Here are stories that I've written, and have prepared for publication.
(a few may yet be works in progress)
Thick juicy blood filled steaks sizzle noisily on the grill over hot coals as the smell wafts luxuriously through the summer air. The sounds of children's laughter echoes along the beach, and seagulls gather and wait anxiously just beyond reach, screeching in anticipation of any morsel that might be thrown their way. In the distance, Sailboats float languidly, appearing as shadows, and disappear as from a waking dream.
Young Randolph lays back,
his head on his crossed arms, feeling the sun warm his burnished mocha colored skin.
His finely toned body had been hewed to perfection by hours pumping weights.
He was proud of it now. From the little skinny black boy he had been to
the player he knew he could now become. Weights he had bought by the sweat of
his brow, washing dishes part-time at the tacky little veggie restaurant that ate up so much of the little time he had left.
Time, how precious it had
become. So much to do and so little of it left.
What was it the doctor had said? "Six months, maybe a year", longer if
he was careful not to over exert himself. "Ha", he thought. Over exert, himself? The weight training alone had put such
physical strain on him, that by all rights he should be dead right now. But he wasn't, and he wasn't planning on going anywhere, anytime soon.
He was solid as a rock. He had even taken on the name as his affirmation that the treatment had worked. "Rock" would be his moniker from now, and he was going to prove to everyone that he was going to be around,
and alive for much longer than the doctors estimation. He was going to prove
that he was hard as a rock.
She had never been pretty. Plain is what they called her. "A plain Jane" No one you would
look at twice. The glitter of the Sun sparkled off the water's surface
as Jasmine sat dangling her feet over the pier's edge, throwing pedals from the wilting daisies she had picked into the shimmering
ripples below. She sadly looked at her reflection and wondered why God had been
so cruel. Actually, she wasnt unattractive.
She was quite cute really. But what boy wanted cute. She wanted to be beautiful, and looking at herself in the water, she knew that was never going to happen. The best thing about her was her name. How
she loved her name. Her mom said it was because when she had been young and pregnant,
the Jasmines were in bloom and the smell made her happy. Cute. Even the story was cute. She sometimes wondered if it was
true, or if her mother just said it because she knew every time she told it, Jasmine's face would light up with laughter.
Cuteshe was so sick of cute she wanted to throw up.
All grown up, Jasmine, blossomed into a not so unattractive young woman, but still she
was no beauty queen. Her charm came mostly from the inner qualities she processed,
an infectious laugh, and quick wit. Acerbic actually, and although it wasn't
in her nature to be cruel, her humor could, sometimes be at the expense of others feelings, if it made her look, and feel
liked to those present.
She spent most days, quietly working
in her mother's juice bar, Pistil Petes. A natural food emporium, on Santa Monica
Beach, that got its name from her mothers love of flowers. Hence Pistil Petes. Jasmines favorite past time, was ogling the muscle guys that came in for their
fruit drinks, and other health concoctions. She had noticed one guy, that always
seemed to keep to himself. She had heard someone call him Rock once, and
she figured that must be his name. "It fit him," she thought. Most of the guys who hung out on Santa Monica, had rocks for brains anyway, and he was probably like all
the rest. But he was cute. In a
shy, reticent kind of way. He didn't go out of his way to flaunt his muscles. Actually, he would try his best to hide his physique.
Which she thought strange, especially on "Muscle Beach" where the bigger you were, the more attention you received.
He was always nice to her, although he
didn't talk too much. He came in and got his muscle building potions, was very
polite, and quietly went about his way. She wondered if he had a girlfriend,
because every time she saw him, he was alone. Kind of sad looking eyes, she had
noticed too. Sort of like the way she felt most of the time. A smile on her face, while there were tears in her heart.
Loneliness has a way of bringing lonely
people together, and one day, while cleaning out the juice bars veggie burger grill pan, she was alone, out back. Standing
there behind the bar, her hands grimy, with cleaning solution, she happened to notice, the boy, sunning himself down on the
He too was alone, as usual, laying there,
hands behind his head, staring up into the bright blue sky, watching wisps of clouds as they gently floated by.
She watched him for a long while, hoping
that hed look her way. That thought quickly passed when she caught sight of her
reflection in the window of the back door, the grime on her face, and the grease stained clothes that she wore. Wiping the back of her hand across her face, she sighed. Hed
never give someone like me a second thought. "Why do I even daydream like this?"
Sadly, she picked up the pot she had been cleaning, and slung it on the pile of other pots and pans. Picking up the water hose from the concrete, she turned on the spigot, and sprayed the gushing water over
the assortment of cooking utensils. She passed one last glance at the boy lying
out on the beach, silently wishing, and in fact hoping that somehow they could get to know each other.
As he lay there on the beach, the sun
felt good on his skin. It had been a long time since he had just lain out in
the Sun like this. The doctors had warned him that too much sun would cause a
reaction with the medication he was taking. But just as with the exercise, he
didnt really care. He wanted to live like a normal boy, and that meant doing
what normal boys did. Lying in the sun might be dangerous, but if he could build
up his body with no side effects, then what the hell. This was pure heaven.
