John Hewitt's Blog

NaNoWriMo Day 16 – Marshall Cooper

nonowrimoI made pretty good progress tonight. Life is getting busy for my protagonist as he keeps getting swept up in town politics and new relationships. There are some hard lessons to be learned. The first, of course, is never eat at the buffet.

Marshall Cooper

Day 16 – 27,966/50,000 words

Marshall finally spotted Benton Noro. She was on the far side of the room, in a group of six people. Everyone seemed to be listening to her, mostly with serious expressions. Marshall wondered if it was a story, or if she was sharing some news.

“What do you think Guerrero’s chances are?” Marshall asked Catrin.

Catrin took a moment to answer. She looked over at Guererro, talking to a group of red hats in another part of the hall. “As far as I know, nobody has ever put up much of a challenge to the Sheriff. I think he even ran unopposed a couple times. People like Guerrero though. My parents are big fans. He’s pretty well funded too. His ads are on TV constantly. It will be close. I don’t think Sheriff Dwight will lose though. It just doesn’t seem possible.”

Marshall looked again at Benton Noro, and this time she took notice. He saw her gesture at him. “Benton wants us to come over,” he said to Catrin.

“I’m pretty sure she just wants you,” Catrin said. “Go talk. I’m going to hit the ladies room and then get another beer.”

Marshall walked over and Benton introduced him to the group. He didn’t catch most of the names, but smiled and shook hands with the people. By way of introduction, Benton said, “Marshall is new to town. He’s been considering investing in a few of my enterprises. I have a feeling he’ll be a candidate for our little group soon.”

Marshall nodded as if he knew what she was talking about. For some reason, her thoughts on resource allocation came to mind. “I am an unallocated resource,” he said pleasantly to the group. “At some point she will decided where to fit me in.” Five of the six people just nodded, but one man snorted back a laugh. Marshall took note of him. He was about Marshall’s age. He was tall and thin, with short black hair. He wasn’t quite as dressed up as some of the others, simply wearing a black polo shirt and matching chinos. The man was drinking a bottled beer that wasn’t available at the serving station. He had an easy smile, and looked like the most relaxed guy in the room. Marshall made an effort to dig up his name before it disappeared with all the others. He remembered that his first name was Jacob.

The conversation itself seemed to be focused around a new hotel that was being built. This, apparently, was a complicated deal involving tearing down both the Wayfarer and the Beachcomber, two longstanding but not particularly well regarded motels that took up a lot of real estate. The idea was to put in a resort property that would upgrade the level of tourists coming to the town. Jacob appeared to be one of the backers. It quickly became clear that most of this crowd were both wealthy, and relatively new to town. Marshall had the feeling that their entrance into the community was a direct result of Benton Noro’s efforts.

“Old guard versus new guard,” he said quietly, not actually meaning to be heard. Benton caught it though, and gave him a direct look.

“More like old farts versus new farts,” Jacob said.

Benton Noro said, “This is a wonderful town, but it has been aging for some time. There’s no college, or an airport you can land a jet at. There’s been a decline in property values and wages over the years. We need to fix that.”

“And take advantage of it,” Jacob added, and then he put his fingers together and gave a cackle.

Marshall laughed. Benton Noro said, “We’re trying to build something here. We want to give the city a future.”

“And make a profit,” Jacob added.

The conversation went back to the hotel. Marshall followed it for a few more minutes, and then glanced over to see if Catrin was back at the table yet. She wasn’t, so he scanned the room to see if he could spot her. It turned out that she had found a conversation of her own. She was talking to two guys, both about her age, and both clearly interested in her. Marshall watched them for a moment. Jacob looked in the same direction and said, “It looks like some other people want a bite of your arm candy.”

This brought the hotel conversation to a stop. Benton Noro looked over as well and said, “She is not interested in them.”

Marshall shrugged. “We’re just friends. She’s welcome to talk to whoever she wants.”

“Nonetheless,” Benton Noro said. “She is not interested in them. She isn’t talking. They are talking and she is thinking of other things. Her left shoulder is pointing outward. She is looking for a way to leave. Besides, they are local.”  Benton Noro said this with an air of finality, as if whatever she had found of interest had disappeared. “I should go rescue my own arm candy.” Benton Noro said, “It seems she has been caught by the Red Hats. They are measuring her head as we speak.”

Benton Noro’s group quickly evaporated without her presence. Jacob stuck around though. He gestured toward Catrin. “I admire your restraint.”

Marshall watched Catrin for a while longer. “Benton Noro was correct,” he said to Jacob, “They would never interest her. That would take a guy like you.”

The words hung in the air for a moment. “Sorry,” Jacob said, “I’m not trying to cause trouble.”

“Come along then,” Marshall said to Jacob. “You can give it your best shot. I’ll introduce you.”

Marshall and Jacob walked over to Catrin and he made his introductions, talking to her as if the two younger guys weren’t even in the room. “This is my new best friend Jacob,” Marshall said, “He seems like a cool guy and I’m pretty sure he’s the richest person in the room.”

“Second richest,” Jacob said, and then he appeared to do some calculations in his head. “I’m probably third actually.”

Catrin did not seem impressed, but shook his hand. The two guys who had been giving her attention sort of stood around awkwardly while Jacob not-so subtly angled his body so they were behind him. “You look like somebody who could tell me where to get a decent burger in this town. What do you recommend?” Catrin recommended a place called Papa Rock’s, and Jacob said, “Great. Marshall and I are going to go get a burger and talk about how we’re going to build a college in this town. We’ll’ need you so you can navigate.”

Catrin shrugged. “Might as well. There’s no bratwurst here anyway.”

“That’s what I said,” Jacob almost shouted. “Who has an Oktoberfest without brats? Let’s get out of here.” He looked over at the two guys, “Be seeing you around boys.” Marshall nodded at them and followed.

