click to read the chapter in PDF
click to listen the author read the chapter
 

2 Drop.

I dream the dream of yesteryear. It was my fourteenth birthday, Christmas Eve and I was out in ocean at Windansea Beach in La Jolla for surf. It was another hot day, whether from seasonal Santa Ana winds off the deserts, climate change from the new industrial revolution or the revolutionary dismantling of civilization. No one could tell. Besides, that conversation had stopped long ago. People just lived with weird weather.

As I paddled through the waves and out to catch another right-hander, I could hear the sirens and cell phones going off. I wondered if it was another false alarum.

Several of the other surfers in the line up just laughed and started to paddle for a wave that was rolling in from the southwest. My friend Ricky was one of them and I smiled at him as he stroked past and I said, "This is the big one." And he was past and standing up on the wave, and I followed him with my eyes and yelled, "I mean wave!"

I watched him and then turned back toward the west and saw four other surfers paddling for a good-sized wave: about a seven-foot face. I felt a strong nudge against my right foot and looked down into the water and saw that a dolphin had hit me. I reached my hand down to pet its head but the dolphin dove underneath my board and started heading toward the shore.

I just watched its dorsal fin glide through the water.

Kevin, an older surfer of 33, saw the dolphin and shouted to me, "Hey, Fluke, is that one of yours?" I looked back at Kevin and just raised my hands upward and chest high. I had no answer. When I looked back toward the dolphin, it had disappeared. I wondered where it went and suddenly I felt a strong blow against my thigh and the dolphin knocked me off my board in the direction of the shore. It stayed next to me in the water.

Kevin saw this too and said, "I think that dolphin wants you out of the water, Fluke." Kevin looked all about. "I see a corbina down there. Couple of seals moving around, so I don't think there's sharks around here. Just you not being wanted." Kevin laughed and then he started to paddle further outside to some oncoming waves. I climbed back onto my board and lay on my stomach as I looked in the dolphin's eyes. They had urgency about them. The dolphin's head vibrated with excitement.

So I paddled my surfboard to the beach and got out of the water.  My friend, Phil, was lying in the sand next to his girl friend, Gina. Phil was two years older but we had been surfing friends since I came back to La Jolla two years since. We would go in the morning before school and check out the waves to decide if we should come down for lunchtime surf. He had long sun-bleached hair that matched Gina's: down to his shoulders He was big for his age and the coaches at the high school were sweet talking him into going out for football. Without success. I set my board on the sandstone rocks next to Phil and said, "Something is unusual here."

"Yeah. You," retorted Phil. Gina smiled. She was use to the playful banter between us.

"No. Seriously," then I saw it. A giant mushroom cloud appeared south over San Diego, near the Naval Station on Coronado Island. "Look at that," I pointed, "it looks like a bomb went off downtown."

Gina looked south and said, "The Navy is doing some exercises. It's been on the news. "

"Preparation," said Phil.

"I don't think so," I said. "We should get out of here."

"Paranoia," said Phil. "The Flukster has his old man's strains running through him.

I had been born in La Jolla when my father was working in the botany department at the University of California. When I was two, the family moved to New Mexico to live next to my grandfather. My father's father.

Before he retired, my grandfather had worked as a scientist at the White Sands in New Mexico with atomic bombs. Frequently his company would send him to Cape Canaveral to help with the rocket launches. He had a U.S. Patent on guided missile tracking systems that was used to direct missiles that went into orbit or carried payloads to faraway islands. He had homes in both places

My father practiced naturopathy. He used herbs and foods and essential oils as medicine in his practice of helping people to maximize their health. One of the plaints that my father used and cultivated was cannabis: sativa and indica. My friends knew about this so that when ever I exhibited some unusual behavior, they would start jabbering about this.

But I never used drugs. I shunned them. I saw their effect on others and I had no need for them. My high was surfing and basking in the ocean.

When another cloud appeared east over Mt. Soledad, I knew immediately what was happening and yelled over Phil and Gina, "Everybody! Listen! This is it! Get out of here and find shelter!" I grabbed my knapsack lying on the sand and slung it over my shoulder and looked at Phil. "Let's go." Phil and Gina smiled at me and shook their heads, "Practice, my friend, just practice."

