~ TALES OF THE KWFL ~
The Tale of the Miami
may be no exit, but hell I'm going in..."
It's hard to believe this city started as a trading post, home to the Seminole, pirate, and pioneer ....
GreenWoman sang quietly to herself as she wheeled her van in Mayday's and Gator's wake, following their lead through increasingly narrowing streets and shabbier neighborhoods. Tall shadows of palm fronds grabbed at the stars overhead -- date palms, royal palms and the occasional coconut, the coconuts being the ill-considered legacy of some resident's infatuation with the novelty of a tropical symbol planted on their street.
GreenWoman tried to remember what she knew of Miami's history. The Spanish had shown up in 1513 and stayed for almost 250 years; their influence was still evident in the melodious names on the street signs and the arched windows and stucco walls of little houses on those streets, tucked back among the banana trees. The Americans had become the landlords in 1821, and a dozen years later initiated the first of two disastrous wars with the Seminoles. Both sides lost heavily, but the Yanks failed to convince the local Indians that they'd like Oklahoma better than their swampy homeland, and finally gave up trying to relocate the pathetic but undefeated survivors. Miami itself had been founded in 1842 by an Englishman, but it took a second influx of Americans riding Henry Flagler's railroad down the peninsula around the turn of the century to begin to turn the place into a city.
Between the river of grass and the old mosquito coast Before the railroad claimed the southernmost frontier....
"Singing to yourself, Green?" asked Trevor, riding shotgun.
"Yeah," GreenWoman admitted, a little embarrassed, as she spun the broad steering wheel in a half-turn and swung the van into a parking space behind Gator's Caddy. She peered into her rear view mirror and saw the rest of the vehicles in their caravan sliding easily into empty yellow brackets on the asphalt. So much open parking this close to the river concerned her; why were the KWFL cars the only ones around? "I'd love to see the manatees, Trev, but I hope we don't run into a bit more local color than we planned on."
"Oh, don't worry," smiled Trevor as she opened her door and dropped a bit unsteadily to the sidewalk. "We've got many manly men with us, after all!"
GreenWoman nodded uneasily and bent over to fish for the flashlight she kept under the driver's seat of her old truck. Too many years in L.A., and a bit less chablis than she would have drunk if she hadn't been driving, made it difficult for her to fall fully into the carnival mood that infused the rest of the crowd as they gathered under the sole intact streetlight by the walk leading to the river. Silently she counted heads to make certain no one had been left behind as the crewe filed past her in an untidy line down the narrow path to the water. Someone was missing; who was it?
"Hey, GreenWoman, come on!" Desdemona tugged at her arm.
"Yeah! Hey, won't Bob be surprised when we tell her about this?" an ellubiant Skip Wiley laughed. GreenWoman made a mental note to listen for a splash that was not a manatee; Skip was known for his impromptu dances with Bob and was sure to end up in the water. "Skip, take this flashlight," she urged him. "And watch your step."
"Wild manatees. This is so cool," grinned Gardner.
"Right here in the middle of Miami!" marveled Emilie. "There's nothing that interesting in the Chicago River."
"Did anyone bring a camera?" asked Blackbeard.
"It's the middle of the night, fool!" retorted Whino. "You can't take pictures in the dark!"
"I can!" announced UnkFrank in triumph. "I am a trained professional, and I've got an infrared attachment! And I even remembered to bring it!"
"Oooohhhh," drawled FMA. "And what kind of pictures do you usually take in the dark, Frank?"
The crewe laughed boisterously. UnkFrank, momentarily taken aback, stopped dead in his tracks and was immediately run into by those trailing tipsily behind him.
"Be quiet, or you'll scare 'em," Mayday tried to remind us, but the mood was ellubiant, and the laughter, whoops and chatter of the Legionnaires drifted across the still black surface of the waterway to echo off the retaining walls on the other side. Finally, only GreenWoman was left standing on the sidewalk, and hence was the only one to see the three pairs of headlights which appeared suddenly at the other end of the street. Her nerves lurched as the lights flicked off, and the sound of more cylinders than most modern cars could boast rumbled from the other end of the empty lane.
