adventures in dysthymia

Monday, May 30, 2016

Fairy Tales

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten,” said Neil Gaiman, in a quote that frequently pops up online. Maybe so.

But, also, remember that dragons can beat us. This is equally important and equally true. Danger is part of what is real, of what is true. We can lose, as we can win.

Otherwise, beating our dragons would be meaningless. As would be losing to them. There would be no heroism, no dignity, in either win or loss.

Fairy tales remind us of this, that life is an adventure, a quest. So maybe fairy tales are true because they tell us dragons exist. We just need to be reminded of that, now and again.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Larry Large, a short story

Larry Large


a Branford Perry story by Stephen Brooke ©2016


I only saw Larry Large wrestle in person once.

The name made me smile, at least inwardly, in that Larry wasn’t more than an inch taller than I am and fairly average as professional wrestlers go. Still, it was the name he had chosen for the ring and that was what the posters read for his occasional appearances there. That ring would be found somewhere on the minor league circuit around Florida, high school gyms, National Guard armories.

Larry had no pizzazz, no show-biz instincts. His choice of an alias only punctuated the fact.

He’d moved down from somewhere in Ohio, leaving an ex-wife and kid, and used his life savings to open a gym. I worked out in that gym eventually, but that wasn’t where I met Larry. He moonlighted as a bouncer at some of the clubs where I played, but that was not where I met him, either. Nope. I met him at school.

~

“Aw, they want me to take more classes to get my certificate.” Larry was holding some sort of official document. “I have a master’s degree. I don’t need to fool with this shit!”

I gave Christine a quizzical look across the low table. “Larry has a degree in psychology,” she explained.

Christine was Larry’s girlfriend. She was also an high school teacher, general science, mostly, at Barry High. That's the new school, up north of town. It was new back then, anyway.

Back then — back then I was still doing the starving artist thing and made ends meet by substitute teaching. Larry was subbing, too, but our paths hadn’t crossed because we usually worked at different schools.

But one morning — way too early, of course, but that goes with the job — I got the call to come up to Barry and so I found myself in the teachers’ lounge, across a table from Christine and Larry. That’s how I got to know them.

And even after they broke up, I would sometimes see one or the other at school. I saw much more of them at the gym, once I started going there.

Oh, the break-up? I think his constant financial woes had a lot to do with that. He took to sleeping in the gym, eventually, and taking odd-jobs besides the bouncing. I have no doubt that is why he decided to try his hand as a pro ‘rassler,’ even though he was well into this thirties by this time and not exactly prospect material for the big wrestling organizations.

~

His real name was Larry Lund. Lawrence G. Lund it said on the business license hanging in his gym and, no, I don’t know what the G stood for. I started working out at that gym a while after meeting him and Christine. It was actually kind of close to my digs, out in the industrial park across from the airport.

My trailer sat in a park just up the road, close enough that I could bicycle over. I rode my bike a lot in those days, up and down the streets of Genoa, to the beach or to hang downtown. That’s if I didn’t have a call to teach that day; I’d get a couple of those most weeks.

Though Larry usually subbed up at Barry, it was unusual for me to be there. Mostly I was called to Genoa High, the school I’d attended myself — it was the only high school in town, not that long ago, but growth is inevitable in Florida. 

Christine — Chris, once I got to know her — worked out too. I mean, really worked out as in competitive bodybuilder. That was something Larry had done, up north, and he had a shelf of trophies displayed in the gym as proof.

Though I sported a decent set of muscles at one point, I never felt a desire to compete. Or perhaps I did but recognized that I could never be good enough to go beyond local events. What's the point then? I was happy just to look good without a shirt.

With the shirt on, you probably wouldn't have been able to tell I’d ever been in a gym.

~

“Have you thought about it?” were his first words when I walked into the gym that day. My leg day, incidentally. I knew what he was referring to.

“Are you sure about this, Larry?” I asked.

“Hey, Bran-man, we both know there’s no one better for the job.” Around here, he should have added. He was picking me from a fairly small pool.

I shrugged. “I’ll give it a try. Did you like the ideas I threw out before?”

“Sure, they were good. The hustler thing.” He gave me one of his squinty smiles, the ones that made him look somewhat Neanderthal. “I guess you’d better start on that pencil mustache.”