My grandfather built the home in New Mexico with help from some Apache Indians and some Mexicans from across the border. One hundred fifty years before they had been at one another's throat. Now they tolerated one another, intermarriage and all that stuff. On the wall of the main room was a large blown up photograph of the beginning of the mushroom cloud from a nuclear explosion at the White Sands in the 1950s. My grandfather enjoyed looking at the picture. Frequently when he was viewing it and drinking some Pacifico cerveza, he would mumble,

"Idiots, bunch of Idiots. Dummkopfs."

He said that such a cloud would wreak death and destruction in its path and the only way to escape was to go underground with a prayer and a lot of luck.

"Phil," I implored, as I started moving off. "This is it. Get Gina and the others and let's go somewhere. Anywhere!"

A voice behind me shouted out, ""Hey, Jack! You're high! You're crying wolf. This is San Diego and we got military air support all over here to knock those things down!" They really thought San Diego was beyond attack because of the military defense surrounding the cities in the County. They bought into the hype. They wanted it to be true, and so it was. To them.

As I was moving, I shouted to another friend: "Chris, get out of here and find some shelter if you want to survive!"

He laughed a crazy laugh. The kind of laugh a client of my father might make. "Even if you're right, no where to go my man." A stupid grin on his face.

I ran to Sally. She had relatives that knew me from New Mexico. They had started the rumor about my father and his strange death two years before.

"There's death coming over that mountain so run!"

She laughed and thought I was joking around or that I was high on some local weed or some other herbs. "Save your brother, not me!" But my brother had been gone for two days on a surfboat to Cortez Banks. I couldn't save him. Not this time.

I shouted across the beach and up the small cliff to the parking lot, "Everybody find shelter this is for real!" No one paid attention. They just looked at the clouds moving toward them. It looked like innocuous rain clouds moving up from Mexico.

Again: "We have to all get out of here!  Now! Everybody! Run!"

I ran up to Uncle William, the current President of the Windansea Surf Club. A well respected man in the community. He dealt with the military-industrial complex. He knew weaponry from his clients.

"Nah, Jack. Not today. It's not a good day to die." Then he laughed with his play on an American Indian phrase.

So neither Uncle William nor the surfers and other beachgoers paid any attention to the gathering clouds or me.

 Most stood there, waiting for the water drops.  Others had already resigned themselves to oblivion and so they paid little attention.

When the rain failed to drop, they stood in wonder, and then they stood mesmerized.

I ran while the others watched the clouds move in their direction.

Then quickly the wind started blowing harder and there was a sucking sound, getting deeper and louder and then people started to run toward their cars or bicycles or the houses along the street above the beach. Some ran into the ocean with their surfboards. Mass hysteria began to sweep the crowd. I saw one older longed haired surfer who was sitting in the lotus position under the surfer's palm frond shack on the rocks above the ocean. His eyes were closed and he was in peace.

I cried, "Skip!" as I ran past him but Skip never opened his eyes.

I looked back and saw Phil and Gina running and then they were lifted up in the air and disappeared into a swirling cloud. I saw others being thrown by the winds and then I was closer to the large drainpipe opening from where the infrequent rainwater drained into the Pacific Ocean. I knew this to be the only chance for at least a little time of survival. I had been in this drainpipe numerous times since I moved back to La Jolla. I and my brother and Phil and their friends would lower themselves through the street grates and into the drain pipe a half mile east on Draper Street and then move down the pipes under the streets and houses as we followed the sounds of the ocean. The Pied Piper of the Pacific calling us to herself.

The papers and dirt and rocks running ahead of the southern clouds were upon me and the stinging in my eyes and skin caused me to tear violently.  I saw the opening shading into darkness when I collided with another person and stumbled into the entrance, my knapsack dangling by my side

"Who?" cried the other person and I saw her getting up from inside the pipe entrance. Outside faint screams were heard inside the wind.

