DEEPER THAN THE OCEAN. That´s how first time novelist Victor J. Treutel paints his characters, their lives, and their loves. Christian, a young white man saved from racial tension as a boy by his mystic, black nanny Marisa, is taught to live and protect the last secluded Florida beach and its inhabitants. He is at ease with nature but not himself–he is alone. His struggle to understand the ways of man are only complicated when he encounters Patricia on his beach. She has run from years of abuse at the hands of a wealthy, jealous husband. She´s haunted and hunted by this drunken man who must possess her. She longs for safety and seclusion in the simple beach life. Her emotional turmoil is only heightened when she finds Christian, and the deeper truths of the beach. Patty and Christian–one created by society, the other protected from it–struggle with themselves, others, and nature. Their emotional adventure takes them from Florida´s wave-breaking serenity and its hurricane vengeance to Alaska´s silent, magic wilderness. They search themselves and this land for loves and lives that are DEEPER THAN THE OCEAN.www.deeperthantheocean.com
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Read an Excerpt
Stories of a thousand lifetimes were etched on her ebony face, as if scored there by sea and sand. A bright passion for life shone from her mystical brown eyes that offered a window into these stories. Her face wept with the compassion of a dying woman whose heart continued to soar, but whose body had seen its last adventure.
Marisa sat alone, as she did every morning, watching pelicans glide over the beach in formation. Marisa had witnessed the pelican's ballet a million times. The lead bird peels off and heads toward the open ocean. Each bird in turn follows. Inches above the breaking waves they glide, searching for a school of fish. Suddenly, each bird breaks off into a different direction, pulling themselves high above the water, their white underbellies exposed to the cascading green of the ocean. The first bird tucks its wings tightly into its distorted, ill-looking body and plummets toward the ocean. Its enlarged beak breaks the water first. A few seconds later, the bird emerges with its prey in its beak.
Marisa continued to watch the pelicans rise above the mist that hung over the beach. The morning sun began to heat the sand. Her empty coffee cup dangled from her wrinkled hand. The matted dreadlocks that had been growing from her head for decades cocked her head to the right with their weight. Her fingernails grew in curling confusion, each dark and in a different direction. The sun had given her life, yet had aged her. Now, she sat on the beach for the last time watching the sun rise above the Atlantic Ocean while the rest of the world slept.
In the misty distance, Marisa saw the figure of a lone man walking toward her. Shoulder length blond curls danced in the winds as the young man, who was recently just a boy, approached Marisa.
“Sit down,” Marisa motioned toward the sand.
Christian moved his tanned body next to her, crossed his legs and followed the breaking waves with his eyes that matched the incredible blue of the waking Florida sky.
“I must tell you one last story. This is the most important story you will ever hear, and the last I shall ever tell.” She peered into his sky blue eyes that looked upon this small corner of the world in wonder; the only corner he had ever known.
“This is your story, Christian. It is a violent and sad story, a story of evil. A story you must know.” Marisa turned her eyes to the breaking waves. She had waited too long to tell the young man of his life. Now, as her body aged, she knew the days were coming to an end, and she must reveal to him his story.
Born the third son of a career politician in 1960, the turmoil of the civil rights movement swept across the South. Black men demanded equality. White men like his father fought them. The white politicians converged on the county courthouses to keep their political seats. They controlled the election results, stuffing the ballot boxes with white votes, a practice that had been going on in the South for many years. The black people understood their plight. They knew the battle they would have to fight. They understood the burden their future generations would bear if they didn’t stand up now.
Finally, a preacher arrived out of the darkness; a leader whose voice rattled the pines of the tiny whitewashed church nestled among the swaying palm trees. His name was Reverend Jones, a leader to invoke their passions as a race. He arose as a brutal and violent voice in the dark Florida heat. No one was sure where he had come from. No one even knew for sure that he was a preacher. They understood his passion and they devoured his words. They put what little money they had into his hands to help bring justice to their world.
With the congregation’s cash in his pocket, the Reverend took the train into the bayou of Louisiana in search of a group of men. They were common thugs, the perfect men to help the Reverend carry out his plan. He found them drinking moonshine whiskey from a crock and spitting chewing tobacco into the river. The three men, each larger than life itself, towered over the Reverend as he approached.
“Ho’d up!” The largest one stuttered through blackened teeth toward the Reverend.
The Reverend stopped in his tracks. “I’m Reverend Jones from Brevard County, Florida. I’m looking for the Washington boys. I here they live around hear.”
Not a word was spoken.
“Are you them?”
“Wha’s to ya?” The largest one spoke for the others. His giant bare feet stood propped up on the decrepit railing of the porch. Dirt hung in the air and around the tiny, windowless house.
“I’m looking for them to help me with a little job in Florida.”
“Yup,” was the only word that exited the man’s mouth.
The Reverend outlined his findings to the three men as they passed the moonshine between them. They showed no interest in the black man’s plight, only in their jug.
