Archive for the ‘Fatally Flawed Excerpts’ Category

Florida, 1979

Life’s a Beach and then You Die


Sometime soon, somebody will discover an abandoned hippie van with links to three dead people. Traces of drugs and semen and god knows what all will be found among the carpet fibers of this four-wheeled wagon of sin. SATANISTS INVADE FLORIDA!  Might be the headline in the Baptist Weekly.

I stick poor Dorie inside Bagley’s sleeping bag and clean out the van.  I throw a pair of Bagley’s tennis shoes, shorts and a T-shirt, into the crashing surf. I leave behind Bagley’s wallet and Elton Kirby’s wallet, keep Keith Waverly’s wallet. Then I stuff all forty-five kilos of coke and some clothes into two military duffels and throw them in the trunk of the Chevy.

Just before I drive away, I remember to go back and close the curtains on the van and say my farewells and regrets to Dorie.

I mean, what was I supposed to do?  I really had to kill her. I could never have become partners with the heinous likes of her. And I couldn’t have faced the responsibility of loosing Dorie on an unsuspecting world, with her in possession of massive quantities of cocaine and a loaded handgun. Again, I’m providing a public service. Born to serve—that’s me.

Dan Bagley and Dorie, I figure, were like two peas from the same pod, except Bagley had the good fortune to be born rich while Dorie, on the other hand, had to learn to lie and cheat out of necessity.

I’m beginning to see a new path. The seventies are fast approaching a horrible end and I can see an inkling of the new way.

It is time to be done with spiritual angst and uncertainty. The time is right for worshipping a new god, the god that the so-called successful people are already bowing and scraping to—Money. Covetousness dressed up as Enterprise.

With cash as your guide, there is no guilt or agonizing soul searching.  No one wails or gnashes his teeth, unless the stock market crashes. One simply accumulates—always going forward—come hell or federal investigation. And after accumulating, you consume. Then you discard.  It’s as easy as one two three.

Feeling spiritual, I anoint my new Holy Trinity.

MONEY, SEX and DRUGS form the new Godhead.

These are things that you can feel and experience. Not pie in the sky and self-denial. This time around, I’m not going to get caught short. I’ll be riding high on the crest and running the shoot, hanging five on a golden surfboard.

First things first, though. I have to get back to Tampa without getting caught by the cops. Then I need some cash, a new mode of transportation and an outlet large enough to handle mucho kilos of Peruvian Marching Powder. Talk about your millstones.

If I think about it too much my head starts to spin.  I have no choice but to take it one step at a time. I decide to wait on the beach for a while; in a couple of hours it will be dark.

After five minutes of vacant staring, my stomach is flopping so bad I have to leave.

I continue down the frontage road until it winds its way back to Highway 19. I turn right and head south through Homossa Springs until I hit State Highway #98. I turn east, roll through Brooksville and then all the way to the freeway.

It’s a soft evening with no wind. Sun is falling, red as blood. As the roadside lights start popping on, the sky turns gray and then black and I’m swallowed up in the swarm of traffic. Just another white-trash night for the guy in the maroon Chevy.

I’m strangely relaxed; emotion seems to have left me for the time being. The drive is surreal, like I’m floating on air and the only sound is the hiss of the tires. Like a homing pigeon, my instincts are bringing me back from whence I came. Or at least to the general vicinity of my lousy apartment.

Why am I going home? I’m really not sure. I only know that I must get rid of the Chevy—find somewhere to dump it—and the only area around here that I know is near Twin Lakes. One thing in my favor: there are so many complexes and parking lots in the area and—correspondingly—so many cars—that one more decrepit sedan can disappear in the crowd without much trouble.

About a quarter-mile from Twin Lakes I turn into the parking lot at Palm Gardens: a vast, fern-surrounded, apartment complex that stretches across an entire square block. I park and walk the remaining distance to Twin Lakes through the buildings. All logic has left me. I’ve become a hound following some long-ago scent. I walk on until I get to the laundry room behind my apartment. That’s when something makes me stop.

Voices seep from the glow of the laundry room. I change direction, walk behind the laundry building and down to the next breezeway, which takes me to the far side of the pool area, directly across the water from the glass doors and living room window of my old place.

