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The Book of Carver (Chapter 6)

Chapter 6

[Costa Rica – Same time and date]

Veronica lay napping on a padded hammock at the Sand Dollar Pub, a small beachside bar and grill where American and European expatriates frequent and drink alongside generations of natives who may as well call the spot home. Nearby, a young American traveler is taking part in a ritual—a brutal interrogation by some of the locals. Old and young, men and women alike, gather around any unfamiliar face and free-pour from bottles of dark rum while badgering, degrading and humiliating, deeply prying into the life of the stranger.  If they don’t drive the stranger away, he will have earned not only an evening of complimentary rum but also a lifetime spot in the family. A family of crazies and drunkards, mostly, but they are loyal, and most are well-connected. It’s what they tend to be connected to that can be worrisome, but with enough drinking and camaraderie, you learn not to let that bother you.

Veronica glances over at the young American man named Abe, and softly catches his eyes. She winks and offers a small smile—he seems to be passing. She knows this not only because she’s seen this ritual acted out many times before but because it’s been three hours now, and he’s still there, and seems to be laughing along with the crowd. This earns you bonus points. Technically, the only requirement is to stay through the ordeal, a show of respect for the culture. However, presenting with an enduring air of confident self-deprecation catapults you to levels of very high esteem.

“And what of your Jenny? You say she left you. Why she left you, a dashing young man?” asked Greta, grasping the Abe’s sturdy thigh. Greta, a middle-aged expatriate was a German socialite escaping a rather dodgy past filled with multiple fiancés left wondering what became of her and an inflated bank account without any real explanation of how it tripled in assets within the span of two months. On the other hand, there’s no one around to ask her too many questions about that anymore, so perhaps the mystery will remain just that.

Abe paused at the question, offering no response. He may ultimately fail the test, Veronica, Greta and about a dozen other on-lookers thought, worried for a moment. Abe, however, did not leave. Instead, he slid his empty glass aside, and with a serpent’s grace, he stretched his slender but muscular body across the table, and wrapped his long fingers around the neck with a seductive, choking rhythm, pulled the bottle to his lips and emptied the slightly sweet and eminently powerful liquid into himself.

Abe retracted back into his seat, returning to his meek pose and responded, “I am in love. Carnally in love, spiritually raptured and emotionally damned—the feel of her, the sight, her fiery aura that lights up a room that becomes alive just because she’s in it. Her scent, the way she tastes and sounds hypnotizes me senseless. Her words and thoughts and emotions captivate me and hold me enslaved. But I cannot tell you why I am in love. It’s a spell. She’s horrible. The way she treats people—me. She’s at the core an angry, bitter jealous, crazy woman who bursts into rages and screaming insults when the wind changes direction. Disapproving of all people and ideas, she is an earthquake or a voyage on cracking ice—welcoming at first, but just waiting to through open the trap door on your ass as soon as you hit her mark. Her words at times sound so sweet and kind and so funny as if she’s a delightful gift and could never be anything but, worshipping the very ground on which you walk and so grateful to have you there in this warm place of love and reverence. All the while she has a dagger churning in circles, dug deep into your back, preparing to remove your organs and gleefully play with your spleen like a spongy little ball. These are a few of her favorite things. And I am in love. I too often imagine her unbroken with all of the damaged pieces whole and the crazy removed. But it’s the crazy that’s the glue holding her together, you know? If I could take out the crazy, all that would be left of her is a million little pieces and no glue. So she’s there, and I’m here, in love with her in a place that’s safer. Is there more rum?”

Veronica pops up and pours coffee for Abe saying, “All drunks are poets. You may be a better poet than most, so we’ll need to keep the alcohol poisoning at bay so that you may see another day. So, instead of more rum, let’s have you try another Costa Rican original—a full-bodied roast. Cream or sugar?”

Abe smiles, “Ah, you’re right, of course. I’ve had too much. Black is fine. Thanks.”

Greta wraps her arms around Abe, with Abe suddenly realizing how attractive Greta is, though having lived almost twice his 28 years of life. Greta says, “Abe, I think you shall not make the journey back to your hotel tonight. Too far. You stay here.”

“Here at the bar?” asks Abe.

“No. Here at our house,” says Greta.

“I’ll stay at your house?” asks Abe.

“No. You’ll stay with our Veronica. She is lovely, no? And she will see that you are comfortable for tonight. Your hotel is too far, and you are too drunk to travel that far, yes? Yes,” Greta decides for Abe. Veronica is busy cleaning up the bar getting ready to close. She has prepared a ham sandwich for Abe with thick fresh bread, and she places it along with a very tall glass of coconut water in front of him without a word. Greta says, “Yes. Good. You eat all of this. Drink all of your water. Hector will hand you Asprin. You will finish all of this, and your hangover will be much more, uh, tame in the morning.” Greta pokes Abe hard in his side causing him to wince saying, “You finish all, here? Yes.”

Abe dares not sway from these orders. He still has about a dozen eyes on him, though some had wandered off. Veronica flickers the lights on and off, signaling the close for the night. Last call took place about an hour ago, which went unnoticed do to the lively entertainment provided by the newcomer. As Veronica cleans up the last of Abe’s dishes, his eyes fix on her. She is heartily plump with more than 60 pounds of extra padding evenly distributed around her body and very short—not much more than 5 feet, he thinks, and still she looks rather athletic. She has medium-length blonde hair and a kind yet edgy presence about her, though they have not yet spoken to each other.

Soon, Abe feels remarkably sober, sober enough to realize that while he has every intention of staying the night with Veronica, she has never uttered a word about it. He gently wraps his long fingers around her forearm and asks, “Is it okay with you? May I stay the night at your house? Greta seemed so insistent, I’m sorry it didn’t occur to me to ask you until now.

