Life & Island Times: 68: Skin Shedding

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Today’s email inbox contained the above best wishes from one of the medical community’s specialists who have attended my needs. With the ongoing health care follies inside our nation’s imperial city, it should have made me a bit uncomfortable.

Surprisingly, I am not yet uncomfortable despite turning 68 today. In snake terms, I have shed my skin 68 times. It is fortunate that nature provides us this annual cosmetic surgery. As this stage of life, it helps rid us of older wrinkles, life’s disabling expectations, false illusions and fear. Anger as well is let go during this annual shedding. In fact letting go is a key operant of successful ageing. That and restraining my inherent dickishness.

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On the positive side, some will tell you that slow-n-steady is the best approach to take towards ageing. I’m here to tell you that fast is better. Much better. The choice is simple – missile launch or squeezed out of toothpaste tube. I’ve always believed this, in spite of the trouble it has caused me from time to time. That is why God and Mssrs Harley and Davidson made fast motorcycles. Frequent sessions of full wide open throttle, my friends.

Readers of my four corners journal know my answer to this next question but they should also answer it for themselves — who is the happier man, he who has braved the storms of life on the ocean and lived or he who has stayed secure on shore and merely existed? Just remember that life upon this ocean is one where we humans enter the food chain, and not always at the top.

The edge – there is no straightforward way to explain why I lived there other than by stories. Various going-overs are what I tried to share in my four corners diary. I want to note for the record that I don’t recommend drugs, violence, or insanity as personal edges to cross, but they seemed to have worked for a lot of creative folks. Sadly, a lot of them died or got brain fried early. I remain too old for that shit. I think I always was.

In my long ago youth when I departed late night NYC to catch some sleep during the late 60s on the night’s last train, it was never full of nice guys. Yeah, I admit now in hindsight that this was risky. Hopefully, my final departure from this orb will not be so perilous. There’s nothing to fear from those folks in white coats, right?

Old elephants head off to the hills to die. Old Americans go out to the highway to drive themselves to death asleep at the wheel or stricken with a heart attack behind the wheels of our huge cars. I think I shall ride my motorcycle.

Every now and then when life gets complicated and the political jerks or job weasels start closing in around you, I recommend getting on a motorcycle and riding like a bat outta hell south to the Conch Republic. I plan to do so in the near future.

I am turning 68. Please, no presents. No more games. No more marching. No more protesting. 68. That’s 18 years past 50. 18 more than I likely deserved and certainly more than I thought I’d get. I am tired of being tired and achy. No fun — for anybody. 68. I am beyond the greed. My needs are simple. A bit more travel. More time and fun with friends. Acting my old age? Screw that. What I fear most is hearing these words “Relax. This won’t hurt.”

Children don’t need friends to help them face birthdays. But we do at this age. Some of you have been around for many of these celebrations, while others for just a few. Thanks for sharing with me the past, funny or frightening as it may have been.

Same time, next year? Who knows where. I’ll get back to you. Maybe.

Copyright © 2017 From My Isle Seat
www.vicsocotra.com

Life and Island Times: Time Travel

I had thought about entitling today’s piece with some combination of the words spring, forward and suck but decided against it. As expected, we woke up later than normal to discover a dreary and surprisingly cold and windy morning too late to dress for services, so instead went to the local coffee shop on Forsyth Park for vegan breakfast sammiches and a 2 egg, bean, spinach cheese and sriracha sauce wrap.

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While there, I noticed all the parents with children. The kids were boisterous and joyful. Their parental units were cranky and bleary eyed with drawn faces and baggy eyes. This brought forth the following sprightly image that was similar to those in local papers to our minds.

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On a more serious note, I wondered aloud why the spring forward day and time was not on a Friday afternoon, say around 3 PM. Oh yeah, said W with a wry grin, the US Government is gonna spring for that.

I smiled a snarky smile. We reminisced about our own parenting days around the EST to EDST switch when we rued sending our off-cycled kids back to school once again in the dark. We hated this mandated advanced darkness period. The true sufferers, however, were the poor grade school teachers who had to deal with their classes the next Monday.

Another of my solutions to this dilemma was “falling back” two times a year and skipping a Monday every ten years. Sounds something that POTUS 45 might approve, I opined. Yeah sure, muttered one tired-looking coffee sipper next to us.

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“Springing forward” has known public safety side effects, most notably the higher incidence of car crashes and workplace accidents due to everyone still operating in zombie mode.

