Every week I’ll install parts of this California short story I wrote three years ago for a fiction class. It’s since been rediscovered and reread and revised and unrevised for what I ultimately wanted to accomplish in this small story of a summer in between college and the growth of a youth in love. Here is the first part of many for this story, and I hope you enjoy!
*If you would like to read the next part of the short story, stay tuned, or simply click above the BY YOUR SIDE page for the full story. P.K.
“Where in South-East Asia?”
She didn’t hear him, swimming laps and submerged in the pool water—June came up to the side and grabbed her big red sunglasses, to shield from the sun shining directly from behind Noah. She looked over her shoulder to see if anyone had gotten in with her, but it was only Jay shirtless and wading his legs in the water on the other side of the pool. He was hot, bored. Noah repeated the question to her.
“Ohh! Vietnam. It was around the time of the war. Parents were still quite young, but you know, dad lived here. Wasn’t really affected, actually wasn’t affected at all! Unlike my mom.” “Seemed like she’s adjusted fine to American life.”
“Not at all. Well at first no—just the culture shock of things, I guess. And it sucked more that half the family went to the Bay, and she and my grandparents and uncle down in Long Beach.” “You really can’t hear an accent from her,” Noah said. She pulled herself up on the railing and remained cross-legged by the teal brick ledge, drinking down the chilled Arnold Palmer he’d just handed to her. Jay came over, grunting. “Going inside,” he told them.
“Yeah, fine,” Noah said sharply. “Keep the towels off my bed, eh?” Jay had already left. “And what about your dad?”
“Dad? Born in Long Beach, met my mom there around high school—not much else.”
“Wouldn’t have guessed your mom would go interracial. I mean, new country—culture shock.”
“She’s a funny one isn’t she? Doesn’t really strike her fancy, my dad. But she’s always been adamant on his humor and outlook at life. I remember one night in the back kitchen when I was eleven, there was some shark enthusiasts convention being held out here and when dad actually left us cooking to go chat with the absurd men in the dining hall— gosh mom was sure pissed, but shrugged at me and Alexander and reminded us that dad’s funny quirks were what kept the family going.”
“She said that?”
“Verbatim. As well as that he keeps dreams alive, doesn’t let go of much, if there’s still juice in them.”
“Like the Starlight Palms.” His saying the name put a smile on her face, and she pushed her wet tumbler away to lay her head in his lap.
“Like home. Home’s always going to be alive for me. I used to think it wouldn’t last through high school, you know the lack of check-ins and tons of renovation badly needed back then compared to the more spacious and corporate inns closer to the town; but graduating and coming back to it is like—I’m not bored of it, certainly am not. Some people might not find it the ideal California residence, but it screams California at you when you pass it on the road. I don’t doubt my dad after this place. He’s got a good heart and wild dreams and glorifying the past of his childhood with something kitsch like The Starlight proves anything for him is nothing. Makes it easy I guess for anyone to love him, even my mom, too.”
“The Starlight Palms Inn,” Noah replied, wiping the perspiration from his bare chest, “open since 1952, but making dreams since 1986.” They both were laughing.
“Ah Dad, buying the place in the 80’s was the most perfect thing he could have ever done for me, for my childhood.”
Perfect. Noah looked up from her and stared hard into the road up ahead. The brown hills lined the edges of the bright ocean while Price Street stretched alongside Highway 1. Everything seemed to be leaning outward and away from him, reaching to the broad blue skies ahead. Nothing stained it. It was all untouched. Things seemed perfect out here. June Wyath was perfect to him.