Key West author Reef Perkins shares more of his hilarious book,
***Back in the Ford***
The Ford Fairlane ran cool at ninety-five miles an hour on the Florida Turnpike and there was plenty of air. The damp, dirt-scented breeze sucked fast through the Ford and bitch-slapped a green Pine Tree deodorizer hanging from Fakyah’s middle finger. Blu bought the stinky tree and a six-pack of Schlitz at the Guzzle gas station. He was trying to soften her up and more importantly, get rid of the old lady lavender scent in the car. The smell reminded him of his grandmother. He loved Granny but hated the smell of lavender. It made him sad.
He glanced at Fakyah. Every time Blu saw a woman, he liked to think about what love is, or could be. He already knew it was easier to love than to be loved. You can love somebody then just up and quit but, if someone loves you, and you let them, it’s not as easy to bail. Blu leaned toward Fakyah and inhaled deeply. She smelled of compressed air, pine tree, gasoline and beer. Blu loved her; he went first and it was easy.
Fakyah held her slim right hand out the window and watched the stinky Christmas tree spin until it twisted tight and turned her middle fingertip pink. She pulled her hand back and showed her middle finger. Blu noticed some indiscernible markings on her knuckles. She took a good whiff of the ‘Pine,’ then let it spin back the other way. It was her emotional gyrocompass.
Blu whistled a salty tune to avoid being hypnotized. He reached down the front of his shorts, paused briefly and retrieved his secret herb stash, duct taped to his inner left thigh. “Ouch!” Blu croaked. Fakyah pinched her lips, snorted and looked away. Blu fingered the roll of twenties on the way out of his shorts then fumbled for, fondled, and finally fired off a well-rolled spliff.
“Last of the cars with good side vents,” Fakyah said through the pungent haze. Her backlit green eyes tracked Blu like a helicopter spotlight in a cop show.
Blu took another toke, “Cars, danged if you ain’t right, Fakyah, this one here’s a sixty-five Ferd Furlane.” He exhaled a small cumulus. “I love cars.”
“No shit … Smoke?”
It was quiet. It was good, but the traffic was making Blu nervous. He exited onto US Highway 1.
Fakyah leaned forward, blew a nimbus and stared at a smattered bug on the windshield. “It wasn’t right to go off and leave him like that. I’m sure gonna get it if I go back.” She said the words flatly, through a mouthful of her own hair. “Silly-ass-asshole was limpin’ around the kitchen holding his damn foot and crying like a baby…’Hep me! Hep me!’… I guess it hurt. I guess it did, and I guess I shouldn’t a-been listening to my favorite song right then neither… that’s what did it, the song!”
“What song is that?” Blu asked.
“It’s by Lisa Carver. You know that one that goes…
‘Lookin’ back now, I probably shoulda let him run…
Paybacks are hell where I come from…
Any fool should know you don’t look a woman in the eye, and smile…
When she knows what you’ve done…
And she’s holding …whiskey and a gun.’
It’s a good song. But, godammit, I shoulda pulled the trigger again, I sure as shit shoulda! What’s one more fucking bullet, Blu?”
What diddydo, what diddydo? Blu wondered and hoped not to make the same mistake.
Blu pushed hard on the Ford’s spring loaded gas pedal. He was barefoot, one big toe on the brake and one big toe on the gas, to reduce confusion. They headed south. You have to be tough to drive these old ones…why didn’t someone leave the keys in a danged Mercedes? He pondered while his toes numbed and countless asphalt cracks barked like mean little dogs at the intruding tires.
The faster you go, the quicker you become history Blu thought and pushed on the gas. He wanted to be history. Everybody knew history and Blu wanted to be known. Blu wanted to be a hero. Feeling inspired he remembered an old saying; “The more coffee you drink the quicker you do stupid things.” It had a ring to it. He tried to think. Suddenly he wanted coffee. He was penting up.