They had to wait outside the ladies room while Catrin deposited her beer. As they stood there, Benton Noro and Victoria Basha came out the door holding hands and laughing about something. Jacob spotted them and pointed at Marshall. “We’re heading out for burgers. Come with us.”

“Papa Rock’s?” Victoria asked.

“That’s the one.” Catlin came out of the restroom and took a look at the the additions to their little group. Marshall thought he noticed a slight flinch. He took her hand and whispered in her ear. “We don’t have to go.”

Catrin said nothing, but she continued to hold his hand as they walked toward the door. As they walked, Marshall became aware that his ankle was starting to get tight. He hoped that he would not have to do too much more walking.

Papa Rock’s was located in the old train station. The train line had been shut down many years ago after a major landslide a few miles up the mountain took out almost a quarter mile of tracks. The railroad had determined that the line wasn’t profitable enough to justify the repairs. The old station wasn’t an overly large building, but it maintained the distinctive architecture of an early 1900s station. The building was made out of blood-red bricks with three columns connecting two archways. Within the arches, the front wall was built out of wood and painted turquoise. There was a series of small windows in a row along the top. The inside maintained a bit of the old railroad theme, with murals of trains covering most of the walls.

The restaurant was half-full, and they had to wait a few minutes for a table large enough to seat five comfortably. Marshall tried to stand so that the weight was on his right foot. Catrin noticed, and squeezed his hand. Once they were at the table, she dug into her purse and gave him a couple ibuprofen pills.

Marshall declined to order a burger, using the excuse that he had eaten too much at the buffet. This was somewhat true. He hadn’t eaten a lot, but he felt full. He ordered some French fries though, just to be social.  As they waited for their food, Jacob talked about his belief that a small liberal-arts college could be a big draw to the town. When he had first brought it up at the party, Marshall had assumed he was kidding, but it turned out that Marshall had a passion for this.

“Having a college can give even a small town an air of legitimacy. It doesn’t have to be particularly big. I’m thinking an initial goal of 300 students within five years.  We could probably get by with half a dozen full time professors and a few adjuncts.”

“What are they going to teach at this college?” Marshall asked.

“We could do something along the lines of Bennington College,” Jacob said, “Keep it in the liberal arts, but allow the students to design their own major and pursue their own interests.”

Marshall thought about that. It seemed like an interesting idea, but a bit amorphous for him. “I’d go a different way,” he said. “If you really want to attract new blood to this town, what I would set up is an International studies program, with an emphasis on languages. I wouldn’t even market it heavily in the United States. I would push for international students. Market it in countries like China, Japan, India and the United Arab Emirates. You offer language studies and business classes. What you’re really pushing though, is the opportunity for them to get their student visa and spend four or more years here in America. They get to live in a quiet little seaside town with a picturesque beach. The students get to come to America, in about the safest entry point possible. No big city crime to speak of and a quiet nightlife that won’t freak their parents out. Put that college on the beach, and you’ve got yourself a nice little attraction, bringing in exactly what you want, people with money to spend and big dreams for the future.”

Jacob was quiet. Benton Noro spoke up though. “I could get behind that. In fact, I almost guarantee I could bring in at least fifty students a year from Japan.

When Jacob finally spoke, he said, “I really like my idea. Unfortunately, his is better.”

Catrin spoke up then. “What about the local kids. Does this do anything at all for them?”

Jacob smiled at her. “We can offer tuition breaks locally. That would be a good selling point when we try to get the city to chip in. Any graduate of a local high school who meets the entrance requirements gets a full tuition scholarship. That gives the local kids something to shoot for.”

This seemed to please Catrin, and Marshall wondered if that was Jacob’s entire motivation for suggesting the idea. The word frenemies popped into Marshal’s head. He shook it off though. Life was too short for frenemies.

The conversation continued on, but Marshall began to have trouble tracking it. He realized a headache was coming on and he turned to Catrin. “I’m going to need a ride home. I’m going to be incapacitated in about 20 minutes.”

“What’s wrong?” Jacob asked.

“I get very bad headaches,” Marshal said, pointing to the scar on his head, “and one of them is coming.” Marshall pulled out his wallet. The only thing in there was a hundred dollar bill he had taken from his sister’s envelope. He took it out and placed it on the table. “Thank you for an excellent time and a good conversation.”

When they got back to his apartment building, Catrin helped him down the stairs. He couldn’t really feel his ankle at that point, but the headache was affecting his equilibrium. Still, when they got inside, Marshall went to his routine. He got his mask and ice wrap from the freezer, placing them by his bed. Then he left Catrin and went into the bathroom, making sure to pee in case he was incapacitated for a while. Catrin asked him a couple of questions, but Marshall wasn’t sure if he answered. He got in bed and put the mask over his head, placing the ice on top. He thanked her, and started doing his breathing exercises. He felt Catrin climb into the bed with him and put her arm around him, stroking is chest. Marshall had the presence of mind to say thank you, but the headache was in full bore, and he didn’t have the excess capacity to contemplate her being there. As always, he pushed away every outside thought and just concentrated on his breathing. Eventually, he fell asleep.

When Marshall woke up the next morning, Catrin was gone. He looked around for a note, but found none. It occurred to him to check his phone, and he found a text from her. “Sorry I had to leave, but being out all night would worry my parents. Thank you for taking me out and for the other thing. I’ll be busy all day today, but text me and let me know you are alive.”

Marshall read the text a couple of times. He tried to figure out what she meant by “the other thing” but he didn’t have a clue what she was talking about. He got up and did his stretches. He checked the freezer and noticed that she had returned his ice pack and mask. He felt a little, unfamiliar twinge then. “She cares,” he said quietly, and then he closed the freezer and went to take a shower.

He was about halfway through his shower when he felt the headache start to come back. His stomach churned. Marshall finished up quickly, then dried off and went to get his ice wrap and mask. He felt a little worried. He usually didn’t get headaches first thing in the morning. Sleep was like a reset switch. It generally bought him at least three or four hours before a new headache.

