Posts Tagged ‘Florida Man Friday’



Rupert pushes his way through a mass of thick-stemmed, dinosaur-vegetation, vines and mega-leaves thrashing and slapping at his face, but he moves swiftly. He has to keep up. Ahead of him—leading him, he thinks—a form moves stealthily through the jungle foliage. All around him, the dark-night avian sounds shriek and whistle, calling to one another. He thinks they’re talking about him. Grass blades slice his fawn flesh, lighter, almost white in this darkness. But he has to keep up.

He moves faster, closing the distance between himself and his guide, and he sees a flash of fringe, the flutter of a feather, a swathe of grey hair, silver in the pale moonlight filtering through the palms above—Efunibi. Efunibi. And then he’s gone.

Rupert stands breathless in a clearing, the scent of long-past brush fires lingering, combining with the stinking decay of animal meat and meth. The birds have flown and it is silent, deafeningly so. Rupert covers his ears to it. Soon, behind him, muted by his hands, comes a grunting and moaning, of someone being eaten and of one eating. Or the sound of lifeless pleasure, a communion with a thing that has ceased. Rupert instinctively denotes the latter, and removes his hands—the sound is obscenely loud, accompanied by a soft, moist pushing and pulling. He turns to see an orgy of repulsion—several small, naked men, their ashen flesh glowing against the charred ground, thrusting themselves into any opening they can find in the animal carcasses strewn around the space of a circle, a depraved sacred rite embracing myriad species. Rupert’s diaphragm heaves a spastic push upward but he doesn’t vomit, nor can he look away.

The sounds of this sickening display grow louder, more intense, closer to all the little deaths threatening to explode over and into this stratum of putrefying dead flesh. Finally, a man in the center begins to whimper, weak at first, though building, coming closer, closer, louder, he is keening now, and then he bursts into flames. They all catch like blazing dominoes, their quarry cooking beneath them, finally free from their filthy assault. The stench of roast flesh and fresh coitus assaults Rupert’s senses, then he sees from his peripheral his guide, standing at the edge of the clearing. Efunibi turns and walks back into the jungle. Rupert runs.

Again, he catches up, almost able to reach out and grab the fringe of Efunibi’s jacket. The flora is not as dense now, more like an overgrown path. Rupert feels safer being on a course that had at least once been tread forward and back from wherever it is he is being lead. He didn’t want to be the first. The vegetation thins a little more with each step, and with that, he can see further into the edges of the path. Suddenly, huge misshapen marionettes, dangling from vines and flailing grotesquely, swinging their foam-flesh limbs at Rupert. He can make out their faces—Fulva, and Bill, and Osceola, and Tommy, and Bucket, and Joe, and Merideth, and even Derek Peterson, though his face is indistinct—all snarling and flapping their arms and legs. Those who make contact create no impact. Rupert feels nothing, and all he hears is a cackle from Efunibi, who has once again disappeared.

Rupert now stands in the middle of a colossal cavern, its bottom flat and damp, its ceiling a roiling, living thing, at the center of which sucks a quivering, puckering anus. Rupert covers his head intuitively, though nothing falls, but there is a sudden and blinding fluorescent blue-white light, and after the flash, the hovering asshole remains, but the cavern is now bright and furnished with numerous items—shining steel countertops, blenders, pails and buckets, gas cans and funnels, glassware and tubing. Immense storage containers line the entire diameter of the area, bubbling and stinking, manned by masked, HazMatted henchmen. Rupert realizes these men work for him. But the anus above still sucks, and sucks, and soon, he feels his feet lift from the ground, and he his heading straight up, squeezing into the now-gaping, living hole. It closes around him, compresses his form, changes him somehow, and in no time, births him above ground, out of the heart of a grass-covered burial mound.

He is clean. He is on his hands and knees, and he looks down into Leenda’s eyes. He moves between her legs, losing himself in an instant, almost crushing her, and she moans, but keeps a steady gaze. It pierces him and runs electric through his brain, zapping rhythmically into his heart. He closes his eyes and he comes closer, and closer, green flashing behind his lids with each thrust, each step nearer to rapture. The green light means go, it says go, and he lets go . . . .

* * *

When Rupert woke up, it was dark. His usual frustrating failure to finish what began as a wet dream came as a blessing this time. He didn’t think these sheets were ever changed.

The green message light on the phone next to the bed blinked on and off, illuminating the entire room. His head was empty, but of what? He had no way to comprehend, but the final image of Leenda stayed, sound and lasting in his mind.

Surely it was her.

He picked up the receiver to retrieve the message, impatiently enduring the motel’s preamble, and then:

“Hey, Mount Macaca.” Pyrdewy.


“My people tell me a large, moo-lah-toh guy came sniffing around the D.E.A.T.H. program today. Said it was the first time they’d ever seen you. Not good, my friend. The Spliphsonian has a policy against hiring liars, even to mop shit.”

Rupert sighed, still groggy.

“You’re in a lot of trouble, guy. You’ve got one last chance. You’d better get your ass back down there tomorrow, bring your Methhead posse, if indeed they exist, and do what I told you to do. We need scholarly research. And we need you to play along, get it? Gotta go along to get along and you need to get along if you still wanna keep doing what you’re doing, capisce? And, hey . . . better keep an eye on Marge. Sounded like she took a shine to you.”

The call ended with abruptly-cut laughter. Rupert rubbed his eyes.

“No,” he said out loud to himself. “Nope. Fuck this. I’m not doing this. Fuck him.” And with that, he turned over, pulled a pillow over his head, and sank back to sleep, meditating and synchronizing his deep breathing with that final dream image of Leenda, on the grassy mound.

In the dark, the Plant with No Name smiled.

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Spiritual Girlfriend

Following a physical altercation, Casey Molter smashed his girlfriend’s cellphone and then proceeded to go after her car. He broke off the passenger side mirror, deflated the tires, and bedecked the hood with condoms and messages written in “creams and lotions,” which the police termed “love notes.” What would drive a man to behave in such a manner? Well, let’s face it—probably drugs of some kind, however, there was more to the story. Apparently, Molter’s unnamed girlfriend—whom he described as “spiritual”—rendered unto Casey a prophecy for the ages. She told him that his dead grandmother would visit him in a dream state and there she would “commit an unusual sex act to him involving an adult erotic device.” It was an image he couldn’t scrub from his psyche and he eventually snapped, resulting in the aforementioned incident. Overreaction? Maybe. But, to be fair, in what appears to be the 2013 obituary for Molter’s grandmother, Nada, she is described as an “incredibly nurturing personality,” having gotten a teaching degree after raising six kids, teaching for many years, and promoting drama and music programs. A vegetarian, she was “frequently donating her time and resources” to animal causes, adopting many dogs, cats, birds, and “other animals” over the course of her life. And, of course, in lieu of flowers, it was requested that friends and family donate or volunteer at the Human Society of Indian River County. In light of all that, Casey’s “spiritual” girlfriend can eat it. As for Casey Molter, other than this one episode, he does not appear to have a criminal record.

Kaufman, Scott. “Florida Man Attacks ‘Spiritual’ Girlfriend’s Car Over Dead Granny Sex Toy Dream Prophecy.”Raw Story. Raw Story Media, Inc. January 2, 2015

Read Florida Man: Battle of the Five Meth Labs: A Love Story here.

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FM27 (21:22)

The AC hit Rupert and his nipples pinged erect as if alarmed. He hated this ritual. The lobby radiated an abnormal serenity and for a moment, he was baffled, until he looked around. Angel was not at the desk. Rupert stopped. At this point, he was convinced he was the only guest here at the Royal Courtyard Econo-Regency Chalet, and so his first suspicion was that if she wasn’t here, she must be in his room. This made him feel panicky, but he wasn’t sure why—there was nothing there worth stealing. Except maybe the Plant with No Name, who hadn’t spoken to him since that day in Fulva’s bathroom.

Rupert sighed, reflecting on what his inner voice just said.

At that moment, Angel jumped up from behind the clerk’s counter wearing a conical hat she’d fashioned out of outdated perforated printer paper. Though she made no sound, the movement startled Rupert and caused him to squeal.

“I hate you,” he told her when he recovered a moment later.

Angel smiled and said nothing.

