Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Stunned Stupid

Michelle and Michael just back after a laid-back on-our-backs weekend in Key West (above).  We stayed with fellow sand fleas and beach buds, Ray and Ricci Wagner of points everywhere--Key West, Key East, Key North, and Key South. 

Also, made two new friends, Max and Renate, of Hamburg.  The Germans have a nifty state-of-the-art fifty foot sail boat that sleeps and seats eight easily and invited us to sail to Europe later this summer.  Storage is at a premium, however, since ¾ of the space is devoted to stowing a ton of St. Pauli and Amstel.  There will be another couple or two also going.  Of course, and no thinking about it, we will go . . . provided, of course, the weather forecast shows ZERO hurricanes looming.  Max says that we should make Bermuda in two weeks, the Azores in four and the Spanish Main in six (the Canaries in eight if we are blown off course).

Hmmmmm?  That’s a heap of sea time.  For some strange reason I thought sailing was faster than that.  Six weeks to Europe does not sound a whole heck of a lot faster than the Seventeenth-Century and the Mayflower.  Fact is, I have crossed the Atlantic several times by ship and even a ten day voyage starts to drag after ONE week.  Maybe we will fly to the Azores and there join the party for a short trip of a mere two weeks   I like it.  Yes!  We’ll do it.  Or we might.  Or we might think about it.  Or we think we might think about it . . . mostly.  Maybe. 

In a related note, Michelle and I have taken up competitive rowing.  Sculls.  We row on Lemon Bay.  Meanwhile. . . .

Empowering Women--Over at Margate, Florida, 34-year-old Eva Harman walked in and discovered her husband (and the father of her child), Alvin, with a female business associate engaged in hard work.  Judging by the passionate embrace and the tight fit of their plumbing, the couple were hard at work, alright, but their labor had nothing to do with the business.  And sooooooooo. . . .

It’s a sad state of discombobulation when women need to carry a stun gun on their key chain for defense.  Well, surprise, surprise, surprise!   Some ladies actually use a tazer for offensive purposes.  Al let slip his erotic embrace the very moment the volts reached his lower plumbing fixture, the main sex pipe.  Over and over again, a totally outraged wife zapped, zapped and ZAPPED some more the cheating hub.  While Al did his little chicken dance on the bed sheets, the cuckolding Jezebel made her naked flight out the window. 

With her unfaithful rat of a husband now more electrode than human, Eva turned her attention to the fleeing harlot.  Chasing her down, the outraged wife gave the deal-breaker some good old fashioned down home taze justice from her ray gun.  As the neighborhood looked on in disbelief . . . on her back, on her belly, on her butt, on her fake boobs, on her botox . . . everywhere there was a spot, there the volts of justice sought redress.

God Bless Florida . .  . . Got ta love it!

Anyway, as noted in an earlier blog, I have a book coming out any decade now entitled, Toledo Blade—The True Story of the Abduction, Rape and Murder of a Cop’s Daughter.  There are twenty or so chapters in the story and the following is one of them. . . . 


