by E.W. Wilder
In his brief lifetime, Bean Newton attempted few short stories. The following represents the most complete of those attempts, if also the most conventional, and, perhaps, the most tiresome.
Briefly employed as a hotel shuttle driver, Newton may have been inspired by a story told by a particularly long-winded traveler.
The title implies that more Chinwag stories were written or planned. No other Chinwagia has yet been found.
This is, no doubt, all for the best.
From the Annals for Armbruster B. Chinwag
So first don't make me explain how I got into that mess—arrest on that prison of paradises. It was all a crazy mistake, and the record's since been expunged, so don't go looking for it unless you want to just waste your time. Nobody died, if that's what you're asking—not that serious, anyway—but enough serious that I was laid up in a beach house on Oahu for a few weeks and couldn't leave. Listen, I know you won't believe me, and you're thinking, “Damn, 'bruster, I wish I could be under house arrest in a beach house on Oahu for a few weeks—who do I gotta not kill to get that done?” And I understand that, but a prison's a prison, see, and I know damn well it could have been a whole lot worse.
Anyway, I was on the beach—the house was on the beach—with the constant waves and a rocky outcropping of volcanic rock, palm trees, people on the beach hanging out and snorkeling and sunbathing—the whole lot. I mean people come to the beach, you look at them, right? So all right, but I couldn't enjoy it myself—house arrest, right?--which I guess is how a lot of people like it, Midwesterners, mostly, who bring their big radios and and beach towels and massive books by Michener and lay out and get totally burnt because, well, they're ON VACATION, dammit, for for just one cotton-pickin' minute they're going to do as they please, and there's nothing their nagging bosses back in Des Moines can even say about it.
But with nothing much better to do than watch, I sort of started to get a few weird ideas, like elemental, the way the water and the people interact, like with one part fear—kids screaming and running away when the waves come in—and one part really knowing, you know? Like the way the surfers would glide up and switch back into the wave while the wave curls up and collapses, you know? And it was sort of like our bodies are like that—mostly water and salt and such—and we are afraid and accepting of our bodies as well.
I know what you're thinking: ol' Chinwag's gone off the deep end with this one, and maybe you're right, but is that, by itself, so bad?
So one day this surfer camped out below the deck—I mean the place was real nice in a tiki kind of way, in a Captain and Tennille kind of way—belonged to some friends of mine who have both passed on by now. They came into money selling business machines all up and down the East Coast, from Charleston to way up in Maine someplace and built this place as a retirement place, and when they found out I was in some trouble they were nice enough to let me have it 'til I got the whole thing worked out. Great people, and I guess their kids sold the place after they died. Anyway, the surfer assumed the beach in front of the house belonged to the house, see, like it was a private beach or something, and yelled up to me (I was on the deck), and asked if he could surf it, if he could surf from there. “Fine by me,” I says, and he surfed for a while, and later he came up the stairs and we got talking.
His name was Blaine, and he'd come all the way from California, dropped out of school to come surf full time there, and then maybe Fiji. I a long time ago had decided that every guy named Blaine just wasn't to be trusted—rich dads and trust funds and all that—but this guy seemed all right, so I invited him up for a beer. I told him my story—it involved some money and a misunderstanding—and when that didn't make him bolt I figured he was OK, and I didn't have anything else to do, so I asked him about surfing and what made it such a big deal that he'd drop out of college and go into it like it was some kind of a job.
Well, he didn't say why, exactly, or not that I can recall, but he was shocked that I had never surfed—maybe even hurt a little—and told me he'd get his beginner's board and meet me that night to show me how.
Now, I know it wasn't legal, but I also knew the local cops wouldn't be around and anyway probably wouldn't care if I did drown—less paperwork for them anyhow—so when short, strong, tow-headed Blaine showed up that night to give me surfing lessons, well, by god, I went.
And to this day, I think what I thought before was right from that experience: the ocean is like your body, and you've got to treat it with a little fear and a little respect and a little fun might come from it.
Next day I got a summons and had to go to court and we started to get the whole legal mess sorted out—turns out it wasn't all that serious, like I said, just an error with the numbers and such—and Blaine showed up that afternoon and brought some good rum and said he'd go into town and find us some girls, but he never did, which was all for the best, I guess, because that could have got real complicated real quick. The next day they said I could go home, so I booked a TWA and said my goodbyes to Paradise Prison and a big aloha to the purchasing department out at Standard Beef.
This was way back in the '70s, way before your time, and before the North Shore got overrun by the resorts and all the wealthy Japanese.