Breakfast in Bimini part 2

I clicked my beer to his and said, “to our adventure.  There’s really nothing out here, is there?  I mean nothing between Bimini and Andros?”

He lit two cigarettes and handed me one.  He took a long draw and I mimicked his inhale.  “Just ocean creatures, submarines and pirates.” 

I burst out laughing.  “What Blackbeard, lost WWII German fighters and the Lockness monster?  Perhaps my statue came from Blackbeard’s ship.”

He looked at me and I could see his gaze through his sunglasses. “I’m serious.  AUTEC has a facility on Andros, they are part of the US Navy.  They do submarine testing in the Tongue of the Ocean.  And Andros is famous for harboring pirates, they steal boats from all over the Bahamas.”

He waited for my reaction, because I always had one.  I smirked.  “OK, perhaps that’s true.  So should I start looking for subs and pirate ships.  And what about the sea creatures?”

His seriousness continued as he put his cigarette butt into his empty beer bottle.  “The sea creatures I was referring to is just ocean life in general.  Fish, whales, dolphin, porpoises and all that.  And we probably don’t have to worry about subs or pirates until our trip tomorrow.  They are generally found south of where we’re going tonight.  Are you ready to press on?”

“Yes, let’s do it.”  I sat next to Luke on the center cushion as he stood navigating the waters.  I was a bit more attentive of the possibilities that existed in the deep blue sea.   I was searching for any signs of the life that existed below the surface.  The ocean floor was probably littered with artifacts from the 16th and 17th century when ships traversed the region trading goods from the new world to the old and vice versa.  If I had a submarine I would be searching for ancient ships and artifacts.  I would attach a blower or device to kick up the sand and unbury the past.  “How deep is it here?”  I asked loudly after much pondering.

“About twenty feet,” he shot back after a brief glance at his depth finder.  “It’s going drop to about 6000 feet here shortly and then shallow again as we approach Andros.”  He pointed straight ahead.  “There’s the northeast tip.”

I stood up and squinted.  “I see it.  Would you like another beer?”

“Yes. Please.”

I grabbed our two empties and carefully walked to the cooler on the back of the boat.  I pulled out two Klick lights and made my way back to Luke.  

“6000 feet.”  Luke called out.  “We’re in the Tongue of the Ocean briefly to get around some reefs.  And tomorrow we will be in the deep water until we get to Nassau.”

“Sweet.”  I hung over the side of the boat and peered into the sapphire sea, memorized by its depth and color as translucent and solid as the sapphire ring on my middle finger.  Unyielding at first glance but upon further examination I noticed the water’s diaphanous character.  Then without warning a dolphin shot into the air with a graceful flip back into the ocean.  “WOW.” I started clapping as Luke slowed down to a sailboat pace.  Two more leaped from the water and then started playing with the bow of our Intrepid.  I crawled up front admiring and cheering them on as they effortlessly shot back and forth in front of the boat. “Were not going to run them over, right?”

He smirked.  “No, they are very smart and know their relation to the boat.  They are just playful.”

I watched and sought out a connection.  I wanted to see the face of one of them.  I wanted to swim with them but I was terrified of jumping into the deep sea.  They played in our wake then I got a joyful glance just prior to another 180 flip into the air.  She was smiling, I least I thought of this dolphin as a she, although I can’t tell the difference between the sexes in porpoises. I guess the grace of these creatures is more feminine than masculine.  I smiled back and naturally started clapping again. 

“You know, porpoises are the only mammals who stay with their partner for life,” Luke said out of nowhere then continued. “They will have other sexual partners, but they go back to their mate.”

I contemplated this thought.  OK, what is my lover telling me.  Another flip, a solid smile and clap from me.  “What’s that mean,” I finally answered.

“I’m just saying.  Just sharing information.”

I gave him a sideways glance.  He grinned.  “OK, good to know.”  It makes sense to me and I like the idea of having a partner for life.  But human relationships are so much more complicated.  We bring in complex emotions like fear, jealously, and anger to name a few.  It would be nice if relationships existed with pure pleasure and playfulness and without negative emotions.  I let the thought go as the dolphins disappeared into their lighthearted world.

MAYDAY MAYDAY

 Here’s a short story I recently wrote.