“If it’s gonna be a pencil mustache,” I informed him, “I can use a pencil.” Hey, I was a show-biz pro, sorta.

Yes, Larry had asked me to stooge for him, to be his second at ringside, to maybe add that bit of pizzazz he was missing. I was no actor but I was used to being on stage with a band, so I didn't mind a crowd watching me. Also, I was in good enough shape to handle the job, but not big enough to distract from Larry as main attraction.

So Hustler Haskell was born. Was I original? Not very. There was a lot of Jimmy Hart, another Southern boy, in the persona we created. I created. Larry mostly just gave yea or nay on my ideas.

A pool cue. I would carry that and whack Larry's opponents surreptitiously. An unbuttoned shirt and a clunky medallion. I was the perfect cliché, I thought.

Then came the night of my unveiling. Lund was still something of an apprentice, still working in shows organized by the wrestling school he attended. That meant no real money, of course, but in a sense I was in school too. Class was called to session in a smelly high school gymnasium in Arbeka, where I preceded Larry Large down the aisle, serenaded by the scattered boos of a less-than-packed house.

I felt pretty ridiculous. That is until I was in front of the crowd. Then it turned into pretty much just another gig. Not one of the better ones, either. I would really rather have been somewhere playing guitar. Or even bass.

A crumpled paper cup bounced off my shoulder. That was okay. I’d had worse things thrown at me.

So I did my best and hammed it up good. Sure, that's my opinion but I know it’s right. The thick-set Larry pulled himself onto the apron, planted his wide feet — more than Triple E, I would suspect — and waited for me to open the ropes for him. I put my cue over my shoulder and gave his a opponent a supercilious look. The look he gave me back was kind of scary, or meant to be, so I backed away and hid behind my ‘man.’

From there, though, it plodded. Larry was really a pretty good wrestler, a top amateur when he was young, but not exciting in the ring. And he pretty much had to carry his inept opponent, who was slated to win despite Hustler Haskell and his trusty cue-stick.

It proved to be a one-time performance. Larry decided an obnoxious manager — that would be me — was the wrong direction for his budding career. It seemed that the fans actually liked him, for the most part. He developed a friendship with one of the other small-timers and they partnered up around the Florida circuit for quite some time after that. I didn’t care. I don’t think Larry and I were ever that much of actual friends, either.

~

Only once in person, I said. But there was television.

Yes, Larry’s big break, his appearance on a nationally televised program. I made sure to tune in on that Saturday afternoon for the broadcast, straight from Atlanta. Well, it was taped, I’m certain, but still.

Even the announcers couldn’t help but sound bored, as Larry went through the motions of a ‘mop-up’ match with star Rod Remington.

“This Larry is a large boy. He could give Rod some trouble,” came the laconic remark of the color commentator.

At which moment, the muscular Remington picked Larry up like a small child and deposited him on the turnbuckle. Naturally, when Larry attempted to leap on his adversary from that perch, he was slammed into the mat and took the one-two-three in short order.

It was pretty much typical of what one would see on TV in those days. It was also pretty much the end for Larry's dreams of breaking into the big time.

I heard he got his teaching credentials eventually, closed the gym, and took a job as a coach. Actually, out in Arbeka, which is on the other side of the county, out among the ranches and tomato fields. But I had already said farewell to Genoa by then.

~

I didn’t see Larry in the months before I left. I had taken a job at the Y that summer, in their youth program, and was working out there. Chistine was another matter.

Larry's dreams weren't her dreams, nor were they mine. “I don’t feel like competing anymore,” she had told me, during the days when she and Larry were still sometimes on, sometimes off. Those days faded into the ones when she and I started being something more than friends. But where Larry had trouble making ends meet, I had no ends at all. 

Just a starving artist — that was me. I was chafing in Genoa. I knew that. My home town, the place I had returned to after bouncing around for a decade. It could never be my home port again, only one more harbor where I might drop anchor for a while. I suppose Christine was chafing too, wasn’t she? Looking for her own new course to chart, one away from Larry and all he had been in her life, all the entwined sets and reps and diets and heartbreak.

We sailed together for a couple months and then our winds blew us apart again. Blew us apart, and me away.

