Mike Sr. suggests that his jazz quartet start earlier than planned as many in the adult audience are already enjoying cocktails at the Globe replica. I ask Jake if he and Jack want to repeat the Rimsky-Korsakov ‘Scheherazade.’
He smiles, “I hoped you’d let me play. I went to Spec’s and rented a cello.’ He’s been speaking with Mike Sr. Jack is glad to show his chops on the MOOG. I leave the kids in the music room enjoying their meal, and set up the mic on the Globe stage. There are so many adults at the cocktail party, no one notices me until I speak into the mic.
“Welcome, party-goers,” I repeat it several times to get their attention.
“Tonight we’re celebrating the return of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater to Coral Gables. We’ve planned an evening of music to welcome in 1977.” No cheers, yet.
“Later will be about rock n roll, but for your drinking pleasure, we plan to start with something more mature. Please welcome my friends Jake Stern on cello and Jack Stone on keyboards, performing Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov’s ‘Scheherazade.’”
The guests are surprised to be treated to music of their liking instead of raucous rock. Jake walks out from off-stage with his cello, sitting on a chair in the front of the stage. Jack follows, standing where his MOOG is set up. They receive polite applause and commence the piece’s prelude.
Jack smiles at me as he plays the love song. The audience returns to their drinks, politely listening without the cocktail chatter. After fifteen minutes of recital, Jake finishes with a flourish. I step up to the mic.
“Now we have what everyone’s been waiting for. Our host and my patron, Mike Antonio, has revived his college jazz quartet for your listening pleasure. It’s jazz, so don’t take it too seriously.”
Mike Sr. leads his friends out. He asks Jake to sit in, making it a quintet. We plan for them to play for at least an hour. Waiters circulate among the guests, refilling drinks and offering hors d’oeuvres. The guests begin chatting quietly, making the Globe seem like a sophisticated cocktail bar. I return to the kids in the music room, who are oblivious that the performance already started.
Tommy is a bundle of nerves. Having to perform in front of his friends from high school is throwing him off his game. I take him back to the garage to bolster his confidence. We walk in on Grant and his posse. Clyde instantly spots me.
“That yer new boyfriend, lover?”
“Naw. He’s too old for me.”
“Com’n and hit the spliff,” he waves us over.
That’s just what Tommy needs He can care less when he’s high.
“You boys ready to perform tonight?” I ask Grant. They’re dressed in their best Nation of Islam coats and ties.
“We’s always ready.
“Jist wait until Tommy and I finish our country set. I’ll wave y’all up.”
“Same as always, back of the bus.”
“No way. The Jackson Five come after y’alls.”
“Don’t fret. The stage will be yours to amaze or shock the crowd.”
Tommy decides to try out his tale spinning on Grant’s posse. It doesn’t take long before the boys are laughing and repeating his phraseology. Tommy’s confidence soars. It’s time to make our entrance. I have Grant’s boys go to the music room and get all the kids to join us at the Globe Theater. From off-stage I catch Mike Sr.’s eye, giving him the cut signal to end their performance. They’re ready after an hour of Sinatra and Dave Brubeck. They get a good hand as they pick up their instruments and exit the stage.
I drag Tommy onstage with me to the single mic. We do our Smothers Brothers routine.
“Look, Tom. We’ve got an adult audience tonight.”
“Oh, the horror, Huck.”
“Maybe if y’all tell ‘em a story ‘bout our ad-ventures, they might like us.”
“Ya mean ’bout Tom and Huck, livin’ it up in the Everglades.”
“Nah. I’s sick o’ that one. Ya ain’t got no new tale?”
“How ‘bouts when we went out west and I gots me a real six-shooter.”
“’Cept ya neva could hit the side of a barn.”
“Don’t tell ‘em that.”
“Hows ‘bout when you was the hero?”
“You’s always the hero, Huck.”
“Then y’all tell the story.”
By now the kids were streaming into the backyard from the music room. Tommy’s friends from Lauderdale, see him up on stage entertaining the adults and rush down front to cheer their boy on. The rest of the kids follow and most of the adults move out of the pit area, leaving it to the youngsters.