Veronica explains, “That trial they just put you through for four hours? You passed.” She places her hand on top of his, which is still resting on her arm saying, “You are now family here.” She smiles at Abe continuing, “You are welcome to stay,” and she pats his hand and places it back in his lap. She continues talking to him, while Abe’s brain feels like it’s doing the backstroke, swimming around in his skull. “I’ve seen them perform that ritual, that brutal interrogation you just endured, more times than I can count. Only five people have passed so far. You are the fifth,” she said nodding at him.

“How do you know I passed?” asked Abe.

Veronica leans into him saying, “You stayed.”

“I stayed? That’s it?” asked Abe.

“Yep. That’s it,” replied Veronica. “It’s a flawless test of character, really. If you can tolerate their shenanigans and insults while revealing the most personal things about yourself in answer to their rude questions, it shows that you are forthcoming, that you respect them enough to answer, truthful or not, you have hide thick enough to take their shit and that you stick around through difficulty to a resolution.  Damnit!” she pauses, “I think you might be damn near a perfect person!” Veronica laughs. “Come on. Let’s get you to bed.”

Abe hops out of Veronica’s 1992 yellow Jeep Wrangler that was decked out with the biggest tires he’d ever seen outside of a monster truck derby. She turns off the ignition, and with it stops the blaring music, Schumann’s “Erlkonig.”

They approach a quaint house, glowing with warm yellow electric lights in lanterns hanging from the eves. As he enters the house behind Veronica, he notices the smell of fresh Caribbean beach air as though the house had no walls, and the beachside breeze painted the interior with a magical peaceful brush.  The floors were all terracotta clay tiles, and the walls were painted in warm buttery yellows and cool blue-gray tones with stark white accents. The furniture was an eclectic mix of comfortable modern décor combined with antiques and local craftsmen’s creations and vibrant art and sculptures.

Veronica leads Abe to a large bamboo door off of the foyer, which reveals a comfortable guestroom, complete with a large white bed with crisp pale blue linens though a little threadbare, having been through more than 10 years of washes on a washboard. Yes, a washboard—the device Veronica has used to wash everything she owns since she moved to Costa Rica 10 years ago.

Abe dove head-first into the bed, kicking off his flip-flops, and landing with his head snuggled deep into the fluffy pillows. An avid marathon insomniac, his shut his eyes, praying that sleep would hit him soon, although he feared the dawn that would most assuredly serve him a mighty hangover. He was hoping he’d be able to sleep through most of it. Veronica flipped off the light and shut the door behind her, and Abe’s prayer was answered as he quickly fell deep into slumber.

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The Book of Carver

[Here are the first five Chapters of a developing short story.]

The Book of Carver: Ssssmokin’

Chapter 1

Carver woke up with his nose crunched down on the cold damp sidewalk. He turned his head, and pried open his swollen, blood-crusted eyes that tried to focus on the partially dissolved cigar next to his face. It never did come into view very well. As he began to tense his body, hoping he had the strength to get up, he felt a stream of hot, wet liquid splashing onto the back of his head, stinging the many cuts and abrasions on his face that he
didn’t know he had until now. Each one stinging sharply, and the waft of a putrid stench began filling his nose. Someone was pissing on his head, he realized. He threw his hands beneath him, to thrust his body upwards in one herculean push-up, but just as quickly, the sound of metal cracking on bone reverberated in his head, followed by a ferocious pain that almost made him vomit, and the force of a large booted foot came down on his head and squashed his nose back into the sidewalk like a bug, breaking it with a loud crunch. The taste of blood seeped into his mouth, and he coughed a bit before he could angle his head into a position where he could catch steady breaths, gasping through his mouth.

Just as suddenly, he heard the footsteps of the booted man walking off into the distance. Carver pried his eyes open once more, and tilted his head forward. There he saw a pair of sexy 3-inch black and white Patton leather heels, arranged in a ballet stance of third position, topped with long slender creamy legs that seemed to go on forever. He didn’t have the strength to look up any farther before a pack of smokes and a book of slightly used
matches were tossed in front of him. Then, those shiny heels and dreamy legs clicked away, completely out of view.

Again, Carver, placed his hands beneath him, and he curled his legs to the side. He sat up and took in the view. He was right below the front steps of his own apartment building. He tapped his pocket to see if he still had his wallet, and it was there. He opened it to find everything in place, including $400 in cash.

Carver snorted in a repulsive mess of piss, mucus and blood, attempting to breathe from his cracked nose, but that didn’t work. He reached over for the cigarettes and match book, and slid a cigarette into his mouth, sitting up a little straighter. He examined the matchbook—it was from a local tango club that he frequents. And, suddenly, he remembered those shoes, and the legs that went on forever. He remembers asking this exotic Argentinian lady for a smoke, and her eyes fluttering at him through her sultry smile. He tried to remember more, but it all came up blank. Like he had his head caved in by a falling concrete wall, and he wasn’t too certain that didn’t actually happen.

Carver flicked open the matchbook, and saw black letters inscribed that read, “Smoking can be hazardous to your health.” A smile drew across his face as he lifted his brutalized body inside to his apartment. “Not nearly as hazardous as long-legged Argentinian women,” he thought to himself.

 

Chapter 2

Freshly showered and deeply buzzed by the pain, he chews a fist full of pills—a modest rainbow party of over-the-counter meds washed down with a double tall, ice cold vodka and apple juice.  He knows he should be in a hospital, but the effort it would take to even make the final decision to go isn’t in him right now. His nose is still bleeding. He passes out on his sofa.

The invigorating scent of expensive perfume urges him awake, along with the repetitive, gentle slaps across his cheeks made by soft, small hands.

“Carver!” he hears slowly drifting into his ears, followed by sobbing and repeated slapping. “Carver!” he hears much clearer and louder now as his eyes begin to open most painfully. “Carver wake up!” he raises his hand to keep her from continuing to slap him.

“Desi! Stop it. I’m awake,” he says to her.

“What the fuck happened to you, Carver?!” she continues to cry.