Marshall went back to bed and started the breathing process again, just as the night before, except today there wasn’t a pretty girl to get in bed and comfort him. He started to do his breathing exercises, but they weren’t going well. The pain seemed to be taking over his whole body,

Marshall got back up and rushed to the toilet. Once there, he spent the next half hour throwing up the entire contents of his stomach. He followed that up with an equally lengthy bout of diarrhea. By the end of it, he felt so weak that he crawled back to bed, afraid that he would not be steady enough otherwise. His headache, however, had receded somewhat by the time he was through. It was simply a dull ache that didn’t truly feel like one of his normal headaches. After a few minutes rest, he felt a little stronger and he reached for his phone. He texted to Catrin. “I think I got food poisoning last night. Are you ok?”

He waited for a response, but none came for a while and he started to drift off to sleep, then he felt his iPhone vibrate, and he checked it.

“Definitely food poisoning” Catrin had texted back. “Both of my parents are down and I just threw up. I blame the buffet.”

Marshall closed his eyes again. He was somewhat relieved that is was food poisoning, and not his body rejecting him. He got back up slowly, and went to his medicine cabinet. He looked through his pills and found one for nausea. The side effect was sleepiness and the ever present “confusion and hallucinations” that all of his medicines seemed to have. He stared at the pill, not wanting to take it but loathing the idea of another round of dry heaves. The muscles on his left side were still weak, and cramping was a definite possibility if he continued to dry heave. He poured a glass of water and sat the pill next to it, and then he crawled back into bed, deciding not to take it as long as he didn’t get another round of nausea or diarrhea.

Marshall cursed his luck for a moment, but then he thought of superorganisms and laughed a tiny laugh. “This city is testing me,” he said quietly, “but I will pass.”

NaNoWriMo Day 15 – Marshall Cooper

nonowrimoI have passed the halfway point! It’s halfway through the month and I am halfway through the 50,000 words. I am still on track! Please enjoy, and remember this is a draft.

Marshall Cooper

Day 15 – 25,075/50,000 words

They went back to Marshall’s apartment, and he put on his good shirt and pants. He broke into the envelope his sister had sent him, and pulled out a few of the bills. Marshall took a moment to shave and to brush his hair so that it did a better job of hiding the scar. After he was taken care of, they made a quick trip to Catrin’s house. Her parent’s house was about a mile east of Marshall’s apartment. It was just one street removed from the beach near the boardwalk. It was a nicely furnished home, and very clean. Nothing seemed out of place until they reached Catrin’s bedroom, which at least looked lived in, although it was still quite neat. While Marshall sat on the bed, Catrin quickly changed from her jeans and t-shirt into a simple floral dress. She applied some makeup and brushed out her hair. “How’s that for ten minutes worth of work,” she said.

Marshall smiled. “You look pretty great,” he said. Catrin smiled.

They went back out to her car and she drove them over to the Hyatt. The party was in their ballroom. Catrin presented their invitation and Marshall paid the money. Even from outside the doors, they could hear the sounds of trumpets, tubas, and an accordion. Once they were inside the ballroom, Marshall almost laughed at what he saw. Along one wall was a long, formal looking buffet. Out of fancy silver dishes and platters, they served Bratkartoffeln, Schnitzel, and a dozen German dishes that Marshal could not identify. There was not a sign of bratwurst though, which made Catrin growl under her breath. There was beer though, a choice of Becks or Miller Light. Catrin got Becks. Marshall declined in favor of picking up a Coke from a set of bottles on ice.

There was a band inexpertly playing polka in the far corner, but no one seemed to be paying them the least bit of attention. Marshall was glad they had taken the time to change clothes and get presentable. Even under those circumstances, he wished he had taken the time for a tie. Marshall was in the process of reminding himself that he had no one to impress when Catrin said, “There are my parents.”

She pointed to a couple across the room. Marshall was slightly relieved to find that they were visibly older than he was. He estimated that they were in their mid-fifties. The mother was blond, like her daughter, although Marshall was pretty sure it was being supplemented with dye. She wore a black dress, and had her hair styled in a loose bun with side-swept bangs. She had a salesman smile that did not reach her eyes. Catrin’s father was a small man with medium brown hair that Marshall suspected was a wig. He had a sharp nose and pale green eyes that gave his face an overall washed-out look in a city filled with tans, he was pale.

Catrin guided Marshall over to meet them. They seemed surprised to see her, and the introductions with Marshall were a bit awkward. Catrin referred to him as her “work friend” which satisfied neither his parents nor Marshall. Her father gave him a too-firm handshake and her mother made no motion to touch him at all. The only good thing about the introductions was that he finally found out their last name was Prichard. Just as they were beginning to talk, they were joined by a very handsome Hispanic man and had to make a second round of introductions. It turned out that this was David Guerrero, the man who was running for Sheriff. Guerrero was dressed in a black suit with a white shirt and a black necktie that used a trinity knot. His hair was jet black, with just the first signs of a receding hairline, and his dark eyes gave him an intense stare that Marshall found slightly unsettling. He clearly knew Catrin parents as well as Catrin.

The stranger thing was that he seemed to know Marshall as well. When Marshall gave him his name, David Guerrero said, “Oh yes, Marshall Cooper. I’ve heard so much about you!” For a moment, Marshall assumed that he was being polite, but he went on. “You’re from the phoenix area, correct?” When Marshall confirmed that he had lived in the area Guerrero went on. “I got my MSW at ASU, way back in the nineties. Phoenix is a great city to be young in, don’t you think?

Marshall wasn’t sure if his experiences with jibed with Guererro’s experiences, but he said, “It certainly has that reputation.”

Guerrero said, “I know you’re new in town, and I’m happy you decided to check me out. “I know you’re had some talks with Dwight Weatherly.”

“Wow,” Marshall said, “Do you keep an eye on every potential voter?”