The “standard” period used to be six months long but has been shortened by 2/3’s majorities in both the House and Senate during the Global War on Terror to a mere four months. While it takes humans a few days to get used to it, routinized farm animals like cows might take longer. Our pets likely think that we hairless bi-pedals have become a bit confused, if not downright addled

This time traveling isn’t as modern as most of us think. First suggested by Benjamin Franklin in 1784, DST was at the time shot down by many sensible people as being pointless. During WW I, it was introduced – first by the Germans – to save coal during war time.

Somehow in that age of austerity, the concept soon caught on and everyone started doing it. Sadly, nobody’s really thought to change back. Except Arizona, and it hasn’t fallen off the face of the planet as a result. On the other hand, Zonians continue to re-elect John McCain as one of their two US Senators.

Studies have also shown that American energy savings and healthier lifestyles are simply DST myths. Clock shifts disrupt our circadian rhythms. Studies have further shown that, around the times of the spring clock changes, there are spikes in suicide rates and an increase in the number of recorded heart attacks.

Let’s face it, one of the most backward stan-nations – Kazakhstan – ditched DST in 2005, citing health reasons. So, why didn’t the leader of the free world?

Perhaps, Russian hackers were at work here . . . . or over there.

In any event, it could be worse. We could be living in the perpetually confused state of Indiana with its two time zones.

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Before 2006, most of Indiana did not observe Daylight Saving Time. However, some counties decided to use DST, creating confusion about what time it was around spring and fall.

To avoid the confusion, Indiana passed a bill in 2005 ensuring that the entire state would use DST from April 2006, regardless of the time zone.

Many Hoosiers are still pissed off by these changes. See http://www.timeanddate.com/time/us/indiana-time.html

But to the Hoosier state’s credit, it has a county called Ohio and one named Switzerland, which makes Indiana super-crazy about time-space in a most awesome way.

Copyright © 2017 From My Isle Seat
www.vicsocotra.com

Life and Island Times: Sandy Shoes

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the big cities we have left behind fatten, grow old,
increasingly coarsen, they become poisoned,
and parts of them and their people wither

survivors often think of the old days
when the nights and days jumped like they never had before
that even when they slept they gave off light,
electricity and soothing rollicking sounds
they still feel awake but are not
those days are gone

they caused troubles in strange places,
like drug store luncheon counters, bowling alleys, on streets
named Wall and Main, highways and other byways

they were funny and strange, but they were
not right
they bamboozled the flyovers
sometimes they made them angry
but they were never hard to get rid of
“just turn the damn thing off and don’t read the papers”

after they fell, there was nothing

all of them at first didn’t realize it

most of them still don’t

it will take them years to figure it out

they weren’t our beloveds just aberrations
with the ability to exceed the limits
for a brief while dressed in their polished shoes
pressed shirts and store bought tans

we are the unshaven with dirty nails, rumpled shirts, stained pants,
and sandy shoes

when they left us high and dry, all our other things,
days off, songs, meals, drinks, movies and books
seemed ordinary and worthless
we thought they had brought us something special
but we were wrong

they tried to make us believe that living
without them would be horrid
but we shall

they will miss us more than we them

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Copyright © 2017 From My Isle Seat
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Life and Island Times Thoughts on Backroad Motorcycle Towns

The riders traveled far away from big urban cities in order to putt to and through small and middle sized towns. As the years passed and the miles ridden soared, more and more of these places appeared to be shattered or shadows of their former selves.

These towns were places where the promise of American free enterprise flowered for over a century. Wages may have been modest, but workers and their families enjoyed perks that went beyond company pensions, picnics, and softball to include a lifestyle of increasing comfort, boundless hope and steadfast optimism about the future. Hard work would always have its rewards.

These were the towns whose young men underwrote the human cost of two world wars and who then returned home to become the industrial foundation of the American Century. Theirs was a quiet heroism of an older age.

The small town decay that the riders found was across all regions, economic bases and races. Former economic mainstays like mineral extraction, lumbering, railroads, factories, manufacturers or agribusiness had disappeared along with jobs, tax bases, middle classes, and schools. Towns lucky enough to have survived did so with low paying service economy jobs and businesses.

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Ruins in these once proud and thriving cities of craftsmen, thing makers, and shop keepers included places of worship, culture, business, and entertainment – all shuttered and decaying after serial attempts to repurpose them during past several decades of private and public economic revival/survival efforts.

