Eating At Arby's: The South Florida Stories (1982)
“Do not craze yourself with thinking, but go about your business anywhere. Life is not intellectual or critical but sturdy. Its chief
good is for well-mixed people who can enjoy what they find without question. Nature hates peeping, and our mothers speak her very sense when they say, ‘Children, eat your victuals and
say no more of it.’ To fill the hour – that is happiness.”
--Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Experience”
At the beach
Manny and his wife Zelda were walking along Fort Lauderdale beach.
“This beach is lovely,” said Zelda. “I like the sand the palm trees and the ocean.”
“Yes, Zelda,” said Manny. “Fort Lauderdale beach is beautiful. I am glad we are here.”
“I am glad we live in South Florida,” said Zelda. “I am glad we do not have to go through cold winters anymore. I hate snow.”
“Don’t think about snow, Zelda,” said Manny. “We are on the beach in Fort Lauderdale. Look at all the people who are having fun.”
Zelda saw their friend Chip. “Hello, Chip!” she cried. She waved to him.
“Hello, Zelda and Manny,” said Chip. “What are you doing here on Fort Lauderdale beach?”
“We are having fun,” said Manny. “It is beautiful here.”
“Yes, it is beautiful here,” said Chip. “My gay friends and I like it very much. We have fun here. People are nice. The weather is good. We can enjoy the beach and make friends.”
“Friends are important in South Florida,” said Zelda. “Whether you are straight or gay, it is good to have friends.”
Chip smiled. “Zelda, I am glad you and Manny are my friends. Many people make friends here at the beach. Now that it is spring break, college students come down here and make friends.”
“College students can have fun,” said Manny. “Some of them get wild and take drugs and drink too much beer, but they are very nice girls and boys.”
“Yes, there are some very nice college students here. I met a nice boy from up North who was glad to get away from the snow. Some college students are wild but they know how to have fun.”
“There are always people who know how to have fun,” said Zelda. “It’s easy to have fun on Fort Lauderdale beach.”
“Let’s go to the Marlin Beach Hotel and drink pina coladas and have fun,” said Chip.
Manny smiled. “Every day in South Florida is fun.”
A visit to Calle Ocho
One sunny day Manny and Zelda drove into downtown Miami.
“Look at all the signs in Spanish,” Zelda said.
“That is because most of the people in downtown Miami are Cubans,” said Manny.
“Cubans are nice people. They helped make Miami a big city.”
“Let’s go visit our Cuban friend Jose. Jose has a clothing store on Calle Ocho.”
They parked their station wagon. “What does Calle Ocho mean, Manny?” asked Zelda.
“Calle Ocho means Eighth Street in Spanish. You should learn more Spanish, Zelda. It will help you talk with our Cuban friends.”
“Yes, I must learn more Spanish. One day I will be bilingual like you, Manny, and I will make new Cuban friends.”
“It is important to have friends in South Florida,” Manny said to Zelda as they walked into Jose’s store.
“Hello, Manny and Zelda!” shouted Jose. “Como estan Ustedes? How are you, my friends?”
“Muy bien,” Manny told Jose. “I hope you will look around my store. There are some nice Sasson jeans that just came in. They fit well and look nice. I hope you will buy some.”
“Perhaps we will,” Zelda said. “Manny needs some jeans. It is important to dress well in South Florida.”
“Excuse me,” said Jose. “I have to speak to some customers from Colombia. They are here to buy some clothes.”
“Will you speak to your customers in Spanish, Jose?” Zelda asked.
“Si, Zelda,” Jose said. “They speak Spanish just like I do.”
“I speak Spanish too,” said Manny. “I am bilingual. I can talk to people from Colombia too.”
“I wish I could speak Spanish,” Zelda told Jose. “It would be nice to make new friends.”
“Amigos,” said Jose. “In Spanish amigos means friends. Please excuse me while I talk to my Columbia friends.”
A drive down I-95
One sunny morning Manny and his wife Zelda took a drive down I-95.
“The cars drive very fast on this highway,” said Zelda. “Sometimes I get scared that we will have an accident.”
“Some people have accidents,” said Manny. “If you are not careful driving down I-95, you could have an accident.”
“Be careful, Manny. I don’t want us to have an accident.”
“Don’t worry, Zelda. Most accidents are caused by people who drive too fast.”
