Welcome to: SERPENT ROCK
The first fish was caught by Conrad, a big one we saw come out of the water, stretching the line and giving our buddy a fight for his life, a fight he could handle. Like even seasoned fishermen do, we were yelling at Conny to do this and that. He was yelling back, a simple, “Shut up. I’ve got this whale.”
It was then our story really began…
The bow dipped in the cool green water of the sea, and Conrad lost his marlin with a broken line.
“What are you guys doing to the boat?” Conrad saw us in the stern where he was, so why was he asking, looking at us like a madman. We were no-where near the tiller.
I yelled at him as I rushed to the bow: “Nothing, Conny. The bow is dipping. I’m assessing, Man. Keep your shirt on, buddy. Sorry you lost your fish.”
At the bow, another serious dip, and this one took me off the fishing boat and into the water.
“What the hell?” I heard both my buddies yell in sync, as they came hurtling to the bow. Just as they arrived at the boat’s bow, another serious dip took me under momentarily and brought them into the water with me.
The bow line was hanging over into the water, and I grabbed it as the water was doing some amazing sloshing.
“Get back in the boat, guys,” I screamed as the sudden noise from the roiling sea was drowning out our chatter.
Conrad and Monroe made it into the boat, then helped me get aboard. We grabbed hold of the bow tubular bars and held on as best we could.
“What the hell’s going on, guys?” Monroe asked Conny and me. “Look. Eddies are forming all around the boat. Whoa. What’s that coming at us?”
Monroe was looking south. Conny was looking north. Me, I was looking east.
“The eddies are forming over here, too, Conny. What?” Conny and I looked in Monroe’s southern direction at the same time. “Oh, my God, what is that?”
There was a huge madly swirling hole coming at us, weaving this way, that way, seemingly, to build its strength.
“What the hell do we do? Hey, guys,” I’m yelling above the roar, “Let’s work our way back to the stern. The bulkhead back there has a stronger support bar. Let’s all gather there and interweave the stern lines around us for support to secure us to the boat.”
Without words, we hurriedly gathered there in the stern, interwove the stern line between and around us. We tried to yell above the noise of rushing water coming toward us.
Yelling at the top of my voice, “That maelstrom is getting bigger as it comes this way, and there are no conflicting currents that I can see and those are what causes whirlpools, but this is a whole new ballgame. The vortex is getting bigger and bigger, guys, and I’m the first one to say I’m scared as hell. I don’t know if we’re going to make this. Just hold on and pray. That thing is almost here, and it’s way bigger than the boat…I love you guys”
We were all trying to say our emotional and final goodbyes, but words were lost in the maddening noise being made by the huge maelstrom. We were lost, and for sure each of us was praying and saying those things guys don’t want ever to say – you know, endearing things one says on a deathbed.
Suddenly the bow of the boat tipped and went into the vortex of the maelstrom, straight down into a fast free fall, and, in the vacuum created by the vortex, our yells became one huge cacophonous earsplitting tone that would wrack our ear drums with an excruciating pain so unbearable as to render us unconscious in a fall of indeterminable length.
[End of excerpt #1]
We stayed away from Serpent Rock by design. We truly needed to make this trip simply about fishing and relaxing, allowing the beautiful Sea to calm us, rejuvenate us, make us fit warriors again.
Oh, we truly believed in our new Divine mission. There would never be any question about that. The noble nature of that mission far exceeded a mere fishing trip to Rocky Point, Mexico, but, with Conny’s near-fatal ‘car accident’ and recovery, Julie’s and my late-night broken window incident, the ‘Atheist Jerks’ interference, this trip was most definitely needed. A leisurely hook-up with the sea for fishing and assessment of recent events was our excuse, and, we were sticking with it. Hey, we loved fishing. It was our panacea, our escape from problems of all kinds.
The wives planned a Malecon Day to do some shopping, lunch, and ice cream cones, so they were happy doing their ‘thing’. The wives (and kids when with us) were always in on our fishing the lovely Sea of Cortez. The suspicion, however, was that they didn’t like being on the water as much as we ‘Three Amigos’. The wives and kids were sadly prone to sea sickness.
This trip, we were only interested in fishing, beer drinking, and perhaps in finding some solutions to our current problems. We decided to go farther south on this sea trip, so I steered us out to open sea. Soon, there was only a distant horizon forward and aft.
“I’m anchoring here, guys. There’s sea all around us, and I’m in territory that is unfamiliar. We’re already out a bit farther than we should be. Let’s do some slow trolling and see what we hit.”
Opening a fresh brewski I heard a big splash, heard Monroe make something ugly ‘holy’ that people are liable to do occasionally.
“Good gosh, look at that rod. It’s touching the port hull. What the hell do you have on that line, a giant octopus?”
“Guys, you gotta help me, I can’t hold this rod any longer. Whatever’s on the end of this line is not going to be reeled in. Trust me on that.” His face was as red as a proverbial beet – and, not from the sun.
Conny placed his rod into the rod-grip on the aft hull-rim, moved quickly, carefully, wrapped both his hands around the rod just above Monroe’s hands that were turning white with all the blood rushing upward in the bulging veins of his arm.
“I can’t hold it any longer, guys, I gotta let go. It’s killing me.” Conny was now literally being pulled to the bow and would go overboard if he did not let go of the rod.”
“Let it go,” I yelled to Conny, “You’re about to go over the side. Let it go. Let it go.”
Conny had no other choice. He let the rod go flying over the forward port-side of Chavala, and he fell to the deck of the boat while we watched his rod speedily skip for some feet on the surface of the sea, then disappear into the cobalt water.
“Are you all right, Conny?”
“Give me a minute,” Conny managed to wheeze in gaping breaths.
Monroe was also on the deck, one arm propped on the port bench-seat, taking in great whiffs of air.