Many had parks and cemeteries allowed to go to seed, standalone schools shuttered, taverns and bowling alleys all closed.

People who had lived there before the decay set in had thought themselves twice lucky – born in America and born in these small towns. Those that were still there no longer believed the latter and were slowly losing faith in the former.

Townfolk comity had been erased and replaced by a grimier and grimmer outlook and prospects. It was a devastatingly sad portrait that had taken the bikers years to recognize and then piece together.

When it went bad, it did not happen all at once but slowly, imperceptibly at first. The creative destruction of capitalism and globalism slowly blew these all-American towns all up and away. When their mainstay businesses died and jobs left, they were replaced with companies which had no connection to the real people, places and histories of the town. Federal, state and local redevelopment aid programs came and went, but these towns continued to be hollowed out.

The final indignity came when the remaining people were swept up by the serial drug epidemics from crack in the 80s to meth during the 90s to opioids now during the past three decades. All of this conspired to infect the inhabitants with a sense of rootlessness. They were losing their sense of place and their trust in one another. Fear and anger replaced trust and neighborliness. Kids played indoors now, instead of playing outside as their parents had before the great decay gained traction.

What the riders had observed were people and places which had lost their societal protectors — employers, banks, shops, governments, churches, civic groups. They had been their partners in building and thriving in the American frontier.

So for anyone wondering why swing-state America voted against the establishment in 2016, the riders had unknowingly ridden past the answer.

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Copyright © 2017 From My Isle Seat
www.vicsocotra.com

Life and Island Times: Epilogue

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Suburbs like back country places cannot exist without roads. Country roads were and remain about connections while suburban ones are about isolated islands of safety and quiet away from the perceived peril and noise of the inner urban city.

For many motorcycle riders, suburban roads lead to boring houses with boring lawns and a boring life, hemmed in by suburban isolation. And that was where and why the inexorable call of the wild of back country blue highways came in for them. Absent trees, rivers, glens, glades, wildlife and real life, suburban dwelling riders have no hidden spaces where intrinsic human behaviors flourish and tests of wilderness merit and knowledge may be met and passed.

Suburbia’s monumental security and sameness is not just obscured by the night. Its false promises are stripped away by the darkness. Nighttime is a place of stark truths. The same streets one drives in the day, the same front yards and backyards and schoolyards, the half-finished streets that go nowhere are not just different at night but are revealed as just as dangerous and just as foreboding as the back country roads.

These bikers riding was not just a search for magic, myth, or touristing a world in which they rediscovered the real rules. Yes, they were at the beginning of their road wanderings susceptible to the myth and legend of the American roadscape. But that didn’t last their serial encounters with the hard and dangerous realities of the back country.

They didn’t initially realize how these experiences helped them gain back lost tribesmen skills, awareness and instincts of their distant pasts as well become better and more responsible and creative adults.

The end of these dangerous roads did not frighten them nor did its nature. They had no twists, no turns or hairpins, nothing was obscured even momentarily. The view was clear of its end somewhere beyond its horizon point.

Not knowing which way they would turn at their ends, let alone what lay beyond them did not matter. They were free from the demands of youth for certainty, security from violence and basic need not to mention the preening need of a satisfying and flourishing life.

These rides permitted them through a smidgen of stupid and large dollops of sheer luck to recapture the thrumming vibrations of their lost tribal spaces and source waters.

Each was thankful to have learned that these surviving adulthood friends did not forsake him when he led the others astray. Wild and risk taking still retained a prideful place in life.

Roaring along the asphalt during those days and nights comes back to them with every burning hot wind gust that strikes their faces during a dry summer afternoon or anytime they allow themselves the pleasure of sitting on a porch during a bad thunderstorm to feel its chill winds, hear the thunder bolt strikes, smell the lightening ozone and have the hair on their necks stand on end, knowing that the seat of their pants will come up dry but they will fly along safely above or around the dangers that lurk in hiding from them along life’s way. They lean back on the porch gliders of their suburban homes, never, ever, wanting to go back inside the house.

– Marlow journal entry a decade later

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Life and Island Times: The End

Exiting Alabama Jack’s, they crossed the Card Sound toll bridge and entered the Florida Keys, where the sun shines white all day and the stars shine white all night.

