x x x
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A beach scene from Hippies
Summary of novel: In this Age of Aquarius epic, a group of hippies moving through the sights, sounds, and ideals of the 1960s counterculture discover an LSD-spinoff that triggers past life regressions and leads to a dramatic climax.
x x x
As Ziggy ambled naked toward the water, Jazmine thought there was a hint of Apollo in his stride. “But a little skinny,” she added in her mental narrative, smiling to herself, as she watched Ziggy plunge. She’d never had a guy best friend till Ziggy, someone she could love with all the doors and windows open. But not sexually. Maybe that was her problem. She had to separate sex and love, as if love were pure and sex were dirty. Like she was defending something inside but she didn’t know what it was that was being defended.
“You look hot!”
Jazmine started out of her reverie to see a lanky teen boy with black frame glasses hanging over her.
“Thanks.” The teen boy could see she was nervous.
“No, I mean sweating hot. I’m not hitting on you, I swear.” He grinned. “We got some beers over by the Plymouth.”
Zig was walking up, squeezing water out of his long hair.
“Hey, man,” said the kid, “I was telling your old lady we have some beers over by the Plymouth.”
“Thanks. We’re good.”
“Y’all hear about the cops out here yesterday?”
“Never seen the cops out here before,” said Zig. Jaz kept sunbathing in her own mental space, trying to put closure on her thoughts.
“Yeah, cops took my friend’s weed and sent him packing.”
Zig commiserated: “Shame, man. Cops getting into everything.”
“Hey, I know you,” said the kid. He scratched his big toe in the sand, as if he were trying to draw a secret symbol. Then he looked up and straight at Ziggy.
“I know where I seen y’all before. Y’all part of Ragman’s army,” he said, grinning a little more cautiously.
Ziggy laughed. “If we’re the army, I feel sorry for whoever we’re defending.”
“Don’t laugh, man,” said the kid. Weird, Ziggy thought. That’s the second time somebody told him that today.
“Be careful around Rag,” continued the kid.
“Rag’s cool,” said Zig. The kid had touched on a point he felt strongly about. “Rag’s the coolest guy I ever met.” The kid fidgeted.
“Ever,” Zig repeated, letting the kid know that this was not negotiable.
“I know, man,” said the kid. “But be careful.” Now he was nervous, whispery. He looked over at a small group standing across the beach by a palm tree.
“That’s the problem,” he hissed, under his breath. “Ragman’s the one thing the cops can’t stand. An idealist in the drug scene. You think they give a shit about speed and heroin dealers? Shit, the cops are dealing half the drugs in this town. And cocaine and downers? The Man loves that shit. Speed to keep people working; downers to keep’m tame. What the cops hate is LSD. And maybe pot. And kids with the vision to change things. Fuck things up. And it ain’t only the cops.”
The more the kid hissed and whispered, the more Zig became intrigued.
“What do you mean, it ain’t only the cops?” Zig asked.
“Those fucking dealers coming in with the heroin and the coke. They just want money and zombies. They’d get rid of Ragman faster than the cops. Yeah, they got their fucking ways too.” He rolled his foot along the sand, smoothing over forever whatever imaginary symbol he had started. “Their own fucking ways, man.”
“Why are you telling us this?” asked Zig.
“I don’t know. I like Ragman. I admire the guy. And your chick there looks cool.” He thought for a second. Someone from the group by the palm tree gestured to the kid. “And because I’m a fucking idiot,” the kid said, and he walked briskly off.
x x x
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Unrelated to the previous post, here’s a draft opening for a different novella-in-progress (Goodbye, Maggie). If you prefer one to the other (or have other thoughts), let me know.
