Vivid Covid Dreams

Maybe this piece is self-explanatory. Anxiety has hit us like a, um, wave; enough so that I was just thinking, yesterday, trying, as always, not to panic (in this case I was about twenty-five feet up on a ladder stuck, improperly at a bit of a left-of-straight angle that allowed me to, hopefully, paint trim up on a roof- it worked), that maybe being manic-depressive is normal.

NORMAL. Moments of bliss are, yeah, moments; and, while most of life is just kind of a glide, maybe a bit of an uphill grind, there are moments where things would cause just about anyone to… to be rightfully depressed.

MOMENTS, only, hopefully. It’s not that I’ve been more depressed than anxious, but I have been waiting to use some of my manic-ness on some waves. SOON.

I did do a video reading of this piece, tried to send it to Keith Darrock, PT ripper and librarian. I’m scheduled to do a ZOOM thing in August, connected with my novel, “SWAMIS” and I thought this might be a sort of prelude. BUT, e-mailing videos, I’ve discovered, is actually kind of tricky.

I am considering UPGRADING MY WORDPRESS ACCOUNT. This would get rid of pesky ads (for which I receive no compensation), and might allow me to post occasional videos. WE’LL SEE.

                Not Out, Just Put Away

In these anxious times, I have heard and read that many are afraid to dream while others have wild, vivid, Corona fever dreams, even without the fever.  Last night’s dream was, then, one of those, and I am writing about it before it fades into the early morning drizzle.

Write, because that’s what I do; that’s how I cope.  Whatever trauma or drama is going on, I can and mostly do think of it as part of some bigger narrative.  If dreams are meant to make some sense out of chaos… writing is dreaming; and I write.

It is, quite obviously, some sort of party.  People in nice clothes; some women in dresses, some men in sports coats.  It is one of those large rooms with a high ceiling on one side and a loft on the other, view of the water through the two-story bank of windows, sliding doors open to a deck.  Weekend cabin, second home along the Canal.  I’ve painted many through the years.  There is a large countertop toward one end of the great room, food spread out.  Party food.  Trays- cheeses and crackers, various.  Casserole dishes- various.  Three bottles of wine with interesting labels- open, glasses adjacent.  Sparkling sodas and colas in a cooler to the side; plastic cups on a corner of the counter.  Real plates, real silverware.

So, not a potluck, but guests, as is proper, have brought side dishes, bottles of wine with interesting labels.

This dream is all taking place from my point of view (POV), my perspective.  Of course.  Dreams.  I’m on one side of the room, scraping the last of some sort of dip onto my last cracker.  Not guacamole.  It might be red, though Trish claims men don’t dream in color, and, though I’d prefer her to be wrong; she is almost surely correct.  Still, I’m saying red; and there’s enough dip left that I consider either getting more crackers or scooping it up with one side of a finger.

Manners.  Leave it.

Trish isn’t here.  No, it must be one of those events where I will almost surely do something, say something embarrassing; me with my loud voice and big gestures.  She has obviously sent our daughter, Dru, in her place.  For some reason, our friend George, who avoids potentially awkward social situations more often (and less apologetically) than Trish, is here, more leaning than sitting on the edge of an overstuffed chair.

I start to say something to Dru about how soon we can leave when two men approach me.

This is the setup part: “I hear you’re a writer,” one of them says.  He is quite a distinguished looking fellow, and the statement is made without the condescension my reaction to it might suggest.

“Who would have told you that?”

This is when Dru moves away and I’m faced with two faces, my POV moving between them.  There is some sort of writing competition they are both aware of, submission deadline this very evening, and maybe I should consider entering.  At the least, they would be interested in hearing about what I write.

Here is the analysis part: I’m writing a novel.  Yeah.  And?  And when I’d written enough to get to an actual ending, I edited it, completely, first line to ‘The End.’  Then, so excited, so sure it was the genius work of a genius; I sent it out to several people to read.

This is when someone crazy enough to consider him or herself a writer gets truly crazy.  Out of his or her control, the manuscript must face the world on its own.  Waiting.  Waiting. 

Waiting for someone else’s assessment.

You only get one chance at a first impression.  I had overshot, overthought, overdone; and, as I feared, as I probably knew, early feedback made it obvious that I need to seriously edit the work; ruthlessly cut out so many of the peripherals, clarify the changes in time and place, simplify… it became obvious my manuscript might not actually be the genius work of a genius writer.

So, okay; I’m working on it; two-thirds of the way to the end; again.  But, doctors, counselors, friends, readers; now that I have eighteen point headings for chapters, fourteen point subheadings; now that I have moved whole blocks of words to where they should be, chronologically; now that I have deleted thirteen thousand or so words out of one hundred and twenty-three thousand; the tension now, the anxiety, in addition to all the other anxieties of real life, is this: Publishing, selling, getting the novel sold, published, out there.

Out there.

I must have said something abrasive and offensive and off-putting; the distinguished gentlemen are now at the far end of the room, leaning on the wall near the stairway to the loft.  George asks a question of the woman who, evidently, owns the house.  “I invited you over many times,” she says.

“Okay,” I say, full room voice, “I have songs, and a few poems, and short stories, and a couple of screenplays, and… don’t know where the other one is… two almost complete novels; so, now what?”

They don’t seem to have heard me.   Dru walks between me and them.  She gives me a look I know to mean I didn’t handle this well, and, additionally, I have just provided another story to share with her mother.  Proof. 

Time break.  I’m looking at the food on the counter.  The casserole dishes have lids or are covered in saran wrap, contents of the two-thirds-full dishes visible.  “I never got a chance at the real food,” I say.

“They’re not out of food,” Dru says, “It’s just put away.”