Guerrero laughed. “This is a pretty small town,” he said, “As of last count there were just 9500 registered voters. It’s an off-cycle year, so at best we’ll get 5000 people to the polls. At worst we’ll get 3000. In that respect, every vote does count. But to be honest, it was Benton who filled me in about you. She thinks highly of you. She tells me that you have a habit of being in the right place at the right time. She called it a rare gift.”

Marshall could think of no way in which he would consider himself to have that particular gift, but he didn’t feel it was prudent to disagree.  He made a note in his head though to register to vote. “I am honored that she feels I am of value. I’m still pretty new to this town, and she was kind enough to share some of its history with me.”

“She has definitely been of help to my campaign,” Guerrero said. Marshall took that to mean financially, although he assumed she had dispensed some advice as well. They talked for another minute or two. Guererro gave his elevator pitch about why he should be sheriff. It seemed to boil down to Dwight Weatherly (Guererro never called him Sheriff) being too old, too set in his ways, and too beholden to his own financial interests. He also offered a few things about himself, primarily the fact that he came at law enforcement from a holistic community approach. He believed crime was best dealt with by making sure that the police knew everyone’s name. “In a big city, you can make an argument that this is an impossible task, but Santa Creda is the perfect size for involved and attentive law enforcement.”

Martin had no major disagreement with community policing, but he wasn’t especially convinced that Sheriff Dwight was doing a bad job. To be honest, Marshall had not given any thought to local politics or to law enforcement until he had landed at the sheriff’s house.

Guererro moved on, but the effect of his interest in Marshall seemed to have sold him to Mr. and Mrs. Prichard. Catrin’s mom, especially, seemed more relaxed and for a few minutes they chatted amiably about local restaurants and whether or not the Cubs could finally get back to the World Series, or even win it. Mr. Pritchard (Call me Evan), was a big fan of baseball. Marshall knew enough to fake his way through a conversations, especially about baseball, which was the only sport besides golf that his father had ever watched. Eventually the elder Prichards moved on and Marshall was left alone with Catrin again.

“I didn’t realize you were so close with Benton,” Catrin said.

“Neither did I,” Marshall agreed. “Last week I was an unemployed beach bum, five days ago I was a bartender, now I appear to be a community leader.”

“You do have a habit of being in the right place at the right time,” Catrin said.

“It’s a rare gift.” Marshall said. His ankle was starting to hurt, so they found a table. Catrin went to grab them some food from the buffet. The polka band appeared to have taken a break, or perhaps simply quit due to lack of interest. There was just a low murmur of conversation now. Marshall looked around for Benton Noro, feeling like he wanted the opportunity to observe her. It certainly seemed like she was observing him. He wondered if perhaps the texts had come from her, but it seemed less likely now that he had seen her with her girlfriend. It was less likely, but certainly not impossible. Marshall had the feeling that Benton Noro did pretty much whatever suited Benton Noro. It was a trait that Marshall had to admit he found attractive, if a little unsettling.

Catrin came back with the food and another coke for Marshall. She grumbled again about the lack of bratwurst and Marshall voiced his agreement. “We should have taken that up with the man himself,” Marshall proclaimed.

“No,” Catrin said, “They just went with the wrong caterers. “They probably used the hotel staff, and they felt obliged to fancy things up.”

“What they needed was a good caterer,” Marshall said.

“And better beer,” Catrin said.



NaNoWriMo Day 14 – Marshall Cooper

nonowrimoNot a bad day. Almost 2000 words. I spent way too much time thinking about the wine and food choices, but otherwise it moved well. A quick reminder that you are reading a raw draft, so please be kind.

Marshall Cooper

Day 14 – 23547/50000 words

“He’s probably playing at the Red Cove Wine Bar. He’s usually there on weekends if he doesn’t have another gig.”

“I’ve never been there before,” Marshall said, “I’m not much of a wine person, but the possibility of hearing Black Hole Sun played on a harp is pretty irresistible.”

The Red Cove Wine Bar sat on the east end of town in a complex of seaside shops near the dock that mostly served recreational boaters. The most sought after spots were either out on the patio or by the big windows that looked out over the water. It was early when Marshall and Catrin got there, and they were able to get one of the window spots. There were a number of recommendations written on a giant chalkboard behind the bar. A lot of the wines had cute or odd names and none of them were familiar to Marshall. Catrin seemed to know what she was liked though, and ordered a blend called Dead Bolt.

When the server turned to Marshall he said, “I’d like something bitter.” The server made a couple of recommendations and Marshall chose a Cabernet Sauvignon called Force Majeure. After some negotiation among themselves, they also got an appetizer of bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with goat cheese.

It wasn’t quite five yet, so when Rainman spotted them, he came over and sat for a couple of minutes. He immediately launched into a story about how he got stuck in the caves a couple of nights back and had to make it through the night with only his phone for light. “When you’re there during the day, there’s still some light because of the two shafts, but during at night that place is ridiculously dark. You can’t help but just start imagining things coming to eat you. I know what they mean now when they say don’t go alone. That place plays with your minds.”

“You’re not supposed to go to the caves,” Catrin said flatly. “That whole area of the beach is fenced off.”

Rainman nodded. “It’s hard to build a fence on rocks. There’s a few gaps. I don’t think they were really trying that hard to wall the place off. From what I hear they just did it to prevent lawsuits. You know, you’re on your own sucker. They’re right about the tide coming in though. Maybe I could have swum out, but the way that water bubbles and churns, you just don’t want to go near it. It just keeps getting higher and higher too. It’s a good thing those caves go a long way back.

“What are the caves?” Marshall asked.

Catrin shook her head. “They’re about three miles south of town. There’s a trail you have to walk. It leads down to this small cove. When the tide is low you can swim under the rocks and there’s a network of caves. There are also a couple of shafts straight down. Those were man-made entrances, but they put grating over them so people would stop going in. They sealed it off under the water too, but somebody busted it back open and nobody has ever fixed it. The whole area is fenced off now so that you can’t get to the cove, but I guess that isn’t enough to stop some people.” Catrin gave Rainman a sharp look. Rainman looked confused.