“MAYDAY, MAYDAY.  We need to talk.” My husband said while frantically switching radio frequencies between Miami Departure and Miami Center, trying to reach anyone as our altitude decreased. I was concentrating on flying the airplane, but at 1200 feet we would impact the water within minutes.  We lost our engine at 4500 feet and after setting the best glide speed at 75 knots I tried to restart the engine.  I checked the magnetos, fuel selector, and fuel pump.  Nothing but eerie silence filled the air. “Fly the airplane, you can do it” I said faintly to myself.  Talking to air traffic control was my least concern but a very real one for my husband, Luke.  He was solely concentrating on how we were going to be rescued, while I was focused on surviving the crash into the Atlantic Ocean. I frantically reviewed everything on my checklist again and prepared for the ditch.

My husband made one last feeble attempt to reach Miami, “MAYDAY, MAYDAY.  This is 8547 Whiskey going down fifteen miles northwest of Bimini.  MAYDAY.” Luke released control of the radio.  He reached for a life vest and placed it around my neck and then secured one around his own. “I love you baby,” he said with sincerity.

“Me too.”

My mantra was “just pretend like your landing on a runway,” over and over I tried to convince myself—as Luke was counting down our altitude. “Fifty feet to go.  Hold on.”

I stalled the airplane just a few feet above the water for a hard but upright landing.  I already had the door unlatched so I immediately released my seatbelt then swung the door open.  I glanced over at Luke who was right behind me with our red life raft in his right hand.  My leap into the ocean was filled with relief that we landed safely.

I pulled the cord on my life jacket and started kicking my legs as we bobbed around in the vast Gulf Stream struggling to release the life raft. It was caught in the door. As we worked to get the raft untangled I noticed blood streaming from a gash at my husband’s temple.  Not wanting to alarm him, I stayed silent. Not only could his injury be more serious than it looked, it could also attract sharks.  In the Gulf Stream there are several types of sharks including the deadly Oceanic White Tip Shark.   Thoughts of the wreck of the Indianapolis crossed my mind, one of the most gruesome shark encounters mankind has witnessed.

Luke freed the raft from the wreckage as I watched him. “How are we doing on getting the raft opened?” I asked with a slightly shaky voice.  “Do you need help?” Luke was still struggling with the raft as his blood dripped into the water.  “Honey, what can I do?”

He grunted.  “I got it. But, I think…I think it might have a tear in it.”  The raft slowly unraveled.  The sides expanded as the middle sank.

I looked over at our Cessna and saw only the tip of the tail above water.  “There goes the plane,” I mumbled. The ocean’s expanse seemed more vast and looking over my husband’s shoulder so did the fin I saw coming towards us.

“Sweets jump into the raft, NOW!”  He hesitated afraid to lose the buoyancy of the raft.  “Honey a shark is heading towards us.  Now please.”  I jumped onto the side of the raft and Luke dove onto the other side.  Our bodies were out of the water but we didn’t know if the raft was going to hold us. 

A ten foot shark slowly circled the raft. “That’s a White Tip,” Luke said with conviction as he moved closer to the inside of our inflatable boat.  Our raft resembled a donut. The sides were completely inflated with a big hole in the center.  Blood from my husband’s head continuously dripped into the Gulf Stream.

“Sweets.  Why don’t you lie on your back and let your head rest.”  I said, hoping that his blood would coagulate.  “You’re bleeding a little.”

“A White Tip is about to bump us and you want me to lay down.”

I shimmied out of my shirt and gave it to him.  “At least put this over your head,” I said as I leaned over and handed him my shirt.  He balanced himself with his legs and one arm while tying the cloth around his head.

I looked at the donut hole and noticed only an inch or so of water covered the bottom of the raft.  “So should I lean inward if we get bumped?” I asked as I tilted into the raft.

“HOLD ON,” he shouted.  I hugged the boat like an infant being taken from its mother.  My body completely enveloped the rounded edge of the raft.  The bump felt like a strong push, not enough to dislodge me into the water.  My husband apparently did the same.  I relaxed my grip, and for the first time since the accident smiled at Luke.

He grinned back.  “Why are you smiling?” 

“Because we are still both on the raft; we are still alive—and I think we are going to live through this.”  He looked around for the shark’s fin.  I wondered, “Do you think ATC heard our Mayday?”

