A couple weeks went by before Jamie ran into Manuel at Huntington again. It was mid-July, and the surf was crowded with tourists and local high school students on summer break.
“I’ve been up at Redondo,” said the brown-haired boy. “Bit less crazy there.” He paddled around Jamie for a better position and lit out for an incoming wave, flying down the face of a four-footer and yelling at a blond boy to get out of his way as he cut a few switchbacks across the wave’s crumbling surface.
“Nice one,” said Jamie as Manuel paddled back to the line-up.
Manuel splashed water in the direction of the kid who’d almost cut into his wave. “Tired of these jokers. They should know to move when someone’s on a wave. Priority, man.” The kid shrank back and avoided Manuel’s stare.
“They’re just kooks, trying to be California surfer dudes.”
“Ever wish we were back in the ‘60s, when surfing was for radical hippies and there were only like 5 people in the water at all the best beaches? Those must have been the days.”
“You gotta go to Indonesia or South Africa nowadays for that.”
“Not even,” said Manuel. “Bet it’s crowded there too. Bet you have to go to Alaska and wear an inch-thick wetsuit just to get a wave to yourself.”
“Might be worth it,” said Jamie, eyeing the maze of surfers and videographers in front of them.
“Come on,” said Manuel. “Enough of this circus.”
They loaded up their stuff and headed back to LA, veering inland through Compton and South Gate until they reached Manuel’s neighborhood and pulled into a street of close-set residential houses with different red-green and yellow-blue flags flying from the porches. Manuel’s house was an older duplex with an upstairs balcony and a large backyard where red lanterns cast a soft light over avocado and lime trees. His parents and cousins were milling around, the younger folk twirling salsa moves on the patio to the beat of the top 40s Latin radio station which buzzed cheerfully in the background. Over on the grill, mounds of carne asada and three large fish lay sizzling and smoking, punctuating the air with hits of lime marinade.
Manuel’s dad handed them plates of grilled meat and steered them towards a table filled with fresh tortillas, homemade salsas, and guacamole. Once his tacos were assembled, Jamie sat down next to one of Manuel’s pretty cousins and began to eat, his surf-sunken stomach rumbling with pleasure at the sharp, fresh flavors.
“Oh my god,” said Jamie to no one particular. Manuel’s cousin smiled at him.
“I think I’m only eating your family’s tacos from now on.”
“Nothing wrong with that. I mean, you may turn into a giant taco, but – nothing wrong with that either.”
She giggled and Jamie smiled at her. Later that night lying in his bedroom, Jamie dreamt of spinning Manuel’s cousin around on the boardwalk as trailer-sized prehistoric fish leapt through herculean waves and a pink sun set over the Pacific.
- For the full recipe, check out Best of Flash Fiction Kitchen, available here.
This recipe has been shared in Phoenix Helix’s Paleo AIP Roundtable.