I made up my mind, quite at the last minute, to work on a story for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Starting at the last minute, with no real plan, is probably not the best way to approach NaNoWriMo, but I really am doing this just for fun so, in the spirit of that, I am going to post what I write as I go. The goal is to reach 50,000 words by the end of the month. The story I chose to work on is one that I started once before, but to make sure I stayed true to the challenge, I changed the setting significantly and started fresh. Please understand that this is a DRAFT. I am doing some minimal cleanup to make it a little less excruciating for readers, but the idea is to write, not to obsess over editing. Also, because I am posting it here, I plan to keep the story PG rated. Sorry for those looking for more intense content. The working title is Marshall Cooper, the name of my main character.
Day One – 1783 words
Marshall Cooper sat on the second a story terrace of the coffee house, overlooking the ocean. He was drinking an iced coffee with cream and eating a scone. It was about three in the afternoon, and the wind had just shifted to come in off the ocean, quickly dissipating the heat of the day. Marshall had lived in Santa Creda for just a few weeks, and he had already made it his habit to come here every day in the afternoon to read.
Santa Creda was a beach town and somewhat remote. Due to the surrounding chain of mountains, there were no nearby cities and it was less of a tourist community than most beach towns. It was also a compact town, with only about five square miles of populated land before the mountains made commercial building almost impossible. There were a few remote houses up there, but the city was really a strip about four miles long and a little over a mile deep. The population hovered at around ten thousand people. There were a few motels for the tourist trade. More than one web site had called it an “untapped wonder” or an “unpolished gem”, but the town could only be approached by a winding “state route” or by boat, so there was little casual traffic. People who came here, intended to be here.
Marshall had always wanted to live by the ocean, and when all of the financial aspects of the accident were settled, it seemed like a now or never moment. His family had come here on a vacation once when he was young, and coming here felt like a good way to honor his parents.
The coffee house was on the north side of the road, overlooking the fishing pier a bit to the west and the beach to the right. It was late September, and still reaching the mid-eighties during the afternoon, but along about three every day, it started to cool down. Most nights were in the mid-sixties.
Marhsall was renting a small apartment four blocks north of the beach. He had gotten rid of almost all his belongings before coming here, wanting a fresh start. He’s sold his car too, mainly because he no longer trusted himself to drive. He’d had taken the bus to get here, packing only his computer, phone and tablet, along with a couple changes of clothes. He’d stayed at the Wayfarer hotel the first two nights, but by the third he had settled into his apartment. It was a basement apartment, so it had no view, but it was cheap and the temperature rarely varied more than a couple degrees. The owner of the building had sold him a basic set of furniture (bed, couch, table and chairs) for a couple hundred dollars. There was a single mall in town, with a Bed, Bath and Beyond where Marshall picked up fresh sheets and some basic kitchen and bathroom supplies. He waited a few days before buying clothes, so that he could get a good gauge of what the weather was like. In the end he picked up a couple of t-shirts with the name of the town on them at a beach-side store. He bought pants, shorts, a sweat shirt, and a light jacket at a thrift store.
Slowly but surely he began to explore the town. Seaside Avenue was the beachfront street. Most of the bars and restaurants were along Seaside Avenue. There were also a few shops and galleries. Toward the west side of town, the road were the town docks. One was mainly for fishing vessels and the other for sailboats and other recreational boats. North of Seaside, The next few streets were mostly residential, ranging from basic bungalows to fancy three-story houses. Because of the compact nature of the town there weren’t many large yards. Most people who longed for the outdoors went down to the beach, up to the mountains, or they hung out at the one city park, Weatherly Park had two baseball fields, a soccer field, and pool, two picnic areas, and an extensive playground. The park was on the north side of the town, and gave way to three different trail heads up into the surrounding mountains. It was attached to Weatherly High School, home of the Rockfish. The high school added a football field with an eighth-mile track to the available facilities. The high school was small, with about 200 students at any one time.
