Another Chapter from “Swamis”

JULY 20TH

This was the day a man first walked on the moon. I had surfed. Somewhere; maybe Stone Steps; trying to find a little peak in the peak of Summer; summer and all that meant in a Southern California beach town recently isolated by the completion of I-5.

NOTE- There was talk, at that time, of the North County beach towns (Leucadia, Encinitas, Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Del Mar) suffering when 101 was no longer the main coastal north-south route. Whether they did or didn’t depends on your interpretation of ‘suffering.’

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A Woman entered, looked at the handful of people scattered around the classroom, each with a stack of papers on individual desks that were exactly like the ones at Fallbrook High, and probably Vista, San Marcos, Escondido, Orange Glen, San Dieguito (those same beach towns); the districts that fed into the Palomar Junior College District. She looked at one of the papers in her left hand, erased “Biology 101” from the chalk board.

“Now,” she said, “now;” speaking louder when no one looked up after the first ‘now.’ “You people are right at the line; the cut off. Your choices… (louder) are limited. You may not get all the classes you want.”

Creative Writing; yes. And I wanted English 101. Yes, I had tested high enough to skip the remedial, non-credit English; I wanted… Art; yes, definitely. Basic Drawing. Two classes still open. Being under eighteen (it might have been twenty-one at that time), I was required to take a Physical Education class. Fall Sports was closed. Badmitton. Really? Closed. Shit. Weight Training. Still open. No. Fuck. Okay.

I was still writing, erasing, writing when Jumper Hayes entered the room, gave the Admissions Woman a big smile, which she seemed to appreciate, pointed at me with his stack of papers, and sat next to me. He scooted (noisily) his desk unit closer; like he wanted to cheat off me.

The Admissions Woman looked around at the noise, but, again, only returned what I had to believe was another reassuring smile from Jumper. I feel compelled to mention that the Admissions Woman was probably about twenty-something, something under 25, and was trying to seem a bit more professional, even stern, than she was able to. She was rather like a substitute teacher in a room of recent high school graduates, professional students, draft dodgers, returning veterans.

“Bagboy,” Jumper said; “I thought you were going to some big time University. Word is you’re a brain.”

“No.”

“Okay. Maybe not.”

“I was, but… Brain? Who would…?”

“One of those Avocado-lovin’, guacamole dip…dipshits; Bucky Davis, maybe; John Amsterdam; why would I remember? I’m not a brain… like you.”

The woman, taking a handful of papers from an older man; probably forty; scratched Philosophy II and Photography 101 from the chalkboard.

“Oh, and, incidentally, Amsterdam still hates you. Brand new Dewey Weber performer.” He shook his head, moved his hands to illustrate a board crashing on another board. “Got to hang on to your board, Bagger.” He paused. “You prefer Bagboy… or Bagger? Bagger sounds a little more…” He nodded, nearly winked. “Or Jody?”

“That was my dad’s joke.”

“Yeah; and Tony, at the market; he’s in on it.”

“They were both in the Corps. Not that they knew each other then, but…”

“As was I. As I was?” Jumper saluted; quickly, crisply; properly. He looked over at my papers. “You takin’ any English classes, um, neighbor?” When I looked back, he went back to nodding. “Wrong side of 101. You probably have to go five blocks to get across, but… well…”

When I determined nothing was following; I said, “Well… beats living in Frog-butt; huh?”

Jumper laughed, looked at the woman from admissions, gave her another, bigger smile, kept it when he looked back at me. “So, guess you don’t have the horse any more. Any longer? No longer have the horse?”

He didn’t drop the smile. I’d love to think I didn’t seem surprised. Or rattled. “No, we…” I restacked my papers, whispered, “Fuck you, Jumper;” scooted my desk away, a bit more noisily than I might have preferred. Jumper was still smiling.

Jumper stood up, his desk unit like a skirt, walked closer to me. He slid his preliminary class schedule in front of me, pointed to Criminal Justice; pointed to the same title on my schedule. “I am going on Uncle Sam, though; G.I. Bill. Semper Fi, (whispered) motherfucker. Full ride, man.”

“It’s California… Man; free education. And, besides; I’m not interested in…”

“Easy A, Jody; and… (back to a whisper) it’s a family tradition. Isn’t it?”

I crumpled up my first and second versions of my schedule in my right hand, stuck my middle finger out and a little too close to Jumper’s face. Surprised at how instant my anger had been, how it was staying at that level, and that Jumper’s reaction continued to be a smile (“Insolence,” my father would have said); I pulled my hand back almost immediately, flattened-out what had been a fist, and slapped my hand on the papers to the desktop.

“If my father… I’m… everyone knows who my father was. If I…” I looked at my form. “I’m done, June, Juni, Junipero… Mr. Hayes. Fifteen units. Full load. Done.” I stood up, picked up and straightened the other pages. “I’m not interested in being a…” I lowered my voice, looked around the room. No one was looking up from their papers. “…Fucking cop.”

The Woman erased Psychology 101 from the board just before I got to her. I looked at my form, I looked at Jumper Hayes. He still had the same smile, mouthing, “Easy A;” stepped in front of me, very close to the Admissions Woman. “We’re both taking Criminal Justice, Miss… (looking at her name tag) Julianna Esposito (stretching out each syllable). I want to find out who killed Chulo Lopez; Joseph Discenzo… Junior, here…” Jumper handed Julianna my paper work. She looked at the name, looked at me. I looked at her. Confused smile. No, she probably hadn’t heard of my father.  “…he wants to find out who killed his father.”

 

 

 

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Excerpt from “Swamis”

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.

FEBRUARY 1969-

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.

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“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.