Florida Man, Catfish Calling

BLOGUE

My third Florida Man novel, Catfish Calling, will be published on April
21. Here is a somber chapter.

CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR “KRAKOW!”

Floyd called on the way home. “Sorry I missed it, man. I had an emergency job in Clewiston. Rats the size of bulldogs. I hadda club ’em to death.”

“Didja get ’em all?”

“No. I had to lay down some peppermint, castor, and citronella.”

“Yeah, we’re headin’ for the swamp. Swing on by! I’m grilling ribs.”

“Can I bring Ginger?”

“Sure. Grab some beer, willya?”
Gary and Krystal rode in the Love Bug. Delilah followed in her Jeep. As they passed the Wokenoki Trailer Park on Weldon Way, a Burmese python stretched across the narrow dirt road, both ends hidden in the brush. Gary down-shifted, coaxing the forty-year-old VW to heretofore unimagined ferocity. Krystal grabbed his arm.

“What are you doing?”

“Omma kill the sumbitch!”

“Why?”

BDOMP. The VW went airborne and came down on the left front tire. KRAKOW! The wheel collapsed into the fender. KAWHANGO. The Love Bug jittered across the road into the ditch. FWANG. The Love Bug came to rest on its side.

Gary lay there a sec, until he realized he was lying on Krystal. He raised himself up. “Krystal! Krystal baby! Are you all right?”

She opened her eyes, mouth twisted. “You fool! Why did you do that?”

“It just seemed like the right thing to do.”

“Get me out of here, you moron. Now you’ve wrecked Habib’s car.”

Delilah stopped behind them, got out, opened the door and offered Gary a hand. “Didn’t you see that python?”

“I saw it. I was gunnin’ for it. I shoulda known better than to try it in this piece of shit.”

Five Wokenoki residents wandered out clutching beers, smoking cigs. Gary waved his arm.

“We’re fine! Thank you for coming.”

A youth slow hoisted his middle finger. The crowd ambled back into the park. The VW was completely off the road, left tires in the air reminding Gary of a dead palmetto bug. Delilah lit a cigarette.

Delilah stood with hands on hips. “Broken bones?”

Krystal felt herself. Gary danced a little jig. “We’re good.”

“Get in the truck. Let’s go.”

Wokenoki disappeared behind them. The dirt road ran straight between jungle walls. A dark cylinder slithered across the road.

Gary reached over Krystal to nudge Delilah. “Look. There’s one! Gun it! Show that sumbitch whatfor!”

“You gotta be kidding me,” Delilah said. “Ain’t you learned nothin’?”

“Come on, Delilah! This here’s a goddamn Jeep! This ain’t no piece of shit tin foil hat from Germany! This baby tips the scales at two tons and has two trans axles! Are you gonna let these damned pythons push us around? These interlopers? Who invited them? Nobody! They come here to live fat at the expense of the American taxpayer. Come on, Delilah! You ain’t skeered, are ya?”

Delilah grimaced and grinned. “All right, baby. You asked for it.”

Krystal rolled her eyes and cinched her seat belt tight.

Delilah accelerated to seventy.

BDOMP. The Jeep went airborne and came down on the left front tire. KRAKOW! The wheel collapsed into the fender. KAWHANGO. The Jeep jittered across the road into the ditch. FWANG. The Jeep came to rest on its side. The airbags deployed, pushing Delilah, Krystal, and Gary back into their seats like an overbearing aunt. Gary found his pocket knife and shivved the airbags. Whoosh. The interior smelled of ozone and talcum powder.

They crawled out of the Jeep. Delilah curled her fingers. “Why? Why did you force me to do that?”

“Why?!” Krystal cried.

“Any broken bones?”

Krystal and Gary checked their limbs.

“Nah,” Gary said. “We’re good.”

Delilah went over to Krystal. “You okay?”

Krystal clutched her left shoulder. “My shoulder hurts like hell.”

“See if you can move your arm. Real gentle.”

Krystal tentatively circled her arm, grimacing at the top. “Ouch.”

“Shit,” Delilah muttered. “May have to work some juju, if you’re gonna beat Javelina.”

“What about them pythons? They count as a sacrifice?”

“Maybe.”

“Y’know,” Gary said, “would it help if we ate a javelina? I mean, wouldn’t that like give her spiritual power over her opponent?”

Delilah walked down the road. “Let’s go.”

Gary had left his trophy in the crushed bug, but the check was snug in his pocket. He’d stuck his magnum in the back of his belt. No telling what would show up next.

“These damned snakes are rankling my ass,” Gary muttered. As they neared the final corner beyond which lay his trailer, Gary felt both anxious and excited. There was no telling what lay behind the next curve. It might be feral hogs, Venezuelans, python, Godzilla, or sheriff’s deputies. Gary would have vomited had he not already given all. In fact, he was getting hungry.

“Whatchoo got for a side dish, little lady?”

Krystal trudged toward the trailer clutching her left shoulder. “I got beans and rice, but you’ll have to cook it. I’m gonna lay off this arm for a few days. Gary, I swear, if your bullshit causes me to lose this bout, I will claw your balls off.”

“Claude Balls!”

“What?”

“Remember when the Duke and Duchess came by to get their painting? It was a Claude Balls!”

“Who gives a shit.”

“Well I was just thinking, what if they left more Claude Balls behind? Prints, books, anything? That might be worth some money.”

Krystal’s lip curled like Elvis. “Claude Balls my ass. You’ve got to get the show going! That’s where the money is. You get enough followers, you can sell ads! Hell, you can do ads! You’re well known enough, some insurance company might want you!”

“You really think so?”

“‘Course I do! Aren’t you the man who just won the Hendry County Fair Mullet and Palmetto Bug Eating Contest? Your life has been an incredible adventure! In fact, I think you should write your biography.”

They approached the trailer. Gary kept an eye peeled for pythons, feral hogs and macaques. “That’s a good idea. That’s right! I’ll write my story! I’ll bet Major can sell it for big bucks.”

“Now you’re talkin’, big daddy.”

“Who do you think should play me in the movie?”

“Matthew McConaughy or James Franco.”

Delilah picked up her pace. “Is it unlocked? I need to use the bathroom.”

“Those Venezuelan sumbitches broke the lock.”

A furrow split Krystal’s perfect forehead. “What Venezuelans?”

“It’s a long story. After we found that one guy, there’s been three more.”

Delilah hot stepped into the trailer. Minutes later she popped back out. “There’s a snake in your toilet.”