Floridaze

By Randy Blackmon

For the life of me, I couldn’t stand another minute in his presence. He erased the line between idiot and genius sometimes. When I didn’t want to blow my brains out, I was happier than I ever imagined I’d be on this earth. I just needed a little space between us. Nell helped buffer the relationship. Getting pregnant with her was the worst possible thing, I thought. Gin makes you sin, so they say. I didn’t need gin to do that.

Florida was a different kind of South. It’s not like Georgia or Mississippi. There was a land boom with lots of speculation, and chicanery. “Manless land for the landless man,” a handbill read. You’d have to be from Indiana or some far off northern state to believe that. A bunch of swampland was being peddled to the unsuspecting. There was real money being made too. Clifford, my hapless husband, was making a killing. But he was an insider. That’s where his people were from, near St. Augustine. I liked to take Nell down to Miami. Far enough away from Clifford’s bunch that they couldn’t put their nose in my business. They ridiculed Clifford for letting me drive a car. Said that wasn’t proper for a lady. Puh-leez. With the passing of the 19th Amendment that year they should have had a clue that women were on the move.

“Put that in the Buick, Nell. Come here. Wipe that off your hands, honey.” If I turned my back on her for one second, she’d find some dirt or wander off somewhere.

“Get in. We have a long road ahead of us.”   I loved the excitement of my new friends in Miami. Margie’s old man, Tom, was a site to see. He was smuggling hootch over from the Bahamas. He had a giant warehouse over there and connections in Cuba. With a thousand miles of Florida coastline he’d always find his way in with the goods. He was like a pirate in the 20th century. And he was the sweetest man ever to me. I knew he had a dirty side. Didn’t we all.

Nell and I finally made it into Miami. That was one torturous drive. My guts were jostled every which way. My ovaries swapped places with my tonsils. We checked into the Flamingo Hotel on Biscayne Bay. The air felt so fresh and clean.

“Hey there, princess. Wake up.” I flopped Nell over my left shoulder. She was half asleep from the ride. I had a small bag in my right hand. I’d get the larger one later. I was tired but getting my second wind with the anticipation of seeing Margie and Tom. When we got to the room I sat the small bag on the foot of the bed and laid Nell down with her head sinking into the pillow.

“Whew. You are getting so heavy,” I said. There was only one bed in the room, a table on the right side of it and a wide, low chair next to the window.

“I’m going to the car to get your teddy bear and the suitcase. Lay here until I get back. You hear me?” I said.

All I needed was a few days out from under Clifford’s well-intentioned oppression. I loved him, but dear God I needed some room. A couple of days down here, a little rum, little more rum, wind in my hair and ta-dah, happy woman.

I hurried out to the car, opened the heavy trunk lid and grabbed my suitcase. I turned around the fender of the Buick onto the sidewalk. There was a short, thick man with a black beard turning to look at me.

“May I help you with that?” He asked.

“No, thank you” I said.

He reached to take it anyway. I pivoted to keep it out of his reach and kept walking past him. He huffed in rejection. Typical.

I had to sit the suitcase down to unlock the door to our room. I pushed it open with the suitcase and kind of fell into the room. I looked on the bed where I left Nell. She wasn’t there, just the impression of her head on the pillow. I could see the door of our room from the Buick.  I knew she hadn’t gone outside.

“Nell, are you in the bathroom?” I said.

“Uh huh,” she said.

“Well come back in here. Let’s change your dress. Put on something nice.”

“Mommy, there’s a fat man in the bathtub sleeping. He looks sad,” Nell said.

I hurried in there. She was telling the truth. He did look very sad, laying there holding a trumpet on his chest. But he wasn’t breathing. There was no pulse. I was looking forward to taking a much-needed shower. That’d have to wait. I just wouldn’t feel right washing in a tainted tub. I called Margie and asked if Tom could help move this man playing the last blue note on a trumpet. She assured me it was no big thing, he was accustomed to relocating expired trumpet players, you might say.  Tom sent two fellows over and they carried the trumpeter out in a huge case normally used for an upright bass. Everything was coming together, it seemed. I asked for another room. I really wanted to shower.

That was the second body my little Nell had found in less than a month. The first time the investigators had all of these questions, and that took a lot of time. We were fishing on the beach, hadn’t caught a thing. Nell saw that one bobbing in the shore break. I was pretty sure that was why the fish weren’t biting. After all of the questioning I didn’t feel like fishing anymore. That made me very tired. I didn’t know any of the answers. I felt stupid. But I had learned my lesson. Don’t call the cops when your little girl finds a body, if you have something else you need to do.