Everybody Loved Mikey

e blew down I-75, two lanes south.  Out his windows on either side, the world flew by in an 80 mile-an-hour blur—palm trees, swamps, ponds, white birds wading, white birds flying, RVs, big rigs, exit signs, mile markers—he didn’t see, he didn’t notice, he didn’t care.  The radio was loud, very loud.  Hard rock. That’s the way he liked it.  If he couldn’t hear, he couldn’t think.  And if he couldn’t think, he couldn’t worry.  Gunfire still hammered in his ears.  Gun powder still burned in his nose.  His head was about to bust.  There was also that pesky rocket in his pocket. 
He was screwed; totally screwed.  If he didn’t get a job he was screwed.  If he did get a job he was screwed.  If he went back to Michigan he was screwed.  If he stayed in Florida he was screwed.  If he saw the attorney today he was screwed.  If he didn’t see the attorney today he was screwed.  Hell, even if he got lucky tonight and actually got screwed, he was screwed.
He was supposed to meet with an attorney this morning and iron some things out.  Next to a trip to the doctor or dentist, a lawyer’s office was the last place on earth Mike wanted to be.  As he knew from painful experience, nothing good comes from any of the three, especially a bankruptcy lawyer’s office.  There were no two ways about it.  If you win you lose, if you lose you lose, and if you don’t go at all, well, just maybe the whole mess will go away.
As it turned out, a friend had come to the rescue this morning when he invited Mike to a firing range.  Target practice or a lawyer’s office?  Bullets or bull shit?  It was an easy choice for Mike to make.  No ammo?  No sweat.  Bob had plenty.  And so, instead of meeting with the attorney, Mike and Bob had spent an hour up in Venice blazing away at paper targets with their pistols.  There were no left-handed jokes as Mike hit everything with his 9mm . . . everything but the targets.  But still, that was much more fun than sitting in some douche bag’s office and paying him to tell you what you already knew, namely that you were a failure.  If the suit called and asked, “WTF?  Where were you?” Mike would just lie and say that he was awful sorry he had missed the appointment but he was in a terrible car crash on I-75 and was not expected to live.  A helicopter was air-lifting him to a Tampa hospital at that very moment.
Now, with the banging in his head and a whiff of gunpowder under his seat, Mike blew down busy 75 toward North Port.  Why?  Mike didn’t have a clue.  All that was in North Port was his empty home, nosy neighbors and . . . nothing.  He flew toward North Port probably for the same reason a homing pigeon returns to an empty box.  It was all he knew.
Words came tough for Michael King, real tough.  Somewhere between the brain and the mouth, somewhere between the thought and the sound, words just got lost.  And so, Mike avoided talking as much as possible.  It was just as well.  Unsure, unsteady, Mike spoke like a toddler walks . . . one . . . step . . . at . . . a . . . time.  Thus, he lacked the words necessary to describe his feelings this day.  If Mike had the words, or imagination, to explain how he felt today, it might go something like this:

My head feels like, you know, feels like messed up or something.  Some days my head, it feels like a nut . . . a walnut, like it’s cracking or something; yeah, like a walnut in a vise, I guess.  Other times my head feels like maybe it’s just gonna explode, blow up like a bomb and leave nothing but a smoking hole on my shoulders.  Today, it feels kinda like both, I guess, like a nut and a bomb.  The nut is in a vise and about ready to crack.  The bomb is about to explode too.  I mean, the lawyers and bank men they, you know, they keep turning the vise on my head.  And if I don’t get some pussy pretty soon, the bomb will explode.  The nut is cracking.  The bomb, it’s about to explode.  I mean, I know it.  I can feel it.  First I need some sex, you know, then okay, maybe things . . . maybe things will like get better or something.

Mike was not only short on words, but he was also pretty short on looks.  No, it wasn’t that Mike’s face was ugly or disgusting or anything; it was that his face was just . . . was just there.  Not bad looking, not good looking, just there.  Happiness?  Sadness?  Joy?  Pain?  Pity?  Sorrow?  Amazement?  Forget it!  If one judged Mike’s emotions by his looks they would judge that he had none.  Indeed, Mike King might just as well have been born wearing a mask—a dull, rather stupid-looking mask in which one size fits all.  His face was a blank.  Even in good times one could never be sure what Mike was thinking, or even if he was thinking.  Today, typically, there was even less on his face than normal.  Nothing.  Just that vapid look as he stared through his windshield down the highway.  One sensed that even were his leg being sawed off the look on Mike’s face would remain pretty much the same.  Strange.  In one sense his leg was being sawed off today, and so was his arm, and another arm.  Pretty soon came the head.  But you would never know it by looking at Mike’s face.
His most recent girl friend, Tennille, didn’t see anything different this morning.  When Mike woke up at her place in Ellenton, he seemed pretty much the same: Silent, stunned, staring.  Lately, she did take note that Mike complained of headaches and the buzzing in his head more than normal.  And his paranoia was about the same.  The doors had to be locked, the windows nailed down, the blinds pulled. The same mysterious people had been out there today and everyday, trying to get at him.  What they were going to do with him once they got him was never very clear but they were out there, they wanted him, and they were always looking for their chance.
Mike was still going through his trances, as well; his space outs.  Once, when he was totally “zoned,” Tennille had to snap her fingers at him, then yell into his face to break the stunned state.  But hey, what’s new?  Such stuff, maybe strange for some, had long ago become routine for Mike.  But no, there was nothing really unusual that stood out to Tennille this morning.  While she had gone on to work Mike had stayed in and she had thought nothing about it.  But Mike was different this morning, though neither Tennille, or Mike himself, for that matter, even knew it.
Mike stared straight through the windshield down busy I-75.  Though his expressionless face didn’t suit the screeching metal music on the radio, the blank look was befitting the monotony of the road.  He had traveled this stretch so many times, going back and forth from Michigan, back and forth from Homosassa, back and forth from Tennille’s, that he could almost take a snooze and the car would drive itself.
He was in a big time fix now; the biggest fix of his life.  If he closed his eyes and made a wish, then maybe POOF! all his problems would vanish.  If he lied and told himself that he wasn’t bankrupt, maybe he wouldn’t be bankrupt.  If he lied and told himself he wasn’t going to lose his home, maybe he wouldn’t lose his home.  If he lied and told himself that Jen would call today begging him to come back, maybe she would.  Lies and delusions were easy, easier than the truth.  In the short term, lies helped.  Lies postponed reality.  Lies made the minutes and hours tolerable.  And, even in the long haul, if you believed in a lie long enough and hard enough the lie might really come true.  Lies were good.  Lies were friends.  Lies made him important.  Lies made him famous. Lies made him rich and powerful.  Lies made him sexy and wanted.  If Mike believed in them hard enough, lies were his reality. 


