Excerpt from Pirates, Poets, And Goodbyes
As is often in life, the morning threatened us with rain and dark clouds. Ricky and I gathered up our rain gear, jumped on our Harleys, and headed off to Key West. When we hit I-95 the rain was intense, and this would not be a pleasant ride but there is nothing better than an open road and a Harley.
Raissa and Pauline were going to stay behind and hire a contractor to repair the Writers’ Café so it could be reopened. They also planned to add an Art Gallery in the building. They were going later in the week to Ocean Reef Resort to meet with Bharat Mathur, an international financer, a great writer, and a dear friend. It was time to find the lost manuscript to give Pauline’s father his long-overdue recognition and get the Writers’ Café back open for the next generation of poets and writers.
This is the Seventh Installment in a series called “The Long Journey Home”
The rain was so powerful that we could barely see ten feet in front of us. While I love the rain, it does not make a good ride on a Harley going seventy down Interstate 95. The road was straight as an arrow, a ribbon from Georgia to Key West. The rain, the roar of the Harley, and the flat straight highway had a numbing effect and allowed your mind to ramble dangerously. I could not help but think about what we would find in Key West.
It was rumored that Waldo spent many nights at the Writers’ Café drinking good Bourbon and telling tall tales of adventure and good times.
The handle grips on my Harley were wet and my hands were going numb from the never-ending rains. We pulled over in Vero Beach for a quick lunch at one of Ricky’s and my favorite local bars called Waldo’s. It was rustic and built in 1920. It was notorious for the many bells, including ship bells, throughout the building. The owner was well known by Theodore. He would always quote Waldo Sexton’s famous line when asked about the inconsistencies in his stories “Madame I had rather be a liar than a bore any day.” It was rumored that Waldo spent many nights at the Writers’ Café drinking good Bourbon and telling tall tales of adventure and good times.
We sat at the rustic tables old before I was born. The wood was weathered and grey. The food good beyond anything I had in a while. You could see the angry ocean with waves breaking hard along the shore. Ricky and I settled in and ordered a few cold tall ones. The bartender was friendly and sat down with us when she brought out the food. We asked her if she had seen an old friend of Theodore’s, one Richard Harnett, as he came here often. She said that he stopped there a few days ago and spend a couple of nights in a rented room. She also mentioned that he met with some very rough looking sailors from Key West.
They talked and drank whiskey until the bar closed for the night. They had mentioned Theodore, Key West, and Cat Island. Their conversations were heated and argumentative. It was obvious they were in business together but not friends. After they left you could hear them shout at each other from the beach.
I called Raissa and Pauline and asked them to meet us in Key West. We would probably get there first so we would rent rooms for the stay at the La Concha Hotel. After all, legend had it that Hemingway stayed there. Both of my boys lived in Vero Beach, Ashley, and Michael. So they came by Waldo’s and visited with us for a while. Both had seen Richard in the last few days. Michael worked for a company that picked people up from Orlando and brought them to Vero Beach. Michael remembered him talking about getting rich from a manuscript he had found.
Michael did ask him if he knew his dad since he wrote books and lived at Saint Simon. Michael said he got quiet after that but still tipped him good. Ashley said that he came to the bowling lanes where Ashley owned the Po Shop and purchased a few new balls. He mainly stayed in a corner with three rough-looking guys. He also said they mentioned Cat Island.
Raissa called back from Ocean Reef and said they were wrapping things up with Dennis Pitocco and Bharat Mathur as far as financing the new Writers’ Café and adding an art gallery and Pauline has to sign the publishing deal. Even though Dennis had the edited version of the manuscript everyone was still worried about finding the unedited original. Richard could still sell that manuscript for a lot of money.
Raissa said Ocean Reef was incredible and they would love to stay awhile, but they would be heading to Key West within the hour.
I said goodbye to my sons, and it was hard to process that they were the age that I was when I first went to meet Theodore at the Writers’ Café at Saint Simon Island. I have always been a wayfarer, so Ricky and I headed out to I-95 with the wind blowing, Harleys roaring, and the road straight as an arrow.
Two things came to mind as I pondered all that happened in the last few weeks; first, we didn’t know who Pauline’s mother was; and second, I was certain that Ricky was in love with Pauline. We had learned a lot in the last few days and were quite sure we knew where Richard was and where he was going. He was most likely in Key West now with his next destination being Cat Island and the Hermitage.
We were just passing Marathon, and in less than an hour, we would be parked at Mallory Square. Watching the sunset from there was a communal celebration. It was free, funky and the most likely place to see Richard. After all, that’s where all the Pirates, Poets, and fugitives were most likely to be trying to get lost in the noise and chaos.
As we slowly guided our Harleys through the crowded Mallory Square, the sun was dipping into the water. It was there, near the edge of the crowd, where we saw Raissa and Pauline waving at us, and then I saw Rick’s eyes light up then darken as he saw Richard standing ten feet away from Pauline. His eyes locked with Ricky’s and then he turned and vanished into the crowd. Raissa and Pauline were unharmed, and we knew Key West only had one road leaving town. Tomorrow we would find him, and we knew he was running out of places to hide.