catch your breath.”
In the garage at the condo, Sidney said of that earlier incident; “The problem with helping someone, in a moment of weakness, is, or can be, resentment. I’m just; I know you like to figure shit out. So, now I was the one who knew about Humberto’s weakness. It lingers. When he’s attempting to steal drugs, armed robbery, and that person, me; when I come barging into the room, and he doesn’t know how that’s going to turn out, and I recognize him, and remember his weakness, and…”
“Yeah, Sidney; I think I sort of get it.”
“Yeah. Sure. So, maybe we read this on each other’s faces. Hey, he recognized me first. I could tell.”

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Look: I’ve thought about this story, about Sid’s version; thought about how much of it I believe.
“What’cha going to do with the bricks, Humberto? Got a plan? (pause, Humberto and his accomplice looking at each other) You and this guy, someone you work with in the… (checking their pants, dirt on the knees, maybe something caught in the folded-up cuffs) flower greenhouses? You see two white guys with… (nodding outside) four boards, but they only take two inside the motel… two newer boards? So, knowing these a-holes probably aren’t grinding out a living doing stoop labor…”
“Sidney?”
“Humberto?”
“Why are you here?”
“Your guess? Even though I yelled ‘surf’s up’ at the door, you know I don’t surf. No. My brother. One of them; he surfs. Number four, he kneeboards, some. You don’t know, Humberto; you don’t know how to get rid of a couple of bricks of… you even know what that is you’re stealing?”
“We were waiting for, I guess, you. Sid-ney.” That was the other guy speaking, waving the gun around; checking for Humberto’s reaction. It was negative, as if his co-conspirator had been disrespectful. He didn’t know Sidney.
“Yeah; so, fine.” Sidney backed up a step or two, looked at the West Covina boys, put a hand out toward the guy with the gun to calm him down, pulled a wad of bills out of his pocket, held that out [in a later telling this became two hundred dollar bills from a wallet].
“I’m sure they’ll be fine heading back to LA. I’ll give them some money for gas. Okay? I wasn’t holding on to the money anyway. It’s not like it’s mine.”
The three guys standing looked at the two surfers on the bed, stripped to their trunks, the larger one tied behind the other one, both trying to nod.
“Could’a gone butt to butt,” Sidney said to the other guy. The other guy smirked, shrugged. Sidney shrugged. “Okay. I get it.”
The other guy handed Humberto the gun, took the cash; smiling, a smile that went away when my brother reached down for the drugs [later the look was disappointment, and Humberto asked, “This it?”] Sidney threw his hands out as if this was the deal; looked back at Humberto, who released the hammer  on the revolver.
My brother, in recreating this, talked really fast: “Where’d you get that pistolo, ‘Berto? And, hey, man; these drugs don’t belong to me. Either. You get that, right? They’re carriers, they work for me. I’m a carrier. Just. Only. They didn’t know what… (he looked at the boards. They were waxed- he turned toward the West Covina boys, back toward Humberto). They; guess they tried to ride the boards. Shit. See? You take these drugs and you’ve got so many new problems. I have some real weapons in my truck. What do you think we trade for drugs? Huh? Too much knowledge, man; not so good. You have no plan, man. We have to… If you… you think about how hard it is to get rid of bodies? I mean; the Sheriff’ll come lookin’ hard for two wetbacks… don’t mean that… kill a couple of innocent, white, spoiled-ass suburban surfers. Right?”
“We’ll just take the money, and…” Humberto set the old pistol on the small television set, took the money, looked to my brother.  Sidney took two twenties out of his wallet, threw them on the bed, reset his grin. Humberto just wanted out.”Okay, Sid?”

