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This Miami Life

Read The Runners-Up (Amateur)

In April, we invited unpublished writers to submit their work as part of our Write South Florida contest.   There were three categories in the contest: Amateur, College, and Children. These are the runners-up from the contest in the Amateur category.


by Susan Brown

I‘ve spent more of my life in water than on land.   Not surprising for a third generation fisherman, I ‘spose.  Probably explains why I jumped at the chance to live in the old fish house.  That, and the fact we got history.

She’s a 1924 ice house in Pine Island Sound.  Sits just off the north shore entrance to Safety Harbor – at North Captiva Island.  Folks call me crazy for the feminine reference.  But that fish house is more woman to me than any flesh and blood female I ever met.    Perched proud out there on her barnacled pilings.  She may be dilapidated.  But she’s never been defeated.

Still remember the first time I saw her.

“Who lives there, Grandpa ?”  I asked, pointing towards the fish house.

“The fish, Joshy.  The fish,” he said.

“Whaddaya mean, Grandpa?”

“It’s a fish house.  A real special place.  Fishermen ‘round these parts used to keep blocks of dry ice in there so’s they could leave their catch and keep on fishin’.”

“But who lives there?” I persisted.

“No one, Joshy.  But folks stay there from time to time.  Mostly folks who like to fish,” he chuckled.  “Took your dad and your Uncle Clive there for the first time when they was about your age.   Did some night fishin’.  Climbed on that there dock, plunked our lines in the water.  Ain’t never seen the moon that full – before or since.  Pure magic.”

“Will you take me Grandpa?”

“Sometime, Joshy.  Sometime.”

Grandpa died a week later; I vowed at his funeral to search for that magic. Studied the moon every night.  On my eighth birthday, time arrived.  I waited for Uncle Clive’s whiskey slumber.  Then I commandeered his Mako.  Made my first private voyage from Pine Island to North Captiva.  The moon hung enormous.  I tied the boat to a piling underneath the fish house. Clutching Grandpa’s favorite fishing pole, I climbed onto the dock.  I cast; I waited.  A tug on the line pulled my gaze toward the water.   My reflection gazed back.  So did Grandpa’s.

I never spoke about that night to anyone.  Years passed.  I married my high school sweetheart, although I can’t remember why.  The judge signed our divorce papers twelve days after my mother’s funeral.  Uncle Clive died one month later; Bert’s Bar hosted his wake.   Even dead, Clive gathered a crowd.  But I never felt more alone.

My insides craved escape.  I overheard Gus Sharp tell the bartender the fish house was for rent.  I slapped the first month’s payment onto the bar.  Loaded Clive’s Mako, navigated toward the fish house.  I secured the boat to the first piling I could.  Scampered onto the dock.  Left everything behind but Grandpa’s fishing pole.  I cast; I waited.  A tug on the line pulled my gaze toward the water.  Grandpa’s reflection gazed back alongside my own.

“You’re right, Grandpa,” I whispered.  “Pure magic.”  I didn’t fight the tears that followed.

Never again seen the moon that full.


Bio: A Hoosier by birth, Susan Brown moved to Gainesville, Florida in 1974.  She obtained her law degree from the University of Florida in 1999, then moved to Orlando where she practiced law and joined her first creative writing group.  Susan relocated to Cape Coral in 2005 after she married her husband, photographer and watercolor artist Ed Brown.  Aside from the stiffed-shirt stuff she writes for her “day job”, Susan is working on a humorous memoir about her pre-marital dating escapades.  She belongs to two writing groups, including the Gulf Coast Writer’s Association in Fort Myers, where she currently serves as the 2009-2010 Special Projects Chair.



by Orlando Rodriguez

Marcos painted a pretty picture for her of what lay ahead: a nice hotel in Miami Beach, a quick, triumphant return, an easy settling back into the lifestyle they were used to.

“But dear, how can you be so sure?”

“Because things will be back to what they were before, and soon. So will we.” His cigar stabbed the air. “The Americans won’t let Fidel stay.”

“Well, darling, then why leave?” She looked at her delicate hands, deciding whether to change the color of her nails.

“Because we don’t need to put up with the thuggery going on around us,” he replied, “Just listen to the stuff on the radio. Let’s sit out this insanity.”

He could look into any situation and come up with an action plan instantly, but he failed to see what would happen in early 1961, right after they left: the closing of the embassies, the failed invasion, all doors being shut.

Later, after he sold her jewels, she overheard their new acquaintance Antonio speaking to her husband under the huge mango tree that shadowed the tiny, rundown, barely visible walk-up just off Flagler Street.

“Marcos, you talk like you have a good head for business. I’m going to start one.” Antonio’s thick black mane towered over Marco’s bald head.

“Oh, yeah? What kind?” Marcos brushed away a few flecks of tobacco from a guayabera that had been worn too many times.

“A little one, you know. Things are tough, but you can buy a truck or a car if you come up with a down payment.”

“Yes, that’s true. And what are you going to do with it?”

“Well, it has to make money right away. Maybe transportation, you know, a gypsy cab. Do you have ideas?”

A mockingbird trilled in the mango tree. No ideas today, Marcos answered. That is how it was for the next couple of days, the next couple of weeks, the next couple of months. Then Antonio arrived in a decrepit truck outfitted as a mobile fruit and vegetable stand, from which he sold door-to-door plátano, yuca, bacalao, and other staple foods of the Cuban diet.

She bought from Antonio, even after Marcos told her repeatedly the neighborhood Food Fair was cheaper.

“Fuféar doesn’t have the Cuban foods, Marcos. And I’m not going to walk to the Cuban store in the hot sun for them.”

“That truck is hot. It is also cramped and unsanitary.”

“So what? You walk the twenty blocks each way. You have nothing else to do anyway. Better yet, get used to eating the free food the Americans hand out. Peanut butter is really nutritious.”

AH-UH-AH: the distinctive three notes of Antonio’s truck overpowers the mockingbird. She peeks through the slat of the Venetian blind and adjusts her skirt. Maybe I’ll get some garlic along with the bacalao, she thinks. She looks at her unvarnished nails and lets out a sigh. Maybe I’ll ask him to come in for a cafecito.

Bio: Orlando Rodriguez was born in Cuba in 1949. In addition to Miami, he has lived in Indiana, California, Illinois, and New York, as well as Puerto Rico, Panama and Venezuela, and has traveled extensively throughout Latin America. He is a runner up in the Amateur writer submissions for his essay Miami Stories– 4. A graduate of Notre Dame and Stanford in Economics, he works as a corporate consultant.  He is also working on a novel of international intrigue set in Manaus, a city in the Brazilian Amazon.

Funding for this episode provided by a grant from The Florida Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.