His grasp on the boat relaxed a bit as he took turns looking at me and the ocean.  “It’s possible that they heard us and we didn’t hear them.  Hell anything’s possible right now.  We filed a flight plan and notified customs.  They should know we are missing by now or at least in the next few hours.”  I noticed his face turn grim again.  “The shark is back.”

“Did he bring friends,” I said trying to make light of our situation.  “The hole in the bottom of the boat is not that big, should we try and sit inside?” I inquired.

His eyes followed the fin in the distance.  He quickly glanced at the center of the boat then back into the water. “It’s too risky.  Oceanic White Tip’s are known for attacking from the bottom and it could easily bite through the thin rubber layer.”  He glimpsed at the donut hole again then at me.  “And our weight could increase the water flow.”  His eyes darted around looking for the shark as I noticed his grip on the raft tighten.  The concern in his eyes made me tense and copy him. 

I scanned the Atlantic Ocean and noticed its deep violet color radiating light with the reflection of the sinking sun.  The waves were gentle and peaceful allowing me to relax my body and mind.  I closed my eyes and tried to pretend like I was on my raft in the pool when I realized I was thirsty as I tasted the salty air.  Dried salt water left a sticky residue over every inch of my body and stiffened my clothes. I suddenly craved fresh water.  A craving I realized I couldn’t satisfy.  Trying to forget about my thirst, I looked around the ocean again for any signs of the shark or life in general.  A flying fish whizzed by just feet above the water.  I smiled and my lips cracked with dryness.

I turned to my husband, “Sweets, why don’t you relax a bit and rest your head.  I don’t see the shark.”

“That concerns me even more,” he said as he repositioned my shirt on his head.  “Is my head still bleeding?” he asked.

I couldn’t tell with the dark brown color of the shirt so I suggested, “why don’t you dip it in the salt water and put it back on your head.  Salt water heals.  That’s the best thing right now along with you resting.” 

Luke rinsed the shirt in the center of the boat, wrung it out and tied it back on his head. He placed his head down facing me and sighed. “You know with the wind direction we won’t hit land, not in the Gulf Stream… not until Africa.”

I grinned.  “I’ve always wanted to revisit Africa. Did you figure out how to turn salt water into fresh water yet?” I said sarcastically.  “And I can learn to like fish.  You’re such a great fisherman; I know you can provide for us.”  He snorted.  “Seriously, rest your eyes and we’ll take turns looking for the shark.  Just lean inwards in case we get bumped.”

I continued to scan the vast ocean for any signs of life, staying alert for sharks and even for possible vessels in the distance.  I let my feet dangle but I still had a firm grip on the raft.  I tried to stay positive but thoughts of dying in the ocean crossed my mind.  Thoughts of sharks, dehydration and starvation, drowning and losing my partner forced their way in as I determinedly pushed them back out.  I’m a survivor I reminded myself.  I pictured Luke and I back home having a beer at the end of the day and concentrated on good thoughts of a long life together.

The sun was lower in the sky and I figured we had a good hour left of sunlight.  A Marlin jumped in the distance and I was awed with its beauty.  I was getting tired but I refused to close my eyes.  Luke had to rest with his injury, not me.  If only I had an energy drink, I thought. 

The quietness had developed a slight buzz in the background, an unnatural sound of a distant engine.  The sound was moving closer so I called out to my husband. “Honey, are you awake?  Luke, I hear an engine.”  He lifted his head and looked around.  I followed his gaze.

“It’s a helicopter!  I can tell by the sound.”  We both stared at the sky straining to see what was creating the noise. As the buzz became louder and I could recognize the distinct hum of the blades spinning.  A black dot on the horizon quickly came into view.  I sat upright and began waving.  Luke did the same.  “It’s a J-Hawk,” he called out with enthusiasm.  “That’s what the coast guard uses.”

“Do we have a flare?” I asked.  Already knowing the answer would be no—Luke didn’t bother to answer.  I fumbled around in the side pocket of my khaki’s for a small mirror that I usually carry on me.  I pulled it out and faced it towards the sun in hopes of creating a reflection.  Luke continued to wave his arms as I flashed the mirror. 

The crew of the J-Hawk were in sight, with one wearing a mask and snorkel.  A basket was lowered to our raft.  Luke grabbed it and lifted a VHF radio while continuing to hold on waiting for instructions.