Just like honesty and integrity are key components in the character of some people, lying and deception had become such a fundamental part of Michael Lee King’s personality that one could not be separated from the other.  Mike couldn’t help himself; he couldn’t stop lying any more than he could stop thinking about sex.  Though it usually came back to bite him in the ass—even got him fired not once, but twice--he couldn’t help lying.  If the truth somehow managed to escape Mike’s mouth before a lie, it was solely by accident.
Such a pattern of lying didn’t happen over night, of course.  It began way, way back in his childhood.  Most kids fib.  But most kids grow out of it.  Somewhere back down the line most kids learn that lying, in time, has consequences far worse than telling the truth.  Mike never learned that lesson; Mike never learned it because, well. . . .  Although he was a good kid, a cute kid, even a loving kid, a kid that didn’t cause much trouble no way, no how, pretty quick it became apparent to Mr. and Mrs. King that their most recent couldn’t pour water out of a boot even if an arrow was stamped on the heel.  Of five siblings little Mikey clearly drew the short straw.
First grade is usually a time when children begin exploring their social world, forming friendships with other kids and learning the do’s and don’ts of peerdom.  Not so Mikey.  He struggled with everything.  The English alphabet might as well have been the Chinese alphabet where Mikey was concerned and he never did get it straight.  Math?  One plus one somehow always equaled one.  Even with his fingers Mikey couldn’t come up with “two.”  Repeating the first grade was a foregone conclusion, but it didn’t help.  Nor did special ed.  There simply was no progress.  While his classmates zipped along, by the time he was eight, Mikey still didn’t know all the letters in the alphabet, nor how many inches were in a foot.  Mikey was classified as ‘learning disabled’ with an IQ just north of retarded.
A nasty accident in childhood didn’t help his head skills any.  One wintry day in Michigan, the King kids were out being kids with a snowmobile, a long rope and a plastic saucer sled.  An older brother was towing Mikey behind.  He was going the only speed a kid that age knows.  When he yelled for Mikey to let go of the rope, Mikey didn’t.  Head-first the child slammed straight into a post.  At the clip they had been going, the others thought sure Mikey was dead.  Indeed, when they finally reached his side their little brother gave no indication of being alive.  But then, as the others screamed and cried, Mikey’s eyes suddenly popped open.  Although his head was a bloody mess and soon swelled to the size of a pumpkin, the little boy somehow recovered.  Numerous trips to doctors and dentists to repair the damage, however, implanted a terror in the child that he never did shake.  Later, he would run away to avoid the painful appointments.
Low as the bar has been set in most American high schools to accommodate even the dullest laggard, it still wasn’t low enough for Mike.  No way could he climb over that low bar and graduate.  And so he entered the work force.  By all accounts Mike was not only a plumber but a pretty good plumber at that.  Mike might have been a great plumber if he could remember how many inches were in a foot or how many feet were in a yard. When filling out forms he would call girl friends and ask them how to spell “water,” “tile,” “pipe,” and other such stumpers.  After he married Danielle some of his problems were solved.  But then came the divorce and Mike was back to asking his little son, Matthew, how to scrawl those mysterious numbers onto his checks.
Mike was proud and protective of “Matty.”  After the divorce, Mike and Matty moved to Florida to be closer to the grandparents who were seasonal “snowbirds” in Ellenton.  Matty adjusted well to the move.  Unlike his father, Matty was good in school and as sharp as a tack.  Despite bouncing around to several different schools, Matty was doing just fine, socially and academically.  He had friends.  Math, reading and writing were a snap.  And Matty had no trouble speaking. 
Poor with the spoken word, poorer still with the written word, the dad could barely string together a five-word sentence that made any sense.  Over the years, to compensate for his inability to converse, the dad had assumed a soft, very soft, voice, almost a whisper.  Mostly, however, Mike said little, adhering to the ancient adage:

