- Serious Musician
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Below is a link to the book, along with an intro and the first three chapters to draw you helplessly in, to my everlasting profit.
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07P9MQMWJ/re ... 1-fkmrnull
A short introduction…
“Motel, money, murder, madness”, a line from The Doors’ classic L.A. Woman, sums up the plot of Psycho in four words. Were I to use the same method of describing Wheel Sea, the four words would be, “Music, murder, mystery, romance.”
Wheel Sea is set in the late 1970s, around Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay, California. It’s about the rise of a young band and the obstacles and challenges of the music business. It’s as UnWoke as Dracula is UnDead.
I hope you like it.
It was a small mansion, but a mansion nonetheless. In the same sense that a two-door Cadillac was still a Cad. It was set back two hundred feet from the Pacific Coast Highway. A paved road with not a few potholes acted as a dark, diseased tongue for the monstrous front door. If a manicured lawn was de rigueur for a mansion, this homestead had the manicure of a Ripple bum in the Frisco tenderloin.
It had gone downhill since its heyday in the early nineteen fifties. The grass was patchy and the sickly tan hue of a door to door preacher’s Goodwill suit. The red brick landscaping had either faded from the sun or had been sucked of its lifeblood by the salt air. The same affliction had settled on the once striking red Spanish-style roof and matching shutters. The tall, half-moon windows were caked with neglect.
It was two stories with eight bedrooms, three full baths, a half bath, a large attic full of God-didn’t-care-what and a fairly large kitchen with the original fridge and stove from the fifties. Its one redeeming feature was a sprawling living room off the front door. Seventy-five by a hundred-fifty foot with a flagstone fireplace that could heat a Siberian gulag.
Across the PCH was a small hard gravel road that lead to a creaky dock. The end of the dock was like a musician’s future, perpetually shrouded in fog. The dock became a widower on September 20th, nineteen fifty-three. Its wife, the stately yacht “Wheel Sea”, disappeared, never to conjugate with it again. Its only company was the occasional wharf rat.
The mansion had also remained untouched since that date. Tandy Sullivan, a tireless real estate agent, had almost sold it several times in the sixties. She thought she’d hooked one fish in sixty-nine but then Tate-LaBianca happened and no one would come near the eerie old manse.
Enter Mr. and Mrs. Jack Wilson. Jack had made a small bundle as the general manager of a Pennsylvania coal company. He’d put in his thirty, earned his full, fat pension and said “fuck you” to the winters. And the relatives. Christ, the relatives. His relatives were bad but Gladys’ were ghastly. He had at least two of ‘em in his hot tub every night between October and May. He’d shelled out a fortune for the damned thing so he could bang Glad like Hefner whenever the mood struck them. Those jets were supposed to increase the intensity of…then Glad’s deadbeat brother got wind of the hot tub and the social gangrene spread from there.
It took Tandy all of forty-five minutes to close the deal. The mansion was dirt cheap, big and secluded. Jack didn’t care about the joint’s creepy history. Gladys kinda did.
It took the Wilsons a month to clear out the mice and get the place suitable for decent people. They stayed at the Dream Inn down the PCH in Santa Cruz. Beautiful cliff side motel overlooking Monterey Bay. Sunsets that could almost resurrect Monet for one last landscape.
The first few weeks were paradise for the Wilsons. They were still horny as hell for each other, christening every room in the house but the attic. Taking drives up and down the coast in their Brady Bunch wagon. Jack taught Glad how to shoot pool in the fisherman’s tavern two miles north in Half Moon Bay. Drinking beer and watching old movies and game shows every night. Jack’d taken his time getting the phone set up. Their blessed relations would ring the damn thing off the hook the instant they got the number. The Wilsons couldn’t have been happier.
Sure, Gladys looked out a west window from their bedroom one night and saw a big boat on the water. It seemed to be translucent, almost the same make-up as the fog that held it in its hands. Was that a silhouette of two people slow dancing on the deck? She went to get to Jack, pounding on the bathroom door. The toilet flushed. Twice. Then Jack came out, his face as red as a can of Folger’s.
“Jack, Jack---come quick!”
She pointed excitedly out the window into the fog.
“WhatamIlookinat, Glad? Is it that one-eyed seagull again? I tolejya I’d never shoot no dumb, helpless boid.”
She looked over his shoulder out the window.
Nothing but fog.
A logging truck went by on the PCH, melting into the mist like a phantom.
“I-I’m sorry, Jack. I thought I saw something out there.”
“Think nuthin’ of it, Glad. It’s The Change. It does funny things to a woman. Now let’s get downstairs. It’s almost time for the Million Dollar Movie. I don’ wanna miss The Desperate Hours. It was one o’ Bogey’s last. Wanna beer, Glad?”
Gladys was far away.
“What? Uh---no, Jack. I feel like a hot cocoa.”
“Suit yourself, Glad. Bogey and beer go together like franks n beans.”
He trudged down the stairs, bellowing over his shoulder…
“In a minute, Jack.”
Jack turned on the Magnavox console and went to grab his brewski. It took a while for that twenty-five-inch screen to warm up. He stuck his head in the fridge’s frosty maw, looking this way and that. He frowned, his forehead creasing like an old map.
Glad forgot to get beer. Only three left. The Change sure is hard on a man…
Tandy came out once a week for the first few months. Just checking. Everything OK? The plumbing? Electric? Gladys was as cheerful as Donna Reed. Everything’s fine Mrs. Sullivan, thanks for asking. That’s Miss Sullivan. Sorry. I don’t dare tell her about that yacht. Or the song. The song is even stranger. Why doesn’t Jack hear it? Damn him! It’s not the fucking Change, either!
Tandy stopped coming and Gladys kept her thoughts to herself. On Tandy’s final visit, she was crafty enough to ask if there’d ever been a piano in the mansion.
