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Authors: Lucky You

Tags: #White Supremacy Movements, #Action & Adventure, #Mystery & Detective, #Lottery Winners, #Florida, #Newspaper Reporters, #Fiction, #Humorous, #Militia Movement, #General, #White Supremancy Movements

Carl Hiaasen (3 page)

BOOK: Carl Hiaasen
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JoLayne beamed. “That’s more like it.” She noticed how Trish’s hands had balled with tension.

Demencio forced a cough, to clear his throat. “Pretty soon you’ll be all famous, in the newspapers and TV. My idea was maybe when they ask where your Lotto luck came from, you could put in a good word.”

“For you?”

“For the Madonna, yes.”

“But I’ve never even been to the shrine.”

“I know, I know.” Demencio held up his hands. “It’s just an idea. I can’t promise hardly anything in return. I mean, you’re a millionaire now.”

Although he sorely hoped JoLayne wouldn’t ask for a commission on his take, he was prepared to part with ten percent.

Trish, quietly: “It’d just be a favor, like he said. Pure and simple. A favor for a neighbor.”

“Christmas is coming,” Demencio added. “Any little thing would help. Anything you could do.”

JoLayne Lucks walked them, one on each arm, to the door. She said, “Well, it’s surely something to think about. And, Trish, that’s glorious cake.”

“You’re so kind.”

“Sure you don’t fancy a turtle?”

In tandem, Demencio and his wife edged off the porch. “Thanks just the same,” they said, and walked home in silence. Trish pondered the possibility she’d gotten some bad information, as JoLayne Lucks didn’t behave like a woman who’d won a free toaster, much less a Lotto jackpot. Demencio, meanwhile, had concluded JoLayne Lucks was either a borderline psycho or a brilliant faker, and that further investigation was necessary.

Bodean James Gazzer had spent thirty-one years perfecting the art of assigning blame. His personal credo—
Everything bad that happens is someone else’s fault
—could, with imagination, be stretched to fit any circumstance. Bode stretched it.

The intestinal unrest that occasionally afflicted him surely was the result of drinking milk taken from secretly radiated cows. The roaches in his apartment were planted by his filthy immigrant next-door neighbors. His dire financial plight was caused by runaway bank computers and conniving Wall Street Zionists; his bad luck in the South Florida job market, prejudice against English-speaking applicants. Even the lousy weather had a culprit: air pollution from Canada, diluting the ozone and derailing the jet stream.

Bode Gazzer’s accusatory talents were honed at an early age. The youngest of three sons, he veered astray to develop a precocious fondness for truancy, vandalism and shoplifting. His parents, both teachers, earnestly tried to redirect the boy, only to
hear themselves lashingly blamed for his troubles. Bode took the position that he was persecuted because he was short, and that his shortness was attributable to his mother’s careless dietary practices (and his father’s gluttonous complicity) during pregnancy. That both Jean and Randall Gazzer were genetically slight of stature was immaterial to young Bode—from television he’d gathered that humans as a species were getting taller with evolution, and he therefore expected to surpass his parents, if only by an inch or two. Yet Bode stopped growing in eighth grade, a fact lugubriously chronicled in the family’s bimonthly measuring ceremonies, conducted at the kitchen doorjamb. A multicolored sequence of pencil slashes confirmed Bode’s worst fears: His two older brothers were still ascending positively, while he himself was finished, capped off at the ripe old age of fourteen.

The bitter realization hardened Bode Gazzer against his MSG-gobbling parents, and society at large. He became “the bad element” in the neighborhood, the cocky ringleader of misdemeanors and minor felonies. He worked diligently at being a hood, taking up unfiltered cigarets, public spitting and gratuitous profanity. Every so often he purposely provoked his brothers into beating him up, so he could tell friends he’d been in a savage gang fight.

Bode’s schoolteacher parents didn’t believe in whippings and (except for one occasion) never laid a glove on him. Jean and Randall Gazzer preferred “talking out” problems with their children, and spent many hours around the supper table “interacting” earnestly with the insolent Bodean. He was more than a match. Not only had he acquired the rhetorical skills of his mother and father, he was boundlessly creative. No matter what happened, Bode always produced an elaborate excuse from which he would not budge, even in the face of overwhelming evidence.

