What happened in the monster surf off Peru’s coast that changed the fate of Joe the American, Jose Miguel, and the spirited Milagros? Set among Peru’s pastel-painted fishing villages, its barren Andean towns, and its old Spanish haciendas, Tocayos and Resaca tell a story of passion and betrayal, of rivalry and redemption, and of a boy who must choose how he will become a man.
Jose Miguel gets what he wants. By charming, persuading, conning, or bullying his affluent family and friends, as well as the dedicated teachers at his exclusive Catholic school for boys in Lima, he bends the world to his will. Until he is frozen in place by the startling presence of Joe the American. Unable to dominate the combative New Yorker, Jose Miguel decides to unlock the American’s power by becoming his friend.
As Jose Miguel introduces Joe the American to the pleasures of his homeland, a genuine friendship forms between them. But when his hometown and the lovely Milagros fall in love with his American friend, Jose Miguel’s friendship dissolves into a bitter, but secret rivalry. Unable, at first, to check Joe’s growing popularity, he discovers a devastating secret about Joe’s father and sets in motion a plot to undo the American and recover what is rightfully his.
Tocayos and Resaca, parts One and Two of this story, are set in the monster surf outside the pastel-painted fishing villages of Peru’s coastline, in the barriadas that surround Lima, among the barren mountain towns of the Andes, and in the haciendas of its coastal desert. Together they tell a story of passion and betrayal, of rivalry and redemption, and of a boy who must choose how he will become a man.
I’ll be ordering hardcopies soon.
Photograph courtesy of The Journey of G
From the peak of the next wave he spotted the biggest waves he had ever seen, twin blue wind-whipped walls lumbering heavily toward him, one behind the other. A chill came over him. He plunged his shoulders into the water and sprinted madly toward the first one. He kept his legs straight and put his hips into his kicks, his torso into his shoulders. He glanced once at the wave to check his position. It was so far above him that he almost lost his sense of the horizontal. He would make this one, barely, but he had to get through it quickly if he was going to have any chance of making the next one. The base was too thick to dive through; it would stop him and turn him completely around. He met the wave at full speed and swam straight up its surface, becoming more vertical with each stroke. It began to curl. Before it could catapult him into the impact zone he lunged into it, clawed, kicked, and scratched his way through it, knowing before he popped out the other side that he wouldn’t make the next wave. He surfaced in a river of water pulling him backwards. A cold ball of panic settled in his stomach. Semana Santa.
The next wave was a stupendous manifestation of nature. It occupied the horizon. A kilometer to the South its shoulder dropped away. At this point it wouldn’t do him any good to get closer to the wave, but he did need some forward momentum. He swam with measured strokes, grabbing all the oxygen he could. The water was a deeper blue out here, and colder than his usual big wave spot. It was just water, he told himself. No rocks, no reefs, no logs in the water, no boats, no sunken tankers. Just water. He was strong. He’d make it.
The lip sprouted from the top of the face, curled angrily in the wind, and descended in slow motion toward the base. When it landed, the spray would blind him. He dove and hunted for the bottom. It was a fuzzy grey plane, and he’d found it much too quickly. Not enough water. He plunged his hands into the soft sand and tried to lie flat against it. Boom! A crush of water slammed down, bouncing him off the bottom. He clawed at the sand and wriggled his body to stay flat, but the current tore him away. Suddenly he was bouncing around in a storm of churning bubbles, head over heels, up, down, sideways, twisting and spinning. He lost all sense of the vertical, and put his arms out trying to feel the bottom. How long had it been, ten seconds? Twenty? His lungs began to hurt. He opened his eyes and looked around for the light. There it was, on his right side. He rolled over, planted his fins on the bottom and pushed off.
On the surface he took a huge breath. Foam covered the surface of the water, and it was hard to stay afloat. Little eddies and vortexes still spun, denying the ocean its buoyancy. Quickly he checked the horizon. No more waves. Behind him, the wave he had just survived rolled toward shore, the spray flying furiously in all directions behind it.