“Nothing,” he says as he rises to his feet, only to collapse like a deck of cards, spilling back onto the sofa. He points over to the far corner of the room, by the window overlooking the sidewalk where he just recently had his ass kicked. “Hey, Desi, look over there. It’s finished.”

Desiree’s gaze follows his pointed finger leading to an amazing work of art. There are 25 skate boards and surf boards bolted onto metal racks, portraying a mosaic of skeletal figures skating and surfing side-by-side in a brightly colored Mexican Day of the Dead style. She is mesmerized and approaches the work as though she had just seen the Arc of the Covenant. Caver bursts into a painful smile, watching her reaction.

Soon, the hypnotic effects wear away, and Desiree quickly pivots enraged at Carver, “You are getting up, and I’m taking you to a hospital right now. You idiot! What the hell happened to you… Never mind. You can tell
me later.” She reaches under his arm and helps him to his feet, headed straight for the door.

“Desi, wait!” he says whining.

“No, we are not waiting. You have no idea how horrible you look!,” she says.

“Well, thanks for the flattery, really,” he says while stubbornly planting his feet down onto the wood floor, “I’m in my boxers. Can I at least put on my pants? Pretty please?”

“Where are they?” she barks.

“Here,” he says, moving over to reach into the bathroom.

“Did you piss your pants?” she asks, smelling the foul odor emanating from his kakis.

“No, not exactly,” he said tossing them to the floor and proceeding out the door in his fresh clean boxers. He decides that the minor humiliation from prancing around in his underwear far surpasses the repulsion of sitting around in pants soaked with some other man’s urine or trying to convince Desiree into letting him grab a new pair of pants out of the bedroom from the second story loft.

 

Chapter 3

“My bed. God I love my fucking bed,” he said as he began waking up. Soft, white, crisp cotton sheets and downy covers—he curled up, hoping he could drift back to sleep, but the pain was starting to throb. Nothing specific—it hurt everywhere, and the pain was getting stronger.

He remembered the wicked ass-kicking from the night before, and he remembered Desiree kidnapping him in his boxers, making him go to the hospital. “The hospital!” he thought. He remembered that he was taken to the
hospital. He didn’t actually remember being in the hospital, but he knew he was taken there, so that means there must be pain killers around the apartment somewhere. Surely they’d prescribe pain killers to a man who looks like the product of a botched slaughter from a blind butcher, or something like that, he thoughtt.

He slowly slid his battered flesh out of bed and began hunting for the pills he was certain were here. Checking the bedroom loft, then over to the small bathroom upstairs—there was nothing. He made an effort not to glace in any mirrors, not wanting to know what his agony looks like. He slowly made his way downstairs and into the first floor bathroom. No sign of a prescription. He did catch a glance at his hand and saw the hospital band still
strapped to his wrist—proof that indeed he was treated. His eyes lit up, more certain than ever that his pills are here. Somewhere, they are here.

He began heading towards the kitchen, and the pain became unbearable. From all over his body, sharp stabbing, throbbing and fiery pain began building into a relentless frenzy. His head, however, fell numb, as
though it wasn’t even attached to the rest of the tortured torso beneath it. He could barely keep his legs moving beneath him as he smoothed over every surface of the kitchen, looking for the damn pain pills. He found nothing.

At this point, walking was out of the question. He fell to his knees and crawled to his favorite spot on the sofa. As he lay down, he saw a small piece of paper on the coffee table in front of him. It looked like a prescription. He grabbed it—a script for a big bottle of oxycodone was clenched in his hand. “A lot of fucking good this does me,” he thought to himself. He lay back into the sofa with an excruciating stabbing pain jabbing him in the small of his back. He passed out as if someone had simply flipped the off switch—he was out.

“Hey, Carver! Why did you leave the door wide open?” Desiree shouted at him as she walked in to find him sprawled out on the sofa with his eyes wide open. “Carver?” she said, “What’s going on?”

“I’m in fucking pain!” he bellows.

“I know, I know,” she says pulling out a couple white pills and sliding them into his mouth, handing him a bottle of chilled water. “Go ahead, and swallow. They’ll kick in soon,” she said.

Carver did as instructed. Then he thought about the prescription still clenched in his hand. “Hey, didn’t you need this,” he said, holding up the paper script in a death grip.

“No. I had a cheaper supplyand closer, in my medicine cabinet right down the hall,” she said. “We’ll get this filled a little later.”

“Good neighbor,” said Carver. He rested his eyes, and then that sharp pain stabbing him in his back threw him into a spasm. He gripped the back of the sofa until the spasm passed, and he wished he were back in bed. His back felt fine in bed, he thought.

Desiree seemed to read his mind, and she pulled him up into a sitting position, “Let’s get you back to your bed,” she said. Then, her eyes darted to the cushion where Carver was resting his back. “What the fuck, Carver. Look if you’re just trying to off yourself, let me know now, and I’ll leave you to do whatever the hell it is you think you need to do. Christ!”

“What the hell are you talking about. I just had my ass kicked, I’m in excruciating pain, and you’re screaming at me about some crazy bullshit about suicide,” he blasted back.

“The gun, Carver. The gun. I don’t know any sane people, you know who don’t have a fucking death wish, who sleep on top of guns. Do you? Oh, I see. No, I get it. You were afraid some hoodlum was going to pop up through the cushions of your sofa, and the gun would protect you. You cuddle with it to feel safe or something? Fuck you, Carver. Just be honest, ” she shot back at him.

“What…” Carver looked over to his side, and there in fact was a gun. He popped up to his feet enraged, “What the fuck is this shit all about? Why did you bring a fucking gun into my house, Desi. I fucking hate guns! Shit! Get it out of here!” Carver is now speechless. Silence has taken over as the room as the two of them stared, dazed, pointing at the gun. Carver eventually broke the silence but otherwise didn’t move a muscle. “It’s not your gun, is it, Desi,” he said.