In his room, Rupert’s eyes fell first to the phone, on which no green message light blinked back. He was half-relieved, but half-sad. He was trying to accept that he liked the sound of Leenda’s voice and missed it when a day passed without it, of which there were many, because she didn’t call every day and he was too terrified to call her. Every day he’d think she’d lost interest, but then there’d be a message “checking in.” It was an act of consideration that was difficult for him to decipher, as, like a lot of things, it wasn’t a huge part of his emotional vocabulary.

Rupert lay across the bed, like he did every time he entered his room, for the rest of the day. He hadn’t bothered to turn the light on, so there was only the fading orange-pink setting sun through the sheer curtains to illuminate the room, which diffused a calm, settled feeling. He was sure that he had lost his mind and that he wasn’t interpreting everything around him as well as he would be under normal circumstances. But then, his “normal” wasn’t typical, so then he wondered if he ever did.

He’d lived with this crippling anxiety for so long, his inability to relate to others because of it, he had no idea what was and wasn’t normal. What was strange behavior from a person and what wasn’t—what was malicious and what was benevolent, or even scarier, compassion? Concern? Love? He realized that on some level, it all blended together—an incomprehensible, inseparable flood of chemicals, inside him and inside everyone, which no one could interpret with any level of competency—and this made him feel crazy and terrified. Did everyone feel this way? Presumably, one would need a certain level of self-awareness, and Rupert thought perhaps society’s most positive thinkers would say that, yes, everyone felt this way, but the more he interacted with other human beings, the more he doubted. He supposed this was why he made a career in entropy. In spite of all the intellect and consciousness of human beings, there did seem to be a distinct lack of self-awareness. Rupert felt very alone in his crazy and terrified feelings.

He had no business even thinking about something like compassion, because, again, it wasn’t part of his life’s language. He didn’t know how to speak it, let alone understand and process it, so there wasn’t any point in thinking about it. Rupert forced himself to be glad there was no message from Leenda, and though he ultimately failed, he told himself he succeeded anyway. Because that’s how you survive.

The soothing sounds of the passing traffic and the inarticulate yelling of disparate, shirtless Florida Men mollified him as far as was possible. The mute aloe plant squatted against its stem in its glass of water, silhouetted against the waning sunlight.

Rupert took a deliberate in-breath, exhaled slower, and started to self-talk. He’d heard it was helpful. For something. Working things out.

“Although you may or may not being going crazy, Rupert, you did still manage to accomplish something here. Maybe more than you ever have. I mean, you’ve tried harder at other things and still got nowhere, but here, with all this, it’s like you’re not even trying and things are happening. You’re not even trying . . . ”

Rupert became quiet, sluggish thoughts moving through his grey matter and, like leeches, sucking out the relevant information. In this case, Rupert had to face the fact that his social anxiety—above and beyond what would be normal—appeared almost entirely eliminated, and somehow that worried him. The fact was that he wasn’t trying. He hadn’t tried from the day he’d arrived. And, in this period of relative nervous calm, for the first time he had to sincerely examine what his anxiety had done to his life. He worked himself to mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion, and because people around him didn’t understand him, or thought he was weird, it didn’t matter. It got him nowhere.

But here, somehow, and with his anxiety having dissipated, his thinking cleared and his actions proved more efficient. And the people around him—hell, they didn’t even notice that he was strange. Not here. Not in Florida, this magical hell. They even sometimes acknowledged his successes. And, for better or worse, they cared about what he did, even if it was being pissed off at him. People always talk about the difference between good and bad attention, but little has been said about bad attention being better than sheer indifference. Rupert, regretfully, had to admit—it was.

A strange, frightening tranquility washed over Rupert, and soon, he began to doze—

* * *

“What the ding-dong-douche are you talking about?” Shit Pail asks, eyes half-crossed and, maybe, Rupert is afraid, even in his jacked state, taking another dump.

“I have no idea,” he answered, though he does. He knows exactly what he’s talking about.

“Fuck,” she added, head lolling backward.

* * *

—and as he dozed, his mind circled through the accomplishments he’d managed in a stunningly short period of time: he made a decent living selling Golden Tickets to Crack Planet; he’d learned how to market and sell methamphetamines; he’d learned to make Shake n’ Bake; and now knew how to set up his own legitimate lab.

I think Leenda cares about me.

Success, success . . . drifting, drifting . . . dozing, slipping into slumber . . .

Thank you for saving me . . .

Leenda’s face swam beneath his eyelids.

“Thank you . . . ”

Rupert’s eyes flung open and his thoughts stopped, altogether.

“ . . . for saving me.”

He refused to get up. He refused to look at the plant.

“And fuck all those stains.” It was the voice he’d heard in Fulva’s bathroom, no mistake. It sounded a little like Christopher Walken, if you threw in about half-a-cup of Gary Busey. That alone freaked Rupert out. If that voice had a face, Rupert imagined Wilhem Dafoe.

He sat up straight, looking at the Plant with No Name. It didn’t move.

“Stains?” he asked, hoping at this point to not receive an answer.

“Those stains. Fulva. Bill. Osceola. Jesus is alright, but Bananas, Fuckit Bucket, the McEejits, Pyrdewy . . . ”

“How do you know about Pyrdewy?”

“Omniscient, occasionally omnipresent, all that shit. Seriously, fuck ‘em.”

“You’re a plant.”

“I resent that and I’m going to forget you said it. Because I like you, Rupert. You are a perfectly competent human, smart, not terrible looking as far as those things go. I notice you have a rather wry sense of humor . . . ”

“I’m talking to a plant.” Rupert said and lay back down.

“Okay, I suppose I can accept that you can’t accept this. But, you should listen to me. Even if I am a plant.”

Rupert heard the plant heave a resigned sigh.

What the fuck?

“Strike out on your own, man,” it said.

“What? I can’t,” Rupert replied, though he knew he’d been entertaining this idea all along.

“Bullshit. I know you’ve been entertaining this idea all along, so do it,” the Plant with No Name said.

Damn it. “How? Where?”

“You already know.”

“No, I don’t.”

“You must go . . . ” The plant began speaking in an exaggerated mystical way.

“Come on,” Rupert pleaded.

The plant sighed again.

“You must go . . . ” It repeated, still mystical but more forceful.

“Fine. Go where?’

“To the land of the Roseate Spoonbill, the Great Blue Heron, the American Alligator, and the lowly, leprous Armadillo.”

Rupert curled his lip is disgust.

“It’s true, they carry it,” the plant informed him.

“I know . . . ”

“Well, don’t look so . . . ” Another sigh. “You must go . . . to the land of the Long Leaf Pine, the Myrtle Oak, the Saw Palmetto . . . ”

“This isn’t helping me know what the he—”

“—the land of the Slash Pine, the Cabbage Palm, and the Camphorweed . . . ”

“Are these friends of yours?” Rupert muttered, half-sarcastic, half-actually wondering.

“Look, shut up. That’s it.”

For a moment, Rupert thought the Plant with No Name had once again forsaken him with silence. A few minutes passed and he began to doze again, but this time, it felt . . . odd. He lifted his head with some effort and looked at the plant. Against the lingering glow of sun, he saw some sort of smoke rising from it, its aloey-tentacle-leaves gesticulating. Rupert felt wrong, but not altogether unpleasant.

“You have to think big, Rupert. You have to go find Efunibi.”

Rupert repeated the name once, twice, and the phone started to ring. He didn’t hear a thing and fell dead asleep.

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FM28 (23)

“Finally,” says Shit Pail.

Rupert is starting to feel a little guilty about referring to her as “Shit Pail” in his head, but he doesn’t remember if he’d even caught her name to begin with, and of course, it’s far too late to ask.

“Yes, finally,” he says, shifting his sitting position on the floor. His ass is beginning to ache.

Shit Pail rummages through her bag, which contains everything that’s ever existed in the history of Man. Things falling out include a standard nail file, mints, a protein bar, an airline barf bag, a stale half-slice of white bread, the Shambhala Pocket Classics edition of The Pocket Thich Nhat Hanh, a row of eight red raffle tickets, a piece of black Basalt, and a knotted, but deflated long orange balloon. That’s just what fell out.

“That took a while,” she says, still pushing her entire arm around in the big, allegedly-handmade, woven Costa Rican bag.

“Well, I wasn’t really trying, was I?”

She stopped and looked at him.

“Yes, sweetie. Had you been trying, you’d have been in like Flint.”


“In like Flint. It’s a Movie. Coburn.”

“The film’s title was a play on ‘in like Flynn,’ which referred to Errol Flynn and possibly his sexual exploits, which I assure you wasn’t, nor would be, the case in this story.”

