“Swamis” before Christmas

It has become an unwanted tradition that work is scarce in the short cold days on both sides of the winter solstice. If Christmas came in July… different story. “Swamis” the novel, has been almost done for far too long. In ‘The Time of Covid’ I completed two versions and an outline/treatment, all with the same issue: A lack of focus, what one person who tried his best to read the second unexpurgated version, he claims, called “A slice of life… too much so.” So… slices. He was, of course, correct. I blamed the narrator, Joseph Atsushi DeFreines. Focus, focus… uh, what?

I have been devoting as much time as I could to turning a manuscript into a novel.

I believe I am closer, but not… quite… there. Yet. And, kind of a surprise to me, the relationship between Joey (aka Jody) and Julia Truelove Cole (nickname Julie) has taken up a higher percentage of the manuscript. I credit Julie. It is the beginning stages of a complicated (I hesitate to say) love story.

The timeline has been shortened. I plan to end the story where it begins; Jumper Hayes, severely wounded in Vietnam, returning to the surf at Swamis- after the death of his best friend, Chulo and Swamis parking lot character, Gingerbread Fred. Sequel? Impossible to say. I need to complete this one. Bonus – Overwriting the shit out of my manuscript has given me so much other material, so many side stories. Over-thinking and over-explaining the characters has made them real enough in my mind that I can almost predict what each would do in a different situation. Other than Joey and Julie. No, none of the characters behave as planned.

Which is great. I started the latest re-write, slashing at the dialogue and action that didn’t move the plot, probably a third of the way into the manuscript. I devised new ways to insert details into the manuscript, a line rather than a page. It has helped. With a fairly clear vision of how to end the novel, with the newer chapters having a more consistent flow and style, I still have to go back and work on the beginning.

Without going off on how fiction eliminates too many of the side characters to focus on developing relationships between the main ones, edits out too many slice of life moments to focus on moving the narrative quickly enough, I admit to doing the same thing. Joey’s detective father, and Jumper, though still key players, move into the background. Action wise, the story still has three incidents in which characters die. No car chase, however, no violent revenge. Not yet.

With all the side stories I have to eliminate, one that I could never quite fit into the narrative timeline is one I include in a rewritten Introduction. The two versions are not all that much different, but I took the opportunity to include an actual surfing story. Q Oh, the joy of just making stuff up!

BUT WAIT! Before we get to that, here is this posting’s… WORD ON THE STRAIT with AARON LENNOX- “Salivating with a chance for froth!” Some explanation might be needed here. While the official position is that there are never any good waves on the Strait, and that the best we can hope for is “Almost,” as in almost good or even almost rideable, occasionally, in the midst of real and actual doldrums, there is some hope for an ‘almost’ session. This becomes a serious topic on various text threads between surfers. Secondary Word- “Some people are polythreaderous. They have multiple thread partners.” What?

Anyway, if you’re in a pre-froth state, just starting to salivate… good luck.

              

FORWARD

San Diego County Sheriff’s Office Detective Sergeant Joseph J. Defreines was asked to speak at a meeting of the Chambers of Commerce from several cities and other unincorporated towns in the North County. He was there to answer concerns about marijuana. In particular, he was asked to address how to control the growth of growing and selling the illegal crop. It was August of 1968. Tall, well built, blonde, my father was quite impressive in his full uniform. Daunting, even. “You ask me about arrests,” he said. “You tell me who to start with; you don’t say where to stop.” The room was, after my dad allowed the coughs and whispered comments to subside, quiet.

“The world works at an acceptable level of corruption,” he said. “As business… people, you understand this.” The chairman of the Oceanside Chamber stood up. “You’re not the first person to say this, Joe.” “Probably not,” my father said, lifting a heretofore full glass of red wine, “Then let me add…” He toasted the room in three slow moves, making eye contact with selected people in the room, then took one drink that emptied most of the glass. “It’s not a particularly low level.”

Joseph Jeremiah DeFreines- March 15, 1926- February 27, 1969.

I choose to start the story at exactly this time and place, Monday, June 7, 1969, because, though my father was dead; though I was responsible for his death; though I was facing the draft, college, or Vietnam; though everything in my life was uncertain, muddled, frightening; I was exactly where I had long wanted to be; Swamis Point with a four-foot swell.

            The stories we are told, the stories we tell, are taken and reshaped from some bigger story, one without some definite beginning or contrived and convenient ending, one that continues after the players move on. Or die.

All good surf stories start or end in the dark. Some barely awake surfer powered by anticipation, fumbling with wet towels and trunks, trying to beat others with the same incentive, to get a few seconds-long rides on liquid energy, possibly making a wave that shouldn’t have been made.

I have selected scenes, and cut scenes, and edited passages, manipulating if not controlling the narrative. This story will begin and end in the dark. As such, “Swamis” is a surf story.

            “Swamis” is a coming-of-age story as well. It has to be. I was almost eighteen, an inlander, dreaming of being a local in the North County beach towns, dreaming of some sort of relationship with my idea of the perfect surfer girl. Not one who sat on the beach, one who complimented her man’s ‘good rides, made excuses for awkward rides, my vision of a perfect surfer girl was of one who surfed. I had one in mind.

This is, then, a love story. The best love stories end sometime after a shared sunset, perhaps, in the dark. This story will, also. Not that that story, with romantic visions hit hard by real life, was over.