The woman who spoke to George appears.  She peels back one corner on a dish.  Noodles and cheese, the cheese on the top seared perfectly, only a few holes dug into the glaze.  There also might be green beans.  I’d guess green.  The homeowner looks over at the distinguished gentlemen.  “Good thing I didn’t say anything,” she says, “my daughter’s a writer and…”

“Oh,” I ask, “What kind of thing does she write?”

Dream’s gone.  I spent time I could have used on my manuscript.  Still, I have to get ready; get to Costco before the best selection of meat is gone.

Stay safe, stay sane, avoid panicking when you can, stay tuned.

The New Now

Several times a day I check the Washington State Coronavirus stats, looking and hoping for single digits in the deaths category. Really, zero would be great. The numbers are declining and things are opening up. Still, places one can surf on the North Olympic coast and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, even if surf does magically appear (and it’s always magic), are even more limited than usual. If you venture to Highway 112 you will be greeted with an official road sign with a message that says, not “Local Traffic Only,” but “Locals Only.”


SOCIAL DISTANCING has been working. I wasn’t an instant convert, but I am enough of a convert that I get annoyed when I see people cruising around in stores seemingly unconcerned about how close they get to others and without (at least) masks. This is arrogant and irresponsible, and says “I don’t care about you and whether you live or die.” People who refuse to wear masks don’t, evidently, realize that the masks are not to protect them, but to protect others from them.

Add possibly dangerous and stupid to arrogant and irresponsible. Now, unfortunately, one characteristic of stupidness is an inability to realize one is stupid, as in actually saying, “A lot of folks are saying this is all a hoax.”

A certain sense of entitlement and self-righteousness and a quickness to anger might be others. Might be.

Yeah, I know. I don’t feel entitled or self-righteous; I’ve broken and/or not lived up to protective protocol, I’m not trying to sound preachy, I am trying to PRACTICE SOCIAL DISTANCING; but, being competitive by nature, I might want to go pro level. SIX FEET. Back the fuck up!

MEANWHILE, here’s my latest contribution to the Quilcene Newsletter.


Many of us have a certain work ethic; we place a high value on work.  Work first.  Perhaps you have been described as someone who lives to work, a workaholic.  I have.  Not wrongly; it’s long (if fifty years of working is long) been my policy (sometimes stated) to try to do, say, five days work in three. 

This requires a certain optimism.  “All I have to do to paint this house is bleach, wash, cut back plants, mask windows, put out dropcloths, mix paint, etc. etc. etc.”

I could say youthful optimism.  The difference fifty years makes is the increased difficulty one has in self-generating this same enthusiasm.  “Oh, man; in order to paint this house I’ll have to…”  It’s the same list.

Different attitude.

All the little things that slowed the ahead-of-schedule schedule: Broken equipment, wrong-color of paint, rain squalls, etcetera; were irritating setbacks, not, as I once perceived them to be, little hints and shoves and roadblocks from The Universe meant to give me a bit of a handicap, because, otherwise, everything going to plan, I’d be wailing out the jobs, making real money.

Now, of course, I have age and cranky joints as real handicaps, and, thank you Universe, I still have many of the previously mentioned issues.  Not all at once, of course.

BUT WAIT, in the NEW NOW we have new issues. Work is something many are not allowed to do; at least not the old version of work.  I’m not retired, I have some work, and I have an overwhelming list of things I can do around the house, but, if the current situation is something like retirement…


Okay.  Okay.  I’m okay.  Actually, I am kind of annoyed with myself because my best excuse, which used to be that I’m too busy working or we don’t have the money (because I’m not busy working), is, in the NEW NOW, “What’s the hurry?” 

If questioned, I refer back to the Universe, possibly having to add that I have my own ideas on what I’m referring to as The Universe, but in no way do I want to keep anyone from having his or her own. 

I do have a few grievances: I am annoyed by the spread of overly sentimental news stories (not the ones about good people dying) about how together we all are.  Really?  Maybe back when one’s personal space was somewhat less than six feet, back when the look in someone’s eye was mild tension rather than abject fear that another human being might come in for a hug.  Fistbump?  No.  Kiss?  Mace.  If the message of togetherness is actually an advertisement, double the annoyance. 

You are also, possibly, less than thrilled to watch comedians and singers and reporters and pretty much anybody who is coming to us live (or recorded) on any screen, from a basement or back porch or private luxury yacht.

Here’s something: Every month Bob lets me know that I’ve gone past the official deadline for submitting something for this very newsletter.  Here it is… let me check… April 30, 2020… wow, I thought it is the twenty-eighth… Thursday?  Good.  No call, no text, no email from Bob.  I called him.  Left a voicemail.  He, so far, hasn’t returned my call.  I mean, whoa; is he all that busy?

It’s okay; I’m writing one anyway.  Work ethic.   Still, it’s shorter than usual.  Stay safe and you might not die.  Yet.  See?  Not sticky, gooey, sugary, oversentimental.

Here’s BONUS material, written by me, alone, at my computer:  I’ve been thinking about some future when some random COVID 19 SURVIVOR (and they’ll all being wearing hats thusly labeled, inside their bubble headgear) says, “Yeah, man; at the concerts, back in those days, we’d be watching the groupies on the side of the stage while the bands played; and we’d crowd down into the mosh pit and just get so crazy…”

Concerts? Groupies? Bands? Crowd? Mosh Pit?  Crazy.   

Stay safe, stay back, save lives.

“Sideslipping”& Competition

One of the effects of the omni-demic is that, for surfers, the chess board has been upended, the playground closed.