Marshall liked the town so far. There were people with money here, but plenty of working-class people as well. Marshall fit in more with the second crowd. The settlements had left him with a decent amount of money, but he had no idea if he would ever work again, so it was best if he lived cheaply. At 42, Marshall had never married or had kids. Until just over a year ago, he had worked as a programmer for a credit card processing company out of Chandler, Arizona. He couldn’t really do that now though. He had owned a two-bedroom condominium that he had bought fifteen years earlier, and between the boom and the bust since 2000, he had sold it for a few thousand more than he had paid. Most of his friends had thought of the condo as small, but it had really been far more than he needed. It had allowed him to clutter, with books, movies and CDs, all of which seemed unnecessary now that his computer and his iPad could deliver all of those things. Coming here, he hadn’t even seen the need to get a television. He could watch on his iPad if something came up.
The town itself had a small two-screen theater. It was still showing summer holdovers Jurassic World and Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. The theater was at the mall on Barton Street, which the road where most of business were located on. Besides the mall, there was a Target, several insurance agents, investment firms, doctors’ offices and dentists. The street also contained the town’s grocery stores, There were two independents, as well as a Trader Joe’s. There were also two gas stations, both with convenience stores attached, as well as a Walgreens and a CVC.
The third major road on the north side of town had most of the government facilities. besides the park and the high school, Weatherly street had the city hall, the library, the combination elementary/middle school, the police station and the fire station.
The coffee house was called Seaside Espress. Marshall had picked up a copy of The Razor’s Edge off the shelf in the unofficial library shelf on the first floor of the coffee house, and was rereading it. He’s first read the book in college, and had remembered liking it then. In those days he had identified with Larry, and most college students do, but now the other characters made more sense to him, and he could understand how frustrating it must have been to have this one guy decide he was going to live a life of interior reflection while all of his friends went about trying to lead real lives. As he was reading, a woman sat down next to him. She was Japanese, pretty with soft features. slim but not thin, with black hair cut into a bob. Younger than he was, but by how much he could not be sure. You could tell him she was twenty three or thirty five, and he would have believed either.
“Do you mind if I sit?” she asked. “I get bored sitting alone.”
Marshall smiled. “I’m Benton Noro,” she said.
“Marshall Cooper,” He said with a small smile. He stuck out his hand to shake hers, but instead she took it lightly in her own hands and turned it over, palm up. She studied it intently for a moment, then just as gently released it.
“See anything interesting?” Marshall asked.
“Everyone is interesting, Benton answered. She took a sip of her drink, a hot chai tea with soy milk, and said, “My Aunt Azami never married, never got a job, never moved out of my grandfather’s house. She rarely left her room. If you wrote a number on a piece of paper though, any number between 37 and 73, she would write down the same number. Every time. Never missed.”
“Why did it have to be between 37 and 73.”
“They are powerful numbers. Google them sometime.” Benton Noro said. “It is a rabbit hole that you may not emerge from for days.”
“I’ll keep that in mind if I ever decide to go down a rabbit hole.” Marshall said. He took a sip of his coffee.
Benton Noro nodded. “How much weight have you lost?” she said. I’m guessing about 120 pounds.
Marshall looked at her, then calculated in his head. “I haven’t weighed myself in a while, but that should be about right. 120 pounds in the last year and a half.”
You’ve stopped eating?” she asked.
“I eat from time to time,” I said, “I’m just never hungry, and food doesn’t really taste like food to me.
“You see,” she said, “That is interesting.”
“I still weigh plenty,” Marshall said, “Over two hundred pounds.”
“Not for long though I’ll bet.” Benton Noro said.
“Probably not,” Marshall agreed. he mainly drank protein drinks and juices. Sometimes he ate nuts. Coffee still tasted like coffee though. He wasn’t sure why that was, but he was thankful for it. “I lost a couple of pieces of my brain,” he said to Benton Noro. “Nothing that was absolutely vital. I was lucky. Food though. Food lost it’s appeal. Some would say I’m better off. I was dangerously overweight. Now I’m just your average fat American.”
Benton Noro nodded. “Aunt Azami ate a hardboiled egg, a piece of toast and a half an orange every day. That was all she ate. It was all she needed. Humans can survive on very little. Still, in another year people will think of you as thin. You are new here though. People will accept this here without question.”
Marshall nodded. “That was my hope.”
“You will be accepted here,” Noro said, “You should mourn what you have lost, but do not despair. You will be ok here. I can help.” Benton Noro took out a card and handed it to him. it was not what he expected. It said simply:
Then it had her address and number. Marshall thanked her.
“I enjoyed having coffee with you. I am often here after three, if you would like to talk again.”
Benton Noro stood up and walked away. Marshall watched her go.