An hour later the litterbug came out the front door. He stood in the amber light under the stucco arch and fired up a cigar. Moments later a woman emerged from the house, slowly backing out and pulling the door shut behind her; bending forward at the waist, as if saying good-bye to a small child or perhaps a dog. As the litterbug and his female companion crossed the driveway, Twilly saw her fanning the air in an exaggerated way, indicating she didn't much care for cigar smoke. This brought another smile to Twilly's face as he slipped from the hedge and hustled back to his truck. They'll be taking the ragtop, he thought. So she can breathe.
Twilly followed the couple to an Italian restaurant on an unscenic stretch of Federal Highway, not far from the seaport. It was a magnificent choice for what Twilly had in mind. Litterbug parked the convertible in true dickhead style, diagonally across two spaces. The strategy was to protect one's expensive luxury import from scratches and dings by preventing common folks from parking next to it. Twilly was elated to witness this selfish stunt. He waited ten minutes after the cigar-smoking man and cigar-hating woman had entered the restaurant, to make sure they'd been seated. Then he sped off on his quest.
Her stage name was Tia and she was already up on their table, already twirling her mail-order ponytail and peeling off her lacy top when the stink hit her like a blast furnace. Damn, she thought, did a sewer pipe break?
And the three guys all grins and high fives, wearing matching dark blue coveralls with filthy sleeves; laughing and smoking and sipping their six-dollar beers and going Tee-uh, izzat how you say it? Kinda name is Tee-uh? And all three of them waving fifties, for God's sake; stinking like buzzard puke and singsonging her name, her stage name, and slipping brand-new fifty-dollar bills into her G-string. So now Tia had a major decision to make, a choice between the unbelievable gutter-rot stench and the unbelievably easy money. And what she did was concentrate mightily on breathing through her mouth, so that after a while the reek didn't seem so unbearable and the truth was, hey, they were nice-enough guys. Regular working stiffs. They even apologized for stinking up the joint. After a few table dances they asked Tia to sit and join them because they had the wildest story for her to hear. Tia said OK, just a minute, and hurried to the dressing room. In her locker she found a handkerchief, upon which she sprinkled expensive Paris perfume, another unwanted gift from another smitten customer. She returned to the table to find an open bottle of the club's priciest champagne, which was almost potable. The crew in the dirty blue coveralls was making a sloppy toast to somebody; clinking their glasses and imploring Tia to sit down, c'mon, sit. Have some bubbly. They couldn't wait to tell her what had happened, all three chattering simultaneously, raising their voices, trying to take charge of the storytelling. Tia, holding the scented hankie under her nose, found herself authentically entertained and of course not believing a word they said, except for the part about their occupations, which they could hardly embellish, given the odor.
How come you don't believe we got our load hijacked! one of them exclaimed.
Because it's ridiculous, said Tia.
Really it was more of a trade, said one of his pals. The young man give us three grand cash and the use of his pickup and told us to meet back here in a hour.
Tia flared her eyebrows. This total stranger, he hands you three thousand bucks and drives off in a --
All fifties, one of the men said, waving a handful of bills. A grand each!
Tia, giggling through the handkerchief: You guys are seriously fulla shit.
No, ma'am, we ain't. We might smell like we are, but we ain't.
The one waving the fattest wad was talking loudest. What we told you, he said, that's the honest-to-God truth of how we come to be here tonight, watchin' you dance. And if you don't believe it, Miz Tee-uh, just come out back to the parkin' lot in about fifteen minutes when the boy gets back.
Excerpted from Sick Puppy by Carl Hiaasen. Copyright© 1999 by Carl Hiaasen. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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