Oh shit, she thought. As the black shadows started down the street toward her, a tiny porch light reached out to caress them, revealing the lines of a meticulously cared for '69 GTO, a Ford Galaxy that had to have rolled off the line in the early years of that same decade, and a Ford Fairlane of similar vintage. Their chrome grills seemed to grin menacingly.
GreenWoman glanced over her shoulder, but her comrades were already at the water's edge, running their flashlight beams over the black surface and inviting the wild manatees to come and play. Way too late to get their attention, much less get them back into the safety of the cars and beat a retreat. She jumped as the dark hollow eyes of the cars suddenly opened on her, painting the night with blinding incandescence. Door hinges moved with muffled groans, and Green heard taps clicking on the aggregate as several pairs of booted feet approached.
"Hey, lady. You lost?" inquired a heavily accented voice. Laughter without humor cackled in the dark.
"Well, sort of." Green hoped the thin edge of fear in her tone might not be heard over the deep purr of idling engines. "My friends and I ... we like manatees ... we heard that we could see some here ... we didn't mean to intrude." She hoped against hope the knowledge that she wasn't alone might encourage her inquisitors to move on.
"No such luck. What do you think this is, lady? Fuckin' Sea World?" More laughter. "Well, it ain't. But we still charge admission." The shadows in the dark moved closer, and Green blinked her eyes rapidly, trying to see past the glare that pinned her in place on the sidewalk.
"Hey, Weasel, if these are their wheels, they probably ain't worth the trouble." A different voice, deeper, and sardonic. "This your truck, lady?"
"Um ... yes."
"Hell, we might make some bucks getting the city to pay us to roll it into the river." More laughter. The shadows stepped into the light, and GreenWoman blinked again.
The history of Miami was written in their faces. Broad and brown, narrow and white; eyes black, brown and blue; hair black, yellow and red. T-shirts celebrated Cuban independence and African heritage, Microsoft and Disney World. GreenWoman entertained a fleeting and idealistic inanity, that this crowd was a colors of Bennetton ad advocating gang multiculturalism.
I don't think they're interested in talking about a more peacefully integrated planet, GreenWoman decided as they advanced on her. "We don't want any trouble," she stammered. "Please, just let me just round up my friends and we'll leave."
"Oh, I don't think so." Weasel shook his head, a woeful on his face. "This is our neighborhood. We're responsible for takin' care of it, ya see? And your friends are hassling our manatees. We can't let you get away with that, can we, Conch?"
"No, we just can't. You know how many people visit Sea World every day, lady? We're just not set up to handle that kind of traffic here. We gotta discourage people like you. You understand." Conch, too, seemed to regret what he and his friends were about to be forced to do.
GreenWoman had a sinking feeling that she would equally equally regretful, but nevertheless she lifted her chin and decided she had nothing to lose by trying to brazen it out. Before she had the chance, though, a sleepy voice issued from the back of the van.
"Hey, what's goin' on out there?"
t.a. Dammit, I knew someone was missing. He had all those margaritas tonight...
"Nothing, t.a. Go back to sleep." He was in no condition to help and way too easy a target.
"Who are these jokers?" A tousled head poked out of the van's side door, and bleary eyes struggled to agree on a direction in which to focus.
"Hey, who are you callin' a joker, asshole?" There was an edge to Weasel's voice now that hadn't been there before. Oh, great, thought GreenWoman. This was going to be a nice, simple, laid-back mugging -- but now they're pissed.
"You in the Windows t-shirt." Shut up, t.a.! "Macs rule, dude. And you can tell Bill Gates that t.a. barnhart says so."
GreenWoman cringed and tried to go from zero to Zen in sixty seconds as the circle of angry locals closed in....