“Lookee here, Tom. The kids is arrived. Ya gots to be mighty funny now.”
“What’s funny is if’n y’all jist stands here while I’s a’spinnin’ my tale.”
“They’s all yours, now. Don’t let me down.”
“You’s my hero, Huck. I ain’t never lettin’ y’all down.”
He reaches down and picks up the guitar, strumming away as the Mark Twain tall tale is spun. Spontaneously he decides to sing our version of Bobby McGee
‘Busted flat in Lauderdale
Waitin’ for a train
Feelin’ nearly faded as my jeans
Huck he thumbed a diesel down
Just a’fore a rain
Rode us all the way to New Orleans’
He keeps strumming and proceeds to tell his tale.
‘We’d bin playin’ cards a’fore headin’ west. I’s nervous ‘bout injuns and such. Somehow I won me a real six-shooter. I was armed to the teeth with a pitiful little Smith & Wesson. But I thought it was grand. It appeared to me to be a dangerous weapon. It only had one fault—you never gonna hit nothin’ with it. One of the other card players practiced awhile on a cow with it, but as long as she stood still and behaved herself she was safe; then as soon as she went to movin’ about, and he got to shootin’ at other things, she come to grief.
It was a reliable weapon, nevertheless, because, as the driver afterward said, “If she didn’t get what she went after, she would fetch somethin’ else.” And so she did. She went after a deuce of spades nailed against a tree, once, and fetched a mule standing about thirty yards to the left of it. Huck did not want the mule; but the owner came out with a double- barreled shotgun and persuaded him to buy it, anyhow. It was a cheerful weapon—‘Smith & Wesson.’ Sometimes all its six barrels would go off at once, and then there was no safe place in all the region round about, but behind it.
After supper a woman got in, who lived about fifty miles further on, and we three hadda take turns at sittin’ in the cab. Apparently she was not a talkative woman. She would sit there in the gatherin’ twilight and fasten her steadfast eyes on a mosquiter rootin’ into her arm, and slowly she would raise her other hand till she had got his range, and then she would launch a slap at him that would have jolted a cow; and after that she would sit and contemplate the corpse with tranquil satisfaction—for she never missed her mosquier; she was a dead shot at short range. She never removed a carcass, but left them there fer bait. I sat by this grim repeater and watched her kill thirty or forty mosquiters—watched her, and waited for her to say something, but she never did. So I finally opened the conversation myself. I said: “Them mosquiters pretty bad, about here, ma’am.” “You bet!” “What did I understand you to say, ma’am?” “You BET!” Then she cheered up, and faced around and said: “Danged if I didn’t begin to think you fellers was deef and dumb. I did, b’gosh. Here I’ve sot, and sot, and sot, a-bust’n muskeeters and wonderin’ what was ailin’ ye. Fust I thot yee was deef and dumb, then I thot you was sick or crazy, or sumthin’, and then by and by I begin to reckon you was a passel of sickly fools that couldn’t think of nothin’ to say. Wher’d ye come from?” The Sphynx was a Sphynx no more! The fountains of her great deep were broken up, and she rained the nine parts of speech forty days and forty nights, metaphorically speakin’, and buried us under a desolatin’ deluge of trivial gossip that left not a crag or pinnacle of rejoinder projectin’ above the tossin’ waste of dislocated grammar and decomposed pronunciation!
How we suffered, suffered, suffered! She went on, hour after hour, till I was sorry I ever opened the mosquiter question and gave her a start. She never did stop again until she got to her journey’s end toward daylight; and then she stirred us up as she was leavin’ the cab(for we were noddin’, by that time), and said: “Now you git out at Cottonwood, you fellers, and lay over a couple o’ days, and I’ll be along some time to-night, and if I can do ye any good by edgin’ in a word now and then, I’m right thar. Folks’ll tell you’t I’ve always ben kind o’ offish and partic’lar for a gal that’s raised in the woods, and I am, with the rag-tag and bob-tail, and a gal has to be, if she wants to be anything, but when people comes along which is my equals, I reckon I’s a pretty sociable heifer after all.” We resolved not to ‘lay by’ at Cottonwood.’