Excerpt from Rolling in the Sand, Chapter 45 of Part II, to be published this Winter. Part I is available from Smashwords.
Painting courtesy of Pinterest.
You must understand, in Peru during those years, there was only one phone for each house. And the maids answered it. And when a boy asked to speak to a daughter of the family, the maids had orders from the parents to say “Who? She is not here.” The only way to reach a girl was to go where she was.
However, you could not simply go to her house. No. “What are you doing here?” the parents would ask. “There is no party today. Come back next year.” You had to find out where her friends hung out. And you had to pretend you were there by accident. “Imagine that! Running into you by accident. What a pleasant surprise.”
“You need a girlfriend, Tocayo,” I said, looking back at Charly.
“So you can go places with Angelica and me.”
“What about Anna Maria?”
“Angelica is my real girlfriend. Anna Maria is only a diversion for Playa Sur. Even I am not crazy enough to have two girlfriends on the same beach.”
My friend from America, land of Calvinists, probably believed that my strategy was immoral, and secretly wished I would get caught. In flagrante delicto, as they say. Arms and legs entwined, rolling in the sand. Other girlfriend shows up. Screams “Bastardo!” Points the finger at me and turns on her heel. “Who’s that?” first girlfriend asks, untangling herself from Carlos, the Peruvian Don Juan. “But but but but but,” I beg, not letting go of her half-opened blouse until she slaps my hand away and storms off.
He would be wrong, of course. I would not stutter and beg. I would simply release a heavy sigh and fall back on the sand, slayed by my pain. And in time they would both come back to me.
Excerpt from Part II of Tocayos, which I will publish this Winter, a bit behind schedule. Part I is available from Smashwords.
Late that night a primitive urge to commune with nature made us grab our bottles and walk outside. We sat down on the front step. Charly leaned against the post and clutched the bottle against his chest. “This is good, compadre,” he said. “This is what I have always needed.”
“So you are happy, Tocayo?”
Charly sighed peacefully. “Everybody should feel like this.”
“Tocayo, I think everybody does.”
Charly looked at me, then took another swallow from his bottle and looked around. When he looked back, I wasn’t beside him anymore. In a sweet fog he wondered why. He raised the bottle to his lips, careful not to drop it, and took a great big swallow. I had gone somewhere. That was alright. Everything was alright. A little later Charly noticed that the noise level inside the bar had increased. I better check it out, he thought, and stood up.
He stepped inside. At the bar, I had a bottle in each hand and was pouring both of them down my throat together. The indians were yelling encouragement as best they could under their condition. Half the alcohol ran down my neck and into my clothes, but I kept guzzling.
From the door Charly chuckled. That was the coolest thing he’d ever seen. He turned around and walked unsteadily out to his step, then sat down carefully, leaned against the post, and cradled the bottle in his lap. The night was beautiful. So many stars. He sighed and took another swig. Eventually the bar quieted down and little by little the patrons began to emerge, carefully maneuvering down Charly’s step, sometimes using his shoulder as a guardrail. Glad to be of service, Charly thought to himself, and watched the indians walk slowly away, stumbling and weaving their way home, keeping track of the road by tripping against the rocks along the edge.
A little later the double doors opened with a loud smack and I came tumbling out. Just as I reached the step, I wrapped both my arms around the poles to arrest my forward motion and with a tremendous groan hurled a stomachful of vomit over Charly’s head in a fine arc onto the hardpacked mud of the street.
Excerpt from Chapter 42, Part Two of Tocayos.
Image courtesy of https://www.arts.gov/art-works/2014/painting-grit.
This bus is from El Salvador and a lot newer than
the buses in Barranco, but it’s the closest I could find
to how the Peruvian buses of that day were painted.
