Sunshine

Slow down!

No, I can’t stand it!  I can’t stand that music on my ass!

That’s a Panasonic Platinum.

So what?

Nothing.  I was just saying…. You don’t hear offensive sounds in Miami.  It’s prohibited from public thoroughfares.  All manner of loudness.  They value quietude and inner tranquility in Miami…. Will you slow down?  My battle wound’s killing me.

Yeah, right.

I served my country.

You fell under a forklift.

…. Let’s go home, Penny.  Come on, let’s.  This town’s all worn out.  This is a defunct town.  Just look at it.  Look at that guy in the gutter.  And this rain.  These are dead streets.  You don’t see streets like this in Miami.  Miami glistens.  Like all the streets are paved in seashells.  You so much as leak a drop of automotive fluid they slap you with a quality-of-life infraction.  These streets, on the other hand, are hideous.  These streets are paved in death.  Sheer death.  Some senior citizen keels in the gutter they pave him over.  Who’s gonna pick him up?  The Red Cross?  Right now we’re walking on unmarked graves.  Running on them, I mean.

Forget Miami.

How about Opa Locka?  You liked Opa Locka.

I loathed Opa Locka.  I’m not goin’ home unless I absolutely have to.

There’s nothing here for us, Penny.

Yes, there is.  There’s hope.

Hope?  They got hope in Florida.  Florida’s rife with hope.  Rife…. I can get us a car.

You can not.

I already did.

Yeah? What kind?

Chrysler LeBaron.

Bullshit.

Come on, Penny.  You sound like a common streetwalker since we been here.

Hey, man, you asshole!  Turn that radio down!

Penny, no, Jesus!  Hey, man, no offense meant.  Just everybody remain calm.  Listen, man, my lady’s been sick.  Ill.  Ear infection.  Optic nerve’s been acting up.  Loud sounds give her fits.  I mean, under ordinary circumstances, she can dig salsa.  Me, I really dig it.  I’m from Miami…. Okay, amigo, via con Dios…. Jesus, Penny, are you nuts?  I know that dude.  He’s got a heart like a broken bottle.  Dude’s got straight razors taped all over his body.  Loves to cut.  No respect for the sanctity of human existence.

Did he turn it down?  No, he did not, not one iota.

In Miami, he wouldn’t have turned it on…. Look, Penny, when I get the Chrysler—it’s in the shop getting a tune up and a Simonize job—we could tool south down the innerstate listening to Johnny Cash, “The Orange Blossom Special.”  You know, “Gonna get some sand in my shoes.”  We could pick us up a pound of praline clusters from Stukey’s, just keep right on drivin’, be there day after tomorrow.

Did you make an agreement with Barnard?

What?

Did you or not?

Sort of.  We discussed possible spheres of responsibility.

That’s what I thought.

We couldn’t come to precise terms.  You know, details.

We have no money.  Do you get it?  None!

I got an idea.  I know these two geezers with a bungalow out by the fronton.  Very spacious.  Breezeway, solarium, fruit trees in back.  They welcome me like a son, open-ended invitation.  They give me mangos.  We wouldn’t have to pay any rent till we get back on our feet.  All’s we’d have to do is read to them from the encyclopedia before they go to bed.  Hell, I already did through K.  We could start with L.

You’re unconscious.  Totally.

They’re trying to learn things before they die.  You got to respect that.

We’re dying!  Hell with the geezers!

Penny, I hope this town hasn’t sapped your human warmth.

See that guy over there, the crazy guy wavin’ his crutches at the traffic?  That’s where human warmth got him after his money ran out.

That’s what I’m trying to say.  This town will eat your heart out.

Just forget it.

Penny, please.  Slow down.

We came up here for the bright lights, for dressy evenings in smart clubs.  Not to live in fall-down fleabags, fifty-pound radios on our ass every time we step outside.

I know.

I have hopes and dreams.  For the future.

I know.

I’d like to better myself.

Me too.