Half-way through the story, people are laughing and slapping their thighs. Some kids shout Tommy’s words or expressions, repeating him. As he finishes, I run back out on stage.
“Pretty good tale, Tom. How’s about we get the rest of the band out here and you join us in a sing along.”
“I kin be in the band, Huck?”
“Sure thing. The Hillbilly Brothers.”
“Making babies with one another,” Tom finishes our signature line.
The kids look shocked. The adults aren’t sure they heard it right. The teenagers just shake their heads in dismay. Dave comes out and jumps on the drum set. Hippie hooks up his bass. Jack brings my guitar and hooks us both up. We’re ready for country rock.
“Where’s Robby?” I yell. “This songs for you. ‘One Toke over the Line, Sweet Jesus.’
The Jacettes run out and keep Tommy on key for the ‘who do you love’s and the ‘sail away’s.’
Robby is in the back, glowering at me, not willing to light up.
“I guess Robby’s not holding. How ‘bout it, Grant?”
He grins and lites up a spliff.
We proceeded to play several Grateful Dead songs.
As the mellow weed odor wafts over the adults in the back, there’s a mass exit for the supper Mrs. Antonio laid out in the dining room. The true jazz freaks stay, with hopeful looks on their faces for their lost youth. Tommy gets all teary after having played several songs. He stops playing and put his arms around me, swaying as we sing, just as we had done at the old Sawgrass Campground. Jack stopped playing and had an arm around me from the other side.
“Guess this is the signal for baby makin’” I quipped. “Com’n here Grant. You and your posse is on.”
His face lites up. He passes the spliff to a kid in the pit, as he and the Hialeah crew hop up onto the raised stage. They surround the mic and sang a capella doo wop.
I grab Tommy and Dave, running back to the music room where the other Out-Crowd members are waiting their turn.
“Why are the black kids playing?” Stu’s afraid he’s been bumped.
“No worries, Champ. They’re warming up the kids for your dance party.”
They surround Tommy, telling him how great he is. He already knows. Mike Jr. has everyone gather round, pumping up for their set. I join Jake at the side. He’s enjoying our musical revue, from classical to rock, from 1880 to 1977.
“You are a showman,” he compliments me.
“Wait until we actually play our music after the kids are danced out,” I want his approval of my music.
It was time to introduce the Out-Crowd. They’re crowded behind stage. I give Grant the cut sign. They bow and jump back into the crowd.
“Catch your breath, everyone, ‘cause up next is the Out-Crowd. They want you to dance your hearts out and your feet off. Two years ago tonight we were in shambles after our founding member Jace was killed and we played his tribute concert at Viscaya. These guys, led by Stu and Mike, stepped up to sing and dance when I was too devastated to go on. Now they’ve got their own band, with Dave, Jazz, and John backing up Stu and Mike. It’s the Out-Crowd”
They started out with the Big Bopper, Stu sounding like a fifty-year-old man, somehow carries it off. They quickly move into dance tunes. The kids are ready, after the romantic doo wop, to get out and dance.
After fifty minutes, the band needs a break. Punch is set up by the door to the music room. Unlike high school, the drinks were not spiked. A crowd surrounds Grant and his posse, as he takes out a fresh spliff. I direct him and his new followers to the garage.
“Back of the bus, again,” he complains.
It’s getting late. False Gods needs to go on by 11:20 in order to finish exactly at midnight, with Michael & Jenna’s love duet. I don’t want to rush the Out-Crowd’s dance party, but I have to rescue them from the clutches of Grant’s pot den in the garage. I’m standing with Jake and see Mom Watt standing by herself. We cross the lawn and I introduce Jake.
“Remind you of another party here?” I ask her about the time it was Stu debut.
“My youngest was no longer a little kid.”
“He’s phenomenal. We always knew he had it in him.”
“We miss you. No midnight sleepovers anymore.”
