A Florida Man, Episode 2

A Florida Man, Episode 2

Suggested Listening: The Talking Heads. “Once in a Lifetime,” Remain in Light, Album, 1980.

(Find A Florida Man, Episode 1 here.)

“You’re home.” Evelyn stood stunned. She gripped the edge of the marble-topped kitchen island and blinked twice. “You’re home!” She shook the shock of the previous minutes from her brain. Arms outstretched, she stepped forward and gave her two daughters a warm and loving embrace. “You’re home.” Evelyn squeezed her children tight. 

A huddle. A face smoosh. Kisses on warm, rosy cheeks. A tender moment faded. The kitchen lights blared. 

“Mom.” Claire backed away. She squinted, her big blue eyes now two slits. She peered across her mom’s shoulder at the stranger. “Who’s this guy?”

“Oh.” Evelyn turned. “Girls? Uh, this is Diego.”

Olivia, younger but astute, grinned and opened the refrigerator door. Claire, the elder, shot Diego an evil eye. Diego, unaware of previous family dramas and squabbles — dormant but never dead — smiled at both girls.

“Hello,” he waved, eager to make new and beautiful friends. 

“Pancakes?” Olivia asked the small crowd.

“Sure,” Claire said. She turned her attention to the young man. “Who are you?”

“I’m Diego,” he extended a hand. 

Claire was reluctant but polite until latent aggression reared its ugly head. “What are you doing here?”

“Don’t be rude,” Evelyn scolded. “Diego is my guest.”

“Are you the cause of all the mayhem? Claire asserted.

“Mayhem?” he cocked his head, confused.

Claire handed him a kitchen towel. Diego wiped beads of warm Intracoastal waters, now cold from air conditioning, from his neck. Eyes closed, he shook his dark hair. Claire feigned intolerance. 

The crack of an eggshell against a porcelain bowl broke the first flickers of attraction and discomfort. Olivia, amused, explained. 

“Our Uber driver charged us for waiting. The cops sealed off the neighborhood entrance.”

“I wasn’t expecting you girls until tomorrow,” Evelyn reminded them. “Not that that matters!” she corrected herself. “I’m glad you’re home early, safe, and sound.”

“You haven’t answered the question,” Claire insisted. “What’s he doing here?”

Diego, equally polite and entertained, watched three women interact. He slid a pint of blueberries across the countertop, close to the bowl. His was an unspoken suggestion but one that Olivia responded to with pleasure. She lifted the pint and folded the fresh fruit into the batter. She fired up one of six burners and leaned against the main counter while the griddle preheated. 

“You’re not from around here, are you?” she finally asked. 

“Diego is,” Evelyn paused her explanation. The Venezuelan houseguest wasn’t a test subject, as she nearly blurted without thinking. The term “test subject” was a phrase she conjured up at 3:30 in the morning without forethought. “Diego,” she began anew, “is the subject of my next documentary and will be staying here while I conduct in-depth interviews.”

“Oh,” Claire thought, uncomfortable with the interruption yet intrigued. “What kind of documentary?” 

“Mmm,” Evelyn wrinkled her nose. “Do you really want to know?” She grinned. 

“That’s why I’m asking.” 

“Well,” Evelyn began. She tightened her bathrobe’s knot. She and her young guest exchanged a glance. “This is where the story gets interesting.

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