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This post consists of thoughts and fragments as I attempt to free write 750 words every day. Some of this may end up in a Story or a Conversation. Anyway, this is how one learn and shapes up The Craft.
He talked endlessly about meeting us at Pea Soup Andersen’s in Carlsbad for a quick lunch. Except, I didn’t know what he was talking about. Some memory from his childhood about a Danish windmill, two crazy cooks name “Hap” and “Pee”, and the best split pea soup a boy ever ate. We all just let him ramble. And he expected us to meet him there. Since none of us had the courage to ruin his reunion, we just agreed to meet at the windmill and let him find out.
As far as I remember, the place has always been a TGI Fridays. I suppose it could have been a pea soup place once upon a time. I recall it was a bit expensive. Something told me we would be eating somewhere else. So much for memories.
He rushed ahead of us on the 5 and tore off toward the windmill on the frontage road. By the time we caught him, he was driving through the parking lot circling the restaurant. Sure enough, not a sign pointed to a pea soup place although the TGI sign stood out large and center. He climbed out of the car looking lost and dejected. I laughed. Served him right; so sure and smug. I realized I really didn’t like the guy, but my wife thought the world of him. Some sort of strange brother-like quality made him seem less of a threat to women. I knew exactly what he wanted; my wife in bed.
I drove up to his car, yelled “We don’t have time for dinner anyway,” and then left the parking lot back to San Diego. Cindy pouted. I smiled. Who knows what happened to Fred. Maybe he found his mystical pea soup. I didn’t really care.
I saw my first black kid in Coalinga. I grew up in the northeast corner of the whitest part of California. American Indian kids stayed in one place on the playground, so I had seen some color, even if it was from a distance. None of the Indian kids played with us and we never offered to invite them. I knew there were kids of color, but my first encounter with a black kid was in the pool at a motel at the base of the Grapevine at the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley.
He bobbed clinging to the edge of the deep end. I barely knew how to swim, so I stayed in the shallow end where my toes could touch the bottom. I bounced on the bottom until I got as close to him as I could. His parents eyed my advance with concern. I felt a sure air of worry that I might say something hateful. I wondered if I should just turn around. It was 1974 and only ten years from the Civil Rights marches. I was just a kid. I had no idea a black kid swimming in a pool with whites might be a cause of concern.
His name was Andre from San Francisco. That is about all I ever got out of him. He was my age and he had a sister. I had three sisters, so we had something in common. Once I learned that stuff, his mother told him he needed to go. I watched him climb out of the pool in a waiting towel. Then he was gone. I didn’t feel like I should hate him. I guess I was too young to understand racism. He just seemed like a nice kid who had spent too much time in the sun.
The water rushed down the beach in a rip tide. I ran to my scoutmaster to sound the warning. He laughed and told me not to worry about it. He brushed me off. I walked back to the water still worrying about the tide. My friends jumped through the waves. They laughed. Only it was no laughing matter.
Before I could walk, we went to the beach. Clouds rolled in off the ocean and my mother carried me down to the water. I remember floating in a red ring, bouncing over the waves, and laughing as the sea water washed over my face. Then my mother screamed and I floated away from her. A steady pull as the wave rushed out to sea. The water pulled me under until the red ring pushed me up. I gasped for air.
My dad reached me before I went under again. He pulled me closer to shore and my mother pulled me out of the water. I didn’t go back in after that day. I was still running up on down the shore twelve years later. Inside, I knew the power of the rip tide. I still feared the waves.
© 2017, Michael Shawn Sommermeyer. All rights reserved.