“I’m away at college. But recently I’m in Hollywood doing work/study on a movie. This is Jake. We work together. He’s a composer.”
“My goodness. You never stay still, Tim. Hi Jake. I’m Tim’s # 10 mom.”
“Always #1. There is no second place in my heart,” I josh.
Jake winks at me, as I realize I said too much.
She gives me a wry look of understanding and shakes her head. I feel like crap. The truth does that. Jake just looks embarrassed. Time for the second half of the dance party.
“Wanna ‘shimmy shimmy’ with me?” I ask.
“I think I’ll dance with Jake.”
We all laugh and head for the pit.
Jack appears and we all shimmy together. It’s time for the resurrection of False Gods.
We get together backstage. Michael and Robby glaring at each other is not a problem. Actually their tension always makes us tighter, keeping it together. Hippie is sad that Anna and Little Greg are already home. After he played the pot song with the Hillbilly Brothers, she left in a huff, swearing to pray for him.
“You’re let loose now. Go out and enjoy yourself.”
“Just no groupies. You can have ‘em. I hear you’s straight now.”
“Never believe what you hear.”
The Jacettes are practicing their moves with Jill, waiting in the wings to do her song about Jace. Everyone is rehearsed and ready. All we had to do is execute.
As the Out-Crowd finishes their last dance song, Stu grabs the mic.
“I hope you enjoyed the dancing. Now, it’s time for the main attraction. Tim’s been my bestest friend since I was nine when he showed me I wasn’t stupid. He needed me to sing at the Jace tribute two years ago and now I’m a star. I owe it all to him. It’s my pleasure to introduce the world’s greatest rock n roll band, at least in Miami, False Gods.”
We troop out with our guitars and the drummers set up at their kits. We break into the intro to ‘Sgt Pepper.’
We jam and run around pretending to be Beatles.
“Oh, I thought you’d want the greatest band in the world,” I yell into the mic. “Except they broke up. We just were arrested and locked up. Hey, I’m 18 now, and I like it.” We go into the Alice Cooper cover
“Take that, Dade County Juvenile Justice,” I scream, pacing back and forth, strumming the chords to ‘Fools Who Laugh.’
“We’re False Gods and we grew up right here. This is what Miami’s all about.”
We launch ourselves into ‘South Florida’
‘Go deep to the South
When you can go no more
In the city trying to score
Come to our cool house
Bewildered by our drug
Whether it be love
Or just need of a hug
We’re free to meet the need
Miami’s here to serve
Keeps you safe and sound
Southern man beats you down
That’s what you deserve
Life too rough?
Take the time
Follow our sign
Girls are free
Jack your shit
Get into it.’
Both drummers end with a crash. I look up to see the shocked look on Jake’s face as he watches from the wings with Mom Watt.
“Y’all think that’s a drug song. Well, yer right. ‘Cause we know about drugs. Here’s a song we’ve never played to an audience before. Beware of what you want. It may just bite you on the ass.”
“I take drugs but I don’t understand
How you let things get so out of hand
It’s no fun to be a bore
Hanging around for you to score
When you’re high stay close to me
Teach me to fly & how to be free
Please don’t cry, its only the drug
You won’t die, just give me a hug
“Heroin and cocaine makes a speed ball,
Dilaudid and codeine soften the fall,
Thorazine takes you away from me,
Ecstasy and beer just make you queer.”
“Whiskey and ‘ludes make me real rude,
Acid and pot makes your brain rot,
PCP you forget about me,
Pills and beer chase away fears.
Do you still love me or is it the drugs
I love the sex but I need your hugs
Together we are happy, apart I am sad
Without a connection we always go mad”
It’s short and sweet. The crowd doesn’t know whether to cheer or just think about it.
We play it again, making sure they got the message. No regrets.
Robby and Michael started yelling at each other.
“There they go again. They’ve been worst friends since kindergarten. Here’s a song about how Michael finally stood up to Robby.”
‘Look before You Leap?’
Set you’re your buddy on fire,
Better buy a rug.
Send your friends to hell,
Better get a priest.
Beat up a bully,
Better get a gun.
