Personally I'm not jumping to any conclusions. I can—with no stretch of imagination— envisage him as having accomplished this by accident ... but the how isn't important.
THERE IS NOT much time to tell this story. The sun will come up in two hours and I want to be gone by then. But it will not be easy. I have a whole room full of weight to move out of this motel room by dawn—and, as always, there is nobody around to help. One friend could make a big difference now, but it is four o'clock in the morning and all decent people are in bed. So much for friends.
I am sitting in a motel room on the edge of a private marina in the Florida Keys. It is room number 202 at Sugarloaf Lodge, to be exact, and I am looking across the canal at a tall red, white and blue Pepsi-Cola machine in front of the main marina building on the other side. The Pepsi-Cola machine is the brightest thing in my universe right now. It lights up the gasoline dock and the big white ice lockers where the fishing guides will be leaving from in two or three hours.
There are a dozen or so boats tied up around the canal, mostly white Makos—22- and 25-footers, pure fishing boats, center consoles, most with big white outboard engines, Johnsons and Evinrudes, 175 and 200 horsepower, white shrouds on the consoles to keep saltwater fog off the dashboard equipment, bait boxes floating off the stern, resting easy in the water on this wet black night.
My own boat—a 17-foot Mako with a big black Mercury engine on the back—is tied up with about twenty feet in front of my typewriter, and I know the gas tank is full. I filled it up last night around seven o'clock in the evening, and when they asked me why I was gassing my board up at the start of a bad moonless night, I said I might want to go to Cuba. The fishhead woman laughed but I didn't. I went back to mixing the oil: one quart to twelve gallons, be careful; give the engine what it needs—or whatever it wants, for that matter—because when you are out on the ocean at night the engine is going to be your best friend. Cuba is only ninety miles away, and I think I could get to Havana on a night like this a lot easier than I am going to get even ten miles aware from the nightmare situation I have got myself into in this place.
Sugarloaf Lodge is a "fishing resort," they say; just another place to stay in the Keys if you want to bring your boat down and get serious about the water. Which is true, as far as it goes. This is a nice place. It is a sprawling 200-acre complex with its own airstrip, a twenty-four-hour liquor license, sixty-five waterfront rooms at sixty-five dollars a night, its own grocery store and gas station, a massive generator for electrical power, and even its own water tank. It is a completely self-sustained community, secure in every way from the storms of the outside world. And it is worth about twenty $20,000,000.
The owner is Lloyd Good, a one-time district attorney from Philadelphia who bought the whole place on a whim about ten years ago and moved into a position of considerable power in the low end of the Florida Keys, where there is basically no law at all that can't be broken or bought or at least casually ignored by the right people.
I am a paying guest in Lloyd Good's motel, and from my desk I can see his apartment behind the General Store about 100 yards away from me across the canal . . . and I know he is sleeping heavily on a king-size bed over there with his wife, Miriam, a fine and friendly woman about fifty years old who has always been my friend. She has been asleep since midnight, and she will wake up early to supervise the breakfast shift at the restaurant.
Lloyd will wake up later. Or at least he would on most days, but on this one I suspect he will be an early riser. It could happen at any moment, in fact, and that is why I want to get this story down quick and get out of this place before dawn. Because ugly things are about to happen.
There is a huge pig's head in Lloyd Good's toilet tonight. I put it there about three hours ago, just before he walked home from the bar. The snout is poking straight up out of the family toilet and the pig's lips are glistening with Ruby Red lipstick and the eyes are propped open and the toilet bowl is filled with red commercial catsup.
The first time anybody in that household goes into the bathroom and turns the light on, I am going to have to be very alert. We will have serious action. Hysteria, wild rage. I have seen a lot of hideous things in my time, but the sight of that eerie-white pig's head in the white toilet bowl with its mouth covered with lipstick and its dead gray eyes looking straight up at me—or anyone else who comes near that toilet—will live in my memory forever as one of the most genuinely hideous things I've ever seen. The idea of waking up half drunk in the middle of the night and wandering into your own bathroom and pissing distractedly into your own toilet and realizing after not many seconds that there is something basically wrong with the noise that normally happens when you piss into a bowl full of water in the middle of the night, and feeling the splash of warm urine on your knees because it is bouncing off the lipstick-smeared snout of a dead pig's head that is clogging up your toilet . . . that is a bad thing to see when you're drunk.
And Lloyd will see it soon. He should have seen it a long time ago, in fact, but tonight he broke his normal routine of relieving himself before falling into bed. And at that point the joke went out of control. I thought, What have I done?