 

For the life of me, I couldn’t stand another minute in his presence. He erased the line between idiot and genius sometimes. When I didn’t want to blow my brains out, I was happier than I ever imagined I’d be on this earth. I just needed a little space between us. Nell helped buffer the relationship. Getting pregnant with her was the worst possible thing, I thought. Gin makes you sin, so they say. I didn’t need gin to do that.

Florida was a different kind of South. It’s not like Georgia or Mississippi. There was a land boom with lots of speculation, and chicanery. “Manless land for the landless man,” a handbill read. You’d have to be from Indiana or some far off northern state to believe that. A bunch of swampland was being peddled to the unsuspecting. There was real money being made too. Clifford, my hapless husband, was making a killing. But he was an insider. That’s where his people were from, near St. Augustine. I liked to take Nell down to Miami. Far enough away from Clifford’s bunch that they couldn’t put their nose in my business. They ridiculed Clifford for letting me drive a car. Said that wasn’t proper for a lady. Puh-leez. With the passing of the 19th Amendment that year they should have had a clue that women were on the move.

“Put that in the Buick, Nell. Come here. Wipe that off your hands, honey.” If I turned my back on her for one second, she’d find some dirt or wander off somewhere.

“Get in. We have a long road ahead of us.”   I loved the excitement of my new friends in Miami. Margie’s old man, Tom, was a site to see. He was smuggling hootch over from the Bahamas. He had a giant warehouse over there and connections in Cuba. With a thousand miles of Florida coastline he’d always find his way in with the goods. He was like a pirate in the 20th century. And he was the sweetest man ever to me. I knew he had a dirty side. Didn’t we all.

Nell and I finally made it into Miami. That was one torturous drive. My guts were jostled every which way. My ovaries swapped places with my tonsils. We checked into the Flamingo Hotel on Biscayne Bay. The air felt so fresh and clean.

“Hey there, princess. Wake up.” I flopped Nell over my left shoulder. She was half asleep from the ride. I had a small bag in my right hand. I’d get the larger one later. I was tired but getting my second wind with the anticipation of seeing Margie and Tom. When we got to the room I sat the small bag on the foot of the bed and laid Nell down with her head sinking into the pillow.

“Whew. You are getting so heavy,” I said. There was only one bed in the room, a table on the right side of it and a wide, low chair next to the window.

“I’m going to the car to get your teddy bear and the suitcase. Lay here until I get back. You hear me?” I said.

All I needed was a few days out from under Clifford’s well-intentioned oppression. I loved him, but dear God I needed some room. A couple of days down here, a little rum, little more rum, wind in my hair and ta-dah, happy woman.

I hurried out to the car, opened the heavy trunk lid and grabbed my suitcase. I turned around the fender of the Buick onto the sidewalk. There was a short, thick man with a black beard turning to look at me.

“May I help you with that?” He asked.

“No, thank you” I said.

He reached to take it anyway. I pivoted to keep it out of his reach and kept walking past him. He huffed in rejection. Typical.

I had to sit the suitcase down to unlock the door to our room. I pushed it open with the suitcase and kind of fell into the room. I looked on the bed where I left Nell. She wasn’t there, just the impression of her head on the pillow. I could see the door of our room from the Buick.  I knew she hadn’t gone outside.

“Nell, are you in the bathroom?” I said.

“Uh huh,” she said.

“Well come back in here. Let’s change your dress. Put on something nice.”

“Mommy, there’s a fat man in the bathtub sleeping. He looks sad,” Nell said.

I hurried in there. She was telling the truth. He did look very sad, laying there holding a trumpet on his chest. But he wasn’t breathing. There was no pulse. I was looking forward to taking a much-needed shower. That’d have to wait. I just wouldn’t feel right washing in a tainted tub. I called Margie and asked if Tom could help move this man playing the last blue note on a trumpet. She assured me it was no big thing, he was accustomed to relocating expired trumpet players, you might say.  Tom sent two fellows over and they carried the trumpeter out in a huge case normally used for an upright bass. Everything was coming together, it seemed. I asked for another room. I really wanted to shower.

That was the second body my little Nell had found in less than a month. The first time the investigators had all of these questions, and that took a lot of time. We were fishing on the beach, hadn’t caught a thing. Nell saw that one bobbing in the shore break. I was pretty sure that was why the fish weren’t biting. After all of the questioning I didn’t feel like fishing anymore. That made me very tired. I didn’t know any of the answers. I felt stupid. But I had learned my lesson. Don’t call the cops when your little girl finds a body, if you have something else you need to do.