Better to keep one’s yap shut and thought an idiot rather than open it and remove all doubt.

Another tool the dad adopted to gain an edge in life was lying.  Mike was slow.  He was not a moron or an idiot, just very slow.  Lying leveled the playing field somewhat and made Mike seem less slow.  Lying made him appear bigger than he was, more important, more interesting, smarter, sexier.  He told people he was a male stripper.  At 5’8” and 200 pounds, not many swallowed that one.  He told anyone who would listen that he was a close friend of the performer, “Kid Rock.”  Hell, Mike had never even seen the rapper in the flesh much less become his pal.  Mike bragged about cruisin’ through the giant redwood forest with his top down even though he’d never been to California and never owned a convertible.  Mike’s lies covered the gamut and he could tailor to suit, depending on the subject at hand.  And when listeners told him to his face he was lying, Mike even lied about lying, insisting he was telling the truth.
One might imagine that if one told a thousand lies a day one might become pretty good at it.  One might imagine that with so much practice one might become a pretty convincing liar.  One might imagine such a thing about Michael King, but one would imagine wrong.  Mike was a terrible liar.  Not even close.  Maybe he wasn’t smart enough to actually plan, plot and present a successful lie.  And so, Mike made ‘em up as he went along.  Now, since talking was already tough enough for Mike, talking and thinking at the same time made the telling of a tall tale almost impossible, especially when someone was staring in astonishment at his struggling mug.  And so, wide and bulging, Mike’s eyes would dart to the floor, to the wall, to the window, here, there, everywhere as he unrolled his lies, everywhere but into the eyes of the person he was spinning his yarns to.  If one knew Mike, the whole performance was better than a free monkey show.  His friends and family learned to accept this routine as just a part of the package.  As a child, it was not only entertaining, but it was innocent, even lovable.
“Everybody loved Mikey,” said a brother.
Such fibbing in childhood might be cute, but in adulthood?  Remembered a cousin, Harold Muxlow, who lived not so very far away from King in North Port:

One time he told me he had this big truck, the biggest on the road.  So I was like, “Oh yeah, let’s go see it.”  He claimed it was in the shop so I made him drive me by the shop and I didn’t see the truck.  He called me the next day and said the truck had been stolen from the shop.