I step out into the open and sit down in a poolside chair. I can see inside my former home; the curtains are open wide. Mike is on the couch watching television. I can’t move, no matter how much I want to.

Envious of the seeming peace inside that warm light, I hope that they’re at least a little worried about me. At least Mikey. But then again, what am I to them but an occasional interloper who always seems to run off when the going gets tough?

A slight breeze kicks up, carrying laughter from the second floor.  Something wells up inside me but it isn’t the same familiar pain, only a spasm from a memory. Not really longing but more a confusion that leaves me numb and wondering, more curious than hurt.

I sit in the chair until I see Carole come to the window and look out.  Looking right at me but not seeing. She seems to search the darkness for a moment then pulls the cord and the drape slides closed. I stare at the orange glow behind the curtains for a long minute and then get up and walk away.

Breathing deep and rhythmically, I try to concentrate on the task at hand. I have business to do. There is nothing left for me here and I need to get hold of Ted. He’s the only one who can help me. The only one I know that might save my ass.

I move quickly down the dim sidewalks and into the dark space between complexes.  As my feet hit the grass, burning tears and barely suppressed sobs come pushing out. They last until I get to the next complex; then abruptly stop.

That’s the last time I will cry about anything.

 (The end)      

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Florida, 1979

Life’s a Beach and then You Die


As we leave Marvin’s and head down the road, I have no idea what direction I should take or what I should do next. Basically, I have become a lap dog.  It’s the only thing I can do. And I’m wondering if this girl really thinks I could fuck her after she pulled this power trip.

She doesn’t really know what she’s getting into, does she?

It isn’t long before we come to a beach access road. I wave and point and Dorie obediently turns down. After a short distance, we roll out of the mangroves and discover a beautiful little bay.

It’s a clear day with high, wispy clouds and a good wind from the northwest. Off in the distance, whitecaps roll, but inside the long and narrow bay there is a gentle lapping of soft, blue-green water.  Three cars are parked on the side of the road.

We continue farther on the shell road, moving parallel to the water. I can’t stop thinking that they’ve already found the dead cop and it’s only a matter of time before they start looking for a white VW bus with two gun-crazy drug addicts inside. This, of course, will be enough to send every firearm-owning redneck in the area into a feeding frenzy—and who can blame them?

On the southern end of the bay, a long point stretches out. I can see only one car, near the tip. We drive on past the car and then around the point and find ourselves alone as the road jogs its way along a jagged and uninhabited shoreline. About a half a mile down, the vegetation begins to take over and the road narrows from the onslaught of gnarled, creeping vines and spiky foliage. The surf roars in my ears and I can’t think straight.

The road straightens out for a hundred yards and I zip around, quickly pass the VW and make her ride my bumper for a while. We bounce along while I check her out in the rearview mirror.

Looks to me like she’s getting uptight, constantly flipping her hair back with her free hand and gripping the wheel tightly with the other.  The van bounces because she won’t shift it out of second gear. Maybe she’s jonesing, needing another blast of coke before the roof falls in on her castle made of sand.

Up ahead, I see an opportunity: a small, offshoot trail going down to the sand. I veer onto it and Dorie follows. The VW’s headlights bounce behind me like the eyes of an insane clown.

I come to a stop. The wind howls and whines; waves slam against the shore. The sound is fierce, like Neptune himself is roaring out his frustration with the state of the world.

I pull out a cigarette—a Kool—and punch in the lighter on the cheesy, maroon dashboard. I’m watching her in the mirror; she has a cigarette, too.  She’s puffing on it and looking around nervously. Then she climbs out the driver’s door and walks around to the front of the van, turning her head toward me as I’m putting the lighter back in its hole.

I swing my right arm onto the seat back and face her. I smile my best fake smile.

She waves, turns her eyes back to the ocean and stretches her arms up to the sky.

I’m still facing her, smiling, when I slip the shifter into reverse with my left hand and floor the gas pedal.

Her eyes widen and she turns rigid.

The Chevy’s rear bumper catches her below the knees; her body jackknifes and her head smashes down on the trunk. It’s one hell of a thunk. She goes limp like a rag doll, her last gasps and gurgles signaling the end of another wasted life.