“I heard that some old people here in South Florida drive too slowly and they get into accidents because of that,” Zelda said.
“Yes,” said Manny. “And some teenagers take Quaaludes and that makes them drive badly. They can get into accidents that way.”
“Manny, why do teenagers take Quaaludes?” asked Zelda. “Why do they take something that can make bad things happen?”
Manny shook his head. “It is very sad, Zelda. But we must remember that most teenagers here in South Florida are good boys and girls who would not take Quaaludes.”
“I’m glad of that,” said Zelda. “Look, Manny! You just missed our exit! We were supposed to get off at Hollywood Boulevard so that we could go to the Seminole Indian Bingo Parlor and buy cigarettes and Western clothes. Manny, you just passed the Hollywood Boulevard exit!”
Manny laughed. “Zelda, that was a silly thing to do! I was so busy talking about bad drivers that I became one myself. I did not notice the exit sign.”
“Don’t worry, Manny. We can get off at the next exit. Hallandale Beach Boulevard is the next exit. Just don’t miss it!”
“I won’t miss the next exit,” said Manny. “Drivers must be very careful here in South Florida.”
Shopping in the mall
Manny and Zelda went to the Broward Mall one sunny day.
“Look, Manny!” said Zelda. “There is Burdines. I want to do some shopping there. You need some clothes. I will buy you some nice Sasson jeans. It is important to have nice clothes here in South Florida.”
“You are right, Zelda. People dress nicely here. They wear bright colors. Bright colors are cheerful. I like to see people wearing pink pants and white shoes.”
“The Broward Mall is cheerful,” said Zelda. “I like the malls in South Florida. I like Dadeland the best, but the Broward Mall is a nice mall.”
“All malls are nice,” said Manny. “I like the Omni best, but I also like all malls. This mall is nice. We can go into Burdines and buy Sasson jeans. We can go into Jordan Marsh and buy a burglar alarm. We can go into Sears and buy bug spray. We can go into any store and buy anything.”
“South Florida has so many malls,” said Zelda.
“South Florida has many malls so people can buy nice things, Zelda. Look! There is a book store. We can buy books there.”
“I read a book once, Manny. It made me think.”
“Thinking is fun,” said Manny. “I like to think. In South Florida there is a lot to think about.”
“Sometimes I think about all the malls and condos here. Sometimes I wonder how they all got to be so nice.”
“They are nice because nice developers built them that way. There are many nice things for people here in South Florida.”
Zelda smiled. “The weather here is always nice. It is always good weather for going to malls.”
A pleasant visit
Zelda went to visit Grandma and Grandpa one sunny afternoon.
“Hello, Grandma! Hello, Grandpa!” shouted Zelda.
“Hello, Zelda,” said Grandma and Grandpa. “We have missed you. We have not seen you in a very long time.”
“I know,” said Zelda. “You have not seen me in a very long time because I have been busy. How are you both? How is life here in Century Village?”
“We like it very much,” Grandpa told Zelda. “There are many things for old people to do here in Century Village. We can play pinochle. We can sit by the pool. We can take courses and make things and visit with our granddaughter Zelda.”
“Yes,” added Grandma. “It is a good life for old people here in South Florida. We have Social Security checks that come every month. Grandpa also gets a pension from his old job up North.”
“Brrr!” Grandpa said. “When you talked about up North, I felt cold! I am glad to be in South Florida where it is never cold.”
“Oh, Grandpa!” said Grandma. “You are a funny man. You always make me laugh. We are here together all day and all day you say things that make me laugh.”
“Grandma, you make me laugh, too. Sometimes I sit out by the pool and think about the things you say all day and I want to laugh.”
Zelda showed Grandma and Grandpa her station wagon. “Would you like to go for a ride?” she asked them. “Would you like to go out to a restaurant?”
“Yes, I like restaurants,” said Grandma. “We could go to Arby’s. I like the salad bar at Arby’s.”
“I like Burger King better than Arby’s,” said Grandpa. “We went to Arby’s last time. Today let’s go to Burger King. I want to go to Burger King.”
“Grandpa, you are a funny man!” said Grandma. “Every day here in Century Village you say things that make me laugh.”
“My Grandma and Grandpa make each other laugh all day,” said Zelda. “Many people here in Century Village say funny things all day. They make each other laugh.”
