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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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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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Second release, new cover
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Set in New Orleans, three kids poking through an abandoned house awaken 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. This family-friendly novel is good for ages 15-99.
SAMPLE PAGE FROM MR. ROBERT’S BONES BELOW
The three kids moved slowly into Mr. Jimmy’s dimly lit house. The two steel-hooped barrels sat fat, glum, solid as ever, like surly guardians in the dismal light, but with the incongruous festivity of tiny gadgets and figurines on their heads. The dark painting hung in its place, but the broad strokes of purplish-blue waves seemed oddly different, as if they had moved a few paces toward edge of the canvas. The bedroom, dining room, kitchen along the shotgun path of the house were otherwise just as they had seen last time, as if no one had lived there in the interim. Instead of conducting them to the back porch, Mr. Jimmy sat them in the kitchen this time, at one of the interchangeable thrift store tables that seemed to sprout up in various rooms and porches of this fantastic setting. Mr. Jimmy had apparently been engaged at the table a short time ago. A photo album, some loose photos, and reading glasses lay on the scored and pock-marked wooden surface. Mr. Jimmy put the reading glasses on and eyed a photo for the album, like the kids weren’t there. But then he spoke.
“You know the silver in Mr. Robert’s house?” faltered Melissa.
“I told you about it, didn’t I?”
“Well, we kinda been looking around for it.”
“I know you been looking. Well quit looking.”
Mr. Jimmy put a photo into the album and eyed another. Even Melissa remained daunted at his demeanor.
“Some people,” continued Mr. Jimmy, “knows more than you kids about that house. Some people knows more than he’s saying right now. That silver is tainted. Cursed. Blood money. Touched by the devil’s own hand. You understand what I’m saying?”
The speaker paused and let the question float. Then a heaviness descended on his countenance. With a delicate movement he took off his glasses and looked up. He stared at, or through, the kids with a fixed intensity that pushed a chill up their spines.
“’Cause this is the last time I’m saying it.”
The kids hesitated, immobilized by dread but eager to forge on. Mr. Jimmy put his glasses back on and installed another photo.
“There’s more, Mr. Jimmy,” Melissa said.
Mr. Jimmy continued to fiddle with the album.
“Well, what more?”