Word

Word

by Coerte V. W. Felske

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Overview

Callie Carlson has spent her life at odds with the sea. Growing up on the Florida Straits, she blames the Atlantic for her mother's and father's death and the enticement of her younger brother Jeff whom she has practically raised -- the only family member left to her now. When Jeff goes out in a storm, Callie is sure that the sea will finally steal the last of her blood ties. Her frantic waiting and watching on the docks draws the attention of her neighbor, Chase Mattingly.

Chase, a swarthy ex-SEAL turned diver, is in a maelstrom of his own. While his body recovers from the pain and rigors of the bends, the result of a recent diving accident, his mind is demonized by encroaching shadows in the night that play tricks on his eyes. Yet, that afternoon he finds it within himself to reach out to Callie...

When Callie's brother Jeff at long last returns safe with a salvaged boat in tow, and that boat turns out to be the scene of a murder, Callie and Chase find they must join forces to protect the young man -- from the law, and from the criminals who think he knows to much. Chase agrees, once he realizes the salvaged boat was found in the same spot on the ocean that his mysterious diving accident occurred. Caught between the danger and madness of the sea, Callie and Chase find they have only each other to cling to as they unravel the danger that threatens them all.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780446609005
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication date: 03/01/2000
Pages: 512
Product dimensions: 4.25(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.84(d)

Read an Excerpt



Chapter One

The Age of A

Word is, nobody wants to be sentenced to a life at the edge of somebody else's able. Someone spread that about a year ago. That someone was me.

It was the first day of spring in Los Angeles, and nobody gave a damn. The seasons had their significance back east. But on America's left edge, they were meaningless. It added to the surreal nature of the city. I could always recall what I had done the day before, but I'd be damned if I could tell you what happened the day before that. The days were all the same. And they all blended together with no dividers. L.A. was a uni-day. If you divided yesterday by today, added a day two weeks ago, then three days next month, then sliced all of that in half, what you got was still a day that was warm, with hazy sun and a touch of smog. Just another L.A. day.

But that day in March was a day I'll never forget. That's when it all started.

I was racing west on Sunset Boulevard in the Bavarian Citrus Sled en route to the ocean. Normally, you could characterize my mood as Hollywood-bitter. But on this day I was slightly more perturbed. I needed to get away. So I was going to the place the fam and I always went whenever I felt that way. It was one of my better survival rituals.

I hated L.A., everything about it. Right down to its socks. But I loved Sunset Boulevard. It always gave you a sense of emancipation. It was a de-shackling. The winding turns, the sunshine, the wind blowing in your face. Your life could actually suck. But Sunset had the ability to make all the negativity fizzle away. You could be held at a light next to the finest Rolls and it hadnothing on you. 'Cause you were sharing the same asphalt. Sunset was an equalizer. It gave you the sense that anything was possible, which is the myth the entire city was founded on. It is the greatest street in America next to Bleecker or West Broadway.

The Bavarian Citrus Sled was my car. It was a green BMW 2002, a real rattrap. The frame needed resoddering, the muffler was half-gone, and my tires were short on tread. But I can tell you without hesitation, it was my faithful friend. It looked like a wreck and sounded like a lawn mower, but it had a heart like a St. Bernard. It took me where I wanted to go, wherever, whenever.

I called it a Sled because it was so broken down to its bare mechanical essentials, it had nothing more going for it than my childhood Flexible Flyer. It was miraculous that it even turned over consistently. In my estimation it glided along by pure magic.

"I know what you're thinking, Bob," I said.

Bob the Riot was riding shotgun, of course. His presence allowed me to use the High-Occupancy Vehicle lane and get through vicious freeway gridlock. He had blond hair, a doughboy face, and he wore denim overalls. Though his expression never changed, his thoughts did. Bob was my HOV dummy and a contrarian by nature. If I considered an idea to be bold, he would consider it risky. But that was okay. My life needed a second opinion.

Though Bob was short on words he was an integral part of my family. Along with the Sled, my designer NFL football The Duke, and my childhood sleeping bag lodged in the trunk, we were one proud unit. Mildly dysfunctional, but proud.

I took a back-door drive into Bel-Air and docked opposite the tree, not before setting off the car alarm of a parked Benz. My engine was that outspoken. The tree's unpicked fruit had turned from green to yellow since my last visit. I picked as many lemons as my T-shirt could hold. I then placed them with all their little yellow brothers in the Sled's console, and on the front and rear dashboards. The old, dried ones I tossed.

