Mystery Fun Machine Gone Horribly Wrong

I love the 4th of July in Gulfport. Parades, the mayor singing the national anthem, an amazingly overdone fireworks show: everything about this day makes me happy. This town has 72 festivals including a GeckoFest, and of them all, I love the 4th the best. The celebration reminds me of the Fireman’s Carnival in Mamaroneck, my mom’s hometown.

Every year I photograph all or part of the day’s events for the Gabber, which makes for a long day. Luckily, this year we bought a house in Gulfport, so in between taking photos of the fishing derby, the sandcastle contest, and the parade, I rode my bike home (don’t bother looking for a parking spot anywhere near downtown on the 4th) to check on The Most Interesting Dog in the World and get water.

On one trip home, I find a beater white van in my driveway, with the hood popped, the driver’s door open, and the engine running. Which I find odd, even in Gulfport. So I call El Cap, who tells me no, he has no explanation. I next call my stone guys – Studio 50 Floor, which I still can’t say without chortling  – and the owner tells me no, it’s not one of his trucks. So I call the police. Maybe I watch too many Bones episodes, or maybe I just have a healthy paranoia, but to my way of thinking, an abandoned running vehicle in my driveway could be a bad thing.

The police arrive, and only then does my shirtless, half-drunk, freakshow of a neighbor saunter across the street with his gray underwear peeking out from his shorts and announce that he owns the van. He tells the cop this – why he waited for the police to arrive when he must have seen me outside, walking around the car and talking on the phone totally escapes me – and then says, “I’ll apologize to her husband”, to which Officer Parks responds, “she’s right here, why don’t you apologize to her?”

And, of course, because the synapses in this guy’s head don’t fire properly, he can’t just say “I’m sorry.” No. That would end this all too happily. He says, “I’m sorry, I thought you weren’t home.”

“In what universe,” I say – not in my inside voice, by the way, because now I’m late to get back downtown and I worried about the welfare of the driver who turned out to be this jerk who jumped in the gene pool when the lifeguard was off duty – “is that acceptable?”

“Well, I thought you weren’t home,” he repeats, which does nothing to improve my take on the situation. I draw a little horizontal box in the air with my fingers.

“This,” I say – again, NOT in my inside voice – as I draw the box, “is MY property. MINE. YOU DO NOT COME HERE. EVER.”

“I thought you weren’t home!”

At this point, two things happen. One, his van dies and he goes to get jumper cables. Two, I turn to Officer Parks and ask to use his gun. He refuses.

The van, of course, won’t take a jump because it ran out of gas in my yard. I start to hum the theme from Sanford and Son and ask Parks if he would be a dear and go ahead and shoot the guy for me. He declines. Gulfport cops are real jerks when it comes to stuff like that.

So, of course, he goes and gets his gas, fills the tank, jump starts the van, and parks it on the corner. Officer Parks does check his license and determines, much to my dismay, that it’s valid. He also checks the tag and determines it doesn’t belong to the van, which I assume results from Gulfport code enforcement tagging the van for having no tag recently, right about the time they told him he couldn’t leave the toilet in his driveway. Again, I lack the imagination to make this sort of stuff up.

But really, aside from the Mystery of the White Trash Van, I love the 4th. Honest. I may kill my neighbor (I really should delete that, because he’s a real “hold my beer and watch this” type of guy and I don’t want to be called in for questioning when he finally kills himself, but I like to think my readers – and the GPD – realize I don’t have a tendency towards violence) but I’m still digging this little town.

Published by


I write. I take pictures. I love my dog. I love Florida. My 2016 book, 'Backroads of Paradise' did really well for the publisher and now I feel a ridiculous amount of pressure to finish the second book.