            Mystery? My father constantly added to his collection of easily dropped aphorism, little witty sayings. “There are no mysteries,” he would say, pausing in this one, as he did with most, before finishing with, “Someone knows.” Another pause. “You just have to ask the right person.” Pause. “Or persons.”

That Joseph DeFreines had an assortment of phrases at his disposal is not a mystery, really. My grandfather was a preacher. A preacher needs a certain ready-to-go phrases. Here is an example, passed down from my grandfather: “I search for a glimpse of the reflected glory of our Lord and Savior in the countenances of my brothers and sisters.” I never met the man. He didn’t go to my father’s funeral. I didn’t go to his.

There are mysteries in my novel. Some are solved. Only a few are resolved. Though I am trying to write the story fifty-plus years on, I have always taken note of details, almost forcing myself to know and to file away moments, images, dialog, back stories of people only tangentially connected to a straighter storyline; these are important to me. I have deleted and edited and manipulated so many side stories and characters to present a reasonable version of a flawed-character-as-detective novel. Please make note of and accept my apology for straying from a simpler narrative.

I have the stories retrievable from my memory, and I have notes. Years and years of notes.

I am setting a deadline: Completion, with something worthy of getting copies made, before Christmas. Before. It might make a great gift. Let’s see- Original manuscript, with illustrations, locally printed, packaged in a customized PeeChee folder (a reference to habits of the fictional author); Oh, and limited edition, maximum of one hundred copies, hand signed by the author/illustrator… WHOA! I better get to work.

NOTES: Information on the recent drowning is still going back and forth on the various social threads. When I have more info, I will let you know. ALSO, all the rights for everything in this and all postings on realsurfers.net is copyright protected. Rights belong to Erwin A. Dence, Jr. ALL QUOTES by Aaron Lennox, including “Word on the Strait,” belong to him.

The Danger of Talking Story

                  I should say, first, that no one under the legal drinking age wants to hear a surf story from anyone old enough to collect social security. No, they’re just being polite. A surfer in his or her forties, different story on the stories. Two old farts; they’re just going to keep rambling on.

Let us say you are on Dawn Patrol, hanging in the parking lot or trailhead or pullout, lining up your board and leash and wax, slamming down the dregs of coffee that was too hot a moment ago, dressing out in whatever surf garb is appropriate for your surf location. Someone else is nearby, doing the same thing, his or her version of pre-surf ritual, and he or she just can’t help sharing his or her resume. “I surfed here” or, “This one time, I hiked into Trestles and…”

            You, of course, are tempted if not expected to reciprocate. To compete, perhaps. First liar scenario. “Yeah, I surfed there, also,” or, “Ten months I worked there, just up the hill from Lower Trestles, surfed there just about every day… drove out on the beach. An hour and a half on a half hour lunch break. And, sometimes, after work, I’d go to…”

            And then you go out in the water. There are expectations you may or may not live up to in real life, in current time. So, dangerous, if not, like, foolish. No, you didn’t mention your ten months at Trestles was 1975, forty-seven years ago. Next time, perhaps, depending on your performance, you might.

            Most of us, I can’t help believing, are heroes in our own narrative. Even if we dip into a little self-deprecation, we probably hope we come across as, if not a flawed protagonist, at least a character or person someone can sympathize with. If we’re talking story with another surfer with similar stories of beat downs and barrels… empathize.

            Great.   

            But wait; maybe I’m misusing the sympathy/empathy thing. Or expanding it. I don’t want to research this, but do we only sympathize with bad things? Shit. Google. Shit; guess I am wrong, we… no, there are different interpretations: sympathy and pity, empathy and understanding without sharing the actual experience. No, that can’t be right.

            WOW! I am dangerously close to getting into the sociopath/narcissist thing. I have worked for an amazingly disproportionate number of people (because everyone in my area seems to need a therapist/life coach/psychiatric specialist, or a yoga instructor/hair dresser/bartender, or, for those of us who can’t afford any of those folks, a friend) whose job it is to determine just how fucked up the client is, then make sure the client never quite gets cured (assuming, cynically, that any of us can be cured of being who we are/have become). Each one of these professionals, when pressed on the question, face to face, has told me I am completely normal.

            OR maybe that’s just the story he or she believes I want to hear. Not true, actually; one professional-but-retired marriage counselor (at least once divorced) told Stephen R. Davis and I that we might not be sociopaths, but we are both, definitely, narcissists. I thought he meant Steve more than me, but “Hey man, can’t we be both?” “Um, sure; I guess so.”

            YES, I have told this story before, maybe here before. Redundancies tighten a tale, the obvious embellishments dropping away. Or not.

            STORIES. I heard from two sources about a ‘barrel of a lifetime’ a mutual friend got. I would tell it to you, but then it would be third hand. I called up the barrel rider, got it first hand. In the course of our conversation, which, incidentally, was consistent with the two other versions, the barrel rider told me a very funny story. It wasn’t surf related, but it was a surfer’s anecdote.

            And funny.

While talking to another surfer this morning, and I was so tempted to tell the story. I might have if he didn’t give me the “I’ll let you go” thing. Usually, out here in the wilderness-adjacent (I stole the ‘adjacent’ thing, now it’s part of my patter), cell calls frequently get dropped. Oddly, it seems as if it’s more frequently after the other party has completed his or her anecdote and I’m about to… I should mention that all my friends are adept at competitive talking and none are afraid to tell me it’s their turn. Etiquette, it’s important everywhere.