Filling my car with lemons was another one of my survival rituals. It made me feel good. On any given morning, I could open that door and get a fresh lemon scent. It was a happy smell. It made me feel like maybe life wasn't so bad after all—that the day had potential. In addition, the lemon was an appropriate mascot for my Bavarian friend who had seen better days.

I didn't have a stereo so I relied upon my portable cassette player that rode beside Bob. Wearing headphones and listening to grime rock was a dangerous way to drive. But it was effective. I was thirty years old and I figured I could forgo my hearing capabilities. My vision was good enough and my eyes still had enough dart left in them that I could foresee any traffic troubles before they posed problems.

I rejoined the flow of cars on Sunset and sidled beside a Blip on a roaring Harley. He looked at my rig and smiled smugly, convinced I thought his wheels were cherry. Little did he know, I wouldn't be caught dead on his piece of scrap. A Harley was about as original as a tattoo. And those you could get in cereal boxes. So I changed lanes and let him coast alone in all his predictability.

As I drove, my mind drifted. I wanted to think positive thoughts. And I wanted to forget the day. It had been a rough one. It started with an outlaw producer calling me nasty names in an arbitration hearing, my second arbitration hearing in three years.

I also met with Agent Orange. Agent Orange was my movie agent. Or at least he was when the day began. He told me my new work was totally uncommercial. Sure, I'd heard it before. That was the word on me and my product. Unsellable. But I was damn good at producing work that didn't sell. So why ruin a good thing? He told me I should look for new representation. I told him he should look at my tallest finger.

As I drove Sunset I tried to get off the morose track. But it was difficult. The depressing thoughts of my life and times wouldn't let go. I pondered the first three letters of my license plate. They were NFW. It was a plate I'd received randomly from the state. But it was thematically correct for me and my attitude of disbelief about the era we were living in.


No Fuckin' Way.

I considered my era the Age of Astonishment. I'm talking the nineties. If you're hazy on the labeling, let me ask you one question. Aren't you astonished by what's happened so far? Even if you weren't paying attention, you should have noticed that murder pays, justice weeps, viruses rule, your wife's lover is not a man, fashion models are running for office, the boyfriend-back-home is extinct, Mother Nature now has balls, curse words have lost theirs, statistics show you've got as good a chance of marrying your stalker as the romantic mismatch you're forcing down the throat of a church, that money, no matter how ill-gotten, gets the worship manners and cultural achievement used to, that beauty and fame have rewritten the Ten Commandments, that frivolous lawsuits are the country's new flavor-of-the-millennium melanoma, that the very scandal that used to ruin you now makes you a millionaire, that the Tabloid Boys have taken over, creating a lust for sensational news that has body-snatched the populace like a bad propaganda machine with the potency of the worst isms you can recall, Despotism, Nazism, and Fascism included.

Sure, it was a bitter way to see the world. But I was bitter. Bitterness and my profession went hand in hand. After all, I was a screenwriter.


Quotable Agent Orange

Papers fluttered in my backseat as I motored past Brentwood. They were the loose contents of an unbound copy of my latest work. It had a title. But Wallpaper was a better one. I had written thirteen spec scripts already and none had been produced. I was murder on trees.

An acid song named "Cynical" came on my phones and I liked it.

As I came down the slope where Sunset meets Pacific Coast Highway, I recalled what Agent Orange had said to me in the parking lot of that fashionable eatery. As he took the keys from the red Vesty to his black Aston Martin, he made an attempt at kindness—the type of kindness that made me refer to him, and all of my previous unscrupulous agents, as a horrific nerve gas that choked, tortured, and paralyzed our soldiers in the Nam; the type of kindness that made me want to be kind in return and rip his fucking throat out.

"Your life is more interesting than your work," he said. "Quit inventing stories. If you want to write, write about your life."

In fairness to him, he did cover the check.

Only later did I realize that Agent Orange was absolutely right. Because in the end, it wasn't what I wrote, or thought, or preached, or pitched. It was the life I led that made the difference. A year later, I'm taking his advice and I'm not going to leave out a single detail.