Shit Pail shifted on her shit pail.

“You’re kind of an asshole.”

“I know.”

“Woolah!” Shit Pail yells, jolting Rupert out of his too-self aware pity party of one.

“What?” Rupert lost the thread.

“Sorry. Woolah.” She pulls a blunt out of her bag.


“And crack. Better than nothing. I forgot it was in here.”

“Screw it. Light it up.”

“Second time smoking crack.”

“First,” Rupert corrects.

“Sure.” She grins, lights up the Woolah and Rupert continues.


The following day, beneath an uncharacteristically grey and brooding sky, Rupert and Joe went to the D.E.A.T.H. program site. All the driving around with Jesus had helped Rupert become pretty familiar with the area, and as they pulled down the muddy road in Joe’s muddy ‘89 Yukon through a plain of Pampas grass and Saw Palmetto, passing big, slow-moving, liquid-carrying tanker trucks, he knew he was somewhere near Spanish Point, where Leenda’s burial mound was located.

As they approached the site, Rupert saw that nothing about this operation appeared legitimate. Joe didn’t appear to notice anything amiss, which made Rupert more suspicious.

The flat plain had a massive pit dug into it, and into the side of the pit was the opening to a drift mine, which looked cartoonish—a big, squared tunnel entrance propped up by large wooden beams. Methheads of all stripes and levels of withdrawal walked into the mine with big, empty blue buckets and shuffled out with them full of brackish-looking water. They then walked unsteadily up a rickety set of wooden steps out of the pit, over to a couple of open tanks, up the aluminum steps to the top of those, and dumped the water in.

If Rupert squinted, the entire enterprise resembled a modern-day depiction of the now-discredited theory of slave labor building of the pyramids—the kind of thing you used to see on the History Channel before it was taken over by “reality” shows such as Possum Hunter and Ancient Alien Plumbers. Hundreds of thin, unhappy, sick people toiling zombie-like, performing the time-honored tradition of monotonous, soul-killing slog on behalf of their betters.

When the open tanks were full, the tanker truck alongside it would drop its industrial hose in, suck up the water, cap off, and move out, replaced by another.

A work trailer stood some distance from the pit. A few Tweakers shook and scratched themselves in a short line outside the door. Some tottered around the back where a few barrels had been placed to throw up in. When he or she was finished, they’d dip a scoop into a bucket of sawdust and throw it into the barrel over the fresh vomit, then either return to work, or to the line outside the trailer.

This is pretty fucked up, Rupert thought.

“Joe, does this look normal to you?” Rupert asked.

Joe looked through the windshield at the scene before them, considering it, and then to Rupert:

“Well, I don’t know what it is yet, so I don’t know.”

Unexpectedly astute. But still.

They got out of the Yukon and walked to the trailer. As they neared, a woman in coveralls came out and adjusted her hard hat. She had a sturdy-looking Maglite holstered at her side. More hard hats and inferior flashlights hung along the railing of the trailer steps, for anyone to use, Rupert supposed, though he didn’t see many workers wearing them. He suspected they didn’t much care if a chunk of mine ceiling crushed their heads to a pulp—in their condition, they might have hoped for it.

The woman stopped as she walked down the steps, ignoring the barrage of comments, questions, and outright pleas of the Tweakers who’d been waiting to speak with her. She watched Rupert and Joe as they approached.

Rupert elbowed Joe, who had thumbed the screen of his phone while he walked. The phone was again reholstered into Joe’s back pocket.

“We’re here for the program,” Rupert said.

She examined them, but less Joe than Rupert.

“You don’t look too strung out,” she said to him.

Rupert looked at Joe—Rupert hadn’t noticed he was sweating a little and he had a slight tremor.

“Not yet,” Rupert said.

“Stocked up, huh?”

Rupert shrugged. “Came prepared.”

“Well, it’s only going to make it worse for you in the end,” she snarled, clearly disgusted with everyone and everything around her.

Rupert noticed an embroidered nametag on her coveralls that read Marge.

“Can I call you Marge?” he asked.

“No,” she answered, curt. “You don’t call me anything. Grab a couple of helmets and lights.”

Rupert did and handed Joe his.

“Follow me,” Marge said, and they proceeded to the pit, down the stairs creaking beneath them, and into the mine opening, dodging working Methheads.

The tunnel was black and crudely dug out with a few support structures spaced too far apart for Rupert’s sense of well being. Marge said nothing, but as they progressed, the tunnel grew wider and taller, eventually opening up to about the width of a two-lane road. The deeper they went, the more the scenery changed.

As he tried to avoid the sloshing buckets carried by the teetering Methheads, Rupert let his flashlight beam wander over the walls and ceiling—small calcium carbonate lumps and bumps ran in haphazard formations along the edges of the tunnel, their sources found leaking above, drip, drip, dripping the measured geologic process that would build them into something more. As the trio moved on, the formations grew larger, drifting in shades of chestnut, ochre, tawny, amber and white, creating stalagmites and stalactites, flowstones and helictites, what they called “soda straws”—hollow, cylindrical mineral tubes—and “bacon strips,” when the flowstones grew down in rippling sheets. Rupert had visited a show cave up in Virginia, so this wasn’t entirely new to him. It looked as if they’d mined their way into a natural cave system.

Marge walked fast and soon there was a little distance between them, enough that Joe felt comfortable enough to have a conversation.

“Hey Rupe,” he starts. “Mom started to get a little suspicious last night after you left.”

“Suspicious of what?”

“Of you.”

“For what?”

Someone, somewhere threw up and its sickening echo traveled throughout the caverns, triggering a vomit domino effect that continued throughout their conversation.

“Something about the possibility that you might share our special recipe with some other operations around here.”

“Joe, why would I do that?” The whole we’re-all-big-time paranoia began to irritate Rupert.

“I dunno,” Joe shrugged. “She heard somewhere that you’ve been dealing with Tommy Bananas. Maybe even Bucket.”

Rupert was torn between the concern he felt at knowing people named “Tommy Bananas” and “Bucket” and the speed at which Merideth could obtain this ridiculous information.

“I’ve known the woman for fewer than twenty-four hours!” Rupert stopped and took a deep breath. “I’ve never heard of them, Joe. But so what if I did?

Joe shook his head. “It’s not how things work, Rupe. You just don’t do that.”

“Know people? You can’t just know people . . . ?”

Joe’s back pocket beeped nine times in various tones, then started ringing.

Rupert’s eyes rolled involuntarily back into his head. “You know, I hear you can keep that from happening . . . I don’t even own one and I know that.”

Joe fumbled with his phone. “I know, but I don’t know how—”

“Hello, The Gorge (Fine Men’s Cloth—”

Joe hung up. “Yeah,” he looked to Rupert. “I need to figure that out.”

“How do you even have any reception in here?”

Finally, Marge stopped for them to catch up.

“Used to be a show cave,” she said. “Till water seeped in from the Gulf.” Another fifteen feet and they rounded a corner, entering a huge, cathedral-sized cavern.

They stood at the edge of what looked like an underground lake.

“Wow,” Joe whispered with the kind of awe that might be inspired by a Close Encounters ship landing. Rupert was pretty amazed, too. He’d seen cavern lakes before, but nothing like the size of this thing. Enormous stalactites pointed down to the water, pocking its surface with a light, eerie rain. Around the edges that were accessible, Methheads came, scooped, and left. Marge pointed her flashlight to a place on the cavern wall across the water where the color lightened considerably about ten feet up.

Must be on an incline, Rupert thought.

“High water mark,” she said. “We’re about halfway there. If you want in on this, you’d better start soon.”

“Why is it being emptied?” Rupert asked, forgetting for a moment why he was there.

“What the hell do you care?”

“Um. I guess I don’t.” Rupert rubbed the back of his head.

“I don’t know,” she answered anyway. “I don’t care either. But I guess it’s cheaper to use these sorry sacks of shi—you guys . . . than to run a length of industrial hose and pump it. Anything to save a buck. Right, let’s go.”

They wove their way back through woozy Tweakers and into the too-bright grey outside.

“Is there paperwork?” Rupert asked as Marge retrieved their helmets and flashlights. She laughed and walked back to the trailer.

“Come back tomorrow, seven a.m.,” she called over her shoulder.

No. Nothing about this was even a little bit legal. Stanley would have had nothing to do with anything like this.

Rupert and Joe walked back to the Yukon and as they passed one of the idling tankers containing a lunch-eating driver, Rupert yelled over the rumbling engine.