This is a story about (and narrated by) my 'other' Florida boy character, Branford Perry, who has appeared in a handful of tales. As with the Ted Carrol stories, there are bits of autobiography thrown in here and there. But I won't tell you which bits they are.

I do consider this a relatively early draft. Maybe I'll fell like doing something else with it if I pull it out sometime down the line.

First Look at Fields

Although THE EYES OF THE WIND is coming shortly and my final (or so we should hope) print version is on the way to me for approval, I do have other projects lined up for release. The next will probably be another poetry collection, to be titled FIELDS OF SUMMER. Here's a dummy of the likely cover:


I'm aiming for the first of September. It will be ready sooner but I don't want it stepping on EYES's heels.

And if I get motivated to do the illustrations, maybe a children's picture book. That is admittedly iffy, simply because there are so many other things I would prefer to work on! There should be another novel before the end of the year, depending on which I choose to finish --- another fantasy? another 'Florida' novel? Not certain. But something!

Eyes Trailer

I've put together a simple video book trailer for my upcoming fantasy novel, THE EYES OF THE WIND.


Music composed by me. Video made by me. Book written and designed by me. Gosh, it's all about me, isn't it? :)

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Eyes Going Up

“The Eyes of the Wind” is ready to go, everything written, rewritten, rewritten again, and thoroughly edited. Print and ebook versions ready, graphics done, design, layout — everything except finalizing the print cover and I need to upload the interior to the printer to get the proper dimensions for that (and a barcode to slap on it).

As it can easily take six to eight weeks for a print book to show up everywhere, plus I need to approve a proof copy, I will be uploading my print files now and getting that into motion. This does mean that the novel could be available directly from Arachis Press well before the rather arbitrary release date of July 15.

Ebooks will probably be up sometime next month, both PDF and EPUB. It may take a tad longer for the Kindle version to show up. Again, these will be available directly from the publisher almost immediately.

Perhaps I shall have an ebook giveaway again, probably around the end of June or so. I didn’t get much interest on the last one (a poetry book) and I think that was because folks had to go through the checkout at our store, give their info, etc, to get it. This time, maybe I’ll just email it to a dozen lucky individuals or something.

So, watch for “Eyes.” I shall, of course, make further announcements, so watch for those as well.

Many Words, a poem

Many Words

Many words may not be enough
to express one simple thought,
but if I say, ‘I love you,’
I think you will understand.

We misinterpret, do we not,
see what is not there,
see not what is there?
Yet, to say, ‘I love you,’

holds a core of universal
meaning. You will understand
and all the rest, the many words,
need never be spoken aloud.

Stephen Brooke ©2016

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Stoa, a poem

The Stoa

I studied many schools
of philosophic thought;
I listened to the words
those wiser than I taught.
But in the end I chose
to follow the Stoic way,
for we just sit on the porch
and pass the time of day.

Zeno likes to whittle,
Chrysippus sleeps the day long;
Aurelius pulls out his banjo
and sometimes gives us a song.
It sure beats the Academy,
or sleeping with the dogs;
we leave that to Diogenes
(as well as wearing no togs).

We come up with aphorisms,
when we don’t talk about the weather,
like ‘anger is an obstruction’
or ‘we’re meant to work together.’
But a porch is for relaxing
so we settle back in our chairs,
philosophize on our stoa
and forget our cares.

Stephen Brooke ©2016

I was thinking, of course, of the fact that a stoa (where Zeno, the first Stoic, taught) is a porch. I like to go out and philosophize on my porch, too.

Monday, May 23, 2016

End Result, a poem

End Result

I am the end result
of thousands of love affairs
and a few rapes. And who
is to say which had more

to do with who I am?
The criminal and lover mingle
in my genes and no one
could ever sort them out.

Stephen Brooke ©2016

Of Human Rights and Wrongs

I do not believe that humans have innate, ‘God-given’ rights. Our only right is to exist for some brief period of time and make the best of it. Any human rights in a political sense are taken and held by our own strength. They are not given to us.

But we must resist ‘human wrongs.’ We must recognize when we are treating others badly. Those who are different from us may not have a right to equal treatment but we would be wrong not to accord it to them.