“Don’t worry about me,” he said, “I know how to take care of myself. I’m not stupid.”

Catrin glared at him now. “You just said all you had was a phone. Did you take any precautions at all?”

Rainman threw up his hands. “I don’t see what the big deal is,” he said, “and thanks for throwing me off my game right before I have to perform.”

Rainman got up and walked off. Catrin growled under her breath. Marshall thought the best course of action was to stay quiet. The server arrived with their wine and told them the appetizer would be there soon. Catrin said nothing but Marshall thanked him. He took a sip of his wine. He had never really liked wine, but the bitterness prevented it from tasting like plastic the way most things did. Still, he was wary of alcohol, so when the server came back with their appetizer, he asked for a glass of water.

Catrin drank a bit of her wine smiled at Marshall. “Sorry,” she said, “I probably overreacted. I sometimes forget how stupid boys can be.” She reached out and plucked a bacon-wrapped date from the plate and chewed it. “Not bad,” she said. “It’s not a brat, but it will do.”

Marshall took one and pretended to enjoy it. “Nothing tastier than bacon,” he said. They sat there for another few minutes, mostly saying nothing. Marshall forced himself to eat several of the dates, trying to up his calorie count for the day. He took a few more sips of wine, but left the glass mostly full, preferring the water. Catrin didn’t seem particularly interested in her wine either.

Marshall did like the view. The water was glimmering with the reflection of the low sun, which had finally peeked out of the clouds.

Marshall thought back to when he had come here with his parents as a boy. He was pretty sure they had eaten at this exact spot, maybe even at this table. It wasn’t a wine bar back then though. He was pretty sure they had eaten Mexican food. The restaurant had served margaritas in large, thick, hand-blown glasses. He had been too young to have one, but both his mother and father had ordered them.

The more he thought about it, the more the details filled themselves in. There had been a big bowl of chips in the middle of the table. They were home-made, and a little greasy. His mother had been a little drunk, not enough to embarrass herself, but enough to find every joke funny. Marshall remembered thinking that this was the mother he wished he had. This was a fun mother whose mouth hadn’t settled in the shape of a frown. Thinking of this now, Marshall felt a twinge of guilt at his judgement. He knew his mother’s history. Her own mother had been an alcoholic, and rarely in control, so his mother tended to overcompensate. On this night though, she had been funny. He remembered she even told a joke, something about a farmer and a pig. He tried to remember how it went, but he couldn’t quite bring it back. Marshall had never been good with jokes.

Marshall’s father had always been the funny one and the relaxed one. Things tended to come easily to his father. He hadn’t had a much money growing up, but he had been handsome, and at seventeen he started getting modeling contracts. He mainly modeled clothes. There were copies of old Sears and Montgomery Ward’s catalogs with him modeling everything from swimsuits to sweaters. He used that money to put himself through college. After college he went to work as a salesman, first for medical equipment and later for pharmaceuticals. Into his thirties he continued to supplement his income with occasional modeling gigs. That had allowed the family to grow up comfortably, although his mother constantly worried about money. The fact that he worked on commission made his father’s income variable. He had the confidence of someone who never really failed though, so the occasional slow stretch never bothered him, but his mother was a natural worrier. There had been a number of fights, especially when his father would go out and impulse purchase a car or a TV. His mother always wanted to save for a rainy day, but his father never really saw the clouds.

Marshall remembered other details from the family trip. He and his sister had spent a lot of time on the beach. Marshall had been self-conscious about his weight, especially in a swimsuit, so he spent all his time out in the waves, where only his head would appear above the water. His sister was only ten or so then, but already very pretty and she had quickly found a boy who followed her around on the beach and did everything he could to please her. Marshall remembered swimming out further and further, to a point when his feet no longer touched the sand and the waves would push him up and down. He seemed to keep floating out.

When he finally decided to swim in, it was much harder than he expected. He didn’t seem to make any progress. He remembered then that he saw a jeep on the beach and a loudspeaker called out, telling him that he was caught in a riptide. They told him to swim sideways to get out of it. Marshall was not a terribly strong swimmer, and it took a long time to get out of the riptide, much less swim to shore. When he finally got in, he was exhausted. He remembered flopping down on a towel, feeling like a beached whale. He had also felt a certain bit of satisfaction though, knowing that he had survived a riptide. His mother had taken the time to complain about how lax the lifeguards are, and that they should have gone out there and get him. Marshall had had the satisfaction of telling her, “Mom, I handled it.”

Marshall thought about how eager Rainman had been to share his story, and Marshall understood. Rainman was proud of getting through a night in the caves. It probably wasn’t nearly as dangerous as Catrin seemed to feel it was, but it was dangerous enough, and Rainman had gotten through it. He wanted some acknowledgement, and maybe a little admiration. All Catrin saw was a series of poor choices. Marshall looked at Catrin and asked, “Have you ever been to the caves?”

Catrin said, “No, but apparently my brother did. At some point, they decided to check the cove and they found one of his shoes. It appeared to have been left out on the rocks. The assumption was that he swam into the cave. They spent days searching it. They never found anything else though. Nothing to indicate he was ever inside. A couple months later they fenced it off and sealed the entrances. A lot of people weren’t happy about that. One boy actually said, to my face, that my brother had ruined the caves for everybody.”

Marshall thought about that for a moment. He looked out at the water again, thinking about what would have happened if he hadn’t been able to swim in. The lifeguards would have come out for him, of course, but what if they hadn’t. Drowning was a terrible way to die, from everything that he had heard. He could picture the kid struggling to stay above water, but it didn’t really make sense. If he had drowned, there would have been a body, especially if he had drowned in the cave. Marshall didn’t know much about the cave, He pictured a vast cavern, but then decided it was probably something small. He didn’t want to ask though.