“Hey! Spanish Point’s around here, right?”

“Yeah!” the driver yelled back, chewing what looked to be a classic bologna-on-white and jerked his thumb back behind his head. “About half-mile!”


They climbed into the Yukon, and Rupert waited until Joe had finished looking at whatever he was looking at on his phone. When he looked up and moved to put the key in the ignition, Rupert asked: “You going back tomorrow?”

“I dunno. Maybe. You?”

“Hell no.”

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FM26 (20)

Joe McEejit lived with his mother, Merideth (pronounced, Joe stressed, Merry Death) in a trailer way in the back of the Stately Swamp Mobile Home Commons just off the Tamiami Trail. The trailer park reeked of meth-making, and various colored clouds of smoke puffed from every other trailer. Rupert rode shotgun in Joe’s 1992 Jimmy Yukon down a cracked paved road that wound through the park. They passed a man covered in what looked like tar being handcuffed over the hood of a tan, rusted-out 80s Chevy Cavalier. As they passed, Rupert heard him yell, “If I had some crack, I wouldn’t be out here stealing . . . ” Joe didn’t notice. But Rupert’s attention shifted the instant they drove around a double-decker trailer creation on a turn. Not a trailer designed to be a two-story habitat, but two single-wide trailers stacked and welded together, with a chain ladder going from the bottom to the top. But that wasn’t what impressed Rupert. As they rounded the curve, he could see the back of the makeshift structure, over which was painted as a massive faded rebel flag with the words “The South Will Rise Agian.” The a was a tiny, less-faded later edit a fat Sherpie marker between the i and n.

About thirty seconds later, they pulled up next to what Rupert presumed to be the McEejit household. A broken fiberglass birdbath stood in what passed as a front yard and a red Hodaka Combat Wombat motocross dirt bike leaned up against the side of the trailer. It looked youth-sized and old.

As Rupert followed Joe through the door, he was overcome, not by meth cooking, for once, but the smell of baking cookies. An old woman with auburn-faded-to-rust-colored hair came out from behind the connected counter island that separated the kitchen from the dinning/living room area.

“Who the fuck is this asshole? Is that a purse?”

Joe handed her two Golden Tickets to Crack Planet and Rupert and his man purse were forgotten. She squealed like a non-crack-smoking old woman who’d won a trip to Vegas with an unlimited supply of nickels to play the slots, except she likely smoked crack and the slots in this scenario shilled out free crack.

“Crack Planet, here we come!” Then she stopped. “How’d you get two tickets, Joe? What did you do . . . ?” She looked about to come at him, but Joe threw his hands up and pointed at Rupert, who braced himself for a light pummeling. But she stopped and looked up at him.

“Who the fuck are you? You’re fucking huge.”

Rupert opened his mouth, but Joe spoke.

“Mom, this is Rupert.” He explained the deal they’d made and she contemplated it for a moment.

“I hear Crack Planet’s pretty amazing,” Rupert said, voice low and polite.

Merideth shot him a look, and then Joe, who was occupied with his phone.

“Goddamn it, Joe, put that fucking thing away. We have a guest.”

Joe slid his phone into his back pocket. Merideth said nothing else, but only returned to the kitchen and opened the oven. The fresh cookie smell wafted stronger, warmer. Rupert passed Joe a dubious look, but Merideth returned with a tray stacked with still-steaming cookies and set it on the table. Her shirt neckline was a little low—not embarrassing-cleavage low, but low enough to reveal a tattoo high on her chest that said “Don’t Fuck with Gramma,” embellished with a rose and a leaping manatee, which Rupert doubted they did. It looked old and faded, as if she’d gotten it long before she’d reached the conventional age for grandmotherhood. That was a little unsettling, though not unexpected.

Rupert thought of Bucket jumping onto—into—the deceased, definitely-not-leaping manatee, but was snapped back to the present when Merideth said: “Well, let’s get cookin’ then. But first, have some cookies.”

Rupert picked up a cookie, still warm between his fingers, and looked at it. Chocolate peanut butter, he thought, though he was a little leery. They stood in a meth lab trailer with an old woman who cooked meth and with whom Rupert did not want to fuck. He considered declining like he’d declined Bucket’s offer of post-cook coffee.

Joe grabbed one and took a bite. He had his phone out again and thumbed through something or other, then looked over at Rupert. “Oh, they’re clean. Mom would never put that shit into her cookies, right mom?”

“You’re goddamn right.”

Rupert took a bite and the chocolate-peanut-buttery goodness slid down his gullet.

It was the single best cookie he’d ever eaten in his life.

“Oh my God,” he said through another bite.

Merideth grinned, the gums of her dentures the same color as her hair. And then they all stood there for a moment—Joe eating cookies and thumbing his phone, Rupert eating cookies, his mind blank, and Merideth standing there, enjoying the fruits of her labor. But the quiet filled only with cookie-chewing was too much for Rupert’s still-delicate social composure, and he said: “So, you have grandchildren?”

“Fuck no,” she said, as if she really meant it.

Silence but for the cookie chewing. Then:

“Did you hear about that fella, tried to shoot Trump at a rally in Vegas?” Merideth made small talk.

Rupert eyes lit up. “Did he?”

“No, thank God.”

“Oh.” Rupert wondered what ridiculous, hypothetical garbage the country could have been spared, should the worst happen in November. Withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, perhaps. Maybe ending ANWR drilling restrictions or rolling back environmental regulations. Suppose he would increase the likelihood of using nuclear weapons again for the first time since 1945. Or, Rupert thought, possibly he’d oversee the longest government shutdown during a psychotic temper tantrum in order to get billions of dollars for this completely unnecessary wall he’d keep talking about between the United States and Mexico that no one but a handful of heartland bigots would actually want or think we need. Maybe he’d legitimize white supremacy, or use mass shooting victims as photo ops. Perhaps he’d politicize or monetize a deadly global pandemic. All predicated on the inexorable deterioration of the man’s brain, as he’s clearly in the early stages of dementia, in addition to being illiterate and clinically narcissistic.

Rupert snickered to himself—he had a pretty wild imagination sometimes, even in this godforsaken upside-down state.

Merideth waddled down the hall and behind a curtain on the other end of the trailer. Rupert and Joe both grabbed another cookie each and followed her.

There, Rupert was confronted with a massive, immaculate, complex system of tubes and stands and glass beakers. It was awe-inspiring.

“Wow, Meri . . . Merry-Death, you did all this?”

She stood with her fists on her hips, nodding and admiring her own creation. Then:

“Joe’s lucky I let him near it.”

Joe nodded, dispassionately resigned to his complete incompetency.

“But, I like bakin’ better than cookin’, so fuckknuckle there’s gotta do it. He does okay. He only fucks it up now and then.”

A faint ringing issued from Joe’s back pocket, and then a voice: “Holly’s Hush Hush Lingerie, how may I help you?” Joe nonchalantly slipped his hand into his back pocket and hung up the call without removing the phone.

Merideth smacked Joe upside the head. Joe hardly seemed to notice.

Rupert chewed the remainder of his final cookie.

“Well,” she said, clapping her hands together. “Let’s get started.”

Rupert took notes as they worked, and during a quiet moment when Merideth wasn’t instructing, Joe asked Rupert:

“Hey, Rupe, have you heard of this government-funded meth work program?”

Rupert froze.

“No.” He returned to mixing the pseudoephedrine with the red phosphorus and hydriodic acid. He realized he had begun to believe the D.E.A.T.H. program didn’t exist.

“I guess it’s some kind of thing that puts Methheads to work as a form of rehabilitation. Their pay is accumulated and once they get clean, they get a lump sum to go start new lives.”

“With some kind of supervision, of course,” Merideth added.

“Hmm,” Rupert said. “Sounds interesting. Are you thinking about checking it out?”

“Well, Mom wants me to,” Joe said, and Merideth nodded.

“Get clean, get the cash, and then he can have it back.”

“Have it back . . . ” Rupert said.

“His habit.”

“Of course,” Rupert replied. For the first time, this whole scene struck him as a little depressing. Joe seemed like an okay guy.

“Supposed to be a lot of cash,” Joe said. Rupert looked at him—he was thumbing through his phone again.

“I’m going to maybe check it out tomorrow. Wanna come?”

“Sure.” Rupert said impassively, and he prepared to filter out the red phosphorus.

