MAN “Nothing in the Fridge”
Gary Duba and his best friend Floyd Belmont sat on the deck of Gary’s deluxe double-wide, raised four feet above Florida on cinder blocks in case of flooding. Two hundred foot tractor chains stretched over the house like massive belts, anchored in concrete plugs in front and back, in case of hurricane. The night was hot and humid, with squadrons of mosquitoes dive bombing the deck, oblivious to the citronella candles, tiki torches, yellow wrist bands, and ample applications of Deet on both men’s fully tatted arms. Home-made mosquito traps hung like obscene fruit from Gary’s hand-made awning, stitched together from Harbor Freight tarps.
It was just past eleven, Little Big Town playing on WBCW, Florida Country Radio through the tinny speakers of an old Sony boom box Gary picked up at a garage sale. The boys had been drinking shine, smoking reefer, and snorting a little crushed oxy since nine, when Floyd had arrived in his eight-year-old Chevy van with Belmont Pest Control emblazoned on the side, along with its logo, a dead cockroach in a mint green oval.
A sign in front said, THIS PROPERTY PROTECTED BY SMITH AND WESSON.
Another sign said, TRESPASSERS WILL BE VIOLATED.
Floyd hawked and spat a loogie over the rail. “That fuckin’ bitch still owes me three thou for her boob job. Only reason she dated me, so I’d pay for her fuckin’ boob job.”
Floyd was five feet six, built like a fire hydrant, sideburns like a Civil War general, chest, shoulders and back covered with black fur like a bear. He wore bib overalls and no shirt.
“You gotta admit,” Gary said. “She’s got a nice rack.”
Gary sipped shine, causing his Adam’s apple to bob up and down like a bouncing ball. Tall, bony, with thick, knobby wrists, a brush mustache, and a full head of hair concealed beneath a Confederate cap, Gary was the picture of Southern manhood. He wore a sleeveless Lynyrd Skynyrd T-shirt showing off his tatted arms which included a skull with a dagger through it, a skull with a snake through it, a heart with the legend “Mom,” Johnny Cash, and barbed wire bracelets.
“My advice to you,” Gary said, “is not to worry about that skank. She gone. Be grateful she’s out of your life and didn’t give you the clap or something.”
Floyd lit a Camel. “I just wish I had that three thou. I could really use it.”
“Look at it this way. It’s worth three thou just to have her out of your life.”
“Now she’s dating some Cuban slickee boy from Coral Gables who says he can get her modeling work. My ass. Only modeling she does is on a pole with a G-string.”
“That’s what you get for dating a stripper.”
Floyd sucked a Dixie dry. “She told me she loved me!”
Gary barked. “You told her you wouldn’t come in her mouth!”
Floyd belched luxuriously and reached inside his coveralls to scratch his balls. “Got anything to eat?”
“If I order a pizza, will they deliver out here?”
“Depends on the driver. Good ol’ boys will. Them Indians and Iranians and all won’t come out here. Not even with the fuckin’ GPS guiding them. Say it’s not worth the trouble.”
Floyd blew a ring. “What trouble?”
“Fuck if I know. Lemme go look in the freezer. I might have some frozen catfish.”
Floyd bent forward, put a finger down his mouth and made a vomiting sound.
“Well I’ll look. I might have some tater tots or something.”
They sat there.
“Well?” Floyd said. “You goin’? I mean, I could do it, but you got shit in that fridge that looks like sea foam. Looks like something from Alien, y’know what I mean? I mean, you oughtta clear some of that shit outta there before it breaks free and kills you in your sleep.”
They sat there.”
“Well?” Floyd said. “Are you goin’ or not? ‘Cause I go in there, omma just start throwin’ shit out the window. We’ll let the raccoons eat it and see if it kills ‘em.”
Gary gripped both armrests of his home-made Adirondack and heaved himself to his feet, holding on to the banister while his head swam, waiting for things to focus. He shuffled through the tinny aluminum screen door, letting it bang shut behind him, and paused in his living room as if seeing it for the first time. A yellow and brown plaid sofa, listing at one end faced his flat screen television, resting on a worn wood kitchen table. He’d snagged both the sofa and the table from Goodwill for eight-five bucks. One wall was decorated with a Dolphins pennant, the Gators, a framed poster of Dale Earnhardt Jr. A shelf made from cinder blocks and wood planks held his bowling trophies, DVDs and CDs and a stack of American Angler, Sport Fishing, Outdoor Life, Field & Stream, Big Black Ass, Monster Titty, and Monster Truck.
He hovered for a moment wondering why he was there. His gaze fell on the yellow refrigerator.
He went to the fridge, opened the main compartment and bathed in the cool air and light. Plastic containers of noodles, green chicken salad, and one lone yellow bacon strip. He shut the main and opened the freezer, trying to find meaning in the monolithic chunk filling most of the space like an iceberg. He jammed it with his hand, busting loose a package of Jimmy Dean’s Pork Sausage and Muffin Breakfasts which had lain there since Clinton was president.
He went through his mostly bare cupboards finding only a can of chicken broth and a box of croutons. Well fuck. Gary was hungry too. He wondered if he offered a big tip, if the Caesar’s in Turpentine, twenty miles away, would deliver.
He pulled out his wallet and filed through. He had seventeen dollars, barely enough to pay for a pizza and a tip. And then he was broke.
Gary worked as an off the books roofer for Big John Schermerhorn, but he hadn’t worked in two weeks and soon he’d have to pay mortgage, four hundred and twelve dollars, and utilities. Gary did not plan to remain a roofer forever. No sir. He had a dream. His dream was anchored in reality.
His dream was anchored in four concrete plugs sunk into the earth, in the front and back. Gary had invented a system to prevent houses from being blown away in harsh weather. House suspenders. Massive cables running over the roof, keeping the house pinned down, like a seatbelt.
He was just waiting for a big blow so he could take his results to the authorities and get the ball rolling. Gary figured he needed a hundred thou to get started. All he needed was an opportunity.
Uncertain how to break the news to Floyd, for whom he sometimes worked ridding the earth of vermin, Gary realized he had to piss. Steadying himself against the wall, he went down the short corridor to his bathroom and switched on the light.
A snake stared at him from the toilet, head upright and tracking like a periscope.
Gary blinked. It might be a bull snake. It might be a rat snake. Or it might be a poisonous water moccasin. He couldn’t tell in the dim light. In any case, he had no intention of wrangling the snake just so he could take a piss in his own house, so he turned off the light, shut the door, and went back outside.
“I got nothin’. Why don’t you pay for the fuckin’ pizza?”
Floyd pissed and moaned and dug out his fat Harley wallet, connected to his bib overall by a chain and clamp. “Awright. I got enough. You call ‘em. I left my phone in the truck.”
Gary dug in his pocket. “Fuck,” he said. “I musta dropped it. Hang on.”
“Where you goin’?” Floyd said.
“Take a piss off the back deck.”
“Whyn’tcha piss in the toilet?”
“There’s a snake in the toilet.”
“You want me to get my magnum and shoot it?”
Gary turned the corner and stood at the end of his wrap-around deck, which he’d built with Floyd’s help. The rail covered three sides. Here, on the fourth side, an end piece facing the swamp, he was free to piss as the good Lord intended.
Gary hung ten at the edge, unzipped his fly and sent a golden arc into the sand, seeing phosphorescence coalescing along his dock, stars intermittently reflected in the open water of Fortier’s Landing, heard the chorus of frogs, the heron calls, and as he adjusted to zip, slipped. His feet shot out from under him and his head hit the edge of the deck like a melon on concrete.