They finished the appetizer. Rainman had gone through two or three songs that Marshall recognized, but now he was in unknown territory. Marshall thought for a moment, then said, “You know, maybe I’m in the mood for polka after all.”

Catrin smiled. “You think.”

“We’ll need to go by my apartment,” Marshall said, “I need to break open my piggy bank.”


NaNoWriMo Day 13 – Marshall Cooper

nonowrimoYesterday was a busy day, so my word count wasn’t great, but I still made progress. Today should be better.

Marshall Cooper

Day 13 – 21630/50000 words

Marshall noticed that something down on the street had caught Benton Noro’s eye. She looked down, smiled, and waved. Marshall looked down to see that the tall blond woman had exited the shop on the other side of the street. The woman waved back at Benton Noro and pointed to her watch. “If you will excuse me,” Benton Noro said, “I have a party to go to tonight and I need to go get ready.”

Benton Noro rose quickly and gathered up her coffee and phone from the table. She looked over at Catrin. “Call me if you ever need some real-world advice,” she said. “I can tell you how business works in this town.”

“Thank you for the lesson,” Marshall chimed in. Benton Noro walled back into the building and Catrin let out a low sigh. “The woman makes me nervous,” she said.

Marshall nodded. “I can see that,” he said.

“Her girlfriend even more so,” Catrin added.

“I haven’t met her,” he said.

“Her name is Victoria Basha. She has a mixed martial arts studio. My parents had me take classes there, but I didn’t last long. I don’t have the heart for it. It isn’t one of those women’s classes about kicking a guy in the balls and running away. They fight, and they fight hard.  They’ve even got one of those octagons like you see on TV. She’s been on TV too, but she just coaches now. Still, you know those punching bags they hand from the ceiling?”

“A speed bag?”

“She has something like it, but she uses it strictly for kicking.”

“Impressive,” Marshall said. He thought about Benton Noro’s comment about not having to break kneecaps yet.

Catrin nodded. “It would be interesting to go to that party though.”

“You know what party it is?”

My parents are going. It’s a fundraiser for David Guerrero, the guy running against Sheriff Dwight. It’s an Oktoberfest theme with lots of beer and bratwurst. I like both of those things. I don’t even mind polka that much.”

“What does it take to get in?”

“Well I do have an invite, technically. They sent me one as well. It’s two hundred dollars a plate,” I think. Too rich for my blood. “It would have made for a fun Saturday night though.

Marshall hadn’t realized it was Saturday. He thought about the party for a moment. Marshall thought about it for a moment. It would be interesting, as Catrin said, but it felt like it would be a betrayal to Sheriff Dwight. He hadn’t thought about it until then, but he was in Sheriff Dwight’s camp. He hadn’t intended to be, but somehow it had happened. “Tempting,” Marshall said, “But I don’t want to make commitments my ankle can’t keep.” This was technically true. The walk had been a good first step, but the soreness was not entirely gone.”

Catrin shrugged. “No Biggie. My parents are big supporters. I like Dwight. I’ve catered at his house a dozen times or so, and he’s always been nice to me. My parents have never really gotten over losing my brother though. I don’t know if there was something more the sheriff could have done, especially after they called in the FBI, but the fact is that he failed to bring my brother home. They can’t get past that. I spent a lot of time being angry at people. At some point I had to move past it.

Marshall nodded. He thought about sharing something, but stopped himself.  Instead he said, “What’s Rainman up to tonight?”



NaNoWriMo Day 12 – Marshall Cooper

nonowrimoToday’s work brings Benton Noro back into the story. I’m 21,022 words in, and I still feel like I am world-building, but that is probably why most novels aren’t a mere 50,000 words. At this point, I see a minimum of 70,000 words for the first draft.

Marshall Cooper

Day 12 – 21022/50000 words
While the wall had been relatively painless, sitting there with his coffee, he started to feel a bit of an ache in his left ankle. He took off his shoe and his sock and he massaged the ankle a bit. He was surprised at how cold the air felt on his bare foot. After three days of intermittent ice packs, it surprised Marshall how sensitive the foot felt to the cold air coming off of the ocean. In his jacket, he was otherwise quite comfortable.

From his vantage point on the balcony, Marshall could see the cars passing by on the street, as well as the people walking along the sidewalks. Marshall liked to watch the people. Most people on the beach seemed to be in a good mood. Even today, with a slight chill in the air people walked chatting. It seemed no different from a sunny day, with the exception a few more clothes.

Because of the weather patterns, Santa Creda tended to have its warmest weather from August through October, so there was a relatively late tourist season there. This sudden bout of colder weather was new to Marshall, and it gave him some insight into how the inter would be. Santa Creda never got particularly cold. Days below freezing were rare there, as were days above ninety degrees. The winter here was the rainy season, with over half of Santa Creda’s annual rainfall coming between December and February. Santa Creda was not a rainy place though, with only around twenty inches of rain most years. On the other side of the mountains less than a third of that would fall. Snow was rare, though possible. The last measurable snowfall had come fourteen years earlier. If one were desperate for snow though, the surrounding mountains usually got dusted a few times a year, especially near the summit at 5000 feet.

Marshall spotted Benton Noro walking along the sidewalk on the opposite side of the road. He was with another woman. Benton Noro was dressed in charcoal gray slacks with a light blue blouse and a matching blue sweater. The other woman wore skinny jeans and a billowy blouse top with a flowery print. The woman wore a stoplight red, open knit beret on her head. The two of them stopped outside of a used music store. The other woman was a half-a-head taller than Benton. She had blond hair, but much of it was dyed purple. As Marshall watched, the taller woman bent down and kissed Benton on the lips. It wasn’t a particularly log kiss, but it was clearly intimate. After the kiss they both smiled, and then the woman went into the shop. Benton looked both ways for traffic, and then crossed the street over to the coffee shop.