            THE MESSAGE- Don’t tell other people’s stories as your own.

Here are two gentlemen talking story:

            It is “SWAMIS,” my manuscript and where I am in it that got me thinking about stories and fiction and fictional characters. Each of the main characters is damaged, psychologically if not physically. Or both. None are created. I’m not quite delusional enough to believe they are. Each is a composite, some mixture of real people I have met in my real life. As I write and rewrite and edit, I get to know each one better. I can plug any of them into a fabricated setting and know, almost, how they will react. If empathy is not sharing the same experiences but understanding how someone in that situation feels, I want the reader to be empathetic. If sympathy can be expanded to include feeling joy for someone feeling joy, I want the reader to be sympathetic.

            Did I tell you how I got pounded and held down at the Groins? I felt sorry for myself. Someone on the rocks, a witness, said, “We all have to get thrashed occasionally.” We do. I recovered. Just another story, increasingly removed by time, replaced with other thrashings, other recoveries.  But shit, guy could’ve been a little nicer about it.

            STORIES. Try telling some surf experience over the phone to some non-surfer. It is only a matter of time when the reaction to even the frothiest, most barrel-filled tale is, “I have to let you go.”

            I could say more but, um, I have to let you go.

Stressors and Content and Cancer and YouTube and Investments and Unlimited Talk and Data and Being Mercurial and/or…

I would love to blame stress for my latest episodes of embarrassingly stupid mistakes, and for a more than usual number of meltdowns and indefensible asshole-ness.

So, of course, I want to write about all of this. But first, Fat Boy kneeboard update: It was watching some YouTube videos of kneeboarders ripping on boards longer than the average from, you know, the past. Not re-explaining my board choice here, but I must mention that I would like to not have to wear swim fins. Anyway, these rippers are on, like, six foot instead of four-and-a-half foot boards. I want to rip. I want to turn off the top, do an actual cutback at, like, speed. Tough to do, though I try, on a big ass board. But, on an eight-ten fish… yeah! Or, yeah, hopefully.

Believing I have the knowledge if not the expertise, this based on having shaped and painted and glassed five or six boards back in the late 1960s, of having painted a blank someone else shaped and then glassed in the 70s, and doing one side of a board, like, ten years ago or so (before giving up, stacking it in the garage), of having watched at least five videos on glassing, I felt… I’ll be honest, worried sick about what would happen once I started pouring resin on my hand-shaped board.

I went to Admiral Ship Supply in Port Townsend and bought some (I would say invested in some if I were only a bit more confident of the results) supplies to complete the glassing portion of the project. Yes, I do realize I am a total kook every time I go into the place that caters to the alternate universe of the boatyard. Boat-yarders. Real boat-yarders. Yes, I did actually work on submarines and aircraft carriers, but this, this is different.

The knowledgeable staff at Admiral were helpful in my constant awareness that I was out of my depth. Kook. Ask a couple of stupid questions, and… “Um, uh, do you think epoxy resin will melt the paint?” “Definitely maybe. Did you do a test sample?” “Huh?”

Buoyed by another YouTube video in which an artist pours epoxy resin on acrylic paintings, I made the investment. Yes, investment, because rough or perfect (no way on that), I do plan on riding this board, Plan to ride, dream about ripping.

Of course I would use paint cans as a platform. And it’s not as messy as it looks. Following the instructions from numerous YouTube videos, I trimmed down the glass. Since I tried to do two layers of 6 ounce cloth at one time, I had to use more of the resin than I had anticipated, like, the whole quart, and, even at that, I didn’t have enough to do the rail wrap I had planned to do. Hence, the can on the ground. Good news, I didn’t have to guess how much hardener/catalyst to add. Like, the whole thing. More good news, the resin didn’t melt the acrylic paint on the board. Next step? Well, get more resin.

OKAY, so stress. Virginia Mason Medical Center’s computers were hacked early last week. Maybe you heard about it on the Seattle news. If so, you know as much as our daughter Dru knows, and she was supposed to start radiation this week. So, no. So, Dru is in the dark, depressed, ready to get beyond the treatment. Dru’s surgeon compared the radiation treatment to vacuuming up the little remnants of the cancer (and, as always, fuck a bunch of cancer). Meanwhile, Trish is hanging out at our daughter’s house, I go over once a week (even though it continues to be rare and unseasonal painting weather), and… did I mention stress?

It has not escaped my attention that I go on a bit. It isn’t as if I don’t have what YouTubers call ‘content.’ Plenty. SO, I won’t talk about how my super secret stealth cell phone device suddenly stopped working while I was talking and shopping at Costco last, or how frustrated I was to call the folks (no actual folks, many prompts), repeatedly, trying to figure out why in hell it wasn’t working when the money comes out automatically, AND, then I spent a couple of hours on the phone this morning before I gave up. From frustrated to surly. “Could you repeat that?” “No, I don’t know how to do a text without hanging up.” “Sim card?” Eventually, either they hung up on me or I pressed 6 instead of 7.

MEANWHILE, Trish bought one of those kind of phones old people are supposed to have. Big numbers. One button to push when you can’t get up. “Just like the one George has,” she said, “should be there (note ‘there’ rather than ‘here’) Tuesday. Okay?” OKAY, so I called to cancel the super secret stealth phone, ONLY TO DISCOVER… I don’t have unlimited minutes.

