September 14th, 2021

Tactical Gear

Scene 2 - An Ignoble Beginning

   Thank you so much everyone who left me feedback yesterday on the first scene of my memoir, I really appreciate it! For the second scene we go four years earlier:

February 11th, 2011, 1:00am, Southern California -- I’m lying on a concrete bench worrying about my future. Five other guys sit around the cold sterile cell. Two walls are solid glass, and outside the occasional olive-uniformed sheriff’s deputy passes through a modern dungeon corridor. I’m supposed to ship out with the Peace Corps in two months for Guinea in West Africa, but will they still accept me?
   Five hours earlier, around 8pm, I had arrived at the La Mancha Cantina in the Orange County suburb of El Toro for a coworker’s birthday -- the first bar I’d been to in months and the first time I’d ever been to this one. Forgettable kitsch hung on the walls, two pool tables sat empty under vacuous pools of light, patches of the floor showed bare concrete. Ceiling fans lazily turned with a threatening wobble. A couple barflies lingered near the bar, avoiding the group gathered around a table – four swarthy young men and one swarthy young woman, my coworkers. Our boss wasn’t present, which is probably for the best, since last time he went out with the crew he got into a fist-fight with a bouncer over a perceived slight against one of his employees, and there was a lawsuit. My male coworkers remove “killer bees” from the walls of houses for a living; most new hires don’t last a full day but those that do are typically one of us for the long haul, we’ve mostly worked together for years. We’re like family, but don’t hang out outside of work often -- it’s perhaps not surprising that if this piratical crew goes drinking together it’s a recipe for trouble.
   “Let’s do a shot!” our office manager, Amy, urged as soon as we were all gathered. Over the next four hours I slowly drank two pints of Stone Brewery Arrogant Bastard Ale as we chatted and played pool. Aiming to be responsible --it was a weeknight after all-- I excused myself around midnight. A predatory pair of eyes watched me walk from the bar through sepia pools of street light to my car.. As I buckled my seatbelt I called my girlfriend Tarragon, and pulled out onto the quiet Ambiciones Boulevard.
   I was vaguely aware of a police cruiser nosing out of the same parking lot just behind me, like a shark in a reef, but I wasn’t concerned. I’d forgotten about the shot, four hours earlier -- I had had two beers and the police were no concern of mine.
   A minute later, as I crossed the broad intersection of Ambiciones and Fortuna, the red and blues jarringly erupted through my rear view mirror and shook me by the brainstem.
   “Hey, just a minute, Tars, I’ll call you right back” I got off the phone and pulled over.
   “Do you know why I pulled you over?” Officer Myer was soon asking me
   “No, sir?”
   “You were actually across the lane lines when you came out of that intersection, have you had anything to drink tonight sir?”
   During the following kaballistic backwards recitation of the alphabet and ritualistic walking along the sidewalk heel to toe, my heart did not pound, my stress level did not increase, this was just a silly waste of time. Finally we came to the only test that truly matters, the breathalyzer. I dutifully puffed into the proffered hair dryer, looking forward to getting on my way. It would only be moments now. Officer Myers looked at the breathalyzer screen … and suddenly my hands were being wrenched behind me.
   “Hey, uh, what’s happening?” I asked, bewildered, as I felt the cold steel close on my wrists.
   “You have a blood alcohol level of .082, which is over the legal limit of .08, you are under arrest and have the right to remain…”
   The drive to Orange County Central Jail was a blur, I saw nothing outside the police cruiser because my focus was entirely inward, trying to make sense of the rapid realignment of my future. Massive gates topped with concertina wire slid open, and we descended from the dark night into a brightly lit hanger-like garage in the jail. Officer Myers walked me in and handed me off to receiving officers.
   “Would you like to make a phone call?”
   My phone hadn’t been returned to me. I didn’t have my girlfriend’s number memorized, my parents had only finally discontinued their landline months earlier, the only number I had memorized for them. In fact the only number I could remember was that of my boss, but one of his first admonitions to all new employees is “do not call me from jail.”
   “No, I have no one to call” I sullenly responded.
   “How do you remove this?” asked an officer, eyeing the turks-head bracelet on my wrist -- the mark of a traditional “jack tar” sailor.
   “It is not removable, I wove it onto my wrist.” I answered with a mental smirk, outward poker face. The tarred-twine is woven in such a way that it has no beginning and no end. I had made this turks-head with twine I’d replaced in maintenance on the sailing ship the Querent, before she sank forever beneath the deep blue sea.
   “Okay” the officer says, and deftly slices it off with a knife.

   And that's not the end of that scene yet but I'm trying to find the best bite sized portions to divy it up into and that's right on about half of that scene.
   There's some easter eggs here. El Toro is a city which once existed in that location but long before this took place had been amalgamated into neighboring suburbs. Bar name has been changed into a reference to Don Quixote probably too obscure for anyone to get but I really wanted to get some Don Quixote references in. ;)
   Terragon is the changed name from the real Koriander (and not necessarily the same as the real person, I'm actually trying to compel myself to make people into composite characters not solidly constrained by the real people they're based on). The ship the brig Querent is the changed-name Pilgrim. I'm really pleased with this ship name, which means "seeker" (literally, asker of a query).