“No.” said Desiree, still motionless pointing at the object.

Chapter 4

Carver looks at Desiree with a crooked face, not that it’s easy to tell what with all the swelling and bandages. He lowers his hand and says, “I think it’s time I call the police.”

“Carver, what happened?” asked Desiree.

“Desi, can you please write this down?” Carver says, pointing to a pad of paper on the kitchen counter. “I don’t really trust my memory to hold, what little I have left of it. There are so many blank pieces between last night and this morning.”

Desiree grabs the pad with a nearby pen then plops cross legged on the floor beneath Carver’s feet. Carver moves slowly onto a stool and looks down towards Desiree.  At once, he sees her differently. He sees a beautiful young woman, not just the edgy hot chick that lives down the hall, but as someone sensual, desirable. He sees a warmth in her eyes he has never noticed before. A glint of compassion and nurturing, maybe. He felt like he just wanted to curl up next to her, for her to hold him and make this nightmare disappear. Ah, he thought, that’s it. The pain killers are kicking in! Woooooooooo!

“What happened, Carver?” she repeated softly. He told her of the Tango club, the Patton leather shoes with the legs that went on forever and the sultry Argentinian lady he asked for a smoke. He told her about the proper
ass kicking and the blank spot on his memory just before the last part of the beating. He recalled what he did following the beating, pointing to the pack of cigarettes and match book, showering and passing out on the sofa followed by her, Desiree slapping him awake. He went on to describe what happened while they were together, then Desiree had to fill in the blanks of the time spent at the hospital to returning with the front door to his apartment swung wide open. Thy both completed the rest of the story together leading up to and including the
discovery of the gun. The gun.

“Why the fuck is there a gun in my apartment?” said Carver.

“I’ll call,” said Desiree as she whips out her iPhone adorned with rainbows of tiny skulls.

Yep, he thought. That’s sexy. I’m still high. Carver smiled.

 

Chapter 5

“So, you don’t know anything about the guy who urinated on your head? You can’t remember the color of his boot or whether he was short or tall black or white?” asked the bland uniformed officer.

“No,” said Carver.

“I have no idea. Like I told you, I wasn’t there! I was in my apartment acclimating a new shark to my aquarium,” declared Desiree to the other bland uniformed officer who arrived, responding to Desiree’s 911 call.

Just then, a skinny young man walked through the door in an expensive dark silk suit that hung on him like a hanger in a closet.  He had a soft, underdeveloped voice like puberty still hadn’t slapped him properly and his balls were still waiting to drop. “Who is Carver Thompson?” he said, walking through the room with an air of confidence that seemed overinflated, betraying the slightness of his appearance.

“Odd duck,” said the first bland uniformed officer to Carver.

“Mr. Black, It’s ready for you,” announced Carver, excited for the young man to see his commissioned work.

Mr. Black removed a pair of mirrored aviator glasses to look more closely at the creation. “Its symmetry is eloquent, movement is tumultuous but fluid and the colors electric. I could never have imagined something so perfect,” he said to Carver. “Can you load it up?”

I’ll deliver it to you. What’s the address?” asked Carver.

Mr. Black handed him a shiny thick black card embossed with:

666 Black Drive

St. Petersburg, FL 33701

“Do you have the poster?” asked Mr. Black.

“Oh, it’s in my apartment. I’ll be right back,” Desiree said as she bolted out the door and down the hall. She returned as quickly as she left with a large cardboard backed poster of Mr. Black skating and surfing in Hawaii—all wrapped in a generous amount of clear cellophane. Desiree fumbled around with the wrapping for a second while Carver grabbed a black paint marker off of his drafting table for Mr. Black to sign the poster.

“Oh, yes. I remember this one. I like this poster. Carver, so something with a similar style but more recent? Get with my people for some photographs you can use. I want the design on an electric guitar and a poster, you understand?” said Mr. Black signing the poster Desiree is holding for him. “A benefit for foster kids, you said?”

Desiree nodded, “Yes, there are about…”

Mr. Black interrupts her, “Will there be foster kids at the benefit?” Desiree nods yes. “Please bring an invitation for me. I’d like to go,” said Mr. Black.

“Oh, that would be amazing, Mr. Black. Thank you very much!” said Desiree as Mr. Black quickly leaves the apartment in an abrupt awkward silence. Not rude—there is nothing rude or unkind about him, just awkward.

Meanwhile the uniformed officers bagged up and catalogued the evidence: 1) the gun; 2) the cigarette pack; 3) the match book; 5) some fingerprint samples from inside the apartment and outside near the attack site; and, 4) Carver’s shirt from last night soaked with blood and urine in case there’s a need and ability to pull any of the assailant’s DNA from the garment. They left Carver with a case number and let him know that a detective will be
assigned to the case and to expect a call for further investigation.

Once the police left, Desiree helped Carver upstairs to is bed, gave him more pills, and they took a quick nap before heading over to Mr. Black’s house to deliver the art installment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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(NaNoWriMo) About the process

Hi! So earlier I posted the prologue and Chapter 1 to this creation, which are mostly complete. But, as is my writing process, I write in “mindwanderings” to help keep things flowing. So, the following few chapters I just posted are incomplete (with funky formatting). And they may stay that way for some time. Meanwhile, I tried to provide some content to help me (and you) figure out where I was headed with the chapters. This keeps me on track with the story in my head, and it might help you if you chose to read these incomplete writings. Edits will be made along the way, and it will be difficult to track if you are so inclined. I guess, just look for the removal of “[incomplete]” notations to see final versions of chapters in the future.  Thanks for following along on my journey and meeting my imaginary friends. We are all going out to lunch now, but we’ll return to continue the adventure! I always appreciate the company and the comments…  Happy trails  –Daphne

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2011 in FICTION: Novel (NaNoWriMo)

 