Do not expect others to give you the rights you think you deserve. Rather, do them no wrong. Perhaps they will repay you in the same manner; perhaps they will not. But you have done what is right.

Stephen Brooke ©2016

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Eyes on the Words

The writing of THE EYES OF THE WIND pretty much followed my usual pattern — months of thinking about the plot and characters, of jotting down notes, of making outlines. Then I sat down and typed out the actual narrative in something pretty close to finished form in a week. There was rewriting, certainly, but that was minimal, mostly a matter of changing words here and there, adding a tad more imageryI tend to skimp on that when getting the story down.

I admit that I expected it to run longer. The goal was the typical 60,000 word range for a fantasy adventure, like my three Malvern novels. The structure was a little different, four distinct episodes (one for each of the gems known as the Eyes), book-ended by introductory and closing sections. If anything, I thought it might run long — it seemed like a rather sprawling plot line.

Instead, it ended up around 50,000 words. That is fine with me; it took that many words to tell the story. I would certainly not tack on more material to reach a higher word count. I would not pad the novel.

Is there more to tell of ‘Saj the Seer,’ the protagonist of ‘Eyes?’ Most likely not; do not expect a sequel, a series. He settles down to the life of prosperous merchant in his new home and he and Marana raise a large family. That family, however, may have many tales to tell. We shall see about that.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Memoir

I would never write a memoir. This is because my novels borrow so much from my life. Fictionalized, bent to fit, but often drawing from experience. I do know that some of those memories have been ‘bent to fit’ in my own head and that my recollections are probably not accurate. All the more reason to utilize them as sources of my fiction.


My poems probably come closer to actual memoir but here, too, the experiences are material for building something else. The characters who populate my stories, my poems, are me and they are not me. They are more heroic, they are weaker, they are better, they are worse, but there is a bit of my own soul in each of them.

Imagine a broken mirror and your reflection in each shard, each a little different. So it is with those characters, and with the experiences drawn from life. I have many broken mirrors.

I attempt to reassemble them into something new. Not a memoir — they could never again be put back together in that form. Yet, they tell my story.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Little Worm, a poem

The Little Worm

She once enjoyed reading Keats and Shelley,
now eight to be fed, a ninth in her belly;
she looks at her books and blames her woes
on the little worm who blew his nose.

Oh, he had such ways, he had such charm,
and earnestly promised to do her no harm;
all I shall do is pluck the rose,
said that little worm who blew his nose.

Perhaps he wasn’t the handsome sort —
rather thick, indeed, rather short —
something possessed her and so she chose
the little worm who blew his nose.

She may recall, when feeling mellow,
at least he was an upright fellow,
but not much else good, time bestows
on that little worm who blew his nose.

There’s hardly room left for regrets,
one gives her best and here’s what she gets,
a lifetime tending the crop he sows,
that little worm who blew his nose.

Who might remember the words that were said,
the books on the shelves, never more read?
All of the poetry was changed to prose
by the little worm who blew his nose.

Stephen Brooke ©2016

the daily doggerel  

Addendum, next day: It is quite possible that will pop up eventually as one of the humorous (sort of) songs that appear in my fantasy novels.

The Eyes of the Wind

Release of my new fantasy novel, THE EYES OF THE WIND, has been set for July 15.


the 'long' blurb:

Young Saj only wanted to deliver his wagon-load of goods and be on his way to a new life in the South. How did he end up kidnapping a willful young noblewoman?

Or was it she who kidnapped him? He wasn’t quite sure.

Facing pirates, bandits, and sorcerers, Saj finds himself seeking the four mystic gems known as the Eyes of the Wind for a mysterious priestly order. Accompanied by Marana, who may or may not love him, and the wily wizard Xit, who may or may not be a god, his quest takes him from the sea to the mountains and into his own soul.

For Saj has powers that lie within him, powers of which he is only now becoming aware.

Available from Arachis Press in print and ebook

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Next and the One After It

I am finishing up my latest fantasy novel, THE EYES OF THE WIND, and getting it prepared for publication. Almost certainly by August First, possibly as much as a month earlier than that. There will be an official announcement from Arachis Press soon.