So, surfers can’t compete in the water when the water is off limits. Competition. Poor us. I started thinking about several aspects of competition, and discussing the competition aspect of our sport with several of my surfing friends. Specifically, I’ve been working some sort of scale in which a surfer can judge where he or she fits in a sort of, think fractions here, competitiveness over butthurtness equation.

Because we’re not equal. Yeah, I’m working on it; don’t claim to have it worked out. I’m trying to judge COMPETITIVENESS without factoring in actual surfing ability. This is, obviously, because one might be more competitive as one improves. I would also love to separate aggressiveness from competitiveness, so, there’s another problem.

THE NUMERATOR- One to nine, if you’re hyper-competitive in the water, give yourself a ONE. Well, that’d be kind of cocky of you. If you believe you’re a one, lie, give yourself a TWO. I really can’t imagine any surfer would give him or herself a nine, so, if you’re the surfer waiting near the channel, smiling as some wavehog paddles past you for the many-ist time, or someone not going out if the surf is good and just kind of crowded, you might give yourself an eight.

I’m giving myself a THREE, meaning, code-breakers, I really think I’m a TWO.

THE DENOMINATOR- So, BUTTHURTNESS. Where you might fit on this scale is determined by whether you’re prone to occasional screaming in the lineup, pouting in the parking area, quite obviously suffering in silence, board-punching, writing rude comments on windshields in wax, any acts of violence and/or vandalism, and, sort of a side consideration; how long you hold a grudge for wave sins you feel where perpetuated against you.

You can list these crimes against you. If your list is really long, if you have a large group of named surfers you hate, if you pretty much hate anyone else who is in the water with you, you may have earned a ONE.

Now, I was going to give myself a NINE, but, really, I have had a few resentments in the fifty-five years since I began board surfing. Warren Bolster once blatantly took off next to me at Swamis. It was my wave; I had position. It was probably about 1971, but, though I remember it, I figured he was probably frustrated because he’d been photographing rather than surfing, and maybe a bit over-zealous.

And I have definitely been guilty of OVERFROTHING. I’m still giving myself an EIGHT, though I’d love to be a NINE. Working on it.

WAIT, here’s a little more to back up my self-devised, non-reduceable (a 2/8 is not a 1/4) score: When I lost my paddle and it turned up stuck in the pilings and no one on the beach would fess up or give up the culprit, and he was, in fact, deemed, by popular opinion, a hero for getting even with the ruthless wavehog, I do admit to whining, complaining, pouting, with some threat to get even; but, when the perpetrator confessed, I immediately (well not quite immediately) forgave him. When I occasionally run into Raja, it’s all over, a fun story. “You’re still a hero, I’m still a wavehog.”

OKAY, I am still thinking about COMPETITIVENESS. I will concentrate on “Is competitiveness a bad thing?” ANOTHER TIME. MEANWHILE, here’s another outtake from “Swamis,” still in the massive edit phase. “SIDESLIPPING”

*The word ‘punk,’ evidently, comes from Elizabethan/Shakespearean times, referring to prostitutes; updated to include petty criminals in the early nineteen-hundreds, with a secondary meaning added in American prisons in which punks were prisoners available, willingly or not, for sexual favors.  ‘Kook’ supposedly is a synonym for shit in Hawaiian, has come to mean someone who isn’t proficient.  Shitty. A friend of mine, one who has spent enough time in Hawaii to risk using some pidgin if in the right company, informs me ‘donkey’ has become a synonym for kook, even cooler when a bit of a bray is included, as in, ‘donnnnnk,’ the final ‘ey’ optional.



‘Mexican inflection?’ I wouldn’t have meant this in any derogatory way, necessarily; but, if there is a California inflection; it comes from the mixture of Spanish and the many languages of everyone else who came here; pathfinders and cowboys and gold seekers and Oakies, post-war migrants like my parents, and, I guess, me.  One cannot deny the Mexican influence, flattened and foreshortened by all the rest of us.

And then there’s the black and gay influence: Words and phrasing and phrases; how we thought gays and black people talked; exaggerated, co-opted, stirred into the California lexicon, the California dialect, the California inflection.

Still, the Mexican influence cannot be denied.

Surfers, of course, had to be a bit different; speak with a different rhythm, introduce new words.  You know the words.  The attitude, the surfer attitude, is probably more your idea than reality; exaggerated and perverted and spread by TV and movies and advertisers.

Sure. Surfing is sexy, coolness illustrated; pirate/rebels washed clean.

Coolness, hipness; we adapt our lives, change our speech patterns, make different choices in clothing and music and attitude as we discover new, and, if not better, more modern things, newer new things; trends, fashions.

The very word, fashion, describes its temporary nature.  Subtext.  That fashion goes in and out is given to the user of the word for free.

We steal, borrow, incorporate.  The strands are pretty obvious; like blues to jazz, blues to rock and roll, blues coopted by popular AM music.  If you were born in the 1950s, you heard Sinatra and Chuck Berry on the same AM station; experienced the Beatles, then Dylan.  No, you probably got Dylan through Dylan covers; Peter Paul and Mary, the Byrds; then Dylan, then… whatever was fashionable.  Temporary.

because I’m Unable to keep my hands to myself…

“Swamis” remains incomplete. I’m working on it. I’m still cutting as much as I can, trying to logically decide or guess or divine which parts are just too, too… wrong. Too this or too that. The goal is to make it all logical and an easier read and, you know, a great American Novel. Not that easy as it turns out. I’m breaking the manuscript into more manageable chapters (meaning more of them) moving some plot items so there’s less skipping around in the timeline.

I am putting the larger outtakes into the sidework file, “Sideslipping.” I’m including two of these in this post.MEANWHILE, I’m continuing to work on illustrations. I’ve included two new ones here, and, because I just can’t help myself, I’ve done some rework on another.

