Meanwhile, Back at the Bait Shop

I took the daily excursion to the bridge this morning.  On the way I saw all the regular joggers and walkers and waived appropriately.  Nobody gave me the finger.  Things are looking up.

Then I took a ride to the bait shop to get my daily supplies.  It wasn’t all bait.  It was still early but I enjoyed a black coffee as almost all of the regular members of the 5 pm MENSA members began showing up.  Was only odd in the AMOUNT of people showing up.  Apparently everyone had had a rollicking rolling night.  Nobody had any interest in going to work.  Everyone had last night in their demeanor and their faces.  One of them went inside and bought an orange juice.  He came back out and poured a nip of vodka into it.  Nope, he ain’t goin’ to work.

They’re all contractors and get 20% up front for their work.  Then there’s a party, sub-parties, multi-parties, hangovers and blackouts.  These guys are electricians, painters, carpenters and HVAC experts.  They’ll be back to work in a day or two.  Depending on how many complaints they get on the phone.  Another guy goes in to purchase an OJ.  As its yard waste day I skedaddle on home to put my trash cans out.  I’m positive I’ll see all the guys again at five.  Having accomplished absolutely nothing.  I got my trash out without the help of orange juice.  I’m a Key West success story!

After farting around a bit I call up my friend Flo.  Something you never do before eleven in the morning.  She’s an editor and works all night on manuscripts via her computer.  Hard working gal and a damn good friend.  Three hours later we’re down to Jack Flat’s sharing a huge hamburger and fries.  Flo is moving north soon to find more adventures.  I wish her luck.  We finish our meal and wander around for a while looking at all the imported weirdos.  Its a week before Fantasy Fest and the oddballs with lots of money are showing up early.  Lots of giggles.

Eventually Flo and I show up at the Green Parrot and take our window seat.  The corner of Southard and Whitehead has plenty of interesting, odd, and fascinating things to look at in the way of people.  And events.  A group of obvious bikers come in with “The In-Laws” stitched on the back of their leather vests.  I barely get to the bathroom to relieve my laughing colon.

Flo and I shoot the breeze in our easy way while watching these wannabe badasses go about their thing.  They’re just a bunch of middle aged guys looking for some adventure.  And adventure they found!

Out of the blue another group of biker badasses show up and what they had stitched on their vests was NOT “In-Laws”.  As a matter of act they took some umbrage.  To make a short story even shorter lets just say there were some black eyes involved.  Flo and I moved across the street to the deli and sat on the bench there.  Hell, we bought a couple of nutty buddies and had a grand old time watching the fight.  Then we headed off to south Duval to get a glass of wine where all the screeching parrots sit in  a cage and irritate the freaking bejesus out of ya.  After a while some guys showed up with black eyes.  My colon couldn’t take it.  We split for Flo’s second story porch.  We hooked up our computers and shared some wine.  We yelled greetings to the people on the street below.

Next week about ten thousand rowdy, near naked nuts are gonna show up.  Flo and I are committed to parade night only.  Who doesn’t like a parade?  Then we’ll return to her porch and yell greetings to all the revelers below.  Its nut time in nutsville!  This is how things go.

So many damn nuts!  The next morning I get to the bridge and I tell the Cuban with the full baby diaper that I ain’t gonna put up with his shit.  He has issues with me.  He can throw his damn baby diaper wherever the hell he pleases.  Then my old friend formerly of the Cleveland Browns shows up.  Happy to report that this particular Cuban could swim.  Sadly a truckload of Anglo adolescents show up breaking beer bottles and lighting firecrackers.  Being an ass is not specific to any one culture.  Glad to say they could also swim…to a degree.  Then me and my buddy talk about the Patriot’s game this past Sunday.  He played for Belichick in Cleveland.  We threw the baby diaper on the swimmers.  Seemed just.  They were told to not come out of the water without it.  A good day at the bridge.

Flo is leaving the keys.  Not sure how to handle this.  You don’t find a friend like this very often.  Not to mention I no longer have an overnight night spot on the porch sofa.  That’s just how it goes.

