Excerpts for Dawn Patrol


The marine layer wraps a soft silver blanket over the coast.

The sun is just coming over the hills to the east, and Pacific Beach is still asleep.

The ocean is a color that is not quite blue, not quite green, not quite black, but something somewhere between all three.

Out on the line, Boone Daniels straddles his old longboard like a cowboy on his pony.

He's on The Dawn Patrol.




The girls look like ghosts.

Coming out of the early-morning mist, their silver forms emerge from a thin line of trees as the girls pad through the wet grass that edges the field. The dampness muffles their footsteps, so they approach silently, and the mist that wraps around their legs makes them look as if they're floating.

Like spirits who died as children.

There are eight of them and they are children; the oldest is fourteen, the youngest ten. They walk toward the waiting men in unconscious lockstep.

The men bend over the mist like giants over clouds, peering down into their universe. But the men aren't giants; they're workers, and their universe is the seemingly endless strawberry field that they do not rule, but that rules them. They're glad for the cool mist--it will burn off soon enough and leave them to the sun's indifferent mercy.

The men are stoop laborers, bent at the waist for hours at a time, tending to the plants. They've made the dangerous odyssey up from Mexico to work in these fields, to send money back to their families south of the border.

They live in primitive camps of corrugated tin shacks, jerry-rigged tents, and lean-tos hidden deep in the narrow canyons above the fields. There are no women in the camps, and the men are lonely. Now they look up to sneak guilty glances at the wraithlike girls coming out of the mist. Glances of need, even though many of these men are fathers, with daughters the ages of these girls.

Between the edge of the field and the banks of the river stands a thick bed of reeds, into which the men have hacked little dugouts, almost caves. Now some of the men go into the reeds and pray that the dawn will not come too soon or burn too brightly and expose their shame to the eyes of God.





It's dawn at the Crest Motel, too.

Sunrise isn't a sight that a lot of the residents see, unless it's from the other side--unless they're just going to bed instead of just getting up.

Only two people are awake now, and neither of them is the desk clerk, who's catching forty in the office, his butt settled into the chair, his feet propped on the counter. Doesn't matter. Even if he were awake, he couldn't see the little balcony of room 342, where the woman is going over the railing.

Her nightgown flutters above her.

An inadequate parachute.

She misses the pool by a couple of feet and her body lands on the concrete with a dull thump.

Not loud enough to wake anyone up.

The guy who tossed her looks down just long enough to make sure she's dead. He sees her neck at the funny angle, like a broken doll. Watches her blood, black in the faint light, spread toward the pool.

Water seeking water.


From the Hardcover edition.

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