I have one thousand, and SOMEHOW, three days short of the refill date, I used them up.

FUTURE CONTENT will include updates on Stephen R. Davis’s battle with cancer (fuck cancer), the latest and quite-likely last piece I wrote for the Quilcene Community Center newsletter (I’m not quitting, the director is), some outtakes from “Swamis,” some reports on local spots not being blown up by me, and the very real possibility that rather than having something like an artistic temperament, or even behaving in what could be called a mercurial manner (doesn’t sound too horrible), Trish says, with evidence to back it up, I might be… it’ll wait, but I would like to say eccentric and gifted is one thing, being rude and not too bright is another.

I am trying to quit writing, but I was suddenly amused in thinking it is a political season; rude and not too bright doesn’t mean unelectable.

In Progress, Everything’s in progress

Stephen R. Davis Fantasy Point

People Steve has shown this painting to always seem to ask, “Where is it?” The answer varies. I suggested “Canada. It was reversed so the Canadians don’t get upset and perhaps, go into impolite territory.” “You mean,” one art fan asked, “like Westport?” “No, more like Seaside.” “Oh.”

So, don’t ask. This is one of my favorite of Steve’s paintings. Steve had already promised the original to someone. He is… UPDATE… over in the ‘Cshitty’ (pronounced, yeah, shitty), getting two big ass doses of Chemo designed to kill the remaining cancer cells in his body. While pumping chemicals into Steve, the good folks at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance are pumping blood out of him, harvesting cells, growing a batch of stem cells that will… I can’t follow it all. There’s a bone marrow transplant in the plan, somewhere. Meanwhile, his immune system is totally vulnerable.

Stephen R. Davis is out of commission for at least six months. People accustomed to working know just frightening this prospect is. BUT WE HAVE A PLAN. Copies. Limited edition prints.

BUT, NOT YET.

SOON. There is a process. The Fantasy Point painting was taken off its frame and, using a copier designed for blueprints, the color image can be transferred to a thumb drive, and… yay!… copies.

Steve has several other paintings begging to be reproduced.
My fat-boy fish, under construction. Note the fresh red paint.

Speaking of things in progress… I am trying to turn the remains of an eleven-foot SUP into a 7’10” Fat-Boy Kneeboard. It is in the painting part of the process. My motto back in my sign painting days was “It’s not done until it’s overdone.” I have yet to determine if I can use epoxy resin on it without melting the whole thing down, but I have been checking out some YouTube videos on how to do the glassing. Oh, it’s not that I haven’t done some board making, it’s just that it was a long, long time ago, in a land far to the south. SO, as with future swells and elections and just about everything else, we’ll see.

I am worried about several things with this board; not whether it’ll rip; pretty sure it will.

My manuscript, “Swamis,” is actually coming along pretty well. As with everything else ongoing… I have plans. I’ll let you know.

As always, thanks for checking out realsurfers.

Youth, Lost and/or Found

I am writing this on my tablet. Dru loaned me a computer so Trish can keep the one we share while she is spending time at Dru’s house. The borrowed laptop is a Mac rather than Mic (read Mike). Mostly the mac is for continuing “Swamis.” I haven’t yet connected it to the internet. So, hunting and pecking on my tablet. Mic and Mac and now, Tab.

IS writing a novel set in my youth a way to relive what has been lost in the fifty-plus years since? Yes. And no.

NO, much of the time covered was great. Far from all. It’s over. That wave is gone. I’m having new setbacks and adventures, dramas and traumas and the occasional great ride.

YES, I get to remember the obvious people and events. In remembering, things I have not put in the easily accessed files are brought back. This is… enjoyable, even as I realize an ever higher percentage of what I write will be cut (but probably saved, elsewhere).

AND, I get to shape characters from the amazing real people I have come into contact with. Even those characters originally based on friends have become… different. This is, again, part of the fun. Each character becomes more complex, the added fictions making him or her more… realistic. Hopefully this is also true for the reader.

THE STORY I believed I knew has demanded to be something else. More and, somehow, less. I am tightening the timeline. YET, when I finish whatever counts as a writing session, I cannot help but consider where and how it could be different, hopefully better.

We can’t change the past. We can’t go back and edit out the awkward falls and crappy conditions, can’t add a few more awesome rides to past surf sessions.

Next time, man…

Ironically Flipping the Peace Sign

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

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

SO FUCK-ING COOL… MAN

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

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

“Still fuck-ing’ surfing, Jody?”

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

“Of course.”

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

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

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

Emphasis on the ‘ing.’

“Larry?”

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

“Oh. Larry Walker? Yeah.”  

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

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

Straight shot. No broken teeth. Mouth guard.   

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

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

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

“Class of, uh, a second…”

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

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

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

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

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

“Pack of matches, too; please.”

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

I didn’t think. “Yeah, I am.”

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

Gordy laughed. The girl laughed a moment later.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Payday, the Falcon, and Usury

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Okay, here’s the outtake:

                                SIDESLIPPING- OUTTAKES FROM “SWAMIS”

I loved the Falcon. My first car.

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

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

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

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

“Sorry, Gunny.”

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

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

                “Usury, it’s called, Tony.”

                “Yeah. Jesus doesn’t like it.”

                “But you do.”

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

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

“We do.”

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

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

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

Good luck and good surfing.