It was Stasia. She was eighteen and in her first year of University. She had been four years ahead of me in school at La Jolla.  When she was a senior, I was in 8th grade with my twin brother. She was taller than me and probably weighed more than me. She didn't know that I existed; but I knew of her. She had been a cheerleader and I went with my middle school friends to sit in the stands at the basketball games and watch her jump and cheer for the team. I didn't care who won or lost the game. I just liked to watch her jump and twirl and the way her small breasts moved inside of her white blouse and her tight buns firmed against her high cut cheerleader dress. Often I saw her surfing the lefts at Windansea with the older crowd. She was pretty good. She was watchable.

"Where are the others?" she cried and we both watched the cloud blow the shack fronds north, leaving only four strong eucalyptus posts in place. Skip was gone. Somewhere.

"They're gone," I said, "and we will be too if we don't move into the pipe."

She looked at me and all my past sightings of her scattered throughout my head in a jumble of incoherence. "Then move," she said and I ran with her behind me up the slope of the pipe. I had measured its diameter in the past when we rode skateboards and flexies down it. It was seven feet.

Darkness descended upon the outside and the cloud subsumed any lasting screams. We moved as quickly as we could up into the blackness of the pipe.

"Stop," she said, and she pulled out her car key ring and turned on a small flashlight attached to it. She handed it to me. It was a 24K Rolls Royce Car Key ring. Her family had money. Had being the past tense of 'has.' The sound behind us was a sucking sound, like those videos on youtube of the cyclones or hurricanes.

We hurried quickly up the pipe. I knew where we were going but neither of us knew how long we had to live before the cloud ran into the pipe. Fifty feet into it her light shone on an adjoining pipe five feet up from the base and off to the right. The entrance was halved at the top as it butted against the main pipe.

"What?" I said. I had never seen this in the score of times I had gone up and down this pipe. "This is new."

"What is?" she asked.

"I don't remember this connection. I haven't been in here for a year, so it must have been made since then."

"Where does it go?" she asked.

"I don't know," but this is the only chance we have of survival. Something's gonna come up that pipe and overwhelm us and we can't stay in it to have any chance."

"How do you know this?"

"My grandfather worked with Atomic Bombs in New Mexico." She put her hand over mine and turned the light onto my face. I could feel her studying me. I could feel the heat in my hand where she touched me.

"You're one of the surf rats in the lower grades. Right?"

"Yeah," I stumbled, unsure if the heat that flushed into my cheeks was distinguishable from the beating that the cloud had given my demeanor. She took the light from my hand and turned it back to the opening of the adjoining pipe. She went up to it and she pushed away the bottom of what looked like a thick cloth.

"Give me a hand," she said and I followed her and cupped my hands for her bare foot to saddle into and I lifted her gently up into the opening. She was in the room and she turned and shown the light back at me and reached down with her right hand. I threw my knapsack past her and then grasped her hand and she pulled me up to and past her. She was strong. Her muscles were long and lean and as I brushed past her shoulders, they lightly touched and I thought,

 This is what I could die for.

The linen draped over the opening was expensive, probably from one of the multi-million dollar houses that flanked the shoreline, from a home like the one she use to live in. I saw that after the small opening the pipe was also about seven-foot diameter and went back two feet to the black. Stasia went further in and shown her light and I saw the pipe turned into a rectangular box about twenty feet back and ten feet wide. She climbed over something, her light jumping about, and then her light shone up against a wall of gray concrete.

"That's as far as we go," she said, the disappointment in her voice as she turned back toward me with her light. Her light dropped down on a large mattress between us that was strewn with broad cotton blankets. Sheets. Bed cloths. Comforters. They were clean, as if recently washed.

"This is like a secret room for somebody with money. I wonder what house is above us?" I asked. There were four or five rectangular wooden boxes strewn beside the bed.

"Is that a refrigerator?" Stasia asked when her light shone on a metallic grey cabinet. She moved over to it and touched it. "Yes! It's on. I can feel the vibration." She found the handle and opened it. "There's food and drink in here."

"Is there a light switch in here?" I searched the walls with my eyes and touched them with my hands. I didn't find one, but I felt some metal behind myself and said, "Turn the light here, would you?" She did and it shone on a metallic ladder built into the concrete and going up into a small hatch like a submarine.