 

For the life of me, I couldn’t stand another minute in his presence. He erased the line between idiot and genius sometimes. When I didn’t want to blow my brains out, I was happier than I ever imagined I’d be on this earth. I just needed a little space between us. Nell helped buffer the relationship. Getting pregnant with her was the worst possible thing, I thought. Gin makes you sin, so they say. I didn’t need gin to do that.

Florida was a different kind of South. It’s not like Georgia or Mississippi. There was a land boom with lots of speculation, and chicanery. “Manless land for the landless man,” a handbill read. You’d have to be from Indiana or some far off northern state to believe that. A bunch of swampland was being peddled to the unsuspecting. There was real money being made too. Clifford, my hapless husband, was making a killing. But he was an insider. That’s where his people were from, near St. Augustine. I liked to take Nell down to Miami. Far enough away from Clifford’s bunch that they couldn’t put their nose in my business. They ridiculed Clifford for letting me drive a car. Said that wasn’t proper for a lady. Puh-leez. With the passing of the 19th Amendment that year they should have had a clue that women were on the move.

“Put that in the Buick, Nell. Come here. Wipe that off your hands, honey.” If I turned my back on her for one second, she’d find some dirt or wander off somewhere.

“Get in. We have a long road ahead of us.”   I loved the excitement of my new friends in Miami. Margie’s old man, Tom, was a site to see. He was smuggling hootch over from the Bahamas. He had a giant warehouse over there and connections in Cuba. With a thousand miles of Florida coastline he’d always find his way in with the goods. He was like a pirate in the 20th century. And he was the sweetest man ever to me. I knew he had a dirty side. Didn’t we all.

Nell and I finally made it into Miami. That was one torturous drive. My guts were jostled every which way. My ovaries swapped places with my tonsils. We checked into the Flamingo Hotel on Biscayne Bay. The air felt so fresh and clean.

“Hey there, princess. Wake up.” I flopped Nell over my left shoulder. She was half asleep from the ride. I had a small bag in my right hand. I’d get the larger one later. I was tired but getting my second wind with the anticipation of seeing Margie and Tom. When we got to the room I sat the small bag on the foot of the bed and laid Nell down with her head sinking into the pillow.

“Whew. You are getting so heavy,” I said. There was only one bed in the room, a table on the right side of it and a wide, low chair next to the window.

“I’m going to the car to get your teddy bear and the suitcase. Lay here until I get back. You hear me?” I said.

All I needed was a few days out from under Clifford’s well-intentioned oppression. I loved him, but dear God I needed some room. A couple of days down here, a little rum, little more rum, wind in my hair and ta-dah, happy woman.

I hurried out to the car, opened the heavy trunk lid and grabbed my suitcase. I turned around the fender of the Buick onto the sidewalk. There was a short, thick man with a black beard turning to look at me.

“May I help you with that?” He asked.

“No, thank you” I said.

He reached to take it anyway. I pivoted to keep it out of his reach and kept walking past him. He huffed in rejection. Typical.

I had to sit the suitcase down to unlock the door to our room. I pushed it open with the suitcase and kind of fell into the room. I looked on the bed where I left Nell. She wasn’t there, just the impression of her head on the pillow. I could see the door of our room from the Buick.  I knew she hadn’t gone outside.

“Nell, are you in the bathroom?” I said.

“Uh huh,” she said.

“Well come back in here. Let’s change your dress. Put on something nice.”

“Mommy, there’s a fat man in the bathtub sleeping. He looks sad,” Nell said.

I hurried in there. She was telling the truth. He did look very sad, laying there holding a trumpet on his chest. But he wasn’t breathing. There was no pulse. I was looking forward to taking a much-needed shower. That’d have to wait. I just wouldn’t feel right washing in a tainted tub. I called Margie and asked if Tom could help move this man playing the last blue note on a trumpet. She assured me it was no big thing, he was accustomed to relocating expired trumpet players, you might say.  Tom sent two fellows over and they carried the trumpeter out in a huge case normally used for an upright bass. Everything was coming together, it seemed. I asked for another room. I really wanted to shower.

That was the second body my little Nell had found in less than a month. The first time the investigators had all of these questions, and that took a lot of time. We were fishing on the beach, hadn’t caught a thing. Nell saw that one bobbing in the shore break. I was pretty sure that was why the fish weren’t biting. After all of the questioning I didn’t feel like fishing anymore. That made me very tired. I didn’t know any of the answers. I felt stupid. But I had learned my lesson. Don’t call the cops when your little girl finds a body, if you have something else you need to do.

 

Randy Blackmon is a student of creative writing and literature at the University of South Alabama. He favors humorous composition with a shade of darkness, but not too dark. His wife’s name is Angela. They have three children: Zach, Kara and Connor.

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