“Wha’ ya’ want done ‘bout it?” the largest one continued with the questions.
The Reverend filled the boys in on his plans to derail the white political system.
“Dats real nasty. Wha’ makes ya’ think we’d wanna help yas?”
Reverend Jones reached in his pocket and pulled out five hundred dollars. Each of their eyes were fixed on the green bills held in the black hand of the Reverend. The oldest one grunted and nodded his head; a dirty grin displayed his decaying teeth to the Reverend. The deal was done.
The three men boarded the train the following day with the Reverend. Moonshine and sweat filled the overheated rickety car as it clanked through the backwoods toward the central Florida coast. Small towns dotted the countryside. Black children played in the dirt alongside the tracks.
Reverend Jones watched the poverty stretch along the train's route. Black poverty. These were not white children playing in the dirt alongside the tracks. The white children lived in houses that had wooden floors. The black children lived in houses that had dirt floors. The white children attended new schools. The black children attended old barns. The white children had textbooks. The black children had nothing.
The white injustice tired Reverend Jones. He was tired of watching the children of his congregation live in dirt. He was tired of waiting for things to change. Time had come to act.
On Tuesday night, the day of the election, he called a special congregational meeting. Reverend Jones already knew what the outcome of the election would be. No matter how many black voters filed into the courthouse, it would be another white victory.
The Reverend Jones’ anger surged through his congregation, "Praise the Lord!"
"Praise the Lord!" The crowd rocked the peace of the night.
"Praise the Lord, for I can finally see the light of day!" The sweat rolled down his black forehead as his voice continued to boom inside the tiny packed church.
The congregation chanted, "Praise the Lord!"
"In the great book," he yelled, holding the bible above his balding head, "the destructive wrath of God can be seen. When the people of the earth became misguided and swayed into a life of self-indulgence, God cast the rains upon the land."
"Praise the Lord!" the crowd erupted.
"He destroyed the corruption." Every syllable hung powerfully in the still night air.
"God protected the good people of the earth by loading them on the Ark. He insured the continuance of his creation and destroyed the rest."
"God came to me. He told me that I too must destroy the corruption if my people are to walk upon the Promised Land. I must lead an uprising to destroy the forces that are choking the life from my people.
"God said to me, 'You must destroy the corruption if your people are to walk free on this earth.'"
"Praise the Lord!" The congregation was screaming louder with every sentence from the Reverend's sermon.
The frenzied crowd vibrated the walls of the small church. The generations of oppression witnessed by the black people in the South clung to the emotions of everyone in the creaking wooden structure. The humidity clung to the aging boards while the congregation raised their clenched fists above their heads following the lead of Reverend Jones.
The Washington brothers, watching the Reverend from outside the church, turned and walked into the woods. Ten black men stood next to two old pickup trucks. The smell of anger and burning tobacco filled the humid Florida night. The men pulled torches and clubs out of the truck and moved through the woods to the church.
Marisa had walked from her little house on the beach to the courthouse to vote. On her way out of town, down the quiet dirt streets, she had heard the mob forming in the church. She had heard the Reverend’s voice bellow out the opened windows.
The light beamed out the tiny windows of the church casting a silhouette of dancing bodies against the sandy ground. The Reverend was a master at controlling the emotions of a crowd, and this time it was easy. Each black person felt the oppression. Each black person felt helpless. They knew white men controlled their world, and none of them liked it. They wanted a better life for their children and the Reverend offered that.
"The time is right for us to unite as a race and begin to build our own world. We must let the white man know we are here. We must let him know what we want. We must use force to make him give us what we deserve."
"Amen!" The fists tightened above the congregation, following the Reverend’s lead.
"Follow me now and we shall begin!" The Reverend stepped down from his pulpit and walked through the crowd gathering their emotions behind him. Outside he grabbed a torch from the waiting men and turned to his congregation.
"Grab the light of God and ye shall begin to remove the corruption from the world!" The congregation swarmed the men, grabbing lighted torches and followed the Reverend down the sandy road.
Moving like the flow of the ocean tide, the crowd filled the road. Only the Reverend knew their destination. He was carefully orchestrating the crowd. He controlled each individual. A single drop of water is powerless, but an ocean of drops is unstoppable.
The large white house sat quietly under the brightness of the moon at the end of the road. A single light flickered in an upstairs room. The keeper of the votes, Christian’s father, lived here. He had spent the day counting the vote of the year’s election before returning to his family.
The first torch crashed in through the front window, thrown by one of the Washington brothers. The flames spread, devouring the curtains and climbing the papered walls. The crowd followed the Reverend’s directions. Torches landed on the front porch. A few crashed through lower windows, spreading flames angrily through the night.
Christian’s father pulled his wife down from the bed and huddled with her under the bedroom window. Screams traveled into the house, echoed off the rich hardwood floors and traveled up the staircase. Christian’s older brothers ran into the bedroom and cowered under their parents’ bodies.