Cutting Margo Godfrey and Cheer Critchlow from “Swamis”

Margo Godfrey, Santa Cruz, Oct 1969

In my attempt to cut and whittle and refine my manuscript, “Swamis,” into something, one, readable, and two, sellable (could have said marketable), I am eliminating this portion. Changes: Virginia (Ginny) Cole is now Julia (Julia), Erwin as a character (put in because some readers might believe Joey (aka Jody) is me, is gone. Out. I should (will) add that Trish did go to junior high in Oceanside with Barbi Barron and was a temporary member of Barbi’s unofficial Oceanside girls’ surf club before Trisha’s dad got transferred to the East Coast. I did see Barbi frequently at the Oceanside jetties and the pier when I was working at Buddy’s Sign Shop in (let’s call it) O’side. I did have a night class, public speaking, with Cheer Critchlow, Palomar Junior (now Community) College. He did, and I reminded him of this, at a high school contest at Moonlight Beach in 1968, in which he was a judge, eliminate real people Scott Sutton and Jeff Officer and me in our first (and only) heats. I never met Margo, did hear and read about her.

With those notes, the story is sort of (kind of) true (if fiction is sliced from real life).

CHAPTER 14- WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 1969

For reference, this was a week and a day before my father’s death, four weeks before Chulo’s.  

Ginny Cole was, to my seventeen-year-old self, perfect.  There is no way my memory, in the fifty-plus years since, could have further enhanced that image, that belief.  Perfect. 

Some of the girls I had gone all through school with were great, and I could easily supply a list of those I’d had crushes on, but, yes, I’d gone all through school with most of them. There were, always, new girls; daughters of Marines stationed at Camp Pendleton, temporary duty, three years and gone.  They came from or went to Twenty-nine Palms, Camp LeJeune, Barstow; occasionally one would come from Hawaii, Philadelphia, even overseas.

Fallbrook is on the east side of the triangle that is Camp Pendleton- Fallbrook, Oceanside, San Clemente. From kindergarten on there were sons and daughters of Civil Service workers, pharmacists and ranchers and irrigation contractors and teachers and real estate agents and builders. There were those whose fathers lived, during the week, in apartments in the vast smoggy sinfulness of Los Angeles.

If we were isolated, purposefully, there were always newcomers with stories of different places. Exotic, mysterious, sophisticated, up to date.

Ginny Cole was, in my mind, miles away from dusty Fallbrook. Mysterious, exotic, distant; and she surfed. Ginny would know what it means that someone surfed, and she would know the allure, more fiction, even fantasy, than reality, of surfing itself.  There’s what surfing is, and what surfing suggests, what being a surfer says about a person- the aura around the reality.  Perfect.

Ginny Cole was like the best photos from surfing magazines, like memories of my best rides. I could bring her image into my mind at will, or without willing it; images from the few times I’d been on the beach or in a parking area or in the water with her. Not with her; around her, near her. It wasn’t like she knew me; another teenage surfer, awkward out of the water, not yet skilled enough to be noticed in the water; but working on it; hoping to be a surfer who, when I took off on a wave, people would watch.  

Teenager fantasy, of course, in the same way, playing pickup football, my friends would self-narrate: “Roger Staubach drops back… and the crowd goes wild!”  There were always witnesses in my mind when I would skateboard; carving bottom turns and cutbacks, pulling up and into the curl, crouching, hands out, locked in, eighteen miles, straight, from the nearest saltwater.

Competing.  Improving.

It was more than that Ginny was a girl in the lineup. She could surf, ride a wave with graceful, dancer-like moves, always close to the power. She would always be noticed.

I cannot honestly swear that it wasn’t that I wanted a surfer girl girlfriend the way a girl might want a football quarterback, a lead guitarist in a garage band; the way a guy might want a cheerleader or that girl who’s always just so nice. And so pretty.

Ginny wasn’t phony nice or made up pretty. She was just-out-of-the-water pretty; she was real; she was perfect. I saw it. I assumed everyone did. 

If I did see Ginny as perfect, I did think winning her over would be difficult, challenging. There would be other suitors. I knew I was ridiculous, naïve; definitely, but I was competitive. I didn’t know her, couldn’t see more than my romanticized image of her. I did hope that if she shared that obsession with and addiction to surfing, she might understand me.

Still, also, and always, I knew I was ridiculous.

 …

Virginia Cole wasn’t the only girl surfer in the North County; there were a few others: Barbie Barron, Margo Godfrey. I frequently saw Barbie in the water and in the parking lot at Oceanside’s shorter jetty, or over by the pier.  Southside.

I once saw Margo with Cheer Critchlow at Swamis on a still-winter afternoon; uncrowded, big and blownout. Pretty scary. Yet they were just casually walking out, chatting, wading out on the fingers of rock, pushing through to the outside peak. Scott and Jeff and Erwin and I, our portable crowd; four inland cowboys, shoulder-hopped, choosing only the smaller waves on the inside, watching any time either Cheer or Margo would take off.

Coolness, casualness, some sort of self-confidence, some sense of comfort in one’s own skin.  Things I lacked, things I appreciated, qualities I believed Virginia Cole had. Yes, I do realize how this makes me sound; exactly like a seventeen-year-old on the cusp, the very cusp of… everything.

MORE NOTES: I am also tightening the timeline for the story. I have to. One thing all the over-writing has given me, besides so many back-stories for characters I have to eliminate or cut back on, is the knowledge that there is at least one main and worthwhile story in “Swamis.” I will keep cutting back and hacking and going down the line until… yeah, until.

