I’ve often wished that I could write a book right after I’m dead. Wondering how the last chapter would read. Wondering if, of all of the profound lessons learned, the most important of these lessons would continue to be “cherish now.” I think it might.
Floating face-down in the harbor, my lifeless body bloated, lodged against a dock-side piling with my foot trapped in salt encrusted seaweed, head beating repeatedly against the hull of an inhabited yacht, soon to wake its residents. Our hero is sitting on the seawall nearby, watching the rose-colored water brighten in the sunrise, sipping on a hot can of stolen beer he found in an abandoned dockside lockbox that was left unlocked. He’s not able to quench any thirst, just drinking as a habit, finding solace in a sense of normalcy, wondering how to talk—his tongue is too swollen from dehydration to move—paralyzed. And when he can talk, he’s wondering how to tell the story, our story, and what will happen when it all comes out.
After several minutes of my head thudding against his yacht, a young man in his late twenties emerges from the boat’s cabin. His dark, short, brown hair disheveled, wearing a long-sleeved t-shirt with a photograph of a snook silkscreened on the back draping over a pair of wrinkled cargo shorts, he yawns. He rubs his naturally tone torso and scratches the short stubble on his chin while looking around to find the source of the thudding. Eyes practically swollen shut from exhaustion, he squints into the glare from the water’s surface. A small helium-like nasally yelp with a Long Island accent comes from below and demands, “Aaron! That’s it. Get rid of this stupid boat. It’s too noisy! Aaron! Are you listening to me? Aaron! Oh what the hell…”
Aaron pays no attention to the actual words yelping at him. He never does. For the past two weeks he’s trapped himself with this crazy woman on his 36 foot yacht with no sober explanation of how or why on his journey back from Mexico to St. Petersburg, Florida. What he does know right now is that he needs the screeching to stop along with this incessant thudding so he can get some sleep. Yawning, “Uh-huh,” he replies to her and climbs up to the bow. He looks over starboard-side, and his eyes fix on my dead body and my head bouncing in-time with the wake against the bow of his vessel. “Son of a …,” Aaron croaks out, then slumps down, sitting with his bare feet dangling over the side—shock sets in. The last thing in the world he wants to deal with is his terrible choice in a girlfriend, caused by too many tequila-filled nights in Mexico, and a dead body—in that order. If he could choose, the dead body is preferable to the girlfriend problem. On the other hand, he thinks, this may be a brilliant way to get rid of the squeamish, high-maintenance, whiny girl for good. He calls down to her, “Honey, please come up here and give me my phone. It’s an emergency.” After a small pause and still staring at my body he continues, “Honey, please hurry. It’s an emergency.”
She charges at him, wearing nothing but a teal bra and matching undies, clinging to a perfect dark athletic body with flowing long brown hair coming up from below carrying an open can of Diet Coke, “An emergency? What kind of an emergency means you’re too lazy to come and get your own… Ahhhh!” she lets out a piercing scream, spilling Diet Coke all over the deck as her eyes locked on my corpse, and she drops Aaron’s phone in his lap. Aaron tries to avoid snickering, which isn’t too hard when he realizes that not only does he need to deal with my dead body, but now he also has to clean his deck. He hangs his head. The girlfriend immediately grabs her belongings and flees. At least something went well this morning. He shuts his swollen eyes and rests his head against the lifeline still hearing the thudding of my head against his hull.
In the nearby distance, our hero, Jimmy Talbot, has finished sipping his hot beer and allowed a small smirk to surface across his lips as he watched the scene before him, the young woman, practically naked, taking flight out of the marina and losing herself in the waterfront city. The City of St. Petersburg, Florida was slowly waking for this soon-to-be media-charged Saturday morning. As for Jimmy, he knew he had to begin being responsible for perhaps the first time in his 37 years of life. His best friend and her legacy was counting on it. He rose to his feet and made his way over to Aaron’s boat, “Hi, partner. Sorry about this and all, but I know that woman down there. You called the police yet?”
Aaron sprung to his feet, shocked and frightened. “No, sir. Not yet. I was about to…”
“That’s good,” Jimmy said. “You do that, and I’ll sit right here. They’ll likely have a lot of questions for me.”