* * *
D E S I R E
says the neon above the Royal Sonesta door on Bourbon
H U G E A S S B E E R S
screams the street vendor’s sign
H O M O S E X I S S I N
exclaims a navy-blue banner sailing through the crowd with bold white print
To their credit, the men with the banner, who alternately huddle around it like a lodestone and spread through the crowd like feelers, are not reducibly homophobes. Draped from their shoulders, in the spirit of Corinthians 6, are full-length body posters decrying fornicators, liars, blasphemers, adulterers, thieves, hypocrites, drunkards, abortionists, witches, atheists, and money lovers. They are in the right place on this Mardi Gras day in New Orleans.
One could enjoy this scene from any of the wrought-iron balconies overlooking Bourbon St. On one such balcony, a petite woman with woven dark hair and stunning violet eyes (no one could forget the eyes), costumed as a fairy queen, surveys the festive crowd below. The unholy throng carouses the street in waves. The fairy queen disappears from the balcony. The crowd revels to a crescendo and subsides.
The fairy queen returns to balcony but with her back to us, a red chrysanthemum in one hand. After a moment, she falls, face up, arms spread like an angel in flight as her body nears the street.
* * *
A rickety old paneled Datsun mini-wagon clunks into a supermarket parking lot. Phil, nerdy, early thirties, image of mediocrity, gets out. He tries a couple of times to shut the door but the latch works poorly. He finally kicks it shut and heads toward the store.
“Piece of shit,” our hero mutters.
Phil browses the cake counter for a second. A hefty, middle-aged woman stands behind the counter.
“I’ll take that pink and yellow one. And could you put ‘Happy Birthday Mary Elizabeth’ on it?”
“Too long,” says the countress, heavy, languid, but with a spirit like a coiled spring. Phil wonders. Her hostility. Is it racial animus? Does the black woman behind the counter resent his whiteness? Is she simply beaten down by the drudgery of her job?
Phil wipes his glasses. “What do you mean, too long?”
“It’s too long, baby. All them letters on that lil’ cake. How about just ‘Happy Birthday’?”
No, she is not hostile. Phil remembers what Hermia said. He needs to allow for different personalities. But now he is aggravated.
“I can’t take a cake with just ‘Happy Birthday’! It won’t look … it won’t be special.”
“How about a bigger cake?”
Yes, she is hostile.
Phil browses impatiently.
“OK, give me that one.”
“Which one, baby?”
No, she is not hostile. But Phil cannot tone it down all the way.
“That one there. The one the size of Rembrandt’s ‘Night Watch.’”
The server pulls the cake from the display case. She is mumbling, shaking her head. “Heard a no cake look like a watch.”
Phil fidgets as the server decorates the cake. She brings it over. It says, “Happy Birthday Mary Elizabeth,” and has a watch at the center. He looks at it, cocks his head.
“You said you wanted a watch.”
“I didn’t say I wanted a watch.”
The server sighs, moves her chin slightly, and shouts toward a woman by the oven.
“Hey, Bertha, you heard that man say he wanted a watch?”
“Yeah, sugar. He said a watch.”
The server looks back at Phil.
“Bertha heard you say a watch.”
Yes, she is hostile. Phil does not need this.
“OK, OK, look, can you just turn it into the star of Bethlehem or a gift from the wise men.”
“I thought you said it was a birthday cake.”
“Yeah, well, it’s Twelfth Night, too.”
“Twelfth Night? What the hell is that?”
“Feast of the Epiphany.”
She looks at him puzzled, as if awaiting an explanation. There is empathy, connection in her puzzlement.
“Epiphany,” Phil repeats. “Today’s the feast of the Epiphany.”
* * *
An art show is being held in a large, old, city home. People, some in costumes, are viewing paintings and art objects. A black cat masker observes a dark, richly colored landscape. She hears a voice.
She turns, startled by a close-up red and black Satan mask.
“Darkness,” says the Satan masker, “always comes with a tinge of light, doesn’t it?”
She moves on, uncomfortable.
* * *
Phil is in the parking lot with a couple of bags and the cake. He tries clumsily to put the cake on the roof of car, but it slowly slides off and crashes face-down in the parking lot. We in the audience well up with tears.