"Probably goes above into someone's house," she said and then she turned the light back down and it lit up a second room. "Go in there, will ya?" I followed her direction and moved over and into a separate room and saw in the shadowed light a toilet and a basin and a bathtub.

"What the heck?"

"What?" she asked and moved inside next to me. She turned the faucet on and water ran strongly out of it.

"This place is livable," I said, and turned on the tub faucet and water pushed out. "We might have a chance."

"Maybe," she said as the sounds from outside the tunnel became louder as now the wind was starting to rush through it, "it's coming for us." Her voice was weaker now.

"Shine your light on the entrance," and she did and I saw that the linen drape was secured into wire fastened around the top of the pipe. I moved to it and saw an indentation in the cement running inside the circumference of the circular entrance and I touched it and found it was over an inch in depth.  I couldn't understand why it was there. The linen was doubled, tripled over into a thick blanket and it hung down over the entrance. It looked like it had come from a large dining hall banquet table. "We gotta hold this down and hope this stops something," I said.

She came next to me with the light and we pushed it down against the concrete but the wind was getting stronger and causing it to flutter like a sheet in a storm. She put the light down and it shown on the entrance.

I pushed the linen harder against the side and I felt something sticking out and I cried, "No!" I had touched a hard object that felt like a handle and I pushed the linen aside and saw I was right.

"What?" She trembled with her words before she corrected herself, trying to hide her fear and I felt more fear because of her fear.

"There's a handle here," and I grasped it. It was sturdy. The wind was rushing past the linen in the pipe and menaced against our grips.

"Pull back the linen, will ya?" She moved it aside and the wind pushed along the lower pipe and began to crawl against us and I grabbed the handle and pulled at it with all my strength. It moved easily across the entrance and to the indentation on the other side. I stopped the door at the indentation, leaving a small gap along the side.

"This place is built to perfection. That moved so easily," she said with more energy.

"This is incredible! Who made this?" Dirt and small water drops were carrying through the small opening.

"Yeah, surf rat. Somebody made themselves quite a little pad here." I reached into the cement indentation and felt a rubber seal. I pushed the door into it and it felt snug and the wind was held back and the sound disappeared but the tremor in the pipe continued as if a freight train was running past.

"This is a bomb shelter," I whispered.

"Quit whispering!" she cried and she moved back to the refrigerator. "This is crazy," she said, "crazy La Jolla." She moved her light around the small enclosure. "Nothing surprises me about this freaking town!"

"And you don't have to whisper in here as if you're afraid of the boogeyman!" she shouted for emphasis. Her adrenalin was wearing off. She was edging into reality.

The pipe set at about a 5-degree angle upward. Halfway up the pipe were eight by eight-horizontal cedar beams with beautiful cedar planks sitting on them. A king-sized box spring sat on the planks and the corresponding mattress sat on the box springs. It appeared to be level.

"Who lives here?" I asked.

"We do now," she replied and she whispered into the darkness, "for how long?" I said nothing about her whisper. We were going to be close for an indeterminate amount of time and I knew from past experience with girls that some things, unknown things, undreamt things, could set them off into a whirlwind. Better to leave the whirling outside. Don't bring the storm in here.

"What else is in here?" I asked and she shone her light onto the wooden boxes. "Teak," I said. "Like a boat." I use to ride out to the islands like my brother now with our buddies in their Boston Whaler. Boards stacked in their bags. Wetsuits hanging from the canopy. Wool caps pulled over our heads with the old school Pendleton jackets and cargo pants. We had to leave early, early morning to get to the Outer Reefs and the ride was always cold. They were bigger and older; I was the young rat. They called the Islands the "Sans." San Clemente. San . . ta Catalina. San Miguel. San . . ta Barbara. I was reminiscing on the trip past San Clemente to Cortez Banks, with my brother, where that Navy jet spun over us about twenty feet off the water, where. .  .  .  .

The clanging of glass from the opened refrigerator brought me back to the present world. "Hey, rat? You gotta drink if you surf down here, right?" Her voice was exhausted and she held up a green bottle with Riesling lettered across the front and an opener that she had struck against it.

