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    Under Cover of Darkness and the Author's Notes

    Tales of Sin Cargo-and the author's notes

    Welcome to another slice of the world’s most unpublishable novel, Undercover of Darkness, the Tales of Sin Cargo. Dude has yet to be introduced to Cathy, and will be, through her son.
    We now peak at a bit of manuscript, and for something different, include the private thoughts of the author in bold-face, as he writes, his most intimate thoughts. It’s only a fragment, so bare with us….

    While she was dreaming the boy was dreaming too. All safe in his bed he dreamt of islands and pirates and gold sandy beaches where brown wooden boxes bound in rusted iron bands could easily be unearthed from the sand with a shovel. He dreamt he was digging one up. But what’s this? A man was standing in the surf that didn’t look like a pirate at all. No way! He was dressed in baggies, had flip-flops on his feet and was wearing sunglasses.

    “What kind of a pirate dude is this?” he said to his dreamself. The answer was simple: A very special kind of dude, and no pirate at all.

    Then he turned over and went on to a different place entirely.

    (that’s what I call a transition, when you change locations, you need a transition, everybody knows that, this tale is confusing enough as it is)

    In Ocean Beach Dude watched closely as a small black crab the size of a postage stamp scrambled over his palm in terror. When it got to the edge of his palm it fell over, then down through the air like a skydiver, hitting the rubber part of his flip-flops, the piece that ran between his toes, bounced, and was carried off by the retreating surf. He removed his sunglasses to watch its’ escape more carefully then decided he needed some suntan around his eyes so he folded them and placed them in his baggies.

    (oh, I always like to include this personal stuff- this happened to me at the beach, and besides, anyone who’s been to San Diego knows about Ocean Beach, and will think this story is absolutely drips with salt-water authenticity)

    He walked back to the pier where Old Man was under an umbrella reading The Master of Ballantrae.

    (this is good for the high-brow types, Stevenson and all, less-know work and all)

    “What’s that?”
    Old Man looked up.
    “It’s a tale of high adventure. The best Stevenson ever wrote.”
    “Oh,” he didn’t sound impressed.
    “You ever read, Dude?”
    “Not much,” he answered, then added thoughtfully, “but if was up to me, I’d rather live a life of high adventure than read about it.”

    (oh goody, more foreshadowing, readers can never get enough foreshadowing, they just eat it up!)

    Old Man looked out real far, as if he could see over the horizon, as if looking there brought memories.

    “I know what you mean. I know exactly what you mean.”

    (Oh really now, this foreshadowing stuff is really first-rate. Now the readers can suspect that The Old Man has a past, and that Dude is ready for adventure! They’re on the edge of their seats, I just bettcha!)

    He turned back to his book and became lost in thought, which he figured was as good a place as any.

    Dude felt restless, and sat in the sand a minute to calm his *ss down, watching the surfers sitting on their boards waiting for waves. He was restless only because he’d been waiting too long for something but had no idea what it was. That’s what was wrong with him. He was a restless Dude stuck on a beach, waiting for the tide to come in and carry him away, anything for a change. He’d had his fill of waiting.

    (wonder what’s wrong with me too? I’m restless, stuck writing a book, don’t have the slightest idea what I’m doing, only that I’ll do anything for change (money to normal folks, but maybe just change with royalties being what they are.)

    (OK, so enough of this foreshadowing stuff, let’s change locations and go back up north to Cathy and the Oregon bit. Wonder if I need a transition here? I can’t think of one right away so what the heck)

    Up north the day was wet and damp. Alex sat in his bed and examined his books. Exotic climes had become his specialty, and not just the climes and their flora. He liked their fauna too. Animals, exotic animals, zoo-class animals were his great interest. What he needed was a zoo. While texting to Dude he discovered just what he wanted, the San Diego Zoo. He texted:
    “Have you ever been to the zoo?”

    “Of course, in fourth grade every kid in San Diego goes to the zoo. When I went to Roosevelt Middle School, it was right next to the zoo. In fact, when we played hand-ball during gym, the guys would knock balls over the wall accidentally, and go into the zoo to retrieve them. It was right where the llamas and camels were! Can you believe that? They didn’t seem to mind a bit. (the llamas, not the coaches.”

