Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Lionel and the Laws of Karma

An old friend of ours, Captain Mike (the names in this narrative have been changed), once made the following observation

"Your karma catches up with you fast here in Key West. It’s an island. It’s round. There’s no place for it to go. If you do something to somebody, before you know it, your karma comes all the way around the island in a circle and hits you in the back of the head!"
Mike was the same guy who first pointed Lionel out to us. Lionel was a hip dude. Years before, when Mike briefly worked in our school system, Lionel had been one of his students. He was bright and a smooth talker, too bright and too smooth for his own good. Instead of finishing his education, going to the mainland and getting a good job like his classmates, he stayed in town, living by his wits. For a while, Mike told us, he operated an "after hours" club downtown, eventually developing a considerable "rap sheet," and spent periods of time both in our local juzgado and in the prison system upstate.

A number of years later Mike got into a domestic dispute fueled by alcohol, and spent a period of time as a guest of the county at our facilities on Stock Island himself. He was really grateful that Lionel was there to help him adjust to his new surroundings.

Time passed, and Lionel surfaced again. Another friend, a good-natured Irishman who lived in Marathon, was doing dock repairs at a shrimp house on Stock Island. He met an engaging fellow who, after chatting for a while, asked him if he could help him out by driving him and a box of shrimp he had just acquired from one of the boats to a customer downtown who was waiting for it. His ride hadn’t shown up, and the ice on the shrimp was starting to melt in the summer heat. The Irishman, being a fine fellow, was glad to oblige. When he got back to the dock, a shrimper came over and said, "Well, have you got the money?"
"What do you mean?" asks the Irishman. "He didn’t say anything about any money. He just wanted me to give him a ride downtown."
"That son of a bitch owes me $300!" says the shrimper. "He said you was supposed to bring it back!" Lionel had struck again.

Mike left town, and we heard Lionel was jail again. Time passed. A couple of years later we heard that the police were cracking down on drug dealing again and that a lot of the activity had moved into different neighborhoods. There did seem to be a few more JDLR’s (just don’t look rights) around, including, of all people, Lionel, riding around on a brand new shiny bicycle.

One day we were walking near the cemetery. We saw Lionel go by! A couple of blocks away, on a side street, a house was under construction. There was a Porta Potty in the yard. On the ground nearby was Lionel’s shiny new bike. "Look!" I said. "Isn’t that Lionel’s bike? I wonder where he is. Why would he leave his bike here?" We kept walking up to the corner, and headed home. I turned around and there was Lionel, furiously pedaling toward the cemetery gate, looking back over his shoulder, his eyes bulging out wide behind his fancy designer glasses.

A short time later the word "snitching" appeared below the word "stop" on all the STOP signs in the neighborhood.

We never saw Lionel again. (We did hear he got into trouble again and is doing more time upstate.) One day Mike called from his new home up north, and we told him the story of Lionel and the Porta Potty. "I can guarantee ya he was in the Porta Potty ‘getting off.’" he said. "Ya know, what happens with that stuff, after the initial rush, is extreme paranoia. He doesn't know ya from Adam. Ya really must have blown his mind!"

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