“Let’s go to Burger King,” said Grandpa.
A long boat ride
Manny and his wife Zelda were walking along Miami Beach.
“I like these old Art Deco hotels,” said Manny. “They are pretty to look at.”
“Yes, they are pretty. The tourists must like to stay in them.”
“The tourists can have fun here. They can swim. They can eat good food. They can get sunburned and see good shows. Miami Beach has everything!”
“Miami Beach has everything but casino gambling for people from all over the world,” Zelda said. “Tourists come here from England. Tourists come here from Germany. Tourists come here from Buffalo, New York.”
“Look, Zelda!” said Manny. “Look at that little boat! Some tourists are coming to Miami Beach by boat.”
Zelda laughed. “Oh, Manny! Those people are not tourists. Those people are Haitian refugees. They have come here by boat from Haiti.”
“Those Haitian people look tired,” said Manny. “They must have been in that little boat for a long time.”
“Soon they will be happy,” Zelda told Manny. “They took a long boat ride to get here, but now that they are in South Florida, they will be very happy.”
“Everyone is happy here,” said Manny. “I am very happy to be in Miami Beach. Let’s make friends with those Haitian refugees. Let’s take them with us to eat brunch at the Rascal House.”
“Oh, Manny!” cried Zelda. “You are so silly. Haitian refugees do not come here to eat brunch at the Rascal House. They come here for freedom. You cannot get freedom at brunch at the Rascal House.”
“Zelda, you are right,” said Manny. “I made a silly mistake. You cannot get freedom at brunch at the Rascal House. But you can get onion rolls and Danish there, and I am very hungry.”
“I am hungry, too. Lucky for us the Rascal House is not far away. We will not have to take a long ride on a little boat to get to the Rascal House.”
“Someday I hope those Haitian refugees will have brunch at the Rascal House,” said Manny. “We should give them free Danish and onion rolls so they know they will be welcome here in South Florida.”
“Oh, Manny!” Zelda laughed. “You are being silly again! Even in South Florida there is no such thing as a free brunch.”
Manny went to meet his sister Norma at the airport. It was very crowded that night. Many people were flying to South Florida because the winter up North was very cold.
Finally Manny saw his sister come into the Air Florida terminal. “Hello, Norma!” he cried.
“Hello, Manny,” Norma said. “It is good to see you again. It is good to be back in South Florida for the winter. Up North it is too cold.”
Manny laughed. “You are a snowbird, Norma! My own sister is a snowbird!”
“What is a snowbird, Manny? How did I get to be a snowbird?”
“Norma, people like you who come to beautiful South Florida for the winter are called snowbirds. They are snowbirds because they fly away to escape the snow.”
“I hate snow,” said Norma.
“My wife Zelda hates snow, too. But here in South Florida the weather is always sunny and warm. On the news every night they tell us how cold it is everywhere else.”
“Where is Zelda, Manny?” asked Norma. “Usually Zelda is with you.”
“Zelda is sick, Norma,” said Manny. “Zelda was fine all day. Then when I told her that you were coming to spend the winter with us, Zelda got a bad headache.”
“Oh, no,” said Norma. “I hope she will be better by tomorrow. Headaches can make people unhappy.”
“Zelda is very unhappy,” Manny said. “But by tomorrow she will feel better. Winter is so beautiful here in South Florida that you cannot be sick or unhappy for long.”
“After I pick up my luggage, we will go back to you condo and I will talk to Zelda and make her feel better,” said Norma. “I will be here for the whole winter so there will be lots of time to talk.”
Manny smiled. “Come on, Snowbird! Let’s go get your luggage from Air Florida!”
“I hope that they did not send it to Tampa this time,” laughed Norma. “I want to spend the whole winter with my brother and his wife.”
One sunny afternoon Manny came back to the condo with an idea.
“Zelda,” Manny said to his wife, “why don’t we take a vacation? It would be nice to take a vacation.”
“Oh, Manny,” said Zelda. “It would be very nice to take a vacation. But we do not need to go anywhere. We live in South Florida. South Florida is already a vacation place. We can go to the Seaquarium to see Flipper. We can go to the Monkey Jungle and the Parrot Jungle. We can go to the Everglades or Key West.”
“You are right, Zelda,” said Manny. “South Florida is the best vacation place. But I have heard people talking about taking a trip to another vacation place.”