He thought back to when he had been a
scrawny little kid, weak, sickly, and seemingly, always near death. The doctors
had told his mother, that his condition was such that they doubted whether he would make it past seven years old, and if he
did, he would never have a normal life. The cells in his body would keep him
in a state of illness, which could flare up at any time. He remembered how overjoyed
his mother was each time he had another birthday. Praying that it wouldnt be
the last. At seventeen, he felt that the worst had passed. He was the picture of health, his physique could be considered remarkable for a boy his age, and the sickness
that overtook him from time to time, had all but vanished. Most days he was as
healthy as anyone, he thought. Although occasionally, he might have trouble getting
out of bed in the mornings. But other than a few minor aches and pains, he generally
felt quite good.
As he lay on the beach, he noticed a
girl looking at him. He thought he had seen her before at the beachs health bar. He smiled to himself, when he thought of her looking at him. Sure, go ahead and look, he smiled. I look at good as any
of these other guys on the beach. And, Im just as healthy. Suddenly, a cough forced him to have to spit out some phlegm.
Wiping his mouth, he looks up the beach
again. The girl has gone inside. He
wonders if she saw the disgusting display. Angrily, he turns over and starts
doing sets of rapid pushups, punishing his body for its faults. Instead of counting,
he vehemently repeats with each push, "I am not sick, I am not sick, I am not sick."
He pushes himself till he tires out, and ends in a coughing fit, tears streaming down his face. "I am normal, I am, I am!" He cries, with his face buried in the sand.
Up on the shore, the April weekend festivities
have begun for spring break at Santa Monica. Hoards of families, with kids, vacationers,
college students, businessmen and women, and other drifters have flocked to the beach in droves. Everywhere you look crowds line up at concessions, theaters, and grocery stores to stock supplies for their
Lovers can be seen strolling hand in
hand, walking along the pier, kissing openly, or stealing quick feels in the quiet corners of some café. Kids run to and fro, with harried parents in tow, their small ice cream, or dirt stained faces aglow with
happiness and anticipations of the next mischief they might do. It feels like
Christmas in the summertime, and people greet each other with the laughter and cheer that usually happens only once a year.
Farther down the beach, at the workout
spot, replete with weightlifting workbenches, barbells, and other exercise machines, muscle men sweat over their physical
exertions, straining, each to outdo the other. Their bodies glistening, water
dripping from overworked pores, they frantically keep pushing muscles to the limits of physical endurance, the labor etched
achingly on each mans struggling face.
Randolph eased into the group, settling
on a bench in the back as always. He never liked to make himself stand out here. Most of the other guys had been coming here for years and they all had their own little
followings, and peculiarities. As he reached down to grab a pair of barbells,
someone calls his name, momentarily startling him.
"Yo, Rock, you gonna try and outdo the
big boys again today?"
Randy kept adjusting his weights, not
bothering to look up. He knew the routine.
If he answered, theyd continue to taunt him. He knew he didnt quite fit
in here. He was a newcomer to the scene.
And he did try too hard to fit in sometime. But he had a lot to prove. To them, and to himself. For them it
was a game. Showoff time for the girls or other guys. To him, it was life itself. This was his survival his lifeor
Ignoring the taunting, Randy heaved the
barbells into the air, above his head one time, grunting with the effort. He
began a series of pushups with them and counted slowly in his mind. His eyes
were shut as he worked out, feeling the adrenaline rush through his body as he pushed himself harder and harder. With his eyes closed, he didnt see the guy sneaking up behind him with the bucket of ice water.
Suddenly he was drenched. Icy water cascading
over him like cold steel fingers grabbing his spine and as the chill gripped him, he released the barbells over his head and
it came crashing down just inches from his feet. Anger seized him as quickly
as the icy water and he spun around. Grabbing the boy by the neck, he started
to hit him as hard as he could. Furry overtook him like passion and his fist were uncontrollable as they pounded into the
soft tissue of the surprised face. The other men ran to the beaten boys
aid, trying to pull Randy off. By now, they were grappling in the sand, pounding
at each other like two posessed.
Up on the hill, Jasmine looked down to
see the ruckus, and the crowd gathering. She could just make out the two in the
sand and hear the shouts of the other men. When she noticed it was the boy called
Rock in the fight, she dropped everything and broke into a run to get down there.
By the time she arrived, they had Rock
in an arm lock, holding him, beating him all at once. His face was bloody and
he sagged in their arms as they continued to pound at him unmercifully. A
dark husky bald headed muscle man was shouting at him when she got to them. "Well
Rock, you aint so hard now, are you boy?" And he hits him in the stomach again.
Stop it!" Screams Jasmine, as she runs towards them. As she gets to the
assailant, she begins kicking him in the chins, and throwing blows with all the might her little arms can muster.
"Get off him! Leave him alone!" She pushes the man back and he falls on
the ground stunned by this pint sized human spitfire.
