Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Tortoise Shell Code by V Frank Asaro (Excerpt)

They moved with the rhythm and power of the sea and she grasped him with surprising strength, her arms locked around him, her legs encircling. Responding weakly to a sudden resolve he tried to break the hold, but knew he would fail. He wanted to fail. They rolled from the crest of the dune into the wash of the sea. A power drove him beyond his senses, his mind flying under a force that demanded he break down the gates. Through the barriers he burst and they lay entwined in a shimmering world on the apron of the sea. Overwhelming peace enveloped him, carrying him away on a flood tide of diamonds and stars.

Mild waves ebbed in ripples on the shore and lapped at his toes. He awakened, rose, tugged her hand and they stepped onto dry sand. She shook the terrycloth and they toweled each other vigorously. He wrapped the towel robe-like around her and slipped on his bathing suit. Wet head against wet head, they began their walk back to the smoky glow in the circle of sand.

“Anthony,” she murmured, “why do we have to wait? I can’t take this. With me working, we’ll have enough to live on.”

He stopped and looked out to the moonlit sea, beyond dim silver flashes into total darkness.

“I know you’re having a hard time saying it,” she said, “but you’ve already decided to go to Berkeley. Haven’t you?”

He didn’t reply.

“I knew it. But you don’t have to go to Berkeley. You could go to law school here at night instead, or later. Don’t you think?”

He sighed and leaned his face on her damp hair. “Please listen, Cheryl. The scholarship. I have to accept it. I just have to. Besides, we’re still too young to get married. And while I’m away you could finish college.”

She gave him a bewildered look. “School and work; that’s all I ever hear from you. I know how you feel about achievement. I know how you hated the bums and weeds and railroad tracks where you grew up and you want your kids to belong to golf and riding clubs, like Susan and Melissa and John. But they’re snobs.”

“Hey, wait. They’re my friends.”

“I’m sorry. I don’t really mean that. They all like you. You fit in. But I don’t. I’m not at home with them.”

“Have you considered maybe that’s because they’re finishing college and you dropped out?”

“No, that’s not it. I felt that way in high school, too. Have you forgotten who my folks rent our apartment from? And who my mom checks bags for at the supermarket?”

“I didn’t think that was such a big deal with you.”

She gazed toward the glow of the bonfire, and the shine in her eyes brought back the ache in his heart. “Anthony, I don’t know what you want me to do. When my parents leave next week, its permanent, and they want me with them. They don’t want me to stay behind alone.”

“I know, but I have a different goal, Cheryl. It’s like you said: When I have kids someday, they’re not going to sleep next to stinking alleys or live around winos and violence. I have to get so far ahead that no matter what, those things would never happen to a family of mine.”

Like pages of an open book flipping in the breeze, her expression changed from hope to worry, back to hope, then to helplessness. “Then take me with you,” she whispered, “to San Francisco.”

“Let me get a year or two more school out of the way, and we’ll see how it goes. Cheryl, now is not right.”

“Then what should I do? Go with my folks or stay here and wait? I mean, what do you want me to do?”

He tried to think of an answer. He tucked her cheek against his neck and pressed his chest to hers. Her nipples were now cool and he could feel her heart pounding against his. Yet their interests were so different. He knew he loved her and wanted her, but just because there’s love, does that mean two people are the best match for each other? Maybe it was just bad timing: too early, too young.

“Why are things so complicated?” he implored. She did not reply, and the silence floated on the moon-spangled surf. Then a transport ship’s sad bass horn echoed in the distance.

She held him at arm’s length. “Do you want to get something to eat? My stomach is aching. If we keep talking it’ll only get worse.”

“I’m starving, too. Oscar’s?”


Hand in hand they walked back to the glow and laughter of the valley between the dunes.

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Genre – Legal Drama

Rating – PG13

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