Kak walked down Duval considering the fickle physics of grief and just how she might get Rudy to depression. Even with the progress of the day, she needed a method of speeding up.
She saw it on the corner of Duval and Caroline Street. Sunshine Scooters and its fleet of bicycles. Five minutes and fifteen dollars later Kak glided south, pedaling a blue conch cruiser with the wind in her face.
Clothing. She’d need a few things. A block later she stopped at a shop that would fill the bill. She locked her bike to a light post at the corner and went in.
She worked quickly, selecting a pair of periwinkle Key Largo Pedal Pushers that came just to her knees. This she matched to a white Catalina top with a curved hemline and three-quarter sleeves she could push up to her elbows. She added a coral Tidepool Geo Marisa sundress. It might not be needed for twenty-nine hours on the island but if bargaining failed the splurge wouldn’t matter. The shop didn’t carry bras or panties. She’d work that out along the way. At the counter she took out the envelope containing the one thousand dollars of mad money Stammer gave her for the honeymoon. The three items drew her remaining cash down to eight hundred thirty dollars.
She placed the bag of clothing in the basket on the cruiser’s handlebars and shoved off again. A block later she locked it up in front of the drugstore. Hairbrush, razor, toothbrush, floss, sunscreen, lip balm. Done.
Rudy’s shampoo and deodorant would do in a pinch but she needed a razor. Judging from the closeness of his shave Rudy was a blade guy. Not wanting to risk it and find out he was one of those men whose sacred razor should never touch a woman’s legs, she bought one.
On the way to checkout, she took a detour through the grocery section and got a bottle of water out of the cold case. Outside she washed down a doxepin. That left thirty-nine.
From there she walked her bike down to the Gap Factory Store at the end of the block and picked up the cheapest bra and two panties she could see herself wearing.
Back on the cruiser and free from these preparations, she glided further down Duval. The death of Rudy’s father obviously started him on his path from denial to anger. Together, she and Rudy had achieved bargaining. Check. Was it more expedient to use his father’s death again to advance him? Or was there another opportunity she hadn’t yet recognized? She didn’t like being a mercenary, especially with someone’s feelings, but these were desperate times.
She couldn’t help paying attention to the street names intersecting Duval. She liked them. Petronia. Olivia. Amelia. If she had time she’d have stayed. She’d have learned the genesis of every one of them.
South Street loomed and she, having no particular reason to choose either direction, picked right. A few turns of the pedals brought her to a large thimble-shaped marker, perhaps ten feet in height. Or was it a buoy? Emblazoned across it was the claim that it rested on the Southernmost Point of the Continental United States. Vacationers stood in a line two hundred feet long waiting to pose in front of the red, black and yellow marker. The photos were immediately posted to Facebook or Instagram, she supposed. It seemed the thing to do. Immediately to the right, wedged in between the giant thimble and a bronze statue of a man blowing a conch shell like a trumpet, something far more interesting beckoned and got no attention at all.
The black cursive print on the white umbrella said Mama Zamira Massage and Spiritual Balance. The umbrella provided shade for a massage table and a smaller square table with painted figurines on it arranged around a woven grass mat. The massage table was mounted on wheels and hitched to a bicycle painted with every color imaginable.
A young woman, perhaps thirty, with skin the color of burnt umber and tar-black hair protruding from a white mesh skull cap stood behind the rig folding a large beach towel. A white robe covered her body but judging from the angle of her jaw she was trim and athletic. Kak tried to insert her into the game she often played in her head, encapsulating her in a paragraph as if introducing her in a story. Nothing came.
A line of chalk dust encircled the entire operation. Just a thin line all the way around it. Sprinkled onto the pavement. A deliberate demarcation. Something told Kak not to cross it.
“Nice operation,” Kak said. “I’m envious.”
The woman placed the folded towel carefully on the massage table before answering. “I can help you with that.”
From her appearance Kak had expected an accent. Something from the Caribbean perhaps. This woman spoke as if she’d grown up in Kak’s neighborhood. She chided herself. Never judge a book.
Kak also guessed it wouldn’t have mattered what she’d said to a seasoned street vendor like this. A purveyor of physical and mental healing would claim to resolve any malady for a fee.
“You can help me with envy?” Kak asked.
“No. I enjoy the envy.” The woman raised a hand to block the intense mid-day sun. She seemed to consider Kak from within the hand-shaped shadow she’d created. “I was talking about the mixed up energy all around you.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean you have the cart pulling the horse. In your head. It’s all backwards.”
The words sent a shiver through Kak. She nearly tripped over her bike closing the distance between them. “You can see it?”
“I can feel it.”
“You’re Mama Zamira?”
“Just call me Zamira.”
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