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

Beautiful Swimmer


Excerpt from Blue Rubber Pool coming soon.


It was happening again, wonderfully. The Transition. The moment of crossing from one world into another.

Traversing the spiritual bridge between land and sea was bewitching and so powerfully exciting. Man, oh man, what a homewrecker was the sea: a slinky nymph with dreamy eyes waiting under motel sheets in the middle of the day.

I let myself ease in, immersed myself, absorbing even the slightest sensations, letting them build, drinking them up, becoming one—then let go, releasing myself into the moment, letting the moment consume me, cleanse me.

My thoughts glinted briefly toward home, toward Marianne and our promises. But I knew not to dwell there, knew to let the water lure me away until, soon, I could only look ahead instead of looking back.

The sails tightened. Water splashed off the hull with an enticing fusion of large and small sounds spaced evenly and unevenly based on any number of influences: size of waves and distance between them, heel of the boat and its angle on the sea, my steadiness on the wheel, or rudder, or lack thereof.

I remember the sound as like this: Slippedy-slippedy-slap-slap-slap-swish-swash-swish-slippedy-swish-slap-swash-swash-slippedy.

Try it with your eyes closed: Slippedy-slippedy-slap-slap-slap-swish-swash-swish-slippedy-swish-slap-swash-swash-slippedy.

Now again: Slippedy-slippedy-slap-slap-slap-swish-swash-swish-slippedy-swish-slap-swash-swash-slippedy.

Repeated a million times, the effect is hypnotic, the trance eternal. For sure, I had been willing and ready to wander off wherever that mantra would have me go, hitchhiking its random directions and distances until no longer aware of who and where I was. I was there, on the cusp of that profound metamorphosis—ready to ride, baby, ride—when a raspy outraged voice burst over the VHF.

“Thanks for the wake, asshole!” it seethed.

An odd utterance from out of the blue as if from Jehovah Himself. I looked for the source—and for the pestilent wake—but could find no likely suspects.

When it became quiet again, the mood was gone. The waves sounded only like waves, a mere side effect of moving on in life. Then, soon enough, came more chatter on the VHF—this time between the dock master and a cargo vessel while, in the same instant, Mad Dog and the first mate, Roger, emerged from the cabin congratulating each another on having found and fixed a loose wire at the battery bank. Next, The Kid joined us in the cockpit too, having been standing at the bow pulpit, arms out like wings, his silhouette on the headsail resembling Christ on the cross. Perhaps, like me, he had been in a trance-like state, sensing his soul given over to the sea, leading him farther away from his troubles back home, the knocked up girlfriend and a matter pertaining to stolen beer.

Like me, his attempted escape proved futile, the opportunity spoiled by some fool on the airwaves. I felt sorry for him, for his broken moment at the pulpit. There was nothing left but to join us eavesdropping, just bullshit at first, unimportant chit-chat and ubiquitous prattle, until finally it came: the cheap entertainment we needed just then—the harbormaster critiquing a Chinese restaurant for the restless crew of an incoming ship, running through the menu, critiquing the Moo Goo Gai Pan versus the General Tso.

The arriving vessel, bee-lining toward hard and steady ground, had a name I’ll remember the rest of my life—be that days or decades. Beautiful Swimmer. We searched the horizon, hoping to see such a craft. We looked and looked, each of us quiet for reasons of our own. But all we saw out there was the dark thin line at the edge of the world. And, in that, ourselves.

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