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Authors: V. Mark Covington

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Homemade Sin

BOOK: Homemade Sin
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Homemade Sin

V. Mark Covington


All names, characters, places, and incidents in this publication are fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

© 2011 by V. Mark Covington

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, down-loaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of the publisher.

For information regarding permission, email [email protected], subject line: Permission.

First published by Rebel ePublishers 2011

Cover design by Bonnie Watson,
Wisdom Novels

Interior design by
Caryatid Design


I do voodoo, you do voodoo,
Shamen in Peru do voodoo,
Dervishes in Timbuktu do voodoo,
Mystics in Katmandu do voodoo –
but not as well as me and you do

Ian R Thorpe

Chapter One
Drunk And Stinky In Key West

“If the entertainment tastes of the American public are any indication of average I.Q,” Roland slurred at the bartender, “ninety is the new one-twenty.” He was staring at the framed, Life magazine picture of Ernest Hemingway hanging on the wall in Sloppy Joe's Saloon in Key West. The bartender continued to cut limes and listen, distracted, as Roland babbled. “The whole culture is swirling around the rim,” muttered the bartender.

“Have you seen the New York Times bestsellers' list?” Roland said. “Romance novels and diet books, I doubt even Papa Hemingway could get published nowadays.”

“Yeah.” The bartender and dumped a handful of limes into the stainless steel fruit tray on the bar. “‘You'll never go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.' I think P.T. Barnum said that.”

“The whole culture is devolving.” Roland took a gulp of his third Rum Runner and returned to staring at the picture of Hemingway. He wasn't sure why he had chosen Key West. He had just headed south for some serious life reevaluation and even more serious drinking and, somehow, he had wound up in Key West.

He had set out from Saint Petersburg, headed for Miami, but for some reason he didn't exit the interstate as he passed through Dade County. Something kept telling him to keep going south. He felt he was in some way chasing his destiny as he accelerated past Miami and picked up the Dixie Highway toward Homestead, Key Largo and all points south.

Glancing toward the bartender Roland caught his own reflection in the mirror behind the bar. The face staring back at him still looked good at thirty-five, albeit a little rough around the edges. His normally pale green eyes were ringed with red and his sandy hair stuck out on top, as if he had just awoken from a rough night's sleep. There was a three day growth of dark blond whisker stubble on his jaw line and his clothes were stiff with dried sweat from driving with his windows down to let the sea breeze blow through as he sped down A1A. Arriving in Key West he had checked into Duval House, dumped his suitcase in one of the poolside cottages and set out to find a bar.

Roland turned his face from side to side in the bar mirror and examined the damage from steady drinking for the last three days. Not as bad as I expected, he thought. Normally he could pass for thirty but today he looked washed out and old, like a has-been actor headed for a stint in rehab. Physical appearance is the first casualty of heading south, he thought. It was easy to spot people who just up and headed south: they had the same hard, traveled look. The same combination of burning desperation and cooling hope in their eyes. The same general look of apathetic fervor.

No matter who you were, or where you live, sometimes things just plain go south. When that happens, the best course of action is to follow things southward. When things go seriously south, it is always best to light out of town for a while until the situation blows over. Slip away to somewhere – anywhere other than where you are – while you bide your time until the debt collectors collect themselves, or the ruffled feelings of jealous girlfriends, or the boyfriends of those girlfriends, are unruffled. Roland had lived long enough to know that in this kind of situation, usually a serious reevaluation of life looms large and the best thing to do is to head south, always south.

It's a tradition dating back to the founding of the old US of A. Back to when the New England midwives who mixed potions, fashioned charms or threw an odd conjure or two, found themselves looked at askew while their zealous neighbors whispered words of witchery, they knew south was the compass point to embrace. In such situations the practitioners of colonial holistic medicine hastily became citizens of the Virginia or North Carolina colonies, places where trials for witchery were rare.

South has always been synonymous with any place where the liquor flows freely, the night life is raucous and the general population is a little more weird and a little more wide open, and a lot more forgiving than the place you left. Wherever you live, there is a preordained southward destination, depending on your point of departure. Roland raised his glass and said aloud, “When the ominous, dark clouds gather and the situation calls for a beat-feeted retreat from any location south of Bangor, Maine, there is only one destination. Key West.”

Some travelers to Key West find the answers they seek; others wind up sporting dusty beards after a few months of searching and end up and folding palm fronds into rosebuds on the street. Either way, nobody leaves Key West unchanged.

Key West, where, on a steamy evening in mid-August, sunset worshipers crowded into Mallory Square to watch the angry Florida sun, red as a rock lobster, boil down into the cobalt blue waters of the Gulf.

