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Posts Tagged ‘FloridaManNovel’

vending machine

Unnamed Florida Man had to be rescued from a vending machine at Alpha Packaging company in Jacksonville. “Authorities”—presumably the Jacksonville Fire & Rescue spokesman—would not provide additional information as to how the man became “entangled,” how he was rescued, nor the extent of his injuries. Of course, the imagination soars. That said, this is really the best part of the story: “A person at Alpha Packaging picked up the phone and hung up without providing any additional information.” Fair enough, Alpha Packaging.

Action News – Jacksonville. “Florida Man Rescued from Vending Machine.”ActionNewsJax. Cox Media Group. August 22, 2014.

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

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32

FM(32)

Rupert tried to squeeze down the cemetery access too quickly and almost got himself stuck a couple of times, but in a few moments, he’d made it to the cavern floor and yanked the cord on the small generator that provided the lighting. No one appeared to have been there and everything was in its place—except for the Plant with No Name. Its new pot sat empty under the lamp, a few clumps of soil spilled over the side and trailing to the floor—

* * *

“But everything’s fine, right?” Shit Pail asks. Her ass now looks to be permanently wedged into the shit pail. “Man, I wish we had some Superade or something.”

“There’s water from the work sink,” Rupert says, pointing to the grubby, dilapidated sink that hung from the wall. He is also a little parched.

She considers it.

“Yeah, maybe.”

Rupert doesn’t want to see the process of her removing herself from the shit pail and hopes she isn’t that thirsty.

“So, wait. What about Leenda?”

Rupert heaves a deep sigh.

“I’d completely forgotten.”

“How could you forget about Leenda?”

“I was being pursued by a pack of wild Junkies, Shi—” He catches himself. “I had a lot going on right that minute.”

“So, what happened to the plant?”

“I’m getting to all of that.”

“Well get to it!”

Shit Pail sucks another cigarette butt down to the filter, drops it between her legs, and rests her chin on her knee-propped palm. Ashes have been falling into her pushed-down underwear all this time and Rupert is thankful she hasn’t caught fire yet.

He continues.

“So, little did anyone know . . .

* * *

The McEejits had pulled up beside the D.E.A.T.H. program pit in which the mine opening gaped dark and foreboding. Since the cave-ins had been discovered, all work had stopped and they hadn’t even bothered to investigate what had happened. It was assumed that it had collapsed near the entrance—it’s not like they paid too much attention to structural safety, so it wasn’t that much of a surprise. And Rupert had been right—it wasn’t important enough for them to pursue it. The program had packed everything up and left. All that remained was the pit, the puke barrels, the rickety wooden steps, and the mine entrance.

“Why are we here?” Merideth asked Joe, testy and worn out from the previous struggle. Her Rolling Pin of Death rested on her knees in the passenger seat.

“I remember hearing Rupert say something about this leading to Spanish Point—like a half-mile or something. Thought it might be quicker if we skipped all the traffic and slipped through here,” Joe replied, turning off the engine. He leaned over his mother, who almost smacked him, and pulled a flashlight out of the glove compartment.

“What about the cave-in?” she asked.

“What cave-in?”

“Do you watch the news, moron?”

“No,” he answered plainly. “You know I don’t.”

“Weren’t you supposed to be coming down here for that program?”

Joe looked caught in a trap, which he was. He had not been attending the program. He didn’t answer, figuring silence was his best defense.

“You lying motherfucker,” she said and was about to hit him again, but then thought of the time. “We ain’t got time for this shit, but when we get home, I’m going to beat the snot outta you.”

Joe sighed, resigned to it. He got out of the Yukon and then helped his mother down the steps into the pit. They got to the cave opening and walked about thirty feet in, until the flashlight lit upon a pile of rubble.

Merideth hit Joe in the back of the head as hard as she could. Joe grabbed his head but said nothing.

“Well, asshole, we’re here now. You find a way through this.”

“What? Mom, it’s caved in—”

“I don’t give a shit. This was your brilliant idea, you figure it out.”

Joe sighed once more and looked around the debris for some way through, trying rocks to see if some might be loose. Joe’s luck was in for once and he soon found a spot where the stones were loose enough to pull out of the way, clearing an opening large enough for them to get through.

“Mom,” he called to her. She’d been leaning against the cave wall, angry and tapping her Rolling Pin of Death against it.

She walked over, expecting nothing.

“Well, shit,” she said. “You’re kidding.”

Joe pulled out a few more loose stones and then he crawled through. Upon landing on the other side, the Rolling Pin of Death plopped onto his back painfully, but he got up and helped his mother through the gap.

* * *

Back at RupeLee Industries, after concluding that someone had lifted his talking aloe plant, which caused him a surprising amount of concern for its welfare—in addition to concern that the plant might squeal additional information to the enemy—Rupert heard something off in the shadowy perimeter of the cavern.

“Who’s that?” he yelled.

“Who’s that?” a voice yelled back.

Jesus walked out of the shadows.

“What the fuck, dude?” Rupert said. “What are you doing here?”

“Dropped my wallet, bro,” Jesus answered. Apparently, after he’d flung the condom at Rupert, when he went to replace the wallet into his shorts pocket, missed, and it had slipped to the floor without a sound. “These shorts are too roomy.”

“What are you doing over there?”

“Just looking around.” He flashed his cell phone flashlight at Rupert. “We put everything together, but I never had a chance to look around.”

Then, a noise from the cemetery access—a scampering, and then Steve Perry rolled out, coming to a stop on his feet, and then screeching and screeching back up the access.

“Shit,” they said in unison.

They heard Fulva’s sandpaper voice complaining about getting her bag dirty, and Bill grunting, trying to get himself through to the cavern.

“They’re trying to kill me,” Rupert said to Jesus.

“Man, I told you so.” Jesus was grinning.

“It’s not funny!”

“Okay, it’s not.”

They heard Bill let out a frightened shout and then something fell down the access. MeeMaw’s Whackin’ Dick flopped down and landed on the floor, bouncing twice before coming to a stop next to Steve Perry.

They all stared at it, even the little psycho-monkey. No one had ever seen it out of Bill’s direct possession.

“Jesus, we need a plan. Now,” Rupert said, no one taking their eyes off the dildo, which looked so strange and alien out of Bill’s worshipping, cooncunt-oil massaging grip.

Before Jesus can answer, the rubber dick began to glow—faint at first, but then slowly pulsing into a bright, perturbing pink beacon.

Jesus opened his mouth to say something, but then shut it.

Steve Perry ran away from the dildo and climbed up Rupert’s body, grabbing onto his head for protection from whatever came. Rupert struggled to free himself of the foul creature, but also remained transfixed by the glowing, pulsing dildo. A pink mist rose from the Whackin’ Dick, swirling as if sentient, and gradually forming a semi-human shape. Then:

“Bildo!” an angry voice yelled. It sounded a little like Fulva, but less like an old man than a chain-smoking old woman, which was accurate for once. “Goddamn it, Bildo, you fucked up again, didn’t you?”

“­¡Joder!” Jesus choked out. “MeeMaw!”

At that, MeeMaw’s ghostly pink form moved and turned to them.

“Who the hell are you?” She looked around herself. “Where the hell is this? Why’s my dick on the floor? Bildo!”

Her answers came in the form of Fulva and Bill tumbling down through the access and onto the cavern floor, knocking the glowing dildo and MeeMaw out of the way, at which she emitted a surprised yelp.

Despite being covered with blood and dirt, Fulva still complained about the filth, oblivious, for the moment, that MeeMaw’s furious spirit had somehow been called forth.

“Christ, Bill,” MeeMaw said, “you’re still with this hooker?”

At the sound of MeeMaw’s voice, Bill screamed and ran around, desperate for a corner to cower in, but found nothing. He hid under a lab table whimpering: “I told you she’d come! I told you you shouldn’t joke . . . ”

Jesus bent over a little to watch this. Bill abruptly stopped his babbling and went catatonic, making the motions of holding MeeMaw’s Whackin’ Dick and stroking it lovingly. The actual Whackin’ Dick was fifteen feet away and still manifesting the old, dead porn/headshop owner.

