by Ronnie Sands
Friday finally came, not just any Friday, but one of the so too few twice-a-month payday Fridays. So begins the ritual in my home. I hand over my paycheck to my wife Cheryl, who also doubles as the family accountant. Thank God for her gifted talents of paying the bills and going to the market. If not for this bi‑weekly ritual, my wife and I would probably be living under one of the already too crowded bridges of Key West.
But this was a special Friday, for I was to receive a little extra money with my allowance. My wife went over the books and set off for her waitressing job.
This was the Friday that I was to repay a friend for letting me use his car to obtain my driver’s license. That was crucial in my staying employed. Payment was to be dinner prepared by me from one of the many recipes that I have appreciated while washing dishes at Little Palm Island and Louie’s Backyard over the years.
“Ribs.” The ribs I had purchased were worthy of Fred Flintstone himself. I mean the beast must have grazed in close proximity to a nuclear reactor plant (big mothers). Nothing was too good for a friend of Ronnie Sands.
My dinner guest knocked on the door at the pre‑arranged time, one hour early, so we could watch and over dinner critique a program on the History Channel (which my wife un-jokingly calls the Hitler Channel). When I opened the door, there stood my guest and, to my embarrassment, to the left of him on the porch sprawled an arrangement of ‘junk.’ Two by fours, palm fronds, plastic Fausto’s bags, and conch shells sat there. This meant that the madman who resided above me was ‘at it again.’ He’s a chronic slob. My embarrassment soon evolved to anger. I let my guest into my apartment, handed him the remote, and then proceeded to pen a note that expressed just how fed up I had become with his ‘rat packing’ on the porch. Included was every expletive-deleted that I could think of. I then taped it to the largest piece of junk that was on the porch so that he would not miss it when he returned.
I felt my anger ease somewhat and then I returned to my guest. A few minutes passed and there came a knocking at my door. When I opened it, there stood the culprit, holding my note and asking me, “Did you write this?” Included in my confession were more expletive-deleted words that I had somehow left out of the note. At this point he too became angry and loudly proclaimed that he had AIDS (a condition that I was well aware of). Then he said he would “spit on me” and I would share his fate.
I then slammed the door in his face and once again returned to my now bewildered company. I assured him that everything was all right and would he please fill me in on what I had missed of the program that he was now watching alone. Before my guest could get a word out, the air outside my door exploded in a loud yell, a kind of deranged martial arts yell. That did it! I threw open my door and ran upstairs to confront this fool, man to man. However, I stopped in my tracks. When I reached the second floor landing there he stood, feet wide apart, legs crouched, and in his hands he held a eight-foot Samurai sword. I quickly turned on my heels and raced to my apartment.
It is said that at the point of death, one’s entire life flashes before him. As I grabbed my hatchet (that is always kept at the ready just inside my apartment), I wondered what past experiences and lost memories I would resurrect inside his head once I commenced going ‘upside his head.’
But that was not to be. He was gone, retreated to the safety of his pigpen. As I descended the steps, battle axe in hand, I wondered how to explain all this to my dinner guest who must have lost his appetite. As I reached the first floor landing, there stood in the main doorway an auxiliary policeman. One of those ‘Explorer Kids.’ At least that’s what I thought. His uniform pants were too long and his shirt too small. His face was much too young. On closer observation I became aware that he was armed. With one hand on his holster, he asked, “Do you live here?”
“Yes,” I said, “in the open apartment to your right.”
“Take that axe inside,” he said.
Before I could take a step, he barked, “No, drop the weapon.” But before I could release my grip on the handle he once again changed his mind. “Take it inside.”
Before I passed out from the dizzying experience of his indecisiveness I saw to my right a commanding presence.
No second guessing here. This was a Key West cop, one who had pride in his uniform or at least a superior tailor. This immaculately attired policeman took a wide-eyed look of disbelief at the officer in the ill-fitting uniform. Then he quickly grabbed my hatchet from my hand, and flung it out to the lawn. He then asked,” What was going on?”
I informed him that the man in the upstairs apartment had attacked with me a twelve-foot sword. He swiftly unholstered his service revolved, gazed upward, and ascended the steps. At the same time the other officer fumbled with the strap on his holster and then ordered me inside my apartment. I asked him if he was sure. He then yelled, “Get in there.”
I felt a very wicked smile take form on my face as the two men climbed the steps, nine millimeters in hand. My smile soon fell when I failed to hear the discharging of their Glocks. I then took a disappointing look at my guest who I am sure wished that he’d taken cash instead of an evening of dining with me.
After about ten minutes or so the second officer on the scene returned to my apartment and questioned me.
I explained to him in depth the happenings of the evening. Suddenly came a loud thunk. We both looked outside my door, our gazes fixed on each other as we shook our heads lightly. It appeared that the first officer tripped while coming down the steps, no doubt because of the exaggerated length of his pants. He soon recovered and then approached me. He began to tell me how lucky I was that he did not have a ‘flashback’ when he first encountered me with my hatchet.
“Flashback?” Flashback I thought. I myself grew up on the streets of the South Bronx. I served in the United States Marine Corps. Hell, I even survived working for Fay Logan. But for the life of me, and the lives of all those I love, I could not fathom what flashback I could have invoked with this manchild. Maybe once while attempting to dress himself he got his testicles caught in the zipper of those damn pants, I thought.
By now, a phalanx of patrol cars had assembled on the street along side my apartment building. I just wanted everybody to go, to be gone, to leave, to vanish just as my dinner guest had somehow done.
Evidently some sort of bonding must have taken place while Officer Flashback visited my foe. For he now proposed that I apologize. Not just any apology . . .
• Apologize for propositioning him
• For stalking him
• For flashing him
• For attacking him
• And for the ongoing road construction
. . . and that would resolve everything!!!
My family has a long rich proud history in Key West of which I had contributed nothing. So I took this coconut, and I swallowed it.
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.