This novel is something of a bridge between my Malvern novels and the Donzalo’s Destiny sequence. It takes place in the same region as ‘Donzalo’ but more than thirteen centuries earlier. As the era of Donzalo is somewhat analogous to the late Renaissance, this one is is in a period more akin to late Antiquity or the very beginning of the Middle Ages.

It both looks back and ahead, alluding to the ancient civilization Malvern came upon and the world that grows from events in ‘Eyes.’ In the process — I hope! — it manages to present an interesting and entertaining story. Not as much High Fantasy as ‘Donzalo,’ maybe not quite as action-oriented as ‘Malvern.’ And perhaps a little more lighthearted than either.

So what next? I have several novel projects in mind and some in outline. Three sequels to the Malvern series. The start of a new Donzalo-related series. A spy novel. A western. And, of course, more novels with Ted Carrol, the protagonist of SHAPER. Which first? Not sure, but one will be sure to say, ‘Write me.’

There are also poetry books and children’s books that should be written (or assembled). Lots and lots to keep me busy. I reckon if I can keep at things, I could turn out another forty books or so before I kick the bucket. Assuming something unexpected doesn’t stick that bucket in my pathway too soon.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Working on the Eyes


Working to get this ready! Exact release date to be announced.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Communion, a short story

Communion
by Stephen Brooke ©2016

Patty's boyfriend got religion and she didn’t. We all figured the breakup would follow, sooner or later.

But no one was going to move in. No, not yet. Not when he was a bud and, for that matter, so was she. But we were watching.

“What if she goes Jesus-freak too?” wondered Mike. I couldn't see it happening. 

Neither could Pat. “Art is her religion,” he opined. Pat Edwards was my best friend here at Florida Atlantic. Like Mike and me, he was a surfer.

As was the aforementioned boyfriend, Rob. All four of us shared a suite in the dorms, its pale green concrete block walls plastered with surf posters, our boards propped up in the corners.

The squeak-squeak of Duke’s wheel filled a momentary silence. Duke was Rob’s hamster. “One good thing,” said Pat. “Rob has sworn off sex so I don’t have to vacate our room anymore.”

“Ted probably wishes I would too,” remarked Mike, snickering. I never complained about being shut out but I couldn't always hide my aggravation. Pat and I would long since have become roomies if Rob and Mike had been willing to switch. But they weren’t, even if they were the best of buddies. They knew each other too well.

I grinned at the pair. “We need to convert Rob to the True Church,” I told them. All three of us were Catholic, though at varying levels of observance. That is, Mike not at all, Pat pretty religious, and me somewhere between. That was just one of those things that happens; it was surf that brought us together and we only discovered the religion part later.

“We’re not the best role models, Shaper,” Pat told me. He called me Shaper because I fooled around with building surfboards. I have Pat Edwards to thank — or blame — for that life-long nickname, though only he used it much back then.

“And Rob doesn't have enough Irish in him,” stated Mike. Being three Irishmen as well — more or less — we concurred with this. Rob was very much the odd man in this group, although perhaps the most normal outside of it.

Until this Jesus thing. That baffled us. I was inclined to think it would pass, that it was a phase, but what did I know back then? I was only twenty, after all.

And we all were wondering about Patty. That surfer girl was as much a part of our group as any of us now. If it got weird between her and Rob she might not want to hang with us anymore. I would just as soon lose Rob, myself. I don't know how the others felt about it.

We all had other concerns, anyway, like studying and, of course, surfing. Spring, ‘71 — it was not a bad time to be in college, especially with the threat of being drafted still very real for guys our age.

It was not a bad place to be in college, either. We were at Florida Atlantic University, a school widely referred to as “Surfer U.” The surf had definitely been the deciding factor for me to attend. So I surfed, when I could, as did my friends.

The next day — a Thursday morning when neither Pat nor I had a class — we were in the waves right there in Boca, at a spot at the north end of the city limits and the public beach, where a little rocky point stuck out into the Atlantic. The locals called the place “Jap Rock.” I never learned why but I did learn that it could be ridden on a really tiny swell. When the waves got much size it was no better than any other spot and not as good as some. Then we might go up to Ocean Ridge, to the inlet and jetty there. That setup was a lot like the more famous Sebastian Inlet further north, until they dredged out our sandbar in the name of beach replenishment and ruined the spot.