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Eriks (pronounced “Erik”) Mackus was in prison for grand theft auto and robbery, and while he was in prison, he tattooed himself face using a very special ink blend of melted checkers, grease, toothpaste, and pencil lead, applied with a paperclip—among other things, his 727 Pinellas area code on one cheek and the state of—you guessed it—Florida on his other cheek. When he got out of prison, he made to start over by getting a welding certificate, which was good. He was told he’d have a hard time finding work with the tattoos on his face, so he had a fellow welding student take them off with a wire brush welding grinder, which was bad. He got his certificate and planned to find work with a union, to save money, and move to Texas, or maybe even Alaska, which was good. Five years later in 2019, he was booked on charges in Pinellas County for felony domestic battery, which is bad. I was really pulling for Mackus.

Kuruvilla, Carol. “Florida Man Grinds Off His Jail Tattoos with a Steel Wire Brush.” New York Daily News. Tribune Publishing Company. May 31, 2014.


Read Florida Man: Battle of the Five Meth Labs: A Love Story here.

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FM25 (19)

Rupert and Jesus stood outside a FloridoMart, watching Tweakers come and go with their Slurpits, and trying to wrangle up some Crack Planet customers. Today, Rupert did better selling Tommy’s Tropical Supreme than either of them did with the tickets.

“Delayed gratification, Jesus,” Rupert said as an FFG meal bag blew up against his shin, then escaped back into the wild. “People want the smaller reward now, instantly, rather than have to wait for a larger reward later. That is, assuming there is a reward later at all in this case.”

Jesus rolled his eyes and then looked at Rupert.

“Yes, gringo. It isn’t just not wanting to delay the reward. People tend to perceive the delayed reward as less valuable depending on how long they have to wait for it. The longer they have to wait, the less they value what is in actuality an equal reward. Exponential discounting, Rupert.”

Rupert smiled. “I like you. You’re a reader.”

Jesus laughed. “You’re tolerable.”

Rupert hissed through his teeth.

“That’s right,” Jesus said. “You oughta put some Vapor Rub on that.”

“That was not a burn.”


“I am making more meth sales than you are tickets sales.”

“Truth,” Jesus conceded. “If Fulva finds out, she gonna be pissed.

“So, you keep up with the news . . . what’s new?” Rupert changed the subject. “I haven’t really heard much since I’ve been down here.”

Jesus glared at him. “Well. Just in the last week, some stalker guy shot that one singer on The Croon.”

“Shit. I don’t watch The Croon.”

“You didn’t seem like the type. Happened right here—”


“Well, in Florida. Orlando. And another guy shot up a gay club. Killed forty-nine—”


“—wounded fifty-three.”


“Also in Orlando.”

“ . . . the fuck?”

Jesus paused to think. “A two year old was attacked, mangled, and drowned by an alligator at a tourist resort—”


“Nope. Golden Oak.”

“Where’s that?”

“Near Orlando.”

Rupert sighed. “All in Florida. What about the rest of the country?”

“Have you not noticed that the longer you’re in-country, the less relevant the rest of the country becomes?”

“I’m still interested—”

“No you’re not. You just don’t want to talk about how Fulva’s gonna ream you out with MeeMaw’s Whackin’ Dick—”

“Not true.”

“You’re really interested?”

“Not really.” Rupert acquiesced.

“Don’t feel bad. Your interest, or lack thereof, is also irrelevant. Shit just ceases to matter here.”

“Unless you’re getting shot or eaten by alligators.”

“Yeah, but to be fair . . . we eat an awful lot of gator down here.”

Rupert shrugged his capitulation. “Fair, indeed.”

“Could be.”

“Where is Orlando?” Rupert wanted to know exactly how close death loomed.

“About 130 miles, north-ish.”

“Too close.”

Bróder, it’s all the same. You’ve seen it.”

“I have.” Rupert slumped.

“Anyway, Fulva’s gonna go through the roof. And Tommy, for that matter. Maybe not through the roof, but . . . ”

“Through the roof of his car.”

They both laughed. Though Rupert kept selling his supply of Tropical Supreme, he had been avoiding Tommy Bananas since the prospect of a cooking lesson fell through, though he’d heard things.

“Did I tell you what happened to Bananas?” Rupert asked. Jesus shook his head.

“So, Tommy likes to have these long, excruciating meetings in his car—”

“How are the Ebonics lessons coming along?”

“Fuck you. Anyway, after I left the last one—when I asked him about cooking—I guess that precariously mounted whatever-the-hell-it-is I told you about fell over into the front and impaled Tommy, pinning him to the seat.”

“What?” Jesus snorted a laugh that sounded painful. “Is he okay?”

“Well, as you know, the cops didn’t show up when he called, because the last time Tommy called the fuzz, he tried to barter with the dispatcher—three bucks and a chicken dinner for sex.”

Jesus doubled over, laughing. “Chalé! Stop . . . ”

“He spent twenty-seven hours trying to break the antler off the head and work himself up over the end. Said it went right through.”

“I can’t breathe.”

“And, of course, he can’t leave his car, so he can’t go into a hospital, so he plugged both ends with a couple of socks he dug out from the back and said he was fine.”

Jesus stopped laughing, “Oh man, he’s not fine.”

“Fuck no he’s not.”

“Who told you this?”

“Guy working at the Gorge (Fine Men’s Clothing), store #7.”

Jesus shook his head. “Serious talk now, it’s a good thing he’s, um, incapacitated. I’ve heard things. I had notheard what happened to him, but I have heard things.”

“That’s not at all cryptic. Heard things? What things? Who are you even talking to?” Sometimes, this place—these people—irritated Rupert. Little did he know, this general gossipy activity was not exclusive to Floridians.

“You might find this hard to believe, but when I’m not slumming with you selling Crack Planet tickets to Piperos, I actually have a very fulfilling social life involving a broad variety of reasonably stable people.”

“One of these reasonably stable friends of yours has news about Tommy Bananas?”

Jesus considered Rupert for a moment. “I don’t even have to tell you.”

Rupert looked at Jesus for an equal space of time, expressionless, then Jesus gave in.

“Bananas is under the impression that you are secretly making and selling his dead father’s recipe.”

“You said he was still alive.”

“Depends on one’s perspective, eh?”

“I’m selling Cancer Nanners.”

“Doesn’t matter.”

“He never told me the recipe.”

“Doesn’t matter. He’s convinced that—get ready—at some point during one of your car meetings, you hypnotized him with—no joke, get ready—your Ebonics talk, and got the formula out of him.”

Rupert was silent for a long time, watching myriad bits of trash swirl around their feet in the hot, lazy breeze.

“I’m just . . . ” he began. “I’m not going to . . . I am choosing to recognize that as . . . I am choosing not to respond to that.”

“Good choice.” Jesus’s eyes scanned the horizon for potential customers. “Ironically, like I’ve said, Papa Bananas is alive and well, making and selling his formula, but only to the lowest, most desperate Geekers. Shit’s no good . . . ”

“But Tommy thinks I’m making bank on it . . . ”

“Yep,” Jesus replied and grinned, still scanning for clients. “Must be your hypnojive powers, ese.”

“Jesus, I am trying . . . no, I am choosing not to react—”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, look, all I’m saying is that you should consider yourself fortunate that your man, Bananas, is incapacitated.”

“Impaled or not, the dude can’t leave his car. I’m not sure how less capacitated he actually is.”

“Never underestimate a tweaking Dollaboy. Getting run through with an antler’s not going to slow him down . . . more . . . ” Jesus stopped and addressed an especially desperate looking Jibby, about to ease into his Crack Planet pitch. The guy looked through Jesus and floated away. “Dang. That guy is spun like a bun on the run . . . ”

“Yeah, I don’t know how much longer I’ll be working for Tommy anyway,” Rupert said.

“I don’t know how much longer Tommy’s going to be around,” Jesus said. “You know that shit’s infected.”

“Yeah.” Rupert squinted down the street at nothing in particular. “Well, since Bucket taught me how to—”

“Seriously hermano, you don’t want to get into that. Sell some tickets, make some easy money, do a good deed, and that’s that.”

Rupert sighed. He realized his drive to become big time here grew stronger than his desire to get the hell out and go back to DC, burning him up like a lab fire ignited by an unvented, lithium-filled bottle. Rupert sighed again, bothered by this involuntary use of simile.

“Well, Bucket wants to get together again to further discuss the New Thought Movement,” Rupert said, still undecided as to whether he wanted to interact with Bucket anymore. That one’s Nutbag Level was indeed exceptional.