THE FIRST OUTTAKE is a bit of a redundant note that corresponds to Phil and Ray getting busted after appearing on TV the day after Chulo is murdered at Swamis. That is fiction. The note is pretty much the truth about the real life Phil and Ray.

THE SECOND OUTTAKE is some explanation, obviously not for real surfers. I was asked if I did research for “Swamis.” I did. Stephen R. Davis told me about the ‘donkey’ thing, I did look up ‘punk.’ Didn’t look up ‘kook.’ Real surfers know some shit.

NOTE- Phillip and Ray were (I’ll get to this) busted, partially because of this incident, for serial ditching at Fallbrook High.  They had so many hours of detention to serve (the usual punishment, an hour served for each hour missed) that they couldn’t do the time before graduation.  They were, instead, tasked with having to pick up trash around the campus at nutrition and lunch until the end of the year.  While some students threw wrappers and apple cores and lunch sacks to the ground when they saw either (or both) of them approaching with their large canvas bags and sticks with a nail on the end; they were also folk heroes of sorts, rebels; an enviable status.  Peace signs and nods, a few slugs to the shoulder (precursor to the high five and/or fist bump); maybe an already-dated ‘far out’ or ‘right on;’ probably not a ‘groovy,’ even from some otherwise-clueless classmate. 

*The word ‘punk,’ evidently, comes from Elizabethan/Shakespearean times, referring to prostitutes; updated to include petty criminals in the early nineteen-hundreds, with a secondary meaning added in American prisons in which punks were prisoners available, willingly or not, for sexual favors.  ‘Kook’ supposedly a synonym for shit in Hawaiian, has come to mean someone who isn’t proficient.  Shitty. A friend of mine, one who has spent enough time in Hawaii to risk using some pidgin if in the right company, informs me ‘donkey’ has become a synonym for kook, even cooler when a bit of a bray is included, as in, ‘donnnnnk,’ the final ‘ey’ optional.

ILLUSTRATIONS with EXPLANATIONS: I wanted an illustration for GINNY that showed a just-turning 18 year old. My drawings tend to get too dark too quickly. Partway through this one, I told Trish I just didn’t want to screw it up. “Oh, you’ll keep going until you do.” Hope not.

The illustration that I may or may not use for JUMPER HAYES started out to be one of JOSEPH ‘JODY’ DEFREINES. Jody is half Japanese, the drawing, part way through, according to Trish, looked more like someone who is Hispanic and a bit older. “Okay, I’m adding a mustache.”

I had already completed a drawing that, admission here, started out to be PORTIA. “Looks like Jesus,” Trish said. “Okay, it’ll be CHULO then.” I added some whiskers. I was drawing in black and white from a fairly dark background and couldn’t get a white enough white; BUT I got a white paint pen and… now Chulo looks way too pretty. OKAY, I’ll use the same technique when I get an illustration properly mysteriously beautiful enough to actually be Portia.

Possibly Ginny Cole
possibly Jumper Hayes
modified Chulo Lopez (Chulo does mean ‘good looking’)

RUMORS of swells and beach openings and such things continue. Stay safe. Six feet. That’s called ‘overhead’ in the Northwest, ‘four feet in Southern California, ‘flat’ in Hawaii. Oh, you knew that. Of course.

OH, I just remembered, I added a cross to an earlier illustration of Chulo, might just add one to this drawing.

Pan This Damn-Demic

For a small time contractor in the Pacific Northwest, it’s been kind of like a continuation of winter, but with better weather.

Not so much fun. Hope you’re staying safe. The new equivalent of Aloha, of hello and goodbye, seems to be “stay safe.” Backup is “six feet,” which, depending on how loud one says it, also means “Backup!”

Not really what I want to write about. I’m working on multiple fronts on completing “Swamis,” that is, making it better. Better includes, from the feedback I’ve gotten so far, means less complicated. So, editing. Work.

MEANWHILE, I’m working on a TREATMENT, outline, first step toward something my wordy novel is perfect for, motion picture. More like a series; it’s that complex.

MEANWHILE, I’m also trying to get some illustrations together. Here are the latest:

This didn’t start out to be Chulo; now it is.

Swamis Point with some sort of bloop on the screen. Flipping Corona. No doubt. More illustrations on the way; waiting for some from Stephen R. Davis. MEANWHILE, I do need an agent. Here’s the pitch: “Swamis,” 1969.

So far it hasn’t sold itself. Working on it. Stay safe. Six feet.

“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.

Image (40)

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.


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.”


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…”
“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.”
“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.



Lawrence Bachus-                                                                                                   

Balled-up, compressed, I feel my feet touch the familiar, algae and eel grass-covered rock ledges. Just freed from the turbulence, the swirling, the rolling; I push up, burst through the already-thinning layer of foam, half my body sprung into the air.  I’m laughing, even before I take a breath.  My trusty nine-nine noserider is floating, dirty wax-side-up, only a few feet away.  Walking toward it, I think, for a second, how the water is alive; velvety, silky-warm, like the last south swells of August, but without that deteriorating dead seaweed, day-old-gumbo-on-the-stove-feel.

Still, when I exhale, blow out, it’s a half-liquid half-cough, with a sort of bad-sinuses kind of taste.  It’s like when I used to smoke.  And then- I breathe in, out- it’s gone.  I crawl onto my board.

Mid-afternoon, it’s almost a maximum low tide. Only a few clouds, spread and distant, are visible; clouds that will help form the night-and-morning-overcast typical of the local coast in summer.  The waves here have always been faster, hollower at low tide.  Only about one in three, in these conditions, connect from the outside break to… to here, close to what would be, in bigger surf, the channel on the far side of the inside break.

