A Florida Man, Episode 5

A Florida Man, Episode 5

Suggested Listening: Nine Inch Nails. “02 Ghosts I,” Ghosts I – IV, Album, 2008.

(New around here? Read “A Florida Man, Episode 1” here.)

Hours before, Diego had shielded his eyes from the flash of the noonday sun. 

“That is bright.” Evelyn, seated across from him, pushed herself back from the desk and crossed her intimate office. What I won’t do for art, she smirked to herself. Standing before the large window, she turned a clear plastic wand between her fingertips, glanced back at her guest, and flashed a brief but reassuring smile. 

The bank of custom Venetian blinds rolled shut, slicing the harsh glare into manageable streams of filtered light. But not before she peeked up at the blue sky. The night before, a helicopter hovered, illuminating a Florida man named Diego being dragged across her manicured lawn against his will.

“Better?” Evelyn returned to the interview. 

“Yes!” Diego peered beyond her shoulder. “Thank you.” He shifted in a midcentury accent chair. The mild discomfort he experienced wasn’t unease over the next round of questioning but the three Academy Awards commanding center stage on the built-in shelves directly behind her. Proud. Sleek. Deco. Befitting.

“Please don’t let the Oscars intimidate you.” A wry amusement crossed her mature but well-maintained face. 

“No, no.” Diego waved her off. Sincere. His dark, curious eyes traveled the book spines. 

“Help yourself to any book you’d like while you’re here.”

“Thank you! Yes.” He relaxed. “Yes.” He breathed. “I will.”

“But don’t bend the pages,” she teased. 

He laughed out loud. “I wouldn’t.” Still, Diego’s newfound ease was short-lived. The spitting throttles of a dirt bike rumbled down her gated street. A rare disruption for the neighborhood, the unexpected rattle sent a shudder through Diego’s lithe body. 

She noticed. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” he lied — not to deceive but deflect. The latter would be short-lived.

“Was there a dirt bike?” she asked, breaking a flashback. 

He burst forth with a truth. “A motorcycle — “

Still?” Her question was abrupt. A wave of internal guilt burned. “That was careless of me.”

“The panic is gone.”

“Okay.” But Evelyn wasn’t so sure. She eased back, tracing her lower lip with the Visconti fountain pen in hand. She pondered stacks of half-finished scripts, thousands of pages of notes, and legal pads scribbled with reminders, ideas, and asides. 

Diego was honest. And smart. He knew the truths would save him. His honesty is what led to his rescue, as did the help of one South Florida State Senator behind the scenes.

Evelyn formulated her next question with greater care. “Where was the bike?”

“At the base of the mountain.” He positioned his hands at an angle. “A mountain slope. You see? This slope is very close to the highway, where I was at the time.” 

“The mountains of Venezuela,” she mused, trying to imagine the picturesque South American scene on film, having seen photographs but having never been. Not yet. 

Diego cast his eyes toward a wall on his left. His image was quite different than the one he intuited she imagined. 

“I don’t understand why I am still alive,” he said, a terrifying memory out loud. 

Evelyn sat straight. Their eyes met. Harsh truths would come as a landslide. 

“They’re going to kill me when I turn away,” he continued. “They will shoot me in the back. And then I will die.” 

She dared not breathe as though doing so would bring him back to the present day and dissuade him from remembering. 

“I’m going to die. At last.” Diego heaped a second helping of tossed salad onto his dinner plate. “They will shoot me in the back if I try to run or turn and walk away.”

Claire and Olivia sat across from their mother’s guest at dinner that evening, staring at the Venezuelan man with disbelief. Forks hung midair. Two college-aged mouths were agape. Tears welled in their eyes, wide open with the truths of another man’s life. 

Thank you all for reading. Thanks for sharing, too.