Fulva looked at the dildo, then at MeeMaw, and snorted.

“Oh, fuck yourself,” she growled, then turned her full attention to Rupert. “You’re dead,” she said, heading for him. Rupert ran, Steve Perry still clinging to the back of his head.

“God, you crazy bitch, what do you want?” he yelled behind him as he began to make laps around the cavern—still trying to detach Steve Perry from his head—weaving between tables or hugging the barrels against the walls. “I sold your damn tickets; I made you more money!”

She trapped him between a cluster of extra barrels and the framework for the mobile meth lab components.

“Not the point, Rupie,” she said, walking closer, dragging her soiled hippy bag behind her like a corpse. She looked exactly as if she’d just crashed a speedboat and bathed in warm ostrich blood. “When you work for Fulva Siki, Fulva Siki owns you.” Then she stopped and yelled: “Steve Perry!”

And Steve Perry—that devious little bastard—went for Rupert’s eyes, but Jesus, knowing the monkey well, presumed the worst fifteen seconds ago and was already moving to help. He knocked Fulva out of the way, parried with Rupert’s flailing, screaming form for a few seconds, and then swung out a right hook, knocking Steve Perry off Rupert’s head and about ten feet across the room.

As soon as the monkey landed, it ran to Fulva and hid behind her as she got up from the floor. For a moment, Rupert and Jesus were distracted by the fury of MeeMaw, who had become corporeal enough to have picked up her own manifesting Whackin’ Dick and was now leaning under the table, chastising “Bildo” for being such a colossal “fuck up.” Bill looked to be somewhere else—perhaps having an out-of-body experience—and was impervious to the dildo blows.

Rupert and Jesus were transfixed by the scene for a moment, but Fulva didn’t give a shit about anything—a true Florida Woman. She only yelled over her shoulder: “Get ‘im, MeeMaw!” and then mumbled to herself: “That worthless sack of shit.” As she muttered, she stared straight at Rupert and started to pull something from her bag.

Jesus noticed her movement and tapped Rupert’s arm to redirect his attention. They watched in horror as she whipped out a kind of medieval flail fashioned from a chain that had been pulled through a large stack of drilled-through Derek Peterson novels and journals. It had been equipped with a fuzzy, pink handle, which she gripped, white-knuckled.

* * *

Shit Pail is enthralled and more stunned than Rupert imagined her capable of.

“Holy shit,” she gasps. “Jonesin’ for a Diphthong is, like, six hundred pages.”

Rupert concurs—it was an intimidating, potentially fatal literary weapon.

* * *   

The horror was that no one expected Fulva would ever think of defacing her Peterson books like that. This was serious.

“They must have broken up or something,” Jesus whispers to Rupert.

“Christ, no wonder she’s rabid. No one would be this pissed over—”

Fulva, despite her waiflike frame, swung the Peterson flail up and around her head, her face growing more determined and more vicious with each full circle.

As the Peterson flail whoop-whooped around Fulva’s head, Rupert became mesmerized. Time slowed down just enough for him to fully absorb the scene. Surely this was exactly what his outlook on life had come to—he should have expected it. Not for the first time, Rupert realized that he’d made a wrong turn somewhere—perhaps a few—and when you’re looking to Bucket for advice on living—the idea that what you think about most is basically what you tend to get more and more of . . . . He stared at the whirling Peterson book flail, the titles blurring into what looked like a saw blade inching closer and closer. The effect was the conjuring of the horrific, nondescript face of Derek Peterson—sociopathy personified—rubbery and androgynous, morphing from that to Rupert’s own face, to Pyrdewy’s—back through every face of social rejection he’d ever encountered, culminating in his mother’s, where it lingered, and she screamed at him: “Did you bring those little wieners? Of course you did!” Then cackling, which faded back into the sound of the whirling flail, and his mother’s face disappeared, replaced by his own 10-year-old face, then abruptly to Peterson’s voided visage, who grinned at Rupert with sharp, gaped tooth-like forms.

Rupert was frozen with existential horror. Jesus saw nothing, but heard something about a little wiener. It was Fulva.

The books whoop-whooped around her head and she drew out the drama with an insulting tirade on Rupert’s manhood, which ended with: “—and your shriveled little wiener!”  And then, she finished her oratory with: “Prepare to get DPed!”

Jesus Christ. I did this to myself.

Just before she lunged, Rupert heard MeeMaw ask faintly: “Who’s getting DPed?”

And then—chaos.

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31

FM(31)

The Stately Swamp Mobile Home Commons exited right onto Tamiami, and Rupert ran down the main drag, though staying as far away from the road itself, through parking lots, behind buildings if he could, hopping anything that stood in his way that could be hopped. He ran past where McIntosh had curved and met with Tamiami, careening dangerously through the intersection of Preymore Street and Macewen Drive, until he stumbled half-dead into the Osprey School’s Visitor Center parking lot—where he was met with Fulva’s looming Mercury Grand Marquis.

Goddamn it!

He kept running, continuing down the gravel road and into the park complex. Behind him, he heard Fulva’s stony old man voice judder: “There he is!” and then the SIKildo Industries crew fell chaotically out of the vehicle.

Rupert didn’t want to lead them straight to the cemetery access, assuming they weren’t yet aware of it, so he ran past Leenda’s mound and made a right by the massive alien-pod tree, in an effort to disorient. Then he ran them through the lychee field, butterfly garden, and fern walk, losing them way on the other side of the park at the Guptill House. The plan was to slip away and head back to the cemetery.

Fulva, Bill, and Steve Perry tore after him—Fulva with her heavy
hippy bag slung over her shoulder, and Bill sort of screeching, waving MeeMaw’s Whackin’ Dick in circles over his head. Each time Rupert caught a glimpse looking back, the propelling pink dildo struck fear deep into his heart and he somehow ran faster, though he had already reached his limit somewhere back on the Tamiami Trail.

When Rupert reached the Guptill House, he stopped at the water’s edge, eyed the speedboat for a second, then concluded it was too much for him to figure out with such little time (therefore it must be too much for them). So, he waded in and untied all three animal-shaped pedal boats from the pioneer dock. He had been too busy chasing Efunibi the last time he’d seen them, and even now had only a moment to register what they were—a wombat (ironically), an awkward giraffe, and a squid. They all had wide, round, somewhat protruding eyes, as if shocked that they might be paddled around the inlet. He climbed into the one shaped like a squid and had to straddle the middle—as it was built for two—trying to operate both sets of pedals at once, or risk going in circles. Holding onto the ropes of the other two, he headed toward Cock’s Footbridge, into Webb’s Cove. When he’d cleared the footbridge, sailing underneath, he let the other two paddleboats go and they drifted off, out of reach.

SIKildo Industries arrived at the Guptill shoreline in time to watch Rupert release the pedal boats, and Fulva stomped her feet . . . until she saw the speedboat.

By now, Rupert had reached the other end of Webb’s Cove, dark and invisible from the Guptill House, which brought him to the edge of the Duchene lawn. A quick sprint across and back down the path, he soon passed the alien-pod tree, Leenda’s mound, and then disappeared down the narrow trail that led to the Pioneer Cemetery and Mary’s Chapel.

Bill insisted he did not know how to operate a speedboat.

“Steve Perry can probably do it, you jackass,” Fulva berated him, as they waded out to the boat. Steve Perry hung onto Fulva’s hippy bag slung across her back.

“Well, then Steve Perry can do it,” Bill shot back.

“Fuck,” Fulva growled. “He’s getting away. He’ll be out into the fucking Gulf in a minute. Only way we’re going to catch him is to get this thing running.”

Fulva had never been to Spanish Point and had no idea Rupert had vanished into a closed inlet. They climbed into the boat, took out their cell phones for the flashlight app features, and looked at the controls with a jittery sense of urgency.

