A Monograph of Florida Man Headlines by Allie Marini

Introduction

Tell the joke & laugh, but remember: There But for the Grace of God Go I.

Components

Florida Man Arrested Outside Olive Garden for Belligerent Eating of Pasta

Stay drunk. It’s easier to forget where you are, how little you have. Eat like an animal, shoveling handfuls of someone else’s leftover spaghetti into your mouth with your hands, because forks are a luxury. Wolf it down, this is wilderness, & your Styrofoam container will be taken away once you’ve made restaurant patrons uncomfortable with your aggressive eating & the loud articulation of your misery, unfiltered. The bottle allows you to howl about the pain of what you lack. You are given a paper towel to wipe your face before they take the remnants of pasta from you. This small dignity, that you are allowed.

Florida Man Threatens to Destroy Everyone with His Army of Turtles

I need to leave now or you will all be sorry you fucked with the saint, he yells, but it’s only a legitimate emergency once you’ve made a scene at Starbucks. Take refuge at 7-11 instead. Tell the turtles, Be patient. Our time is coming. Try to articulate your desolation, all the places where humans have failed you. Turtles know all about encroachment, about habitat destruction, what it’s like to try & cross roads aswarm with fast-moving cars in search of safe marshland. Be careful you don’t end up cracked-shell in the breakdown lane, dying slowly & unnoticed under pounding sunshine.

Florida Man Attacks Parents Over Pork Chop

After the hunger years, a square meal seems a trap. Too good to be true. It must be poison disguised as meat & potatoes. An increase in paranoia in the ravenous weeks leading up to a meal is not mental illness—correlation is not causation. What starts off as a plate of pork chops ends in a mother glassed over the head & a butcher knife to the chest. No gift can be trusted. No meal without a string attached, a fishhook through the cheek.

Florida Driver Finds Boa Constrictor in His Car Engine

Well, what do you expect of an invasive species with no natural predators, perniciously changing the ecosystem in unpredictable ways? Here, everything in the environment—& the waters surrounding us—is actively trying to kill us, predating the inhabitants (themselves an invasive species, with no biological checks-or-balances), in a fight for domination of the earth.

Florida Man Confesses to Cops, Says ‘Jesus Told Me To’ Drive Ferrari 360 Off Pier

The Lord wants you submerged under 30 feet of saltwater. Wants you to drown the Ferrari 360 preaching, I have made it. Heavy is the head that wears this crown. He tells the arresting officer, Money will be irrelevant in two days, remember to smile, because he has been taught that true wealth is in the afterlife. What happens on earth is just marking time. Remember to smile.

Rattlesnake-Carrying Florida Man Claims to Be ‘Agent of God’

Armed with 7 feet of gentlemanly venom, who’s to say he’s wrong? The rattlesnake is relocated to its natural environs by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission. The homeless Agent of God will not be relocated. The wilderness of the street is his natural environ. There are no commissions dedicated to his safe release.

Florida Man Electrocuted Trying to Remove Bird from Power Line

Even your meager attempts at kindness will become a punchline.

Florida Man Accused of Attacking Mom When She Wouldn’t Dress His Mannequin

At the intersection of domestic violence & loneliness, find a mannequin. Love this female fob of plastic & metal articulation better than the flesh & blood mother who made you. Stuff dumplings in her mouth. See if she smiles showing her teeth.

Florida Man Calls 911 To Get Out of His Fast Food Shift, Cops Say

Your poverty—& the labor system that exploits it—is not an emergency.

Conclusion

You know these are not isolated incidents. You just know it’s in everyone’s best interests to pretend that these things only happen Over There, in someone else’s snake-riddled backyard, full of gators & invasives & clear-cutting & education budget cuts, the land of tourist dollars & minimum wage. You knew all that when you laughed at the uneducated populace & how easy they are for tyrants to manipulate. How easy it is to buy into poison when you were bottle-fed on a steady diet of nothing. Poison will fill your belly, if only for a moment before the toxins take down first the limbic system, then the cardiorespiratory system, leaving you thrashing in the scrub pine straw. This is how invasives with no natural predators gain dominance over an ecosystem. The same way a strangler fig throttles from the roots, leaving the branches to whither & die, even in full sunlight.