“Captain, this is Coast Guard.  We are unable to follow normal procedure and send a man in to help you. We are watching a large White Tip circling your life raft. It’s too dangerous for our rescue swimmer to jump into the water.  I’m going to need you to follow my instructions very carefully.”

“I’m ready,” Luke shot back.

“We can only take one at a time.”  The voice said from the VHF.  “It’s best if you help the female into the basket, then we will send it back down for you.”

“Come here baby.”  Luke called out.  “Crawl along the outside of the raft.”  I inched along the border as he grabbed me and helped me into the basket. 

I sat in the basket looking down into the ocean.  The blades from the chopper were spraying my husband and the shark was aggressively closing in on him.  “Hold on baby,” I shouted.  “He might bump again.”

Within minutes I was safely in the helicopter and the basket was lowered back down to pick up Luke.  I suddenly realized I was topless as one of the men put a blanket around me.  I squeaked out a thank you and focused on Luke.  “He’s injured and might need a hospital.”  I held my breath then glanced down and saw my husband on his way up.  The shark was still circling.

I threw my arms around my husband as the Coast Guard helped him into the aircraft.  They removed my shirt from his head to look at his injuries and began first aid.  “Let’s go to Jackson Memorial,” I heard one of them say. 

“How did you find us?” Luke asked. 

“We were on a routine patrol mission looking for human traffickers and drug runners when we got a call to be aware of a small plane that went down off of Bimini.”

“So I guess they heard my Mayday,” Luke said with satisfaction.

reflections of 2010

As we are about to enter a new era, I’d like to reflect back on this past year and everything that has happened in 2010.

It was this time last year when I found out that Black Rose Writing would publish my first book Intimate Encounters. Excitement and nerves consumed me.  As they were formatting my novel, self-doubt set in and then acceptance.  I quickly started researching the publishing industry, as well as social media and marketing sites for authors, something that I should have done months prior.  But better late than never.  I went full force self promoting and making connections with other authors.  One of me was not enough.  It became a full-time job with what seemed like very little return.  I decided I would give it my undivided attention and time for six months, then go back to what I love to do—write.

In the mean time I continued to follow my second love, traveling.  My husband and I along with some good friends explored the outer islands of the Bahamas.  For several weeks we flew our single engine airplanes from Florida to this tropical paradise, where our friend’s boat was waiting.  We spent lazy days fishing, drinking and laughing in the sun. Time stood still.  Stress was non-existent.

The traveling continued into the summer when we weren’t busy with work.  We headed up the east coast to Ohio, Delaware, Maryland and New York.  We had family obligations but also some much-needed quality time together.  The flying was amazing when the weather cooperated.  We stayed in the countryside and the big apple.  I unwillingly overcame my fear of bridges and tunnels. I learned to silence my mind through yoga. 

Old friends and new circled in and out of our lives.  A best friend I hadn’t seen in eight years visited for an emotional break from her husband. Death and divorce seemed to dominate the year.  At least the first half of 2010.  Let’s hope 2011 is better in that respect.

Fall brought many changes, mostly for the good.  I continued to promote Intimate Encounters with interviews and book signings.  I also took on another job as office manager for our company.  I kept busy while still managing to visit Los Angeles and the United Kingdom for a bit of culture.  I learned new skills such as Quickbooks, blogging and web design.  Quickbooks is still a challenge for me, but I have the basics down.  I’m not much of an accounting person, I just go through the motions and enter data.  I adopted new hobbies, one of the most rewarding being my yoga practice.    I haven’t had much time to dedicate to my second book.  I have the outline and plot and a few pages.  I’m playing with different points of view. For the new year this will be my biggest commitment.

As for the rest of the world in 2010?  Earthquakes, floods, war, bad economy, politics, riots.  So I stopped watching the news.  Nobody really covers unbiased world news anyway.

My new favorite songs of the year is Back to December by Taylor Swift and Breathe (2 am) by Anna Nalick.  It maybe an old one, but I connected to it this year. 

~ But you can’t jump the track, we’re like cars on the cable and life’s like an hourglass glued to the table. No one can find the rewind, but girl… so cradle your head in your hands. And breathe, just breathe.~

Favorite books of the year are Stieg Larsson’s trilogy starting with The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo.

