Chapter 3: California Screamin’

It was a hot July morning in California. Jonathan had just begun his new day job as a temporary lifeguard at Santa Monica Beach. After opening up the No. 4 lifeguard station’s window panels, he walked down the tower’s wooden gangplank to check out the large south swell rolling over the breakwater near the old pier.

The currents were strong. There would be little time for playing his guitar and posing, regardless of how bitchin’ he looked. It was going to be a busy day, thought the young lifeguard and literature student who had been finishing up his research project — “Huthbert and Penelope: The World’s Most Tragic Love Story—Up Until Freida Kahlo’s Ill-Fated Eyebrows Met in Mexico City in 1915.” Another dream was to be like James Taylor and find the perfect chick-magnetizing chord.

Imagine, dear readers, that it was a perfect summer’s morn in Santa Monica, when Lupta Axe, the world’s best witch, studied young Jonathan Tepes as he readied the lifeguard station in the bright mid-day sun. The crone strolled down the beach, shielding herself with a black umbrella and a tattered black shawl. She approached the lifeguard tower and tapped her crooked cane on the ramp. Jonathan, seeing her, moved inside of the tower and began to sign and shuffle blank papers as if he were actually doing something. The witch realized the he was avoiding her gaze by faking work and decided, Ah, fute it!, she’d return later. She continued to curse everyone and everything (“Muthafotensfiudecățeanemernici!”) as she hobbled along the hot sand toward the Ferris wheel at the top of Santa Monica Pier. For Lupta, cursing was akin to singing.

Thank goodness she’s gone, Jonathan thought. Creepy old bat, like something right out of a Grimm’s fairy tale.

Near noon, the Crone walked back to Jonathan’s lifeguard tower, wearing a black one-piece bathing suit with the black shawl covering her head. By this time the beach was overflowing with people. On the beach, The Crone was not at all daunting, as she must have weighed less than sixty pounds—soaking wet.

An angry blonde teen pressing the unfastened top of her bikini against her perky breasts followed the black shadowy figure across the hot sand. She, in turn, was being followed by every set of male eyes on the beach.

“Hey, lifeguard! This old bitch…”

“Witch!” snapped Lupta Axe.

“This old bitch threw ice cubes…”

“Spat,” said the Crone.

“This old bitch threw…”

“Spat!”

“…ice on my back just so everyone on the beach would see my …”

“Really?” Jonathan tried to avert his gaze. “Now, why would this little old woman throw ice water on you?” Pervert.

“IIIIIIII spat on her, rahat-pentru-creier (shit-for-brains)!” said Lupta.

“Spat on her? Was she bothering you?”

“She was going to,” said the crow-like figure in black.

“No I wasn’t! Can’t you arrest her or shoot her or something?” the perfect beach bunny asked while pointing to the Crone.

“I’m sure she’s just a harmless …,” Jonathan said.

“Hey! You look like what’s-his-name!” said the bunny.

Jonathan nodded and said, “I know. James Taylor. When he had hair.”

“I was going to say Vlad the Impaler. I’m reading this graphic novel about him. Tragic Lust. Prince Vlad was a hero. See?” The girl showed Jonathan the cover. “Isn’t Vlad dreamy? My friends at school think that he’s phat. Except for that dumb mustache.”

“I look like him? I look fat? Look at this ten pack!”

The Crone turned to the young girl. “Oh! Tragic Lust? Such a fine historical novel. It’s all true, you know, nubile nymph. My name is Lupta Axe, dearie. I was just pranking you because I’m the fairest!” Lupta put her leathery arm around the girl’s shoulder. “Can I interest you in a nice red juicy apple, my child?”

The teen pulled away. “Eeeeuwww…no way. Did I do something to offend you?” she asked.

“You just finked on me!”

“Finked? What’s finked?”

“Tattled. Ratted on me like a low-down stool pigeon. You sung like a canary. Squeeeeealed. You, my pretty, are an informer!”

“But you dropped the ice on my back, first!” cried the girl.

“Spat! Call it a preemptive strike. Early revenge. That’s how we always do things where I come from, sugar nibs.”

The stunned girl walked away thinking, Hmmmm…finked. I’m gonna text that word to my homies. Lupta, who’s magic had always been based on childish pranks, hacked up a thick loogie on a sheet of paper and while the teen texted her friends, snuck up behind her, and stuck a “Kick Me!” sign to the girl’s back.

The Crone added to the cacophony with a voice of a crow as she cawed at the girl walking back to her towel. “IIIIII’ll get you! I’ll turn that sweet ass into gingerbread! By the time you get home, butter buns, that perky pair of shortcakes will be pointing down to perdition! Heeheeheeheeheeheehee!” She cackled manically.

Jonathan was thinking hard about the “butter buns,” “gingerbread ass,” and “perky shortcakes” as the Guatemalan woman holding up two fingers three hundred feet beyond the waves went beneath the sparkling water the second time unnoticed. His attention was riveted toward the evil-eye gaze of the Crone.

“Where do you come from, woman?” asked Jonathan.

“I come from Transylvania. My name is Lupta. Lupta Axe. And YOU are Jonathan! Arăți la fel ca el! (You DOOOO look just like him!)” she said in Romanian.