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Joe Tells me I’m Gonzo

Joe Beans had just became the mayor of Key West with a 2,000 vote plurality.  He was also drunk out of his brain.

At the time I didn’t know that he had just abdicated and given the mayoralship to his female adversary.  He met me at the Tiki Bar on Lower Sugarloaf.  Apparently he took the bus after calling me in the morning.  As he was already tanked we had Bloody Marys.  As it was Sunday the bartender, a very upstanding gay guy,  dressed up in his Sunday sarong,  poured the best drinks you can have.  Then Joe lit into me.

“Why can’t you be a fly on the wall kinda guy and report shit as you see it rather than being part of it?”

“And congrats to you, asshole, for being elected mayor.”

I thought he might take a swing.  But the old and engaging forever friends found ways to avoid this.  We hoped anyway.

“I don’t understand you”, he said.  “See a visual of the moon then paint it”!

“I see the moon and I howl”.  Things cooled down.

 

After a few bloodys we we took the bus back to Key West and got a seat in the outside corner of the Parrot.  We had big draft beers.  Joe told me of his fears of being an elected official and all the responsibility.  I told him he was no Captain Tony.  Captain Tony was one of our former mayors and owned an historical bar down on Greene Street.  Like Joe he wouldn’t shy away from a drink.  Then we observed a tragedy.

Coming down Southard was a guy on a bicycle going a bit too fast.  The guy in the box truck going north on Whitehead never saw him.  When I got outside there was nothing any of my CPR was going to help.  Joe and I had seen plenty of this in a foreign land back in the 60s.  The ambulance was there in two minutes.  There was nothing to be done.  After some police questions Joe and I split for the Schooner Wharf.  It was a long quiet walk.  We were both counting our losses in the Ia Drang!  I knew how this would affect Joe.  He had quite the assortment of drinks.  Politicians and well wishers came out of nowhere to buy him cocktails.  He eventually told them all that he was not going to be their mayor.  No one was surprised.  Even those that voted for him.

I decided to split thinking that a few hours on Flo’s porch would do me good.  I said my goodbyes but before I left Joe yelled out, “quit trying to be Hunter Thompson”!  Since I never thought of putting a gun to my head I ignored him.  Boy, I’ve got some asshole friends!  That I love thoroughly.

At Flo’s, after a serious walk, she popped a bottle of Pinot Noir and heated up some meatballs from Fausto’s market.  She lit a doobie.  I helped her with that.  We talked about all things big and small.  I pulled my laptop from her storage area (the sofa) and started writing things where I was in the mix.  Pretty Gonzo.  Wondered for a while if that made me a bad guy.  After some time I didn’t give a shit anymore.

Sometime around dusk a rooster crossed the street below with some cats hiding in the shrubs.  From our second story perch we watched all the activities.  A cat should never mess with a fully grown rooster!  The memory of the bicyclist and the truck began to overwhelm me.  The carnage with the rooster and the cats had some equal reality.  Flo came out with a new serving of meatballs and said nonchalantly that she had run into Max a few days back.

Well now.  I buried Max six months ago.  The chicken picked an eyeball out of one of the cats.  Quite a noise.  All the neighbors came out to watch and listen to the scene.  Joe was drunk at the bar.  He gave up his political office.  We watched a guy get killed outside the Parrot.  Someone had seen Max alive.  Roosters were ruling the roost!

Best meatballs I’ve ever had!

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Mayoral Run

Joe Beans called from Key West and asked me to return for his mayoral run.  I said no thanks.   I’m up to my ears in bluegrass festivals and seeing old friends from 35 years.  Besides, I’m 2,000 miles away.

New York in the Catskills is nothing like Key West.  Just as hot but without the mosquitoes.  And who the hell cares about whose running for mayor?  Actually, I care a lot.  Joe and Max and I served in a special unit in the Ia Drang Valley back in ’67.  We didn’t do nice things.  But we did what we were told.  As a result all three of us are damaged goods.  Damaged goods usually get into politics.  Its the way of the world.