Marisa had followed the angry crowd in the darkness. The Reverend’s voice had frightened her, and now his actions terrified her. She ran to the back entry of the house and moved quietly up the stairs. She saw the couple huddled in the corner with two small boys underneath them. Flames devoured the lower level of the house and danced their way up the walls to the upper floor.
Marisa heard the sounds of an infant. She stepped into the dark room and found the baby boy, murmuring for attention. Scooping her black arms under the child, she held him close to her chest. She ran down the stairs. Once outside, she set the baby in the bushes. Ashes covered his face. He cried ferociously.
Marisa pulled her dreadlocks aside and returned to the heated house. The flames had engulfed the entire first floor, reaching out the windows, grasping for air. The back stairs became an inferno, angrily rising to the second floor. Marisa tried to get up the stairs, but the flames surrounded her. She ran outside and watched the upper floor ignite. The screams from the family were lost in the flames and the surrounding darkness.
Marisa reached into the bushes and lifted the infant with her black hands. She heard the Reverend’s booming voice as she ran from the house into the calm of the darkness. The crowd dispersed into the shadows as the white town arrived to put out the flames.
Marisa had saved the infant. She waited outside the churning town unsure what to do. If the Reverend found out the child had lived, he would find some way to kill it. This was his way of cleansing the earth, destroying the corruption and the future generations of corruption.
Marisa decided in the darkness to keep the baby a secret. She would take the child to her hidden world until the hatred of her generation faded and the child would be safe to live its life.
Marisa returned to the beach as the sun pulled itself out of the distant waters and lit the white sand. Her house, pushed under the gentle sand dunes, woke to the warmth of the early sun. The baby slept in her arms, safe and warm from the horrendous night. Marisa sat in the sun-drenched room of her tiny house and wept for the child.
Marisa watched Christian’s sky blue eyes cloud with tears. She had cared for him on this secluded beach for twenty years. Now, the Lord called her home.
“That child I pulled from the crib was you,” she held his hand in hers.
Christian swallowed the tears. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
Marisa watched the last pelican riding on the waves, swallowing its prey.
“I’ve come close many times. The story of your family hurts me and I knew it would hurt you even more. Every child deserves happiness and growing up with this much pain would have been too much of a burden. But, now you are grown up.
“We have been together on this beach for twenty years. I have cared for you as if you were my own child. I have loved you with all my heart. But, I am growing old. My body moves slowly and soon I will be at the gates of Heaven.
“Please don’t hold any bitterness toward the black man for doing this. The world is difficult and they were misguided. It is easy to become violent when violence has been used against you for so long. They did what they felt they had to. It was wrong, very wrong, and it can never be corrected. All we can do is learn by our mistakes and grow into better people.”
Christian closed his eyes and tried to picture his mother in the house with his brothers. He tried to picture his father protecting his family. He felt cheated that his family had been robbed from him.
“So, was my name Christian?”
“No. The newspapers called you Martin. They thought you were killed in the fire as well.”
“Why have you called me Christian all this time?”
“As a reminder. The Reverend called himself a Christian. Well, my son, the ways of God become misguided in the hands of man. They are folded and distorted to suit them. God would never want man to act in such a way. So, I named you Christian.”
Marisa and Christian sat in silence. Although Christian’s world had changed, the incoming tide remained as it had for millions of years, reaching higher and higher up the beach.
What People are Saying About This
The characters were so real and yes, I did cry a few timesa true sign of a good book.
Deeper than the Ocean is just that, a beautiful ballad of poetic creation, delving deep into the souls of all three partiesthe characters, the author's and the reader's. Destined to become a bestseller.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I loved this book! The author writes in such a way that you truly feel as if you are immersed in the story; you feel the sand between your toes, the waves lapping at your ankles and you can smell the salt in the air. I fell in love with the characters, the town and the story. I'll be looking for more works by this author for sure!!
DEEPER THAN THE OCEAN. That's how first time novelist Victor J. Treutel paints his characters, their lives, and their loves. Christian, a young white man saved from racial tension as a boy by his mystic, black nanny Marisa, is taught to live and protect the last secluded Florida beach and its inhabitants. He is at ease with nature but not himself¿he is alone. His struggle to understand the ways of man are only complicated when he encounters Patricia on his beach. She has run from years of abuse at the hands of a wealthy, jealous husband. She's haunted and hunted by this drunken man who must possess her. She longs for safety and seclusion in the simple beach life. Her emotional turmoil is only heightened when she finds Christian, and the deeper truths of the beach. Patty and Christian¿one created by society, the other protected from it¿struggle with themselves, others, and nature. Their emotional adventure takes them from Florida's wave-breaking serenity and its hurricane vengeance to Alaska's silent, magic wilderness. They search themselves and this land for loves and lives that are DEEPER THAN THE OCEAN.