After a few minutes, Fakyah pulled her hand in and Blu got a good look at her fingers. The markings he’d noticed earlier were in fact a crude tattoo across the back of her knuckles. The letters KCUF were printed in dark blue ink. Fakyah noticed Blu’s inquisitive glance. “I did it myself using a mirror,” she said proudly and held her hand up to the rearview mirror. Blu could read it now. Fakyah continued, “First, the sumbitch runs outta gas going uphill. I mean… that’s dumb, Blu, just plain dumb…gas goes to the back of the tank … going uphill, don’t it. Life seems realer going uphill…don’t it, Blu, don’t it … Blu?” Fakyah exhaled a perfect smoky “O” toward Blu’s heart. He reached for it and it disappeared. That’s life in a nutshell, Blu said to himself. Well, at least there are no hills from here to Key West. Did she say doughnut? The thought made him hungry. He nodded his head in agreement. It was a safe answer, but Fakyah didn’t see him.
Blu was tired and wiggled his ear, engaged his brain and tried to stay awake. He liked the pain of thinking. No pain, no brain. Maybe it’s just started. Blu knew only too well that the It of life, the It that changes everything, the It you don’t see coming, could appear at any given moment.
Suddenly Blu’s eyes parted. He was uneasy. Could this be It? Involuntarily, Blu responded to himself but, not quite sure of the correct move, stalled for time by breathing in through his nose and out through his butt, an ancient calming technique gleaned from a discarded yoga manual.
Problem solved. Yoga works. But it wasn’t the It.
With a furtive glance at Blu, Fakyah stuck her face out the window.
“Yoga,” Blu said by way of an explanation.
“Yoga, huh?… Stanks, don’t, … ackk …!” Fakyah ingested a stink-bug at fifty-miles an hour and choked. “Ackk … ackk.” Blu careened off the highway, hoping to perform a customized Heimlich maneuver. Fakyah hasped, like a cat with a hairball. She finally power-gagged and ejected the unwanted insect onto Blu’s shirt.
The missed opportunity disturbed Blu’s drain of thought as he pulled back on to US 1.
Even though the Pine Thang was helpful at the moment, Blu wished he had bought Fakyah some lip-gloss instead. He wanted to impress her with his couth. His mind wandered like a slug on a hot sidewalk. Maybe he’d give “The Pine Stinker” to his Uncle Bagwidth when he got to Key West. “Always solve the hardest problem first,” his mom used to say. No one knew why she said it.
But then, in that moment, all was right with the world. Blu was falling in love. Together Blu and Fakyah rocketed through the fecund fields of Homestead. Blu scratched himself and listened to a tiny violin near his ear. The music was beautiful, jus’ like love. The music, however, stopped abruptly when Blu slapped at the side of his head. The melodic skeeter had nowhere to run.
Blu dug the crumpled mosquito carcass out of his missing ear hole and yelled blindly out the window, “Buncha needle, hyphen, dick, hyphen, bug fuckers, I cain’t take it no more! Man, if it wasn’t for the wind… (“He always had to blame someone else for his shortcomings,” his mother used to say) …man if it wasn’t for the wind, I’d do something really big.” Blu couldn’t stop thinking and his brain hurt. That bug pissed him off. No respect. “I don’t want to be knowed as a goll-hyphen-darned red neck,” he wailed and turned to face Fakyah.
“It’s OK, Blu, I git it,” she said softly, impressed with Blu’s bold and unexpected use of hyphens. “Where’s your left ear, man?”
“Lost it in an apple bobbing contest at the 4H,” he said with some embarrassment.
Fakyah turned her head and served a one-hundred-mile-per-hour smile, “You ain’t no red neck, Blu, you’re a scarlet nape,” but the smile was a net ball. Horns blared, tires screamed and the water smelled warmer because she liked him. “I jez don’t want to live with a bunch of frog fuckers!” Blu hoped his outburst helped Fakyah understand him. He was…
“We going …we going do some crazy shit now, Fakyah, and if’n we don’t … why … you’d tell me … Right?” he asked, knowing she wanted to and would.
Fakyah flashed a stop sign smile and a billion, fun-loving neurons rushed the gates of conventional thinking. It was Spring Break for brains.
Blu got excited and decided to practice his frog-kick. His antics made the car swerve wildly. “I usually sit around trying to pick up old whores with a promise rig,” he winked, careening across the double yellow line, “amazing what some folk do believe. You need bait? Rig ? … cuz baby we going fishing.”