“Bill, if you don’t make this fucking happen, you’re out,” Fulva spat at him, wrecked vocal cords grinding. “Out of the operation, out of the house, out of me, everything.” She paused while pulling her sweaty top from her torso, then screamed: “Why is it so fucking muggy?”

Bill wasn’t sure any of that was too terrible, but wasn’t in the right mindset to consider big life changes, so he tried to figure it out with a firm, but flailing feeling of determination. Also, probably out of habit. 911 could not help him now.

There were keys. He turned them, did something with what he thought might be a clutch, and the engine roared, breaking the peaceful silence of Spanish Point.

At that moment, Osceola, still astride the angry, horny ostrich, crashed through the back of the fern walk and flopped clumsily down past the house to the shore, splashed through the water, and half-jumped/half-rolled himself and the bird into the back of the boat.

Fulva yelled at Osceola, Osceola yelled back, the ostrich righted itself, the boat engine roared, and Bill continued trying to figure out what the hell to do, unaware that his foot pressed steadily against the gas, engine whining. Steve Perry watched all of this, then—indifferent or unaware, who can know which?—pulled a lever down on the console. The boat took off, straight into Webb’s Cove. Everyone fell to the bottom while the ostrich’s head and neck somehow remained vertical. As they passed full speed beneath Cock’s Footbridge, the ostrich’s head was sheared off by the impact—spurting blood like a firehose all over everyone and the boat—then landed perfectly centered on the footbridge path to be found by a park visitor from Nebraska the following day.

The boat crashed into the opposite bank of Webb’s Cove, very close to where Rupert had tied his paddle-squid. They had travelled about 400 feet in three-to-four seconds.

Everyone and everything was thrown from the boat as it splintered against the bank, bounced, and burst into flaming fragments.

Steve Perry flew quite a distance, but, being a monkey, landed without injury. Bill and Fulva landed a few yards away from each other, each still clutching their precious cargo, the dildo and the hippy bag. They staggered to their feet, covered in blood, though unable to tell if it was theirs or the sex-mad, headless ostrich’s. They eventually concluded they were as okay as two people could be after something like that.

“Gotta find . . . Osceola,” Bill slurred. “Gotta . . . find 35 Cent . . . ”

“We don’t have time for that asshole.” Fulva wiped blood from her eyes.

Steve Perry sniffed the air and looked at his companions. Bill ignored Fulva and went to look for his partner in rap.

Osceola had either landed near the now-headless neck of the ostrich carcass, or he had crawled to it. Whatever the case, Osceola was not going to make it. It was dark, but Bill was almost positive there might have been a limb or two missing. His shoes and shirt were gone, and parts Bill assumed had always been pretty normal appeared too misshapen, too glistening. Despite these horrific injuries, Osceola had managed to push his pants down, position himself, and was—though weak and unsteady—thrusting into the ostrich’s now available neck hole.

Bill wasn’t sure what was going on. Could a person accidently fuck a dead ostrich during garden-variety death throes? Did they land like this? He got closer and pulled out his cell phone, thankful he hadn’t landed like this with Steve Perry, or Fulva for that matter. In the cell’s light, not only were the facts without-a-doubt confirmed, it also revealed a huge tattoo on Osceola’s back: a large circle, like a secret society’s seal, that read, “Sarasota County Necropoachers.”

As Bill read this out loud, Osceola ceased his desperate thrusts and was still, the silence only marred by Fulva’s old-man swearing several yards off. Bill shook his head and walked away.

“Osceola is dead, Fulva,” Bill said as he approached her.

“Good. I hated that fucker,” she replied, adjusting the bulky hippy bag over her shoulder.

“I thought the whole Necropoacher thing was an urban legend.”

“What?”

“Osceola was a Necropoacher,” Bill said matter-of-factly.

“I knew it,” Fulva said. “He wanted to kill and fuck Steve Perry.”

At that, Steve Perry let out a screech—he’d either understood what Fulva said, or he was trying to get their attention. He sniffed the air again, waved his filthy little monkey hand for them to follow, then he ran off with Fulva and Bill limping after him.

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30

FM(30)

 

Rupert made his way through the country club, half-expecting/half-hoping to be trailed by security in some sort of golf-cart contraption with flashing lights and an old-time squeeze horn just so he could hijack it. He came out of the compound and pedaled back onto McIntosh, following it south awkwardly and with an increasing level of discomfort. As Rupert crossed the intersection of McIntosh and the parkway, he caught a glimpse of Osceola, wildy riding the giant ostrich away from him and toward Tamiami. Despite the fact that the ostrich was much faster than Rupert on a child’s bike, and would reach Spanish Point before he did, he knew he had to get off the main roads—any roads. He could run into anyone.

He jumped the curb to his right, wound through a series of access roads for a condominium complex, until he was met with another swathe of urban foliage. He hopped—more plummeted—off the bike and carried it into the cover of brush and trees, crossed a small creek, which, after having dried off in the chase from the swamp, now soaked him again. Rupert let the bike fall over, then he fell over. He rested, wishing he’d gotten around to getting a cell phone once he’d shed his social anxiety. He’d call Jesus. What would Jesus do in this situation? He’d be doing precisely what I’m doing, Rupert thought. But then again, no, he wouldn’t be, because not only does he have a cell phone, like any normal person, he has a car. Furthermore, he wouldn’t be doing any of this because he wouldn’t even be in this position.

He listened to the traffic going by on the surrounding roads, occasional sirens in the distance, wondering—hoping—that Osceola would get pulled over on the ostrich and at least he’d be taken out of the equation. Rupert still hadn’t been able to figure out what was and was not worth responding to in terms of what was and was not legal here in Florida. Riding a huge, sexually-frustrated ostrich through the streets of Sarasota and points beyond was doubtless permitted. In fact, maybe some tourist who didn’t know any better was calling it in right now and that guy was getting an earful from Dispatch Officer York Hunt, badge number: 80087355.

This entire situation was a perfect example of Rupert’s personal entropy. He’d say it’d been in free fall since that ill-fated and unremembered phone call to Leenda—God, what had he said?—but let’s face it: this had been a long, unbearable unraveling since getting out of his mother’s way by finally evacuating her womb. His life was, and is, chaos. Prior to Florida, it was just the rampaging anxiety-blown chaos of his own mind, and now, it had found a way to escape his brain pan and run amok, like Osceola on a runaway rutting ostrich.

Somewhere between catching his breath and hating himself, but before falling asleep, Rupert got up and followed the creek a bit, still carrying the bike, until he saw a cluster of trailers. He stopped and tried to orient himself, figuring from here, he needed to head southwest. In theory, if he cut through this and found the entrance/exit, it should take him out onto Tamiami, which was risky, but it would lead straight to Spanish Point and he thought he might be pretty close. Close enough to take the risk.

Rupert pushed through some dead landscaping pines and into the trailer park. After passing a few trailers and finding the access road, he saw it—the double-decker, rebel flag-besmirched trailer creation. Surely there couldn’t exist more than one in such a small geographic area. In truth, it was astonishing there wasn’t one every three hundred yards up and down every road. He approached with caution and squinted in the dark to see: The South Will Rise Agi(a)n.

Yep. He was in the Stately Swamp Mobile Home Commons.

At that moment, he became aware of the sound of a dirt bike approaching, which meant he was way too close to the McEejits’ trailer, but he couldn’t remember how far away or in which direction it was from the Confederate architectural savants. He did the only thing he could do, which was run with his bike and hide behind some random mobile home.

The buzzing engine of the Combat Wombat got louder and louder, and Rupert hoped it would pass, but he should have known his luck wouldn’t allow such a thing.

Suddenly, Rupert was overwhelmed with regret over his life’s philosophy and work. He definitely didn’t want to be an entropologist anymore, not even only on weekends. Fuck entropy. Entropy sucked and was stupid. At that moment, Rupert wanted negentropy. Hell, Bucket might even be onto something, but that couldn’t possibly be true. Rupert was losing his mind.

The Combat Wombat pulled up in front and the motor went quiet.