Look before you leap
Better to say no
Then end up in a heap
No place to go.
Leap, leap, leap
You friggin’ freak
Leap, leap, leap
Strip and streak.”
Beat up your friend
Get new friends
Steal a new car
You won’t get far
Dis some sweet lass
A beating comes fast
Look before you leap
Better to say no
Then end up in a heap
No place to go.
Leap, leap, leap
You fuckin’ freak
Leap, leap, leap
Strip and streak.”
“When yer 15 and gotta get out and about, better know how to get around”
Never been caught
All over town
Better than not.
Thrill’s in the chase
No time to waste
Folks on my case
All is in haste.
Waiting’s the worst
You were my first
I need you now
We’re on the prowl.
Back of an alley
Sprawled in the dirt
No time to dally
Who will cum first.
shaka shaka love?
‘shaka shaka love shaka shaka
Shaka shaka love shaka shaka.”
“No need for shoes in Miami, especially when yer swingin’ through the trees. And when ya git caught, best ta do the monkeyshines”
Makes a stand
To take his joy
Going hand to hand
Flying out free
Branch to branch
Through the trees
“Free to be
A monkey like me
Ha ha ha
He he he
Haw haw haw
Chee chee chee
I stayed on stage, jumping around and scratching myself. The surprise of the night was when Iggy launched himself from one of the Globe balconies, swinging like Tarzan on a rope. He landed in the pit and soon had everyone doing the monkeyshines. They all knew the moves. We kept playing and repeating the chorus.
I was tempted to bring him onstage and do his Stooges act but refrained from deviating from our set. Iggy was running around the pit congratulating himself.
“Thank you, Iggy, and your Detroit reprise of the Stooges. It makes me thankful I’m from Miami. Of course, I had to run away to Iowa to escape Juvie. Here’s a song from my band there with my twin sisters. We called ourselves The Triplets and this songs’ about having two moms.”
‘They say we’re not normal
Our lives are too strange
Maybe we should be Mormon
Wouldn’t that be a pain.
We got two moms
We don’t need dads
Our lives are songs
So we won’t be sad
We grew up with each other
That’s just what twins do
Then along comes our brother
Now we’re triplets too
Normal’s not gonna happen
That may be good for you
We’ll just keep on truckin’
Triples better than two
We got two moms
We don’t need dads
Our lives are songs
So we won’t be sad’
“I love Iowa but it has its downfalls, like winter. It makes it hard to get along, being stuck inside for months on end”
“I say, …you…
You’re such a fool
You’re just a tool
But I love…you
I say…. you…
What can we do?
You said we’re through
What can I….. do
I say,…. you…
We break the rules
We look like fools
I really need…. you…
I say, …you..”
“Then there was the football team. Those footballers and we had a little set-to last New Year’s eve. After the dust cleared, with five men down, they decided to like us after all.”
Don’t fuck with me
‘Don’t fuck with me
Might take ya down
Gots ta be free
See me git wound
Hate sees me seethe
Can’t seem to breathe
Yer arms on me
I gots ta be free.
Get outta my face
This ain’t the place
To make a stand
To be a man
Your nose I’ll crunch
My knockout punch
Will put ya down
Yer out cold bound.’
“It’s so great to be back. Here’s our band song”
‘We rushed in where angels feared to tread
They gave up hope, gave us up for dead
Our memory lingers on eternally
From the abyss we heard Lucifer’s plea
But we too wanted a world of our own
Dreamed of ruling from a throne
We ran away from them to see
How we’ll be happy for eternity
We are false god,
We are false gods
We found this world so meek and blind
We stand here laughing at your kind
You cynical fools don’t understand
Fall to your knees useless man
This world so full of flaws
Facades and miracles applause
Eulogized not despised
We are false gods
We are false gods
From up the hill we hear your pleas
Bring us presents, fall to your knees
Pray and speak in semaphores
Sacrifice your hallowed sheep
Pitiful slugs that you are
Dance and sing around the fire
Arms waving all around
We’re so happy
This world we’ve found
Omnipotent beneficence astounds your broken minds
You’re just like toys
We’ve made our minds to be
We are false gods
We are false gods
We will live eternally
To hear your painful screams
Just wait 20 years or so
You will know just what we mean
This song is ‘Life’s Lies.’ We sing about our lives when people look down on us.”