By the time he turned eighteen, his juvenile arrest record filled three pages, and his weary parents had put themselves in the hands of a Zen counselor. Bode had come to relish his role as the family outlaw, the bad seed, the misunderstood one. He could explain everything and would, at the drop of a hat. By the time he turned twenty-two, he was living on beer, bold talk and a multitude of convenient resentments. “I’m on God’s shit list,” he’d announce in barrooms, “so keep your damn distance.”

A series of unhealthy friendships eventually drew Bode Gazzer into the culture of hate and hard-core bigotry. Previously, when dishing out fault for his plight, Bode had targeted generic authority figures—parents, brothers, cops, judges—without considering factors such as race, religion or ethnicity. He’d swung broadly, and without much impact. But xenophobia and racism infused his griping with new vitriol. Now it wasn’t just some storm-trooper cop who busted Bode with stolen VCR’s, it was the
Cuban
storm-trooper cop who obviously had a hard-on for Anglos; it wasn’t just the double-talking defense lawyer who sold Bode down the river, it was the double-talking
Jew
defense lawyer who clearly held a vendetta against Christians; and it wasn’t just the cokehead bondsman who refused to put up Bode’s bail, it was the cokehead
Negro
bondsman who wanted him to stay in jail and get cornholed to death.

Bode Gazzer’s political awakening coincided with an overdue revision of his illicit habits. He’d made up his mind to forsake burglaries, car thefts and other property offenses in favor of forgeries, check kiting and other so-called paper crimes, for which judges seldom dispensed state prison time.

As it happened, the hate movement in which Bode had taken an interest strongly espoused fraud as a form of civil disobedience. Militia pamphlets proclaimed that ripping off banks, utilities and credit-card companies was a just repudiation of the United States government and all the liberals, Jews, faggots, lesbians,
Negroes, environmentalists and communists who infested it. Bode Gazzer admired the logic. However, he proved only slightly more skillful at passing bad checks than he was at hot-wiring Oldsmobiles.

Between always-brief jail stints, he’d decorated the inside of his apartment with antigovernment posters purchased at various gun shows: David Koresh, Randy Weaver and Gorden Kahl were featured heroically.

Whenever Chub visited the place, he raised a long-necked Budweiser in salute to the martyrs honored on Bode’s wall. Through television he’d acquired a vague awareness of Koresh and Weaver, but he knew little about Kahl except that he’d been a Dakota farmer and tax protester, and that the feds had shot the shit out of him.

“Goddamn storm troopers,” Chub snarled now, parroting a term he’d picked up at a small but lively militia meeting on Big Pine Key. He carried his beer to a futon sofa, where he plopped down splay-legged and relaxed. Quickly his thoughts drifted from the fallen patriots to his own sunny fortunes.

Bode Gazzer hunched at the dinette, a newspaper spread under his nose. He’d been in a spiteful mood since learning from a state lottery pamphlet that he and Chub wouldn’t be receiving the $14 million all at once—it was to be dispensed in equal payments over twenty years.

Worse: The payments would be taxed!

Chub, who wasn’t bad with numbers, attempted to cheer Bode Gazzer with the fact that $700,000 a year, even before taxes, was still a very large piece of change.

“Not large enough to outfit a patriot force,” Bode snapped.

Chub said, “Rules is rules. The hell can you do?” He got up to turn on the TV. Nothing happened. “This busted or what?”

Bode smoothed the wrinkles from the newspaper and said: “Christ, don’t you get it? This is everything we’ve been talkin’
about, everything worth fightin’ for—life, liberty, pursuit and happiness all rolled up in one.”

Chub thwacked the broken television with the flat of his hand. He wasn’t in the mood for one of Bode’s speeches yet it now seemed inescapable.

Bode Gazzer continued: “Finally we hit it big and what happens? The state of motherfucking Florida is gonna pay us in drips and draps. Then, whatever we get is snatched by the Infernal Revenue!”

Listening to his friend, Chub’s high feelings about their good luck began to ebb. He’d always viewed the lottery as a potential way to get tons of free money without doing jackshit. But the way Bode explained it, the Lotto was just another sinister example of government intrusion, tax abuse and liberal deceit.

“You think it’s a accident we gotta share this money with somebody else?”

With the mouth of the beer bottle, Chub massaged the furry nape of his neck. He wondered what his friend was getting at.

Bode rapped his knuckles on the dinette. “Here’s my prediction: The shitweasel holding the other Lotto ticket, he’s either a Negro, Jew or Cuban type.”

“Go on!”

