Lucy’s personality isn’t part of her charm, so Simon isn’t offended. But he’s tired. If she doesn’t want to listen, why’d she bother calling?
“Just do it,” she says. “I know you miss your momma, and that’s sad, but c’mon! It’s terrifically fucked, and funny, too. Enter “Florida Man,” then your birthday, or a birthday, and let Boolean produce its logic.”
While Simon agrees (On August 6th, a Florida man with a Florida face tattoo is charged with burglary. On January 9th, a Florida man denies syringes found inside his rectum are his); and while the phenomenon is, indeed, fucked (On February 28th, a Florida man is sentenced to ten days in jail for dragging a shark behind his boat. On June 12th, a Florida man is charged in naked rake attack), the diversion, however entertaining, produces nothing other than a rapid, short-lived, detachment, ultimately leaving you low. Depressed. Wanting something more. Like smoking crack.
His mom died last week. No shock – complications accompanying soft tissue sarcoma – but still. Everything associated with his mother strikes Simon as strange. Christmas and birthday presents – like sweaters, or his electric razor – offer nothing in this strange, new age. There’s nothing he can do about memories except wait, and hope they disappear. If he’s learned anything, it’s that actively resisting memories leaves them more deeply ingrained.
After trashing everything his mother had given him, he folds her obituary and places the article inside a copy of Martin Amis’s Money. He plans to bring the book to Provincetown this summer, when he and Lucy are on vacation. The novel was part of a course he took but never got around to reading. Not that it matters. He studies film. The books he’s assigned? He’s not expected to read them.
Money seems cool because the actors in the story (the book is about a movie), were, in real life, truly fucked up. More than this, though, he’ll forget all about the article. The ingenuity of fabricating feeling; the thought of planting a future memory, like a bomb, strikes Simon as extraordinary. Something that someone truly interesting would do.
Nothing interesting has happened on Simon’s birthday. Even down south—A Florida man is arrested for trying to catch a fish, inside a PetSmart—men seem subdued. It’s possible that Simon is lonely. He hasn’t seen Lucy since December. On scholarship at Embry-Riddle, she lives with her Aunt Charlie, who owns a townhouse in Daytona Beach. She won’t return to Endwell until June, and it’s impractical for him to fly down and visit. Simon cannot believe how much he misses her.
“Yes, you can,” Lucy would say, if Simon told her.
(She’s coming up for his mother’s funeral, which is two days before his birthday, but has kept this a surprise.)
Simon wonders if, in a few days, he’ll feel differently. He associates his birthday with his childhood, and Simon’s childhood was a cold and rainy Halloween. Nothing bothered him, and while he had fun, that fun he had was tempered by some unnamed thing. The prospect of becoming twenty-one doesn’t warm. He drops his phone. It’s early, but he makes for the fridge and pops open a Yuengling.
On TV: The Siberian Power Show. Specifically: “The Male Slapping Championship.” A huge man named Apple Dumpling stands at a white table. He wears a wool sweater, in color the walnut of back hair. Across the table his opponent, a Croatian college student, stands confidently, waiting to be slapped. They are in a glass atrium. There are dozens of people in the audience; they stand on steel risers. Simon can’t understand what the announcers say; he can’t decipher the strange marks closed captioned, symbols that he associates with terrorism. This is an ancient form of sport. Of television. There isn’t some big-chested reporter beside the men, and everyone is white. This mesmerizes and unsettles. Those watching do so because they love the game.
A real-life David versus Goliath, Simon knows the Croat is going to win the contest. Apple Dumpling slowly draws back his arm and swings with measured fury, slapping his young opponent unconscious. The man drops to the floor like a wet blanket. The crowd cheers. Simon is stunned. When he watches the slap in slow motion—the Croat’s head jerks so violently backward, before returning to its original, set position, that, even when slowed, it’s like he hasn’t been struck—he remembers why he can’t stomach violence.
Simon reaches for his phone.
On October 6th, a Florida man wears a Fuck The Police t-shirt to court, and wins his case. On February 8th, a Florida man throws an alligator through an Arby’s drive-through window. On June 7th, a Florida man gets tired of waiting in the hospital and steals an ambulance. On April 8th, a Florida man steals candy from a baby. On July 10th, a Florida man denies drinking and driving; he only swigged bourbon at stop signs. On September 6th, a Florida man who threatened his family with Coldplay lyrics, ends standoff after SWAT promises him pizza. On June 22nd, a Florida man is charged with stealing Monopoly money from a Wal-Mart.
You can, Simon realizes, make this stuff up. He closes his eyes. It’s easy. What’s more? It’s impossible to tell fabrication from pure human folly.
On April 21st, a Florida man is arrested for placing chicks inside plastic eggs before an Easter Egg hunt. On August 15th, a Florida man wrecks a liquor shop and blames a caterpillar. On May 5th, a Florida man is arrested for feeding a kitten to a snapping turtle. On October 18th, a Florida man, wanted in connection with a bank robbery, is arrested when applying for a position with the police.
Sadly, Simon isn’t in the mood for a good time. He wants comfort, not entertainment. Finishing his beer, he grabs his phone. Calls Lucy.
Only he disconnects the call before she answers. It’s easier, he closes his eyes, to imagine their conversation ending on a high note.