I shift into drive and pull forward until she rolls off onto the sand.

I get out and drag her body to the side door of the van.

(To be continued)

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Florida, 1979

Life’s a Beach and then You Die


Marv’s Chevron has two dirt-floor repair stalls, one of which contains a faded, tan ‘69 Chevy Impala with a small dent on the driver’s door. On the right side of the building is an office painted dull yellow with greasy finger smears on the walls and a cloudy window facing the road.

The flat, metal desktop is littered with dirty scraps of paper, nuts, bolts, pens and assorted pieces of wrapped candy. A turned-over hubcap in the middle of the desk is piled high with cigarette butts. A dark green wastebasket, half full of candy wrappers, cigarette packs and empty tins of Copenhagen, sits next to a tarnished spittoon with vile-looking stains congealing on the edges. A wooden, wheeled chair contains Marvin, the station owner, as he peers over the repair bill.

I say hello and sit down at the side of the desk on a chromium-framed kitchen chair with a cracked, red plastic seat. I’m praying Marvin won’t call in the number on the credit card I’m handing him. He squints at the card and then at me, tosses the card on the desk and returns his attention to the bill.

I lean over and try to decipher the scribbles: Timing chain, timing gear, shop supplies and labor. The easiest thing to read is the total: $177. 34.

The mechanic stands outside the office in smeared gray coveralls and an oily, black skullcap, trying his damnedest to explain to Dorie—in a mostly incomprehensible mix of Scandinavian-flavored, Southern-white-trash English—what he has done to the Chevy. She’s slightly inside the office door, staring up at his grease-smeared stubble, acting like she understands.

Marvin rummages around in the side drawer, looking for something. My prayers are answered when he happily lifts out his credit card imprinter and a clean receipt.

“I gotta charge you fifteen bucks extra for using the credit card,” he says gruffly. “It costs me money every time I get one of the goddamn things.  S’posed to be ten percent, but I’m cuttin’ ya some slack on a count of the two of ya make such a fine couple.”

“Thanks,” I say, growing ever more restless and uneasy, cold sweat beginning to trickle down the back of my neck. “I understand, the big oil companies are always screwing you over.”

His eyes get narrow.  He tilts his head sideways, shrugs his shoulders and launches a brown stream in the direction of the spittoon. The goober hits the edge with a slippery clank and drips down into the soup. Marvin seems pleased. He writes up the charges on the slip and slides the knob across the plastic. He grins and pushes everything over to me, along with a cracked, and of course, greasy, ballpoint pen.

“There you go, Elton,” he says. “You’re all set.”

Dude didn’t know how right he was.

“Now we’ve got plenty of time to enjoy the sights before it gets dark, honey,” Dorie says, as my nose starts to run.

I sniff in and sign the slip. Marvin slides over a set of keys on a ring with a small, yellow rectangular card fastened to it. I take the keys and hand them to Dorie but she holds her hands up and shakes her head to the negative.

“You drive the Chevy, honey. So you can test out how it’s running,” looking at me with big, wide eyes. “I’ll follow you in the bus. Maybe we can find a motel on the beach somewhere.”

“I’m sure these guys fixed it quite well, Dorie. I’m sure it will be fine. I should drive the van and follow you.”

“Oh come on Ke—Elton.  Please let me drive the camper. Please, please… can I please?”

Marvin smirks up at me. The mechanic says, “She be a-runnin’ real goo-ed.  Y’all’ll see-ah.”

I give up any thought of resistance and squeeze the Chevy keys in my palm. Dorie wiggles and giggles out of the office. I follow closely behind, waving, thanking Marvin and trying not to stimulate any more conversation.  It feels like the devil is in my chest.

Dorie heads for the VW. I walk alongside her, smiling. We get to the bus and she climbs in the driver’s side like there’s no question about it.

I have to admit; she has me. I can’t throw a big fuss at the gas station and besides that, she still has the gun in her purse.

(To be continued)

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Florida, 1979

Life’s a Beach and then You Die


The coke is wearing off and my stomach is making like a jumping frog. My head feels like a doormat at a wedding party. There is only one way to play it.