Our heavenly departed Max was a sniper and an assassin.  Joe and I held lower logistical posts.  Probably better not to get into this.  Its all re-hash anyway.  One day we found that at some points in life we would all be in Key West at the same time.  We took advantage of that.  Had a lot of brews at the Green Parrot, did a lot of fishing.  Joe had uncountable money and helped every homeless bum he ever met.  Spent some time homeless himself.

Over the years he created great friendships among the locals.  Now, in sobriety, his neighbors think he would be a great mayor.  But there was always the chance he might fall off the wagon.  Its Key West.  What the hell!

I can’t return right away because I’m in the Catskills playing bluegrass music on an out of tune guitar.  Nobody notices.  Nobody knows but me.  The mayoral race runs on.  Joe is leading the polls.  If you had ever met the other seven candidates you wouldn’t even wonder why.  When a man has charisma it just sparkles like a set of blinking Christmas tree lights.  Joe is the twelve days of Christmas!  I just wish Max was still alive.  Nothing like having an assassin on your electoral team!

I’m heading off to Newport.  Not because I have money but because I got a great deal.  All I have to do is feed a dog everyday and vacuum up his discarded hair.  I sneeze a lot.  Apropos to the dog.  Joe has promised me a position on the Key West Parking Authority.  After what those pricks did to me I think I’ll take him up on it.  I’m gonna clean up this town.  “Atchoo”!  When I get back there.

I’m worried that the hurricane season has started.  We had a bad time last year.  Before Max passed he made sure that every social service in the federal and state governments got food and water down to us.  He had power.  He made salad out of a shit bowl.  So.

So, I may leave these mountains early to help my friend become the mayor of Key West.  No one deserves it more.  The drive down is gonna suck.  The hurricane season is gonna scare me.  The drive is gonna scare me.  Ever drive 2,000 miles with a spastic colon?  Even worse when the plumbing goes out.  Hey, its life.

The main thing is that I hope Joe becomes the mayor of Key West and I get to head the Parking Commission.

Then, once a week, a few beers down to the Parrot.  And watch all the weirdos walk by outside the glassless windows.  Its not a bad deal.  After September.

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Donnie Donut

I played high school football with Donnie in the early seventies.  He was a huge kid.  Played right tackle.  He wasn’t able to sack many nimble quarterbacks but if you were a running back and came his way you got smacked something awful.  I can remember at least three stretcher cases.  All of these caused great cheers from the stands.  He was a gladiator in the Coliseum.

At the high school graduation party in some farmer’s field everyone felt like they were entitled to be adult drunks.  This included Donnie.  I saw him with a beer and a donut.  The chicks weren’t too interested in him.  The rest of us were trying to undo that virginity thing.  With varying success.  Donnie chugged beers and ate donuts and told some pretty ribald jokes.  Its always great that if you can’t get laid you get a stand up comedian.

Donnie liked jelly donuts, cream filled donuts and glazed donuts.  If they had bacon filled donuts he would certainly have eaten them.  He kept the local Krispy Kreme in business.

He became a computer programmer.  He invented many of the games that your kids play all day.  Kids that probably should be out in the yard running around and causing mischief.  Kids that decided to play computer games and eat donuts chased by a Coca-
Cola.

Ever expanding Donnie worked his way up in the ranks of the computer for play industry.  He didn’t have many friends.  Lets just face it.  Donnie was one fat overfed pig.  We all thought it and sometimes snickered behind his back.  He kept at it though.  He didn’t have much of a private life but he gave of his time to local elementary schools to show kids the magic of the computer.

The kids would giggle and tell jokes about the big fatty up in front of the room.  His business suit looked like a mu-mu.  That’s how fat he had gotten.  Still, he carried on.  And, then one day.

One day in an elementary school in Connecticut some weird wired guy came into a hallway and started shooting with an automatic weapon.  Shot teachers, kids, posters on the wall.  Everyone with a cell phone called 911.  Lots of calls.  Police were there within three minutes.  It was obvious there had been lots of carnage.  The question was how to deal with this impossible situation.