“What place is that?” asked Zelda.
“Colombia,” said Manny. “Colombia is the place that many people talk about.”
“Oh, yes,” said Zelda. “I have heard many people talk about taking a trip to Colombia. Many people have told me that they would like to make just one trip to Colombia.”
“A trip to Colombia must be fun,” said Manny. “This morning, when I took Grandpa to the beach to deposit his Social Security check, we met two boys in line. These boys had just taken a trip to Colombia and said that their trip was fun.”
“But we already have fun right here in South Florida,” said Zelda. “How could we have any more fun in Colombia? What is there to do in that place?”
“I am not sure, Zelda. Those nice boys had to deposit a lot of money and they could not talk with Grandpa and me for very long.”
“Oh, Manny,” Zelda sighed. “I think I would like to make a trip to Colombia. I would like to make just one trip there to see what the fuss is all about.”
A nice chiropractor
One sunny morning Manny woke up with a sore back.
“I have a sore back,” he told his wife Zelda. “What should I do?”
“Oh, Manny,” said Zelda. “For a sore back you should see a chiropractor. Chiropractors help people with sore backs.”
So Manny and Zelda went to see a chiropractor. The chiropractor’s name was Lois and she was a nice black woman who wore Sasson jeans.
“Hello, Manny,” said Lois. “I will make your sore back feel better.”
“Thank you, Lois,” said Manny. “How will you do that?”
“I will twist your back and put needles in it. Then you will feel much better.”
“I feel better already just talking to you,” said Manny.
“How did you become a chiropractor?” Zelda asked Lois. “I have never before seen a black woman chiropractor in Sasson jeans.”
Lois cracked Manny’s back. “Zelda,” she said, “in South Florida a person can become anything she wants to be. I love it here. I was born in Liberty City and I still live there today. South Florida is a good place to be a chiropractor.”
“Lois, you have made my back feel much better,” said Manny. “Now you will always be my friend.”
“Thank you, Manny,” said Lois. “It will be nice to have you and Zelda for friends.”
“Someday you should come and visit us at our condo,” said Zelda.
“Yes, I will,” Lois told her. “And someday you should come and visit me and my friends in Liberty City.”
“Wasn’t there a riot in Liberty City once?” asked Manny.
“Oh, yes,” said Lois. “Some people in Liberty City felt they were being treated unfairly. This made them unhappy.”
“It is wrong to treat people unfairly,” said Zelda. “In South Florida everyone tries to be as fair as possible.”
“Yes, this is a nice place to live,” Lois told them. “Everything is here. We have friends. We have sunshine. We have the Miami Dolphins and many patients for chiropractors. I am happy to be a chiropractor here in South Florida.”
“Here, Lois,” said Manny. “This check will make you even happier.”
“Thank you, Manny,” said Lois. “It is always nice to make someone feel better.”
“I feel better myself,” laughed Zelda. “I feel better even though nobody has cracked my back!”
A brand-new American
One sunny morning Jose came over to Manny and Zelda’s condo.
“Buenos dias, Manny and Zelda,” Jose said. “I have brought my cousin to meet you. This is my cousin Ortenzia. Ortenzia, meet my friends Manny and Zelda.”
“Buenos dias, Ortenzia,” said Manny.
“Hello, Ortenzia,” said Zelda.
“I am happy to meet my cousin Jose’s friends,” Ortenzia told Manny and Zelda. “I have not been in South Florida for very long and I like making new friends.”
“Where do you come from, Ortenzia?” asked Zelda.
“Cuba. I came here from Cuba last year. I came with the rest of the refugees on the Mariel boatlift.”
“Si,” said Jose. “My cousin Ortenzia is a brand-new American.”
“Are you happy here?” Manny asked Ortenzia. “Do you like South Florida?”
“Si, Manny. I love South Florida. Everyone has given me a great welcome. They have been nice to me. Everyone has made me feel at home.”
“We like having brand-new Americans in South Florida,” Manny said. We like having people like you here because you work hard and help us.”
“Si, Manny,” said Ortenzia. “I have a good job at Arby’s. I am in charge of the salad bar.”
“I love the salad bar at Arby’s,” said Zelda. “Let’s all go there for lunch right now.”
“Vamos, amigos!” cried Jose. “Let’s go, my friends! Our brand-new American will help us eat lunch at Arby’s.”
