Blue Rubber Pool: Excerpt 86

I’ve never been much of a cat person, but didn’t mind Marianne’s hanging around. What a trip she was–one minute sprawled half dazed in a sun beam, the next fending off bad guys. All in a day’s work. Just like me.

The cat finished bathing and made a sound I interpreted as “bored.” She paced the bench on the lookout for danger, stopped, and sat, taking notice of something. She then made a sound I equated to “You might wanna come take a look at this.”

Squinting in the fading light, I saw it: a big, black blob chewing on my precious banana trees again, the little patch I put in to feel at home while still homeless and scouting builders. This beast was not just an intruder, it was a connoisseur, having chosen musa bashoos from the mountains of Japan, a house warming gift from Alaska. I thought it interesting that a cow eating a banana tree sounds like I do eating celery. I enjoyed watching the big dumb beasts while they stayed in the neighbor’s field, just loafing. It relaxed me. Especially after a hard day at work, shouting into the S-Phone at some guy speeding across the desert, or at some guy shouting back under heavy fire in the jungle. Cows took the edge off the fact that good help had become hard to find, nobody willing to go out delivering duffel bags anymore.

But a cow on the loose in my yard–Scooby snacking on my plants–screamed out for countermeasures. But which ones?

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–Tim Bryant
Author of Blue Rubber Pool
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill

Blue Rubber Pool Excerpt # 589

ON THE MONEY TRAIL, THE BOUNDARIES AND RULES HAD WAY TOO MUCH WIGGLE ROOM
…WE WERE ONLY HUMAN.

What is guilt if not a hidden window to your soul? An over-tired or under-medicated reaction to whatever was stuck to the flypaper we call “memory.” Little things became large. Happy things became sad. Good things—evil. Monsters rode on your back, yes, like all the monkeys of the world. You felt them there but they ducked and dodged when you turned, suddenly, to catch them with your eyes. Weirdness begat more weirdness. Fiends procreated like rabbits. Very soon, they were everywhere. Hiding in the shadows. And then in the shadows of shadows.

The colonel, Alaska and the others—myself among them—knew those monsters well. There one minute. Gone the next. Rustling ’round where the tall grass begins. A shiny glint of something glimpsed off beyond your shoulder. A twig that snaps in the woods at night. The definition of the self-doubt that comes when God gets into your head, and you briefly let your guard down enough to wonder if there’s really a heaven and if hell could really be worse than what’s already all around you.

Don’t get me wrong. We weren’t a bunch of butchers, but, yes, we crossed some lines. Oh yes, we crossed them, and, worse, we helped others cross them too—empowered them, encouraged them, planting the seeds of double-cross. Still, we were only human. We wondered about ourselves, wondered about the boundaries and rules that always seemed to have way too much wiggle room. Of course we did. The colonel described it as a long and twisting ride in the most devilish of amusement parks.

“You can get off the ride when it stops sometimes. You can take a break, rest up, most any time you want. Problem is, you’re not allowed to leave the park.”

It’s a Hotel California sort of thing.

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–Tim Bryant
Author of Blue Rubber Pool
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill

 

Blue Rubber Pool Excerpt #197

TRUTH FLICKERED BETWEEN BLACK AND WHITE LIKE A STROBE
MAKING IT HARD TO DISCERN THE DEAD FROM THE LIVING

It was a small, unpainted cinder block shack with a screwed up ’72 Cutlass parked a few feet away. On the stoop, a rusted red barbecue grill—charcoal, not propane—along with scraps of greasy foil, empty beer cans, and cigarette butts in and around a plastic bucket once containing drywall mud. What stood out—a crusher for aluminum cans mounted on the wall above the bucket. Pull the lever, crush the can, those hombres were into recycling.

Andy didn’t knock, just kicked the door open, a move he made look normal.

We followed him in—three ducks carrying bags, men on a mission, ZZ Top taking the stage as the fans went wild. That’s how it felt in those first exciting moments of my young and impressionable life. My mind-blowing threshold to the Money Trail.

One minute, you’re on a stolen boat peeling back a layer of messed up fiberglass, a first hard look at seriously bad luck. The next, you’re rocking bags of bullshit worth their weight in gold, king surfer dudes with raw attitude greater than any wave in the known history of Tamarindo.

The door flew open blasting the room with light—revealing five guys slouched over a small black shipping trunk—then closed so quickly I recall the moment as a flashing strobe. Blinding brightness. Blinding darkness.

Black plastic covered the windows, blocking out the intense sun. I was totally sightless in those first few seconds. Finally, I could see: five guys staring back, saying nothing, stacks of money on the small black trunk. Some loose bills, others counted and banded. A dirty Styro plate crusted with food stains and cigarette butts. Bottles of beer in various stages of stale. An olive green Uzi.

One of the guys leaned forward, took a pack of cigarettes off the trunk, tapped the pack against the top of his other hand, removed a smoke, and then lit it up.

“You’re late,” he said.

A few beats passed. Seemed like Andy should say something, do something. But he didn’t.

At this point I noticed the others were dead.

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— Tim Bryant
Author of Blue Rubber Pool
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill

 

Blue Rubber Pool Excerpt #252

The companionway is open. The doors are swung open to rest against the cabin trunk like butterfly wings. We hold our camera angle close on the companionway itself, a dark gap like the entrance to a cave, while listening to Ray and the dishes and, now, two guys talking down below. The frame is suddenly filled: a blur, then a woman–buxom, blonde, late-forties–has walked into our shot. She stops on the dock and turns, calling back to one of the boats, speaking in German. That accent is the sexiest thing you’ve ever heard. Someone off camera replies, also in German but instead of soft and seductive it is male–guttural and growling–reminding you of Nazis in movies you’ve seen. You recall rumors of Hitler escaping to Argentina. Sightings of Der Fuhrer and his henchmen–or their offspring and ever loyal followers–still come out of South America from time to time. The woman exits the frame and continues down the dock, away from the other voice, heading to the laundry shack beside the small cabana.