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About NaNoWriMo

IT’S NOT TOO LATE! To start…

Here’s what NaNoWriMo is all about:

  1. NaNoWriMo = National Novel Writing Month
  2. What do you do? Write. This thing here is all about quantity not quality, and for once, that’s a good thing. Just get those words on the pages and tell your inner editor to go take a long walk off a short bridge
  3. How do I jump in the game? Easy! Visit: http://www.nanowrimo.org/en/dashboard , register and jump in with both feet
  4. What do you do? Pledge to write 50,000 words in one month. Then, go and write them. Again, it’s about quantity not quality here
  5. When did it start? Midnight, November1st. It ends November 30th. So, yes. It already started for 2011, but you can begin whenever you want
  6. Why bother? To get that novel outa ya! “The 50,000-word challenge has a wonderful way of opening up your imagination and unleashing creativity,” says NaNoWriMo Founder and Executive Director (and 12-time NaNoWriMo winner) Chris Baty. “When you write for quantity instead of quality, you end up getting both. Also, it’s a great excuse for not doing any dishes for a month.”
  7. What good could come from it? Your novel. Look, true, most won’t go anywhere other than the grand satisfaction of knowing that you acheived this–you wrote a novel. You are a novelist. However, something great COULD happen: “The 50,000-word challenge has a wonderful way of opening up your imagination and unleashing creativity,” says NaNoWriMo Founder and Executive Director (and 12-time NaNoWriMo winner) Chris Baty. “When you write for quantity instead of quality, you end up getting both. Also, it’s a great excuse for not doing any dishes for a month.”
  8. Is there a prize? No. Well, yes–immense satisfaction. There are no judges, no prizes, and entries are deleted from the server before anyone even reads them. This is all for YOU!
  9. Conclusion: At midnight on November 1, armed only with their wits, the vague outline of a story, and a ridiculous deadline, more than 250,000 people around the world will set out to become novelists. Will you be one of them who embarked on this grand journey inside your head by November 30th?
  10. I DARE YOU! Want to get started? Feel free to contact me if you want a virtual writing partner or just a friendly voice of encouragement now and then. I’ll even be happy to coordinated writing collaboration groups for anyone who’s interested to help prevent existential lonliness through the process. If you’re not already of friend of mine through FB, friend me: Daphne Taylor Street. You can send me an email: daphne.street@facebook.com

Happy trails! –Daphne

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2011 in FICTION: Novel (NaNoWriMo)

 

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(NaNoWriMo) Chapter 1

CHAPTER 1

I’ve often wished that I could write a book right after I’m dead. Wondering how the last chapter would read. Wondering if, of all of the profound lessons learned, the most important of these lessons would continue to be “cherish now.” I think it might.

Floating face-down in the harbor, my lifeless body bloated, lodged against a dock-side piling with my foot trapped in salt encrusted seaweed, head beating repeatedly against the hull of an inhabited yacht, soon to wake its residents. Our hero is sitting on the seawall nearby, watching the rose-colored water brighten in the sunrise, sipping on a hot can of stolen beer he found in an abandoned dockside lockbox that was left unlocked. He’s not able to quench any thirst, just drinking as a habit, finding solace in a sense of normalcy, wondering how to talk—his tongue is too swollen from dehydration to move—paralyzed. And when he can talk, he’s wondering how to tell the story, our story, and what will happen when it all comes out.

After several minutes of my head thudding against his yacht, a young man in his late twenties emerges from the boat’s cabin. His dark, short, brown hair disheveled, wearing a long-sleeved t-shirt with a photograph of a snook silkscreened on the back draping over a pair of wrinkled cargo shorts, he yawns. He rubs his naturally tone torso and scratches the short stubble on his chin while looking around to find the source of the thudding. Eyes practically swollen shut from exhaustion, he squints into the glare from the water’s surface. A small helium-like nasally yelp with a Long Island accent comes from below and demands, “Aaron! That’s it. Get rid of this stupid boat. It’s too noisy! Aaron! Are you listening to me? Aaron! Oh what the hell…”

Aaron pays no attention to the actual words yelping at him. He never does. For the past two weeks he’s trapped himself with this crazy woman on his 36 foot yacht with no sober explanation of how or why on his journey back from Mexico to St. Petersburg, Florida. What he does know right now is that he needs the screeching to stop along with this incessant thudding so he can get some sleep. Yawning, “Uh-huh,” he replies to her and climbs up to the bow. He looks over starboard-side, and his eyes fix on my dead body and my head bouncing in-time with the wake against the bow of his vessel. “Son of a …,” Aaron croaks out, then slumps down, sitting with his bare feet dangling over the side—shock sets in. The last thing in the world he wants to deal with is his terrible choice in a girlfriend, caused by too many tequila-filled nights in Mexico, and a dead body—in that order. If he could choose, the dead body is preferable to the girlfriend problem. On the other hand, he thinks, this may be a brilliant way to get rid of the squeamish, high-maintenance, whiny girl for good. He calls down to her, “Honey, please come up here and give me my phone. It’s an emergency.” After a small pause and still staring at my body he continues, “Honey, please hurry. It’s an emergency.”

She charges at him, wearing nothing but a teal bra and matching undies, clinging to a perfect dark athletic body with flowing long brown hair coming up from below carrying an open can of Diet Coke, “An emergency? What kind of an emergency means you’re too lazy to come and get your own… Ahhhh!” she lets out a piercing scream, spilling Diet Coke all over the deck as her eyes locked on my corpse, and she drops Aaron’s phone in his lap. Aaron tries to avoid snickering, which isn’t too hard when he realizes that not only does he need to deal with my dead body, but now he also has to clean his deck. He hangs his head. The girlfriend immediately grabs her belongings and flees. At least something went well this morning. He shuts his swollen eyes and rests his head against the lifeline still hearing the thudding of my head against his hull.