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There were only three hours and 116 miles remaining until corner #4. The miles and minutes melted away swiftly as the riders fell into hazy blue Keys moods.

They sighted pelicans, gulls, and other seabirds floating in the salt waters like bits of colored cork, and pieces of seaweed, and at length a school of flying fish leaping in the air like gazelles.

They slowed down and again were treated to another cavalry charge of flying fish. They kept their pace slow until they were sure there wasn’t another battalion headed north.

As the sun was dipping close to the horizon on the mile long straightaway of the Bahia Honda Bridge at US 1’s Mile Marker 35, they cracked their throttles wide open.

They wound their engines out one last time – perhaps hoping that they would see God. They finally downshifted after passing well beyond 115 MPH.

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The vast gulf, perfectly still, reflected a single moonbeam as the riders traversed the Overseas Highway bridges toward the fourth and final corner. For the first time in over two fortnights, they felt fulfillment along the tranquility of this gulf that covered the adjacent coral reefs.

Off to the north of a lower Keys bridge, a silvery, white bellied monster fish broached the gulf’s surface, briefly hanging almost straight up in the middle of the reflected shaft of moonlight. It, like the riders, was in search of prey.

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—————–

A dark grey skied afternoon. Three motorcycles were stopped in a torrential rainstorm atop a Keys bridge. The wind speeds were so high that the bridges should have been closed, but the Florida state highway patrol was nowhere to be found. The rainsuited riders were holding onto the bikes with all they had.

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Suddenly the lightening strikes came, so tremendous in their energy that it almost pushed them from their seats; so quick, fierce, bewildering that they could think of nothing but to hold on. Then the rain split with a hiss followed by hoovering sounds, somewhere to their left, was indicative of an approaching, unseen but powerful water spout.

One of them was trying to speak to the others over the howling winds. He had no success, while the other two strained forward over their handlebars to hear what he said. Suddenly, there was a white flash and violent boom.

Marlow threw back the sheets and jerked straight up in his bed, horror struck. He was back in his home.

His wife comforted him, stroking his head and saying “It’s alright. Go back to sleep. Shh.”

The biker rolled onto his side and fell back asleep immediately, hoping for sweet dreams.

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Marlow and his fellow bikers’ houses stood peacefully and safely along suburban streets with others like them. Security lights blinked on when critters, big and small, passed through unseen trigger beams. They blinked out one by one after a few seconds passed. The streets were quiet and still, sleeping under moon-beamed skies. Half the driveways had cars drawn up close to closed garage doors.

A turned over bicycle with its rear wheel still spinning layed close to the open side door of one of their garages.

The riders’ good and decent neighbors slumbered, dreaming whatever dreams they dream.

Copyright © 2017 From My Isle Seat
www.vicscotra.com

Life and Island Times: Alabama Jack’s

Instead of tracking straight down the eighteen mile stretch to the Keys northern end of US 1, Marlow detoured them one last time off the beaten path just south of Florida City onto state route Alt 905. It winds through the glades and salt flats to a rustic place out in the mangroves.

In troubled times, people look to escape from reality more than ever. The media was saying the economy was in crisis. No one needed daily 30 point sized newspaper headlines to know that gas prices and unemployment were way up, while home prices were way down.

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This hideaway was one of those special places, where an occasional cool breeze mixed with the ceiling fan gusts to chill locals looking for an hour or two of respite.

Alabama Jack’s is nestled at the northern foot of the Card Sound Bridge. Floating on two roadside barges, AJs is the focal point of a ramshackle houseboat community. Locals have dubbed it the official “Downtown of Card Sound.” As a throwback to an earlier South Florida time and place, this roadhouse provides working class redneck boys and girls affordable, homemade food from family recipes.

Listening to juke box tunes — live music on weekends, folks sip cold beer straight from long neck bottles or drown their sorrows with distilled spirits. Appropriately when these riders entered the joint, the chorus of Lowell George’s tune Dixie Chicken was blaring from the music system. True to form, there were several Tennessee lambs seated at the bar eating the daily special accompanied by plastic cups of Coke and some low-down southern whiskey.

In Marlow’s ten years of patronage, he’d never seen a Barbie Doll type woman in the place. Female patrons’ calloused hands there didn’t lift flutes of champagne to their lips while noshing on canapés.

Patrons flocked there because their tender hearts required a honky-tonk where Skynyrd, L’il Feat and George Strait were played over the smell of yam fries and burgers.

