Monthly Archives: April 2019

Florida Man, Chapter 2, Mike Baron

FLORIDA MAN CHAPTER TWO “Rabid”

Gary woke. He was lying on damp earth that smelled like urine. A metallic green beetle marched by with a leaf. He watched a cockroach scurry up one of his cinder block risers. He’d sprayed the bricks with the most virulent of Floyd’s toxins, but rain had washed it away and the roaches filed to and fro like Rome’s legions. He saw a bottle cap for Dixie beer, and beyond that, a fat rectangle covered with mud.

His phone.

Slowly, Gary sat up, head throbbing like an unmuffled Harley panhead. He put a hand to his scalp and it came away smeared with dried blood, where he’d hit the deck. A low moan escaped his lips. He was thirsty enough to drink swamp water. Shoving the phone in his pocket, he crawled out from under the deck. The sun was up, slanting in over the mangrove and striking the face of his home. Shakily, Gary got to his feet and used the handrail to drag him the four steps up to his deck where Floyd slumped on his nylon chair snoring with metronomic precision.

Kkkkkkkkkkk…GRONK

Kkkkkkkkkkk…GRONK

Kkkkkkkkkkk…GRONK

Gary went in through the screen door straight to the kitchen, filled an empty Big Gulp from the 7/11 with tepid brown water from the tap and glugged it down, Adam’s apple oscillating. He refilled it and drained it again. Then he had to piss.

Remembering the snake, he went back out on the deck. It was too early for the snake. This time he was more careful and successfully relieved himself with no further damage. Leaning on the rail he returned to his pale green chair and sat back with a scrape and a bump. He pulled out his phone and saw that he had two calls. The latest, at nine-thirty last night, was from Krystal ’s mother Trixie.

“Gary, dear, I’m so sorry to bother you, but Krystal ’s in the Glades County Jail. She’s been there all day. She’s been trying to reach you. She needs seven fifty dollars bail. Apparently, they’ve charged her with indecent exposure. Something about a Waffle Hut. Please call me, Gary. I’m so worried.”

The second, older call was from Krystal and must have been her one call from jail.

“Gary, baby…” She burped. “I’m in Glades County on a bullshit charge! I never hurt that fucker! He put his hands on me, and I was naked, baby…anyway, please come down here and get me out. Please! It stinks down here and I have to pee in front of all these other women, and some gross guard who comes back here just to stare…”

“That’s enough,” said a male voice, and the call ended.

Gary groaned and shut the phone. “Fuck.”

Floyd snorked.

“FUCK!” Gary said.

Floyd twitched. Gary reached out with one long leg and shoved the chaise lounge on its side, spilling Floyd on the deck, his mason jar spilling an ounce of shine on the pine, attracting thirsty palmetto bugs.

“What the fuck?”

“Wake up. It’s ten the fuck o’clock.”
“So what? What’s going on?”

“Krystal ’s in jail. I gotta bail her out.”

Floyd sat up, legs splayed, leaned forward, reached inside his coveralls and scratched his nuts. “I have got a king hell motherfucker of a headache. Any shine left?”

“If there is, it’s in the kitchen. Don’t go in the bathroom.”

“Why not?”

“Snake in the toilet.”

“Fuck. I’ve gotta take a dump. You got a bucket?”

“Man up! Just squat and shit!”

“Easy for you to say, but I’m wearing these coveralls.”

Gary raised his left hand and gave Floyd the finger. “There might be a bucket under the sink.”

Floyd pulled himself to his feet and shuffled inside, letting the screen door slam shut behind him. The report bounced around Gary’s skull like a BB. He squeezed his temples with the heels of his hands. Hoisting himself up off the armrests, Gary stumbled through the living room into the kitchen. He could hear Floyd grunting in the back, toward the swamp. Gary filled a Mason jar with tepid brown water, drained it, did it again.

Problem. The ibuprofen was in the bathroom.

Gary went into his bedroom, already too hot with the shades drawn, opened the drawer in his press board nightstand, burrowed through Anal Antics and Guns & Ammo until his hand closed on his
Taurus .38 special. He checked the cylinder. Fully loaded.

Problem. If he shot the porcelain toilet, it would flood the trailer.

Well fuck. These things were never simple. Jamming the pistol in his belt, he returned to the kitchen, took a broom from the closet, and used it to open the bathroom door. He peered in. If the snake were there, it was lurking below the rim, waiting like a Chinese sub. Gary used the broom handle to bring down the lid, ran in and put the wastebasket on top. He opened the mirrored medicine cabinet, grabbed the ibuprofen and closed it.