In the nearby distance, our hero, Jimmy Talbot, has finished sipping his hot beer and allowed a small smirk to surface across his lips as he watched the scene before him, the young woman, practically naked, taking flight out of the marina and losing herself in the waterfront city. The City of St. Petersburg, Florida was slowly waking for this soon-to-be media-charged Saturday morning. As for Jimmy, he knew he had to begin being responsible for perhaps the first time in his 37 years of life. His best friend and her legacy was counting on it. He rose to his feet and made his way over to Aaron’s boat, “Hi, partner. Sorry about this and all, but I know that woman down there. You called the police yet?”

Aaron sprung to his feet, shocked and frightened. “No, sir. Not yet. I was about to…”

“That’s good,” Jimmy said. “You do that, and I’ll sit right here. They’ll likely have a lot of questions for me.”

“Umm. Yeah, sure.” Aaron made the 911 call, hands and voice shaking, not knowing what to make of Jimmy, not wanting to think about it at all, he explained to the dispatcher that there was a dead body floating off of the bow of his boat in the harbor and that he had no idea how long she had been there or what happened to her. Within seconds, the sound of sirens started closing in until about eight police cars were parked directly at the entrance of the St. Petersburg Municipal Marina. Jimmy was sitting cross-legged on a lockbox, clutching his tan legs, now worried about the smell of beer on his breath at this hour of the morning and just now noticed a small splatter of blood on his sun-bleached Tommy Bahama Hawaiian-style shirt. A line of police were moving quickly down the dock, and Jimmy panicked. He jumped up, turned his back, and stuck a finger down his throat, vomiting into the water, but making sure to catch some vomit on his shirt where the blood splattered. He tore his shirt off of his body to wipe his mouth standing on a pair of lean, steady legs with his worn navy corduroy shorts hanging off of his hips, making room for a small, tan beer belly. As he turned around, he came nose to nose with a uniformed officer. Jimmy nervously patted on his short blonde beard and wrung his longish curly hair out of his face to take a good look at the officer, hoping to appear honest and friendly, squinting his baby blue eyes.

The officer stepped back after he caught a whiff of Jimmy’s breath, then quickly began asking questions, What’s your name, may I see some identification please?” Jimmy grabbed at his back pocket for his wallet while his eyes drifted over to Aaron who was engaged in a conversation with a guy in cheap gray suit pants, white shirt and an ugly tie. Must be a detective, Jimmy thought. Jimmy handed over his whole scuffed brown leather wallet, containing his Florida Drivers License, a Regal Cinema rewards card and about $2,000 in cash to the police officer, then swiftly walked toward Aaron shouting, “Hey partner! Don’t worry, I got this.”

The guy in the ugly tie swung around, “Are you the person who stated he knew the deceased?”

Suddenly, all the bottled-up emotions burst in Jimmy, and tears came flowing out of his eyes, he became increasingly unsteady on his feet walking towards Aaron and the guy in the ugly tie saying, “Yeah. I knew Veronica. Uh, the deceased.” The confident but friendly nature of his voice was betrayed wholly by the emerging gray hue rolling in, clouding his baby blue eyes like a thunder storm complete with pouring rain. “Veronica was the best. She lit up the world, you know. She was just one of those people that… that… you know, a star. Not like famous but like a star in the sky, lit-up, steady light, you could actually navigate by her brilliance. She was just like that, you know?”

The uniformed officer previously abandoned by Jimmy called out, “Detective Morano, his name is James Lancelot Talbot, 37, lives about a couple blocks away at the Bayfront Tower Condominium.” The officer handed Jimmy’s wallet back to him.

“Everyone knows me as Jimmy,” Jimmy corrected.

Detective Morano, the guy in the ugly tie, said to Jimmy, trying to change the subject for a moment so that Jimmy could regain his composure, “Bayfront Tower? Expensive address. What do you do for a living, where do you work?”

Wiping the tears out of his face, keeping his calm and confident voice, Jimmy replied, “No, I worked. I don’t work. I mean, I made a lot of money once, and I didn’t like working. So, I bought a condo and a boat, lots of fishing gear, and I try not to spend much money. Keeps me away from working. It benefits me, protects any potential employers from me, and my family isn’t bothered by me. Good thing all around, you know?”

“You made a lot of money working once?” questioned Detective Morano. “Was this work legal? I don’t know of a legal job that pays that well for anyone to work once.”

Jimmy is used to being misjudged. He realized a long time ago that his manner and lifestyle beg for it, so he’s almost flattered by it now. He smiles politely, replying “Yes, sir. To my knowledge engineering and ship building is still legal work. I patented a couple hull designs that win a lot of races. It paid well and still pays with residual income from the patents. I also write a little, take some pictures and paint a little, but I’m not so good at meeting deadlines, so it just provides a bit of drinking money, you know? Yep, that’s it. That’s what I did and what I do.”

Detective Morano responded, “Oh, I see. So, you’re a writer.”

Jimmy ruffled his brow not wanting to be insulting, he replied, “Yep. Something like that.”

Aaron, overhearing the dialogue, was too nervous to give off an obvious reaction, but he grew concerned that this detective might not be the brightest bulb in the socket and just stared wide-eyed at Jimmy. Jimmy caught Aaron’s eye and instantly sensed his concern. Jimmy smiled at Aaron and said with easy confidence, “No worries partner. I got this.”

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2011 in FICTION: Novel (NaNoWriMo)

 

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(NaNoWriMo) Prologue

Azores Islands, Portugal 1641

Captain Simon Crosse scoped the open seas off the coast of Portugal, near the Azores Islands sensing the eerie calm of the clear blue skies blending seamlessly into the flat horizon, the dead wind lufting sails, hanging impotent on massive masts. Adrenaline began to swell in his veins, his heart about to burst through his chest. He knew the signs—a wild storm was brewing. He can’t see it coming; it’s not visible. Its scent fills his flared nostrils. Fresh Spanish blood is about to give up life, limb and loot. His connection to his rage is complete here, appropriate to battle. He paced the cabin, an irate caged tiger, eyes as pinpricks. His First Mate, Wiley, close at hand, slendered himself against the far wall, hoping to remain invisible at these moments. Wiley’s at the ready to take over the helm and command of piloting the vessel as soon as the Captain lets loose his fury on deck.