“Why do we have to come back for the Yukon?” Rupert heard Joe ask.

“Did you think we could bring him back here on the Wombat, idiot? Merideth snapped. “I want that motherfucker’s toenails.”

What? Rupert looked at the back of the trailer, the corrugated steel sheet that wrapped around the bottom, hiding the home’s plumbing and whatnot. He imagined “whatnot” was a crawlspace, filled with the toenail-less victims of those who dared Fuck with Gramma.

I gotta get out of here, Rupert thought, fight or flight mode in high gear, but this time—this once—with good reason.

In his haste to escape, Rupert knocked the bike’s front wheel against the trailer.

“What the fuck was that?” Merideth yelled, raging.

A light went on in the kitchen, the window of which looked out onto where Rupert stood, damp and holding a beat-up child’s bicycle. A shadow fell across Rupert from the window—Joe. They made eye contact. Joe was eerily expressionless.

Still outside, Merideth rounded the corner with surprising speed and agility for her age, wielding a rolling pin modified with nails and barbed wire. Without thinking, Rupert swung the bike at her, which she grabbed a hold of with one hand, while swinging the rolling pin around it with her other.

They struggled like that for much longer than Rupert expected, considering their size and age difference. This gramma was stronger than one might expect, but then, who knew what she’s been smoking, snorting, injecting, balling—the last potential drug delivery system made Rupert wince.

He didn’t understand why Joe hadn’t come out to assist his mother yet—he only watched without any sort of identifiable expression through the window, as if he didn’t care who won, and perhaps, actually rooted for Rupert. He just waited, indifferent and impassive, for the outcome.

Merideth managed to swing the roller around the bike far enough to catch Rupert’s arm, slicing him, and with that, he pushed the bike with everything he had—all 235 pounds of him, and landed on top of her with a sound that defied description except that it was alarming, even if this woman was attempting to kill him.

Rupert staggered back to his feet, leaving the bike on top of Merideth. For a moment, she didn’t move and made no sound—he’d killed her. Joe continued to gaze down on the scene, blank face unchanged. Then, Merideth groaned.

Rupert abandoned the bike and ran.

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Meth-Trash

Typical Florida Man fodder—Ian Freudenreich got busted with a one-pot meth lab in his pants after the police got a tip. One-pot meth lab, you ask? Indeed. No more complicated set-ups—meth labs have become mobile, according to a July 2013 online educational article with the headline: “What Is A One-Pot Meth Lab?” According to this source, “major meth labs are a thing of the past.” If you come across a bottle with a white residue and a strong chemical odor, it is suggested that you should not handle it. The chemicals on it could “burn your skin and (these bottles) should be treated like a bomb.” Good to know, because my first inclination is to pick it up and rub it all over my face. Mr. Freudenreich has a history of various drug-related offenses.

McAboy, Cassandra. “Meth Lab Found in Pants Leg of Suspect.” Fox 10 News. Meredith Corporation. October 9, 2014.

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

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29.2

FM(29.2)

 

At the IHOB, everyone was stuffed and buttered up.

“Man, I love the IHOB,” Tommy said, rubbing his belly with one hand and holding the front sock in place with the other. A little bit of blood started to seep through his shirt. “I don’t know why I don’t come here more often.”

Efunibi now sat on Osceola’s former chair and watched everyone finish up their meals. Osceola himself had disappeared—he had excused himself to the restroom and had never returned.

“Okay,” Merideth said. “Where is that fucker?”

Efunibi stood up.

“Efunibi know where.” He paused for full dramatic effect. “He at Royal Courtyard Econo-Regency Chalet.”

“Is that across from the salad place?” Tommy asked.

“Sweet M’tatoes. That place is good, too,” Fulva interjected.

“No,” Joe said. “You’re thinking about the Regency Courtyard Royal-Clarion Inn.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” Tommy agreed.

“Osceola use to scam breakfast at that Regency Courtyard Royal-Clarion Inn until he was banned for punching a manager. He didn’t believe that Teddy Roosevelt was Osceola’s great-great-great-great-great grandfather,” Bill interjected.

“That’s pretty great,” Tommy said wryly.

Fulva snorted, then said: “He didn’t punch the manager. He just yelled. Also, I didn’t know Roosevelt was an Injun.”

Everyone contemplated that for a moment, except Efunibi, who only stared.

“Wait, you mean the Royal Courtyard Econo-Regency Chalet by the Consolation Zone sex shop?” Fulva asked.

Everyone looked to Efunibi, all knowing exactly what Fulva was talking about, but Efunibi shook his head and they all looked somewhat disappointed.

“Is it on Tamiami?” Bucket asked.

“East? West?” Bill added, and Fulva hit him because west goes straight into the Gulf.

“Is it on Siesta Key?” Merideth asked.

Fed up, Efunibi interrupted the question-fest: “Oh, for fuck’s sake, it’s three blocks away. Three fucking blocks away. Jesus Christ.” No one noticed his British accent.

With that, Efunibi got up and walked out.

As he did, Joe’s ass rang quietly. Angel’s voice answered: “Thank you for calling the Royal Courtyard Econo—” But Joe shoved his hand into his back pocket and clicked it off before his mother noticed.

There was a lull for a moment and then:

“That’s not Tamiami, that’s 72,” Tommy said.

“Yeah, if you were coming from Tamiami, you could take that slight right onto South Beneva . . . ” Joe added.

“Yeah, that’s right,” Tommy said. “Little short cut.”

“Okay, but it’s three blocks away,” Fulva said. “Which way?”

“It’s right next to the FFG. They share a parking lot,” Bill said without looking up from his dildo.

Fulva hit him again.

“Okay, let’s go,” she said, and they all got up from the table, but then spent fifteen minutes organizing their checks, doing the tip math, and getting everything paid for. When they made it out into the parking lot, they all dispersed to their various vehicles and hit their pipes in order to achieve optimum battle-worthiness, then they drove the three blocks over to the Royal Courtyard Econo-Regency Chalet.

* * *

Rupert and Jesus exchanged small talk on the way to the motel, about what chemicals needed to show up and when, how to get a hold of this or that and in what quantities. Rupert was giddy at the anticipation of seeing Leenda, whom it felt like years since he last saw.

They pulled in back of the Royal Courtyard Econo-Regency Chalet, the rest of the lot being hidden behind the building itself. Rupert would have to walk around it to get to the entrance and see the FFG’s menacing glow in the coming twilight. Jesus pulled away after agreeing to pick Rupert up the following morning.

As Rupert walked around the corner, he saw the seething, half-vacant, half-rabid crowd of simpletons twacked out on jibber-jabber in the lobby talking to Angel, who looked irate, which sort of made Rupert happy. He was also terrified. Though they hadn’t noticed him yet, Bill had MeeMaw’s Whackin’ Dick out and was brandishing it threateningly. Bucket, Freeze!, and Hands Up!—both dogs barking and tearing around the lobby—wore Boho dread wigs fashioned from Bucket’s unsold black market weave inventory. Steve Perry jumped up and down on the clerk’s counter, screeching. Fulva and Tommy yelled at Angel, demanding to know where Rupert was while Tommy bled more profusely and physically battled a panic attack. Merideth tried to get the lobby television to work; Joe thumbed his cell and may have ordered a pizza or a prostitute by mistake. And then, as if he’d just returned from a quick dash around the Royal Courtyard Econo-Regency Chalet’s short corridors, Osceola, sat astride the massive aroused ostrich, burst from the dark hallway down which Rupert’s room was located. Everyone screamed, muted through the thick lobby glass.

Holy. Shit.

As Rupert had that one, brief coherent thought, he saw Bucket turn and catch sight of him.

“There he is!” Bucket yelled over the din. And then to Freeze! and Hands Up!: “Boys! Get him! Get that Oreo motherfucker!”

Damn. Rupert had .02 seconds to be offended before he took off like a shot.

* * *

“That was not cool.” Shit Pail smoked another of what seemed to be an endless supply of cigarettes.