I hold the door open and slide my hand around her waist. Bring my head in close to her ear and whisper:  “I think we need to recharge. We need to find someplace to dump this bus and get high. You and me got a lot of living to do. I sure want to get to know you better.”

I put my hand behind her head and gently pull her to me. I kiss her full on the mouth and let my tongue explore. I close my eyes.

The muscles in her neck tighten up and she pulls away from me.

“What’s the matter?” I ask, trying to keep from ripping her head off.

“Nothing, let’s just get moving.”

“And where is it that you think we’re going with all the stuff in the van? You can’t drive this thing out in public for very long, anymore than I can.”

“We go to the first beach road and leave it there like it’s for camping.”  “We throw the shit in the car and go to a motel. Take care of business and then go our separate ways.” She smiles like an angel.  “I want half the stuff.”

“Are you fucking kidding me? Where did that idea come from for fuck sake?”

She blinks; her eyes glaze over and her face tightens up:  “I saved your Yankee ass already today and don’t forget it. And don’t you be callin’ me dumb. You smart-ass boys are always thinkin’ yer so goddamn clever.  Well, you listen here. I’m the one that saved yer ass this time pretty boy—and now we are partners. I’d sure as hell go somewhere and party with you if that’s what you want. But if it ain’t, I’m still gonna get my share of the dope. So you decide, smart boy.”

“Hey, no problem, I’ll just tell my Colombian financiers that I met a beautiful woman and decided to give her half of their dope. I’m sure they’ll be real amenable to that. Then they can send somebody after you for payment. No fucking sweat. They’ll just cut your pretty little head off and put it in a box.”

She blinks a few times like she doesn’t even hear me.

“Listen, Dorie, we’ll have to discuss this later. Right now, we have to get our asses out of here. I’ll follow you. But keep two things in mind: One, The Chevy is faster than the Volkswagen so I can always catch you. And two, if the cops do start chasing us they will be looking for the van, and not me in a Chevy. That of course means that you will go to jail and I will drive away. What I’m trying to get across here, is that we better get off the road real soon and do this thing real fast or we’ll both be real fucked. Comprende?”

“Oooh, I love it when you talk like that.”

“Fucking Christ. Let’s just go.”

“Si, mi amoret. Via con Dios.”

My throat seizes up.

(To be continued)

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Florida, 1979

Life’s a Beach and then You Die


“There it is,” she’s saying, seems like her voice is miles away. Then: “There.  There. Stop, there it is. What’s the matter with you, you’re going by it!”

I snap back from my trip down the tunnel of despair and slowly pull over to the side of the road. I look carefully in the rearview mirror and swing a u-turn. Some moments later I’m pulling into an old, dirty white service station that looks to be left over from the early days of Florida.

We park on one side of the building by a pile of rusted springs and mufflers and various other rusted parts. Dorie grabs her purse and jumps out of the van. I stay inside in a daze. I’d take off down the highway if I didn’t need her car.

I need her and she knows it.

Five minutes go by before she comes prancing back like she’s been playing Run around the Maypole. She’s fucking skipping, again looking to all the world like the damaged, frightened little buttercup I discovered at the café. Deeply, I wish I had known when to keep my mouth shut.

Running off at the mouth, whether an attempt at friendly conversation or nervous spewing, can get you in trouble. Trouble of any kind can be caused by something you say. The wrong words to the wrong person at the wrong time and BANG—you won’t know what hit you.

She comes up to the window and I can’t help but stare at the soft skin below her neck that leads to those luscious breasts. The sunshine on her hair and the glint in her pale blue eyes almost make me forget how fucked up everything is. For a brief moment, I start to believe again that I might actually get away unscathed.

Everything’s gonna be all right this morning, Oh yeah.

Dorie comes in real close, presses her hips against the door. She looks into my eyes and smiles broadly and for the first time, I get a look at her teeth.

Poor girl has what we Northerners call “hillbilly teeth.” Brown, decaying, uneven stumps, most likely the result of a one hundred percent sugar diet and being too busy running away from her father to brush.

“Keith darlin’,” she drawls. “If you’ll come on in and bring along that Chevron Card and the rest of the wallet, we can pay the bill and get out of Dodge.”