Where, on the boardwalk a man shouted ‘OOOSSSCCCAARRR' as tourists tossed dollar bills into his hat and watched him encourage tenacious tabbies to tiptoe across tightropes and fearless felines to fly through flaming hoops. And where Roland Van Owen sat – frustrated, would-be writer and owner of a failing hotel and restaurant in Saint Petersburg Beach – on a bar stool in Sloppy Joe's, while the salt-rimmed evening breeze wafted its way east from the harbor through the narrow streets and through the open door of the tavern.

From his perch on the barstool Roland watched the band set up on the small stage at the far end of the room and sipped his drink.

“Another Rum Runner?” the bartender said. Roland was forced to drag his gaze away from the picture of Hemmingway and focus his blurring vision on the man mixing drinks.

“Sure, why not?” Roland said. “And pour yourself one, on me.”

Roland stared back at the picture of Hemingway. Sloppy Joe's was the place where Ernest Hemingway had spent many happy hours imbibing and if it was good enough for Papa, it was good enough for him.

He'd always liked Papa but he felt inadequate staring at his picture on the wall. Papa had done it, he had made a good living writing books. But where Papa had driven an ambulance through mortar and machine-gun fire in World War I, run with the bulls in Pamplona and hunted big game in Africa, finally settling down to rest his fingers on his typewriter to write novels, Roland had drifted through most of his life and finally settled down behind his own bar to make drinks for other people. Roland sighed and took another gulp of his Rum Runner.

The bartender noticed a pall of depression cross Roland's face as he gazed at the picture of Hemingway. Having seen that look before, on many would-be writers who had ventured into Sloppy Joe's to pay homage to Papa, he knew the proper course of action. He poured two shots of tequila and placed one in front of Roland, “Here's to Papa,” said the bartender, lifting his shot glass in salute to the photo of the grey-bearded man.

Roland raised his glass in a united salute. His funk dissipated and a thin smile crept across his lips as he took a long drink.

“Roland Van Owen,” Roland said to the bartender, extending his hand.

“Travis,” said the bartender. He grasped Roland's hand and shook it vigorously with his right hand while he removed the empty shot glasses from the bar with his left. Travis looked to be in his mid-forties, with milky blue eyes and threads of silver shot through his dark hair. The three days of stubble on his own cheeks and chin matched Roland's. “Tourist?” Travis asked.

“Reevaluating my life,” replied Roland.

“Yeah, I came here to reevaluate my life too,” Travis smiled a knowing smile as he attended to making Roland's next drink. “I've been down here reevaluating about fifteen years now and I'm still reevaluating.”

Farther down the bar a puffy man, wearing a loud Hawaiian shirt stretched over his large pot-belly, bellowed “Hey, barkeep! We need another round over here. Move your ass!” The man's face was a carcinogenic sunburned red and he was seated beside a heavily made-up, suicide blonde in a very unfortunate halter.

“Tourons.” The bartender shook his head and rolled his eyes. He drifted down the bar to the loud man and began busily making his drinks.

In the bartender's absence Roland turned back to the picture of Hemingway. “Papa, I wish I had your talent and your time. I should have been a writer … instead I'm stuck running a bar.” It was nice to be on the receiving end of the bar for a change though, Roland thought, which brought him back to the problem at hand. His hotel and bar, the Blue Flamingo, needed a serious make-over. He also needed a gimmick.

“Another Rum Runner?” Travis had returned to his position across the bar from Roland.

“Sure, why not,” said Roland. He was just sober enough to keep from falling off the bar stool but drunk enough not to care if he did.

“I agree with you about the devolution of the culture,” said a voice in Roland's head.

“What did you say?” Roland said to the bartender.

“I didn't say anything,” said Travis, placing a tall drink in front of Roland.

“Did you ever see Cats?” asked the voice in his head. “T.S Eliot and I wrote a wonderful book of poems, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. Maybe you've heard of it? Anyway, did you see what pop culture did to it? Simply awful. A bunch of humans dressed in silly costumes singing and dancing. Dreadful. Old T.S is probably spinning in his grave.”

I must be hallucinating, thought Roland, ignoring the voice and looking back at the picture of Hemingway.

“Earnest Hemingway was a friend of mine, you know” said the voice in his head.

Roland continued staring across at the picture, ignoring the voice.

“You know all that alcohol isn't good for you,” said the voice, a little louder. “And those sugary drinks are going to make you feel like scat tomorrow morning.”

BOOK: Homemade Sin
2.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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