“What? I mean, presumably the most whacked-out contingent of Methheads Sarasota County had to offer . . .”

“Not likely,” she countered.

“Yeah, probably not. But they were crazy and they were after me. But, you’re right. ‘Oreo motherfucker’ was probably a bit mu—”

She let out an exasperated wheeze. “No! What about poor Angel there? She didn’t deserve that—she’s just trying to do her job.”

“Fuck poor Angel,” Rupert said, flatly.

“You are a mean man.”

“Whatever.”

* * *

Since the antler episode, Tommy Bananas had emptied his car of some of his nostalgic garbage (into the brown bushes of the Gorge [Fine Men’s Clothing] parking lot), so Bucket and the dogs piled in. He had also re-attached the guilty antler to the head of the offending animal that tried to kill him and mounted it to the front of his car. The McEejits climbed aboard their Hodaka Combat Wombat motocross dirt bike. Joe was on the back and struggled with his helmet while his mother told him “we’re not moving until the helmet is on.” Fulva, Bill, and Steve Perry climbed, literally and with great difficulty, into a 1976 Fuchsia Mercury Grand Marquis—its large-displacement engine and 35-inch open-turbine rims terrified Rupert, which made him run faster.

What the fuck? That was not the Geo Tracker he knew from the Spotted Canned Dick times.

It took everyone long enough to get into their vehicles that Rupert had a bit of a head start getting down McIntosh Road, making a quick left down another smaller road that lead around some large industrial building, but by that time, Bananas had turned onto the road and was about forty feet away, screeching to a halt. Rupert heard “Oreo, Freeze! Oreo, Hands Up! Get him!” and the two dogs flopped out of the car, their boho dreads bouncing. They ran toward Rupert, who let out a strangled panic-scream, turned and ran.

He left the road heading into some urban brush that forced him through a swampy area slowing him down. He reasoned; this will make them lose my scent, but then he thought, idiot, they can see you. But it slowed the dogs down, too, and Tommy and Bucket couldn’t follow him in there with the Cutlass.

Rupert made it to the other side, which opened onto another small road, the other side of which was a suburban housing development. Rupert was now muddy up to his knees with two dreaded dogs chasing him and barking. He ran through the neighborhood, trying to stick to backyards in case his pursuers roamed the lanes of the complex. Rupert hopped a fence and landed in the middle of a family BBQ. He heard the dogs barking a couple houses over.

The yard got quiet—even the radio got turned off—all staring at him. Rupert couldn’t speak, panting. A large, exceptionally dark man with a tall, imposing box fade walked up to him, looked him up and down and said:

“Cops?”

“Methheads,” Rupert wheezed.

“I think we can help a brother out.”

By now the dogs had found a way under the fence. The kids, and some adults, ran screaming, but when Freeze! and Hands Up! got to Rupert, who cringed, expecting the sinking of teeth into his soft flesh, they only jumped up and licked him, tails wagging.

The kids returned from their hiding places and started playing with the dogs.

“Daddy! They’ve got hair like mine!” a little girl squealed with delight. And it was true.

“These your dogs?” the man asked Rupert.

“No. A Methhead’s.” Still catching his breath.

“Can we keep them?” a little boy asked.

The man looked at his wife. The dogs bounced and licked, rolled over onto their backs for belly rubs and scritches.

The kids begged now and the wife pursed her lips and shook her head, which translated to a bewildering yes, Rupert surmised based of the squealing glee of the kids.

“I guess they’re ours now,” the man said. He looked at Rupert. “We were gonna get one anyway. Might as well be two. Names?”

“Freeze! and Hands Up!,” Rupert answered, coming back around to some sense of respiratory normalcy.

A woman in the back put her hand up and shouted: “Oh hell naw!”

“Hell with that,” the wife said. “Their names are Toots and Maytal.”

Everyone clapped, whooped, and the radio came back on.

“How can we help you out, man?”

“I need to get to Spanish Point.”

“Well, my wife needs the car in the morning but . . . ” He leaned over to his son and asked: “How about letting this nice man who gave you these here dogs use your bike?”

The boy thought about it for a second before exploding into an enthusiastic yes! while Rupert imagined Bucket trying to get his dogs back from these good people.

Rupert didn’t care what kind of bike it was, as long as he had some transport. He’d forgotten that he was six foot ten and had never learned to ride a bike.

* * *

Rupert dwarfed the bike. His knees forced out instead of up, so his ankles bent at an awkward angle. He waited until the man went back inside his house before he attempted to launch off from the curb. After falling over twice, Rupert began to get the hang of it, agonizing as it was. He wondered if this was much better than running, but he found that sometimes he could coast dow on an incline with his legs out, so that was a plus. That was definitely faster than running and easier on his knees.

He made it to South Beneva and coasted as far as he could, looking over his shoulder until he saw the beast-headed Cutlass closing in behind him. The horned fiend had a look that denoted its recent penchant for human blood. It got too close—close enough to poke Rupert in the ass, but he made a quick left out of desperation onto Torrey Pines Blvd and narrowly avoided wiping out. Torrey Pines Blvd wasn’t so much a boulevard as a short strip of asphalt from Tamiami straight into the Country Club of Sarasota.

Rupert slinked on in through the open gate behind a Lexus, but the Cutlass wasn’t so lucky and the gate came down on its hood, knocking the recently glued-on antler off the mounted head.

The main landscaping features of the country club were a number of manmade ponds throughout, with and without fountains. Rupert made a right at one and headed for the racket club. The Cutlass, having escaped the gate, sped up behind him again.

Huge stands of bamboo grew up here and there, one of which Rupert crashed through, and the Cutlass followed. The bamboo turned out to be concealing yet another huge pond. Thankfully, though painfully, Rupert and the bike fell straight down onto the bank, but the Cutlass flew over him and into the water. It took out a rainbow-lit spray fountain fixture before settling and starting to sink. Rupert wasted no time grabbing the bike, dragging it up the embankment, and getting the hell out of there. Wet and muddy, and the bike a little wobblier than before, Rupert kept working toward Spanish Point.

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29.1

FM(29.1)

As the D.E.A.T.H. cave exploded, across town, geeking out on a shit rock of Dirty, Osceola decided—like between the White Man and the Indian—there should be a truce and a bit of a pow-wow. It took him two days to organize it, because everyone involved was high.

Over those two days, Rupert, not able to contain his excitement and wanting to have everything prepared, and pristine for Leenda’s impending arrival/approval, began moving equipment into the cavern, most of it collapsible or ready to be assembled once inside.

At length, a feeble meeting of the minds took place at an International House of Butter, about three blocks from the FFG where Rupert and Jesus had met and the Royal Courtyard Econo-Regency Chalet.

Around three tables pushed together near a large window—perplexed and awkward with one another—sat Osceola, Bill, Fulva, Jesus, Joe, Merideth, Tommy Bananas, Bucket, and Steve Perry.

“Why the hell are you at the head, Osceola?” Fulva asked in her gravelly man-voice, trying to adjust her massive handmade Nepalese hippy bag under the table by her feet.

“Why the hell are we here at all?” Tommy asked, looking pale and sick, holding the area of his torso where he’d stuffed socks into the antler puncture wounds. The bleeding had never stopped completely and Tommy hadn’t felt quite right since the incident. He looked worse. The Cutlass was parked on the sidewalk, an inch and a half away on the other side of the window, which allowed him to still be within a few of feet of the car and not have a complete psychological meltdown, though the walk from the car to the table had been perilous.

“I’m at the head, Fulva, because I called the meeting,” Osceola answered. “And Steve Perry claimed the other end, so . . . . ”

Steve Perry, in an electric blue satin muscle shirt, tore the foil cover from a jelly packet and fingered the compote into his repulsive little monkey mouth.

“What the hell are you doing calling meetings?” Fulva demanded.

“I’m missing my prime time,” Merideth moaned.

Osceola clacked a saltshaker onto the table to bring everything to order, which accomplished nothing.