* * *
A burst of laughter at the art show. The Satan masker is away, observing another landscape including an apparent pagan ritual. He hears a voice.
“So you prefer something with a little wild energy?”
The Satan masker turns to the see the black cat.
“It’s in my nature,” says Satan . . .
x x x
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Below is a draft opening for my novella, “Love’s Ragged Claws.” Feedback welcome.
x x x
It was dark in the small chamber behind the purple curtain. So dark Gabriel could barely see. So small he could barely kneel. The sound of wood sliding. A small sliding door. A tap of finality as the sliding door hit its mark. A dim light came through cross-shaped holes in the wooden panel, face-level, that remained before him.
“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned,” Gabriel said.
“God forgives all who repent sincerely. When was your last confession?”
“Fifty years ago.”
A muffled aspiration could be heard from Father Angelo’s side of the screen – a sigh both of compassion for one so long lost and of relief for the prodigal returned. As Father Angelo felt this pleasant mixture of wholesome feelings in his heart and head, his stomach growled. How many times had he tried to put all worldly thoughts behind him to focus on the Lord’s work? And yet he was late for his lunch, and a little part of him, a sinful part, was demoralized at the thought of the day’s final confession dragging on.
“That’s a long absence from grace, my son. But your reconciliation is near. The Lord cares not how many the sins but only how true the penance. Fifty years of sins can be washed away in a day. Now recount your sins, my son, no matter how many. Begin at the beginning, and do not rush through, but reflect as you go.”
“But, Father,” said Gabriel. “I only have three sins.”
* * *
Eva gazed out from her cabin window in Colorado. She could see a few rooftops of the town, and in the distance, the forest, thick with blue spruce and bristlecone pines, rising vertically up to the snow-capped peaks.
Funny how she knew Gabriel’s knock, how deeply embedded it was in the rings of her memory. She opened the door, and there he was, smiling, a little older than the last time she had seen him, but still willowy tall with arms thrown about, a patch of thick white hair on his head. Still smiling the same smile.
“Hallo, love,” he said, tossing off his knit hat. Still a spring in his step, she thought.
“How are you feeling, Eva?”
“Good,” she said, and she let him hug her.
“More or less,” she added.
That’s my old Eva, Gabriel thought. In that one phrase, he recognized layers of her psyche at work. She had been a dental lab technician, crafting the tiniest contours of the human tooth, each one unique, in simulacrum. Good at it, too, but crippled by perfectionism. She could never finish anything for fear it would not be good enough. Never be too hopeful. To be hopeful is to be crushed when perfection is missed. She felt good in his presence; he knew that. And through the lens of that goodness he could see all the folds her beauty. Her features themselves, well, all her life she had been known for plainness of features. And look at her now. Still the round boyish face, the pixie haircut, but with more gray. Yet she knew how deeply Gabriel saw in her plainness a pristine beauty. And she loved it. But no, it raised expectations to an insufferable level. She must moderate expectations to avoid the crushing moment of their falling short.
“More or less,” she repeated, and they held each other’s gaze for one second more, a second in which each recognized the other’s penetration, saw their hidden graces and flaws exposed, the little psychological mechanisms that they could not control and that seemed so serious at other times, reduced to mere curiosities when unmasked by trusted eyes.
“Should we go into Boulder?” asked Gabriel.
“Yes, let’s,” said Eva, and down they went through the winding canyons.
x x x
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Mr. Robert’s Bones FREE this week
Poking around an old house for hidden silver, three kids awaken the house’s ghosts of racism and betrayal and join up with some quirky old characters to save the neighborhood from its own past.
Award-winning writer Gary Gautier has published a number of books for adults and kids. A screenplay adaptation of “Mr. Robert’s Bones” was selected to the second round (top 10%) at the Austin Film Festival.
Click image to enjoy your free kindle copy! Post a brief Amazon review when you finish!