It's true. Word was my work was uncommercial. I'd never had a script produced. Maybe my writing was elitist. Maybe pretentious. Maybe the concepts were not high and hook-y enough to make them sell. But I knew enough about writing to know it's a sin to bore your audience. What I'm saying is I'm not going to bludgeon your attention span with ridiculous tales about Star Camp. Too many writers out there can do it better. What I am going to do is tell you about my last year and the life I led in Los Angeles at the height of the Age of Astonishment. I am going to put you in the belly of a creative who was trying to get his first big break. I apologize if you get indigestion.


Frisbee No Be

I pulled off PCH and into an Arco AM-PM and filled up the Sled. Sure enough, gas sprinkled on my lounge shoes. The Sled had its share of rust from the brutal eastern winters we'd endured and the flow from nozzle to tank always involved some leakage.

I slipped into the station's minimart and bought some diet cola. It was my afternoon drink. I'm not going to name the brand because I'm sick of giving those overstuffed cats free advertising. I'd done enough work for free already. What's crucial is that my drink had caffeine. I was a caffeine addict. It was always coffee in the morning—astonishing quantities—and diet cola in the afternoon. By the time evening fell, I'd had so much caffeine I was wondering where the enemy was.

As I saw my favorite beach in the distance, I began to simmer down. La Piedra was past Malibu right off the highway, as all beaches were. It was where I went when I wanted to get away from my smog-belt community in Hollywood. It was where I went when I was down.

I guided the Sled down the serpentinely gravel drive and parked. The lot literally was situated on a cliff overlooking the ocean. There were only two vehicles there with surfboard racks on top. And I recognized them both. That was a good sign. No tourists. I didn't want to have to fake a smile for someone's kid.

I checked out the waves and the swell was pretty small. Still, I could see a brace of surfers crowding each other out for the choicest morsels.

I hiked down the dusty trail that bisected the break in the cliff. The sea mist in the air moistened my skin and I could feel the ocean's ions performing their calming magic.

In this town, writers do all sorts of things to keep up the morale. Some do vitamins, some work out, some teach, some do drugs, lots booze, some chase hi- glam ladies, others chase lo-glam ladies, and very few, but some, read. I sought the dusty brown sands of La Piedra. Music, running my five miles, making my daily drive-bys, and gathering lemons were soothing. But Piedra kept me sane.

Someone asked me to play Frisbee and I said no. I'd rather do the hula hoop and let my hips gyrate than look like a Mo and toss around that little saucer. Aren't you suspect of people who are good at Frisbee? The ones who can throw it backhanded, forehanded, reverse, inverted, and catch it on their fingertips. They think they're so cool but they're really Mos. You and I know it. Then they turn their dogs into jerks too. Teaching them to catch it in their teeth. If you want to look like a Mo-ron, fine. But why do it to your dog? He's probably cool on his own. He doesn't need you to mess with his program. I hated Frisbees.


POST-IT: Wordsmithing

Writers spend a lot of time alone. You have so many downtime hours, studying, pondering, ideating, and analyzing, that eventually your mind locks onto every subject imaginable. You contemplate your scarred kneecap, your receding hairline, the relative cleanliness of each article of clothing you're wearing. Thoughts are your blood. Words are your weapons. Thoughts can also be your downfall. Paranoia drops in from the outer banks and says howdy too. Your imagination is a finely tuned instrument. You can take any given set of circumstances and credibly concoct a hundred stories to match them. So you play games with language, with words. Like a child with blocks. Inventing neologisms. It can be dangerous. But always invigorating. Without the capacity to express myself, I am no one. And nothing.


I watched Shred and some unrecognizable wet suits vie for waves. But I knew no one was going to outdo him if he wanted a piece of the ripple. Shred was amazing. He truly beat the hell out of the ocean. Hot. You wouldn't know it if you saw him. He looked awkward on land. During his growth years, his ribs had formed to the contour of the deck of his board. He walked funny, he couldn't catch a ball. But on water, he was master. He had a slender frame but thick, high, broad shoulders from all the paddling.

Shred had everything the prototypical L.A. surfer had—the long, sun-bleached hair, the no-shoes, the one article of clothing, and the offbeat language. He was tan as a brownie, a lover of all that was natural, and had the is-there-a- pulse? mellow disposition. But he did not employ the word dude and I liked him more for it. Though he and I never hung out, he was a very pleasant person, harmless and good-natured. Not only did I like him, I envied him. He wasn't on any Wannabeast track like me. He was just happy to follow the sun, get up early for waves, check the weather and the swell, in essence, to be down with Mother Nature.