Fulva complained, Merideth berated Joe, Joe looked at his phone, Bill held onto MeeMaw’s Whackin’ Dick for extra security, Tommy winced as he surveyed the menu, and Bucket picked his nose, giving the mined ore to Steve Perry, who took it with pronounced enthusiasm and ate it.

The place was pretty empty with the exception of a man wearing a store-bought Halloween police officer’s costume, demanding from a waitress that his meal be free, for he was a public servant, goddamn it, an officer of the law, protect and serve, and all that.

“Everyone,” Osceola persevered. “Everyone, the reason I have called for a truce between us, and why I’ve asked you all to come here, and to come armed, is that I am under the suspicion that that Rupert guy is up to something.”

They all stopped what they were doing and looked at him. Even Steve Perry, but he still chewed. Even Fake Cop. The waitress ignored them all and sauntered into the back.

“Well, no shit, brainiac,” said Merideth.

“Yeah, badonkadonk,” Tommy said weakly. “We all pretty much know that.”

Osceola thought for a moment. He was indeed suspicious of Rupert, and he was pretty sure something specific was going on, but it was true that he didn’t know exactly what. He looked around the table and considered that perhaps this meeting was a little premature.

“I didn’t bring a weapon,” said Bucket.

“We didn’t either,” said Merideth, speaking for Joe, who wasn’t listening.

“Me neither,” said Tommy, still eyeing the menu.

“Man, we did,” Fulva rasped, grinning. “Well, Bill’s always got MeeMaws’ Whackin’ Dick. And I even made something special. I thought we were going to have, like, a turf war or something.”

“That would have been pretty cool,” Tommy replied, then coughed painfully.

“Right?” Fulva slapped the table. “Goddamn it, Osceola.”

“I gotta go,” Jesus said, abruptly pushing his chair back.

“Where?” Fulva growled.

“Got a late meeting with a potential bulk ticket sale.”

“Well.” Fulva was impressed. “Be gone, then.”

Jesus made himself gone.

Fake Cop now yelled at the waitress who stood by while two large line cooks forcibly removed him from the IHOB.

“I’m pretty hungry,” Tommy said. “I think I’m going to get the Crème-Topped Belgian Butter.”

At that, everyone opened their menus and perused the selections. Osceola, defeated, sat back down in his chair and reluctantly opened his own menu.

About five minutes passed in relative silence, with only the sound of Steve Perry whimpering, demanding more from Bucket, and Bucket trying to explain that the well had run dry.

Fake Cop was now outside, fumbling incoherent around the parking lot, his fake cop shirt hanging open and his belly spilling out. No one noticed.

At that moment, a tousled-looking, filthy, yet mostly unscathed Efunibi walked in with a wide, determined stride. He went straight up to the table, pushed Osceola out of his chair and stood on it.

“What the fuck, man—?” Osceola started, but Efunibi bent down, put his face close to Osceola’s, and glared.

“Efunibi know what Osceola do,” he said in a manner both mysterious and threatening.

Osceola looked confused, then anxious, and he made room for himself on the edge of Bill’s seat, who didn’t notice.

As Efunibi was about to address the motley gathering, the waitress walked up.

“Everybody ready?”

“Yeah,” Fulva croaked, “I think so.”

Efunibi stood on the chair, looking at the waitress while she took everyone’s order.

“Okay, I got the Crème-Topped Belgian Butter, a Tuscan Butter Scramble—that comes in a bowl—two Stuffed Butters with Bananas—”

“Oh, I didn’t see that,” Tommy interrupted, flinching from one or both of his infected antler holes. “Can I change mine to that?”

“Oh course, sweetie,” the waitress said smiling and made the note.

At the window, Fake Cop now had his pants down and was rubbing his naked ass back and forth across the window, cheeks dragging and spreading, dragging and closing. No one noticed.

“—Red Velvet Butter, a French Butter Swirl with a side of Chipped Butter, and a Butter Sampler. Anything else?”

Everyone shook their heads.

“The monkey?”

“Oh, he’ll have a stick of butter,” Fulva said.

“Kids’ size?”

“That’d be best.”

Then, the waitress turned up to Efunibi standing silently on the chair.

“You want anything?”

“No. Efunibi fine.”

“Alright then.” She went back to put in their orders.

Everyone almost slipped into some amicable, casual conversation, when Efunibi was finally able to address them.

“Florida Men—um, People. Florida People,” he began, and everyone turned to him. Fake Cop’s ass slid and gaped at them, still unnoticed.

“Efunibi come to warn. Big black man with short spic friend, they build meth fortress below.”

“What the fuck is he talking about?” Tommy whispered to Fulva. She smiled and shrugged, brushing the side of Tommy’s foot with hers.

“Dude, that is racist,” Osceola said. “I mean, I don’t even like them, but that’s some racist shit.”

“Wait, Rupie ain’t Black, he’s,” Bucket said, “what’s it . . . moolahtoh.”

Everyone around the table said “mulatto,” exploring the sound of the word with the shapes of their mouths.

“Wait, what’s that?” asked Joe, looking up from his phone.

“Half and half,” Bucket answered.

“Half what and half what?”

“I think black and white.”

“The term is ‘biracial,’ you bigoted assholes,” Osceola corrected. “Biracial, like Efunibi here.”

Efunibi glared down at Osceola.

“Efunibi no half-breed.”

“Like hell you ain’t.”

Fake Cop slammed hard against the window, as two real cops pulled his hands behind him, and he yelled something about protecting and serving his dick. Still, no one noticed.

“What’s going on?” Fulva demanded, pulling Efunibi’s agitated attention away from Osceola and back to the subject at hand.

“Rupert and Jesus build super lab!” Efunibi got out, exasperated.

Silence.

Bill slurped his buttery coffee.

“Really?” Fulva asked, genuinely surprised. “I thought he was a secret society member and was coming to, like, fuck with me.”

“Yeah?” Tommy appeared to be impressed. “Reptilian. I thought he was a Reptilian.” He nodded his approval of her theory.

Bill leaned over and glared at Tommy.

“I figured he was a malevolent thought-form from my own mind, finally coming to kill me, at last, and end my torment here on this earth,” said Bucket. Everyone nodded.

“I thought he was going to come with me on the work program,” Joe said.

“That’s ‘cause you’re a fucking idiot,” his mother spat and slapped him upside the back of his head. “I thought he was Oswald. For sure. He faked his death after the JFK thing. Been living down here ever since. I seen him.”

Everyone was fascinated with each others’ theories and presumed them all entirely valid, even Bucket’s.

“Are you sure?” Fulva asked Efunibi, who sighed.

“Yes. Efunibi positive.”

“How do you know?” Osceola asked.

“Efunibi blow up cave. Help build lab.”

“Why are you turning on them?” Osceola hated Efunibi.

“The Holy Nagai Nagayoshi told Efunibi, him say, ‘Fuck those Kemo Sabes.’”

“Right.”

“Well, let’s get that bastard!” Fulva shouted, jumping up and grabbing her bag as the waitress arrived with a butter-heavy tray. Fulva eased back into her seat.

“Well, we’ll eat first and then we’ll . . . ” Tommy said.

“Yeah,” Fulva replied.

* * *

“I told you, pendejo,” Jesus said to Rupert as he dropped down from the Pioneer Cemetery access. “I told you.”

“What?” Rupert asked, buffing a beaker on a lab table.

He couldn’t believe how much he and Jesus had accomplished in two days. It was pretty much set. There was even a nice little spot for the Plant with No Name, potted and happily sitting under a grow lamp of its very own. All he needed to do now was stock the chemical components and, well, build an army of Methmakers. But this was enough, at least, to impress Leenda, and she’d forgive him for whatever stupid thing he’d said.

“Those idiots,” Jesus replied.

“Well, shit, Jesus, that could be anybody. Which ones?”

“All of them.”

“Hmm,” Rupert considered that. “All of them . . . together?”

“Yeah, Osceola called a truce.”

“Osceola? Fulva let him?”

