As many of you know, I’m participating in a writing blog, Writing 101. We are to work on describing a setting; a place we would like to be transported.
There are two places I like to be–on two wheels going fast or on the deck of a ship far out to sea in a storm. I saw this as an opportunity to share the beginning paragraph of my first chapter of my novel, Almost Human. It will be released in May 2015.
I would love feedback on if I’ve succeeded in setting the tone of the story with my description of setting. So for better or worse, I hope you enjoy it!
Chapter 1 – Somewhere off the coast of Equatorial Africa, 1938
Malice brewed far out in the Southern Atlantic, where two winds met from different quarters of the world. At first, they stalked each other, blowing blasts between calms as they circled. But in the dying embers of sunset in the empty spaces of the Equator, they combined with a force that turned the calm tropical seas of summer into a caldron of froth and fury. A storm was gathering. It brooded alone for a while, gathering its force until it sent out the first signals of doom at dawn with steep running swells that raced out from the eye. They grew in force with each mile, forming giant walls of death which caught the shipping lanes asleep.
The blogs i’ve read are wonderful. From Guinness Floats to the Rat Pack I have to say it is incredible and splendid to read all these sharp minds. So many writers, travelers, adventurers, motorcyclists, poets and artist. My God, it is so good that we can cut the middle people out and communicate with each other. You’re amazing and you know who your are. 🙂 Hope to meet some of you on the road. Warm regards!
I have seen all types of people come and go over the years in our little community down in Playa de Estero, Chapultapec, Mexico. Many come with high expectations and leave confused and deflated. That just seems to be the way down here. For every expatriate that lands here and stays, there are more who come and abruptly leave. Actually, I have noticed this same phenomenon in the small mountain community where we live in the States.
I think it boils down to why they came in the first place. Unfortunately, many come with expectations that Baja will fix their fractured lives. Anyone who has spent much time down here knows that Baja is not very good at fixing anything—just look at the roads.
I am reminded of a neighbor I once had named, Ernie. After selling a successful masonry contracting business in SoCal, he moved to our little community in Baja with high expectations and enthusiasm. He was tired of the pace and materialism of the States and was excited to move to a slower pace—a place where he thought he could reflect and get back in touch with who he was and where he was going.
After arriving, he wasted little time throwing himself into a flurry of activity, exploring the restaurants and sightseeing around the country. He dove into an extensive remodel of his home. He was constantly on the go for about a year.
But after that first year, I began to notice a change in him. At first it was little criticisms about his Mexican neighbors. He complained about the lack of services, the disorganization and the slowness of the way of life. And as more time ticked by, the criticisms grew worse until he became obsessed with what he thought was wrong with every little thing they did and what this way of life offered. He had grown dark and unhappy.
It was just about this time that the Mexicans started to build a social hall near us. Ernie spent hours everyday watching them. He would get upset with their methods of construction especially their slowness in laying block. As previously mentioned, he was a masonry contractor by trade.
Every time I saw him, he would work himself up into a rage about how poorly they were constructing the building. I warned him to calm down and not worry about it but to no avail. Ernie was obsessed. He had found a new project it seemed. I was concerned for his health.
I left on a moto adventure for several months and forgot about Ernie. When I returned, I noticed the Mexicans were putting the final touches to the block building. It was a beautiful solid building, very ornate and colonial in style. But I, also, noticed that Ernie was no were to be found.
Finally, after a few days of not seeing Ernie, I went over to the building and I approached Ishmel, the foreman of the construction crew, and asked him if he had seen him. He was a small barrel chested man from Chiapas on the Guatemalan border. His bronze skin, silky black hair and flat face revealed his Indian descent. He was legendary in our village for his wisdom and capacity for hard work.
Ishmel shook his head and replied. “Oh, it was terrible, Sr. Ken. You remember how Sr. Ernie was so upset with our methods?”
I nodded. I knew from his tone that something bad had happened.
Ishmel continued, “Well, one day Sr. Ernie got really upset with us—more than usual. So upset that he grabbed the trowel from my hand and yelled that he would show us how to lay block properly and began buttering block and laying them.”
Ishmel teared up and continue. “Then it happened. He looked up at me and said he didn’t feel so well and dropped dead, over there.” Ishmel pointed to a little wooden cross behind the building.
After recovering from my shock I asked Ishmel what he thought about all this. He paused for some time before answering. “Well. Sr. Ernie was upset with us. He wanted us to lay block a better way –the American way. But after seeing what happen to him, I think we’ll just keep laying block the way we’ve always done it—the Mayan way.”
My name is Ken Decroo. I am a writer and an adventurer, and I’ve been wandering the Baja Peninsula for over 50 years. I keep coming back to this land and its people as though she were a mistress–she has the unique ability of reclaiming herself and keeping the core of her character, and she has been a centering, constant support for me in this high-speed, plugged-in world. It is where I write. More at Welcome!
My latest novel is Almost Human. It is available from Barnes and Noble and Amazon. Autographed copies of Almost Human can be purchased directly by clicking the buy button below.