Then why didn’t you make an agreement with Bernard?

He humiliated me.

So what?  He’s the boss.  That’s what bosses do.

He kept calling me coconut.  All these guys standing around the pumps, mean looking guys, smirking at me.  Every time I say something Bernard picks up this seashell he uses for an ashtray and holds it up to his ear like my speech is coming in over it.  How can one make an agreement under those conditions?

You shot your mouth off about Florida, didn’t you?

Not in the slightest.  I just said the weather’s not so nice up here.

That’s what I thought.

Well, it’s not.  Look at this climate.  Rain, raw wind, wet plastic bags blowing against your shins.

Look, listen to me closely.  People naturally get sick of hearing how another place is better than where they are.  It implies they must be shitheads to stay.  You see how that works?

Yes.

Is there anybody you can make an agreement with?  You got to pull your own weight.  I got no more hours in the day.

Think they want me at the bistro?

They don’t hire men waiters.

How about a busboy?

You got to be Mexican to be a busboy.

Why?

Because that’s how the boss wants it.  You see how that works?

Wait, see that guy coming out of Gristedes?

What guy?

The white guy with the sacks.  The call him The Hat because he’s always wearing one.  He’s very big in milk.  Nobody makes a move in milk without giving The Hat the heads up.  I know him.

Do you think you can get something in milk?

Sure.  Hey, The Hat, how are you?  Rotten weather we’re having, huh?

That guy never saw you before in his life.

Well, that wasn’t him.  Looked like him.  Same bone structure.

That guy wasn’t even wearing a hat.

See that place there?  Sister Falice, Reader.  The Hat has every reader in the palm of his hand.  A reader wants to distribute fliers on the IRT, she’s got to hire one of The Hat’s people.

Can you make an agreement with him?

Sure.  Why not?  The Hat used to be with the circus in St. Pete.  Ringmaster.  That’s where he got his hat.  He told me St. Pete’s where he wants to retire.  I told him, no, not St. Pete.  The old geezers would depress him to death.  I told him—Miami, that’s the place to retire. He took it under advisement.

Swell.

I’ll give him a call.  In fact, I owe him a call.  He called the other day I was out.  He probably wanted to make an offer.

Do me a big favor when you talk to him.  Don’t even mention Florida.

Okay, if you slow down.

That music is making me crazy!

Don’t say anything to him, for god sake.  He’s a knife hood.  Let’s cross the street.

We already crossed the street!

Remember you used to like snorkeling?

Snorkeling?

Watch the little fish feeding their young, flitting here and there.  You used to like it.

Do us both a big favor.  Don’t mention snorkeling when you talk to this Hat person.  Please.

Okay…. Where are we going?

I’m going uptown.

Uptown where?

Bernard’s.

Bernard’s?  What for?

We’re going somewhere.

You and Bernard?

Right.

Where?

Shopping.

Shopping where?

Bergen Mall.

What for!  You got stores everywhere you look.  There’s Schernburger’s Meats and Poultry, there’s Drago Shoe Repair, over there you got a sophisticated boutique.  What kind of store you want to shop in?  They probably got it right here.  You don’t need to go with Bernard.  Where you going?

Sears.  Bernard needs new snow tires.  Sears is having a two-for-one sale on Uniroyals.

Uniroyals?  Uniroyals suck!  Everybody knows that.  I thought you said Bernard was smart!  Only ignorant fools buy Uniroyals even if they’re free.

I really wouldn’t know.  I’m only along for the ride.

With Bernard?

Yes.

Let me get this straight.  You’d go way the fuck and gone to the Bergen Mall with Bernard, but you won’t go to Florida with me?
I’m sorry, Sunshine, but I’m sick of living like this?

So you’re going with Bernard?

Maybe.

Hey, you dumb fucking spic—turn that stupid radio off!

Sunshine!… Sunshine!  No!  Sunshine, are you all right!  Can you get up?… Oh, Jesus, Sunshine!