“So,” Rupert continued. “You know Bucket. You said everyone knew about Bucket. That guy—”

“Did Bucket tell you about Bucket?”

Rupert stared at Jesus. What now?

“Well, I guess it’s not a thing a person is much willing to bring up. Remember back in the 80s, that kid that got stuck in the well? It was on all the news channels.”

“Yeah,” Rupert said, thinking. “I remember that. In the end it turned out to be as simple as dropping the well bucket down there and pulling him out, but they’d made it more complicated than that and the kid almost starved to death.”

Take a simple situation, add a group of people with their egos and their individual subjectivity, and watch it devolve into a state of complete chaos—social entropy, and Bucket’s story is only a microcosm of what we do all over the world, every day, and not just the shit that makes the news. In our lives, in big and small ways, all rippling out in the form of a billion devastating repercussions. Rupert considered the Butterfly Effect of just that one, particular fuck-up.

“Really? The kid in the well—that was Bucket?”

Jesus nodded.

“Well, that explains a lot.”

“You know that little bridge over the inlet that the kayakers like to go under. You go over it to get to Van Weasel?”


“Kids have been selling for him for years. They start at around eight and age out around twelve, but the firstgroup, years ago, they thought he was a troll—the troll living under the bridge. Then they got a little older and found the well story out somehow. They’re the ones that started calling him Bucket and it just got passed down through the generations.”

“Thought forms.”


“Those kids, man. What a bunch of little—”

“He’s pretty stoic about it, though, right? I don’t think he remembers his real name.”

He deliberately forgot it. Rupert stared ahead, thinking.

Jesus looked at Rupert. “That dude is in rough shape. I wouldn’t mess with any of that.”

“Well, he’s happy enough,” Rupert said. “But no joke, Jesus. I gotta.”


“I gotta get in on this game.”

“What the hell for? Tickets, man. It’s the way up.”

“Man, these things are going nowhere. They’re a scam.”

Jesus eyerolled again and Rupert matched him. They eyeroll-battled for a full minute.

“Jesus, if I could get some production going, I could make all these small-time operators disappear. My shit would be the best shit. And you’d be my right-hand man.”

Jesus looked appalled.

At that moment, a guy came around the corner, not looking like he wanted to go into the store, but went directly to Jesus. He didn’t look like a Geeker, but he was a little twitchy. He cast a wary glance to Rupert.

He looked like a pretty regular guy. A little thin, unshaven in defiance of his receding hairline, and maybe a bit dirty, but not on-the-street dirty. More like shops-at-the-Homeware-Wearhouse dirty. He had his cell phone out, but shoved it into his back pocket before addressing Jesus.

“Hey,” he said.

“Hey Joe,” Jesus said. “What’s cookin?” Jesus laughed, but Joe didn’t, not because he didn’t think it was funny, Rupert thought, but because he didn’t get the joke. Rupert now knew this guy cooked.

“Hey,” Joe said to Rupert.

“Joe, this is Rupert.” Jesus introduced them. “Rupert, Joe.”

They exchanged nods.

“Jesus, Mom’s been buggin’ me about getting one of those damn tickets,” Joe said, finally getting down to it.

“She’d have the time of her life,” Jesus replied.

“Yeah, that’s what she says.” Joe digs into his front pocket and pulls out a fold of bills—it looks like a hundred dollars worth of singles.

“Let’s do this then,” said Jesus, as he dug around in his shorts pockets for a ticket, but pointed to Rupert. “He’s the money man.”

Joe paid Rupert, who counted it with swift expertise—ninety-nine one-dollar bills and ninety-nine cents in change. Joe—or his mother—was exact.

“Thanks, Jesus,” Joe said, examining the ticket, and about to turn. At this moment, Joe’s ass spoke. Or, more precisely, his cell phone did—it was an FFG joint he’d accidentally butt-dialed. The tinny voice announced its business and location, then asked how they could help Joe. Joe took out his phone and put it to his ear. “Sorry,” he said, to the FFG employee, and Rupert and Jesus, then hung up without waiting for a response. This seemed routine.

Rupert stopped him—noticing again that his social anxiety seemed to have vanished.

“You wouldn’t be interested in—?” he started, but Jesus interrupted.

“He don’t want it. He and his mama make it at home.”

“Oh yeah?” Rupert said like he didn’t know. “Like a real lab, all set up?”

Joe put both the ticket and phone back into his pocket and faced them again, then crossed his arms in front of him, suddenly affable. “Oh yeah. You should see it. Mom is a master at constructing clean and efficient labs. People around here’ll tell you, hers is the best, you know, as far as quality and how it goes down. Best cookies, too.”

“You don’t say,” Rupert said. “I’d love to see it. I mean, it sounds impressive. I don’t know much about how it works, but—”

Jesus glared at Rupert and Rupert ignored him.

“Yeah, it can be fascinating,” Joe said, fiddling with his back pocket again. He pulled out the ticket and looked at it. “Jesus, be straight with me, right? Does Crack Planet exist?”

“Real as you and me, son.”

Joe offered a feeble nod and was about to turn once more when Rupert stopped him again.

“Joe, would you like to go to Crack Planet with your mom?”

Jesus looked at Rupert like he’d dropped his pants and took a dump right there in front of the FloridoMart. Rupert wondered just how shocking that would really be. Not very, he suspected.

Joe thought for a moment. “Well, yeah, I guess. Sure. But I gotta save up again and she’ll want to go soon . . . ”

“No need,” Rupert said. “Jesus, hand me one of those Golden Tickets.”

“You know Fulva counts these.”

Rupert made a grabby hand gesture and Jesus threw the ticket at him. It bounced off his elbow and clacked to the ground.

“Nice catch, noir niño,” Jesus said.

“God, shut up,” Rupert replied, picking up the ticket and handing it to Joe. “On the house. One condition.”

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FM24 (18)

New Pullers jerseys were in at a shop a few blocks down from the Royal Courtyard Econo-Regency Chalet, so Rupert and Jesus parted ways there and Rupert walked through a few parking lots, cross-body bag bouncing against his hip, aware that a living plant—a potentially talking plant—bounced around inside, so he slowed down to not jostle it so much. He needed to get it into some water.

At that moment, he was narrowly missed by a man who’d run out of a Holly’s Hush-Hush lingerie store with two armloads of women’s underwear. Thongs and open-crotched panties fluttered to the blacktop around Rupert. A managerial-looking woman in a smart suit and a phone in her hand ran a little way behind the man, stopping next to Rupert, who’d also stopped to watch. They saw the man navigate the main road traffic, leaving a trail of frilled undergarments in his wake. Behind this set piece, the sun shone its brightest as it prepared to retire for the day. Rupert wondered how many times he needed to burn out his retinas before he remembered to buy sunglasses.

“He does this about once every three or four months,” she said to Rupert as her inventory ran away.

Rupert nodded.

Then, police cars screeched and squealed from all directions and the next thing the thong thief knew, he was knocked sideways, his booty scattered to the sky. He landed on his hip, but it was hard to tell through the streaming cars.

“He never lands the same way,” the woman said, sighed, and walked towards the scene.

Rupert moved on, remembering the Plant with No Name.

Back at the Royal Courtyard Econo-Regency Chalet—after ignoring Angel and wondering if anyone else worked or was even staying there—Rupert sat at the small, square table in his room. The plant now sat safely in a glass of water on the other side of the table, as if they were about to share a meal together. He stared at it, waiting.

The plant said nothing.

Rupert inspected it—the black ridges, the strangeness of its twisted limbs fascinated him. It had incurred an injury in his cross-body bag during the escape, and it oozed now, not the clear, slippery sunburn-soothing liquid of normal aloe, but something translucent and blue. He wasn’t quite up to putting his fingertip in it to see if it at least shared the same consistency.

Finally, after much deliberation with his solitary pride, he brought himself to address the plant.

“So . . . ” he began in almost a whisper.

The phone rang. Rupert resisted the urge to slam his head onto the table.

“Yes,” he said as the receiver reached his ear.

“Where’s everything at, Rupe?”

Pyrdewy’s uncharacteristic calm sounded strange to his ear. Rupert tensed up, waiting for the shiny, well-maintained business shoe to drop.

“Well.” Rupert stalled. He really needed to spend more time during the day thinking up lies to tell this man. “It’s . . . good.”