All the classrooms had been locked down but this did little good.  It was blood upon blood.  Donnie, understanding the situation during his speaking engagement,  assumed the entire situation.  He knew there were cops outside the entrance of the school but were cautious as to how to handle the situation.  Something needed to be done.  He called 911 and told the operator what he was going to do.  And, no, there was no choice.  The 911 operator contacted the police and told them what was about to happen.

Inside of three minutes Donnie Donut stepped out of his classroom and came face to face with the shooter.  The inevitable happened.  He caught three full metal jackets to the chest and face.  The police at the door saw their advantage and took out the shooter.  The place looked like Iwo Jima or maybe Hue.  Blood.  Dead children.  Nothing a mother would ever want to see.

Donnie Donut was a true American hero.  To think back about the times I made fun of him makes me cringe.  There’s almost no way I would have had the balls to do what he did.  Heroes come in all shapes and sizes.  What counts in the end is the size of your heart.

Some days at the bridge I think back on Donnie.  I get all teared up.  If some hap hazard asswipe stops to ask me if I’ve caught anything I kick in his car door and shout out expletives!  So, so wrong.  But I didn’t shoot anybody!  What kind of jerk calls somebody Donnie Donut?  The hurtful answer is ME!

Me.

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Chased by Demons

I was sitting on someone’s porch at ground level doing a whole lot of nothing.

Around the house and front yard was a cement and plaster wall about four foot high.  There were various flowering plants and shrubs adjacent to it.  I took a little stroll to inspect the wall and kind of eyeball the neighborhood.  It was a typical neighborhood that borders on the edge of cities not quite reaching the status of suburbia.  Mostly early 1900s construction.  Some wood, some brick.  When I looked over to the west end of the wall there was a 300 pound gorilla gaping at me and making grunting noises.  I almost lost control of my sphincter.  But I ran like hell back to that screened in porch.  The gorilla jumped off the wall and came after me.  He stopped at the front steps.

I pulled various metal objects off the wall and started banging them together.  It was enough to scare him off and he scampered back over the wall.  I heard dogs barking all down the street.  I tried to call 911 but my cell battery was dead.  How in the hell did this incident come about?  Didn’t have much time to think about that.

On the wall directly out front sat a huge African lion.  He was licking his lips.  This was going to be a bad day!  Then he was gone.  I’m at the age where my heart doesn’t need to be beating that rapidly.  I sat down.  What in the world was happening?  There weren’t any zoos around for wild animals to escape from.  Why weren’t the neighbors screaming in fright? The dogs kept barking.  At least some of them did.  I found that the front door to the house had somehow gotten locked.  I was in a world of shit!

My nerves were beyond being on edge.  Then the lion returned to the top of the wall.  He had a small dog in his mouth.  The kind people call lap dogs.  I call them YAP dogs.  Very methodically the lion tore the pup apart and consumed it entirely including the skeletal remains.  This took a short while and when he had finished he plopped down on his stomach and turned and smiled at me.  Looked like a sarcastic smile.  Then the gorilla came back and chased him off.  Lucky me.  He sat on the wall and gave me the same shit eating grin.

Well, this doesn’t happen everyday.  My lower back began aching terribly so I took my med bottle out of my pocket and swallowed two oxycodone.  Without the help of a glass of water.  The gorilla grunted at me.  I needed a plan and I needed it now!  Just then the lion came back and the two got into a barroom brawl.  This went on for a good twenty minutes.  At least my back began to feel better.  Actually I started to feel happy.  Felt weird being happy while two wild animals tried to tear each other apart.  And that in a residential neighborhood in…God where in the hell was I?  I went numb and I fell asleep.

When I came to I was in the man cave sitting in the leather rocker I had liberated from Bahama Village some years back.  Something was going on around my feet.  When I looked down I saw my neighbor’s Jack Russell terrier chewing on a dead iguana.  Apparently he brought it to me as a trophy.  There was no gorilla and certainly no lion.  What was going on?  Didn’t have much time to think about that as the back pain kicked in again.  I got up and left the dog to his kill.  I was feeling a little dizzy.  I reached into my pants pocket for my oxycodone.

