“It’s not the same book. Not even close.” Maya said. “What were you thinking?”

“It was awful,” Arthur blurted. “They brought it to me…a great book, they said, a bestseller by a Thai author just waiting for an international audience. But the book was terrible. Half of it was untranslatable, laced with popular idiom and depending on cultural factors for relevance…something American readers wouldn’t understand!”

“That’s no reason to rewrite Mr. Hangpa’s book.”

“It’s every reason,” Arthur snarled. “I never could get published, you know. Never could make it or get anyone interested. But with that book…someone else’s name, the skeleton of their plot…”

The secluded beach at Phak Trang was often the star of such expat stories, catering to tourists and thrill-seekers who craved an escape from the commercialized beaches that littered the South China Sea for something pure and undisturbed. Phak Trang was said to be the best-kept secret in the province, a sheltered cove with beautiful gypsum sands, calm waters near the beach, and surfable waves further out. It was a modest hike from the nearest access road, but cabbies in the various resort towns were always ready to arrange dropoffs and pickups, though none of the local guides would go there, forcing seekers to rely on hand-drawn maps circulated by expats.

Many people who had been swore by the place, but it also had a tragic air: swimmers and surfers who went to Phak Trang had a tendency to disappear. Certainly, the deaths–noted as hashmarks on a crude sign near the beach–lent an aura of danger to the place. The US Consulate in Surat Thani held that these accidents–which had accounted for 8 citizens 1960-2010–were due to treacherous features of geography, like the cove’s fierce riptide, and the occasional local banditry.

Ask a local cabbie, though, and a different story would emerge. Not shy about sharing it, with paying fares at least, they maintained that Phak Trang was a point at which spirits could enter the world of the living when the tides were right. People who vanished might sometimes have been killed by the riptide, the cabbies conceded, but more often they were abducted by vengeful spirits or fell through the pale into an otherworld beyond imagining.

Ever mindful of the story, told early and often, of her parents meeting in an ENGL 250 class, Susie had attempted to duplicate that magic in her own relationships. And, in the three subsequent years of frustration and heartbreak, she had noticed a few strange trends.

Like blueberries. Three of the last four men she’d dated had been fierce blueberry fans to the point of all but ordering them on pizza. Then there was the strange case of band–it seemed like every one of them was a current or former band member. And not “band” in the sense of “rock band” either, but full-on brass bands in high school, college, or beyond.

There was Chaz, for instance, a trumpet player for the Marching Emus, who was always sucking on a blueberry Dum-Dum. He’d left Susie for an old flame, sending a “Dear Joan” via text message. Then there was Gus, former clarinet section leader in high school and fierce patron of the blueberry muffins at Schneider’s Bakery. He’d decided that Pin Chakrabongse, the Thai girl in the textile arts program and a regular patron of the Intercultural Beauty Pageant held every summer, was a better match despite her loose command of English.

It got to the point where, when a potential suitor ordered blueberry pancakes at IHOP or began fingering along with the college fight song, Susie would, with weary resignation, begin looking for a way out.