The best moments of the year.  Laughing with friends over silly things, giggling at myself, laughing with my husband to the point where I spit out my wine.

Happy New Year…and remember to breathe!  Life is a journey, so enjoy it!

book two excerpt. Bimini

I have a question for readers and writers alike.  I’m beginning my second book which spans several time periods and locations.  It starts in first person, but most of the book will be in the third person.  I’m thinking about putting it all into third person.  Any thoughts about the two?  Below is an excerpt in first person of my second book, unedited.  I’m sure it will change by the time I’m finished.  Any feedback is appreciated.

 

I ordered big fluffy pancakes and Luke opted for an omelet with cheese, a side of bacon and hash browns. Luke is over six feet tall with a muscular frame so he can afford a large meal.  On the other hand, I have a small frame and the pancakes would just sit in my belly for the rest of the day.  I would probably only make it through one of the pancakes, especially since I didn’t run this morning.

“Service in the Bahamas is slow,” he said gazing into my eyes.

“Can we walk along the beach while waiting,” I implored. 

“Sure.”  He signaled the waitress to let her know of our plans to return in a half hour.

We strolled hand in hand around the marina admiring the crystal clear turquoise water.  Jellyfish pulsated in unison as they clustered in small groups.  They were transparent pink with design similar to a four-leaf clover in the center, except more rounded than clover-like.  Some floated upside down exposing their tentacles while taking in salt water to the rhythm of a heartbeat.  So gracious.  A long Barracuda swam through the jellies.  Completely opposite the jellyfish’s grace, the Barracuda was clumsy and vicious looking.  His smile exposed his big teeth as he seemed to stare at me.

“That Barracuda is staring at me,” I said as I gawked back.

“It’s harmless.  The locals here eat them.”

“Yuck.”

We crossed over to the beach and I immediately started looking for shells, a collection hobby of mine.  Most of them were just pieces of shells, but I still rummaged through hoping to find a nice souvenir from our morning stop in Bimini.  The wind was lightly blowing from the southwest. As I was searching I stumbled upon a wooden statue.  It stood about two feet tall and was very primitive looking.  It was in good shape with only a few small barnacles clinging to the crevices in the statue.  It obviously had landed in Bimini from the waves of the Atlantic Ocean.

I ran over to Luke standing near the rocks jetting into the sea.

“Look what I found,” I said, keyed up and slightly out of breath as I held up the statue.

His eyes widened. “Wow.  That’s quite the find.”

I handed him the statue.  “Where do you think it came from?”  I asked, curious about his reply.

“Well it’s a southwest wind.  So perhaps Cuba.”

I took the statue back to examine.  “It doesn’t look Cuban.  Look at the eyes and nose.  The features are more African.”  I tilted the statue forward towards Luke.  “And there’s a large hole at the base of his head.  Like it was attached to something.”

He glanced at the top of the statue.  “Perhaps it was part of a ship or something.”  He smiled.  “You’re the archaeologist.  Research it.”

I lightly kissed him on the lips. “Do you think breakfast is ready yet?”

“Let’s find out,” He grabbed my hand and I proudly carried the statue back to the restaurant.

sierra michaels events

I haven’t posted an excerpt from the book for a while so here’s one from chapter 12.  I have two book events coming up.  The first one is September 24th at 33rd Street Wine Bar in Fort Lauderdale, between 6:30 and 8:30.  The second is at Books and Books in Coral Gables on October 4th at 6pm.  Check out my website for more information at www.sierramichaels.com    
  
Chapter 12 excerpt:
  
Sandy winked and answered the phone. “No, this is her roommate, Cali. Would you like to see me? How about now?” She flirted, with a description of me that I would not have used. She giggled and glanced at me, took some notes, and hung up the phone. As she was hanging up I heard a knock at the door. Niccki answered as Sandy, and I remained silent.  
  
“You have a guy coming in twenty minutes or so,” Sandy said softly. “Angel worked earlier and left just before you got here. She saw four guys today.”     
 
“And what about the new girl, Samantha?”      

“She’s on her second.”      