Fakyah smiled more, “Gotta git yourself right-sized, Blu-man… so things don’t get out of hand…you’ll want a leader, baby, so nothing bites your bait off, … an’ Blu Man… open that window some more for me…more, more…baby, more. You promise?” She pointed at him with her middle finger, the Pine Tree still spun slowly on its own. She knows he likes her.
“Dang it, now she’s got me.” Blu muttered and struggled to roll the window down. It struck half way. “That promise rig thang always bites me back.”
”Stanks, don’t it,” Fakyah said to her middle finger.
Blu changed the subject and showed Fakyah one of a hundred dead stink- bugs smashed on the front window. He pointed at the greasy smatter and laughed, “Takes guts to do that.” It was an old joke and getting older by the day.
“Stanks,” Fakyah responded, trying to show some emotion and keep the conversation going. Blu looked at her. It’s more than me now, he thought, it’s about me and Fakyah…Bingo! He had an idea, but lost it.
On down the road it took Blu some time to refocus after they stopped for fries at a Burger Thing near Rude Quail Road. There was a scuffle on the way out when Blu tried to keep Fakyah from stealing all the ketchup packets. Still, she got away with a pretty good tank top full. He could read the word Heinz on a single-serve packet over her involuntarily trapped, oxygen-starved nipple that fought for survival beneath the crenulating cotton.
“We gonna need these later,” she winked and caught Blu gawking at her packets. His face turned Heinz red. He goosed the Furlane and sprayed pea rock on a Budweiser truck pulling up behind them.
Later, after re-organizing and rationing the remaining packets, a rotund waitress at the Burger Thing reported to the manager. “Lordy, Lordy… if that fool boy hadn’t holt on to that girl, she’da cleaned us out! Seems it’s gonna take more than the truth to change that boy’s mind. Lordy Lordy…Why chil’…once that girl took it in her head … WhoooWee! Just like a fart in a bathtub, there weren’t no stopping her. Watch Out!”
Blu Yunger looked down the ever-narrowing highway and howled at the windshield, “Hey dick-weed! … dim yer’ freakin’ lights, there’s so many thing’s out there and they’re all coming this way, it’s either shit or go blind,” all without taking a breath. “Maybe It just started,” he wanted to shout, but gasped for air instead.
By now Fakyah got the picture and Blu knew it. She was curled up like a mole beside him. She stretched and put her head in his lap. Blu lost focus but his eyesight returned quickly when the engine coughed like an old whore in a biker bar. Blu turned right and coasted to a stop at Bad Mel’s gas station. EMPTY.
“We’re in Leisure City, there’s rain and a stoplight and a dirty word on a wall,” he noted as way of a travelogue. Fakyah seemed uninterested.
Blu Yunger needed food, he was sick of ketchup, he wanted to chew. He got gas instead.
They pulled away from the pump and Fakyah put her head back in Blu’s lap. She looked up at him. Her puffy chinchilla eyes were mostly closed. The tip of her wet pink tongue stuck out between her stop-sign lips. Without opening her mouth she mumbled, “Ithinkikindalikeyoublu.” At least that’s what it sounded like to Blu. Fakyah was drooling, but still, it was enough for now. Blu pushed her tongue back in with his index finger and left it there for a moment.
It was early morning when Blu and Fakyah coasted to a stop in the parking lot of The Last Gasp Bar, south of Homestead. They finished the Schlitz and took a nap. When they awoke they were still a hundred miles from Key West and out of beer. Blu looked at Fakyah and Fakyah looked at Blu’s reflection looking at her in the rear view mirror.
“Where’d you get this Ferd ?” she asked the mirror.
“It was just waiting for me, baby, the Keys were in it,” he said with a satisfied smirk thinking, “dang…she sure do speak good American for an A-rab.”
“I like how you lie, Blu. Oh an’ you do! Let’s go an’ see what’s comin’ next, an’ let’s catch us some too!” Blu went into the Last Gasp to get beer and a few pickled eggs. Fakyah went into the bushes to pee. The mosquitoes were bad.
Back in the Ferd, Fakyah scratched her privates while Blu tapped the fuel gauge with his bony knuckle. He stepped on the gas. The G force sent both Fakyah and the red gas needle bouncing backwards, the fuel gauge recovered to settle at half full. They were underway, the entrance to the Keys in sight. It would be a good day. Blu was an optimist like his flatulent mom. “My gas is half full,” she always used to say. They popped a pop-top. The Keys looked to be downhill when he started, but now Blu stared at a barrier made out of stacked coconuts hastily installed by the US Border Patrol.