Many different buses traveled Barranco’s boulevard on the cliff, so we had to study each one with carefulness. They were not the modern German-engineered buses that travelled the boulevards of our neighborhoods with their destinations written in large, clear letters over the windshields. No, the buses that travelled Barranco were bent in many places. They had been repaired so many times that more of their parts had once belonged to other buses than to them. Their fenders were crooked. Some were held on by wire and whatever welds you could buy for a few beers. And yet, they worked. What perhaps looked to Charly’s American eyes like something about to collapse into a pile of metal, looked to me like mechanical wonders, traveling monuments to the indomitable character of the Peruvian cholo and his struggling, proud, and resourceful barrios.
There were so many different buses. Some that were red and had round shapes, with magnificent radiator grills built in the 1930’s, steered out of the boulevard’s flow of traffic and came to our stop with their destinations painted under the windshield and around the side windows. You had to read fast!
The drivers, they were artists of the transport. Each had his own scheme for colors. Red, yellow, and green like the Amazon parrot. Yellow, purple, and green for El Senor de los Milagros. Always three colors. Because two were not enough.
For some, even three colors were not enough, so they hung beads of even more colors along the top of their windshields. And those drivers who had a brother or a tio who owned a muffler shop, they roared past, their engines free from those restraints of civilization, accelerating with a loud, staccato blast, and decelerating with a spine-tingling, gurgling sound of something being sucked away.
And if the beads were still not enough, you could always add purple pinstripes that curled and ended in little explosions of sparkle the color of gold. And hang religious medals off the driver’s visor, glue blue and cream plastic statues of Mary the Mother of God to the dash, and paint prayers to patron saints in scroll along the top and bottom edges of the windshield.
Excerpt from Cerro San Cristobal, Chapter 37 of Tocayos Part 2, which I will publish in the Summer of 2016.
Painting by Baron Dixon, courtesy of Fine Art America.
The maids quickly put down their cooking utensils and hurried out of the kitchen.
He swiped his hands across the kitchen counter and knocked everything onto the floor. Bowls, ladles, vegetables, and a rolling pin. It didn’t make enough noise, so he walked along the rest of the counter, past the stove, and to the other counter, knocking over pots, lids, utensils, bread pans, tins, and anything else that wasn’t attached. The pots and utensils bouncing on the tile floor made a tremendous clatter. He then moved his attention to the cabinets, and opening them one by one tossed everything out. Dishes, glasses, bowls, flour sifters, measuring cups, coffee cups, a spare tea set, spices, salt and pepper shakers, glass candleholders, tin candleholders, a wad of candles, and flower vases of all shapes and sizes bounced off the countertops or lower cabinets and smashed into pieces on the hard floor around his feet. Some broke on the edge of the countertop and shattered with a pop, spreading shards in all directions around the kitchen, covering the island with chunks of glass of every shape and size. He kicked aside the pieces that fell beside his feet, crunching over the glass and ceramic crumbs with the leather soles of his shoes. He pulled the decorations off the walls and flung into thin air any implement that appeared breakable or liable to make noise. “That woman doesn’t know what she is dealing with,” he said coldly.
Except from Chapter 35, Chivas in the Garden, from Part II of the novel Tocayos. I hope to finish editing it by Summer 2016.
“You there!” Father Bartholomew shouted, pointing a wobbly finger at Canseco.
Four boys stood up.
Father closed his eyes and said a prayer. His large hands were trembling, and he could not hold his index finger steady. The boys were making sport of it.
“Was it me you called, Father?”
“At your service, Father!”
Father Bart’s sermons, no matter how diplomatically he phrased them, revealed an affinity for the poor that disturbed the civic leadership of the communities to which he was assigned. That was bad for the Catholic Church, and worse for Father Bart. His superiors worked hard to keep him alive during a time when Catholic priests were getting assassinated for the content of their sermons. They moved him from parish to parish well into his 70’s. Finally the Cardinal of Lima told him that if he wished to continue risking life and limb, he may as well try his hand at educating the boys of La Virgen del Pinar.
Excerpt from Chapter 34, Ghecko on God, in Part II of Tocayos, which I hope to publish in 2016.