“Mikey had a big imagination,” said Muxlow with heavy understatement.
One thing Mikey didn’t have to lie about was money.  Before he lost his jobs, he had plenty of dough.  And there was nothing cheap about Mike.   When he had work, the money flowed like tap water.  Money propped him up.  Money bought him friends.  Money got him girls.
When he left work each evening at Babe’s Plumbing in Venice, Mike hit the bars looking for babes.  Sometimes a young friend or two tagged along.  One such friend was John.  John was green and gullible and didn’t have a clue.  Green as he was, even John had trouble believing most of Mike’s lies. But heck, Mike had plenty of bucks to back his boasts, so what the hey?
When Mike had a tent pole in his pants—which was almost always--he would stop by John’s place on little or no notice and tell him to get up and get dressed.  “We’re goin’ out,” was the simple command.  After a quick trip to the ATM, all the evening’s expenses were covered, courtesy of King.   One place the two hung out at was “Emerald City,” a strip joint in nearby Port Charlotte.  Since John was better with words, Mike would slip him a sawbuck to approach hotties and pimp his virtues.  King had a keen eye for short, slender young things with long brown hair.
One night, strangely secretive, Mike took green John to his home.  Inside, King led the young man to a closet where there was a duffel bag.  When he opened the bag up Mike’s big eyes got bigger as he watched John’s face freeze in surprise.  Inside were shiny silver bars, just like at Ft. Knox or something.  Before green John could ask “Who, What, Where?” King told him he had knocked off a jewelry store a short time before.  To back his claim, he pointed to a black mask and a very serious shotgun lying nearby.  Say anything to anyone, Mike warned with high drama, and he would ice his ass as quick as he would squash a bug.
Hitting the bars, working on cars, riding their motorcycles through the woods and palmettos of North Port—Mike just up and bought John a dirt bike one day—the Tom and Huck life might have gone on longer had not John suddenly gotten hitched one day.  Since he was short on funds, John spent the next month honeymooning at his mother’s house.  The friendship did continue, but Mike was now far more interested in the bride than the groom.  Stephanie--small, slim, long-haired, young--was, if possible, even greener than her green groom.  On the sly, Mike began filling Stephanie’s ear full of lies about John—that he was worthless, that he really didn’t love her, that he was cheating on her, that he was poking prostitutes.  After a few minor spats during the first month of matrimony, Stephanie starting believing the stories from the older man.
One morning Mike picked up John and dropped him off at work.  From there King quickly circled back with a cold six-pack and told Stephanie that John did not go to work as he had said, but was with another woman instead.  Mike, of course, offered a strong shoulder for Steph to cry on.  When she got to Mike’s home on Sardinia Avenue, a totally pissed off newlywed proceeded to drown her sorrows by chugging beer.  She soon passed out.  When she later awoke in King’s bed, Steph found that the bed’s owner was snuggled behind her with his twittle in her twattle.
Meanwhile, John was growing suspicious.  When Mike didn’t pick him up after work as promised, when Stephanie didn’t answer the phone, it finally began to dawn on John that he was being cuckolded. John called the cops, placed a “no-trespass” order on King, promptly accepted Stephanie back, then moved away to West Virginia.
Though he may not have been a male stripper, Mike was no total loser.  True, when King wasn’t telling a bug-eyed lie, his face was stuck in that rather dull, stupid mask.  But on the rare occasions when he opened up and smiled, some found him charming, even passable handsome.  Mike was a young chap, in his thirties, neat, clean, and usually well-dressed. He loved to fuss and primp his hair, often dying it blond. He sported a dapper van dyke.  He was also a frequent flyer in the local tanning salons. Consequently, Mike never seemed to lack for love.  In fact, he bragged about his conquests.  Throwing money around didn’t hurt, of course.  But Mike could also swagger when he wanted.  When making the rounds of the local hot spots, King could strut that certain “Saturday Night Fever” strut that suggested to any and all that every sexy woman secretly wanted him.  A number of slender young things with long brown hair did indeed buy what Mike was selling, or rather, they were willing to accept what Mike was happy to give. 
One day, in the parking lot outside the plumbing shop, King saw a woman sitting in a car exposing her breast to him.  Since she was obviously advertising, Mike whipped out his unit and did a commercial of his own.  Actually, the lady was a breast-feeding mother and she promptly reported the incident.
Mike also loved fast, cool cars—first a red Vette, then a black Mustang, now an emerald green Camaro with a stealthy black sports “bra.”  He was always waxing and shining his cars and humming while he did.  He also loved popping wheelies on his motorcycle and playing “Evel Knievel.”
Although plumbing paid the bills, Mike would have preferred being a fast shuffling con artist or a gangster, not a fixer of leaky pipes.  He talked about wheeling and dealing with cars; he imagined that he was a stick-up man; fact is, although he lacked a permit, Mike was always packing a pistol.   But Mike was way too dim to be a successful con man; in fact, at the midway ring-toss hustle Mike was the classic mark, every carnie’s dream-come-true.  And as for being a crook?  One of King’s mortal dreads was landing in jail.  His fear had almost nothing to do with crappy food or the loss of freedom; it had everything to do with being gang-raped.  That same sexy body which all women found so irresistible would be just as lusted after by hardened criminals, Mike felt.  Although he might walk the razor’s edge, might pack heat, might shoot BBs into his bitchy neighbor’s screen windows when they weren’t looking, might even get a friend’s wife drunk and drill her, Mike had a horror of being tossed into a tank full of mean street niggers and being drilled himself.  That thought alone was enough to keep him teetering on the safe side of that razor’s edge.