"Sometimes," I ventured.

"Well. Not water tonight." She pointed her torch onto a five gallon water container beside the frig. "This is too monumental for that. Get two glasses from that cabinet hanging off the side." She moved her light onto a teak cabinet hanging beside the bed and I moved over to its open shelf and picked out two wine glasses. "I got an idea of who might have lived here, but I don't want to think anymore." Her voice was trailing off.

"Bring em over here." A whisper. One she probably gave to her boy friend when they were drinking after dinner at the Club. I did. I always did what girls told me to do. Never mattered much. I was into the ocean. She was my lady. Maybe if a mermaid washed over my long board on a stormy day I might have kissed her. But it never happened. I wouldn't have known what to do if she had. I didn't want to know about those things at this age in my life. Now I might never know.

She took out the cork with a screw and she poured each of the glasses half full. "Drink, my friend. It helps with the tears." She tilted her head back and took a large gulp of the wine. I followed suit. The alcohol burned. But I had been burned before. "Again, Ra . . ." She stopped. "What's your real name?" She shone the torch on my face.

"Fluke."

"How do you spell that?"

"F L U K E."

"And you pronounce it how?"

"It rhymes with kook." She looked at me with tired eyes and let out a small laugh. "How old are you?"

"Fifteen and a half."

"You look like you're twelve." It was too dark for her to see my face flush like Rudolph Reindeer's nose.

"I'm fourteen," I admitted, "today is my birthday," and her energy seemed to escape with her laugh and she closed her eyes slightly and said,

"Congratulations. Nice present. Huh. What's your first name?"

"Jack."

"Alright." Her brain woke up, "You're the one that surfs with the Dolphins over at Blacks?"

"How do you know that?" I was pleasantly surprised.

"Butch said he saw one of the rats riding some waves with Dolphins over the summer. Said his name was 'Jack' and he made a joke of it."

"What joke?"

"Just like you did, 'Jack Fluke, no longer a Kook, rides with the Dolphins, just like the Duke.'"

"Yeah, well, they're all over the water at Blacks." She nodded in agreement.

"You have a twin brother?"

"Yeah. I hope so." She had heard about us.

"Where is he?"

"A surf trip." She let out a small sigh, as if she wished she were on such a trip.

"Well, Jack Fluke. My name is S T A S I A. It rhymes with Asia. And my last name is Cervantes. Stasia Cervantes."

"I know."

"Really?" She was actually surprised and briefly came alive again.

"Yeah. I seen you surfing and at the basketball games. You're a cheerleader."

"I was all those things and more." Her listlessness again engulfed her and she slowly pushed her head back and drank the rest of her glass. "Listen. Jack. I'm so tired." She stopped for several seconds and it seemed like her heart was barely beating. It seemed like she was dropping into hibernation.  "I'm so stunned by all this. I'm going to sleep on this side of the bed with these covers." She motioned to a side and slid over to it. She slipped under the bedding and fluffed up a pillow, all the while her torch moving about the enclosure. "Here." She gave me the light. "You do what you want to do with this."  She pulled the covers tight over her neck and turned her head away and whispered, "Now you can whisper. I will wake up when I wake up. O.K?" She spoke so softly and so deliberately that I thought she might be passing to the other side.

"All right, Stasia, Asia. You sleep over there and I'll take this side. Good night."

No response. "I'll see you in the morning. O.K?" I needed a response from her. It took several breaths of hers before I heard her faint,

"Night you." And she was down and rapidly out and I was left to myself.

Almost. I set my wine glass down and moved over to my knapsack and unzipped a side pocket and reached in. My hand brought out my Clownfish. Leaf. He had been with me for ten years and I had always slept with him and I always carried him down to the beach with me.

A Clownfish, even a stuffed Clownfish, likes the ocean, was my thinking.