ALSO: I have changed some other names, partially because I have written words the real people didn’t say, put them in situations that are totally and completely fictional. My best surfing friends Ray and Phillip- sorry, you’re now Gary and Roger (names from childhood neighbors), Wally Blodgett, who drove kids around for dawn patrol, is now Petey (kept the Blodgett part). Sid (whose name I borrowed from a real surfer who was in a Surfboards Hawaii ad in mid-sixties, can’t remember his last name) is, so far, still Sid. I will let you know who else changed as the manuscript changes.

ALSO: Pretty shitty spring for waves on the Strait AND pretty shitty weather for painting houses. YES, it would seem that would give me more time for writing and drawing. So, maybe it’s not THAT shitty.

Good luck to all the real people and real surfers. Remember, this stuff is copywrite protected.

Is Seaweed Actually Magical? And…

…and another “SWAMIS” cutback. FIRST, here on the Olympic Peninsula, buoys, designed to help ships not sink or crash, somewhat helpful for surfers trying to determine if some portion of some swell might find its way into the Strait, have been ripped from their anchors, set adrift, lost, found, or, we don’t really know, put out of service. Putin? One theory. None of the downed or drowned bouys have been put back into service.

SO, surfers in, say, Seattle, have been relying on surf forecast sites before making a decision as to whether to invest the increasing amount of gas money, wait in line at ferries, face traffic slowdowns if ‘driving around.’ NOW, it must be mentioned that there are always waves of some sort or shape or size on the actual PACIFIC COAST. Almost always. AND the most characteristic condition on the Strait is flat. Flat with east wind, flat with north wind, flat with south wind, flat and somehow blown out with west wind.

STILL, surfers get desperate. So, trying my best to glean something positive from whatever sources I could, I went up Surf Route 101, looking. I wasn’t alone. More to not get skunked than to satisfy my surf lust, I ventured into calf-high curlers, my fin popping across rocks. PERHAPS BECAUSE I had paddled out, three more adventurers joined me. PERHAPS BECAUSE they had believed some forecast site, I passed many surf rigs on my way back down Surf Route 101. NOT ONLY THAT, but a friend of mine texted me, asking if I had scored bombs. AFTER ALL, Magic Seaweed was saying…

NOW, maybe it got awesome. Somewhere, for some brief period. MAYBE. YES, I did look at various forecasts. Not looking good for the Strait. Depressing. I must now upgrade my most recent session to “Pretty good. Didn’t break a fin.” Again, there are always waves on the actual ocean.

The rocks at Swamis, someone dropping in on someone. Taken from some hotel brochure.

MEANWHILE, I am trying to find some time to continue cutting my manuscript for “Swamis” down to a reasonable and, hopefully, saleable length. Tightening it up. I am up to the days after Chulo is beaten and set alight next to the wall of the SRF compound. This is a (copyrighted) version from the second completed draft. I might mention that, if you have any experience surfing on the west coast, you know (a snippet of a quote from Miki Dora about Malibu) “The south wind blows no good.”

CHAPTER 14- SATURDAY, MARCH 22, 1969

Three full days after Chulo’s murder, the burn-scarred section of the wall was back to white, visibly white even in the minimal pre-dawn light. I wasn’t sure if I had actually slept. I got out of bed at four, got to Swamis early enough to park the Falcon in the choicest location; front row, ten spots from the stairs; the optimal view of the lineup.

The Falcon was the same car in which my dad had taught my mom to drive, the station wagon, three-speed manual transmission. This was the car she used to drive her two boys to swimming lessons, and church, and to my appointments with a string of different doctors; and to the beach; surf mats and Styrofoam surfies and whining Freddy, maybe an annoying friend of his. The factory installed (optional upgrade) roof racks were now pretty much rusted in place.

The difference was the Falcon was now my car. A surfer’s surf wagon. Hawaiian print curtains hung on wires, a “Surfer Magazine” decal on the back driver’s side window, a persistent smell of mildew. Beach smell. With my boards now shorter, I usually kept them inside, non-hodad-like, but, for several of the reasons a hodad would do it, I kept the nine-six pintail on the roof for a while longer. “Just in case the waves are really small,” might have been one excuse.   

A predicted swell, this gleaned from other surfers and pressure charts in the Marine Weather section of the newspaper, hadn’t materialized, and a south wind was blowing. Cars with surfboards were passing each other up and down 101. Surfers were hanging out in parking lots and on bluffs and beaches, talking surf, watching the few surfers out at any spot bobbing in the side chop. Maybe it would clean up, maybe it would actually get bigger. And better.

I would wait. Waiting is as important a part of surfing as trying to be the first one out or paddling out before the best conditions hit.  Just before. My shift at my weekend-only, for-now, job didn’t start until ten-thirty; about the time the onshores typically get going. Different with a south wind. Sometimes it would clean up as some weak front moved inland or simply fizzled. Sometimes.

If I went out at nine, I could get a good forty-five minutes of surfing; maybe ten waves or more. I had my notebook, college-ruled; I had the four and eight track tape player under the passenger’s side of the seat; a collection of bargain tapes purchased at the Fallbrook Buy and Save; and I could do what I always did, study. My father’s billy clubs sized flashlight, four new d batteries, provided the lighting.