“Umm. Yeah, sure.” Aaron made the 911 call, hands and voice shaking, not knowing what to make of Jimmy, not wanting to think about it at all, he explained to the dispatcher that there was a dead body floating off of the bow of his boat in the harbor and that he had no idea how long she had been there or what happened to her. Within seconds, the sound of sirens started closing in until about eight police cars were parked directly at the entrance of the St. Petersburg Municipal Marina. Jimmy was sitting cross-legged on a lockbox, clutching his tan legs, now worried about the smell of beer on his breath at this hour of the morning and just now noticed a small splatter of blood on his sun-bleached Tommy Bahama Hawaiian-style shirt. A line of police were moving quickly down the dock, and Jimmy panicked. He jumped up, turned his back, and stuck a finger down his throat, vomiting into the water, but making sure to catch some vomit on his shirt where the blood splattered. He tore his shirt off of his body to wipe his mouth standing on a pair of lean, steady legs with his worn navy corduroy shorts hanging off of his hips, making room for a small, tan beer belly. As he turned around, he came nose to nose with a uniformed officer. Jimmy nervously patted on his short blonde beard and wrung his longish curly hair out of his face to take a good look at the officer, hoping to appear honest and friendly, squinting his baby blue eyes.
The officer stepped back after he caught a whiff of Jimmy’s breath, then quickly began asking questions, What’s your name, may I see some identification please?” Jimmy grabbed at his back pocket for his wallet while his eyes drifted over to Aaron who was engaged in a conversation with a guy in cheap gray suit pants, white shirt and an ugly tie. Must be a detective, Jimmy thought. Jimmy handed over his whole scuffed brown leather wallet, containing his Florida Drivers License, a Regal Cinema rewards card and about $2,000 in cash to the police officer, then swiftly walked toward Aaron shouting, “Hey partner! Don’t worry, I got this.”
The guy in the ugly tie swung around, “Are you the person who stated he knew the deceased?”
Suddenly, all the bottled-up emotions burst in Jimmy, and tears came flowing out of his eyes, he became increasingly unsteady on his feet walking towards Aaron and the guy in the ugly tie saying, “Yeah. I knew Veronica. Uh, the deceased.” The confident but friendly nature of his voice was betrayed wholly by the emerging gray hue rolling in, clouding his baby blue eyes like a thunder storm complete with pouring rain. “Veronica was the best. She lit up the world, you know. She was just one of those people that… that… you know, a star. Not like famous but like a star in the sky, lit-up, steady light, you could actually navigate by her brilliance. She was just like that, you know?”
The uniformed officer previously abandoned by Jimmy called out, “Detective Morano, his name is James Lancelot Talbot, 37, lives about a couple blocks away at the Bayfront Tower Condominium.” The officer handed Jimmy’s wallet back to him.
“Everyone knows me as Jimmy,” Jimmy corrected.
Detective Morano, the guy in the ugly tie, said to Jimmy, trying to change the subject for a moment so that Jimmy could regain his composure, “Bayfront Tower? Expensive address. What do you do for a living, where do you work?”
Wiping the tears out of his face, keeping his calm and confident voice, Jimmy replied, “No, I worked. I don’t work. I mean, I made a lot of money once, and I didn’t like working. So, I bought a condo and a boat, lots of fishing gear, and I try not to spend much money. Keeps me away from working. It benefits me, protects any potential employers from me, and my family isn’t bothered by me. Good thing all around, you know?”
“You made a lot of money working once?” questioned Detective Morano. “Was this work legal? I don’t know of a legal job that pays that well for anyone to work once.”
Jimmy is used to being misjudged. He realized a long time ago that his manner and lifestyle beg for it, so he’s almost flattered by it now. He smiles politely, replying “Yes, sir. To my knowledge engineering and ship building is still legal work. I patented a couple hull designs that win a lot of races. It paid well and still pays with residual income from the patents. I also write a little, take some pictures and paint a little, but I’m not so good at meeting deadlines, so it just provides a bit of drinking money, you know? Yep, that’s it. That’s what I did and what I do.”
Detective Morano responded, “Oh, I see. So, you’re a writer.”
Jimmy ruffled his brow not wanting to be insulting, he replied, “Yep. Something like that.”
Aaron, overhearing the dialogue, was too nervous to give off an obvious reaction, but he grew concerned that this detective might not be the brightest bulb in the socket and just stared wide-eyed at Jimmy. Jimmy caught Aaron’s eye and instantly sensed his concern. Jimmy smiled at Aaron and said with easy confidence, “No worries partner. I got this.”