by Ronnnie Sands
They stole my Action Jammie (my state-of-the-art yellow Diamondback mountain bike) from my porch during the night. I had christened it Action Jammie on the day I purchased it two years ago from Island Bicycles. I wept openly in my wife’s Cheryl’s arms. She began to cry also when I told her I would have to use her bike (a relic from the Wizard of Oz; the only things missing were Margaret Hamilton, a picnic basket, and that dog Toto.
As I unlocked Cheryl’s bike the number one suspect appeared from the apartment next door—my neighbor’s teenage son. I looked straight into his acne-infested face and told him that he would be amazed at the things I would do to him if I found out that he had anything to do with the theft. Just then the boy’s father emerged from their apartment—a shrimp-boat build of a man. It was not until he folded his arms that I realized how huge he was. Gigantic in fact. The veins on his biceps could easily be mistaken for arms. Then when this freak of nature spoke he said when and if I followed through on my intentions, I’d have to deal with him. Instantly I visualized myself on my back, tubes protruding from my own arm, and on my face a smile that hid no regret, as some faceless state official administered a court-ordered lethal injection. For unbeknownst to this living monument to the stupidity of steroid misuse, I had recently taken a vow that the last ass-kicking I took was to be the last ass-kicking I took. I told him his threat had been noted and logged. I then mounted Cheryl’s bike and sloughed off to my landscaping job at Garrison Bight Marina.
My thoughts rapidly embraced my Action Jammie—fond thoughts, proud thoughts. Once, while briefly employed by the City of Key West, I was ordered to attend a useless multi-departmental instructional class chaired by a criminally boring, grossly overpaid obvious recipient of political favor. The city manager stopped by and woke all of us who were rapidly approaching the REM stage of sleep. He wanted to congratulate the brave men (and by far they truly are) of the Key West Fire Department for their response time of fifteen minutes, which is the best in the nation. Julio had no way of knowing, nor do I suspect he would give a damn, that while seated on my Action Jammie, and obeying all traffic lights and signs, negotiating the ubiquitous cracks, crevices, canyons, potholes, and sinkholes that dominate the sidewalk of North Roosevelt Boulevard, simultaneously bobbing and weaving away from palm fronds, I can reach Key Haven in that time.
It’s strange how much I notice now that I am relegated to struggling along at a conch’s pace. While traveling by Bayview Park: a woman pushing a baby carriage, a park dweller seated on a bench reading a book and drinking from a plastic cup, and—what’s this?—a white van behind which crouched a group of men clad in black, wearing military style combat boots, and a array of weaponry that would be the envy of a Navy SEAL team. On the back of their teeshirts were the letters O.C.S. in bright yellow.
Something was definitely amiss. Something big. I’m talking “French Connection” big. Immediately I wondered if this assault team was aware of the mother and her child. Before I could react, the thunderous yells of “GO, GO, GO” filled the immediate vicinity. The men in black sprang into action. Not only from behind the van; they were now repelling from the trees. The mother strategically tilted the carriage, jettisoning yet another member of the O.C.S.; the member that emerged from the baby carriage had his face hidden, covered with a black ski mask. Based on my encounters with the Key West Police Department I knew at once who he was. Any tourist who has been here long enough to refer to his complimentary multi-colored map of Key West would know who he was. This only confirmed my suspicion of the enormity of this operation, for I had prior knowledge that he was working deep cover at a local daycare and must have been pulled from it. This could only be the policeman who operates his vehicle while seated upon several volumes of the Keys Yellow Pages. The activity now put me in mind of that rare moment when, at C.V.S. on Truman, a command decision is made to open a second register. Bodies were focused and moving toward one spot. Their objective—the park dweller—the man reading a book, drinking from a plastic cup. As I watched from a few feet away, I deciphered the yellow acronym that adorned their tee shirts. This could only be the department’s Open Container Squad.
It was Napoleon who said: “It’s just one step between the sublime and the ridiculous.”
“Get on the ground. Place your hands behind your back.”
“Subject has been taken down. I repeat: Subject has been taken down,” one member announced into the mouthpiece of a hi-tech head-mounted radio. Just then another member of the squad stomped toward me, his weapon at port arms. He came close enough to me that I could see the vein pulsating beneath his freshly cropped Hitler Youth haircut. “You, sir, are encroaching on an ongoing police operation.”
As I pedaled away, I could see the diminutive officer stick his finger in the park dweller’s cup, then expose his mouth from under his ski mask. As I approached a red light at Jose Marti, I could hear the celebratory sounds of a mission accomplished as the officers used and abused catch phrases and cliches originated and designed by a police department in a far more gritty and dangerous locale. The light changed and my situation worsened, for I now had to pedal uphill. Garrison Bight Bridge lay ahead. I was determined to remain seated on Cheryl’s contraption just as I had always done on my beloved Action Jammie.
Ronnie Sands is a multi-generational Key West ‘Conch’ and a self-proclaimed ‘black sheep’ of both sides of his family. Sands a free-lance writer, was born in Key West and raised in the South Bronx. He attended Lehman College. He is a former United States Marine and currently describes himself as a “Retired Barbarian.” Sands resides in Savannah Georgia but continues to maintain property in Key West.