He was my baby blanket. My solace. My love. I carried him to my side of the bed and tucked him beside a blanket. I slipped a towel from my knapsack and pivoted the torch to shine on the other room. I picked up my PJs and crawled past her and moved into the bathroom and put some water onto the towel. The hot water faucet actually had warm water! I wiped my face clean. Then my neck and shoulders and chest and then my hands and arms and around my back. I took off my swim trunks and cleaned the rest of myself. I dropped the towel and put on my PJs and left my trunks and moved back to my side of the bed. Past the sleeping Stasia. The perimeter of the light beam passed her face and I realized the dirt and blemishes on her skin only accented her beauty. There was a small tear on her cheek below her right eye and I felt a shiver in my spine. She saw our future.

I sat down on my side of the bed and picked up my glass and sipped it. I had no affinity for it. My mom liked wine. My mom liked weed. I liked the ocean. That was my high. I took a sip and listened to Stasia breathe. I wondered how long we would stay in this secret hiding place. I wondered if we would begin to suffocate in here, if the pollution from outside would seep in while we were sleeping and asphyxiate us.

When I was a boy - ha! When I was twelve, my mother sent us to cotillion classes down at the Beach Club to learn how to dance formally. The girls would wear long dresses and the boys would wear suits with ties. It was chaperoned and all very proper. Waltz. Fox trot. Some rock and roll. Dancing with the kids. And there was this girl - Whitney Divine. She was taller than me. Most of the girls were taller than the lads. She chose me to waltz with her and half way through the Strauss she moved herself right up close to me and held me tight with her hand on my shoulders. Some of the fellas called her "Mt. Whitney" because she had incipient breasts that mounded behind her blouse. She placed these right up against my upper chest, because she was taller than me, and as the dance progressed I could feel the warmth grow in my trousers and the firmness in my member and I got more scared as she swayed me into the music.

The song ended and she gradually released me, a catch and release fish, and she slyly smiled at me as I stumbled away to my smirking friends. That was my initiation into the power of a woman. My brother just rolled his eyes the way he did about most things.  I wonder if any of them are alive. He is supposed to come back tomorrow. Will he live a tomorrow?

 Please. God. Please.

I took another sip of the Riesling and felt the buzz. I slid back into the bed and nudged my head against Leaf. My beautiful beloved Leaf. Light of my life, holder of my secrets. I turned off the torch and the darkness went past black, into hallucinatory tiny-speckled white spots on black canvas that my eyes generated. I crawled under the covers and allowed my legs to be near hers.  I imagined we were in a coffin buried in the earth. The freight train still passed through the pipe, the vibration more present than the sound. It seemed like an air filter was in the coffin as the smell of debris attenuated.

I lay there with my eyes open wide and then suddenly the only sound was the refrigerator motoring with a small hum. The vibration of the cement walls ceased and the blackness became starker. I lay there longer, not sure how long, cuz time had no quality in there, and then the refrigerator stopped making its hum and it was like being alive without any senses. Sans eyes, sans ears, sans taste, with a little smell, but surely sans San Diego. I grabbed my Leaf and held him against my face.

I realized my only tethers to this human world were Stasia's quiet breathing and the heat from her body. My life had changed forever with the outside events. Unfamiliar territory. Probably no family left. No beach friends left. Unless they were as fortunate as us. Highly unlikely with what I saw with Phil and Gina and Skip. I was in bed with a beautiful older girl that I had never spoken a word to in my life, and I knew that I somehow loved her. And she had no real idea that I existed before this, this . . . 

What do you call the apocalypse once it has gone down? 

Once she slipped away from me toward her edge of the bed and some of the covers went with her and for a minute I felt I was slipping away into the depths of the ocean, the depths of despair and then suddenly her legs jumped spasmodically, from an apparent dream, and they kicked my thighs back into this world and the rest of me followed. I remembered Mt. Whitney and the fear and attraction she had drawn from me. I wondered what the morning would bring. Would there be a morning? If so, how would we know there was a morning? Dare I go to sleep and off into a dream from which I might never wake?  Or maybe this was a dream and I would later wake in my bed with my mother making breakfast before Christmas and my brother back from the trip. But this is the first time Stasia had ever appeared in my dreams.

Maybe I could stay in parts of this dream for the rest of my life?

 

 

 
Copyright 2018 James C. Weaver