It was an international border on US Highway 1 and meant to keep aliens and smugglers in, or out of, the Florida Keys. The Feds weren’t sure which.
The tropic sun boned down and warmed the oil-slicked asphalt as Blu pulled up to the checkpoint. Fakyah was pretending to be asleep. He hoped his hot license plate was still fresh. A Border Patrol agent waved him to a stop in front of the newly constructed barrier. Blu quaffed his brew and hid the can under his seat.
The stubby agent approached and stared in through the window. Blu’s thin hairs stood up. The fat ones remained seated. The Agent looked across the front seat at the sleeping girl and then pointed through the window toward Blu’s crotch. Blu was stunned; he wasn’t even in Key West yet! The agent tapped the window like a woodpecker and pointed down again, Blu followed the trajectory of the agent’s sun burnt, but well manicured finger. “Crank it, son!” said the agent. These old cars are tough, Blu thought. He struggled with the handle and again the window creaked slowly downward.
“Where ya’ll headed?” the agent asked through the crack at the top and looked over at Fakyah.
“We’re going to Key West to check out my old uncle Bagwidth,” Blu said through the gap.
“Bagwidth… aye…don’t know the name. Anyways, do you know why I stopped you?”
“Bad breath?” Blu countered.
“No, son, see this here’s a road block, an…” he pointed at the pyramid-shaped stacks of coconuts in front of the Fairlane, “an so I’ll needta see some ID.” The agent paused, narrowed his eyes and leaned forward, “You got an ID, son?”
An idea? What idea? Blu thought. Maybe the agent hoped he was going to make a run for it and wanted to shoot him in the back, like in the movies.
“Well, ah, I ain’t got no ideas, officer sir,” Blu said carefully. The agent shook his head, “What’s the girl’s name?” he said, noticing a strong pine scent coming from the car.
“Fakyah,” Blu replied.
The agent’s face reddened, he reached for his gun and ordered Blu to get out of the car. At that moment, a four-foot-long, forty-pound iguana thrashed out of the bush, ran across the warming asphalt, spun around and came to a stop between the agent’s legs. The iguana loved warm asphalt on its cold reptilian ass and the agent’s shadow shielded its warted eyes from the boning sun. The reptile looked up at toward at the agent’s uniformed crotch. It slithered closer and flicked its quick tongue in and out, missing the agent’s equipment by an inch. The agent froze. His pocket python would be no match for the iguana. It was early. His partner was asleep in the patrol car down the road with the AC and AM radio on.
The agent looked at Blu. He knew if Blu opened the door, as ordered by a lawful person, it would hit the iguana in the ass and spook the hefty reptile. So did Blu. “Drive awaay slooowly,” said the agent, whose voice had changed noticeably, “reeeeal slow.”
“Yes sir, officer, sir!” Blu grinned and gunned the Furlane. He sprayed the agent with loose pea rock and inhaled the sweet scent of freedom, ahhhhh … or was it that dang Pine thang. The unimpressive coconut border swept past.
Fakyah hadn’t been pretending to be asleep. She actually slept through the episode, so they still didn’t have many fond memories together. “Wake up Fakyah, we’re in the Keys now,” Blu reported as the fiftieth, according to his count, Tiki bar whizzed by. A colorful hand written sign, propped against a dead coconut tree, read –SAFETY WARNING–LAST TIKI BAR FOR 1 MILE & I’M NOT KIDDING.
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About the Author
Captain Mark T. “Reef” Perkins is a marine surveyor with a colorful past. From commanding a 150-foot 300 DWT US Army diving ship off Vietnam to smuggling in the Caribbean, Reef Perkins has become a living legend. A graduate of both the US Army Engineer Officer Candidate School and the US Navy Salvage Officers School, he’s a man comfortable in or out of the water. Raised in rural Michigan, Reef now lives in Key West where he can get his feet wet. He is the author of the bestselling memoir, Sex, Salvage & Secrets.
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Screwed, Blu’d and Tattooed copyright © 2013 by Reef Perkins. Electronic compilation/ print edition copyright © 2013 by Whiz Bang LLC.
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