A scary warning
“Oh, oh,” said Manny one afternoon.
“What’s wrong, Manny?” asked his wife Zelda, who was in the Florida room sweeping away little salamanders.
“They just said on NewsWatch 10 that there’s a hurricane warning.”
“Oh, no,” said Zelda. “What does that mean?”
“That means a hurricane is probably going to strike South Florida. We must get ready for the hurricane, Zelda.”
“How do we do that?”
“First, we have to make sure we have food in the house. If there is a hurricane, we cannot go to buy food at Publix or to eat out at Arby’s. Then we have to board up our windows. After that we need to buy batteries for our flashlight. And then we should fill up our station wagon with gas.”
“I’m scared of hurricanes, Manny.”
“The important thing is to be prepared. If you are prepared, Zelda, there is no reason to get scared.”
“I suppose hurricanes are just a fact of life for us here in South Florida,” said Zelda.
“Yes, but hurricanes are not always so bad. Besides, our weather is almost always beautiful.”
“Yes, Manny, our weather is almost always beautiful. I guess hurricanes aren’t that scary. I feel better now.”
“Good for you, Zelda,” said Manny. “Now we can get out our map and track that hurricane!”
A strange experience
One sunny day Zelda came home to the condo.
“Look what I have got, Manny,” she said to her husband. “I have some cocaine.”
“So that white powder is cocaine,” said Manny. “I have heard a lot about it from many people.”
“A lot of people in South Florida know about cocaine,” said Zelda. “People bring it here by plane. The planes fly at night without any lights. That is why Jose told us never to fly here at night. Jose said our plane could crash into one of the planes with no lights that are bringing in cocaine.”
“Cocaine brings a lot of money into South Florida,” Manny said. “It is good to have money. Money can buy nice things. Money can buy you a condo in Kendall or a shiny new Corvette or many gold chains.”
They sniffed the cocaine.
“This cocaine is strange, Zelda,” said Manny. “It is strange that a white powder can be so important.”
“It must be important, Manny. Remember how much money it brings into South Florida.”
“Oh, yes. Cocaine helps us here. It helps our banks. It helps our businesses. It helps our policemen. It makes some people very rich and some people very happy.”
“Are you happy, Manny?” Zelda asked. “Does cocaine make you happy?”
“I am very happy, Zelda. I am happy to be here in South Florida with you. Cocaine makes everyone happy.”
“Happy people make good friends,” Zelda said. “Many of our friends are happy people, Manny. Our friend Chip is happy. Our friend Jose is happy. Our friend Lois is happy. We have happy friends.”
“Happy friends are important in South Florida,” Manny said. “It makes life here much more fun. Happy friends are important, just like cocaine.”
“I like cocaine,” said Zelda.
A Chanukah party
Zelda and Manny were having a Chanukah party.
“Hello, Chip!” said Zelda. “Welcome to our Chanukah party!”
“Hello, Zelda,” said Chip. “I am glad to be here. It is good to be with my friends on their holiday.”
“Chanukah is a happy time,” said Manny. “Hello, Jose! Welcome to our Chanukah party!”
“Hello, Manny and Zelda!” said Jose. “I am glad to be here. I want to help you celebrate your holiday.”
“We are glad you are here, Jose,” said Manny. “We are glad you have brought your Cuban friends. They will learn about our culture and we will learn about your culture. There is a lot of culture here in South Florida.”
“Si,” said Jose. “Hello, Chip! Como esta Usted?”
“Muy bien,” said Chip to Jose. “I am fine.”
“You speak Spanish very well,” said Jose to Chip. “You are bilingual.”
“Si, I am bilingual,” said Chip. “Jose, I would like you to meet my friend Bob. He is here to help Zelda and Manny celebrate Chanukah.”
“Happy Chanukah, Bob,” said Jose. “Are you bilingual like Chip?”
“Happy Chanukah, Jose,” said Bob. “No, I cannot speak Spanish. I am not bilingual. I am bisexual.”
“Hello, everyone!” cried Grandma and Grandpa. “Happy Chanukah! We have come from Century Village for the party. We left Century Village four hours ago. We just got here because the traffic was so heavy.”
“The traffic is very heavy at Chanukah time,” said Manny. “And the buses do not always come quickly. My sister Norma had to wait a long time for a bus to her chiropodist in Boca Raton.”