The flow toward high tide will match the flow toward sunset, and will give more push to an increasing swell.  At least that’s surfer-theory.  The waves are my idea of perfect, three feet on the shoulder, five at the peak.  It doesn’t seem crowded, though, and as I paddle over each swell, I can see clumps of surfers, bobbing, waiting for a set wave.

It’s obviously that lull, the onshores slacking, but the water not yet glassy.  The surface is rippled, or, maybe, dappled, dappled like the Depression glass Janet collects, with tiny little concaves, translucent mini-waves; but here, this surface is moving.  I watch the waves peeling toward me from my right. The surge of energy that is a wave moves through the indentations, lifting, evening them .Another line, a mound, rises, leans forward until the light breaks through the smooth thin top, like crystal, millions of shades on near-white, curling, spilling forward.

Oh, god; listen to me.  Concentrate, Lawrence. 

All the little surf kids, all the high school surf jocks, are still in school.  The after-work crewmembers are looking at their watches, anxious to fit in a few waves between deadlines, and due dates, and scheduled meetings; oh, and families.  But me- I’m sort of stupidly/blissfully paddling out toward my favorite old lineup spot.

I look toward the beach.  “Jan! Janet! Jan-net!” Of course she can’t hear me.  She’s walking away, almost to the stairs.  She sets something down- blue, glass, reflective- on the second step, picks up a towel she’d left there, wraps it around her waist.  She’s wearing a sweater.  Odd.  She turns toward the water for a second.  I sit, turn the board toward shore.  I wave, wave with both hands.  She turns back toward the stairs.  Glare.  She couldn’t see me for the glare.

I’d forgotten how the ocean, when the waves are worth mentioning, sounds.  It’s not that roar-lull-roar, counting the seconds between, like the clock with the surfing picture Jan gave me, the one in my inner office.  It’s a steady sound; more like the sound of tires, not-fully-inflated, on gravel. At least that’s the sound I sort of mentally recorded the last time I was up on the bluff, looking over at this place, my favorite-of-all-time spot.  That was…trying to remember… a while ago.  The wind, and there wasn’t much, coming up the cliff… I had had to squint, my eyes had watered-up so. 

It’s not really an inner office.  It’s just a, you know, office.

There is a ‘crack’ sort of sound, occasionally, when the first wave of a set breaks.  Breaks. I never realized how much imagery there is in that word.  The wave breaks, shatters as the energy slams into, submits to the rock ledges… breaks.  I’m paddling again, along the edges, the shoulders of the waves, effortlessly- left, right, pull, balanced on the board, already at the inside peak.  It’s usually almost as big as the outside break, and, when the outside waves section off, close out, it’s a good place to… shoulder hop.

I was always a shoulder-hopper.

Someone is knee-paddling behind, then beside, then next to me; faster, easier, though I seem to be doing fine.  I had watched him on his last ride.  When two surfers took off in front of him, he…it was pretty amazing, actually.  He turned off the bottom, went almost straight up, floated, side-slipped, right on past the two clueless kooks with their butts out and their arms posed like frozen crossbars. “Surfin’!”

I had looked right at him as he rode toward me.  My chest off the deck, both hands on the rails, ready to turn turtle if…  I probably looked a little too jazzed to be cool.  Well, his expression suggested I had gotten a little too… exuberant.  He turned way too close to me, sprayed me with the rooster-tail (once a clever metaphor, now standard surf jargon), and laughed as he rode on.

Now he’s looking over at me as both of us paddle.  It’s like when someone in another lane, in heavy freeway traffic, going the same speed, looks a split second too long, maybe gives an empathetic shrug; then looks back, resets a serious, late-for-something face.  He’s on a long board, too; not so unusual for an old guy like me, but he is… probably about eighteen, nineteen; looks, and I thought this even the first time I saw him, exactly like Peter… Peter Holden, my old friend from high school. Actually, acquaintance is more like it; he was in the hot surfer crowd.

Peter had,,, of the people I knew; Peter was the first to…die. Dead. This kid…

“Didn’t you see me?” I ask the Kid, instantly realizing why I never became cool.  He just nods, paddles quickly beyond me, toward the outside break. He stops paddling, throws both legs out, sits down on the back half of his board, looks at me, spins the front of his board to the left.  Using the backward thrust and the bounce-back, on his stomach now, the Kid glides toward the smaller group of surfers in the lineup for the inside break.

Balanced on his knees again, but not moving, he watches me as I approach.

The inside break.  Still, at this tide, the palm tree, not much taller, roots dug into the cliff, and the telephone pole at the far end of the parking lot are lined-up; and so am I.

Janet Gilmore Bachus-

            I have to stop here.  A second.  Got to… catch… my breath.  I used to be able to, to climb the whole way, even… run it.  That was the old stairs; same formation, though; four steps, landing; twenty-four, this landing.  There used to be a sign carved into a railing board, here, that said, “Old farts stop here.” The old stairs.  From here…breathe… from here you can look straight out at the surf.  Lawrence was always, once I recognized his surfing style, easy to spot, even in a crowd. His legs were spread and bent, like springs.  He called it a ‘fight or flight’ stance, like he was ready for whatever the wave did. I thought he was like a matador; ready. Then, sometimes, he’d just be standing, stretched out, one hand in the wave.

 Kind of cocky I thought. Way cooler than he was out of the water. 

It’s twenty-six more, slight landing; thirty more to the very top.  The top.

Okay.  I’m going.  It seems like, when we lived here, I used to always recognize someone in the parking lot.  Even on crappy days, with storm surf or no surf at all, one or more of those people like… breathe… lift your leg… people like Lawrence.  Always here, people who just can’t keep from looking at the ocean, can’t help imagining being out there.  Someone like that was always there, just watching, mind surfing. 