Then it occurred to me that the meds had caused all this rigamarole.  I went down to the canal to toss them in the water but just in time I remembered a news story about how passed medications went through the sewer systems and ended up in our rivers and lakes.  I tossed them in the trash and took two Advil.  Boy, talk about bad dreams!

Cooper, the Jack Russell began barking at another iguana in the mangroves.  Yap, yap, yap.  On and on it went.  What a relentless racket!  Where was a Goddam lion when you actually needed one?

Or a gorilla for that matter.

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His Honor

After a very short campaign Joe Beans became mayor of Key West.  He took 80 percent of the vote.

This after losing his good friend Max to cancer the week previous.  With all this going on in his head its a miracle that Joe didn’t go out on a bender.  He was prone to do so.  Everyone expected it.  But he reigned in his horses and went down the straight and narrow.  He went out to a nameless beach one night and had a beer, just one, in Max’ honor.  Then he shed a tear.  Wasn’t fair what Viet Nam had done to Joe and Max.  Then he looked into the sky and told his almighty maker what he thought of him.  There was no thunder.  There was no lightning.  There were…stars!

Not many people know that Joe is a millionaire.  A lot of them know that he used to be a bum.  The worst kind.  A few know that he gave freely to those in dire need.  He would also kick your ass if you preyed on him.  And he had a couple of friends who would assist in that endeavor.  That happened many many times.  Its so sad because Joe would hand out a fiver or a twenty to someone he thought was in need of emergency funds.

So, anyway, Joe’s the mayor.  In his first council meeting he set up a vote to let all the bums off the hook concerning offenses committed in Key West up until the present.  He would pay their fines.  He couldn’t do anything about county charges as that was out of his jurisdiction.  He won on a seven/zero vote.  As logic would have it there were no bums in attendance at city hall that night.  Go figure.  Then he began to manage Key West.

After a full day at the office he called me to come over.  Why not?  He gave me a shot of tequila and a cold beer.  I had a few more cold ones but he began sipping orange juice.  Smart mayor.  He told me all the stuff he’d like to do and the city councilors who would get in his way.  There were liberals and radicals and right wing extremists.  He was at a crossroads.  He left me with a full wallet and rode off on his bicycle to Higgs Beach.  I went home to the bridge.  Just to think.

Joe Beans met about twenty bums that day.  He didn’t call them that.  He called them “homeless”.  He gave each one he met a fifty dollar bill and a pre-paid bus ticket to Miami.  When they got there they would find a $300 money order available at the central post office in their name.  Cashable at Joe Bean’s personal bank.  Nobody showed up in Miami although all the money orders were cashed at various pawn shops in Key West.  Can’t win them all.

So far Joe has had a few laws changed.  You can’t ride a moped with a cigarette in one hand and a frozen margarita in the other.  Can’t wear a banana boat.  Nope, nope, ain’t happening.  You can’t attend Fantasy Fest with anyone under 12 years old.  That’s just friggin’ logical.  You should be 21!  Telephone poles now have a audio devices that tells you to get off your phone or you’ll break your nose.  Nobody enforces that one.  Funny to watch though!

Joe and I went down to Smather’s Beach one night to watch the tide come in.  We both discussed our old friend Agnes.  She died one night just below where our feet are with the same ring around the moon.  We discussed politics and Max.  At the end of our reverie we said goodbye to Max.  We went our separate ways.

 

 

 

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Confessions of a CIA Hit Man

These days, towards the end of my life, I hang out in Key West a lot.  I like to fish.  I like a tankard of beer on Sundays.  I hang out on occasion with Jack and Joe Beans.  I get something akin to peace.

Although I’m sometimes called Max my given name is of Sicilian heritage.  Let me just say there was some violence in my life.  I made judgments like I was God!  When I made the decision to leave Queens, New York I was immediately recruited by a government entity.  They said my slate would be wiped clean.  I had a bull’s eye on my back anyway.  I accepted.  I got an appointment with the best plastic surgeon in Belgium.  My mother wouldn’t know me.  Then I went out and did what was asked of me.  I was well paid.