In between food and drink deliveries, their 50-something waitress told her story of love gained, lost and found again. All of her life’s threads seemed woven into the down-on-your-luck fabric of Alabama Jack’s. She said that the place’s music and dancing helped her forget her problems.

They departed with a full bellies and hearts reconnected to the world’s harsh realities from which they had been escaping during past five weeks.

Copyright © 2017 From My Isle Seat
www.vicsocotra.com

Life and Island Times: Augustus’s Song

As Augustus awoke, his dream’s music — an anthemic, long ago, blues tune — faded into Marlow’s snoring and then into the great green lake O’s soft wave action caused by a tall dark storm brewing to the north. But the song kept on in the background.

Augustus quickly downed a complimentary cup of dishwater coffee in the motel front office and headed out to start packing his bike. He absentmindedly turned on his bike’s satellite radio. There was nothing.

He tried the starter. It didn’t turn.

His dream song started playing louder.

My starter won’t start this mornin’
Man my engine won’t even turn
My starter won’t start this mornin’
Man my engine won’t even turn, turn
Been fast-runnin’ lotta country roads to ruins
Now my scooter got troubles abrewin

My starter won’t start this mornin’
Man I hope there aint nothing wrong with my little machine
My starter won’t start this mornin’
Man I hope there aint nothing wrong with my little machine
Marlow says ‘”Your battery’s shot all right and
We’ve been burnin’ bad gasoline.”

My starter won’t start this mornin’
And I’m about to lose my mind
My starter won’t start this mornin’
And I’m about to lose my mind
Gotta get on the road, see the final place
But my Harley is all outa time

Maybe there’s water in my gas tank
and my battery’s all run down
Maybe there’s water in my gas tank
and my battery’s all run down
How’m I gonna start today’s final chase
If I can’t get outta this lonesome place

My starter won’t start this mornin’
And my Harley won’t do a thing
My starter won’t start this mornin’
Now my Harley won’t do a thing
I must begot some kind of bad disconnection
Somewhere in my piston ring

Marlow had awakened by this time and was sipping on his cup of office coffee when he ambled up to Augustus and his stricken bike.

“Time for a new battery, eh?”

“Looks like it.”

“Since I was here last, there’s a new auto parts store on the town’s edge that we passed on our way in here. They’ll likely have one.”

“Yup.”

After the clerk filled the new battery with fluid and quick charged it – good for a couple of starts max, Marlow whisked it back to the motel. They commenced the install only to discover that Marlow had left the special universal connectors back on the store’s counter.

“Sonuvabitch!” he exclaimed to no one in particular as he peeled out of the motel parking lot to fetch them.

After this second trip to the store, the battery install was completed. The initial starting attempt was an abysmal failure.

“Sonuvabitch to the goddamn 10th power!” exited Marlow’s lips.

After disconnecting every piece of power eating equipment (GPS, XM satellite radio receiver, light bar, cell phone charger, iPhone) from his bike’s electrical bus, Augustus’s machine softly coughed then roared to life after several last encouraging Die, you sonuvabitch, die! words of warning from Marlow.

Letting the engine idle to continue charging the battery, they loaded up their bikes. They tight boogied out of Clewiston onto the back roads of Florida’s cattle and big sugar countries, Seminole and Miccosukee Indian rezs and the Everglades.

These landscapes are little known or visited by outsiders, since many of these county roads are not depicted on paper or digital maps.

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Instead of tracking straight down the eighteen-mile stretch to the Keys northern end of US 1, Marlow detoured them one last time off the beaten path just south of Florida City onto state route Alt 905. It winds through the glades and salt flats to a rustic place out in the mangroves.

Copyright © 2017 From My Isle Seat/Van Zandt
www.vicsocotra.com

Life and Island Times: Florida Backroads (cont)

As they exited the burnt wasteland, they were only minutes from Lake O’s north shore.

At its northernmost tip, they detoured up onto the US Army Corps of Engineers built earthen rim, also known as the Herbert Hoover Dike. They were relieved to see that Lake O’s water level had returned to normal since its indiscriminate 2006 emptying had placed south Floridians on permanent water restrictions.