 Niccki briefly came down to get some water, followed by someone I assumed was Samantha. She looked like a surfer, with a cute blond bob and a petite athletic body. She was barefoot and wearing pink undies and a tight white t-shirt that barely covered her B-sized breasts. She was carrying blue rubber gloves in her hand, and she threw them into the trash. She hurried out of the kitchen and reappeared wearing a white sundress covered in sunflowers.                        

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” she said to Sandy, not even acknowledging my presence.                       

“I guess that was Samantha,” I said as I looked in the trash to confirm my glove sighting. “And what’s up with the gloves?”     

 

Sandy laughed. “Yeah, she’s a strange one. I’ve seen all kinds of people in this business…none like her. She wears rubber gloves so no sperm touches her.” Sandy twirled her pen as she talked. “Guys request her based on her picture, but she has no regulars yet.”        
 
“I guess not. Rubber gloves! That can’t feel good.” I snickered and ran upstairs to get dressed and set up the room.              

What is Fiction?

What is fiction?

a. An imaginative creation or a pretense that does not represent actuality but has been invented.

b. The act of inventing such a creation or pretense.

One of the beauties of being a novel writer is the freedom to create characters and ultimately a story.  A piece of work that is entertaining as it takes the reader into a different world, a previously unknown world.  A good writer will have the reader believing that the novel is true and actually happened.  And this becomes one of the dangers as an author.

Many writers, myself included, look at the world around us to create characters, scenes and actions.  We may mix truth with fiction, real characters and situations with false actions to produce a novel.  Writing fiction is an extension of what naturally happens in the world around us, unless you’re writing science fiction.  Events, actions and dialogue must achieve the same effect as non-fiction.  The end result is readers get blurred and the fictional piece becomes part of their reality.

We also use research to dive deep into a subject.  We have to know that subject extensively to convince the reader that the story is actually happening.  You don’t want your audience thinking, well that could never happen.  The story no longer becomes desirable and the book is never finished.  Readers will only “suspend disbelief” for a limited time.

Good fiction writing draws the reader into the novel because the characters and story seems interesting and believable.  The characters will be likable, detested, annoying and loved.  The story will have conflicts and resolutions as it moves forward.

Fiction makes life interesting.  My first novel, Intimate Encounters, and the one I’m working on now are both fiction.  My blog includes excerpts from my first novel, as well as my second.  It also includes random thoughts and travel both fiction and non-fiction.  In any writing, the truth depends more on the writer than the facts.

For my fellow writers, do you agree or disagree?

breakfast in bimini

My lover awoke me at sunrise for our three-week Bahamas vacation.  Our newly acquired 38 foot center console was packed with water, beer and munchies.  I was still half asleep and hung over from our late night lovemaking session. 

“Wake up,” he demanded as he stood over our bed.  “Let’s go. We can have breakfast in Bimini.”

I jumped out of bed excited about the trip and thoughts of having breakfast in a foreign country. 

“Good boat name,” I mumbled as I slipped into a bikini and shorts.

We only owned the boat for a week, and we were actively thinking about naming the boat the night before, prior to our unplanned raw sexual encounter.    Romantic thoughts of the movie and song “Breakfast at Tiffney’s” went through my mind as we pulled away from the dock. 

I helped with the dock lines and organized the boat for the two-hour crossing, all the while thinking about having breakfast in the Bahamas.  How often can you wake up and spend a few hours on the ocean and arrive in another country while most people are just going to work, I thought.  I was intrigued and fascinated by the journey.

The ocean was flat calm, like glass.  The rising sun bounced off the water and played with the sunlight. Flying fish teased the boat.  I saw Miami disappear on the horizon. We played a Jimmy Buffett CD loud as we drank our coffee.  I smelled the fresh salt air.  I admired the dinosaur-like pelican’s.  I looked forward to having Bahamian pancakes and the rest of our expedition.  I was beginning a new adventure…  A journey into the unknown, a voyage I welcomed and needed, as did my sweetheart.

In no time we arrived at Bimini Sands, a resort and restaurant  fifty miles from Miami, a two-hour boat ride.  I was refreshed and eager about breakfast.  I was someplace foreign and I loved it.  It was still early in my current world and things were just  brewing in Bimini.  I was awake and ready to explore.

chapter 11 excerpt

 
I jumped out of bed at 7:00 a.m., and drove to Brentwood. About a hundred or so runners were warming up and joining their groups. I saw Patricia and recognized a few others in my running group, including the tall, lanky blond who was rumored to be a famous actress on a popular TV show. I only watched a few shows on Discovery and the History Channel, so I was clueless.    
    