Marshall put his sock back on, and then his show. His foot felt better again. He took a sip of his coffee and checked the weather on his phone. There was rain the forecast for later that night. Tomorrow looked like it would be back to sunny though. Just as he was about to put his phone away, he got a text message from Catrin. It said, “You up and about yet?”

Marshall texted back. “Mostly better. Walked to the Seaside Espress. Sitting on the balcony.”

After a moment, Catrin texted back, “Took three different tests today. My mind is kind of fried. Mind if I come hang out?” Marshall texted back a smiling emoji.

Benton Noro came out onto the balcony. She smiled a brief smile upon seeing him, and came over, taking the opposite seat at his table. “I was wondering if you would ever return,” she said.

Marshall explained about injuring his ankle. Benton Noro nodded. “I broke my arm my third week here,” she said. “These things happen.”

Marshall tried to puzzle out whether she meant bad luck happens, or that it specifically happens to people who show up in Santa Creda. He thought again of the superorganism. “You weren’t born here?” He asked.

“No,” she said, “I’ve here about ten years. I came here after college. I followed someone who I thought I loved. It turned out I didn’t, but I do love living here, so it worked out I guess. I could never leave now.”

“Could never leave or would never leave?” Marshall asked.

Benton Noro smiled. “I have a daughter, June. She is very happy here, and her father would never think of leaving. It would be messy to leave, and I’ve got other roots to. Besides, I really do love it here.”

“Was your daughter at the party the other night?” Marshall asked.

Benton Noro nodded. “June and Fallon are in the same class. They are, I forget what they call it, and it is a cute word… friendly rivals. Both are popular and at the top of their class.”

“Frenemies?” Marshall asked.

“Yes, that’s it. They are frenemies. I am reluctantly in the same position with Fallon’s parents. We are both leaders in this town. The Weatherly’s have owned much of the town for generations. I have slowly been chipping away at that.”

“As a loan shark?” Marshall asked.

Benton Noro smiled. “In a way yes. There were two grocery stores when I came to town. One was owned by the Weatherly’s, and another by a man named Jack Carson. The Weatherly’s were working hard to put him out of business. They weren’t doing anything illegal. They were mainly undercutting him on costs and investing in a lot of modern equipment that he could not afford to compete with. I got involved. I have money of my own, but I also know a lot of people. I knew that the Weatherly’s couldn’t keep up the pressure forever. You can’t continually run a place at a loss. The main goal was to keep him in business long enough to force them to stop. They never anticipated him getting the money to keep things going. Until then, all they knew me as the mayor’s trophy wife.”

“You were married to the mayor?” Marshall had only seen the mayor from across the room at the party, but he could not picture him with Benton Noro.

“Yes. For four years. I think they were quite happy when we split up. They thought I would leave. Unfortunately for them, I like it here. I have a reputation here now. People come to me when they need money. If it suits me, I loan it to them. I also give them advice. I am good at making money. It’s a family trait. My family is lucky in business, not as lucky with other things.”

“I had no idea Sheriff Dwight owned so much of the town.”

“Dwight is not the only Weatherly in town. You’re new here, but you’ll bump into others soon enough. Dwight is definitely the patriarch, but his younger brother Ted runs most of their businesses.  They own the Toyota dealership, the car rental agency, four restaurants, three hotels, the hardware store and the grocery store. More importantly, they own a construction company. Until I came to town, if you wanted something built, you almost had to go through Weatherly Construction. I fixed that.”

Dwight’s wife Shelby, she comes from one of the other old families, the ones that have been here for a hundred years or more. Her family owns its fair share of our town as well. Most of the apartments are theirs, and one of the hotels. If you see the name Carson attached to something, then it’s theirs.

Marshall thought about that for a moment. “I’m pretty sure I’m living in one of their apartments.”

“Of course you are. They are big on real estate. If you ever want out from under their thumb though, I can find you a place. I’ve slowly been buying up houses.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Marshall said, “But I don’t need a house. I don’t take up a lot of space.”

“It may or may not come up. As I’ve said, we are friendly rivals. Nobody is running around breaking kneecaps. Not yet anyway. I even contributed to the Sheriff’s campaign. It doesn’t pay to be enemies. I have a lot of resources, and not just money, but I’m still the outsider in this town, just as you are. It is better if we can all sit down at the same table.”

Marshall was quiet for a moment. He took another sip of his coffee. Then he said, “I recently came into a little money that I have no real plans for. It isn’t the kind of money that could change the world, just five grand, maybe six. If I were to put it in your hands, what could you do?”

Benton Noro clasped her hands together. She stared off for a moment, as if sorting things through her mind, and then she said, “I can’t do much with five thousand, but there’s a bar in town. It changed hands recently and the city inspector came and cited them for a dozen electrical infractions that the city hadn’t bothered anyone over when it belonged to one of Ted Weatherly’s buddies. Fixing these issues has put the owner in a bit of a cash crunch. I’m considering helping them out, but I have no desire to be in the bar business myself. If you could come up with twenty thousand, I could make you a minority partner. You’d own five percent of the bar. If the bar made money, and bars here do tend to make money, you would get a share of the profits. You could probably tend bar there too and make a bit more money.”

“I’m not really a bartender,” Marshall said.

Benton Noro laughed. “Yes,” she said, “I noticed that the other night. You did well enough for an amateur though. It is not a complicated skill to learn, I would think.”

Catrin came out onto the balcony and spotted Marshall. She came over and sat with them. It was apparent that she knew Benton Noro, although Marshall could not get a read on whether or not they were friends, or frenemies, or just two people who lived in the same small town. They simply nodded to each other as Catrin sat down. Catrin had brought up a bottle of Jones blood orange soda and a ham sandwich on a croissant. Without waiting for either of them to talk, Catrin said, “I have spent entirely too much time reading about resource allocation for a lifetime.”

Benton Noro gave her a look that Marshall interpreted as professional disappointment. “If there is one business concept you absolutely should spend more time on, it is resource allocation.”