“Yes,” said Norma. “I had a very long wait. But now I am glad to be back at the condo. Where are our friends from Liberty City?”
“Here we are!” said Lois. “Our car got stuck when there was a big accident on the Palmetto Expressway. I stopped to see if anyone was hurt and needed a chiropractor. But now we are all here to help Zelda and Manny celebrate Chanukah. This is a fine party.”
“Yes, we are having fun,” said Zelda. “Who is your friend, Lois?”
“Zelda, this is Hassan. He is my old pal from chiropractor school. He is my Palestinian pal.”
“Happy Chanukah, Hassan,” said Zelda. “Welcome to our party. You will be our Palestinian pal, too.”
“Thank you, Zelda,” said Hassan. “I will be glad to be your pal. I like your Sasson jeans and the food you have brought in from Arby’s.”
Zelda smiled. “In South Florida we are all friends. We are lucky to be here. We have malls and condos and happy, friendly people.”
“I love it here in South Florida,” said Manny. “Every day is like a Chanukah party here.”
Fun with a gun
One sunny morning Jose took Manny and Zelda to the Tamiami rifle range.
“This is a rifle range,” Jose told his friends. “At a rifle range you can shoot at targets and learn to use a gun.”
“Porque, Jose?” asked Manny. “Why do you want to learn to use a gun?”
“Manny, guns are muy importante in South Florida. You and Zelda should learn to shoot a gun.”
“Oh, Jose!” Zelda laughed. “Manny with a gun! That is funny. I cannot imagine Manny having any fun with a gun.”
“Guns can be fun,” said Jose. “Guns can be fun and help you if you own a clothing store like I do. Guns can help you if you live in Liberty City like Lois does. Guns can be fun if you want to protect yourselves.”
“We want to protect ourselves,” Zelda said. “Manny, don’t we want to protect ourselves? Maybe we should get a gun like Jose has.”
Manny looked at his wife and his friend. “Zelda you are right. Jose, Usted tiene razon. You are both right and we should get ourselves a gun.”
“Guns can be your friends,” said Jose as he shot at a faraway target. Bang! “Amigos,” said Jose. Bang! “Guns can be your amigos.”
“It is important to have friends here in South Florida,” said Zelda. “Manny, I want to shoot that gun. That gun will become our friend, just like Jose is our friend.”
“Nuestro amigo,” Manny said as Jose handed him the gun.
Eating at Arby’s
One evening Manny and Zelda stood on line at the counter at Arby’s.
“I want the salad bar,” said Zelda. “I like the salad bar at Arby’s.”
“Yes, Zelda,” said Manny. “I know you like the salad bar at Arby’s. You like the lettuce and the beets and the beans and the applesauce.”
“Don’t forget the crackers,” Zelda told Manny. “I also like the crackers.”
“Thank you,” said a barefoot, long-haired man standing next to Zelda. “I am glad you like crackers.”
“What a funny thing to say,” Zelda told the man. “I said that I liked crackers and you are thanking me for that.”
“Yes, Zelda,” said the man. “I am thanking you because I am a cracker.”
“You are a cracker?” asked Manny. “How did you become a cracker?”
The man laughed. “I became a cracker when I was born. I was born in South Florida. People who were born in South Florida are called crackers.”
“Oh, Manny,” said Zelda. “I have never before met anyone who was born in South Florida. Tell me,” she asked the man, “what do crackers do in South Florida?”
“Crackers have fun just like you do,” the man told Zelda. “We eat at Arby’s. We ride pickup trucks with rebel flags on them. We drink beer and fish in the canals and listen to country music. We watch our boots turn blue with mildew.”
Manny laughed. “Zelda, this cracker is a funny man. Of all the people we have met in South Florida, this cracker is the funniest of all.”
The man took his Super Roast Beef sandwich and large French fries. “Yes,” he said. “I am a funny man. Living your whole life in South Florida can make you into a funny man. I have seen many funny things as the years go on. Life in South Florida seems to get funnier and funnier.”
Manny laughed again and ordered two salad bars and two iced teas with key limes in them.
“Don’t forget the crackers,” Zelda reminded him.
“I feel unhappy today,” Zelda told her husband Manny. “I feel unhappy because there is nothing to do today.”