Citations:

1. https://thetakeout.com/florida-man-arrested-olive-garden-eating-pasta-1833970785 Accessed April 11, 2019.
2. https://www.clickorlando.com/news/florida-man-threatens-to-destroy-everyone-with-army-of-turtles-police-say Accessed April 11, 2019.
3. https://www.newsweek.com/florida-man-stabs-father-pork-chop-acidic-1390032 Accessed April 11, 2019.
4. https://www.wfla.com/news/florida/florida-driver-finds-boa-constrictor-in-his-car-engine/1699749944 Accessed April 11, 2019.
5. https://www.thedrive.com/news/26006/florida-man-told-cops-jesus-told-me-to-drive-ferrari-360-off-pier Accessed April 11, 2019.
6. https://www.wthr.com/article/rattlesnake-carrying-florida-man-claims-be-agent-god Accessed April 11, 2019.
7. https://www.wthr.com/article/florida-man-electrocuted-trying-remove-bird-power-line Accessed April 11, 2019.
8. https://www.wsbtv.com/news/trending-now/florida-man-accused-of-attacking-mom-when-she-wouldnt-dress-his-mannequin/935524590 Accessed April 11, 2019.
9. https://www.miamiherald.com/news/state/florida/article228487694.html  Accessed April 11, 2019.

 

Allie Marini is a cross-genre Southern writer. In addition to her work on the page, Allie was a 2017 Oakland Poetry Slam team member & writes poetry, fiction, essays, performing in the Bay Area, where as a lifelong Floridian, she is always cold. Find her online: www.alliemarini.com or @kiddeternity.

The Poem Where Dr. Phil Rides to the Back Doctor with Me by Katie Darby Mullins

Sometimes I imagine my vertebrae like explosions,
Each piece a tiny mushroom cloud lit up
In gray and blue and maybe even purple—
Loud colors and pain streaking, catching fire.

Today my shoulder is erosion: a shelf worn
Down from over use. Something’s
Wrong, but I’m supposed to pretend I don’t
Notice. Power of positive thinking. Doctors
Have told me since I was ten that I didn’t hurt

“And thank God all this pain doesn’t hurt,”
I say out loud. Dr. Phil is in the passenger seat,
Trying to keep his expensive shoes off the papers
On the floorboard. He’s come to accept

The mess. Some matchbox twenty song is on the radio,
And I can tell he’s torn between fidgeting
With the dial (– and me shutting him down) and singing.
“I see your pain. And I can’t begin to understand

How you feel,” he says. It’s a canned answer,
But a good one: sometimes I wonder if the swelling
Goes down a little every time someone
Believes me. I’ve seen him say this to widows,
People who’ve lost parents. And in the scheme

Of things, I know this isn’t so bad: but sometimes
All that knowledge courses through my muscles
And they tense up harder, and soon, my body
Is knotted with pieces of me I can’t even name.
Sometimes I’m carrying the pain of the whole
World in the worn-out spaces between bones.

 

Katie Darby Mullins teaches creative writing at the University of Evansville. In addition to being nominated for both the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net twice, and being the associate editor of metrical poetry journal Measure, she’s been published or has work forthcoming in journals like The Rumpus, Iron Horse, Hawaii Pacific Review, BOAAT Press, Harpur Palate, Prime Number, Big Lucks, Pithead Chapel, and she was a semi-finalist in the Ropewalk Press Fiction Chapbook competition and in the Casey Shay Press poetry chapbook competition.

Nine Fictions by Scott Garson

1. MALL

First strange thing: leaving the Food Court, I notice a hand towel on one of the tables, a Portuguese hand towel, or featuring large red words in that language, anyway, and I say to my husband, That’s weird, and he says, What, and I start to describe the hand towel, but my husband—second strange thing—has led us right to the edge of a spectacle: a woman and man are having sex on the floor by the Eddie Bauer, and I say, Okay—I guess ironically—and turn to relate to my husband, but my husband—third and worst strange thing—is gone, and I turn around looking for him before making the choice to move on, past GAP, past Claire’s, towards JCPenney, our original aim, except by the Hot Topic everyone’s dancing, young and old, dancing in circles, in silence, counter-clockwise, and that’s when I understand what I probably have to do if I want to see my husband again: I probably have to make my way back to the Food Court and read the towel.

 

2. LOOSE

She was trying to read a poem and apparently failing. She didn’t know why there had to be fault, but if there did, she guessed that fault could be split down the middle, like a turkey sandwich: half for the poet, because he had tried to make language without her, and half for her, for the usual reason: her brain and its terrible wildness.

 

3. KINDERGARTEN

About loss, they were never wrong, the old masters. It can be marked—as a shape, in the distance. It can be feared. But you can’t know it until you’re inside, and trying, maybe—he can’t say—to drink your coffee again. Or put on clothes for work. He can’t imagine. He buys a bullet-resistant backpack into which he threads his child’s hands and arms. He kneels to do this. It is, he understands, a gesture, light as prayer.