“This is our life,
our pride alive
Its our times
Lost our minds
Stupid rules rule
Demand we act
Just like fools
To be like you.
Look at me, you havta scream.
You think we be freakin’
You gotta be fast to not be seen.
No wonder we’re always sneakin’’
Our fans love us. Jake is smiling at me. It was time to credit where it was due.
“It’s time to remember two years ago when we celebrated the life of our inspiration, Jace, killed too soon by his evil brother. Com’n out, Jill. Our muse has written a song in Jace’s honor. She and her boyfriend, David Wilkie, were the first people to accept Jace and me as boyfriends. David won two gold medals at the Olympics, by the way.”
Jill came up to the mic backed by the three Jacettes plus Jenna. It was time for her Rod Stewart style blues.
“Jace was such a sweet boy,” she explained. “We were devastated after what happened to him. To learn that it had been happening for a long time makes me so sad. But Jace wasn’t about to be sad. He had Tim and his band mates and they spread the joy that came from making music together.”
Jill and I sang a duet.
‘Two years gone
Memories linger on
A face not to replace
A life not to waste
You stole my heart,
I got your soul
You make me bold
We’ll never part
Our time was short
We stood our ground
Rock was our sound
Life we did report
Two years gone
But I have found
You’re still around
You just linger on.
Jace you have a place
I long to see you face
My heart skips its beat
Dancing attacks my feet.”
As soon as she started to sing, photos of Jace were projected on the side walls. The other girls were singing doo wop backing vocals. Seeing the familiar yet lost face made me gulp. I couldn’t go on. Jill was right there to hold me and hold the song together.
Once we finished, I told Michael to get off his drums and join Jenna at the mic.
“These two love birds make me know there’s hope for love. They’re going to do two songs for each other. It’s getting close to midnight. Take my advice, get close to the one you want to be with for the countdown to a midnight kiss.”
Michael and Jenna did an a Capella version of the Carpenters’ ‘We’ve Only Just Begun.’
They followed up with ‘Close to You’
As they finish, Tommy runs out with a Chinese gong, pointing to his watch, with 24 seconds to go until midnight. He hits the gong every two seconds, as everyone counts down. There’s lots of scurrying among the youngsters, finding their perfect partner. I look over and see Jake smiling at me. I wink at him, just as Jack tackles me with a big hug. Hippie look lost, with Anna gone home. He quickly has his cohort of adoring ladies, still the groupie king, and still blushing bright red. Tommy’s girlfriend jumps up on stage and flies into his arms as he rings the twelfth and final gong. It’s 1977!
“Time to go home. Thanks Antoni….” I’m interrupted by a chorus of ‘No.’
“You want more? I got just the song to start off the new year, ‘Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight.’”
We’re still in our youth
But we have our ken
That these lives are ours
And they don’t belong to them
We’re having fun doing what we like
Then they come around and take away our rights
Makers of trouble
Wild and insane
Just because we’re young
We’re the ones to blame
The time has come
They’re telling us to leave
They’re pushing us around
So we gotta leave the streets
The streets are our domain
So they come and give us pain
But what gives you the right
To come blow out my light
But since I’m having fun
You’re gonna make me fight
And I just wanna say
Curfew must not ring tonight
For the first time I drive the tempo at a much faster pace. Hippie is lost at first but catches up, smiling that I challenged his bass pace. Robby is wacked out but Michael keeps the beat going, allowing Robby to continue furious rolls and high hat banging. Tommy jumps into the crowd of his Lauderdale fans, pushing and shoving anyone nearby. The pit was a swirl of thrashing teenagers. The adults move further back and the remaining kids rush forward. I catch Jake looking aghast from back stage at the chaos. This was not the controlled music for which he trained all his life. I wink at him, as he shakes his head.