    (now there’s an exotic place, the San Diego Zoo! And another chance to include some biographical stuff, straight from junior high school, gee, is that cool or what? Everyone that ever went to Roosevelt will want a copy for sure)

    “No way.”


    ( I dunno, maybe this is sounding a little bit too much like Wayne’s World here)

    As far as believing goes, he didn’t at first. Then Dude e-mailed him some pictures. There was the school, the handball courts, the back-gate to the zoo. Alex decided he couldn’t sue Dude for false advertisement. He was telling the truth.

    Alex imagined that Dude lived in a town where it was always warm, had a zoo, and was just a breath away from Mexico. What a truly wondrous city San Diego must be.

    (Nobody is going to believe this but the San Diego Chamber of Commerce. Maybe they’ll buy a copy and bronze it and put it on display in the city hall, kinda like the Lincoln Memorial)

    “We should go the zoo some time Mom."

    She was in the kitchen with Mona making dinner. A bunch of turnips were in the sink. Cathy was tearing their tops off.

    “What zoo?"

    “The San Diego Zoo.”

    “San Diego? Why Alex, that’s hundreds of miles from here!”

    Mona held her hand up to him and felt his forehead, as if he was sick. Cathy gave her a look.
    “He’s Ok Sis, there’s nothing wrong.”

    (what’s wrong is that they expect him to eat turnips! Again, sorry Mom, but this autobiographical crap just has to be purged. I never liked your turnips! But I had to write it, ‘cause most readers hate turnips too, and I need to sell this thing. I needed to have an example of audience identification and figured turnips were just the thing)

    “He’s out of his mind, that’s all,” said Cathy, “Alex, you’re out of your mind!”

    “You should have felt my forehead better,” he shot back, “because you guys make me sick!”

    He ran upstairs. Mona started to follow when Cathy said,

    “Just let him go. I wish we could afford it, he’d like it a lot.”

    Alex shouted down, “And forget about turnips! You know I don’t like turnips! No way am I gonna eat friggen turnips!”

    ( I think I’ll use a semi-naughty word here, but all the readers will know what actual naughty word I mean, good readers have imaginations!)

    “He’d like it,” said Mona, “and so would I.”

    Well,” Practical Cathy replied with a sigh, “I wish we could go. I’d probably like it too. But all the wishing in the world doesn’t make anything so.”

    She looked down at the vegetables in her hand and repeated a rhyme she’d once heard,

    “If wishes were horses then beggars would ride
    If watches were turnips, I’d wear one by my side.”

    (I put that in what they call italics so the art students would get some kind of esthetic thrill.)

    ( every good writer worth his salt likes a piece of deep-level poetry and includes in his latest novel. It ain’t Milton, but hey. Who wrote this classic piece anyway? I better google it and find out)

    She placed a purple-white turnip next to her waist, looked over at Mona, smiled absently, and continued preparing dinner as if nothing had happened.

    Of course it had, but you know how it is with Cathy. She’s always the last to know.

    Mona did a unexpected thing, the kind of thing you'd expect her to do. She entered Shotgun Tom’s radio contest for a vacation getaway. It didn't seem like much at the time, just an application form she got in the mail. Not much mind you just a bit of ink on paper but you have observed that many great things have been started with just a bit of ink. She filled it out, put it in an envelope, and right before she dropped it in the mailbox sealed it with a kiss. You know, SWAK! Just like that.

    (Ah, Shotgun Tom! A fixture on radio in LA, formerly in San Diego! Everybody knows him! Wonder if he’ll sue me for using his name? Or will he want an autographed copy? You can never tell about radio DJ’s)

    Though Mona's kisses never proved lucky when she put them on the lips of the men in her life, her kisses placed upon paper would prove quite another matter.

    ( Ah yes, the old “prove quite another matter “ ploy. It sounds so very English, so Conan Doyle and all, and will appeal to readers over the pond. Why, that will ensure international sales. Maybe later I’ll use “mais oui’ somewhere and rope in the French too, we can’t leave them out)

    It was a month later when Mona walked in the door tired and exhausted. When she went to get the mail she hardly looked at it as she trudged up the stairs with her hand full of letters. She threw them on the table near her bed and ignored them. They sat in a pile for three days. Then she thought she’d better check them, one might be a bill. One was always a bill. The first one was. It was from the annoying cable company. The cable company was always annoying.