Now that the cancer has enveloped my body I feel I can say things.  Put them down in print.  Nobody is going to come after me.  Nobody knows who I am.  Even my employers can’t find me due to the subterfuge they have created for me.   They still send me cash but I pick that up in accounts created in states up north.  I rarely pick that stuff anymore.  I’ve invested well.  I’m Sicilian.  I was taught in a tight knot.

Jack, Joe and I served in the army in the 1960s.  Mostly in the Ia Drang Valley.  Hell on earth.  The things we did.  The things done to us.  Unspeakable.  Joe became an infamous drunk.  Jack wakes up in the middle of the night and writes his memoirs.  I kill people.  We still get along.  I accept my friends and their inabilities.  On the other hand they don’t ask questions.  Every once in a while we load up a ton of beer, rent a boat, and go fishing.  Three older guys at the ends of their ropes enjoying a day under the sun.

When I get my governmental instructions I do what is requested of me.  These are bad guys.  I have no qualms.  I did some stuff for Castellano, Gotti, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon.  Early on I was asked to do something for Eisenhower.  The guy had so much integrity I had to back out.  He sent me a note once thanking me for my decision.  That note burned up in front of my eyes right after I read it.  James Bond wasn’t even invented yet.  I took a small part of that integrity and went out on my own.  Myself and my two pals went after child molesters.  I don’t know if God was with us but we did what we thought was right and just.

Today we got together and went out fishing on a rented boat.  Beers and fishing poles.  Caught some red snapper and some black grouper.  Took it back to Jack’s place and had a barbecue.  Just a bunch of regular guys having a good day on the water.  The girl across the canal paraded around in her bikini.  We took notice but we minded our manners.  Sunshine, beer, fish and a half naked girl to look at.  BUT, we are gentlemen!  I’m not sure if it was our mothers or the government.  Somewhere we got some manners.  That in itself doesn’t make us special.  It does make us feel better about ourselves and the things we have to do.

Soon, I understand, that Joe Beans will become the mayor of Key West.  He’s unbeatable.. Heart of gold.  The guy will help anyone who is on the low side of existence.  Half the bums on the island owe him a debt.  He doesn’t care.  Honey badgers don’t care.  I can’t say much about the things we did together officially.  Its a badge we wear.  Its a badge nobody wants.  He’ll make a good mayor because he knows more about life than death will ever clue you in.  He’d get my vote but I cannot possibly register to do so.  I’m invisible.

Last year I shot a guy in the knees and then shot one of his toes off.  He was a drunken molester.  Didn’t bother me a bit.  Unfortunately within a few months he went back to his old habits.  I found him in the upper keys.  I had it in my mind what I was going to do.  He was living under a bridge and he was in the company of a very young girl.  It was plain and simple.  This wouldn’t bother me.  But a shot rang our behind me!  The bad guy had a bullet shot in his forehead.  When I turned to meet the shooter I found the sheriff behind me holstering his gun.  He told me to grab the legs and I did.  We tossed the carcass into the channel under the bridge.  Too bad about the bull sharks looking for some dinner.  That’s the way it goes.  We drove the young girl all night up to Atlanta and put her in a psychiatric center.  The sheriff and I parted ways at the airport.  I hope that we did some good.  That’s the way my life has gone.

I don’t know how my next biopsy will go.  I already have the foregone conclusion.  Six months?  Two years?    The obvious dichotomy of what I do.  Next week I have to be at the Naval Air Station in Key West and get on one of those big jets that have no markings.  I’ll create a bank account in Atlanta for someone who’ll need it.  And then.

And then I’m going to help Joe Beans be the mayor of Key West.  This is a true man of character.  He will win in a landslide.  Everyone knows this.  I don’t have any intention of telling anyone what he has done with me.  Whatever it was he did with honor.  We’ll go over to Jack’s for a cookout.  Jack will probably be writing some hack story.  Can’t fix stupid!

OBITUARY:

Yesterday Joey Melucci passed into eternity.  He will be missed by his family and local friends that we are not at liberty to reference.  Rest in peace.

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