Next we do the sped-up version of ‘Fools Who Laugh’
“Ain’t ready to go home yet?” I shout into the mic.
“No!” the kids yell.
“Let’s hear from our friend Tom Petty and his new band. He led the charge at breaking down the fences at the Skynyrd concert. He’s a Southern Rocker to the core. This song is my personal statement song, ‘Won’t Back Down.’”
“Com’n over here, Jack,” I order him after we finish. “You came to my work in Hollywood. Some asshole called us faggots. I beat the crap out of ‘im. What did you say?”
“You’re So Bad,” he answers.
“Damn straight,” and we go into a second Heartbreakers song.
I look up and see old Jimmy Olson taking photos and making notes. I wave at him to come up onstage. He looks fearful making his way through the hyperactive kids.
“Git up here, Tom,” I order Tommy to get back on stage with us. We sit on the front, as Jimmy joins us. “Tell everyone how this guy saved yer ass from yer e-vil brother.”
The band leaves us alone on stage, speaking to Tommy’s friends and all the other kids, who sit in the pit. The adults move closer to hear our stories of Alligator Alley Adventures.
Jimmy becomes the interviewer. “Hi, Tommy. Things are sure changed since I met you in the Lauderdale Hospital.”
“Your stories in the papers saved me from a life of misery. Now I gots good foster folks and these are all my friends here to cheer on Huck, my best friend ever, and his band. All ‘cause y’all wrote ‘bouts my travails in Juvie.”
“Tell us how ya met Tim.”
“Well, I’s always bin callin’ ‘im Huck, after we runs away from the e-vil Juvie prison by Alligator Alley and lived like Tom & Huck in Huckleberry Finn by Mr. Mark Twain.”
“Why’dcha havta run away?”
“That juvie justice was worse’n e-vil. They’s puttin’ older boys in with me and other kids. We was all 11, 12 & 13. Them ol’ boys was molestin’ us kids every night. The first night ol’ Huck showed up, he beat up 3 of them molesters and protected us from then on. But that Program was abusin’ us in other ways. We got whipped and when sum one refused to give in, they was shipped off to the crazy farm fer life. Huck he’s my hero, but even he gots attacked by the guards. We couldn’t take it no more and escaped over the fence. That was the beginnin’ of our ad-ventures, which I call ‘The Legend of ‘Gatoraurus.’”
“I bet yer friends already heard that once or twice,” Jimmy stated. The Lauderdale kids all nod vigorously. “But how ‘bout tellin’ ever-one else here tonight?”
“I’s always glad to tell ‘bout Huck. I love ‘em like no other. Don’t care whats y’all thinks. He’s my hero. You, too, Jimmy fer writin’ about me, so I’s ‘scaped that e-vil juvie injustice system.”
“That’s my job, Tommy. Yer a hero, too. For exposin’ the corruption and savin’ future kids from its evil ways. But how ‘bout y’all tell us ‘bout them four months in the Everglades.”
Tommy turns to crowd and begins to spin his tale.
“Now y’all knows about my friend, Huck here. I guess he’s real famous now. But before all that, he was my hero. This tale’s ‘bout a mighty large ‘gator we knowed that summer when we was livin’ it up in the Everglades. It’s a big swamp in South Florida near where I’s always lived. So’s I’s pleased to be tellin’ this story dedicated to ol’ Huck, my hero.
The kids and the adults started laughing at Tommy’s accent and grammar. By the time his introduction was done, most everyone is laughing. He felt they aren’t laughing at him but are liking his story. I was strumming the chords to ‘Crocodile Rock.’