The Sea of Cortez suddenly became still, its cobalt surface glassy and hardly moving. There was an eerie cast on the water, like a mirror slowly moving in different shades. If a penny dropped on the deck of The Chavala it would sound like a TNT blast.
We looked at each other, a trio of goggle-eyed rookie sailors lost in total wonderment on a silent sea – at least, for that moment.
“What the hell just happened?” Conny asked.
Before an answer came, Monroe spoke, “What’s going on, Sully? Chavala is turning.”
“I know, I’m turning us. It was my dumb idea to come this far south. We’re not sailors, guys, and we should know by now that this sea knows who we are. I have absolutely no earthly idea what just happened, but I do know I’m an idiot for coming down this far south. We’re heading back.”
“I need a beer,” Conny said. “Anyone joining me?”
We three bemused sea rookies joined in with the beer. I was the only mate sensibly sipping. Conny and Monroe were tantamount to chugalugging.
“Take it easy, you guys. You’ll make yourselves sick.”
“I’m already sick. That was a new and expensive rod.”
“You’ve got plenty of money. Better the dumb rod going overboard than you two guys. That, boys, is a yarn that will just keep on giving, each time we tell it.”
I sipped a cold frosty beer as The Chavala headed back north.
“Hey, Guys, what’s with this crazy sea?” asked Conny. “It’s smooth as silk, but it’s rocking the boat…and, what is that forward of the bow, in the water? Run silent and slow for a minute, Sully, and steer toward that object up ahead. You see it?”
“Aye, I see it, I’m heading for it now.”
When The Chavala was close enough, Monroe spoke, “Hey, it’s my rod. What the hell is going on? I’ve finished one beer and started a fresh one. We’re many nautical miles north again, and there’s my damned rod. How do we explain this, guys?”
“It’s a magical sea, fellows,” Conny said with a head shake.
“Hey, guys, it’s whatever fish you had on the line, Monroe, it worked the hook from its mouth or gill and released it. The rod came up and now floats on the sea. That’s my simple, true Sherlock deductive reasoning, boys. Someone hand me another beer.”
When I slowly steered over the rod, Monroe leaned over the port hull to pull it into Chavala, but the rod jerked away from him just as he was about to grab it.
“What the hell?” Monroe spoke in an awe-puzzled near whisper.
“You didn’t get it, Monroe?” I noticed his puzzled look from my position at the bow.
“No, it jerked away from me. It literally jerked away from me.”
“Yeah, I saw it, Sully. The rod just…just jerked away from Monroe, like it was teasing him.”
“Hey, guys, enough theatrics for the day. I likely hit a mild chop wave. I’ll turn, and we’ll get it this time around.”
“Sully, I’m telling you, it jerked away from me, no chop wave, no nothing. It was something under the water jerking it. I swear. I’m not making this up. Conny saw it as well.”
“Believe it, Sully. We’re not messing with your head. His rod just jerked away from him, like a fish or something under the water was playing with him.”
“Okay, then, say adios to your expensive rod, Monroe. I’m not sticking around this area if something funny is going on. We’re going steady north, all the way to the pier. We’ll be able to see Peñasco soon, straight ahead.”
Thirty minutes later at full speed, it was a relief for reasons I do not fully know when we saw lovely Puerto Peñasco on the horizon dead ahead.
“Peñasco dead ahead, guys, and I feel better…but, wait, there’s something in the water ahead. Is that your rod again, Monroe?”
Sprawled on the starboard bench-seat, Monroe sat, stared at the site. “I’ll be damned, it is my rod.”
“Engine stalled and approaching. You should be able to get it this time.”
Monroe reached and pulled his rod into Chavala, looked it up and down. There was no line, no hook, just the rod and reel. “I’ve got it, and it’s fine, but the line is all gone. How the hell did the rod get all the way from the point we first saw it? We have had multiple beers, cruising north for over an hour or more. How do you figure it?”
“Damned if I can,” said Conny.
“Ditto,” I said with a head chocked full of questions but no definite answers. “Does anyone think we will ever have another sane fishing day on the Sea of Cortez?”
Conny and Monroe looked at each other, smiled and shook their heads. “Not in this life, maybe next.” Spoken by a true man-fisher of the sea, Conrad Finster.
As we docked at the pier, gathered our beer chest and all other paraphernalia, I asked Monroe: “What’s that stuck on the end of your rod?”
“Hadn’t noticed.” He turned the rod over, stood on the pier deck and looked. “Looks like a seashell with something inside of it.”
“Let’s take it back to the villa with us. There are people afoot here. We can look it over when we’re safely on the deck with a brewski. Wonder what the sea is telling us this trip?” I gave a half-smile, half-frown.
As we walked on the pier, Monroe dropped his rod. Conny and I walked ahead.
“Hey, guys,” Monroe yelled at us, “come back. We are not through with our trip. We have orders. The Shell popped open.”
Inside the shell was a simple message in a lovely script: “Return now to the Serpent Rock. All will be explained…”
[End of Excerpt #2]
I haven’t given too much away with these excerpts, just enough, I hope, to have you order an Amazona Kindle or Paperback version of “Serpent Rock.” There are many episodic and thrilling moments in this Sci-Fi novel, but that description is given by the author…it is the readers who truly determine the merits of an author and his words. Please read the book and leave your honest Amazon, Goodreads, et al reviews. Authors have a need to know the ‘good and bad’ of their writing efforts and appreciate the time book lovers devote to their reading and their comments.
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It’s my belief Sci-Fi lovers will find this book to their liking and will add “Serpent Rock” to their short list of favorites. The novel is original, conceptually covering some timely issues in a genre that excels in awakening minds to new worlds of possibilities.
BR Chitwood – January 31, 2020
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