Maybe I will, said Tia.
But by then she was busy entertaining a table of cable-TV executives, so she missed seeing Twilly Spree drive up to the neon-lit strip club in a full-sized county garbage truck. When Twilly got out, one of the men in blue coveralls tossed him the keys to the black pickup.
"You guys go through all that dough I gave you?" Twilly asked amiably.
"No, but just about."
"And it was worth every dollar, I bet."
Twilly shook hands with each of the men and said good-bye.
"Wait, son, come on inside and have just one beer. We got a lady wants to meet you."
"Rain check," said Twilly.
"No, but see, she don't believe us. She thinks we robbed the bingo hall or somethin'. That's how come you gotta come inside just for a minute, to tell her it's no bullshit, you paid us three grand to rent out the shitwagon."
Twilly smiled. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"Hey, man, where's the load? The truck, it looks empty."
"That's right," Twilly said. "There's nothing to haul to the dump. You guys can go straight on home tonight."
"But what happened to it?"
"Best you don't know."
"Oh Lord," one of the garbagemen muttered to his pals. "This is a crazy-ass boy. He's gone done some crazy-ass thing."
"No," Twilly said, "I believe you'd approve. I really do." Then he drove off, thinking how wrong Dr. Boston had been. Anger wasn't such a complicated emotion.
Palmer Stoat ordered an antipasto salad, garlic rolls, fettuccine Alfredo, a side of meatballs, and before long Desie had to look away, for fear of being sick. He was perspiring, that's how hard he went at the food; droplets of sweat streaking both sides of his jawline. Desie was ashamed of herself for feeling so revulsed; this was her husband, after all. It wasn't as if his personality had transformed after they got married. He was the same man in all respects, two years later. Desie felt guilty about marrying him, guilty about having second thoughts, guilty about the rhinoceros he'd shot dead that morning.
"From here to the salad bar," Stoat was telling her. "That's how close she was."
"And for that you needed a scope?"
"Better safe than sorry. That's Durgess's motto."
Stoat ordered tortoni for dessert. He used a fork to probe the ice cream for fragments of almonds, which he raked into a tidy pattern along the perimeter of the plate. Watching the fastidious ritual plunged Desie deeper into melancholy. Later, while Palmer reviewed the bill, she excused herself and went to the rest room, where she dampened a paper towel to wipe off her lipstick and makeup. She had no idea why, but it made her feel much better. By the time she finished, her husband was gone from the restaurant.
Desie walked outside and was nearly poleaxed by the smell. She cupped her hands to her mouth and looked around for Palmer. He was in the parking lot, beneath a streetlight. As Desie approached him, the odor got worse, and soon she saw why: a sour mound of garbage ten feet high. Desie estimated it to weigh several tons. Palmer Stoat stood at the base of the fetid hill, his eyes fixed lugubriously on the peak.
"Where's the car?" Desie asked with a cough.
Palmer's arms flopped at his sides. He began squeaking like a lost kitten.
"Don't tell me." She struggled not to gag on the stink. "Dammit, Palmer. My Beemer!"
Haltingly he began to circle the rancid dune. He raised an arm, pointing in outraged stupefaction. A cloud of flies buzzed about his face, but he made no effort to shoo them away.
"Goddammit," Desie cried. "Didn't I tell you to put the top up? Didn't I?"
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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