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Lake Okeechobee, the liquid heart of South Florida, is 730 square miles and has an average depth of 2.7 meters (9 feet). It is the second-largest freshwater lake wholly within the continental United States, second only to Lake Michigan. This three way shot shows the lake from right to left: June 2000, January 2003, and June 2007. Its shrinkage is particularly evident on its west and southeast sides. Images courtesy of NASA/METI/AIST/Japan Space Systems, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team

They then rode through a place that time forgot. Somehow left helplessly frozen in the mid 1950’s, the town of Pahokee contains two of Marlow’s favorite things to show new visitors: a long, Royal Palm tree lined lane along the lakeshore and the weirdest idea in cross marketing seen to date.

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They stopped for the night on the southern shore of Lake O in Clewiston, putting down US 27 to a motel trimmed in purple paint and neon, run by native-dressed Pakistanis and garishly lit at night like a fluorescently cheesy Las Vegas strip club.

Augustus described the room’s interior décor as 1950’s bordello with its over-painted, textured velour wallpaper. The sign out front said these were NEW CLEAN ROOMS. The motel’s operators confirmed upon check-in that they had recently painted everything.

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They celebrated the trip’s coming end the next day by supping on local fried chicken and guzzling the remaining Blue Sapphire gin.

Strange technicolor dreams resulted from this admixture of British spirits and Cajun spiced cooking. This excursion into a Zydeco shadow land was suffused with French Canadian accented songs intermixed with images of a Creole-speaking Strother Martin from the movie Cool Hand Luke.

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www.vicsocotra.com

Life and Island Times: Florida Wasteland

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Somewhere south of the abandoned real estate developments and failed dry land shrimp farms in central Florida, floating ash began to hit their windscreens. All around them ash fell, silently, covering the roadside and the fields beyond, transforming them. They were both stunned, unable to comprehend, staring at the transformed world, carpeted by ash. A vast, barren, dead expanse of ash covered earth, lifeless, forlorn and dark grey, lay spread flat before them.

They slowed down. Augustus came alongside Marlow.

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“Is the world dying?” Augustus asked.

“No. Not now.” Marlow replied.

“I hope not.”

“Might be a sugar cane field burn that got loose. They call them ‘money burns.’”

“I forgot that you are Irish. Surely, everything is ending; but, as you’re wont to say ‘not yet.’”

The ashen and smoky sky dulled the sun. They heard a piercing scream of a raptor off in the distance. They motored past the ash covered gravel parking lot of a long ago, demolished gas station.

They slowed down further, so much so that their boot heels dragged alongside them, leaving sidewinder snake slithering marks atop the ash powdered pavement.

They spent very quiet moments as they watched this particulate darkness fall.

Suddenly along this desolate road what was once a farm and abandoned silos loomed ominously, still standing. These ruins slid out of view as a gust of ash and smoke obscured them.

They slowed to a stop to examine some animal footprints in the ash. They looked to be those of a four legged mammal, perhaps a Florida panther.

They listened and heard a low thudding of drums in the distance. Still the ash fell.

They noticed tied to a dead sapling a thin green neckerchief. A sign? Perhaps. But nothing else came into view.

Out of the murky sky more gray snow fell. They were almost lifted out of their saddles when a sudden noise, a loud thunder crack and concussion wave – this time very close behind – hit them. They looked around just as out of nowhere it began to rain. The ash snow lessened then stopped as the rain continued. The landscape became a lifeless dark grey black soup.

As the rain slackened and then stopped, the riders coughed reflexively until they could cough no more. Blackish grey colored drool unspooled from their lips onto their black jackets.

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They then rolled into a blackened chasm of burnt grasslands and sugarcane fields. The few surviving roadside Melaleuca trees were both emaciated and exhausted, coated in grime and soot from the burned, blackened landscape around them. A sickening sweet smell abounded. The land was a desolation, lifeless, and without movement.

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There was a low rumble, the winds freshened and they could smell another rain storm coming. A line of squalls must have put out the recent fires in this remote section of south central Florida’s decade long, drought land.

There was a long shear of bright light, then a series of low concussions. The air temp dropped and the air scent cleared momentarily.

Further on, burned, broken asphalt fissures opened up alongside the road, obviously from major road edge burns during rain showers. Then they crossed a section where fire has crossed the road melting the tarmac. They looked for prints in the tar to study. There were none.

The riders slowly edged past a small pond filled with dead pencil thin trees. They then headed down a long straight road through a dark, forbidding tunnel of dead trees. As soon as they exited this columned hell hole, the everglades engulfed them in a rich lush greenness.

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They were now deep within an Indian reservation somewhere near Lake O.

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