On the ground, Rock lies covered in sand
and blood. He too is amazed by the actions of this total stranger. But she isnt
a stranger, he recognized her. Shes the quiet girl from the health food shop
up the beach. Why would she help him he wonders?
He had only spoken about four or five words to her in all the time he had ever seen her.
He had to admit it was flattering thoughkind
of embarrassing too, if you thought about it. This pipsqueak of a girl coming
to save him. He looks around to see who is watching this and notices that everyone
has left the scene. Even the bastard that started the fight. Well, at least no ones around to laugh, he thought, wiping blood from his swollen mouth. His face hurt, his body had been pummeled savagely and it ached. His head throbbed; he was a bloody mess.
Even his teeth hurt.
"Are you okay?"
He felt a hand gently rub the back of
his head. Turning, he cant believe how beautiful the girl suddenly looks. Still in dirty kitchen scrubs, and a mess from attacking his attackers, she seemed
"I, I guess," he says, rubbing his jaw
and working it back and forth to see if anything is broken.
"I guess Ill live. Thank you."
It was nothing. She says, and immediately knows how silly it sounds. Of course,
it was something. She had just saved his ass.
But looking at him now, none of it mattered. She was close to him. And he was actually talking to her.
"I mean, I was standing up there and
I saw well, I couldnt just let them beat you up. I mean fight you, gosh it was
three to one!"
Standing, Rock looks at her, and feels
embarrassed that she had to see him get beaten like he did. An air of machismo
suddenly overwhelms him. "Aw, I coulda handled them if it hada just been one.'
I know I mean, I bet you could've. Admiration is still apparent in her voice, and she tries to calm down. Thinking quietly to herself, she pleads, "Down girl, you dont want to scare him off, not when youre this
close." As he starts walking, she hurries quickly to his side.
"Why'd they start in on you anyway?"
she asked picking some seaweed from the back of his head.
He shoos her hand away like a bothersome
fly, and tries to make her understand in some small way, why he isnt liked by the other guys.
"They gotta have someone to pick on. Im the new guy on the block, I guess. I
didnt useta hang out here. But I started working out, and this was the only place
where they had free weights. Its expensive to go to a club."
"Yeah, I know. My aunt tried one of those. Took her for a mint. They got all these plans that they tell you you get all this free stuff, and when you
sign up, you find out aint nothing really that free. Its a big rip off."
"Yeah, I know. But the beach was really free. Thats why I came. Since I was the new kid, and kinda sickly at first, I guess they didnt like how I sorta healthed up." He says with a smirk. Jasmine smiles
at his made up word. She rubs a spot on his arm that is slowing turning red. "You dont look sick now."
"I know, Im better."
Wondering about that, she quickly retorts, "Better than what?"
invades the conversation, and Randy's silence is an obvious signal that conversations about his health are not open for
discuss. She takes his hand into hers, as they continue to walk.
They reach the little health food store at the top of the beach and looking around she quickly lets go, moving to the
it, she says, Not much, but my mom thinks its the next best thing to heavens garden.
We got health food, health drinks, healthy herbs, organic pizzas, veggie burgers, bean salads, fruit salads, tacos
with no meat, spaghetti with soybean meatballs, soybean hash, soybean sausagewe even got soybean pork chops.
recipe. She puts it all together and shapes it up to look like a pork chop and cooks it in sunflower oil and the customers
thinks they got something really special. Randy frowns in disgust. "Yuck, soybean
pork chops. Thats a trip!"
its one of here specialties, she says proudly, defending her mother even though she herself cant stand the things either. "You sports types seem to like em."
his chest out just a little at the comment.
huh? You consider me one of them airheads?"
do hang out there."
automatically makes me an asshole?"
feels uncomfortable. Was the heat in her face making it noticeably red? Had she offend him? No, she couldnt chase him
"Well, I didnt
at her nervousness, and not wanting to appear as stupid as he thinks she thinks he is.
I just go there to use the stuff. Remember? I know what people think of those guys.
At least Im not gay... and an asshole. Suddenly a thought makes him laugh.
looks at him, just before opening the door.
"A gay asshole,
what a pun." He cracks up laughing.
with him lightly socking him on the arm. "That's real cute."
punches her back. "And you are too."
"You think Im cute?"
aint chopped soybean."
and as quickly, "Why you asshole. Get out of here! Go! Get the fuck on, and leave
She runs into the shops back door and slams
it shut, hard. Randy looks at the door, surprised, shocked, wondering what just
hell was that all about?"
his head, and slowly turns to head back down to the beach, his head spinning. This
lovely girl who had seemed to like him. At least for a moment, she did. What had he said... what did he do?
on a wet night made living on the beach less than desirable, and Randolph couldnt shake the feeling that he had done
something wrong. Sitting in front of his television, quiet washing away
the afternoon as darkness creeps over the city, he picks through the weight magazine in his lap, retracing his every
step, every word, every touch.
She had touched
him. Held his hand. And that was
odd, but it wasnt. All of a sudden her hand had been there, and it felt well,
like it belonged. Aw, he was out of his mind. Cause the way she blew up in the
end, it couldnt have been anything but his imagination.