When Shred looked to the shore and saw me, he gave me that Hawaiian hand greeting with thumb and pinky wagging. Then he took off on a midget wave and stood up in half-assed posture, bored with a swell that was far beneath his level of proficiency. After the finger-food thrill, he went back to his belly and paddled in. Once onshore, he wedged his board beneath his arm and advanced. He unzipped his spring suit top and squatted beside me.

"Not too exciting out there, huh?"

"It's all mush," he said with a Malibu droplet desperately clinging to his chin.

"Those storms must have kicked it up some."

"It was huge. Twelve foot last weekend. Major juice."

"Really?"

Then Shred's usual mellow countenance slashed serious all of a sudden.


Eddy No More

"Hear about Eddy?"

"Your friend?"

He nodded. "He lost it."

"Surfing?"

He nodded again.

"Where?"

"Up at Mavericks."

"I'm sorry to hear that, man."

"Yeah ... Funeral was Wednesday. Bunch of us paddled to the horizon and dumped his ashes."

I had nothing to say to that. We sat there and let the silence bring us back together.

"I've heard Mavericks is huge on a big day."

He didn't say anything for a moment. Finally, he offered something I'll never forget. "It's like . . ." He paused, shaking his head. "... word."

I didn't know exactly what it meant. But I loved hearing it. I'd heard the term word in the Homeboy ranks, meaning seriously, man, or honestly, I swear, or word-up, that kind of thing. But never like this. So I asked him.

"It's something you can't describe, man," he explained. "Words don't tell it. It's just . . . word."

I was a language freak and whenever I heard something that crackled with brilliance, which I thought this did, I placed it in my memory banks. For the future. This one made my day. It may give you an indication as to how great my days were. But still, word was a great word. It was the greatest thing I'd heard all year. It was even better than "solosexual," my latest prize.

Solosexual was my cyberlife term for a futuristic American hero, who, as the separation of the sexes continues to flourish, becomes a self-sufficient, self- satisfying salon-chair ghoul who holds the TV remote in one hand, offs his you know what in the other, and talks to his remaining pals on speakerphone, all the while getting a vicarious thrill from television imagery or computer communication.

But word was a better word.

Shred looked at me and then turned away again when he saw my mind was grinding away at something.

"How big does Mavericks get?"

"Twenty-five feet. That's what Eddy lost it on."

"Fuck."

"Yeah. If it's ten here it's twenty there. Monster."

He then settled into a blank stare. I could have sworn he was reconstructing Eddy's final descent in his mind. Living it a little.

"Someone got it on video too."

"Did you see it?"

"No. I don't want to."

"Why not?"

He looked at me. It might have been considered an insensitive or at least bizarre question. But knowing Shred, I had my reasons. Then I got an answer.

"Don't want to get spooked," he said, proving me right.

See, it had nothing to do with the macabre aspect of a death video. It was the intangible, maybe superstitious factor. He didn't want to psych himself out of the big waters there.

"You've never done Mavericks?"

"Not on a big day."

Then there was more silence. Eventually, Shred asked me how writing was going. I asked him not to. He just looked at me and gave me the Hollywood Big Three, and love had nothing to do with it.

"Tough business, man."

It was the one cliché uttered by almost anybody you discussed the film industry with. If you knew nothing about it, you knew that much. It was the one phrase that made people fearful of getting involved in it. It was also the one phrase that had me irrefutably sold on wanting to succeed in it. I wanted the toughest challenge in the toughest business. It offered that.

You see, I was what you call "Ivy League dim." Though I'd attended accredited private secondary schools in New York City and showed enough aptitude to get accepted to and graduate from an institution of higher learning like Brown University, I was also just dumb enough to think I could buck all the odds and actually make it in the film industry.

I guess uttering the Big Three was a showstopper. I was tortured and quiet. He was mellow and quiet. We just sat there silently and drank in some more sunlight and mist.

"Be cool, man," Shred said eventually.

"I be, you be."

We nudged fists and then he sashayed off with his awkward gait. He paused once to tilt an ear and outed the last surviving sea drops.

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Word 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I usually choose a book by reading a random page and this one sucked me in immediately. It's a fun, witty, all around great read. You won't be disappointed.