Read, recite, memorize, reread. That was my system. Less important details fall off with each attempt to memorize. The facts and details best remembered, by my logic, would most likely be the ones on the tests. Any quirky anecdotes, something that amused me; yes, I remembered those, too.  I had another system for multiple choice tests and standardized tests. Two of the four choices were obviously incorrect, fifty-fifty chance on the others. Best guest. The system worked surprisingly well, well enough that California’s supposed Ivy League university accepted me.

My father hadn’t understood why I couldn’t go there.

I was a faker, kid with a system; it never would have worked; not in that bigger pond, every student top of some class somewhere. 

No studying on this morning. I had to sneak over to the crime scene, the wall that surrounds the Self-Realization Fellowship compound. There was (and is) a wrought-iron gate in the higher, arched (former) entrance, around the corner, facing 101. As with the other breakpoints in the wall, that section is topped with the huge gold sculptures, each one representing a blooming flower. Lotus blossom. They could as easily represent a flame, not dissimilar to the one on the statue of liberty, not dissimilar to the burn marks on the wall my friends had described.  

The SRF compound is a place where people, on their own, go seeking enlightenment, a realization of the true self.  Seekers, seeking.

At about seven-fifteen I did walk over. Had to. I expected more. I expected some instant and obvious explanation.  There was a man by the wall, wheel-barrowing soil from a pile near the highway to the wall, raking it in. I had seen him before. Dark skinned. East Indian, I presumed. He was dressed in a long-sleeved shirt, white, with faded blue workman’s pants, rubber boots, and heavy leather gloves. Most of his face (and I knew he had a beard) was covered in what appeared to be an overlarge (plain cloth) bandana, a standard bandana (red) around his nose and mouth, and a tropical straw hat (quite different from the cowboy style Mexican farmers and landscape workers preferred). He dropped the new soil around newly planted but full-sized plants.

There was no evidence that something horrific had occurred. The new paint blended perfectly.  The plants looked… it all looked exactly the same as it always had; as it did even in the late 1950s, before I surfed, when my father took us there just so my mother could see the gardens.

If I blinked, I thought, it might be like taking a picture. I might remember details. I might remember better. Image. Catalog. File.

Blink.

“Swamis,” Portia Backstory

My novel, “Swamis,” would be complete and possibly readable by now if I wasn’t so (I have to say) involved in the backstory for each of the main characters (and, I guess, if there weren’t so damn many of them). I wouldn’t have been so involved in the details if it wasn’t so important to me to know and show how distinctive each character is. And realistic, authentic.

It hasn’t aided my task that character development and the crashing of characters against each other is so much fun for me. Writer fun, not like reader fun.

A reader wants FOCUS. I am trying. My third page one rewrite has narrowed the timeline, tightened the storyline, dropped out a few characters.

Here is an exchange that won’t be in the novel. I have already eliminated this scene at the San Diego Sheriff’s Office Vista Substation:

We’d been in the office too long. We were all a bit more… relaxed.

Dickson closed the door with a kick of the knee when he reentered the office with two more cups of coffee. He handed one to Jumper, said he put a little coffee in with the sugar. Wendall took the other cup, said Frederick Thompson had not been drunk or under the influence of drugs as far as the medical examiners could tell. “Just crazy.”

“Helicopter pilot,” Jumper said, as if this explained something.  It seemed to. Maybe not enough. “He flew evac in Korea, got out, surfed, went back in for Vietnam. Gunships. Different thing. Fucked him up.” Jumper paused. “So, yeah; crazy.” 

Wendall lit up another cigarette.  “And… all of this… craziness, Langdon is claiming, and he has the ear of the politicians, is because of the Sheriff’s Office laissez-faire” (he pronounced it la-zy-fair) “policy toward pot growers and dealers in our county.”

“Miss Ransom and the ‘Free Press’ assholes got that part right,” Dickson said. “La-zy-fair for sure.”

Wendall leaned over the desk as far as he could. “It wasn’t your father, Jody; Gunny thought he had it under control. It’s just… grown… too fast, too many new, um, participants. We knew about Chulo; that he was collecting money from the hippie dealers. Chulo and…?”

Jumper and I both said “Portia” at the same time.

Oceanside 1974. The proximity to Camp Pendleton
and a steady stream of vulnerable Marines had made the downtown a pretty tough place in the Vietnam era. I worked at Buddy’s Sign Service in this area June, 1969 to September, 1971. Yeah, too much exposition.

“Oh yeah,” Wendall said, “Portia. She’s actually Patricia Sue Langley. Patty Langley, runaway from, um, Many Wives, Utah; busted for petty theft…ha ha… back in ’65.  No, um, end of ’64.  She was a minor, so… So… and… oh, then she got… sexual. Oceanside. Marines, mostly; easy pickin’s.”

Dickson interjected. “Not our, as you know, jurisdiction.”

“Oh, but then Patty got herself down to Leucadia…” Wendall said, “across 101 and down from where you live now, Jody; one of those motels.”

Dickson pointed toward Jumper. “Second one past your place.”

“When I was a kid,” Jumper said, “Chulo and I’d go around, pick up coke bottles at the Log Cabin Inn, other motels; turn them in for the, the deposit. Good money for a kid.”

I felt compelled to join in. I spoke quickly to make up for the obvious lack of interest by the others. “A neighbor kid, Roger; he and I went to this ball game down by Live Oak Park. Fallbrook. Roger’s brother was playing. We picked up bottles; took them to the guy at the little… the stand. The guy said they were his bottles, wouldn’t give us the deposit money.”