Catrin sighed. “I’m just tired. Let me vent.”





NaNoWriMo Day 11 – Marshall Cooper

The writing went a little slow tonight. I wasn’t satisfied with the first three paragraphs, and kept rewriting them. I’m not sure I made them better, but at some point I had to move on so they are what they are. By the way, here is some information about superorganisms, in case you were wondering.

See you tomorrow!nonowrimo

Marshall Cooper

Day 11 – 19230/50000 words

Chapter 5

For the next two days, Marshall resigned himself to staying in his apartment and keeping his foot up as much as possible. He finished reading The Razor’s Edge, and The Year of Magical Thinking. Catrin came by once, but could only stay for a few minutes because she had assignments due in her classes. He also spent a few hours turning the crank on his emergency radio and listening to the local station. The music continued to explore the “hits of the seventies, eighties, and today.” he found the ads more interesting than the music. Since it was the height of the local election season, all of the candidates were running ads.

The radio spots for Sheriff Dwight Weatherly emphasized, “Experience, Integrity, honor.” The ad talked about his forty years keeping Santa Creda safe. The ad never mentioned his opponent, a man named, David Guerrero. David Guerrero, however, had a lot to say about Sheriff Dwight Weatherly. By the end of two days, Marshall had memorized the entire ad.

A deep voice began, “Sheriff Dwight Weatherly wants you to believe there is nothing wrong with Santa Creda’s sheriff’s department. The facts are clear though. Over the past two years, the Sheriff’s department has experienced record turnover, losing a third of their people. His staff is leaving in droves. Even more distressing, all of his new people come from other cities because nobody in this town wants to work for him.” A second voice then chimed in, sounding like a concerned citizen, “The Weatherly family owns half of this town. How can the guy who owns this town be in charge of its law enforcement? Who’s watching Sheriff Dwight? It’s time for a change.” The original voice came back on then. “David Guerrero grew up in Santa Creda. After he fought in Desert Storm, he came back to Santa Creda to represent the law. David Guererro spent ten years working for the Sheriff’s department. He knows what is rotten and he knows how to fix it. Vote Guerrero. It’s time for a change.”

As attack ads go, it wasn’t the nastiest Marshall had ever heard by far, but he still found it interesting, having just gotten a taste of the turnover Guererro was talking about. Marshall had decided that he liked Sheriff Dwight. He even spent a little time thinking about the possibility of going back to work. It seemed like a bit of a pipe-dream though.  He had no reason to expect his headaches to disappear. By limiting his time staring at glowing rectangles, Marshall was keeping his headaches down to one or two a day. For the most part they didn’t last as long as they used to either, but that was without trying to stare at a computer and solve issues. Maybe in another year, he might have them under control. At this point though, he couldn’t picture himself doing his old job. He was trying to accept that his old life wasn’t his life anymore.

On the morning of the third day, Marshall got up and was able to walk across his apartment without pain. His ankle still felt a bit tight, but otherwise it seemed operational. The rest of his body felt a bit lethargic and rusty though. He hadn’t come to Santa Creda to spend his time stuck in an apartment. Still, he wanted to do things right. He did his morning stretches and balance exercises. His balance was definitely a little off and he was unable to stand on either leg for a full thirty seconds even with his eyes open. That was frustrating, but not entirely unexpected. Marshall went ahead and iced his ankle down again that morning, deciding that it was better to keep up the practice for a couple more days rather than skip it just because he felt better again.

Marshall got dressed and put his shoes on. He paced back and forth in the apartment a few times just to see how it felt. There was no pain, although he still felt like he was favoring his right leg. He decided to walk down to the coffee house and get some coffee. He started walking. The day was cloudy and a little cool, so he put on his jacket. The breeze was coming in off the ocean and he could catch the scent of the salt water as soon as he left the building.

Marshall walked slowly, taking his time and keeping a closer eye on where he stepped than he usually did. There were no sidewalks in his neighborhood, and the roads were stating to need repaving. Marshall had heard about that issue on the radio too, as part of the mayoral race. The challenger there was accusing the mayor or running the city into the ground, literally in the case of the pavement. As a pedestrian, Marshall actually cared about that issue. It was a pothole that had gotten his ankle after all.

Marshall made it down to Seaside Espress and ordered an iced coffee and a pair of banana muffins. After his experience with Catrin’s muffins, he was hoping he had found something that he could enjoy. He took his order out onto the second floor balcony, even though he knew it would be a bit cold up there. He took one of the muffins out of the paper bag they gave it to him in, and took a bite. Unfortunately, whatever magic Catrin had done with her muffin did not translate to the pastries at Seaside Express. The muffin tasted like most things did to him, which essentially meant they tasted like nothing at all. Marshall had suspected that would be the case, but he was still disappointed. He finished both muffins however. He was determined to make himself eat a reasonable number of calories every day, at least until his sister’s visit was over. There would be questions about his weight no matter what, but it would not do to lose another five or ten pounds before the family arrived.

He was alone on the balcony, except for the occasional birds that would approach, only to fly away at the least sign of movement from him. Marshall simply stared out at the ocean, trying to feed off of the energy surf. He thought about what the sheriff had said about the city being a superorganism. If that was true, was he truly a part of the ecosystem now, or was he an invading bacteria or virus, meant to be expelled by the antibodies. Maybe it was Santa Creda that had conspired to injure him. Maybe the city was sending a warning that it would fight back, He certainly hoped that was not true. He thought about the turnover at the police station. What if they did not belong either? Marshall looked at the other side of the scale though. It seemed like Santa Creda was making an effort to find him a job. People kept approaching him with offers. Maybe that was the town’s way of bringing him in. Sadly, the jobs did not fit, but overall, his feeling was that he was doing well. He was meeting people. That was a good thing. In chandler he could not remember the last friend he made, but here there was Catrin, and Rainman, and maybe even the Sheriff.

Poetry Prompts