 

4. HIGH

Hunger must have looked good on me. I was hired, at a very decent rate, by a man whose apparent shtick was to be outrageous and hire skinny young guys off the street. They measured me, had me in clothes, at a table, with all sorts of food and drink that no one could actually touch. We were supposed to be laughing. Me and this white guy and two women, one black, one Latinx. We were supposed to be charmed, like nightclub royalty, having the time of our lives. When they had enough pictures, they took back the clothes. They gave me a voucher. They opened a door. I didn’t know if I should say anything, I just left. I kind of stumbled moving into the afternoon glare.

 

5. STORY

I found a telephone number written in dark blue ink on the back of a claim stub tucked in the pages of a crime novel I’d purchased second-hand. I thought about taking the claim stub out but figured I’d probably lose it if it wasn’t any longer in the place where it had been lost. Plus, the telephone number sang to me from that place, page seventy-three. I’d open the book and turn the stub in my fingers. Ocean View Cleaners. I’d think about what I would say to the person whose number was written in ink, how I would start, what kind of lies I might shape. But I never called. I think I felt that a call would empty the situation.

 

6. BUREAUCRACY

They said, How old you want to be on earth? I said, What? They said, Age. I pointed out to them the fact that I seemed to be dead. They controlled their impatience. Listen, they said, there’s a whole lot of stations after this one, yeah? You might want to pick up your pace. I said, Right, sure, but I don’t understand. On earth, they explained, the minute you die, you get to be generally remembered at some one age, which makes sense—was I following them?—because once you die you have no age: it’s a wide-open situation. I said, Ah! Which was stalling. I saw my own face, back in life, as if in a set of still pictures. Nine. Forty. Eighteen. Thirty-two. I said, I can’t answer. They said, You weren’t old enough. If you’d been ninety or something like that, you’d pick. Sure you would. You’re ninety, you’re old, probably frail, and you die, then ka-boom, you’re twenty-eight again. Just look at you. Yeah? Just look.

 

7. SPELL

Toads no bigger than houseflies, hopping around. Is this even possible? Could be people have magicked these toads, using some ancient equation. She could be biking. Take a hard bend and get hit in the face with giant flies.

 

8. NIGHTSWIMMING

Instead of doing a search for the lyrics, I thought I would write them all over again, for myself, because—and I don’t mean to brag—I’ve probably nightswum more than the crooner in question. I’ve nightswum all of my life, often naked, which is, at least in my view, the best way, because when you nightswim it’s like being born. You shoot from water, everything dripping. You work to secure a few breaths. You start to acquire a feel for yourself, your size in the star-messed darkness.

 

9. HISTORY

He remembers once when they were about to fight, a maybe vicious fight, cause they’d been drinking wine, her more than him, and she was smaller, too, actually borderline tiny, so she was just trashed, and no way could he win a fight like that, cause she was always willing to take the meanness higher, though she wasn’t mean, was just unable to quit, which was actually something he loved about her, as part of her general fucked-up-ness, which he loved, too, and so, to ward off the fight, he made some random, stupid remark—he can’t remember what—and she was distracted, kept asking, What did you say? And she laughed. And she couldn’t quit laughing.

 

Scott Garson is the author of IS THAT YOU, JOHN WAYNE?, a collection of stories. He has work in or coming from The Best Small Fictions annual, The Three Penny Review, Conjunctions, The Kenyon Review, American Short Fiction, and others.

Underwater by Bojana Stojcic

When did I last eat? I know I masturbated. I don’t recall eating, though. I threw up. I remember that. But I didn’t eat. No, no, I didn’t eat. I think I went to bed yesterday morning. It’s getting dark. I got up once to pee. Then I felt sick. The winter sky swallows the colors of the visible spectrum fast, and reflects none to my itchy eyes. I don’t need the light to see. I refuse to accept black is not a color.

I used to think of myself as a black-maned horse running wild or a rabbit with large hind legs running away. They can survive on land. I am a whale, raising her young, living and dying at sea.

I force myself to open my eyelids heavy with day and night dreaming of the oceans in his eyes (how deep is their deepest part, I wonder) and his strong back against the levee before it breaks, leaving a big opening for my salty waters to flood his badly protected shore. We take turns opening and closing our mouths until pregnant colorlessness passes us down its throat and we start breathing air through a hole at the top of our heads.

 

Bojana Stojcic writes and bites, like a lot, so try not to piss her off. Her poems and flash pieces are published or forthcoming in Rust + Moth, Anti-Heroin Chic, Barren Magazine, The Opiate, Burning House Press, Down in the Dirt, Mojave Heart Review, Dodging the Rain, The Blue Nib, Foxglove Journal, Spillwords, The Stray Branch, Tuck magazine, X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, Nightingale & Sparrow and Visual Verse. She blogs at Coffee and Confessions to go.