Years later I happened to look at a map and saw that little point was named Yamato Rock, so that explained the ‘Jap’ thing. But I still don’t know who Yamato was or why the rock was named for him. Or her, for all I know.

“There’s Patty,” I called to my buddy. Her blue Falcon had pulled into a space by the highway, overlooking the beach. Right behind my old, faded Corvair, in fact. We liked to park where we could see our cars from the water. There were lowlifes enough — some of whom called themselves surfers — who would steal the racks right off your roof and maybe take anything inside if they could get at it.

She paddled out to where we sat, checked whether any waves were coming, then turned to Pat and asked, “Will you be in the studio tomorrow?” To paint, she meant. There were always plenty of students using the rooms on the third floor of the Humanities building, when no classes were being held.

Pat shook his head. “Going home for the weekend.”

“Darn, so is Rob.”

“Mike, too. He’s riding with me.” Both lived down toward Miami somewhere. Exactly where was not of any interest to me. Not any of my business either. “Rob’s gonna be with his mom?”

“Somebody has to do his laundry and it sure won’t be me,” stated Patty. “Taking off!” She paddled into one of the little lefts. They were pretty much all lefts at the Rock.

We watched her try to pump her little board through a flat section but the wave passed her by. “Shitty waves,” she said when she got back to us. We knew that but, hey, they were better than nothing. “Looks like just you and me this weekend, Ted.”

I only nodded, not being at all sure how to respond to that.

“Get him to build you a board,” said Pat. “You could go into one of the studios and claim you’re working on an art project.”

“My tools are all at home,” I immediately informed him, without really thinking.

“He’s joking, Shaper. But I guess you could take me home with you.”

These two knew how socially inept I was and how easy it was to tease me like this. But they would never take it too far. None the less, it was a good time to catch a wave and avoid answering. I had one of my own boards, a thick, flat-bottomed twin-fin I had built just for riding tiny waves like these. The thing handled terribly but it paddled into the little stuff easily. I was able to stick with the wave almost all the way to beach.

Incidentally, a few weeks later I tried riding it in bigger stuff back home in Genoa and managed to go nose first into the bottom. Snapped it right in two. I was still learning and only had a half-dozen shapes under my belt at that point.

Paddle back out or run up and launch on the north side of the point? It was only a few strokes back to the take-off zone then, and not difficult on a small day like this. But neither was paddling. I could see both my friends riding in as I paddled out.

The two paddled back together. “I’d better make this my last wave,” said Patty. “I have a class at eleven.” She glanced at Pat. “We both have a class at eleven.” The pair shared two or three classes this semester, I knew. Patty and I had an art history class in common on Monday and Wednesday evenings. None of us shared a single class with Mike or Rob, who were psychology and business majors, respectively.

“Me, too,” I said. “And another at one.” I looked out across the water. “Maybe I’ll come back later.”

“All the school kids will be out here then,” Pat reminded me.

“Yeah. I’d probably have to use the parking lot.” That was on the other side of A-1-A, by the picnic grounds in the city park.

“Why don’t we all come back?” asked Patty. “We could bring some food. Mike, too. He could even bring whoever he is chasing after at the moment, if he wants.” Rob had a late class — we all knew that.

“A picnic?” asked Pat.

“Sure. Why not?” The reply was nonchalant but I thought I sensed more. An urgency? Maybe Patty,too, felt that the friendships we had formed might be falling apart. I suppose it is inevitable that any group of college friends would eventually go their ways. But not now. No, we weren’t ready for that.

There wasn’t enough of a swell left to be worth paddling out. I could see that as I cruised up the beach toward the park, after my second class. In an hour or so, it would be getting dark, anyway.

And cold. It was still winter, late February. The water stays pretty warm all year round at Boca, thanks to the Gulf Stream, but we all had been wearing wetsuits. As the sun sank, so would the temperatures. I turned left into Spanish River Park, and pulled in next to Pat’s little pickup truck. One of those would be handy, if I ever had any money.