“I don’t know if these cards are any good. And you better start calling me Elton. I don’t know why the cards are in there or what they’re for.  For all I know, they’re on the Arrest Immediately list. They could be hot.”

“Ya think these boys have themselves all that fancy equipment? Shit, they can barely turn on the radio without help. All they can do is fix cars and jerk off. Don’t worry so much. After I practically had to get down on my knees to get them to accept a credit card, we have to use it. I told them you were my fiancé` from Colorado, come to rescue me.”

“It’s a fucking Chevron station for Christ sake. They have to take the fucking thing.”

“I don’t know about that, but I ‘magine these boys pretty much do what they please ‘round here, ain’t a heck of a lot of competition.  Only station for miles.”

“In two years it’ll be a strip mall.”

She crinkles up her eyes at me and pulls on the door handle. I climb reluctantly out of the VW. Dorie takes my hand in hers. My instinct is to pull it back but instead I swallow hard and keep walking. What the hell…

(To be continued)

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Florida, 1979

Life’s a Beach and then You Die


The pale, slender fingers pop out of the red bag. Sunlight flashes off the shiny nickel-plated barrel of a small handgun.

Quick as a flash she sticks it at the cop’s reddening face and squeezes the trigger.

I duck out of the way as brains and blood explode onto the cheap brown vinyl seats. The sound of the blast drifts away on the breeze.

“FUCK!” I scream; then jump out of the car onto the yellow, sun-baked dirt thinking she’s gonna hit me next but instead she’s reaching into the cruiser for the registration card.

I scramble to my feet, run back to the VW and jump in, hoping that Dorie is lingering behind to admire her work. No such luck.

She climbs in, breathless, beside me.

“I had to do it,” she says, matter-of fact.  “The fucking pig was going to bust us. Now let’s get the hell out of here so we can screw. I’m dying to see you naked.”

“What the hell is wrong with you, you crazy bitch? You killed a fuckin’ cop. We’ll fuckin’ hang for this. Worse than that…”

“Did the pig call in your plates?”

“No. He never had time. He was too busy making fun of my name.”

“Yeah, your name. We’ll have to discuss that later. In the meantime, I think you should admit that I saved you—and you and I both know from what.  I was looking around for the registration form and I found a brick of cocaine inside one of the cabinets. I think the penalty in Florida is worse for that much coke than it is for murder, so I definitely did you a favor.”

“In the future, ask me before you act on my behalf, will you please?”

Horrible vomit taste in my mouth; my heart is dead. I’ve gone beyond sadness to eternal despair. I’m looking out from inside of a damp, black cave and all I can see is the desert.

“Just one less pig around to hassle people, dude,” she says.

What the hell is this younger generation coming to?

“Yeah, I guess.  Maybe you’re right. But a car went by us that saw this van pulled over by a cop that is now blown all over his front seat of his cop car.  Somehow we have to get out of this van and into something else.  And without any money, that might be a difficult thing to do.  If we’re lucky, we’ve got a few hours before they put it all together. Got any more bright ideas?”

“It’s only a few miles to my car. If it’s fixed, we take that. Dump this thing somewhere and be gone like the wind.”

“And how are we going to pay for the repairs to your car, offer to trade some coke?”

“You probably could, with these rednecks.  I was going to offer them something else, if it came down to that. But now, I think we should just use one of those credit cards in your wallet. Or should I say Elton Kirby’s wallet? Ah, Keith?  By the way, it says Dan Bagley on the registration. Is that you?”

“No, that’s my brother. I’m Keith Bagley. If you found the registration form why did you have to kill the fucking cop?  Jesus fucking Christ.”

“I can’t take any chances. I already have two felony drug charges on my record. I can’t take another rap of any kind. Don’t you see? But everything is going to be all right, you’ll see. We’ll get in my car and ride off into the sunset, to the Honeymoon Hotel.”

The muscles in my chest tighten up and my soul cries out for release.

(To be continued)

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Florida, 1979

Life’s a Beach and then You Die


A siren, closing fast.

I stare in the rear view mirror with disbelief as the white Chevy with the cherry on top comes up fast behind me.  Everything turns to black and a sick feeling fills me up.