“‘Gatorsaurus, he’s both a curse an’ a blessing fir our ‘scape from juvie. We jist hadta git outta that place. They was condemnin’ boys to the state mental hospital for not followin’ they’s rules. It were hell. Ta tell ya the truth, I’s scared of ‘gators when we slipped over the fence that dark and moonless night. They never guarded the back of that prison camp as ever’one knows there’s ‘gators out there that as soon ‘et ya as not. Ol’ Huck, he hadda hold my hand. I’s petrified I’s ‘bout ta be ‘et. Soon’s they knowed we’d ‘scaped they let the hounds out ta track us down. They was a’bayin’ and a’howlin’ on our trail until that ol’ “Gatorsaurus, he leapt inta action. Jist a few bites and them hounds was a’whinin’ and a’cryin’ ta git home. Guess that ‘gator he ‘et ‘nuff hounds ‘cause he let us go rather than have a second course of runaway boys. We’s a‘scaped. The next days was pure labor. Huck had me workin’ like an ol’ slave setting up camp and learnin’ hows to caitch catfish in the swamp wid jist ma bare hands. I taught him how to spot wild rice, jist like I’d seen at my granddaddy’s farm up state. We’s even found wild chickens fer eggs ta make fish chowder. I’s ‘fraid o’ that ol’ rooster ‘tills Huck kicked ‘im in the head. We’s havin’ so much fun, we plumb firgot ‘bout ol ‘Gatorsaurus. After a hot day’s work setting up camp and gittin’ food, we was a’splashin’ and a’goofin’ around in the water, havin’ a blast. Suddenly Ol’ Huck’s eyes gets real big and he screams “’Gator,” over my shoulder. I’s so scared I jist jumped right inta his arms. As he turned to run. I seen them two eyes with ugly, scaly bumps behinds them a’swimmin’ right at me. I’s a’kickin’ ol’ Huck ta hurry up as we scurried away toward the swamp bank and safety. Sure ‘nuff, Huck git there a’fore that ol’ ‘gator. We lay there a’laffin’ ‘til I hads ta go see that ol’ ‘gator lookin’ hungry from missin’ his dinner. I’s throwin’ rocks at his ugly face. That ‘gator don’t cotton much ta bein’ mocked. Up the bank ‘Gatotsaurus comes. His feets going 80 miles an hour. I screamed like a girl an’ Huck, he grabbed me again, throwing me up on a tree’s branch. But ol’ ‘Gatorsaurus, he don’t give up. He’s charging right at Huck. Huck jist jumped up on that crazy ‘gators head and bounced into the tree, with ‘Gatorsaurus’s jaws snappin’ at his heels. Huck pulls me up to his branch and we’s sittin’ there naked as jailbirds, like we really was, laughing again at ‘Gatorsaursus. That ‘gator, he don’t like bein’ laffed at. With hundreds of slobber-covered teeth he attacked that tree, trying ta bring it down. “Gator must be stupid to be so stubborn. He looked like an ol’ dinosaur, 28 feet long, with scales oozing green slime covering his back and bugs living on the slime. He snorted water out his nostrils, lookin’ like a dragon breathin’ out fire and stinky sulfur. We knowed not ta mock that ol’ ‘gator no more. It took more’n two hours fir ‘Gatorsaurus to finally give up on ‘etin’ us fir dinner. He swum away and never bothered us a’gin. Huck told me that ‘gators got big noses so’s they smells everythin.’ I figure ol’ Gatorsaurus never did come back ‘cause ol’ Huck, he smells real bad.”
I finished the song on guitar. Tommy stood up and bowed. The crowd had been laughing non-stop for several minutes. He gets a standing ovation. All the other players ran out from backstage. I pulled Jill and the Jacettes up to the mic. We had to do one last encore. I whispered to Jill, “Rod Stewart, ‘my lover, my best friend.’” She sighs, missing Wilkie badly, and then gives me a kiss. I’m the lucky stand-in for our Olympic champ.
“Well, we didn’t think you’d still want more. But I know our Rod Stewart fan, Jill, wants to send out a song to her hero, Olympic gold medal winner and U of Miami swimmer, David Wilkie.”
That gets another cheer. I pick up my guitar to accompany everyone on stage and in the audience, singing along with Jill.
Everyone was swaying to the slow ballad. Jack and Tommy were on either side of Jill, the boy magnet. The adults in the audience had moved up front, mixing with the kids. No more thrashing about. The pit swayed back and forth.
(With apologies to Mr. Samuel Clemons)