Passing Trains

Short Stories... All Aboard!


Night Out

It’s midnight, Saturday.  We’re driving across the MacArthur Causeway, east toward the magnetic glitter of South Beach.  Even at this hour, hundreds of cars are speeding past 55, their thousand waving and laughing faces racing to the party.  We, however, are moving in the posted range, and slow enough to notice what all the excited young smiles are hurrying by.

To the right glows Miami, a tropical jewel like no other.  Its lights cast mystical colors on the warm water, then follow streams out to distant seas.  A stone’s throw from our roadway, gigantic cruise ships steer slowly toward open ocean, their decks swaying with secretaries and nurses and construction workers turned dancers and romancers. 

Above they stare the Caribbean moon, and brighter and closer than they’ve ever seen.  Between the ships and sea, under moon and electric stars, a lone figure fishes from this road running flat across the water.  His line searches below the colored ripples, though his hands have cast them all.  He knows that even here in the mystical bay, around ritzy islands and mangrove stands, great swimming creatures can pull all of little him in.  Even completely alone, he’s not the only fisher below this night-bow sea.

My friend advises me to watch the road; “We’re not as young as we used to be.”   And he of all people, a fair Don Juan of days gone by, and still winking at the girls like he’s just out of school.  We’re going just to see, yet now up with traffic, yes, just like it used to be.

They have parties in Rio, also Orleans, but the party in South Beach is like none we’ve ever seen.  The goers fill all the narrow streets, and each door seems ready for every wide comer.  Clubs of every sort, Deco in front, dark in back, and jammed with bodies vibrating to island music and fast gin engines.  Cars move slower than tired feet, their base speakers bouncing pedestrians like yellow tennis balls on sidewalk courts.  A million eyes peer between heads, looking for this night’s worked-all-week for the love of their life.  Suddenly, passion is playing on her barely clad breasts, and two middle age men need to sit down. 

Diego Riviera sells Italian pizza and Gringo cola, his narrow parlor offering two empty stools for two walk-in dons.  He refuses to comprende too much, except pepperoni with a jolt of espresso for my momentarily winked-out friend.  The stools face a mirror on the close wall, and the two aging Juans eating pizza seem out of place in its tomato-paste reflection.  Behind us Diego and his t-shirted Poncho Villa brothers are tossing dough as fast as they can, and furiously arguing in tongue about what lotto prices tonight’s traffic will bring.  Meanwhile, my friend needs crushed pepper, I need a napkin, a straw, an inch more space, thirty less years, and a bathroom.

Not too mucho pesos later, up the crowded narrow sidewalk we bump and bounce, and suddenly I think we’re back in a 60’s Greenwich Village.  People of every description tennis ball by, from clerks and suburban lilies, and giddy lolitas, to day-glow walkers.  The Deco is lost in a sea of glistening bodies, while two dons are assaulted by jumping parking meters and roving Bose-base speakers.  Tow trucks prowl in search of impulsive GM mice parked in their zone-laid traps, while semi-athletic cops bike and signal their hungry lion others.  The sound of metal, gallon drums, and we arrive at the packed avenue of hipper-than-us South Beach.

Ten thousand people per block, and not a single empty bench.  It’s 2 a.m., the ocean air at 75 degrees, the sidewalks piled closer on ninety.  Looking east, the cruise ships are sailing off the horizon, their lights now twinkling a Saturday farewell to Deco docks and designer jeans.  Under a park lamp she leans, posing an erotic pulp novel, and nearly as tall as the bulb above her bright blonde head.  Her neon shorts cover nearly nothing, and what remained covered no genuine don will forget.  At that moment I was a hunter on the dark plain of a black Africa, yet the prey knew this plain better than me.  A parking meter in the chest shot me back to the cement, and not a dime for her novel or pulp pulsated heart.  Yet, if I ever see her dark Spaldeens again!

Yet, even dreams have their 3am end.  Two dons hunted for their old car, yet still fitted to thwart tow truck traps.  Across the quiet causeway we sped, the colored lights of downtown Miami slipping our way.  The bay flowed calm on both sides, the lone figure devoured or gone home to sleep.  Two tired dons sit quiet, silently remembering old days, yet moving toward peaceful beds.  Behind us the party raged due-south as before, but ahead two tired dons aligned their compass back on true north.

© 1999 Don Q (aka David Baker/D. Molloy)


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