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Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Extract from the novel I'm working on

I've been itching to share something from the novel I'm working on, but after this extract I will restrict myself from posting another until I've got 20,000 words down (11,200 written at this moment in time)  I've tried to choose a section that's long enough to give a real flavour of the writing, but without giving away too many plot details.  This is essentially the last part of Chapter One.

It was early evening by the time he reached the secluded cove on Martinique that he been a favoured meeting place for him and his brother over the years.  Initially it had to be a secret location as Carlos was almost invariably in trouble with... well, almost anyone he came into contact with really; police, gangsters, shipping authorities, traders...  He had calmed down a lot over the years, but he was still viewed as the black sheep of the family.

Gently he beached the sloop and hopped out of the Barcelona.  He looked around but saw nothing.  The beach was still bathed in golden sunlight, but the sun was just beginning to make its descent towards the horizon.  Suddenly he heard a noise, and with a surge of panic realised that it was a gunshot.  Rounding the corner to his right he saw his brother hurtle past the trees, shouting something at him.  He couldn’t make out the actual words but the gist seemed clear enough – it was time for a quick getaway!

He ran towards the sloop and pushed powerfully away, his muscles trained by years of sailing, and jumped aboard.  Carlos, wearing only shorts and t-shirt with a backpack slung over his shoulders, ran like a man possessed and hurled himself onto the deck.  Javier started up the motor, and they raced away, a few gunshots whistling past them or harmlessly into the water; fortunately none hit the ship.

Javier glared at his brother.  So typical of him!  “So, what was all that about exactly?”

Still panting heavily from his exertions, Carlos glanced up at him and grinned.  “No sweat, baby bro,” he said, knowing that it irritated Javier no end to call him that, “I just had a little... misunderstanding with the authorities there.”

“Hmm.  Misunderstanding...”  Javier sighed.  “You know, we all – the whole family – had really hoped that you’d put this sort of life behind you.”

Carlos looked offended.  “Hey it’s not my fault!  You’re the one who wanted old-fashioned maps, a sextant, magnetic compass... do you know how hard it is to find such things these days?”

“I thought you had a stash of them!  Wasn’t that the whole point of what we planned earlier?!”  Exasperated, Javier threw up his hands in despair.  Then he looked back, made sure that the Matrinique authorities had not given chase in a boat, and switched off the motor.  He guessed that fuel supplies were so limited that even the police would only use their motor boats in absolute emergencies or when the ship they were pursuing relied entirely on wind.  He grumbled something about needing to conserve fuel as much as possible while he set the jib and main sail.  Then he sat down and glowered at his brother.  “Well?”

Carlos actually looked guilty for a moment, a rare event indeed.  “I did, but... well... I had to pawn them.  I’m sorry.  I was really desperate.”

“So you had to steal them back from whoever you pawned them to.  Great, just great.”  Javier buried his face in his hands.

“No, baby bro, that wasn’t it.  They was off the island before I could even think about it.”

Javier briefly considered corrected Carlos’ bad grammar, knowing full well that it was due to laziness rather than lack of education, but curiosity got the better of him.  “So where did you find these items then?”

“The Paul Gauguin Museum had a special collection of naval memorabilia in a newly-built display area.  It... er... the security wasn’t all that it could have been.”  Carlos looked almost sheepish, but there was a glint in his eye; he had clearly enjoyed the escapade.

Javier rolled his eyes.  “Well, I guess it’s fitting in a way that Gauguin was somehow involved in this.  ‘Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?’” he said, quoting the title of the artist’s most famous work.  “Never have those questions been more relevant... or more uncertain.”

“That’s true” conceded Carlos, scavenging the lower deck to find something to eat.  He looked terrible, like he hadn’t slept for days.  “But still, we’ve got each other bro.  Adan lavi sé yon a lot, eh?”  It was a Creole proverb meaning “unity makes strength”.
“Yes, although An sel mouton ka gaté tout an twoupo, don’t you think?” retorted Javier, not inclined to forgive his brother just yet.  It meant “Only one item can rot a whole group.

Carlos laughed.  “Harsh, bro.  But probably true.  I am, as always, the rotten apple in the bag. Then the look – suddenly wistful and introspective, another person completely, pondering what was and what is and what could be, and Javier found he couldn’t stay mad with him.

Within a few more minutes of chatting Carlos lay slumped on the deck, sleeping like a baby.  He always looked so peaceful when he slept; perhaps his turbulent life just drained him completely, so when he finally did sleep, he had no capacity left for any cares or worries.  Javier envied him that a little; he was often plagued with dreams of being lost.  Perhaps he felt his life had no real direction.  Well, it was about to get some now.

An ba latè pa ni plézi” he whispered to himself, one last Creole proverb before he drifted off into semi-sleep, a state he was used to to gain rest while keeping a watch on the ship’s heading for long voyages.  This was going to be the longest journey he had ever faced, and he believed the proverb he had just uttered to be true; “We must take advantage of every day life offers us”.

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