Tandy seemed slightly taken aback, frightened even. She placed her tea cup in the saucer and forced a smile.
“I think there was one right over there…” She twisted on the sofa, nodding toward the Magnavox console. “…a concert grand. But family came and got it after the…the incident…”
Her voice grew pinched.
“…Why do you ask?”
Gladys’ smile was so strained it resembled a jester’s mask.
She sipped her tea.
Tandy thanked her for the tea and toast then left. She scurried down the sidewalk and hopped in her tan Lincoln.
She sped up the PCH toward Half Moon Bay and an early high ball at the Captain’s Mess. Gladys had heard the song. She’d probably seen the yacht, too. Tandy was sure of it.
The cat wandered down from Fisherman’s Wharf in Half Moon Bay. She’d been looking for a safe place to have her kittens
and just followed the PCH. She sniffed and searched for somewhere to den away from the gulls. Under a porch with a hole in the lattice or beneath an upturned old couch on the roadside. Such lairs had served her well before.
Gladys was scrubbing gull shit off her sidewalk with a bucket of warm, sudsy water and a deck brush. A meow emerged from the fog followed by the roly-poly little tabby. It was love at first sight for Gladys. And not because Jack had never been able to give her children. That was bullshit. She just loved animals.
She coaxed the cat inside with a bowl of tuna after which it sniffed around the baseboards. Gladys dumped some old shoes from their box, shoveled some dirt in, stuck it under the cat’s nose and then left it by the kitchen door. The cat ignored it and kept sniffing and snooping.
Jack came home and greeted the news of their new pet with the indifference he gave to a new weed by the mailbox. Gladys couldn’t find the cat come morning. Finally, she heard a soft mewling behind the sofa. She moved the sofa and was happy/horrified to see three healthy kittens nursing at their proud mother.
Jack was less indifferent about the brood. The kittens grew and constantly got under his feet. He couldn’t bang Glad on the sofa anymore without being clawed by two or more fur balls wanting attention. Something else was bugging him but he sure as shit couldn’t tell Glad about it. It was getting worse, too. Interfering with his sleep, making him irritable. Like an itch in his brain. Gladys was moodier, too, but that was just THE CHANGE. It’d happened to his mom and his older sister. They also had trouble with insomnia, which had recently visited Gladys. Jack would get up at one in the morning to piss away a few PBRs and Gladys wouldn’t be in bed. She’d be at the window, staring out at the cove. He’d come back to bed, close his eyes and then he’d hear it.
Another night’s sleep down the drain and another squabble with Glad over the runny scrambled eggs at breakfast.
Jack set his beer on the end table and sat back on the sofa, kicking his feet up on the hassock. Carol Doda came on the TV…
“This is Carol Doda and you’re watching the Perfect Thirty-Six out of San Jose, California…”
She stuck her huge jugs into the camera and smiled like a call girl.
“…stay tuned for the Asphalt Jungle starring Sterling Hayden, Louis Calhern and Marilyn Monroe in her first role.”
The theme music started and the credits rolled. Jack was ready and rarin’ for the classic gangster movie. He looked over at Gladys.
“Sure you don’t want a beer, Glad?”
She was fussing with the cat in her lap. One of the yellow ones. Was it Sunshine, Goldie or Corn Flake? Who gave a fuck?
Gladys mumbled something in return and began to baby talk the cat, scratching it under its chin. Jack shrugged and focused on the movie. She kept fussing with the cat. Jack rose and turned up the volume. A cat somewhere else in the mansion started yowling, answered by another one upstairs.
There was a commercial and Jack killed his third soldier and crushed the can. Fuss, fuss. He got up to go to the bathroom and get another brew. He planned on boning Gladys after the movie so he headed for the upstairs bathroom. Hearing an H-Bomb beer fart through the downstairs bathroom door might not get her wet. He mounted the stairs, his head bubbling with a pretty good buzz. He turned left and started down the dark hall. Then he heard it.
The song. A piano melody. It played the same as it had since he’d first heard it, the second night they slept there. Two verses, then it stopped halfway through what sounded like a chorus and started again. When he first heard it, it was almost sublumi---sublimilimanal---however the hell you pronounced that word. Like that article he’d read about the secret messages in mall Muzak.
Buy our crap.
Apply for our credit card.
Or the letters on the three ice cubes in that Gin ad.
But the last few nights the song’d gotten louder, crowding out his thoughts. What was even more annoying---Jack didn’t even like music. It was just a waste of time. He had a numb nuts nephew who could spend a whole Saturday night listening to records in the dark.
Jack took his shit with the song pounding in his head. He came downstairs and saw Gladys still boo-booing the cat. He headed for the fridge and changed his mind, turning toward a drawer in the kitchen. Although, somewhere inside, it felt as if his mind had been changed for him.
He took the twenty-two revolver from the drawer, cracked it open and checked the ammo. Full. Carol Doda was purring about station identification when Jack stood between Gladys and the TV and raised the pistol. Her eyes lit with horror as he squeezed trigger. POP! The round went through the cat into Glad’s chest. The cat squirmed a moment, then stopped. Gladys opened her mouth to scream but no words came out, only a sickly sucking sound. Another POP and a red dot appeared on Glad’s forehead. Her eyes found eternity and remained focused there.
Jack moved through the mansion as if hypnotized. The gunfire caused the other cats to scatter. He found one by the flour sack in the pantry. POP. One under the sewing table in an upstairs bedroom. POP. It took Jack several hours to track down the last cat. It had burrowed beneath the covers in their bed. An hour before sunrise there was a flash in an upstairs window. It was followed by another flash and a thud. Jack’s last thought as he looked out the window was that Glad had been right, there was a yacht out there. It hadn’t been THE CHANGE after all.
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