“You tell him who your dad was?”

“No.” I looked at Wendall, Dickson, Jumper. They were waiting. “Roger did.”

Wendall cleared his throat. Loudly. “So. Jody’s dad… Gunny… Joe; he always liked to point out how most all the motels were on the south-bound side; like that showed nobody’s coming up from San Diego looking for a place; it’s all from the north.  L.A.”

“Anyway,” Dickson said, “guess she… Patty, um, slash Portia, got tired of… servicing… Jarheads; fresh-outa-boot-camp Ji-rines; they’d probably want to go two or three times.” He did a subtle hip thrust motion, adding, “First time ought to be free. Ha! Probably wouldn’t even make it out of his skivvies.”

Wendall took over. “It was my call. Disturbance. The proprietor actually called it in; but Gunny and…” Wendall pointed over his shoulder. “Gunny and Big Imagination here show up. I’m standing outside a room with some fat business type from Covina… West Covina. So… fat. He claimed he hadn’t gotten his money’s worth.”

It was a brief pause, but Dickson took the story. “So, Joe goes, ‘money’s worth of what?’ The guy… hey; it’s your story, Wendall. Did you take a bribe on that one?”

“Well.” Wendall looked around to make sure everyone was watching. “Sort of. Gunny, he goes up to the guy, looks down at his…you know, package. The guy was in… he’d put on his business jacket. Seersucker; some sort of sales guy green. Sears or Pennys; one of those. No shirt, and, you know, tidy whities; size, um, enormous. For his butt. No big bulge; not that I would notice. Black socks, the kind you hold up with garters. Garters. This Chipper, Mortenson, shows up and the… West Covina guy is acting like we’re supposed to be… like we’re on his side. Mortenson, you remember him, huh; tough bastard, loved to pull over kids.”

“And beaners,” Dickson said, looking directly at Jumper before giving Wendall a sweeping ‘take-it-away’ gesture.

Wendall was leaning forward, both elbows on my dad’s old desk. “So, Gunny, he’s got Mr. West Covina’s wallet in his hand and, I guess, repeats, ‘Money’s worth of what, Mr. um, Redwick?’ Red… wick.” 

We all may have chuckled. Wendall continued. 

“So, Patty’s standing there, wrapped up in a blanket. Not because it’s cold… and the motel owner, older woman who thought she’d be renting places for artists; like, you know, like Leucadia’s Newport Beach or something; she’s got an arm around Patty, and Patty’s got a bottle of orange soda up against one eye, and Gunny’s just waiting for Humpty Redwick to answer. And I say, ‘Maybe he was getting some, um, advice on, um, clothing choices.’ Morty… Mortenson, this cracks him up. But Gunny’s all business; serious. I mean, Morty’s seen some shit. He’s a vet, too. Korea, at least. Army. Chosin Reservoir. Bad shit. And he’d been cruising up and down 101, ‘Slaughter Alley’ for years. He was still, those days, still on a motorcycle. So, yeah; blood… tough guy, and he’s just… laughing.”

Wendall put a cigarette in his mouth, pulled out his Sheriff’s Office Zippo from his shirt pocket, snapped the lighter open with a jerk of the wrist, hit the wheel with a snap of the finger. More theatrics. “So, now Morty sees your dad’s serious. I mean, Morty was big, but Gunny was looking… you know how he could… that look; fierce, fierce-like; and Gunny he… he opens up Redwick’s wallet, then holds every photo of the guy’s wife and kids up to his face; whole, you know, string of them; and then shows them to me. And the owner. And Patty. Gunny takes out all the cash. He asks the proprietor if the motel fee has been paid. She says, ‘Diner’s Club,’ and Gunny holds a twenty and a couple of singles up in Redwick’s face, puts that cash back in the wallet, sticks the rest out toward Patty, sticks the wallet back into Humpty’s inside coat pocket. 

“Gunny’s still holding, probably, two hundred bucks. She, Patty, she shakes her head. And I say, ‘Oh, the advice,’ and she, no one would take her for dumb; Patty says, ‘Maybe Mr. Redwick should switch to some, um, boxers… maybe some, uh, dark color; that might be a choice.’ She takes the money. Now Gunny’s smiling. We’re, all of us, laughing. Not Redwick. He does look a little relieved, maybe.”

Wendall stopped, inhaled, blew the smoke out kind of forcefully. We all watched the cloud get sucked into the fan, some of it actually going out the window.

“Wait. Wait. So, Morty gets a call; three car pile-up by the Carlsbad Slough. He gets on his bike, starts it up, peels out. Lights and sirens.”

Jumper filled in with, “Not your jurisdiction.”

“Right. Then, two doors down, this other guy tries slipping out of a room. Gunny’s watching Patty. She must of looked over. The motel owner, she seems, um, concerned. Gunny gives me a look. The other guy, he tries to duck back into the room. I run down… yeah; I can run… I push open the door, grab this guy. He must have thought it was all over when Morty left.”

Wendall did a sort of relaxed pose, casually inhaled, slowly blew out smoke.

“And?” Jumper and I both asked.  

“And…” Wendall looked pleased. “And there’s another, definitely underaged girl inside; not beat up, but… I mean, it was obvious. So, short story long, it all went official. Other than the money.”  

Any excerpts from “Swamis” are protected under copyright laws, Erwin A. Dence, Junior, author.