            Didn’t think it’d be this tough.  Not just the stairs, the whole ordeal.  Oh. Susan.  “Susan, you came down.  I…I did it, but, here, take this.  It’s not… empty; not quite. Susan. Susan; I couldn’t.” I look up the remaining stairs.  “Where’s your brother?”

            “Waiting, in the car,” my daughter says. 

            Sure.  Of course.  “Give me a… minute.  I’m…ah… breathing.”  I laugh. Susan doesn’t.   “A minute.”

            “Sam wants to go,” she says. “He says we can go wherever you want to eat.”

            “Sure.” Susan follows my hand, looks out into the water.  “Your father used to stay out… hours,” I say; “never seemed to get cold.”

            “Uh huh,” Susan says.

Lawrence- “I used to be a local,” I say to the guy sitting closest to me in the lineup, the guy in the wetsuit with the blown-out knee.  Torn Wetsuit Guy, he’s sitting near Goatee Guy and, um, Sunburn Guy. He doesn’t respond.  Hell, these guys have to know each other, and they’re not even talking among themselves. It’s that ghetto/gang mentality, like human contact in the water will…The Kid… I’ll call him Peter; might as well; Peter emits a fake cough, obviously intended to sound like a fake cough, then chuckles, nods at me when I look over. 

            “Local, huh? Sure. That would have been… when?” Before I can answer, Peter says, “I did see you.” He pauses for a little longer than would seem appropriate. “On that last ride.  Wasn’t sure you saw me.”

            The three Guys, each aware of an outside set at the same time, quickly drop to their bellies and paddle out and to the right.  Peter stays put.  He’s gauging the first wave.  He turns, watches Sunburn Guy, too far out, too far over, arms flailing, miss catching it. Peter spins his board, ready to take off, looks over at me, throws both hands out and toward me.  “It’s yours,” the gesture says.

“Mine? Shit!” I’m paddling furiously, almost afraid to look back.  The shadow, the lift.  Paddle, fool!

There’s a moment, at the top of a wave, when a simple leaning forward, maybe putting some weight on the hand you’ll push up with, makes the difference between taking-off, missing the wave, or going over-the-falls.  Your board starts dropping, the wave dropping out below you.  The current phrase is ‘throwing yourself over the edge,’ or ‘the ledge,’  or, more simply, ‘committing.’ 

It’s really just a simple shift in balance at the right moment.  This over-examining, expanding on one moment, is a little, um, ‘precious.’  That’s what my old boss would have said.  “Precious.”

I’ll ponder this tendency to give too much weight to trivial events later.  I’m not thinking now. Joyfully so; relying on muscle memory… something.  I take off, but late.  The drop is too steep, too quick. I belly-board, leaning into the wave, side-slipping, probably yelling because… because I’m on it; in it, riding, full tilt, leaning in, pulling in, twenty-nine colors of clear, blue-green crystal spinning over my head; speed and sound and color.  I may be screaming.  “Surfin’!”

 Definitely screaming.  I don’t stand up until I clear the first section, and then, clumsy, labored, slow, I rise, catch my balance, careful, careful, well back of the middle of the board.  Trying, cautiously, to set up for a pitching section, crouching, I catch a rail and, again, I’m tumbled, inside the wave and under the water, tucked into a fetal position, hands over my head in a move both instinctive and practiced.

Sunburn Guy is on the next wave, pumping his short board furiously, making three moves when one smooth one would be enough.  He doesn’t see me, standing in thigh-deep water, my board resting on the green, exposed reef farther in.

“Hey!” I dive to the right at the last second.

On the next wave, Torn Wetsuit Guy, too far over, falls, top-to-bottom, on the takeoff.  Peter spins and takes off from the shoulder, fades left, bank-turns off the advancing lip, stalls at the bottom, sets up, walks to the nose as his board climbs the wall.  I don’t know how a wave can be so green at its core, so transparent at the curl, so Laguna-Beach-school-of-art.  Yet, Peter is a shadow in the glow, casual, barely moving, his back foot changing the pressure slightly, subtly.  It’s glide to side-slip, step back, a turn off the bottom, all still well forward of the middle of the board, head-dipping into that last little closeout section.  His board pops out.  I grab it.

Peter stands, spins water out of his hair, blinks water out of his eyes. “Late 60’s?”

“What?  Yeah.  Sorry.  I’m just surprised you’re…”

“Talking to you?”

“Yeah.  Great ride.  Sorry.  I mean, um, like, good ride.  I moved away in the seventies… work; but I came back in…”

“Ninety, ninety-one; a few times after that.  Visiting, I’d guess.”

“Yeah. Wait. What?”

He’s paddling away. I turn, sink the tail, pull forward. When Peter slides to his knees, I follow suit, surprised at how easy it is, painless; how my legs and arms move…together. 

I’m almost yelling, “Yeah.  Ninety-five was the last time, but I did do some surfing in… we took a vacation to… Hawaii; I went to, you know, some tourist beaches.  Rented board.”

I almost run into him when he moves from a kneeling to a sitting position.

“It’s funny,” I’m thinking, or saying, not sure, “when someone reminds you of someone, you automatically…” I drop to a prone position, my hands deeper in the water. Yes, I am speaking. “You automatically think that person will respond like the…”

“Always wanted to surf Hawaii,” he says, “Went through there once.”  

Janet- We haven’t cleared the parking lot and I’m already looking back. “Look, Sam,” I say, “there used to be a restaurant your Dad and I’d go to.  It’s close.  I… I know we, we have to get back before…”

            “Your flight,” Sam says.

            “Plenty of time, Mom.”  That’s Susan, with me in the back seat. She’s holding a little too tightly to my arm.  And I’ m holding too-tightly to hers.