“Oh, it’s good?” Pyrdewy cooed. “Good.”


“What the fuck are you telling me, you fuckin’ weed?”

Rupert relaxed once the screaming started.

“I’m in the program. I’ve . . . gotten in, and I’m observing, and . . . ”

Fuck. He didn’t even know where the D.E.A.T.H. program was. Pyrdewy had already warned him that it was so top secret that finding it without an introduction from already-matriculated Methheads would be next to impossible, and yet he’d given him no hint.

“Well,” Pyrdewy said and then a pause. “None of our operatives have mentioned seeing you.”

“I suppose they haven’t noticed. I haven’t seen any of them either.” Rupert cringed.

“You’re a six-foot-ten inch black man,” Pyrdewy said.

“I prefer ‘multi-ethnic’—”

“Shut up.”



“They treating you alright down there, Rupe? I mean, everyone being nice?” Pyrdewy’s voice became calm again, as if speaking to a child.

“Um, sure. Fine.”

“Good, good,” Pyrdewy said in a soft, soothing manner that made Rupert a bit nauseous. “Sarasotans aren’t so much known for their hospitality for your . . . type, Rupe.”

“My . . . ?” Rupert got it. And Pyrdewy was right. There were some racist motherfuckers down here. But there were obviously some racist motherfuckers in DC, so what difference did it make?

“The swarthy type, Rupe.”

I get it. Rupert said nothing.

“The melanin-friendly type, Rupe.”

Yep, got it. Rupert still said nothing. He wished Pyrdewy—and everyone—would stop calling him “Rupe.” He also thought it better not to respond to this particular line of conversation.

“Get back to work, Rupe,” Pyrdewy said, then hung up.

Rupert replaced the receiver and then glared at the plant sitting oblivious on the table.

The phone rang again and he let it. A moment later, the green message light flashed. Rupert listened; it was Leenda. “Just checking in.” His chest filled with sparks, but they dissipated into a dull ache and he returned the receiver to its cradle again. Rupert thought about the last time he saw her, which felt like forever ago. The elevator door sliding shut, and a dinner proposal that hinged on the re-appearance of Stanley. Rupert hoped even more fervently that they found him, though by now it seemed improbable. But Leenda would be here soon, and there would be a meeting regardless. He felt both eager and terrified.

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FM23 (17)

Rupert and Jesus drove to another Gorge (Fine Men’s Clothing) location to drop off Golden Ticket monies with Bill—the branch store in which they met changed from day to day in rotation, so Rupert didn’t always have to worry about running into Tommy Bananas, who was pretty obvious and easily avoidable regardless.

“We spend a lot of time in this car, Jesus,” Rupert said as they drove past a small gas station where a few emergency responders pulled another shirtless man out of a vending machine. The man ate a candy bar with his free hand while a uniformed woman with a sour look beneath her protective face gear used some sort of industrial saw to free him. He didn’t look too put out.

“Name of the game,” Jesus said, stopping at a light. “Hey, Fulva’s been asking about you. She wants to know where you are and why she never sees you. And she’s not asking in a way like she misses you. I think she’s onto you.”

“Come on,” Rupert said and shuddered a little at the thought of this woman and her demon lover. “So, I’m moonlighting a little. It’s not like we have an exclusive contract or anything.” He was both perplexed and pleased with his new-found nonchalance in the face of potential otherworldly retribution.

The light turned green and the Lincoln lurched forward.

“Besides, why would they care? They’re making more money on Golden Tickets than they ever have.”

“Yeah, and that’s good, but you have to understand these people, pana,” Jesus said, eyeing Rupert sideways.

“They can be understood?” Rupert laughed, but Jesus didn’t. They pulled into the plaza, which housed The Gorge (Fine Men’s Clothing) #3 in their scheduled rotation, and parked. Jesus turned off the engine and looked at Rupert.

“Every one of these crooks thinks they’re big time. So, they like to act big time. If you’re not careful, big time might fuck you up.”

“But they’re buffoons, Jesus,” Rupert argued, creeping doubt notwithstanding. Fulva was menacing even if you didn’t know she fucked Derek Peterson. The Peterson fucking only changed the quality—like splatter movies are gross and scary, but body horror is gross, scary, and deeply unsettling.

“That, mi hermano, is what makes them more threatening—the buffoonility,” Jesus said, satisfied with his coinage. He got out of the car.

This did make a certain amount of sense to Rupert and he followed Jesus into the Florida heat.

As they prepared to go in, Bill walked out, followed by Osceola. No one said anything as Bill and Osceola climbed into the back of Jesus’s car. Jesus shrugged at Rupert and they got back in.

“Drive,” Osceola said, sliding down into the seat to assume a super-relaxed position.

Jesus picked at his thumbnail, then chewed it a little. Rupert stared at a window mannequin wearing a sharp suit that no one in their right mind would wear in this heat.

“Drive,” Osceola said again, this time agitated by Jesus’s insubordinance.

“Where are we going, Bill?” Jesus asked, looking at Bill in the rearview. Bill had simply been distracted by some routine MeeMaw’s Whackin’ Dick maintenance.

“Oh, Fulva’s,” he said, looking up. He then returned to his massaging.

Jesus turned the engine over and soon they were on their way to Segue-La. Rupert reached a long arm back past Osceola and handed Bill a wad of cash, which Bill took without moving any attention from his massive pink dildo.

None of this struck Rupert as weird anymore.

* * *

When they arrived at Segue-La, Fulva sat cross-legged on her mat-throne reading a book by Derek Peterson called Bareback Militia. Steve Perry sat on the raised platform beside her—sporting a cowhide vest and a small cowboy hat—carefully pulling part his own old, desiccated feces, picking undigested seeds out of it, and popping them into his disgusting little monkey mouth. As soon as he saw Rupert, he ran, climbed up Rupert’s body, perched on his shoulder, and sniffed the side of his head. Rupert grimaced. He disliked this monkey.

As they approached, Fulva looked up from her book and smiled at Rupert, ignoring Jesus, which Jesus was used to and preferred.

“You read Peterson, Rupie?” she asked as if she referred to John Stuart Mill.

Until he came to Florida, Rupert had never heard of him. He wasn’t sure Peterson existed outside of Florida.

“I don’t think I have, no.” He knew absolutely that he’d have known if he had.

“Do. He’s incredible. Hands down, the best erotic/horror-young-adult-self-help writer of the genre.”

“She just wants to fuck him,” Bill spat as he and Osceola walked in. He slid down into the beanbag chair in front of his VMS4. Rupert wondered if Bill had made his weekly 911 call yet, or maybe the VMS4 system is back up and running to Bill’s satisfaction. Then, a little late to the game, his thought was interrupted by a vision of Peterson’s rubbery, distorted face laboring exhaustively over Fulva as she grunted her old man moans of greasy-gross pleasure, perhaps opening a pestilential rift in the Universal Source.

Fulva eeked out a wispy, revolted noise, much milder than Rupert wanted to express.

“Bildo’s just jealous.”

Rupert said nothing. Fulva flipped the book aside and looked at Rupert.

“Where’ve ya been, Rupie?”

“Oh, around. Selling tickets. Seeing the sights. Never been to Florida before.”

“Yeah? Where’ve you been?”

You know . . . around,” Rupert hadn’t been anywhere that he could point to as a “sight.”

“Yeah, but where?”

“I’ve been,” Rupert began slowly, “down to the marina.”

“Which one?”


“Hey, you know, before we continue this conversation, and speaking of water, would you mind if I, um . . . ?” Rupert indicated his need to urinate by loosely grabbing his junk and plonking his knees together.

Fulva, annoyed, waved him away. Jesus pointed over his shoulder to a large pink door with gold trim.

Rupert really did have to go, though he hoped he could buy enough time to think of the marina’s name. Any marina’s name.

The bathroom is, of course, pink. Persian Rose, to be exact. Rupert did not recall ever having taken a color-theory class. It was clear Fulva preferred unnatural colors, but this was one of the more toned-down pinks. And everything matched. Whoever put this together nailed it. The floor, walls, toilet, shower and curtain, sink, counter, soap dish, soap, everything was the exact same shade of Persian Rose. Furthermore, it was immaculate, as opposed to the rest of Segue-La. Rupert was impressed, despite that it gave him vertigo.