“That’s how they do it, Chub. To fuck over decent Americans such as you and me. You think they’re gonna let two white boys take the whole jackpot? Not these days, no way!” Bode’s nose angled back toward the newspaper. “Where’s Grange? Over near Tampa?”

Chub was stunned at his friend’s theory. He didn’t understand how the lottery could be rigged. If it was, how had he and Bode managed to win even half?

During the brief span of their friendship, Bodean Gazzer had invoked conspiracies to explain numerous puzzling occurrences—for
instance, how come there was usually a big airplane crash at Christmastime.

Bode knew the answer, and naturally it involved the U.S. government. The Federal Aviation Administration was in perpetual danger of having its budget slashed, the crucial vote customarily coming in December before Congress adjourned for the holidays. Consequently (Bode revealed to Chub) the FAA always sabotaged an airliner around Christmas, knowing politicians wouldn’t have the nerve to cut the funding for air safety while the world watched mangled bodies being pulled out of a charred fuselage.

“Think about it,” Bode Gazzer had said—and Chub did. A government plot seemed more plausible than grim coincidence, all those plane crashes.

Corrupting the state Lotto, however, was something else. Chub didn’t think even the liberals could pull it off.

“It don’t add up,” he said sullenly. Plenty of regular white folks had won, too; he’d seen their faces on TV. Speaking of which, he wished the goddamn thing wasn’t busted so he could watch football and not have to think about what Bode Gazzer was saying.

“You’ll see,” Bode told him. “You’ll see I’m right. Now, where the hell’s Grange, Florida?”

Chub muttered, “Upstate.”

“Big help you are. Everything’s upstate from here.”

From his studded belt Chub took a Colt Python .357 and shot several holes in David Koresh’s cheeks.

Bode Gazzer leaned back from the dinette. “What’s
your
damn problem?”

“I don’t like the way I feel.” Chub tucked the gun in the waist of his trousers, the barrel hot against his thigh. Without flinching he said: “Man wins fourteen million bucks, he oughta feel good. And I don’t.”

“Exactly!” Bode Gazzer charged across the room and seized Chub in a clammy tremble of an embrace. “Now you see”—Bode’s voice dropping to a whisper—“what this country of ours has come to. You see what the battle is all about!”

Chub nodded solemnly, withholding his concern that a battle sounded like damn hard work, and hard work sounded like the last damn thing a brand-new millionaire ought to be doing.

The downsizing trend that swept newspapers in the early nineties was aimed at sustaining the bloated profit margins in which the industry had wallowed for most of the century. A new soulless breed of corporate managers, unburdened by a passion for serious journalism, found an easy way to reduce the cost of publishing a daily newspaper. The first casualty was depth.

Cutting the amount of space devoted to news instantly justified cutting the staff. At many papers, downsizing was the favored excuse for eliminating such luxuries as police desks, suburban editions, foreign bureaus, medical writers, environmental specialists and, of course, investigative teams (which were always antagonizing civic titans and important advertisers). As newspapers grew thinner and shallower, the men who published them worked harder to assure Wall Street that readers neither noticed nor cared.

It was Tom Krome’s misfortune to have found a comfortable niche with a respectable but doomed newspaper, and to have been laid off at a time when the business was glutted with hungry experienced writers. It was his further misfortune to have been peaking in his career as an investigative reporter at a time when most newspapers no longer wished to pay for those particular skills.

The Register
, for example, was in the market for a divorce columnist. Sinclair had made the pitch at Krome’s job interview.

“We’re looking for something funny,” Sinclair had said. “Upbeat.”

“Upbeat?”

“There’s a growing readership out there,” Sinclair had said. “You ever been through a divorce?”

“No,” Krome had lied.

“Perfect. No baggage, no bitterness, no bile.”

Sinclair’s fetish for alliteration—it was Krome’s first exposure.

“But your ad in
E & P
said ‘feature writer.’”

“This would be a feature, Tom. Five hundred words. Twice a week.”

Krome had thought: I know what I’ll do—I’ll move to Alaska! Gut salmon on the slime line. In winters, work on a novel.

“Sorry I wasted your time.” He’d stood up, shaken Sinclair’s hand (which had, actually, a limp, slick, dead-salmon quality), and flown home to New York.

A week later, the editor had called and offered Krome a feature-writing position at $38,000 a year. No divorce column, thank God—
The Register’s
managing editor, it turned out, had seen nothing upbeat in the topic. “Four-time loser,” Sinclair had explained in a whisper.

BOOK: Carl Hiaasen
5.06Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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