            “Maybe we’ll just go to the 7-Eleven over by the freeway,” my son says, “Isn’t that what Dad used to treat you to?”

            “Shutup, Sam.”

            “Sometimes we’d go to the A&W.  They had car-hops.  Car-hops; they were… nevermind. Long time ago.”

Lawrence- Torn Wetsuit Guy has gone in.  Goatee Guy is looking for a last wave.  The clouds have advanced, filled-in, closed ranks.  Kids on shortboards, toys, really, and people off-work, and folks who think of surfing as not much more than a workout are scattered from the outside break to- turning to look- as far down the beachbreaks, as far down the bluffs, golden, glowing, as I can see.  More people are, finally, going in than are coming out.   The sky at the horizon is… it’s colorless.  The color hits in the final half hour before and the first half hour after sunset.  The deepest parts, the cores of the advancing waves, are already black, the upper reaches almost purple.  A painting of this would look unreal.  Not like, “unreal, man!”  Unreal as in not real, not true to our memories.

In between rides, and I am doing better by the wave, Peter had… we talked. His voice was… who can remember a voice?  “The water,” he just asked, “Does it feel cold to you?”

            “No, it feels warm.”  I look down.  “Seems pretty clear.”          

“The red tide, though; it’s coming in.  On the tide.  It’s… See, to you, it’s like a dream.  You don’t feel the Santa Ana’s about to kick in.  You know the tide’s rising, but you don’t feel the upwelling.  It’ll cloud the water… it’s plankton, and… stuff.  After dark, the soup, the breaking waves, even, they’ll glow.”

            “That’s bio… bioluminescence.  It’s science.”

            “Ewww, science.”

            “Yeah.  Um.  I’m, uh, sorry; you seem so familiar.  I mean, sorry; I’ve been staring, probably. It’s rude, but… you remind me… a friend in high school who… oh, he was a good surfer. I was… I was trying to be.”

            Peter looks outside, scans the horizon.  The others are sitting on their boards, waiting in the almost glassy water.  He looks back, moves his feet, his board rotating until he’s close, facing me.  “We weren’t really friends, though; were we, Lawrence?” There’s a pause. He’s waiting and I’m… I’m not processing. What? Think. What? He waits until I close my mouth, and smiles.  “Lunchbox.  Your nickname. Lawrence ‘Lunchbox’, um, a second… Bachus.” He laughs. “Oh, I get it. Lunchbachus.”

            I’m not laughing.

Janet- Susan is looking inside the decanter.  It’s glass, brilliant blue- dark, on the purple side- her father’s favorite color.  “It’s depression glass,” I say.  “Your father’s favorite color.” I add, “Mine, too.”

            “Mom,” Susan says, then hands the decanter, but keeping a hold on the stopper, to her brother.  We’re at a traffic light.  He looks inside, shakes his head, gives out one of those “Sheesh” sounding things, hits the accelerator.

            “You know,” he says, “Decanters are for wine… usually.”

            “It was a joke between your father and me; the…”

            “So, this all was what he wanted. And you…” Sam’s slows his words, “…came back here… to…”

            “I couldn’t.  I told you, I couldn’t.”   I couldn’t.  “Not everything. Not all of it. Why do you even care?”

Lawrence- “You’re not the…first to see me,” Peter says, scanning the other surfers now jockeying for position near us. “Them. They’re…” He makes sure I’m looking at him, as if some expression of his might clear my confusion. “They’re, like, on a different… zone; a, um, different… time; yeah; time is different for them.”

“But,” I say, four or five surfers in my peripheral vision, “you said others have…”

“Yeah. Well; the others would stay awhile. They’ve… all gone…on, somewhere.         

“You’re a… ghost?”

Peter seems a little disappointed. He looks away. I’m thinking; trying to think.  “Boo!”

            I can barely respond.  Things are clicking. No, not yet.

“Maybe,” Peter says, “Maybe I am a ghost.  I can’t think about it too much.”

            “But you,” I say, “You were…Peter… I remember that you, you joined the Marines because you were older, going to get drafted.  What do you remember?”

            “Running,” He looks around, then back. “Running; not away from something.  Charging.  Screaming.  I was out of ammo but I kept pulling the trigger.  Running.  I told you, Lawrence, I… I can’t remember more.  Or won’t.  Those who do…”

            There’s a wave. Empty. I take it, get a short ride. I’m straining to remember how I got here as I paddle back out to where Peter is sitting, looking toward the cliff.

“Maybe this is, for me, heaven,” he says.  “I don’t know.  My mother… she knows where I am .I see her sometimes, on the cliff, on the stairs. She’s alive, if you…  She’ll only go so far down.  And I, I never go too far up.  The parking lot.  The edge, near the cliff. That’s it; nowhere I can’t see from the water.”

            “You say, ‘others,’ like you,” I say, more a question. “And other people have seen you?”         

“See that old guy over there on the yellow board?”       

“The guy with the scar?  Yeah.  Is he…like you?  Is he a…?”

            “Ghost? No.” Peter can’t seem to help laughing.  “But he is an asshole.   Brian Hanson.  He was a grade behind you.  Cheated on his wife.  Nancy. ‘Nice Nancy.’  He used to meet up with some chick here.  He…” 

            “Brian Hanson,” I say, loud enough to carry. Louder, “Brian Hanson.”

            Brian Hanson, of course, doesn’t respond.  Asshole that he is, he wouldn’t even if he did hear his name called out.

            “Lawrence,” Peter says, looking sideways at another approaching wave, Brian Hanson and two others stroking hard to catch it, “What do you remember?”