Our shot, now free of the fraulein, is still frozen on the ketch as black smoke begins billowing out the companionway, becoming thicker and blacker as it does. Now a big ruckus: loud cursing, things clanking and thudding down below while the smoke still thickens.

One of the guys–yours truly, twenty some years ago–clamors out. He holds an iron skillet, using a tee shirt to protect his hand. The skillet, spitting flames, renders a Hiroshima mushroom cloud that reminds you of a skull and death. He tosses the whole deal overboard. This fine lad is the younger, handsomer, fitter, less cynical version of me. He is the Me that once wore a ponytail and Army fatigue pants cut off at the knees. He swears and flicks his hand in the air, trying to cool the burn. He sucks the wounded fingers then, right on cue, the second guy emerges with two cans of beer. Alaska is laughing his head off.

Younger me takes the can, pours beer on the burn, then drinks. Alaska taps his can against mine, still cracking up, then drinks.

“Wish you’d give up on that cooking-with-rum. You’ll burn us to the waterline.”

“Just trying to jazz things up. There’s only so many ways to eat beans and sardines.”

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–Tim Bryant
Author of Blue Rubber Pool
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill

Blue Rubber Pool Excerpt #237

 

Squinting in the fading light, I saw it: a big, black blob chewing on my precious banana trees again, the little patch I put in to feel at home while still homeless and scouting builders. This beast was not just an intruder, it was a connoisseur, having chosen musa bashoos from the mountains of Japan, a house warming gift from Alaska. I thought it interesting that a cow eating a banana tree sounds like I do eating celery. I enjoyed watching the big dumb beasts while they stayed in the neighbor’s field, just loafing. It relaxed me. Especially after a hard day at work, shouting into the S-Phone at some guy speeding across the desert, or at some guy shouting back under heavy fire in the jungle. Cows took the edge off the fact that good help had become hard to find, nobody willing to go out delivering duffel bags anymore.

But a cow on the loose in my yard–Scooby snacking on my plants–screamed out for countermeasures. But which ones?

I dialed in the colonel. He answered right away.

“Well, what kind of cow is it?”

“Black. Built like a tank. A boy, I suspect, stocky and close to the ground. And short tempered. Not particularly glad to meet outsiders.” Beyond that, I was clueless to the ways of cattle–I was an alien who landed amongst farmers, just there for the farmer’s daughter.

“Just shoot the damn thing and be done,” he advised. That was always the colonel’s “go to” Plan A.

“I don’t want to kill it. Just want to save my bananas.”

“Call in an air strike,” he added, screwing with me now. The colonel thinks he’s funny.

“Too over-the-top. I need a ground-level solution, something low key that won’t unnerve the natives.”

“Do you still have that cattle prod I gave you?”

“The one with the broken amperage adjuster? Yeah. How’s that guy doing anyway?”

“Never mind that. You’re sure you still have it?”

“Of course I do. But I don’t need intel. I just want the cow to go away.”

“Use the cattle prod.”

“Seriously, Colonel, what’s a friggin’ cow going to tell me?” I was on a roll. Too much bourbon, I guess. The thought of interrogating a cow still cracks me up. Who’d want to torture a cow? What’s next, waterboarding chickens?

I heard Colonel John calmly light a stogie, take a long draw, then chase it down with bourbon of his own. I could see him in my mind, shaking his head the way he does.

“Listen to me, son. Two words: cattle and prod. Do the math.”

After that, he was gone. A mirage again on the Money Trail.

Weird, I hadn’t made that connection about the prod, always assumed it was meant as a brand name–like Rhino brand truck bed liners, implying the product stands up to a rhino.

You wouldn’t actually put that on a rhino.

Hmmmm. Cattle plus prod.

Well, I’ll be damned.

Always thought it meant “More than you’ll ever need for reluctant villagers because it’s strong enough for a cow!”

Silly me.

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Tim Bryant
Author of Blue Rubber Pool
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill

Blue Rubber Pool Excerpt #89

I’d been nineteen and staying–living, actually–at the YMCA in St. Petersburg, Florida. My dorm-style room had a linoleum floor, metal-framed bed, dresser, and nightstand. The nightstand had three drawers. In the top one, a Bible, King James Version. In the middle, old copies of National Geographic. In the bottom, nothing. Nothing at all.

The walls, bare but for a single picture of Jesus, were a blank canvas on which to dream, but when dreams ran out, they closed in tight. There was a radiator, a window, and a bare light bulb hung like an exclamation point, as if to say, “If you are here, you’re screwed!”

It was an old building with old rules posted on the door: No smoking. No alcohol. No drugs. No women.

Another rule, not posted, barred the restless bouncing of a tennis ball. “No playing catch with yourself.” I learned about that one a mere hour into my first night.

The Y was basically for sleeping and, when that became tiresome, dying. A place for old men and down-and-outers at the end of the line. At night, the geezers got up to pee and us young ones heard them trekking down corridors painted in cheap yellow light, heard them coughing, farting, flushing–paper rattling off the rolls, the bathroom door propped wide with a trash can–heard cheap rubber sandals flip-flopping back to bed, then heard them hacking up phlegm, moaning vague echoes, calling out from dreams–names, a wife, a daughter, a son. Noises you’d think the rules would not allow.

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— Tm Bryant
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill