~ TALES OF THE KWFL ~
of Trouble in Paradise
all your blessings
"What are you doing here?" GreenWoman asked, with a dangerous edge to her tone.
"I was invited," he drawled sarcastically. "What are you, blind?" The barbarian's left arm was in a sling, which partially obscured the front of his t-shirt; only when he opened his arms and thrust his chest out could GreenWoman read the legend, "Palmetto Key Fire Department. We find 'em hot and leave 'em wet." He regarded her with insolence as she stared at him, speechless.
GreenWoman decided that she didn't like him even more now than she hadn't liked him before.
"It's only fair that I be here, you know," he drawled. "You owe me and my buddies some good times."
"Owe you! How do you figure that?" Green sputtered.
"That new law about jetskis!" he retorted angrily. "I'll bet you tree-huggers voted for it. No riding within 1200 feet of the beach ... what bullshit. You ruined our fun!"
"I can see how you'd feel that way," Green replied with mock sympathy. "1,200 feet is pretty far out. You can't terrorize swimmers, or chase manatees, or soak people on boat docks, or have any fun at all. Guess it sucks to be you. Oh well."
The blond punk snorted. "What's with the goddam manatees, anyway? They're fat and they're ugly and they're slow and they're useless. If they can't stand on their own in today's ecology, screw them!"
"Well, if you jetski huns can't behave yourselves without being forced to by legislation, then screw you."
The two combatants turned to see another young man standing next to them, holding up his hands in a conciliatory gesture.
"Chris, man," he said to GreenWoman's antagonist, "just go drink your beer, OK?"
"Go to hell, Tim," Chris replied casually.
"OK," Tim answered, just as casually. "But you move on."
"Ahhhh ... OK. Thanks for the party, 'lady'," the blond stranger said sardonically. "I'm gonna spend the afternoon on your lawn, drinking your beer and listening to your concert, and I'm gonna love every minute of it. Mostly because I know I'm pissing you off." He took his cup of beer from the bar and sauntered off.
GreenWoman was left facing a tall, lanky young man who also wore a Palmetto Key Fire Department t-shirt. He smiled at her, embarrassed. "I'd like to apologize for Chris."
"Your friend has a serious attitude problem," GreenWoman commented, not feeling particularly gracious.
"Oh, he's not my friend," laughed Tim. "He hates my guts. And I'm not fond of his, either. But we work together. You noticed the arm?"
"I noticed it was just fine a few weeks ago, when he buzzed our lagoon on his infernal jetski and gave me a one-fingered salute."
"Want to know how he broke it?"
"Falling off the damned jetski, I hope."
Her companion grinned. "Nope ... sorry. Actually, we were working together on a firebreak up north, and a burning pine tree came down, right behind me. Chris pushed me out of the way. Broke his arm ... burned it bad, too." Tim shook his head. "We've never liked each other. He thinks I'm gonna go to hell because I'm gay, and I think he's an arrogant young bastard who I wouldn't share a beer with if it was the last bottle behind the bar. But he saved my life. I'll never be so quick to judge someone again, after Chris. And I'm hoping you won't judge him so harshly now. You just never know about people."
GreenWoman was silent. Tim flushed, then smiled again. "But hey, I'm preaching to the choir here, aren't I? You guys all met online, right? You only see a little bit of a person like that ... like meeting them at work, or at a party. You didn't really know anything about each other, except that you all like Buffett.
"Yet, here's the KWFL -- people from all over the place, all different kinds of backgrounds. It probably gets pretty crazy. But you blow off the differences, hang together and have a good time, am I right? And good things can come from that ... just look around you. So, you know what I mean." Tim reached out and wrapped his hand, scarred with burns and cuts, around GreenWoman's and squeezed. "Thanks again for inviting us, ma'am."
He took a beer from the bar and and headed off across the lawn toward another young man who met him with a smile and draped an arm casually over his shoulder.
"You just never know about people, eh, Green?" echoed Raven, who had replaced Dawn behind the bar and quietly taken in the conversation.
GreenWoman nodded slowly, grateful for his insight, as Raven refilled her glass.
"Maybe there is hope after all, Raven," she said quietly. "Not just for Key Lime Key, but for the real world as well."
"Ah, Green, there's always hope." His eyes twinkled. "For 'pirates and patriots, rascals and thieves' ..."
Suddenly, GreenWoman laughed. "Donchaknow, Raven! Donchaknow."
earth tonight, and Mars is big and bright
The afternoon faded gently into twilight. Food was put away, tables were tidied. Young children were settled in strollers and laps, and nestled up against the hay bales. Flambeaux were lit, and paper lanterns, and citronella candles. Above our heads, pale in the fading blue of the sky, the full face of the everlasting moon rose slowly above the palm trees.
On the railing of the upper deck, scores of palm trees and pineapples and parrots and other fanciful plastic shapes glowed softly as Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefers took their places and toyed with their instruments. A hush fell over the crowd below as the drums trilled and the guitar strings shivered ... expectant, we waited for the music to begin.
"Green flash, everybody," Jimmy's drawl whispered over the sound system. "Magic time...."
Then the steel drums chimed into full, resonant life, and Fingers' harmonica began to sing, and it was magic time indeed.
All afternoon, people had dropped song requests into a box at the bar tent. Wandering the perimeter of the lawn as the concert unfolded, GreenWoman began to wonder if there were any requests the band would not play. The familiar words floated in and around the beloved tunes, stirring memories warm and sad, bathing the now in bright joy, forcing tears onto cheeks and hips into motion.
in my wake
Desdemona's blonde head could be seen at the top of the stairs to the deck; scattered at her feet GreenWoman could make out Whino and Gator Dave, and below them Mayday, Janis, t.a., Stephanie and Emilie, swaying to the music. Gator's mother and grandmother hung out the kitchen windows, chins in their hands and their elbows in the flower boxes.
in lattitudes, changes in attitudes
mother ocean, I have heard you call
the son of a son of a sailor
Raven, Dawns BB and A1A, Marley, Cap'n Ron, and Jollymon sat swinging their legs on the bar of the big tent, while Oceannie, Calaloo, Jumper, Spooner, and Darkwing danced together in front of the Ganja Tea and Sympathy Cafe.
damsels in distress out there and we got all this beer
The boys in the band ordered boat drinks....
Wastin' away again in Margaritaville....
A crowd of shadows danced around the Bathhouse; GreenWoman could make out Aloha Boy, Parti Patti, Juls, Limelover, MAustin, Tropitude, IrieBlue, BlackSheepUncle and others in a headless conga line, circling the wading pools while still more Legionnaires and guests merrily shot at them with water guns.
The weather is here, I wish you were beautiful....
I heard I was in town....
people never find it
Sumo Ken, Bucky and BobRob cavorted around the tiny table that was the control booth of Radio KWFL, while Hoffert, OC and jeff lounged comfortably in their abandoned chairs.
I wanna be there
words and the singin'
we're quietly making noise
Trevor and FBama danced barefoot in the grass, arms wrapped around each other, as did Gardner and Katie and their partners, and many other couples.
with me, dance with me, Nautical Wheelers
could be the perfect partner
come outside with me
UnkFrank meandered through the crowd taking pictures of everyone, the subdued and syncopated flash of his camera making him look a bit like a giant firefly in the dusk.
voice sounds so wonderful
children in the rain
why we wander and follow La Vie Dansante
GreenWoman leaned against a cypress tree and looked around her, taking everything in. It was perfect ... almost.
On the upper deck stage, Jimmy was speaking. "This is a song I've never covered before," he drawled. "But it's a request from our Miss Desdemona, and as y'all know, Des always gets what she asks for." He chuckled warmly, and GreenWoman could see Des laughing aloud. "Anyway, she said one of y'all out there would like to hear it, and told me to dedicate it 'to absent friends.'"
When she heard the first few chords, GreenWoman felt a lump grow in her throat.
were born before the wind
Thanks, Des, she thought.
The rest of the concert rolled like a warm, enveloping fog of cool comfort over GreenWoman, who listened lost in a mood of serene, if bittersweet, contentment. At least an hour passed, although it felt like only moments, before Jimmy spoke again.
