Toasted English Mate
I saw it walking down the causeway to the beach at around three am. I was inflicted with insomnia and taking late night strolls had become my addictive routine. It was in front of me with a hunched backed, long crooked nose and long, skinny, legs and arms. I don’t know what it was, but it terrified me. The thing disappeared into the brush at the entrance of the long silent road leading to Cabrillo Beach. Goose bumps did a marathon up and down my body. I prayed whatever I saw didn’t have any designs on changing my future.
That was when he came from the other direction: a slender, small fellow the color of caramel dressed in several layers of clothes. He had on a tight hat and a large backpack that rested on his back like a camel’s hump. I’d seen him many times before on other late night treks. He always went one way, while I went another. The fear of the late hour kept our mouths glued and eyes straight, but the fear from whatever monster I witnessed earlier made me sociable. I saw him stumbling a bit, as it seemed like the middle shelf spirits had him leaning from one side to the other.
“Hey man. What’s going on? I see you all the time.” I said.
“Ello mate. How are you this evening?” He had a British accent.
My fellow midnight stroller was an Englishman. I was captivated by curiosity and had to explore deeper. He struggled to keep his balance as though he had sea legs from a long journey on the Atlantic.
“I see you all the time but didn’t want to freak you out.”
We walked on with nothing but the cool late night air to escort us. He was mellow and made one feel comfortable automatically.
“Where do you go late at night?”
“I go to my friends on the other side of town to drink. I got a DUI one time and now I decide it’s safer to walk the beach route to the other side.”
He was half right, but you were still at the whim of three different police departments that patrolled the beach area. The Port Police were bastards and would stop you in a second, shining a black flashlight in your face, while asking you where you are going and why you are out so late. The base police were friendly, approaching one with pleasantry instead of hostility. However, the LAPD was a roll of the dice on how they treated you.
Yet it was safer than the streets, when hitting the bottle hard. I myself had a DUI strung around my neck a year before and it was no joy ride, rather a rollercoaster to poverty and pain.
We walked side by side.
He told me he was from some country part of England, with rolling green hills and sturdy wooden barns. I pictured everything green and cloudy with nothing but hay, horses, and pureness. He said him and his mates frequented the pubs and drank pints of beer until up was down. He said his father was a vicious man who took great pleasure in beating him. They were one generation from one of the islands in the Caribbean Sea with blue water and no opportunity. I watched him travel mentally as the visions of strapped filled evenings returned. Later he moved to the US, joined the Armed forces, and was stationed in South Carolina where he met his wife, a blonde “southern belle”.
“Her family hated me; especially her Dad. South Carolina was racist as hell!” He spouted in a crackling cockney tone.
I nodded agreeing, lost in his story.
“Later we divorced and I moved out here. I rented a room from a family in Harbor City.”
He spoke of being included in family dinners and holidays. I pictured him at the table with a turkey leg after a quick session of Grace. He too moved to Pedro and now was trapped like myself, drunk and stumbling the beach on mindless, midnight jaunts. He had just rented out his bedroom to a drug addict, who couldn’t pay the rent and never returned.
I heard the water (the pacific was calling). We walked a little more and he was done.
“I’m tired mate. It was nice meeting you.”
His breath smelled like the bar of a nightclub at closing. The fumes from the powerful drink almost burnt my nose hairs. He stumbled down the road toward the hill on 22nd street. I was still wide awake and decided to complete my journey to the end. I suddenly remembered I forgot to ask him about the hunchback thing. The demon that ran into the grass.
David Michael Joseph is a writer from the great state of New Jersey, now living in Los Angeles, hoping to breathe a breath of fresh air into the literary world. He has a passion for story telling and poetry. He has been published in numerous publications.