And so it begins. The Captain opens a simple wooden box, appearing dull and out of place surrounded by prized, jewels, art and sculptures. As the lid raised, it spilled forth a bright light. The light emanated from a strange linen cloth glowing bright, revealing a large sapphire blue skull. Its shape was alien, elongated cranium, enormous eye sockets and no space for a mouth. The Captain’s eyes steadied on the horizon, he gently tossed the skull over to Wiley and charged out of the cabin.  “All hands on deck!” the thundering words boomed from the Captain’s chest. Words that could have been heard clearly a mile off.

Wiley moved to the helm, kissed the skull gently on its forehead and secured it in a small porthole. The skull began to change color, now glowing an iridescent white, illuminating the entire cabin. Wiley began singing softly, a gentle tune he composed to honor the relic. “Ah, good juju,” Wiley says to the skull winking at as if it were his lover.

All at once, a hurricane of ruddy, burly Englishmen swarmed the deck, focused on their well-tuned assigned tasks. No further instructions needed. They operate as a single machine with a single purpose in five parts. First, find wind to fill the sails, blow if they must. Second, prepare for battle. Third, win the battle and take no prisoners. Forth, pillage loot. Fifth, return to land safely and celebrate. The objectives and necessary steps are law, and everyone knows their respective places and responsibilities. Any deviations or mishaps result in immediate death. The men appreciate the simplicity of clear rules and consequences. The Captain is keenly aware of the motivation it provides, so he is sure to never disappoint. When Deckhand Masters, with six years of tenure on the crew, lost grip of the most forward main sheet yesterday in battle, all the ship’s men gathered and cheered as the Captain personally anchored Deckhand Masters to the ocean floor—his new permanent home.

Only a few have ever earned forgiveness from the Captain. Apart from the Captain’s beloved First Mate, two others also hold much distinction and even love from the Captain. The ship’s chaplain is the Captain’s closest confidant, and he fashions funeral wreaths of seaweed, which he blesses and keeps at the ready for funerals at sea. Not one shipman goes unacknowledged by the chaplain when he passes on to meet his maker, no matter the manner in which he meets his demise. He has a small dog named Cat he keeps in a bird cage. He feeds Cat mostly birdseed and small licks of honey, which Cat does enjoy.

The ship’s scribe is the other. She is the only woman on the ship and happens to be the Captain’s daughter. She’s obsessive with detail and stores memories like libraries, all categorically organized in her brain, easy to access and use however best benefits her. She documents every name of every shipman, their battles fought and crosses them out with a definitive date marked “END” as soon as they are no more. She also serves as a war correspondent, documenting every story of every battle just as she sees it. She keeps a clean count of the death toll on both sides and accounts for loot acquired and estimates loss. As soon as the sounds of battle cry out in the air, she stealthfully puts herself in the midst of the chaos, yet cunningly out-of-view, recording all she sees. Her bunk is cluttered with carefully bound ledgers, which she stitched by hand every one.

Meanwhile, on deck, the men staring at the still tell-tails, bow their heads and pray for wind, and so it appears. Immediately, magically, gusts of wind conjure from nowhere to fill the heavy sails in the hot flat sea. Then, it appeared. Drifting slowly out in the distance, paralyzed by the calm that formerly afflicted the pirate’s ship, a Spanish galleon came into view. It seemed as a toy ship floating aimlessly in the hot mid-day sun. The Captain sees it first, for he had smelled it long before it reached a range of visibility. He straightens his spine, elongating his already towering torso, and he points directly at the spot of the galleon with a long crooked finger. He need not say a word. All the shipmen notice and know exactly what to do. They tack directly into their magical wind, with their target in sight, prepared to conquer, pillage and destroy. The men, in unison, follow the Captain’s orders by effortless instinct. He is a man of few words, and that works well for everyone.

Captain Simon’s power in leadership is not founded on fear alone, though fear doesn’t hurt. He’s a Pied Piper. He leads and others follow as naturally as breath, to victory and even to death if that were fate’s command. It helps that error as foreign to him as losing. He never lies. He never cheats. He is always true to his word. Yes, certainly, he’s a murderous pirate, but he goes about his business honorably.

The Captain climbs up on the bow sprit, balancing effortlessly on the wooden plank. He is as tall and slender as a cypress, agile with flawless dexterity more than brute strength driven by a quick-witted, cunning mind, always six steps ahead of even his most worthy foes. Still, his face, always clean-shaven, is a living map of scars bearing a history that could tell tales filling a million adventure books. His snake-like eyes peer through thin eyelids slightly hidden by wisps of longish black hair, pulled back in pale, clean cloths. He notices that his ship is approaching its target much quicker than he anticipated. The supernatural wind powering its sails is unusually strong today. He feels omnipotent. He glares at the Spanish galleon growing larger before his eyes as his ship approaches faster and faster still, the sharp hull creating little wake as a razor cutting through flat water.

At once, the port-side’s 19 cannons blasted towards the galleon, and the Captain grabs a deckhand with both slender, powerful hands upon his baggy shirt, ordering him to the crow’s nest atop the mast, handing him a telescope. The deckhand scurries to the top like a ravenous squirrel. “Mate, what do you see up there?” the Captain demands.

“I see crows, Sir,” the mate responds obediently.