JANET-   Susan got into the front seat with her brother when I got out. I hurried to the guardrail at the edge of the bluff.  I’m just frozen here, looking out.  There never was the brilliant sunset that I’d promised them; just a line at the horizon, white almost, burnt orange, maybe, at the ends.  The water is silver, though, shimmering, moving.  A few surfers are still out, bobbing in the, um, shimmer.   

“Lawrence,” I say to the shimmer, “Sam says I have to… closure, he says, your request, he says; and, oh; and I…” I can’t help but laugh. “You’d laugh, Lawrence; your silly wife left your favorite decanter in Sam’s car.”    

I look around. My children are arguing. Sam, Sam won’t even turn off the engine.

“Your son,” I say to the thin line of clouds at the horizon.

Lawrence- I have too many questions.  Yeah, I remember some things.  I try to remember my own pain.  Can’t.  I look at my left hand, move my arm.  Peter swirls his hand in the water, lifts it, lets water drip out of it. 

“What about after dark?” I ask.  Where do you, I mean… what about dark?”

            “I can see fine.  Can’t you?”  I can.  He looks up at the cliff.  High tide has passed by now.  The swell is just strong enough to allow the waves to continue to break.  We’re lined up closer to the rocks, closer to the beach.  I can see the palm tree, but not the telephone pole; silhouettes against the unseen street lights in the parking lot. 

“You married Janet, Janet Gilmore… Janet from another planet.  Right?”

            “Um, yeah.  Janet.  Peter.  Coach Walters used to love to call your name.  ‘Holden, Peter.  Holden Peter.’  Remember?”  As he did then, Peter doesn’t respond.  At all.  Or maybe a slight head shake; disappointment.  I follow his eyes, where they’re looking; up.  There she is, leaning over the guard rail that didn’t used to be there. Ja JaJnet, Janet from another planet.  She’s looking right at us.  I turn back, look for a wave.  I need a wave.  Yes.  I take off, ride it until I hit the beach.  I drag my board up to the high sand.

            Peter takes off on the next wave, rides it straight in, leaves his board in the water.  He says something, words louder as I run toward the stairs.  “I have questions, Lawrence.  If you don’t…  Do you know what happened to…”  His voice is lost in the general noise; the grating and grinding and a wave breaking outside, a jet high overhead, a seagull, cars pulling out of the parking lot, people in their houses.  My feet on the stairs are silent, though.  I take two at a time.

Janet- “I did what you wanted, Lawrence.”  Again, I feel like laughing.  Not because I’m silly. I’m rarely silly.  I never did quite do what he wanted.  Not all of what he wanted.  Ever.  “I had to hold on to some… keep part of you… with me.  Lawrence?

Lawrence-I know.”  I’m so close to her, but I can’t… feel her hand.  She shudders, but not from the touch.  

She’s real.  She’s here. Beyond her, outside Sam’s car, Susan is saying something, trying to grab Sam.  He runs toward his mother, pouring something out of my favorite wine decanter into his hand.  Some of it leaks out, onto the pavement.  He throws the rest.  Straight at me.  Janet turns.  Too late.  The decanter hits her arm. I try to catch it; reflex. It drops, shatters.  Janet looks at the blue, broken glass, at Sam.  Susan, even with her brother now, is looking at me, her mouth open as if about to shriek.

Jeez; I’m about to shriek. 

Janet follows our son’s eyes, turns around. Sam is looking at me, saying, “What? What?”

Janet- The lighter ashes are…caught in the air, hanging, suspended, forming… W  What? I gasp, inhale; cough. I see Lawrence, only younger. Only, just for a briefest moment. “Lawrence,’ I say to the now-empty space. I hear a cracking sound.  In the water.  There’s this glow… a breaking wave, with a… a… someone is on it; has to be.  All I can see is the trail, the broken wave.  “It’s glowing.”  I say this to Sam and Susan, each staring at the other. “Lawrence,” I say this to the glow.

Lawrence- “Bioluminescence. It’s science,” I say. “I’m here.”  The red tide has come in.  The Santa Ana’s are moving the trees seaward, the clouds back.  My son scoops up the last of the broken glass, puts it in the cardboard serving tray from the place that replaced the A&W his mother and I used to go to.  The bottom of the decanter, like a rough-edged ashtray- that shouldn’t be funny- is intact.  Sam looks at his mother, his eyes filled with tears.  I wasn’t a good father.  I know that’s what he thinks- always gone, always working.  Like him, now.   He runs for the stairs and down. 

Time passes at just exactly the same speed as always.

            I touch Janet’s cheek, at that little bit of gray ash between her lips and nose. The tear continues down her face. I stand beside my wife and daughter.  Somewhere in this time I tell my wife how much I hope, hope I hadn’t… disappointed her. “All I ever wanted…” I start to say more, but… don’t.   I watch her, circle around her, wonder if she feels me there.

Sam returns, winded, with sand from my favorite beach in the bottom of the broken decanter.  He puts that into the cardboard tray with the broken glass and the tiniest bit of ashes his sister had regathered.  “Not ashes,” Sam says. “Just sand.”  Susan holds the tray, a memento, her other hand on her mother.  

More time passes; slower, maybe. The street lights hold back a darker dark. Stars, muted by the thickness of an empty coastal sky, start to shine like…like… usual.

They have to go. Susan lives elsewhere. We…Janet doesn’t live here anymore.

“The ocean was always the other woman,” Janet says to our children at Sam’s car, the engine still running. They get in.

They all look right at me, afraid to take one step farther from the railing, as Sam takes one last turn around a parking lot empty except for the one or two folks who always seem to be around here.

After they leave, after they’re gone, I look over the cliff, over the ledge, and, feeling how the coolness of the slight updraft meets the offshore breeze, I let go.