“Hey Cali, you’ve been MIA for a month or so,” said Patricia.
  
 “I’ve been busy with school and traveling,” I responded while stretching my legs.
  
“Really, where to?”           
  
“I went to the Channel Islands a few weeks ago and then to Palanque, Chiapas. Other than that, I’ve just been too busy to get up so early on a weekend. But I plan on still doing the marathon and training with the group when I can. What do we have today? Fifteen miles or something crazy like that?”          
  
“Yep. Two weeks ago we did thirteen and I thought that was hard,” she said while jumping around.     

The faster groups were already bouncing down the street. Our group leader announced our departure with a quick “Let’s go!” Patricia and I ran side by side for the first half, then the group shifted and she moved up to talk to someone else. The run along the boardwalk was beautiful, with views of the deep blue ocean off to the right. Then we entered Venice Beach, with beach bums stirring about and venders setting up their booths for the day. Plenty of t-shirts, plain white socks, cheap jewelry, incense, and henna tattoos. The vegetarian activist was setting up his booth. “Meat kills! Stop the torture and killing of animals! It’s destroying the planet!!! Do your part now by becoming vegetarian.” I had met him once while rollerblading on Venice beach and stopped to talk to him. His name was Jingle and he gave me a jingle bell so that I wouldn’t forget it. He showed me pictures of slaughterhouses and of rabbits being tortured. He was a bit too extreme for me and I couldn’t bear to look at the photos. I was already a vegetarian and had been since I was a teenager. I certainly didn’t want to look at pictures of animals being slaughtered.      

Across from Jingle was some guy putting up signs about the coming of the end of the world. Excerpts from the Old Testament and, in bold, handwritten letters, THE END IS NEAR. SAVE YOURSELF. It didn’t look like he was selling anything. No Bibles or reference to any religion. I guess he just wanted to warn the world.                                 

What a sorry soul, I thought. Venice Beach definitely attracted the strangest people in America. The sad thing was I actually liked Venice Beach, and I visited it on a weekly basis. Did that make me strange?

Chapter 10 excerpt

I drove to our new apartment with the directions Roger gave me. It was right down the street from my condo. The church was a dead giveaway, right on the corner of Ocean Park Boulevard. I parked next to Angel’s Saab in the church parking lot and walked across the street to unit 3.What is it with Roger and threes? Maybe it’s a feng shui thing. The door was locked and I noticed that there was no peephole for looking out. I rang the doorbell. Angel threw open the door and greeted me with her crooked sexy smile.  

“How did you know it was me?” I asked.  

“I saw you park, silly. What, you think I would open the door for anybody?”  

I walked in and put my bag on the kitchen counter and checked out our new apartment. Basic, yeah. No stairs inside. Two bedrooms with one bathroom in between. No TV, limited lighting, a small kitchen as you walked in, and a view of busy Ocean Park Boulevard. I could see why Angel was upset. Not the upscale apartment we were used to, but we would make do. We had a view of the parking lot, which was better than at the Marina for seeing clients arrive. Angel was doing double duty; she’d been there since noon.  

“I’ve seen four guys today and made six hundred dollars. I’m keeping more of a cut from Roger since he stuck us in this awful place.” She sat on the couch. “We’re on our own here! He won’t know.”  

“You’re right. He won’t know,” I agreed as I searched through my bag in the kitchen. “We could even rent our own place and keep all the money,”  I suggested halfheartedly.  

“Do you want to?” Angel asked.  

“I don’t know about the maintenance,” I said with concern. “I have other obligations with school. I don’t want to worry about keeping an apartment. Not to mention the legal aspects if something happens. I guess we should just stick with Roger and the apartment for now, and cross that road if we come to it.” Angel looked at me mockingly. I continued. “This is a temporary thing for me, Angel. I don’t want to get into it too deep.”  

Angel sighed. “You and school. You’re never going to make this kind of money as a…what, archaeologist? Why bother.”  

“It’s not about money. I want a normal life someday. I want to do what I enjoy. What I’m passionate about. You think you’re going to be jacking people off when you’re in your forties? Get real.” I was soft, yet firm.