There was Mike, in a green flannel shirt to which he was particularly partial, grilling hot dogs over a charcoal fire. His girlfriend sat near, looking out of place. Pat and Patty huddled at a picnic table, their still-damp hair telling that they must have attempted to ride a few waves. “Is Rob gonna come?” I asked.

“Nah, he’s going to some sort of — meeting? Or service, maybe. Whatever you wanta call it.” Patty shrugged. “He invited me along.”

“But you enjoy our company more,” said Mike. We all laughed, except his girlfriend, who didn’t seem to get us. She wasn’t likely to last and I think Mike preferred it that way.

“I do,” admitted Patty. “Not more than Rob but, well, you know.” We did, of course.

Pat nodded thoughtfully. He could appear much more wise and mature than the rest of us. Not that he was, you understand, just that Mike and I looked like the skinny kids we were. “He’s found something he thinks is great and wants to share it with you. That’s understandable.”

“Yeah. I had religion once but recovered. I’ve built up some immunity now.” She turned toward me. “You gonna try to surf, Ted?”

“Don’t think so. Not much time, anyway. The park will be closing.” We would have to get out at sunset, not that we couldn’t go park along the beach and stay there all night if we wanted.

Mike looked at his watch, the ubiquitous dive watch one saw on almost every surfer’s wrist back then. “Yeah, in, um, about an hour and a quarter I think. Wanta eat?”

Canned baked beans, hot dogs, chips — this was our own religious ceremony, our communion, following a baptism in the waves. Yeah, these were our sacraments. I think the guys and I felt this, even if they wouldn’t articulate it quite that way. It was a familiar symbolism, a way of looking at the world, a part of our upbringing. We would always carry that with us.

A park attendant came by. “Closing the gates in half an hour, kids,” he warned us, and moved on.

“I’m going down to the beach,” I told my friends, rising. “Anyone else wanta stretch their legs?”

Mike and his girl looked at each other. Never did learn her name and I guess it didn’t matter. Anyway, we could see that they had other sorts of exercise on their minds. “We’re heading back to the dorm,” said Mike, and grinned. “We’ll try not to keep you locked out too long, Ted.”

“Remember we’re taking off early tomorrow,” Pat warned him. “Let’s go,” he said to me. “You too, Patty?”

“Sure.” She zipped her jacket, then hesitated as she looked over the table. 

“We’ll take this stuff back with us,” Mike offered. He was good at picking up on people’s needs, way better than the rest of us. That made him a success as a psychologist later on and a success with the girls then. “You go ahead.”

There was a tunnel, an underpass, beneath A-1-A where one could walk from the park onto the beach. It was dark in there this late in the day, with the live oaks overhanging the entrance. Like entering a church, I told myself, and smiled. You’re carrying that whole idea a little too far, Ted!

Back home, on the Gulf, we could have watched the sun set over the water. Here, we stood in the shadow of the bluffs that rose behind us, a shadow that slowly crept toward the water. Soon, the beach would be in darkness.

Small waves tumbling on the shore added a low murmur, a background to our own subdued voices. “No waves in the forecast,” Pat was saying. “Before we know it, we’ll be into the summer pattern.” In other words, little to no surf. These kids had grown up around here and knew all about that.

“Is it just as bad on the Gulf, Ted?” Patty asked me.

“Pretty much, unless a tropical storm comes by.”

She looked back out at the Atlantic for a few moments. “I think I’m going to stay for the summer semester.”

None of us guys would think of doing that and hurrying up our graduation. As soon as we had our degrees, we would be eligible for the draft. “Any worth-while classes?” wondered Pat.

“I can catch up a couple requirements. And the studios won’t be so crowded.”

“Hmm, yeah. I already have a job lined up. How ‘bout you, Ted? Gonna build boards all summer?”

“Work construction for my dad,” I answered. Mostly job-site cleanup, but I didn’t need to add that. It didn’t sound as macho.

“Oh, that’s why you build things,” said Patty. “It’s hereditary!” She turned her round, freckled face to the two of us. “Do you guys plan to room together next fall?”

“That’s the idea,” said Pat. I nodded in agreement.

“I hope Rob doesn’t — you know, get away from us. You and Mike and — and me —” She sighed. “Even if he and I break up.”

I don’t think either Pat or I knew how to respond to that. “Let’s get back,” she said, and started toward the underpass.

