The Room

Welcome to Gertrude's Flat. That's Alice B. Tolkas and Ms. Stein in the photo. No wonder Hem was intimidated. For those of us no longer in school and scattered about the planet, the blog has become our studio, Face Book our writer's cafe, Twitter our message board outside the church.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Gadabout Synopsis

Gadabout opens with the narrator, Danny Walberg, delivering a brief sketch of his friend and mentor, Tony Rumson. They are living on the island of St. Barts. The year is 1989, before the condo-developers and mega-yachts, when the island is home to ex-pats and cruisers. Danny had stopped for a month of repairs but the month has turned into a year. His new friend Tony seems to have life figured out; Danny’s in need of some help. The two spend their days on their boats and their nights in the bars. Danny meets someone special; a beautiful woman named Sharon Morgenthau. He starts to think life could still have a happy ending. Tony thinks otherwise; he’s been there before.

When Sharon doesn’t show up, Tony takes the dejected Danny out on the town. Each week a new batch of tourists fly in for ‘A Hop’, three days of sun and fun, the perfect set up for two, good looking guys. They meet Beth Williams and Kelly McDowell. The two have come down with another friend for one last fling before Beth gets married. The three girl’s relationships are complicated; they've known each other since childhood. 

Though Danny is down and out, Beth does a credible job of gaining his interest. They end up back on his boat and there in the middle of sex Sharon finally shows. It’s dark and neither one knows it’s the other. Kelly has gone off with Tony. The makings of a nice romantic comedy except for one thing – Hurricane Hugo – Paradise is about to become a living hell.

Sharon runs off and Danny goes looking. He finds her but things don’t go well, she tells him to go for a sail the next day so she can be alone in the town. Danny gets back to his boat and Beth is still there. They end up together again, declaring their one night of passion half a lost weekend. 

The next morning at breakfast the couples are joined by some others, Sharon us still a no show. Joe Silversmith (another boat owner there on the wharf) and a mysterious woman named Rita add their perspective. Danny slips and mentions he is going for a sail so all of them end up coming, even Sharon, who gets there just in time and invites herself along. Beth and Kelly are starting to piece things together.

They spend a perfect day in Paradise. The conversation goes from one of discovery to one of avoidance, Danny is in a panic. They see another sailboat and it turns out to be an old friend, Captain Crunch, a one-time Merry Prankster and the man who first convinced Danny to buy his boat. He’s been gone several years and now returned in typical, Crunch-like fashion. 

Danny suggests they go wave dancing while waiting for Crunch to catch up. Sharon refuses; she’s basically been a non-participant since coming aboard. Beth, on the other hand, is having the time of her life, and goes out over the waves with total abandon. Danny is coming to realize it is Beth, not Sharon, he wants in his life. He’s watching her when he sees something flash in the deep, a shark about to attack. Danny freezes, a flash-back is coming, Beth is helpless and the shark is there. Suddenly Billy cries out it isn't a shark at all but a dolphin. An entire pod comes to play. Danny attempts to hide his shame. The women, the shark, Crunch coming back: it’s too overwhelming. And then there’s the storm; Danny can feel it, the storm that’s followed him all his life.

The sail back is a wild one. Instead of twenty armed Contra’s or maybe a ton of marijuana in his hold, Crunch has returned with a wife and two year old son. He’s a different man. Beth, Kelly and Sharon have finally pieced things together. Seventy feet of boat isn't much space when a lifetime of friendship explodes. They get back to St. Barts and find the island is battening down. Later reports will claim the winds reached over two hundred miles per hour. A plan is devised and Gadabout must put to sea. Everything else is on hold.

As it did back in ’89, the storm turns south and Gadabout is caught in the worst quadrant. She is rolled, dis-masted and nearly lost. There are serious injuries. They return to St. Barts little more than a floating hulk; the island has fared no better, a way of life is gone. At a makeshift table near sunset, sitting with people he’s come to call family, Danny sees Gadabout slowly rising above the quay. Epiphany comes.

He never cried for any of them: not his parents, his sister, the girl he was going to marry. He lets the images come. He can see them all there in the kitchen, the battered oak table, his mother in her mother’s apron heating syrup on the big Tappan stove. The Sea is our Mother, his sister is chanting. She’s out on the flagstone porch arranging a herd of stuffed animals. Andrea sits at the table, sipping herbal tea now instead of coffee, a raven haired pixie in ten shades of blue; she can’t erase the smile of their secret. They’re planning to tell his parents at dinner. Out on the porch Chrissie raises her arms in arabesque. The Sea is our Mother, she dances and sings. 
The Sea is our Mother. The Sea is our Mother.

Danny looks back into Andrea’s eyes. Chrissie bows and the bears applaud. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

For Kate

I had to kill someone today. Do not be alarmed, she was only real to me. Her name was Kate. She was a character in a novel I’m working on, a young girl all of seventeen, someone I’d come to know and care about these past seven years. With the press of a button she disappeared in a five thousand word tsunami – her friends, her family, the back road and restaurant where she worked – an entire chapter swept away, gone. I’d been thinking about it for some time. I didn’t want to. I thought I might pare things down, Strunk it all to hell and blend her into then and after, but it was no use, the narrative no longer needed to go there. So none of you will ever know her; none of you will ever feel the warmth of her smile or the way she rocked back and forth whenever anyone made her nervous, the sound in her voice when she talked of going to school and visiting France, getting out of that tiny town in Maine. None of that matters now. The need for her existence is gone; the door she came through that day now fading each passing moment, nearly closed. It feels like the call you get about a friend you once knew at school, someone you haven't seen in years, someone you cared for, the graveyards we carry as writers. I still see her standing behind the screen door in the cool morning air, soft morning light, the smell of the forest. That's the one I want to remember. Fair well, dear Kate – a kiss on the cheek and off you go – an honor to have imagined your grace.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day

If you made it back to the beach they put you on a cot in a tent and waited three days to see if you got infected. There weren't enough hospital beds back in England. We weren't supposed to know but we knew, alright. Twice a day they’d come and do what they could and then the orderlies would come a little while later and take a few of us out, so on that third day you had to lay there and wonder. They kept us pretty doped up. If you were still good on the third day they came and carried you down to the water and put you on one of the LST’s. The rest of it wasn't so bad. You could hear the ocean and the landing craft and the sergeants yelling at all the kids when they fuc... when they screwed things up. D-Day was the biggest screw-up in history. To pass the time some of us played a game trying to guess what kind of vehicle was about to go by the tent by the sound of its engine. Because of my wound I had to lie on my stomach and I was near a flap so we’d hear something coming and I'd get to see if we were right. I almost sh… pooped (we all laughed) my pants the second day when a German Tiger went by. Turns out it was captured and they were taking it back for analysis. (He paused here, looking down at his hands)  At night there was nothing to do but listen to the other guys praying. You never heard so much praying. You know me, I’m not the praying type, but on that third day when they came and lifted my stretcher and I saw all those faces... looking up... well... never mind…never mind.