Homage to the Lower Keys of Florida. Hemingway country seventy-five years later, some of the same places, but with more of scuba tanks now than fishing poles. A world of boat captains and bartenders—more of rooms than homes, more of sky than sea, more of sea than land, more of ships than cars, more of loneliness than of love. More
Homage to the Lower Keys of Florida. Hemingway country seventy-five years later—some of the same places, but with more of scuba tanks now than fishing poles. This is a world of boat captains and bartenders—more of rooms than homes, more of sky than sea, more of sea than land, more of ships than cars, and more of loneliness than of love.
And from all over they come, surging into the story, hurrying down to the Keys in diverse mad dashes. For the locals—the conchs—tourists are like a tide. They are like the surge along the seafloor, seemingly back and forth, yet inexorably new.
Agents from China, New York’s West-Side Mob, a nightclub owner and his bouncer, a rich floozy on her mega-yacht sailing in from Rhode Island, and CIA from out of their many hidden places—all are driving our wayward lovers together, and then chasing them, as they seek a place to hide.
Events begin up in New York City on a warm St. Patrick’s Day. The parade is going up Fifth Avenue. Sally Luck bursts through the revolving door onto the sidewalk.
She wonders why she loves it so, building it around herself, creating it every second, this feeling of New York City, this bustle, this feeling of early warmth and winter fled—this fresh, new season—this chance.
She lives in the shock of these passing eyes, flashing, in the sidewalk’s tramping, dodging, and uproar—this feeling of privilege.
Her hair, the shinning black of ravens, nearly reaches her waist. Her thick bangs blend into her brows and lashes like a curtain rising above the largest, darkest, and most inscrutable of eyes—that could ruin a man for anything else. Her black blazer, an expensive fabric, stops at her short, beige leather skirt, tightly recommending her contours. Her nylons are textured gray. Her red shoes have three-inch heels, signaling in flashes.
She walks faster now, getting ahead of the parade. She will cross at the corner ahead of it.
This is in her way—all of it. She has nearly timed it right—skittering over the curb, rounding the barricades, with nimble feet, expert, like a skater’s—except the strutting band major darts ahead to gather her, swooping in merriment, turning her, as she joins the parade. Her first impulse to anger smooths at the sight of a thousand pairs of eyes looking at her in the only way that people can look at Sally Luck—with longing.
The base drum behind her booms out the marching rhythm as she, too, raises her knees in exaggeration. Her red shoes, adjusting in a quick two-step, fall in line. The snare drums rattle. The trombones slide out long notes.
Her smile, like no other, brings fresh hope to each. Behind her, giant balloons, pulled northward on long tethers, wobble above the floats. Her head tilts back in triumph, as Sally Luck leads the 2012 Saint Patrick’s Day parade.
This is the story, too, of Nighthawk’s Grille in Fredericksburg, Virginia—a cavernous saloon with a bar raised ten feet upon a stage, surrounded by a dance floor, and beyond that by tall tables for dining—Nicky does not think you can rub shoulders sitting down. Overlooking all of this from the mezzanine above is WBAR , the radio station that reaches out with Benny Goodman music to lonely-hearts still in their kitchens or stuck in rush hour. The proprietor is Nicky Street and it was in his bar that he met and fell in love with Jillian de Guerre, the nemesis of spies and foreign potentates. They live up the stairs where they watch the girls from Spotsylvania County swing dance like all those streetwise Brooklyn girls, who had helped the Navy spend their leave—during those days when U-Boats navigated by the New York City lights.