“It was weird. Everything is chaos. She was flirting with Tommy Bananas.”

“Ew,” Rupert said.

“And worse,” Jesus explained. “Efunibi is alive. I watched him walk into the IHOB after I’d walked out. It’s best to assume they now know all about you, me, and this place. They’re stupid, but if they’re all working together, they might be able to wrangle a few functioning brain cells to launch an attack.”

“An attack? You think so?”

“You want to chance it?”

“I suppose not.” Rupert put down the beaker. “What do you propose?’

“I don’t know yet. They’re at the IHOB right now getting loaded up on butter. That should slow them down, but I don’t know how long it’ll last. They’re all usually at some level of gakkification on Crystal, so it might zip through their systems.”

Not very long ago, this would have been a conversation Rupert would have walked away from based on the volume of stupidity alone. But now, it was completely plausible—downright important.

“That’s not the IHOB near the Royal Courtyard Econo-Regency Chalet, is it?” Rupert asked.

“As a matter of fact, yeah,” Jesus confirmed.

“Shit. Okay, well. Hmm. You know, butter or no butter, Crystal or no Crystal, I don’t think they’re organized enough to get something together tonight.”

Jesus considered this.

“It did take Osceola a little over 48 hours to get them to meet at the IHOB.”

“See? I think maybe we have a little time to figure out a plan. And I’m counting on getting back to my room and catching some sleep. There are a few little things I want to do here tomorrow before Leenda arrives.”

“Leenda, Leenda, Leenda,” Jesus said. “Man, all you ever talk about is this Leenda. I didn’t know you had a thing for Latinas, bróder.”

“What? I don’t.” Rupert thought about it. “Well, I don’t think so. I might if given the oppor—”

“Never mind,” Jesus said, exasperated. “What makes you think she’s gonna be cool? You must have said something pretty foul.”

Rupert thought about it.

“Because she’s a good person.”

“You know this.”

“Yeah, I think I do.”

Jesus fished his wallet out of his shorts pocket, pulled out a condom, and threw it at Rupert.

“Wedding present,” he said and laughed.

“Har har,” Rupert said and threw it back. “You keep a condom in your wallet . . . ?”

“You’d rather I didn’t?”

Rupert nodded that he had him there.

“Alright, güey,” Jesus said. “You done here?”

“Yeah.”

With that, Rupert and Jesus made their way up and through the Pioneer Cemetery access, to the car, and drove back to the Royal Courtyard Econo-Regency Chalet.

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28

FM(28)

Though the evening was hot and humid, the cave was cool. The D.E.A.T.H. program site was guarded at night, so it took Rupert, Jesus, and Efunibi three hours to hump the explosives from the Pioneer Cemetery access all the way up to the pit entrance. The tunnel was pitch black and while Rupert and Jesus carried flashlights, Efunibi preferred to use his own Native instincts of stealth and oneness with nature to find his way, which meant that Rupert and Jesus carried the wire, detonation devices, drills, and things that could explode, while Efunibi carried the step-ladder. He stopped frequently to pick it up because he tripped or outright fell over.

“I’m tellin’ you, man . . . ” Jesus whispered to Rupert with a hiss.

“Breathe.”

Jesus did, and soon they resumed their movements.

When they reached the mine entrance, they went about their task. Rupert worked with a manual hand drill directly into the rock surface closest to the entrance (and was tall enough that he didn’t need the step-ladder), while he sent Jesus and Efunibi about a hundred feet or so back to work with the battery-powered drill, which would go much faster but make less noise. When they finished plugging their holes with the sticks of ammonium nitrate emulsion-based explosives, they moved back another hundred feet and repeated. It took Rupert longer, but once he finished and wired everything up the way Efunibi showed him (which made him nervous), they were on their fourth and last set of explosives. They then uncoiled the remaining detonation wire as far back toward the cavern as they could for safety. Then Efunibi began preparing for detonation, which, if all went as planned, would unfold with a domino effect, starting with the entrance and working back into the cave.

Rupert knew the set up wasn’t perfect. The holes they drilled were inadequate for, say, a proper mining blast, so the resulting fallen rubble to block the tunnel would likely not be as much as hoped for, but he used the highest number of sticks at the front, because that’s where it counted. If they dug their way through that, they’d just be confronted with some other level of blockage further down the line. He doubted they had the incentive to unclog their main artery for a big, empty cavern.

“Dude, do you even know what any of this is?” Jesus asked Efunibi as he worked.

“Yes.”

“Well. What is it then?”

“This G-4 detonator,” Efunibi said, patient. “All Jesus need know.”

“Right,” Jesus said, stood up, and walked over to Rupert, who leaned uneasily against the cave wall. “Man, I toldyou.”

“What?”

“You know what he’s using?”

“It’s some kind of detonator.”

“It’s a G-4 detonator.”

“Is that bad? That sounds bad.”

“It’s bad for people blowing up on Battlestar Gallactica, because it only exists on Battlestar Gallactica.”

“But that’s a real detonator.” Rupert said, hopeful.

“We presume. I don’t think he knows.”

“So, either nothing is going to happen, or we’re all going to die down here.”

“That’s my guess.”

Rupert sighed. There was no going back now.

“Ready, Kemo Sabe,” Efunibi said as he stood up. He was positioned around the sharpest corner they could find as far back as possible.

“Okay.” Rupert said, and he and Jesus joined Efunibi and the G-4 detonator, around the corner, hoping not to die.

“No time like present,” Efunibi said, unaffected.

There was a too-long silence as they stuffed their ears with wax and Rupert thought of Leenda. Well, if it didn’t work and they didn’t die, he could meet her on the mound with a romantic picnic dinner under the moon. If they died, well, who gave a shit?

He took a deep breath and saw Jesus do the same. Efunibi seemed nonplussed.

“Go.”

Nothing.

“Go.”

Efunibi looked down at the detonation device.

“Go!” Rupert poked Efunibi in the shoulder, who couldn’t hear him through the wax.

A millisecond later, everything exploded . . .

. . . exactly the way they’d planned.

No shit, Rupert thought as the furthest point blew, then the next, then the next. It was loud to begin with, but the noise grew unbearable, all funneled through the cave system straight at them. The light of each blast around the corner grew brighter with each discharge. And the closer it got, the more bits and pieces fell around them, not too threatening at first, but they couldn’t keep standing there.

It was working—they could go. Run. Run.

By the time they reached the cavern that would house the lab, the explosions had stopped and no one was crushed to death. Or so they thought. Rupert and Jesus had run flailing into the cavern, and seeing each other safe and that they’d managed the successful execution of a hare-brained plan, they high-fived, hooted, and dug wax out of their ears.

But Efunibi didn’t follow.

“Hmm.” Rupert thought for a minute, catching his breath. “Do you think . . . ?”

“I don’t care.”

“Damn, that’s harsh.”

“He was up to no good,” Jesus said. “For real.”

“Maybe, but . . . he helped us this far.”

“True,” Jesus conceded. “But shifty. That guy was shifty.”

“He was. But not deserving-to-be-smashed-to-a-bloody-pulp shifty. I don’t think.”

“Maybe not. But if he is smashed to a bloody pulp, I’m not going back there.”

Rupert thought of all the times since he’d been in Florida when he either puked, or came close. It was pretty regular, he thought. No, he didn’t need to see that. If Efunibi was okay, he’d have been here by now. If he was smashed to a bloody pulp, no one needed to see that, least of all him.

“Right.”

He considered for a moment that maybe he should build a lab in Efunibi’s mutilated corpse, to honor him in the ways of his tradition. The idea made him a little sick. Nope. Fuck that.

Rupert and Jesus shimmied their way up the Pioneer Cemetery access. Despite the loss—he was still unsure it counted, by strict definition, as a “loss”—Rupert felt pretty invincible. Once the dust cleared, after a day or two, he could start constructing his masterpiece: RupeLee Industries.