The only thing here not Persian Rose was a massive, bigger-than-Rupert-sized aloe plant gone biologically haywire. Its leaves didn’t just grow up from the container in a single inflorescence, but branched off to create countless little aloe plantlets, like a spider plant, which was strange for an aloe. It sat in a pink pot atop a Persian Rose wardrobe with slatted doors, and branched off in all directions, twisting and turning, hanging down to the floor. He wasn’t even sure it was an aloe plant, though its leaves were aloe-shaped and fleshy, green with pointed ridges along the sides. More like tentacles, really. The ridges were black, though, and he’d never seen an aloe plant like that. Perhaps some special species of Aloe. Florida did contain some prehistoric monster-looking vegetation. Fucking Florida.

As Rupert drained his bladder, he heard a faint whisper from behind: “Help me.”

He figured it was just the sound of his whiz hitting the water and echoing around the Persian Rose walls and tiles. Or maybe Bill and Fulva were fighting out there. Whatever.

But as he finished up, shook off, and had his hand on the handle to flush, it came again.

“Help me.”

Nope, he thought. I gotta get some kind of ventilation mask when I’m around the cooking fumes. This is some bullshit.

He flushed, pivoted to the sink and washed his hands, which turned pink from the soap. Rupert wondered what the soap was made of to get that kind of toxic-looking lather. He rinsed and as the filling toilet and running faucet stopped at the same time, it came again, distinct.

“Help me.”

Rupert swung around to his left, toward the wardrobe, and opened the doors. It was full of Derek Peterson Little Girl brand yoga pants—Rupert’s throat constricted. Did he feel a presence in the room? Please don’t be Peterson. As he shut the doors, his eyes fell on the freakazoid aloe plant, and then he heard: “Yessss . . . ”

It was the plant.

A knock at the door almost made Rupert scream.

“You fall in?” Osceola’s voice came muted through the door. Rupert found this ironic; he was too large to ever “fall in,” whereas Osceola was small enough to do that very thing.

Without thinking, Rupert snapped a plantlet off its stem and threw it into his cross-body bag. Osceola banged on the door and started to rap, Rupert supposed, to pass the time during the three seconds between now and the evacuation of the bathroom. Rupert opened the door and walked around Osceola without a word.

Once more before the court of Fulva, Rupert looked at his watch.

“Whoa, Jesus, the time,” he said. “We gotta go to the place to do that thing with the selling.”

Jesus looked up, startled as he had been ignoring the proceedings, but he caught on quickly and said: “Ah, yeah, the thing. Tickets. Over to the place. We’re gonna be late.” He fished his keys out of his pocket. “Gotta sell them tickets. They’re knocking the door down for them.”

Rupert nodded.

“Rupie,” Fulva called.

He turned and looked at her.

“Don’t be a stranger.” Fulva smiled.

Rupert nodded again, smiled, and gave a weak wave. Christ, stranger than what?

“And hey,” she added. “You should stop by Mote Marine. They have manatees.”

Rupert thought of the floating manatee meth lab of putrefaction.

“I will. Thanks for the tip.” Does she know something?

Rupert and Jesus left and walked to the car more hurried than usual.

“Do you think she knows?” Rupert asked Jesus.

“What, now you’re worried?”

“She is kind of menacing.”

“I tried to tell you.”

They got into the car and Rupert erupted into a nervous sweat.

“So, where are we going?” Jesus asked.


As they drove, Rupert looked around for whatever bizarre, drug-addled event might be taking place around him, but for once found nothing. He relaxed a little. Then he remembered the aloe plantlet in his cross-body bag.

“Can you drop me off at the Royal Courtyard Econo-Regency Chalet?”


“Hey Jesus,” Rupert started. “That plant in the bathroom.”

Jesus’s face got serious.

“The Plant with No Name,” he replied, cryptic.


Jesus looked at Rupert like, what do you expect at this point?

Rupert silently conceded, then: “What do you know about it? Like, what kind of plant is it?” He could identify every possible shade of pink that ever existed, natural or manmade, but he couldn’t identify a houseplant.

“Ever heard of something called ‘Wet’?” Jesus asked.

Rupert shook his head.

“Fry? Illy?”

Still no. “Wait, is that Ebonics? I told you, I’m not fluent . . . ”

“No. Okay. Pharmaceutical pop culture lesson. A handful of years ago, this was all the rage on the street. Basically, it’s marijuana soaked in PCP, or you just dip a joint in it. That’s all well and good, but the trouble came because, in fact, a nickname for PCP in the community is—

* * *

“Oh, I remember Wet,” Shit Pail chimes in, again ruining Rupert’s storytelling groove.

“You seem like you might. Fond memories, I presume.”

“If by ‘fond memories’ you mean no memories—”

“That doesn’t sound like you remember it.” Rupert, irritated by another interruption, bated Shit Pail with no luck, then was relieved when she didn’t notice.

“I remember it as a thing that existed in the world—whether I existed when I used it is a matter of debate.” She seemed to pick something out of a tooth hole.

“I guess that’s what you get from smoking something called—”

* * *

“—Embalming Fluid.”


“Real original, I know. So, Fulva and Bill, in all their glorious wisdom, wanted in on the act ‘cause it was makin’ bank. So, they sent Osceola off to get them some ‘embalming fluid.’ And you’ve met Osceola.”

“This can’t be good.”

Pendejo comes back, not with PCP, but actual embalming fluid. Now, evidently, that can get you high—you can dip a cigarette, marijuana or otherwise, into some PCP-laced actual embalming fluid, and folks call that Fry, but we’re getting into some complicated substance sub-genres here . . . anyway, it can get you high, though it can also give you seizures and put your ass in a coma. So, when that all went south, Fulva told Bill to get rid of it, and he poured it into her plant in the bathroom.”

“Is that an aloe plant?”

“Um, yeah, I think it is. That shit you break off and put on burns?”


“Yeah, I think so.”


“Shit yes, and it got wild. Keeps trying to escape. But she can’t part with it. Gift from Derek Peterson.”

“Thee Derek Peterson?”

“The very one.”

“Where’d he get it?”

“Regular ol’ aloe plant—I dunno. Plant shop.”

After a moment of silence: “That’s, uh . . . that’s a crazy story.” Rupert gazed down at his cross-body bag lying across his lap.

“You expected something more plausible?”

“Yes,” Rupert admitted. “Yes, I did. I hoped . . .”

“Okay, how about this? It’s not a plant at all. It’s an alien from Crack Planet.”

“Embalming fluid it is, then.”

“Hey,” Jesus said, looking between Rupert and the road. “You leave that plant alone.”

They eyed each other, suspicious. Rupert thought Jesus knew something more about the Plant with No Name, but he himself was reluctant to tell the only half-sane person he knew here that he’d heard a plant request his assistance.

“Okay.” Rupert went back to scanning the plazas for crazy, shirtless Florida men.

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Simply put, Eric Rico Ortiz got a tattoo of a black widow spider on the side of his face because he was afraid of spiders. Let me quote the article: “’Everybody fears spiders,’ Ortiz told the Daytona Beach News-Journal, while standing at the Volusia County Courthouse to handle felony charges against him for habitually driving with a revoked license.” His rap sheet on the day of this hearing included burglary, narcotic possession, retail theft, prowling, and domestic battery. The crime saga doesn’t end there. A few days later, after an altercation with his girlfriend involving a box cutter and an attempted rape, Ortiz was being sought by police for kidnapping, battery, false imprisonment, attempted sexual battery without force, tampering with a witness, robbery by sudden snatching, and preventing someone from calling 911. According to HireExFelon.com, Ortiz was later sentenced for “willful child abuse” and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. He also has the following tattoos as described by the Florida State Prison West Unit, where he is being held as of this writing: “Cross Cards 8Ball Rosary Banner Dragon Gun Eric Yariel Angel NY” on his left arm, “Clouds Star Prayer Hands Sun Mi Orguello Flag Clouds Boricua” on his right arm, “Heart Roses Banner” on his left chest, “Skull” on his right chest, “Love Eye” on his right hand, oh, and a “Spiders Web” on his face, opposite the giant spider that captured the media’s hearts. His release date is April 4, 2020, if you happen to live in the area.

McCoy, Terrence. “Florida Man Terrified of Spiders So He Tattooed A Giant One on His Face.” Miami New Times. New Times. February 21, 2014.

Joseph, Chris. “Florida Man with Spider Tattoo on His Face Is Now Wanted By Police.”March 4, 2014. Broward Palm Beach New Times. New Times.

Read Florida Man: Battle of the Five Meth Labs: A Love Story here.

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