I tell myself that I’m okay if it’s only a speeding bust. Then I remember the cocaine mirror is lying on the floor in back, uncovered, and look frantically for something to throw on it.

“Dorie,” I say, my head throbbing, “Carefully reach in the glove compartment and get a map or something to throw over that mirror. We’re getting pulled over, so try not to show any movement, if you can manage it.”

Her shoulders rise up and her skin gets a few shades lighter but she manages to slide out the Florida road map and skillfully work it between the shifter and the bucket seat and drop it on the mirror. As I come to a halt, I look back at the cop and notice a small corner of the mirror sticking out from under the map.  It will have to do; the cop is out of his cruiser and striding toward us.

A big man, about six-four, with a small gut hanging over his belt and a toothpick in his mouth, he looks like a local but has the aviator shades, Mounty hat and jackboots like all the heat down here seem to wear. This one has an arrogant swagger like maybe he played football in college and misses the opportunity to hit people.

“May I see your driver’s license, sir.”

I reach above the visor where I put Bagley’s alternative wallet.

“Take it out of the wallet, please.”

He holds a clipboard with one hand while studying us. I hand him the license. He puts it on the clipboard and stares into my eyes.

“Are you aware that the speed limit is fifty on this road, Mr. Kirby?”


Dorie shoots me a sidelong glance.

“You were traveling over seventy, sir. Can I see your registration, please?”

“It’s not my van, officer. It belongs to a friend of mine, who’s down in St. Pete. He let me use it for a little sightseeing and camping trip. I don’t know where the registration is.”

The cop frowns: “Would you step back into the patrol car with me, Mr. Kirby.”

I get out of the van and start to walk back along the highway toward the cruiser.

“Please step to the shoulder, sir. Around to the other side of the van.”

“Dorie, look for that registration card, will you please,” I say.  “I’m sure it’s in there somewhere. Dan always kept his things in order.”

I walk around in front of the van and the cop lumbers along behind me.  I can feel him peering in the windows even though my back is to him. He doesn’t linger and I’m able to calm down enough to stop shaking.

I get into the cruiser; the cop slides behind the wheel.

He leans back against the seat and the scent of garlic and onions and cheap after-shave hit me like a damp cloud. He lifts up his shades, peers down at the license.

“What kind of name is Elton, boy?  Some kind of limey moniker like that fruity Elton John?  You a limey, son?  They got all kinds of funny names over there.”

Yeah, like Billy Bob and Bubba.  “No, I’m an American.”

“And where in America do you reside there, Elton?”

“In Clearwater. That’s where I’m headed.”

“You need to get this driver’s license changed then, this one here’s from Colorado. You need a Florida license.”

“Only been her for three months, officer.”

“Then ya’re only sixty days overdue, boy.  But I ’magine you and the missus here, have plenty a things to keep ya busy?”  He winks at me.

“Uh…well… ah, yeah. And here she comes now—the wife. She must have found the registration papers.”

Dorie is walking toward us; red purse slung over her left shoulder and a white card in her right hand.

“Sure is a pretty one,” the cop drawls. “You are a lucky guy, even with a name like Elton.” He laughs.

“Yes I am, Officer. I surely am. Sometimes I don’t realize how lucky.”

Dorie comes up to the driver’s window and hands the card to the cop.  “I found it, honey,” she says, leaning in until her tits are damn near falling out into the guy’s mouth.

His eyes lock on the luscious mounds. Then he looks distractedly up at her face and then over at me, and then back to the card.  He stares blankly at it for a second, then back at the girl and then me again.

I’m smiling sheepishly when Dorie’s hand darts into her purse like a cobra going for an egg.

(To be continued)

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Florida, 1979

Life’s a Beach and then You Die


That’s all I can say before she jumps at me like a sea bird snaring a dead shrimp, slams her lips against mind and begins probing deeply with her velvety tongue. I don’t fight back when she puts her hand between my legs and feels the merchandise. In fact, I encourage it by demonstrating my growth as a human being, an upstanding citizen to be sure.

Just as she crawls on top of me and replaces her hand with her throbbing, hot crotch, a rush of paranoia rips through me like a blast of heat lightning.