“What?” the Captain barks back, assuming this will be the very last word the deckhand will ever hear. He prepares to catapult himself to the top of the mast to fling the deckhand outward, into a freefall to the deadly waters so far below. The only punishment allowed for a man who would utter such a daringly obtuse smart-ass response. But, when the Captain’s gaze meets the gaze of the deckhand, there, indeed, are many small crows flitting about. Large, adult crows were actually kept caged in the crow’s nest—a lookout point atop the tallest mast on the ship, fitted with a sturdy basket. These crows were kept caged there, and care was provided by the mate assigned to that spot. This assignment was either out of punishment as inhabitants are prone to experiencing severe seasickness at that altitude on even the most calm waters. Or, it was just an assigned position, merely handed off to fulfill a need. As for the caged crows, they serve a very useful purpose. When a sailor wants to find land quickly, he releases a crow and follows its navigation to the nearest land “as the crow flies.” Apparently, these particular crows were kept caged so long and cared for so well, they bred. As for the small crows—their offspring–they are small enough that they can fly through the cage bars but not yet old enough to have confidence enough to leave their parents and seek land.

“Looks like they nested up here, Sir. What do you want me to do with them?” the deckhand asks genuinely.

“Sod the crows! Scope the galleon; what do you see? How many men are on deck?” the Captain orders.

“Maybe a hundred fifty or so,” replies the deckhand.

“What are they doing? Are they preparing to return fire?” asks the Captain.

“No, Sir. They are scurrying like mice. They look frightened. Confused,” said the deckhand.

“Perfect. That’s your spot, mate. Do not abandon your post,” orders the Captain. “Watch and learn.”

The Captain draws his saber and prepares to lead his crew onto the enemy vessel. The Captain’s ship is nearly on top of the Spanish galleon at this point. “I smell Spanish blood and riches already,” says the Captain, the sign for the crew to board and pillage the enemy vessel. And so they did it.

Worthy opponents in skill, yet the Spaniards appeared shocked and stunned by the attack as if they didn’t see this giant pirate ship approach theirs with cannons blaring at them, blasting these cavernous holes in their ship. The Captain’s sharp eyes beam through a path between sordid struggling bodies and flailing weapons, and his human hunt begins. He’s seeking out the Spanish galleon’s captain. This is the sole mission of his battle—extinguishing life of rival captains he believes to be his tree of life, his path to immortality. The loot is just candy. Elegantly, the Captain wades through the ensuing chaos, a deadly and unfamiliar labyrinth. Then, on the aft deck he sees her, ordering a small crew. Her. The Spanish Captain is a woman. Small, beautiful and powerful. He’s conflicted. He stops.

He positions his thin frame behind a mast, knowing any pause to be a grave error in battle. Then, in one seemingly choreographed move, Captain Simon takes the Spanish Captain into his arms, abandons his saber to his side, gripping his stiletto and presses it firmly against her jugular. Her loyal crew falls back pained and obedient to the compromising circumstances, powerless. Captain Simon is beyond aroused. He has captured a prize. A powerful, beautiful prize, perhaps under other circumstances, she would be his equal and a potential conquest of another kind. His head swimming with unfamiliar confusion, he contemplates breaking one of his own laws: taking a prisoner. He presses his body harder against hers. This prize would be far more fulfilling in captivity than dead, or a curse. No, not “or.” He knows it would be both.

On the pirate ship, the deckhand in the crow’s nest has stopped watching the battle below and turned his attention upwards. He is watching the sky turn an angry. From a hot, dead calm, swirling winds chop up the water and begin tossing the ship. He’s nauseous, but his sickness is the least of his concerns. Hovering just over head, a cloud as black as night hangs motionless. Ominous, it waits not more than a second or two before dropping in altitude, as a black ceiling strobed with lightening, covering the two ships. Hot, thick bullets of rain pounding furiously down, stinging skin and blinding sight with booming thunder shaking even the most steady bones. Just as suddenly, the winds pick up and begin tossing both of the giant ships around like playthings. The deckhand has been ordered to his position. He dare not move. He knows he will die and soon. At least if he keeps his post he will die with honor in the eyes of God. He grips tightly, rain water gathered to his waist. He prays.

Captain Simon’s crew aboard the Spanish galleon are beginning to load the loot onto the pirate ship, altering not one movement in the midst of the storm. It matters not. The mission remains the same. The two Captains entwined together like serpent lovers watch. The Spanish Captain looks up at her conqueror and says, “Please, tell me one thing. Where are they taking it all?”

Captain Simon, has become physical aroused in this position with his conquest, pushes even deeper into her, sinking his body into her healthy, plump skin as if to become one, then answers, “I’m afraid I don’t understand your question, Ma’am. They are taking it to my ship, of course.” He breathes heavily into her ear, straining to resist his carnal instincts.

“What ship? You and your men, you came from the sky, out from the sky! Where is your ship?” she pleaded.

He looked over towards his ship and watched his men load the treasure onboard; then he noticed it. She was right. Onboard of what? There was no ship there to be seen! Yet, his men continue to walk on and off where he knew his ship to be. Rain was pouring down, visibility was impaired, but the ship was most definitely not there, or rather, invisible.

As the storm brewed, the waves, wind and rain wreaked merciless havoc on the vessels, beating up the decks, filling the cabins with water and tearing down the masts, splintering them like frail sticks—consuming countless lives in moments. The deckhand in the crow’s nest hangs on tightly as his small bucket crashes down into the cold unforgiving waters, inviting him to his damp grave. Both ships toss furiously and take in more water until they both capsize. First Mate Wiley maintained his steady position at the helm and wept as the waves took the glowing alien relic and returned it to the bosom of the sea.

Captain Simon blinked his eyes disbelieving the possibility of an invisible ship. He then saw his ship suddenly come into view. “Look!” He whispers in her ear, “There it is. You see, now? My ship. Isn’t she beautiful?”

A single wave, as grand as Gibraltar, grabbed both ships as a mighty hand, forcing the vessels down along with all the lives, history and treasures they held to the bottom of an unforgiving sea.

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2011 in FICTION: Novel (NaNoWriMo)

 

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