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HammerHead

Plot twist—you would have thought the one-armed man wielding the hammer was our usual Florida Man suspect. Jeremy Randolph, drug-fueled and angry, was having an altercation with his live-in girlfriend, like you do. Perry Glover, our one-armed hero witnessed the fight and stepped in to break it up. When Randolph violently objected, Glover snatched up a hammer with his one hand and proceeded to whack Randolph in the head until he evacuated the premises. Randolph was arrested and booked for battery; as of the writing of the article, possible battery charges for Perry were pending review by the State Attorney’s Office. A public record search reveals the charges against Randolph, but not against Perry.

First Coast News. “One Armed Man Hits Drunk Man with Hammer, Police.”First Coast News. WTLV-TV. October 27, 2014.

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

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26

FM(26:27)

Rupert remembered the message light had been flashing when he’d come in the day before, but it wasn’t flashing now. Perhaps he’d been mistaken. That was plausible. He dismissed it, got dressed, grabbed the tablet of lab schematics, and joined Jesus behind the FFG.

After retrieving his shorts he spent the next hour explaining the entire plan to his friend, who was resistant, but by the end expressed a level of enthusiasm that surprised Rupert. Jesus voiced his apprehension regarding Efunibi’s clear instability, and still stressed the growing paranoia over at SIKildo Industries—and not only that, he’d said, everyone that Rupert had been dealing with was doubtless suspicious and on the defense. They had to be careful.

This time, Rupert took Jesus’s counsel seriously and agreed, they’d play it as safe as possible. They talked a little longer—even sold a few Golden Tickets—and then Rupert returned to his room, ignoring Angel. He didn’t even notice her.

Now, the green message light flashed.

He felt no panic at the thought of another confrontation with Pyrdewy. But his heart fluttered at the thought of hearing Leenda’s voice. He even considered calling her back this time, and talking and talking, talking for the rest of the day if he could—about her work, what she’d been up to, what were her hobbies, how was the planning for the mound work coming, her favorite color, her favorite food, her first pet, her family, her dreams—he wanted to know everything. And tell her everything. He wanted her to be his first—the first person who ever really knew him.

He picked up the receiver and retrieved the message. It was Leenda.

“Screw you, Rupert. Honestly, what the hell were you thinking? What have I done to you to deserve that? You know, Stanley and I talked about you a lot, and I know I didn’t really know you . . . I mean, to talk to you . . . but he painted a very different picture. I mean . . . ”

She paused, and sighed.

“You sounded great. A little weird, maybe, but I didn’t care. I don’t care about that. So, you get nervous, big deal. I liked you, Rupert, and I wanted to get to know you better. Boy, was that stupid. I think I know all I need to know now. Don’t call me again.”

Rupert sat on the bed, stunned.

He called her. He called her?

Last night. Fuck. He didn’t just call 911; he had called Leenda. Jesus Christ. What did he say? What the hell did I say to her?

He tapped the receiver of the phone for a dial tone, panicked—he had to call her. He had to talk to her. He had to explain . . . Oh my God, what did I say? And worse, how on earth could he explain? He’d been under a kind of spell—a psychotic episode—he hadn’t been himself. It hadn’t been him, not really. It was my inner Florida Man, escaped.

“Holy Fucking Christ, what the fuck did I say to her?” he shouted at a pillow.

He went to press the buttons on the phone and realized he’d never written down her number from any of her previous messages. But he’d called her. He must have gotten the number and written it down somewhere. It had to be somewhere.

He tore the room apart—the bed, the trashcan, his duffle bag, his cross-body bag—nothing. He interrogated the Plant with No Name, but the plant was no stool pigeon. He raged, he wept, he hated himself, though he knew he’d had no control over it. Emotionally spent, he curled his considerable frame up on the bed, trying to think of a way to contact her, and eventually fell asleep.

She’ll call again, she’ll call again, she’ll call again, she liked me . . . .

27

Over the next couple of weeks, Rupert, with the senseless and impractical spiritual guidance of Efunibi and the sane, practical help of Jesus, made the necessary preparations. Jesus infiltrated the D.E.A.T.H. program, emptied a few buckets of water, and cased the interior of the tunnel from the pit entrance to the cavern they were emptying—the near-future site of RupeLee Industries. Efunibi showed them the alternate entrance into that main cavern, which was located among the old tombstones in the Pioneer Cemetery next to Mary’s Chapel. It was, indeed, a tight fit, as Efunibi had forewarned, but Rupert was able to get through it, and with a few alterations here and there, he could get in and out, not so much with ease, but without injuring himself. His spiritual mentor—as Rupert referred to him to keep him reasonably lucid and happy—also showed him where he kept a rather disturbing stockpile of explosives, for which Efunibi gave no explanation, but Rupert surmised it had something to do with the Necropoachers—who may or may not have existed—and that Myakka State park should be thankful they were being used for this purpose instead.

For his part, Rupert fine-tuned his already-perfect plan and gathered all the materials that it required. Needless to say, this took up a tremendous amount of time and energy, which meant he dropped off the radars of the four meth operations he’d been dealing with. Jesus warned him against this, but there was nothing to be done. This was a huge undertaking and it needed to be done right—Rupert couldn’t afford the time wasted trying to keep a small group of lunatics off his back. As for Pyrdewy, Rupert didn’t think of him. He deleted messages without listening; he didn’t think of calling him. As far as Rupert was concerned, Pyrdewy was a non-entity, and Rupert himself was an ex-entropologist. Professionally, at least.

The cavern—now empty, if not completely dry—was approximately the size of a whopping-great cathedral, and Rupert’s design utilized every square foot in a way that made economic sense. The operation itself would include aspects of a super lab, with barrels and components bought by weight when possible, in order to make large batches with speed—these would take up three-quarters of the room’s perimeter. Further into the room would be table after table of regular lab set-ups for the express purpose of experimentation in color, scent, flavor, and even particular effect. They would be designing cheap street drugs meant to become trendy and possibly even make the news. This would be an area for the true meth artisans to express their distinctive creative visions. In the quarter perimeter area not taken up with super lab barrel supplies, there would be a few tables for training and demonstrations, plus a small supplies station, and an area where mobile lab experts would train manufacturers to cook anywhere. Floridian meth makers were internationally known for their uncanny ability to make meth in the most unthought-of, outlandish places. This would be the least expensive of Rupert’s product line, but the point of operating all three methods was to ladder the cost for consumers according to their income, and also ensure that product was always available. RupeLee Industries would never run dry.

After all of this, the next step was to gather an army of talented, moderately sane manufacturers to unite under the RupeLee banner of unique, reasonably clean, and almost-but-not-quite safe methamphetamine. That couldn’t be too hard, right?

The most immediate catch in the plan was Efunibi’s erratic behavior, which, though not surprising, was diverse and distressing in its manifestations. He became morose. Sometimes his Native American feel-good, we-are-all-One shtick faltered and he’d be downright pissy. This caused some trepidation with both Rupert and Jesus, but was more irritating to Jesus because he worked with Efunibi more closely.

“I’m telling you, ese, one more mood swing from that cracker and those feathers are going up his ass,” Jesus warned Rupert.

“I understand,” Rupert said. “I’m thinking, once this prep period is over, he’s going to have to go. He’s too unstable.”

“There’s something about him, too, man. Something not right. I wanna say sneaky, but it’s not just that. Something ain’t right with that cabrón.”

“Agreed.”

But there was one other catch. Leenda.

She never did call back, and when Rupert wasn’t obsessively occupying his mind with this project, he was ruminating, heartbroken, over what could have been.

So, he did what any sane, self-respecting person would do in desperation and he used the internet to find her address like a complete psycho. He sent her a post card, telling her he could explain if she would only listen. He knew she would soon be arriving to work on the Spanish Point mound, so he asked her to humor him—this one time—and meet him on the mound, at a certain time, on a certain day—the evening the lab would be in operating order and RupeLee Industries would open for business.

She’ll understand, Rupert told himself. She’ll know it was a misunderstanding, and she’ll forgive everything, and she’ll not only like me again, she’ll love me.

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