In the winter on the full moon the shrimp run the inlets. On the incoming tide, the thing to do is go out in a boat with a handheld spotlight, flash the water until it reflects tiny red eyes floating by and scoop them with a long-handled dip net.
Brendan had all the necessary accouterments and a 16-foot Whaler and he’d ask you to bring beer. By all accounts this was one of the saner activities that could be undertaken by kids in South Florida.
The wind funneled in between the condominiums stacked aside the inlet and the humid air chilled to the 50s and felt ice cold. (Humans acclimated to 80 do not adjust well.) On the accelerating tide tiny flagellates riled and set the black water aglow with phosphorescence, interrupted by the red eyes that set off reflexive jabbing motions with the nets.
Weirdness funnels down the Interstates into South Florida and after midnight the purveyors end up in Denny’s.
Brendan sat at a table and he had bloodshot eyes and an elderly man in a plaid blazer walked up to him. “Do you know who I am?” he asked.
Brendan had a well-developed Irish temperament and he shouted, “Red Buttons!”
“No,” the man said. “I’m Alan Funt.*”
“No way,” said Brendan. “You’re Red Buttons.”
“No, I’m Alan Funt.”
The waitress came over to calm them down but it kept going back and forth until Brendan got the final word.
“F*&k you, Red Buttons.”
Last week I went to Florida but I ordered in and fell asleep well before midnight. In the morning I took a boat to Boca Chita and Elliott Key in a head sea and got soaked and the wind turned everything to mud.
Florida, though, makes amends.
I caught peacock bass in a canal and saw some strange people in a diner but I was smeared with zinc oxide so they avoided eye contact. I ordered carnitas and iced tea and watched the front door in expectation that, somehow, Peter Funt would walk through. He did not.