Yeah, let’s get back. Back to how it was. Didn’t we all know that was impossible?

The lights had been turned on in the parking lot, shining into the far end of the tunnel.

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NOTE: Yamato Rock is actually named for the Yamato agricultural community of Japanese immigrants that once existed in the Boca Raton area. The point is also a popular spot for divers.

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This is a Ted Carrol story, the character who is the protagonist of my novel SHAPER, set about thirty years later. And, as with SHAPER, there is some autobiographical detail but Ted is not me. I see something like this more as back story for the characters in the novels than anything else.

And it should be considered as an early draft but the story is there — not that there actually is much of a ‘story’ — for the most part.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Bride, a poem

Bride

They came wit’out warnin’ —
’twas Sunday mornin’ —
wit’ cudgels and rocks
t’give me my knocks
an’ take back their sister.
I couldn’t resist ’er
an’ stoled ’er away
on Saturday!

We’re married, I said;
not if you’re dead,
came the reply —
I’d rather not die,
given my rathers.
Every fool blathers
’bout how love conquers;
they’re all bonkers.

Go wit’out pause
if your in-laws
have murder in their eyes —
’tis only wise,
an’ better to run
when you’ve had your fun,
say adieu,
find someone new!

Stephen Brooke ©2016

Some silliness that somehow appeared on my laptop last night.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Playing

It had been years since I played live anywhere. I stopped when care of my late mother required my full time attention and then never got back into after her passing. Too many other projects — writing, mostly — were taking my attention.

But Sunday, I drove down to Lynn Haven to play at Roberts Hall, for the Americana venue hosted there by Maggie and Mike McKinney, aka Lucky Mudd. That’s a little over an hour drive from here on Peanut Road, and I’ll admit that I hate to drive. It’s so much wasted time that I could be using for something else!

But I go down that way to shop at the Publix just down the street every couple months anyway. Can’t get everything I need at the little local Piggly-Wiggly (especially wine). Also, there are gas stations down that way that carry fuel with no added ethanol, which I prefer for my lawn equipment. So I will be back from time to time and will probably play again.

This was an exploratory expedition, so to speak. I learned not to take my classical guitar again. Couldn’t hear myself play (as there are no monitors) and I’ve no idea how much I messed up! Not that I’m much of a player anyway — I am and always shall be a singer first. Indeed, I wouldn’t mind fronting a band again someday. Then I could dance instead of standing there holding a guitar.

Anyway, no nylon strings. That would obviously include my ukes, alas. So I’ll be carrying my ancient Ovation the next time, I think. Whenever that might be.

This is the month of the Florida Folk Festival. I’m still not certain whether I shall go over to White Springs this year. It’s not camping-friendly like the Willfest I attended earlier this year, nor do I like leaving the cat alone for the whole weekend in hot weather (wouldn’t close her in the non-air-conditioned house). Maybe I’ll drive over for Friday or Saturday. Or maybe not.

The niece won’t be there this year. Still touring in Europe. But she will be down at the aforementioned Roberts Hall in July. I’ll go down for that, and maybe play some too.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Loss is Change

The recent demise of Prince demonstrated to me just how distant I am from the world of pop culture. The man was barely a blip on my musical radar. As are most pop icons, now or past.

I understand why some feel a loss. These people become a part of our life. But isn’t the music still there, the music that said something to us once? The world goes on. We go on.

Perhaps Prince or B.B. King or Kurt Cobain would have made more music that held meaning for us. Or perhaps their time had passed anyway. Does it ultimately matter? We can not lose what we never had.

That’s a popular paraphrase of something Marcus Aurelius wrote nearly two thousand years ago (and others most likely before him). He said also that loss is nothing but change. Life must change, after all.

No, I did not know much of Prince. I did not listen to his music. Perhaps I missed out on something but I am certainly not concerned about it; I have undoubtedly missed out on all sorts of things and shall continue to do so.

In time, I too will be ‘lost.’ We all know it will not matter to anywhere near as many people as Prince’s passing. But it is just as inevitable, just as much a part of life and loss and change, and both those who knew me and those who did not will continue their lives as before.

That’s all any of us can do, really, isn’t it?

Stephen Brooke ©2016