“Zelda, you are a funny woman,” said Manny. “There are many things to do today. We can go to the jai-lai games in Dania. We can go to the greyhound track in Hollywood. We can go to the orange groves and watch a little boy wrestle with an old alligator. We can watch thirty-nine channels on our cable TV.”
“Oh, Manny,” said Zelda. “I do not want to go to the jai-lai games or the greyhound track. I do not want to go to the orange groves. I am so unhappy that I do not even want to watch cable TV.”
“Zelda, this is serious. You are very unhappy. What is making you so unhappy?”
Zelda sighed. “Manny, I miss our old house up North. I miss our old friends. I miss the way things used to be before we moved to South Florida.”
“Zelda, you hare unhappy for silly reasons,” said Manny. “Our old house up North was not as nice as our brand-new South Florida condo. Our old friends from up North are now living right here in Delray Beach and Plantation and Homestead. You don’t really miss our old life, Zelda. Do you miss snow?”
“No, I hate snow,” said Zelda.
“See, Zelda,” said Manny. “I know what will make you less unhappy. I know what will make you feel better. We will watch one of our thirty-nine cable TV channels. We will watch the channel from up North. Then you will see the news and weather and look at ugly pictures and snow. And then you will be very happy to live here in South Florida.”
An hour later, Zelda was happy again. “I was unhappy for silly reasons,” she told Manny. “I was unhappy because of things that really didn’t mean anything. Now I see that I am lucky to be here in South Florida.”
“Happy, happy Zelda,” said Manny. “Now we can drink pina coladas and watch the good news from a channel here in South Florida.
July in South Florida
“Oh, Manny,” said Zelda one sunny day. “It is ninety degrees again today.”
“Zelda, it is ninety degrees every day this time of year. That is because it is July. It is ninety degrees every day in July.”
“I am hot, Manny,” Zelda said. “I am hot and our bathrooms are full of mildew.”
Manny laughed. “Of course you are hot, Zelda. When it is ninety degrees out, a person can become hot. Why don’t you put on the air conditioner so it will become cooler. Then you will become cooler, too.”
“Oh, Manny,” sighed Zelda. “I am keeping the air conditioner off to save money. We need to save money. Our last electric bill was too high. The Florida Power and Light Company gave us a big bill.”
“The Florida Power and Light Company gives everyone big bills, Zelda. They have to give big bills to pay for their nuclear power plant. Southern Bell and the water company have to give us big bills, too. So does the county property tax assessor. All of them must give us big bills.”
“Do they like to give us big bills?” asked Zelda.
“No, they don’t like it,” said Manny. “They don’t like to give us big bills, but they have to. It is not their fault. They are not being mean to us.”
Zelda laughed. “In South Florida nobody is mean. Nobody is mean even when it is ninety degrees every day and everyone is hot.”
“Zelda, you shouldn’t be mean to yourself, either,” said Manny. “Turn on that air conditioner so you can become cooler. When you are cooler, you will be happy again.”
Zelda kissed her husband Manny. “I love you,” she told him. “Manny, I love you because you are so smart. I love you because you let me put on the air conditioner despite the big bills.”
Manny smiled. “Step on that palmetto bug,” he told Zelda.
Some sad news
“Zelda, come here,” said Manny one sunny evening.
“What is wrong, Manny?” Zelda asked. “You sound upset.”
“I am upset,” said Manny. “On NewsWatch 10 they just said that our friend Jose was murdered in his store in Miami.”
“Oh, no,” said Zelda. “That is bad news.”
“Murder is always bad news,” Manny told her.
“I feel sad about Jose’s murder,” Zelda said.
“Murder is always sad.”
Zelda looked unhappy. “This murder rate is too high. I hope no more people in South Florida are murdered. Murder is not fun.”
Manny took Zelda’s hand. “Don’t worry,” he said. “Soon the murders will stop and everyone in South Florida will be happy again.”
“I hope so,” said Zelda. “But right now I think of Jose’s murder and I feel sad.”
“Let’s go out to dinner,” said Manny. “That will cheer us up. You can enjoy the salad bar at Arby’s.”
“I like the salad bar at Arby’s,” Zelda said. “But I wish Jose were alive to enjoy the salad bar with us. This South Florida murder rate is very sad.”
Copyright © 1982 Richard Grayson