"This has been a great party," he said, a serious note tempering the upbeat tone of his voice. "You guys who were on the front lines fightin' those fires up north have the deepest respect and appreciation of the rest of us ... y'all are real heroes, and I'm proud to have been invited to sing for y'all here tonight. And we surely want to thank the families and friends of these brave men and women, for standing behind them when their neighbors and their state needed them so badly."
Applause and cheers rose all round the great lawn. GreenWoman happened to see Chris standing nearby and, after a moment's hesitation, tipped her glass in his direction and nodded her head. The young fireman nodded back. GreenWoman smiled, at him and at herself. You just never know about people....
"And now, I'd like to dedicate this last song to the Key West Foreign Legion," Jimmy continued. "They've created something special here ... a place that reminds me of the world I'm wanting to be living in, but which is getting harder and harder to find. It's a place where all kinds of people are welcome ... cynics and idealists, mavericks and conformists, optimists and pessimists ... celebrated for their common bonds, and respected for their differences. The first time I visited, Key Lime Key reminded me of this song. I think after today, you'll be thinking so, too."
With that, he began softly singing the words that had embodied the spirit of the KWFL long before the Drede Pyratte Bubba's gold had made it a reality.
know I don't get there often enough
GreenWoman began to sway to the music.
there's this one particular harbour
All around the lawn, the few people who weren't already dancing got to their feet.
now I think about the good times
Hands were clapping now, and conga lines were forming.
seen enough to feel the world spin
It was, as always, an irresistible invitation. Hundreds of voices joined in ...different octaves, different accents, different keys (and even some different words).
ora te natura
By the time we reached the last verse, close friends, diehard foes and total strangers were all moving as one, arm in arm, joined in song.
there's that one particular harbour
ora te natura
It was nearly midnight, and all was quiet on Key Lime Key. The party was over. Desdemona, GreenWoman and a few other Legionnaires joined Jimmy and his crewe as they prepared to board their boat for the trip back to Key West.
We walked out onto the Boathouse dock, making our way slowly in the glow of the Conch Queen's twinkle lights. Over the gentle sound of the water lapping against the pilings, we heard the soft strum of an acoustic guitar from the deck above. BobRob's voice drifted quietly down to us through the dark.
to go home, Jimmy
Buffett tipped his hat to the big man with the guitar sitting in the dark. BobRob tipped his guitar neck in response. The retinue started boarding.
"Well, friends, good work. And thanks for havin' me." Jimmy tipped his hat to all of us, kissed Desdemona's hand, and light-footed it over the narrow gangway and onto his ride home. The idling engine flexed its muscle in with a muted purr, and the boat began to slip away from the dock and slowly across the lagoon. We waved goodbye until the running lights had disappeared behind the mangroves that hugged the first bend in the channel.
GreenWoman slipped her loafers off, sat down on the end of the dock and dangled her feet in the dark water. A small splash and a quiet huff announced Bob's arrival. The manatee nudged Green's toes expectantly, and the woman shrugged her shoulders.
"Sorry, old woman ... nothing to offer tonight but friendship."
"I think she'll be happy with that," said Desdemona, who'd lingered on the dock while the rest of the group returned to the Boathouse.
"Sweet Bob," sighed GreenWoman. "The only member of the KWFL who likes everybody ..."
Des settled on the boards next to GreenWoman and looked at her with a lifted eyebrow. "Still feeling bad, Green? The party was a big success. Everyone worked together, we gave the firefighters a pat on the back and the Red Cross a respectable donation, and we all had a wonderful time."
"I know, Des ... and I'm feeling fine. I was just thinking ... Key Lime Key is kind of like Neverland, in Peter Pan, you know? 'Some may go and some may stay, it doesn't matter anyway.' And it doesn't ... this place lives in the hearts of whoever wants to believe in it, wherever they are, whoever they are, whatever they're like. Because the music means something to all of us, or we wouldn't be here.
"And because, Des, you just never know about people...."
~ 30 ~