Walking on a lonely beach or a deserted trail through the mistletoe laden oaks telling tales of ghosts and phantoms was my introduction into story telling. Here we meet Charman as we take a long Walk on the Beach…
Late in the year if you time low tide right, time it just right you can walk almost all the way to Hobo Jungle Past the Fairgrounds and around the last jetty and run, run for your life over the train trestle.
People board their horses at the fair grounds. It was never locked we’ just walk in and feed the horses. We never thought about it then, we’d linger with the gentle animals; kind of feeling like we may not make it from our long walk on the beach.
Charman is said to be in the Jungle this time of year. And he walks among the windblown juniper and the air smells like sumac and fennel, salt, low tide and the air smells like something beyond death. When Charman walks the beach crows and seagull silent, waves break on the shore.
We’d never tell anyone where we were going:
“Bye! I’m going into the hills by myself.”
“Bye! I’m dogging fossils in the lonely cave I found last week.”
“Bye! We’re walking ten miles to Hobo Jungle to look for snakes bones and hang over the train trestle as the 3:17 screams by because we didn’t time our crossing just right”… What’s the point?
And Charman moans, his bones clink; rags and burnt flesh. And he howls a lonely wail like a seagull, like a phantom, like life’s last breath escaping into the mist. Burned in a cabin fire a century ago: all was lost, nothing to save: bones and dust and burnt to the ground; and yet he did not, could not die.
A nightmare phantom of Foster Park traveling up and down: Miner’s Oaks, The Avenue and the dark stretches of beach. Charman could be just abut anywhere; tell his story and feel his presence, he knows when you’re alone.
At this time of year when the fog is thick and strange things wash up on the beach: little sharks, man-o-war jelly fish, weird little blue things that stick to the dry flotsam and jetsam of low tide and it is pitch dark before you can sense the twilight.
Charman’s image is in the corner of your eye. His sliding bone step to match your own. He stops when you stop, he is silent when you hold your breath.
Heart pounding in your ears, the name you’re compelled to say three times in a row but wait! Don’t do it! He longs for you in his unbearable solitude. Call his name three times and never be seen again. Think his name three times and he will know!
This time of year in the jungle of juniper and tall fennel and too many places to hide, a far off seagull cries: butterfly tree; orange flutter fog, a twig snaps and whiff of distant cigarette smoke…Slither of snakes, rustle of feral cats, a rattling cough, hermit crabs and something else.
Far away, a rat shrieks. I can almost see the bridge. This time of year: rip tides and eight foot waves. The gull soars overheard and it sounds like it’s crying, “Charman, Charman! It cries a third time and for a moment, all is silent. All is still. All I can hear is the beating of your heart. The mist closes in around us. We run for the trestle. Deep in the fog, a train whistle…