What if his wife wakes up first? Which she almost certainly will . . . Or maybe John, the thirteen-year-old son, will be the first to visit the bathroom. I was not counting on this. My plan has turned weird on me, and now I have to flee. The thing is so ugly that I almost got sick while I was putting the lipstick on it. We all enjoy humor, but this is very far over the line. We are not talking about jokes here; we are talking about Crazy Ugly, real malice, terrible shock and weeping for a fifty-year-old lady or a thirteen-year-old child, people screaming out of control at a sight too vile to see. Innocent people crawling out of the bathroom and calling wildly for help from the father. . . .
And that evil drunken bastard is going to be jerked out of his sleep very soon, by the terrified screams of his loved ones—and when that happens he is going to turn crazy and want to kill somebody; or maybe send others to do it, and they will come to number 202.
My room is the only one with lights on tonight. I am still up, and I will be on the road very soon. I have a friend up the road on Ramrod Key who will take me in and hide me for a while, and my partner in the Gonzo Salvage Co. will get my boat out of the marina, if we do it early enough, and we will hide it up there in the trailer court on Summerland.
Jesus! I just looked to my left and saw the curtains moving. My sliding glass door is wide open, and he could jump me at any moment. That is why I have this big gray flashlight sitting next to me on the desk. It is a fully-charged Taser, a savage little tool capable of delivering a 50,000-volt whack on anybody who comes within eighteen feet, and I have the bugger primed. . . . WHAPPO! Fifty thousand volts, flapping around like a fish, eyes rolled back in the head, screeching helplessly and then taking another shock. The Taser will deliver five separate and distinctly massive jolts, once the barbs are fired into the victim. You can keep the buggers jumping around on the end of the little wire lines for almost an hour, if the machine is fully charged. I don't want to have to do it; the Taser is a felony crime in some states and I am not sure right now in Florida—but I know that anyone who comes through my door at this hour of the night will not have good news for me, and they will have to be shot with something. I am not a violent person, but I know that there is a time and place for everything, and this is unfortunately one of them.
I sawed the head off the pig around midnight. Lloyd had it stored in the meat locker at the Lodge, planning to marinade it for big barbeque for his friends on Sunday, with the head as a main piece of art. I chopped it off with a meat saw in forty-five seconds, and it took about forty-five more to put the lipstick on. The tube broke, so I had to do it by hand, rubbing a lump of red lipstick around that dead thing's gums like I was waxing up some kind of dummy. . . . And meanwhile his wife was asleep in the next room, ten feet away, and then the head wouldn't sit right in the bowl so I had to jerk it up by the ears and jam it back in a proper position. And I also had to prop the eyes open, so they would be looking straight up at him. . . . All this took about ninety more seconds, sneaking into his home and putting a pig's head in his toilet.
Okay. The joke's over now. I have to flee. It is 6:25 on a wet Thursday morning and I know that somebody over there will be using the bathroom very soon. The time has come. I don't want to be around here when it happens, despite a pressing deadline that will cost me a lot of money to miss. That bastard will not take this thing gently—and besides that I owe him about $3,000, my food and beverage bill for the past three months, and he is worried about getting the money.
Indeed. I am preparing to flee, even now. I told him that pig was going to be very expensive. He and his boys put it in my bed the other night, tied up and drugged and half hidden under the covers so that I sat down on the bed right next to the beast and began talking seriously on the telephone to my accountant, who was not amused when the thing suddenly began moving and I said, "I'm sorry, I'll have to call you back, there's a pig in my bed."
Which was true. I calmed the beast down with a billyclub and then hauled it up to the restaurant, where I cut it loose in the dining room at the peak of the dinner hour. People screamed and cursed me and ran around like rats while I was chopping the pig loose. Two of the fishing guides cornered it and dragged it out to a van . . . and then they slit its throat the next day, and hung it up to bleed; and then they put it in the meat locker, to cool off.
The moral of this story is Never Let Strangers Get Their Hands on the Key to Your Meat Locker. And also, Get Out While You Can. Which I will have to do now. Immediately. The fat is in the fire. Selah.
The boy found it, when he woke up to go to school. His mother heard him screaming on his way out of the house. And then she saw it. Ye gods, she thought. What has he thrown up now?
I couldn't make that up. You have to live here a long time before you start thinking that way.
"I ate three or four Valiums," she said, "then I called Ernie to take the thing away. It was three and a half hours before we could use the toilet. Lloyd didn't wake up until noon and by the time he went into the bathroom, the head was lying in the bathtub."
And I was gone.
But I am back now, standing around the bar at night, and people are a lot nicer to me. I buy drinks for women and put liters of Chivas Regal on my tab, and I may be here for a while.
Florida Keys, March 18, 1983