“It should have been okay,” Sidney told me. “I just started thinking about all the connections.”
“Connections?”
“I thought about how this would affect me.”
“If no one found out,” I said. “The West Covina boys wouldn’t talk; Humberto and his friend…”
“Yeah, yeah; it was all rattling in my brain. I thought about… I thought about what my people would… no one wanted any attention to any kind of trafficking in those days. I kind of imagined Humberto taking the gun and…”
“And what? Kill the other guy? What, Sid?”
“‘You’ll have to work for me, Humberto,’ I said. ‘Your friend, too. You wanted it easy. Easier. Right?'”
“‘Maybe not,’ Humberto said. ‘Maybe we’ll just… (too long a pause; Humberto picked up the gun, cocked it) I don’t care about the drugs. I don’t want your kind of life, Sidney; but, really; dead drug dealers… like you said, ‘No one that mattered.’ No need to dispose of the bodies. I’m willing to leave the drugs. Or some of them.’ He took one brick.”
“‘It’s not that much money, Humberto, I said; ‘Not enough.'”
Sidney took a breath, set the Surfboards Hawaii twin fin, with removeable, adjustable rainbow fins, onto the rack of my car.
“I don’t know if I seemed weak. No, I did; it was all just so… heavy, so exhausting. Humberto…anyone could have seen this.”
“So… what did happen?”
“Humberto and his buddy backed toward the door.”
“‘We’ll just call it even, then; Sidney,’ he said.”
“‘No, Humberto; not even.’ We looked at each other. If I hadn’t smiled…’Forty burpees, Humberto; and then we’ll call it even. Forever.'”
At telling this, my brother released his serious expression and laughed. So did I.
“I did twenty. Humberto did the full forty. No problem. This time he was in shape.”
Sid said Humberto got the money, a new gun, and one for his friend, Julio; the West Covina boys never came back to the North County, as far as Sid knows, and they all went out for tacos.
“Fine. Sure. The West Covina boys, too?”
“Yeah, them too.” Both of us were laughing when Julie came into the garage, looked at the Surfboards Hawaii twinfin, looked at Sidney, looked at me.
“How much,” she asked Sidney. “No presents.”
Sidney knew not to offer any more presents.
“Easy payments,” he said. “Future money.” Sidney and I both waited through Julie’s look of disapproval.
“How long, Sidney?”
“The payments. Easy…”
“No; how long are you going to…”
Sidney seemed to think through all his previous arguments about his life, mine, our father’s; all in a moment. He nodded, and said… nothing. He shrugged. Then Julie shrugged, looked at me. I shrugged.
“Fun and games,” she said, to both of us. “I have some cash in the…” She looked at the board I was now holding, moving it through the air as if it was on a wave. Sidney watched with something short of understanding; not jealousy, really, except, maybe, he might have been just a bit envious that this simple act could make me so happy. “Nice board,” Julie said.

You can’t know how I’d love to leave the story here. I heard a slightly different version of the Leucadia motel incident, years later, from Humberto.
“Sidney Grace always told me he didn’t expect to live well AND long,” Humberto said, at the makeshift memorial at my dad’s house. Everything else was hushed, to one side; secrets.
“It was very tense. Sid asked me…it was a test… I didn’t know that… what I was willing to do if I, if I went to work with him. I had said I was willing to kill him and the two surfers. Bluff. I wanted, so bad, to be out of there. A mistake. He asked me if, instead, I’d be willing to kill Julio. He acted like he meant it. I pointed the gun at him. Julio. ‘Sidney,’ I said, ‘I would, but he’s married to my sister. I’d have a hard time explaining it.’ ‘So, no?’ ‘No.’ Your brother acted like he was putting the wallet back in his… That’s when Sid knocked the gun out of my hand, pulled one out from… it was behind his back. ‘You owe me, ‘berto;’ he said. I practically shit myself. Umm; I still think Julio did.”
We pause for a moment; our laughter only a bit out of place. Still, I stopped, looked around the room. Half the people there were… altered. The former Luther Burbank of Weed, bald and overweight, was talking with Grace number four, chuckling occasionally. Julie had just put a hand on my father’s shoulder. He stopped crying, smiled.
“So your brother says, ‘Forty burpees, Hotdog. Now!’ He did, maybe, five. Julio, he…”
We were laughing again; but we both stopped when Grace Number 5 and another law enforcement type came over. “Nice to see you again,” my last brother said, reaching out a hand; “Deputy Lopez.”
The last Grace looked at me, tipped his just-emptied wine glass toward me, said, “Not your fault.”
If my brother and Humberto tried to read my expression at this moment… they did; I just… it didn’t matter.

Since I wasn’t planning on working, I dropped Julie and the kids off, checked out Pipes from the parking lot. A little crowded. A little choppy. Went out anyway.