Thursday, November 30, 2006

The beginnings of something, can't say what...

Chuck Steiner would later boast to his friends that his first thought upon seeing a corpse floating near the rocks of the Berkeley Marina was, “Christ, not again.” How he thought it in later recollections depended on who he was trying to impress. To his more seasoned colleagues of the marina’s waste disposal crew, he had been frustrated, inconvenienced even. He had sighed, rolled his eyes and damn near rumpled up his sleeves to pull the bastard out himself if he could’ve done it without wrecking the crime scene. To his friends and family in Princeton NJ, he was grieved, but not surprised by the sight of another casualty of the gritty underbelly of Berkeley. Though the truth was, when he first saw it, he thought it was another dead seal. Dead seals were a common nuisance, often tumbling in with the waves and resting on the beach at low tide, or at high tide softly crashing against the rocks. That’s when Chuck would call Animal Control and wait by the pier for three hours for a pickup bed lined with tarps and a student in waders carrying a pole with a hook on the end. He was dialing their number that very moment when he looked up and noticed that this seal had a tattoo and a full head of hair. In spite of himself and the morning cold, Chuck began to sweat.
And for a good thirty seconds that was all he could say.


Chris Newfield said...

like we said, this is super-crisp and clear and extremely well-edited - an especially strong start.

Maggie said...

Here's some more:

Adam Brahe noticed the commotion by the Marina during his morning jog with his roommate Oliver. The patch of rocks next to the pier was crawling with figures in white disposable jumpsuits and booties, standing and crouching and gesturing to each other. Lights from the police cars flashed and reflected against the white sky. Slowly, Adam stopped running and bent down to catch his breath, forcing hot plumes of vapor into the air. Oliver followed suit, and surveyed the scene casually, arms akimbo.

“What do you suppose that is?” he huffed. Adam looked up and waited for eyes to refocus. Jogging this far had been a mistake he decided. He had been out of shape these past few weeks, using all of his free time to study for his Organic Chemistry midterm which he had gratefully slogged through the day before. Now there were no more excuses to be sedentary and that morning Oliver had torn the blankets off him and threw a wife-beater and shorts onto his bed. This was the drill living with Oliver, and Adam would oblige because he knew he could be the same way whenever he found a new study on fish scales or autism or the number of vacuum cleaner related deaths in the fiscal year. They both would have their bursts of energy, but not usually at the same time and rarely over the same thing.

“It’s a body.”

“No, you don’t think so do you?” Oliver said as he gestured to the ambulance in the parking lot. “I mean it could just be an injury.”

“Those aren’t paramedics,” Adam panted, “They’re cops. And look at the stretcher they’re bringing over.”


“ ‘Sgot a body bag on it.” Silence.

“Holy shit.” Oliver finally said. He looked back where Adam was standing, but Adam was already running, sprinting back to their apartment.

“Whoa, what are you doing?” Oliver called out. Adam turned around and stopped.

“Where do you keep your Daily Cal press pass?” he called back.

“Um, on my doorknob, but what—” But Adam was off again, waving his hand behind him as if to say, “Bear with me”. Aw crap, he thought.

“Hello Officer, I’m Oliver Kowalski, I’m with the Daily Cal. May I come through?”

The officer on duty bemusedly surveyed the whelp in the cheap suit standing behind the crime scene tape. He was standing on his tip toes, despite being unnaturally tall, and was trying to look over the officer’s shoulder to the scene panning out in the background. I can’t wait to hear this one, the officer thought.

“Oh the Daily Cal, is that the student newspaper?” he sneered. Without a trace of irony, the whelp nodded quickly.

“Well, I’ll have to see your press pass then Mr. Kowalski.” The officer said, holding out his hand expectantly. The boy took the pass hanging around his neck and brandished it like a laminated crucifix, tightly gripped in his skinny fingers. His other hand was nervously clenched. There was a tense silence as the officer scanned the pass. Then he motioned for the whelp to lower it, but he did not wave him in. The boy looked confused.

“You’d better return that to Oliver, otherwise he’ll have to miss out covering the joint rolling contest.” The boy swallowed, but didn’t shift his gaze.

“What do mean? Are you saying I stole this press pass?” he asked. The officer leaned in close to the boy’s face, trying to catch his gaze, but the boy just stared off past him, as if trying to imagine that no one was there. He took the pass still hanging from around his neck and pulling it closer to him, peeled off the small photograph, still sticky with Elmer’s.