Fast cars, guns, lots of dead presidents--there were other reasons some girls were drawn to Mike.  Unlike so many other shiftless characters, Mikey was a hard worker; he was good at what he did and more than one person complimented him on a job well done.  He was never loud, he was patient, laid back.  He did drink some, true.  He did smoke some, true.  He did drug some, true.  But he never got hooked on any of it.  He could take ‘em or leave ‘em.  Bars were places to hunt pussy, not get hammered.
Whatever the reason, Michael King had no problem bonin’ babes.  Mike’s problem was nailing ‘em down once he had boned ‘em.
Actually, fun as the night life was, Mikey really preferred the married side.  He preferred square meals, stability, and a steady squeeze.  He missed Danielle and Jen.  Pain in the ass that both often were, they both were part of the good times.  He missed family life.  Living was easier with a partner who could write a letter for him, balance his check book and cover his can in general.  He missed the kids, too.  When he wasn’t domestic, he was wild, alone, vulnerable.  When he was single, he had to lie even more than normal.
First love—love of his life—Danielle had flat left he and their little boy, Matty, up in Michigan nearly ten years ago for some dude she met on the net.  One day she was there, the next day she was not.  She left like she was late for something; not even a “Sorry, Charlie.”  Bad enough to be jacked by a real flesh and blood guy, but really?  Dumped for some smooth-typing Romeo on the internet his wife had never even met?  When he later begged Danielle down to Florida and back into his embrace, she left him again after a year or so.  And that was that.
His second great love—Jennifer—had dumped him up in Homosassa two months ago, on Thanksgiving night.   Jen thought a lot of Mike, maybe even loved him, but Jen had a tough time reining in her own wild side, that impulsive side which had been her life-long nemesis.  Mike loved Jen.  He loved her wild side.  And she was smart too.  And sexy.  He didn’t show it, and he probably didn’t even know it, but breaking up with Jen was a killer.
In between those two, there were a series of one night, one week and one month stands.  Tennille was the most recent but she was just an “on-again, off-again.”  Maybe it was the lying that got to them all.
Lying was also why King was in his current cash crunch.  Although he was considered a reliable employee and an excellent plumber, Mikey couldn’t let well enough alone.  Lying about red woods and rock stars was one thing, but when it hurt business, that’s where a boss draws the line.  First pink slip came in 2004 when Mikey rigged a watery disaster at a job site then blamed it on a hated co-worker.  Several years later, Mikey asked for his old job back, lying that he had learned his lesson about lying.  The boss believed him.  A few weeks later, when it was learned that King was telling customers that the company had been sold, the boss called him in again.  When Mike lied about the lie, the boss sent him packing pronto, this time for good.
Now that the money had dried up, times were tough, very tough.  After Jen, people commented that he seemed more depressed than usual, more distant, more “zoned out.”  After Jen, he seemed to be drifting aimlessly.  The loss of his love, the failure to find work either in Florida or Michigan, foreclosure, bankruptcy, missed payments, debt—any one of which would have been quite enough to drive most men to drink—was crushing.  But Mike didn’t hit the jug, at least not any more than usual.  Nor did he do anymore dope than normal.  Instead he just retreated further into a cold, impersonal world of make-believe where trances, headaches and that mind-blowing buzzing between his ears were his constant companions.  Even his lies lacked their normal wide-eyed vigor.
Lying wouldn’t get Jen back; lying wouldn’t get his job back; lying wouldn’t stop the foreclosure or his bankruptcy; lying wouldn’t put his life back together.  He still had Matty . . . well, not really.  Even Matty was gone from him, back up in Michigan with a brother and his wife. The life King was leading now was certainly no place for a kid.  The boy had turned 12 on Monday and the father had wept when he called to wish him happy birthday.


And so today, as his green Camaro sped down I-75 almost by itself, Mikey turned up the radio, stepped on the gas, and blazed south toward North Port and an almost vacant house.  Why?  Who knows?  Perhaps he had lied once more and convinced himself that there was a pretty young woman in town who secretly wanted him, someone with long, brown hair who would treat him right tonight and relieve the terrible pressure not only in his head but in his pants.  It was hard to tell what Michael Lee King was thinking today because he looked very much like he did on any other day.  Even those who knew him best saw nothing really all that unusual.  He looked pretty much like the same old Mike.
But he was not the same old Mike.  And this was not any other day.  Somewhere on I-75, somewhere between the gun range up in Venice and his old home down in North Port, something happened.  The pressure was just too great. The vise won.  The nut cracked.  Today--in less than an hour, in fact--that razor’s edge would be crossed; crossed in a way that would change for the worse the lives of many people . . . and end the life of one.