Who was that squinty fucker staring at him? His hair looked like Jan Michael Vincent’s. He splashed tepid water in his face and used a comb to smooth back his long brown hair. Gary put a hand on the crown of his head. He could feel himself going bald like his old man. He was only forty.

Wait a minute. Hadn’t he been wearing his Stars ‘n Bars? It must have fallen off when he fell. Returning to the kitchen he slammed down four Ibuprofen and went out on the deck. He heard the distant sound of traffic from the Dixie Highway, the honk of birds out in the swamp. Floyd shuffled around from the back and came up on the deck.

“Did you rinse out that bucket?” Gary said.

“Of course. You think I’m some kind of animal?”
“You got seven fifty I can borrow?”
Floyd looked at him as if he were a palmetto bug.

“Fuck. Omina have to sell one of my cards.”

“Aw mannnnn,” Floyd said.

“You gonna come with me?”

Floyd scratched his left armpit. He reminded Gary of a bear. “Fuck else I got to do?”

Gary went back to his bedroom, slid open the accordion closet door, and retrieved one of several three-ring binders holding sports cards. He sat on his bed and flipped through the pages, stopping when he came to his 1987 Topps Barry Bonds Pittsburgh Pirates #320. He pulled out his phone and went online. Fuck yeah. A cool two thou. He didn’t have time to put up on eBay. He’d just have to get what he could from Billy Bob. He removed the card from its plastic sleeve and inserted it in an individual plastic sleeve.

Floyd was smoking a doobie when Gary came out. Gary held out his hand. Floyd passed him the doobie and Gary inhaled, feeling purple paisleys fill his skull.

“You ready?”

“Let’s do it.”

A rabid raccoon hissed at them from the front yard. It stood on its hind legs, jaws open dripping saliva, between the house and Gary’s twelve-year-old F-150.

The boys froze.

“Fuck,” Floyd said. “That’s a rabid raccoon.”

Gary drew the pistol. “Well hang on. Just hang on.”

Resting his arms on the wood rail, Gary gripped the gun in both hands and sighted over the top.

The raccoon hissed.

Gary squeezed the trigger, a puff of dirt appeared next to the raccoon, and the left front tire of his truck whistled as it slowly flattened out.

Floyd leaned on the rail. “Don’t you got a shotgun? What happened to that sweet little Judge you had?”

“I sold it.”

Floyd held out his hand. “Well give me that thing.”

Gary handed him the pistol. Floyd went down two steps and sat on the top level, taking careful aim. The raccoon charged, spraying spittle.

“Shoot it! Shoot it!” Gary said.

Floyd squeezed off three shots, the last one drilling the rabid ‘coon through its thorax, sending it tumbling.

“Well fuck,” Gary said. “We’d better take your van.”

“You got a shovel? We’d better bury that fucker.”

Gary went around to the Suncast resin outdoor storage shed he’d bought at Lowe’s and took out a garden spade and a pair of leather gloves. Putting on the gloves, he used the shovel to carry the raccoon a hundred feet from the house, onto a slight hummock among the mangrove. By the time he’d dug a hole big enough, his clothes were damp from the wet. He thought about taking a shower, but time was of the essence, and that snake was probably waiting to throw back the toilet seat like a stripper coming out of a cake, leap into the shower, and sinks its fangs into Gary’s calf.

By the time they hit the road, it was half past eleven. Floyd stuck a Camel in his mouth and lit it, as he jockeyed the Van up the rutted string of puddles that was Gary’s driveway.

“Let’s get some breakfast on the way.”

Florida Man, Chapter 1, Mike Baron

FLORIDA 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?”

“Dubious.”

“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.”

“Yeah, okay.”

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.

Right.

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.

What your story’s about by Mike Baron

LESSON ONE

When people ask what your story’s about, you have to be ready. You can’t hem and haw about orcs and trolls. You’ve got to hit them between the eyes with a concise and enticing description.

FLORIDA MAN: Gary Duba’s having a bad day. There’s a snake in his toilet, a rabid raccoon in the yard, and his girl Crystal’s in jail for getting naked at a Waffle House and licking the manager. With his best friend, Floyd, Gary sets out to sell his prized Barry Bonds rookie card to raise the five hundred needed for bail. But things get out of hand.

THE DREADFUL LEMON SKY: Around four in the morning, Travis McGee is jarred awake by a breathless ghost from his past: an old flame who needs a place to stash a package full of cash. What’s in it for McGee? Ten grand and no questions asked. Two weeks later, she’s dead.

HELMET HEAD: Nazi biker zombies.

MOBY DICK: Captain Ahab pursues a monomaniacal quest for revenge on Moby Dick, the white whale which severed his leg.