Fuck if I don’t push her off me and climb out of the van. I mean, that’s all I need: to get caught by some god-fearing cop for public fornication.  These backwater cops have a way of taking everything so personally. I’ve got enough coke in the van to keep the discos on Clearwater Beach going for a year or more and—I tell you—that suddenly becomes enough for me to handle.

She looks at me, flabbergasted, brushing down her dress, which is hiked up and revealing some of the creamiest thigh I’ve seen in a long time. It’s enough to make you want to cry.

“I’m sorry,” I say. “We’re just too close to the road here. The drugs and all… you know what I mean. I just can’t relax.”

She gets out and grabs my shoulders, starts kissing me again, putting her hand back where I like it. I put my hands on her arms and slowly push her away.

“Maybe we can find a better place down the road. We can’t stay here.”

The back of my neck is burning as I slide the door closed and walk around to the driver’s door. She climbs in the other side, looks over at me, throws her head back and laughs. I’m not quite sure what to think of the laugh; seems like a hint of mania riding its edge. I start the engine and pull out. My blood is boiling and I’m worried that the moment has passed me by.  Hot beads of sweat plaster my forehead as I shift into fourth gear and put the gas pedal to the floor. I’m thinking I have to find someplace in a hurry or everything is going to turn to shit; Cinderella’s going to turn ugly and run home.

Somewhere there’s a place for us.

I’m bobbing with anxiety, searching the distance for a road that might lead to some privacy. There has to be a road, somewhere. I’m always reading in the papers about dead bodies being found on lonely Florida roads. Shit like that happens all the time.

I become so lost inside my head and its vainglorious struggles that I forget about my speed. My eyes are searching the distance so much that I forget what’s right in front of me. I mean I know VW vans don’t go very fast—so it’s not something you usually worry about.

The van is vibrating smoothly along when my ears pick up that horrible sound.

(To be continued)

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Florida, 1979

Life’s a Beach and then You Die


I shut off the engine, get out and walk around to the other side of the van, slide open the side door and get in. Dorie is craning her neck around, looking at me. I smile up at her. She turns back around, pushes her hair back behind her ear with a snap of her wrist, lights up a Chesterfield and watches the smoke disappear out the window.

“Could you hand me that mirror from off of that visor above your head, please, Dorie? And there’s a pocketknife in the glove compartment. I need that too.”

She slides the mirror off the visor and hands it to me. “You better watch out,” she says playfully. “When I do coke, I get kind of crazy.”  Then she reaches in the glove box and brings out the knife.

“I think I can handle it,” I say and crawl on my knees to where the duffel is laying. I loosen the drawstring.  I reach down until I feel the plastic wrap, pull a brick to the surface and squeeze the contents in my sweating fingers. There’s a catch in my throat. I swallow hard and glance around at Dorie, who’s staring out the window and twirling her hair with her middle finger.

I turn my back to her and make a small incision in the wrapping.  My fingers tremble; my mouth is dry; my heart pounds. Somewhere in the back of my mind someone is screaming but I don’t want to listen. All I crave is that feeling, that buzz. Now I have enough dope to make it last. This girl and me, together… Life is a party.

I scoop a small pile onto the mirror and pulsate at the sight. Shining, glittering, soft rocks fall apart and sparkle in the sunlight. I carefully shove the brick back in the duffel and stuff some clothes over it.  I crawl up and set the mirror down on the counter top behind Dorie’s seatback.

“There you go,” I say. “Just turn around and have at it.”

“How am I supposed to do this?  Where’s the hundred dollar bill?”

“Ha, ha. You’ll just have to scoop some up with the knife or—why don’t you come around here so nobody can see from the road. We’ll be two tourists stretching our legs.”

“And packing their noses.”

“That too.”

She comes around. We put the mirror on the carpet and lift little piles of powder to our noses with the knife blade. With this much coke, not snorting it would be like going to Studio 54 without a dick. Just plain sacrilege.

So we’re sitting next to each other, our feet dangling out the side of the bus, saying nothing and staring at the greenery. My lips and gums go numb and my brain is exploding like a bottle rocket in a fireplace. We are silent for a long moment, long enough for me to try and think up something to say and not succeed, several times. Finally, I turn to her nervously: “So, what do you thi—”

(To be continued)

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Florida, 1979

Life’s a Beach and then You Die


I’m turning into electrified Jello when I spot the all important tavern sign.