    (Ah yes, everyone hates bills from the cable company, now that’s an example of audience identification! A stroke of pure genius!)

    The second one was different, and contained her dream come true. You might wonder what Mona’s dream was. You could figure it out in a second by examining an old photo of the sisters that hung in the hallway. Cathy, the oldest, is standing in front, her shoulders overlap Mona’s. In fact, you notice right away that Mona is standing in Cathy’s shadow. This picture is worth a thousand words. Cathy was first, and would always come first. An over achiever, she excelled in school and Mona who followed behind, wasn’t even called Mona.

    “Oh, so you’re Cathy’s sister,” is what her teachers said when they met her. Imagine being someone else’s sister for eleven years of school. She internalized it, that’s what she did. Mona lived her life in Cathy’s shadow and was tired of second place. Mona wanted first. This letter might change things.

    In it was the way to winning Alexis’ heart away from Cathy, putting her in first place, and a chance to win someone her own heart was interested in too. It was a response from radio station 105.1 on your dial, “The Buzz”, sending them to San Diego. Alex was in his room slaving on his homework.

    (Oh, oh, I’m so excited about this part. Bettcha the readers are too. They suspect they’re in for an adventure, an adventure in reading!)

    “Well Alex, you’d better pack your bag.”
    “Why,” he answered barely paying attention, “where are we going?”
    “To San Diego!”
    “San Diego?”
    “Yes, Nimrod, to the San Diego Zoo!”
    “The Zoo?” and he looked up.
    “Yes, Mighty Hunter, the zoo, and SeaWorld, and the Wild Animal Park and all the rest.”
    Pandemonium ensued. To describe it wouldn’t be worth the words. But the adjectives wild, crazy, and ecstatic would be close to the mark.

    (Damn that was clever and all, I had to google the meaning of Nimrod, but it was worth it)

    Cathy found out when she got home. The boy packed his bag a week too early and kept it ready by his bed. Mona kept watch on the photo of her southern gentleman every chance she got and burned his image into her retinas with glee. Cathy had an anxiety attack and couldn’t sleep a wink the night before they left. Now properly prepared, all three were ready.
    Alex wrote to Dude and set up a day to meet him in the zoo when he agreed to give them a tour.
    “Where will we meet you?”
    “There’s a flight cage off to the right of where you walk in, you can’t miss it,” Dude wrote back, “Meet me there at noon.”
    “In front of a bird cage?”
    “In the bird cage, it’s huge! Walk right in with the birds!”
    The flight down was the first time Alex has ever been on a jet. When they got Enterprise car rentals to turn in their ticket, something else was new too, the car. They were supposed to get a Ford Escort but Enterprise was out. The only thing they had left was a Cadillac Escalade, a more luxurious model.

    (wonder if Enterprise rent-a-Car or Ford or Cadillac will give me a car for mentioning their names? Wonder if they’ll sue me? The publicity might sell more copies.)

    “Would you like an Escalade instead?” asked the clerk.
    Cathy’s eyes widened, “Would I!” It was settled. They would go in style.
    When they got to their hotel, the room they’d reserved wasn’t ready.

    (Maybe I should mention a specific Hotel chain? Hilton? Would Paris get upset? Wonder how she feels about being named after a foreign city and all? Marriot? Wonder if it’s named after Steve Marriot of Small Faces and Humble Pie? Damn, he could really sing the blues. But I’m getting off track here)

    “Don’t worry,” the concierge told them, “it will be ready when you get back.”
    He’d found out from the housekeeper that all the doubles were taken by a convention that had just arrived.
    “What can we do?”
    “We’ll give ‘em a suite. That’s what we can do. Shotgun Tom sent them."
    So all in all, if you added it up, they were treated like kings and queens.

    They didn’t know about the room but they’d find out soon enough. Now they were on their way to Balboa Park.

    ( I gotta stop her and take a break. Sheesh, this novel writing ain’t no joke! It’s a tough assignment! Guess I'll go listen to U-tube)

    ©Steven Hunley 2012 Small Faces Tin Soldier
    Last edited by Steven Hunley; 05-18-2017 at 08:18 PM.

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