King Rat

Another man dies, out of turn. How many times did he invite me to join him at the bar so he could tell me stories. And I always said I would and of course I never went. There was a pathos to him, like an immutable sadness, and it was too febrile for me.

I justified this because I was sure I could guess the stories. I knew they would involve a lot of drinking and illegal mayhem mixed in with fairytale moments of sighting an albino porpoise or saving a sea turtle’s life.

Somewhere on the downslope of 50 he was rugged and his stringy hair ran in tails from under a faded ball cap and around his sun-cracked face. He was corpulent, from alcohol. That’s what they call the ‘Keys Disease’. One foot in the gin-gutter until you wobble over, and it’s over.

It was not always so. There was a youthful time in the hinterlands filled with hope. A time when goals seemed easy by mere dint of them not having yet occurred. He fronted a band, there were girls and it was the start of something; the spoils ahead in the mists of optimism.

Until the band broke up. There wasn’t much money but as it evaporated so too did the girls. With his guitar and a bag of guns he drove to the coast. Mostly working as a diving instructor he supplemented with a job at the Monroe County library for whom he restocked the five libraries from here to Key Largo. He loved to read. And he loved guns.

He insisted he wanted to write a book and he asked me to help. I said I would. He spoke like a writer so I knew he’d be good. Just a matter of motivation, I prodded him, pick up that pen I’d say. Instead we went to the gun range. The Glock was the smoothest.

Condolences and peace to friends of Biggy Rat. Your pain begins; his ends.