The Sandpiper Lounge: faded, blue box with a big air conditioner sticking out a side window.

“Shall we?” I say like the fly to the spider, “I’ll buy you a beer.” I point at the fine establishment.

“Why not,” she says.

I park. We get out. We go in.

Behind the leather-covered bar is a bartender, a few beer signs and a lot of bottles. We have a couple beers each and get to talking.  Then we get to laughing about things and teasing. You know how it is.  Once in a while she puts her hand on my arm, real friendly and warm.  I buy her a pack of Chesterfields (her “favorite” but they don’t have them everyplace, so then she has to smoke Winstons).

I get the change and realize I’m down to my last five bucks and have no idea how I’m going to get any more. A pang hits my gut.

“We’ve got to go,” I say, suddenly sober.

“You don’t look so good,” she says. “Is it me? You can leave me here if you want to.”

“No, it’s not you, Dorie, it’s me. I’m down to my last five bucks, but you’re welcome to share it with me.”

“Cheer up, sweetie, things’ll work out.  Hows about if I drive? Never driven one of those hippie vans before.”

“No, I’m all right.  I can drive, if I can do anything.  I’m just not sure where I should drive to.”

“Don’t you have people?  Didn’t you say you were from Clearwater? Why aren’t you going back there?”

“No place to go. Well, that’s not totally right. There are a couple of options.  Say listen, five bucks isn’t going to get us very far. What do you say we blow the rest on drinks and then hit the road and see what happens?”

“It’s your party, cowboy. I’m only going a mile down.”

“Then where? You don’t even know, do you? You’re broke, just like me, aren’t you? Can’t you see it? You and I have been thrown together by the Hands of Fate.  And I think there’s some meaning in that.  I mean, what are the odds, for Christ sake?  Two people find each other in the middle of Nowhere, Florida and get along famously like you and I do. What are the odds?”

“You are a dreamer, Keith Elton.”

“But I’m not the only one.”

I order us up two gin and tonics so at least we can enjoy our last few moments together in style. Five bucks turns to one and I leave it for the bartender. We finish the drinks in a hurry and walk outside into the bright sun and it’s the best I’ve felt for days. I take a deep breath and a premonition that doom is right around the corner hits me and I don’t even care. I have some food in the van and a million dollars worth of dope, why should I care?

Then I start thinking: what the hell, why not have a snort?  Why not enjoy a little of the bounty that’s been dropped into my lap by the powers that be?  I can sneak back there and grab a little without the girl even knowing what I’m doing. She seems to be the type of girl that might enjoy a little toot, though. Like a lot of people, these days…

I wrestle with the idea as we get back onto the highway. I’ve got a craving both for the drug and for the girl, or some twisted combination of the two. After five long minutes, with knots in my stomach and bees in my head, I pull off the road, unable to fight the urges any longer.

“What’s the matter?” Dorie asks nervously.

“I’ve got a little something in the back that you might enjoy. Well, at least I will. It’ll only take a minute. We’re out in plain sight of the highway, nothing to worry about. I have to get something out of the back.”

“I wasn’t worried about getting hurt,” she says. “I was afraid of getting dumped.”

“I wouldn’t do something like that. I wanted to have a little toot that’s all. Thought, maybe you might want to join me.  It’ll take the fuzz out of the booze high.”

“Are you kidding?  There’s blow in this bus?  Jesus, I don’t know.”

“You ever tried it before?”

She looks around nervously, fidgeting in the sheepskin-covered seat.

“Oh yeah, I’ve tried it before. That stuff got my boyfriend killed. This is just too unreal. I run into a dreamboat and he’s into coke, too.  I mean, that’s heavy… scares me a little.”

“Yeah, I guess. It is scary, I suppose. But there’s coke around everywhere these days, especially in this fucking state. It’s hardly rare. I’ve got a little bit. I just thought a toot would be a good idea, help to bring out the sunshine and ah—well, make it easier to drive. I’m kinda loaded.”

“Well honey, so am I. Just high enough to say yes, against my better judgment.”

I smile and feel the adrenaline crawling up my spine.

(To be continued)

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