One Spirit’s Legacy (Part 3: The 18 Mile Stretch 1992)


“May the taxi, be with you.”

I certainly agree, it lacks the timeless luster of other cosmic phrases – may the force be with you… wish upon a shining star. Or, “ET phone home.”   Being a nautical spirit, I sail from a different side of the universe.  My experience with stars is that starfish grow back their appendages, and brilliant Auroras that sweep across Earth’s sky are simply an energetic gathering of phosphorescence from the deep sea…taking flight.

For an occupied heart relishing a life by the sea, it’s a nautical spirit, ageless and untouchable, that moves…and sometimes carries a dream to reality.  By genuine measures, we nudge folks to embrace and honor their nautical connection.

Like the internal shift in mood that befalls the last sunset on a once a year beach vacation.  How a solitary gull in flight leads to a pivotal distraction, of wanting to go where it goes.  Or, being perceptive to the shoes and sunglasses of strangers, suggestive of which ones are actually island locals; then hope, for how wild to be an island local, should this stranger turn out to become a friend.

Getting a person, who is love struck with the ocean, to actually pull up Midwestern roots and move to the coast is a nebulous affair for any nautical spirit. Anciently refined, my influence is simple but persistent.  No need for GPS satellites or rocket ships. If it comes to salvaging a plan, my instincts say, “Call a taxi.”


Sometimes it takes more than fancy foot work by a sea spirit and a good paycheck to get a person settled into their new ocean-side digs. Case in point, back in 1992 there was that young nurse from Springfield, Missouri, aka Show Me Gal.

A bit of background, I was up to my “sawgrass” in time and emotion on getting this one moved to Florida. But that’s a whole other story.  The important point, she was finally in Florida. MIAMI.  She said, only for a thirteen week travel nurse assignment (they all say that) but I knew that after three months of living under palm trees and eating Cuban bread, her next and final stop would be Florida DOT, for a coveted Sunshine State Driver’s License.

On this one particular evening, all was going well, until it went to Bermuda in a clam basket. It was a lesson for me to not count my turtles until the eggs hatch.

When word reached me that Show Me Gal had ran over a body; on a night with a 2% waning crescent moon, smack in the Everglades, with two men standing in the shadows of tall swamp grass and one guy getting out of his car – my prayer to Neptune was for Florida Highway Patrol to make it to her in time.  All of us Nautical Spirits that work this area of the state watch enough Miami Vice to know…stuff happens. What doesn’t rot in the Everglades gets eaten by an alligator. She hadn’t been in South Florida long enough to get sunburn, much less know who to trust. Guided by instinct, I knew it was time to call for a taxi.

When the dispatcher of Cheapo Island Taxi took my information, she must have surely thought I was one Rum Runner over the limit.  With a raspy cough, she sputtered out that it was my lucky night.  Something about Jethro had  got out of jail this morning, then took a load to Miami Airport this evening, dropped his load at ten-ish, and was now between Last Chance Saloon and Key Largo.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  If Florida Highway Patrol didn’t make it in time, I had faith that Cheapo Taxi would.

Shortly after making the call, a patch of thunderstorms blew in from the west, effectively silencing the airwaves of any updates from the Everglades. Rumors came in that blue and red strobe lights from the Everglades could be seen from as far away as planet Mercury.  One snarky spirit even staged a slip, that she heard from reliable sources there was a homicide investigation underway….by Miami Vice.  Or maybe the informant said, “My, don’t you look nice.”

How could this be happening?  And by golly, where was Jethro?
It wasn’t until the next morning that I realized how helpful Jethro had been.  Not once, but thrice.

In disguise, as a gecko on the window sill, I caught up with Jethro at the Cheapo office, for his end-of-shift ritual of dropping off his taxi and unloading his thoughts.  Sitting across from the dispatcher, whose voice I recognized, Jethro gave an impressive account of the previous night.  Between noisy chews of beef jerky, swigs of Rolling Rock Beer, and intermittent drags off his Cigarette, I got the story in one, long run on sentence…

When I saw that road block of police cars, I thought, ‘Hell, did they find something else on me?’  After dealing with that crazy cranked up couple, I’d just dropped off at the airport, another night in jail didn’t actually seem all that awful. Anyway, the officer was real nice. Said there was a body in the road, be careful driving around it. I did just that.  But when I got up there closer, I recognized him. His shirt!   Man, I almost hit that fella on my trip TO Miami. He stepped out of the tall grass and into the road, right in front of me. I swerved like all get out. Laid on the horn. Crazy Man! Course it threw the pair in the backseat around pretty well – Karma must have known they weren’t gonna’ tip me, and decided to even the score early. Ha! Anyway, I decided since the Police wasn’t looking for me, I’d tell em what I saw on my way to Miami. Got another beer in the fridge?

Know something else, strange? I was cruising through Dion’s parking lot to put more Cheapo cards on the payphone, when a clean cut sort of guy, looks like one of those resort workers, stepped up to my window and asks if I gave a young lady a ride. He pointed to a parked Toyota and says she would have been driving that vehicle. I’ll be dang, if I did recognize the truck. It was sittin’ on the side of the road where the dead body was. Police inside the car, underneath the car, taking pictures. I told him what I knew. Washed the color right out of his face.”

How could I have forgotten the sailor? Show Me Gal was on that road because she was on her way to the Florida Keys to meet up with her new friend.  I didn’t know much about him, other than he was a nice young man, another former Midwestern, that lived on a sailboat.  From what I gathered, eavesdropping on the coconut telegraph, this guy had no tolerance for babes with drama. Oh, boy. I wondered if he was going to make tonight out as a drama scene, straight off Cops….Bad Boys, Whatcha Gonna Do?

But all that ends – ends as it should for a Nautical Spirit.  Just as I felt that migraine coming on, I received a rare Tarpon Telegraph.  Show Me Gal and Sailor Man were spotted down on Lower Matecumbe Bridge in an embrace.  According to Capt. Morgan, who was there on scene for a stout cocktail debriefing, the events are as follow:

Show Me Gal ran over a person lying outstretched on the road, known as  the ‘eighteen mile stretch’ at around midnight. She pulled over and for twenty minutes she held her ground with three strange men.  Two stepped out of the swamp to chide and provoke her but disappeared into the darkness when Florida Highway Patrol arrived on the scene. The other guy, a gentleman says he was the first to hit the man; he thought it was a bucket in the road….but it was instead a person sitting in his lane. Using the gentleman’s cellphone she notified Dade County Fire and Rescue, and scrambled to place her emergency road flares.  She decided to not return to the body to render aid, since it was apparent from afar it was indeed a casualty.  Once FHP arrived, it turned into a vehicular homicide investigation. Several hours later, she and the other driver were cleared.  She tried getting a message to the sailor who was waiting on her, but was unsuccessful. Her plan was to continue onto the Florida Keys to meet her friend, but nerves and anxiety got the best of her – with a ferocious thunderstorm raging, she began having hallucinations of drenched bodies lying on the road.  She phoned her Miami roommate instead of Cheopo Taxi, left her Toyota at a convenience store in Key Largo, and the roommate came and gave her a lift down to where she was to meet the sailor. Over fifty miles away, communication wires got crossed, paths got missed, but eventually, the couple  finally united in a sweet embrace on Lower Matecumbe bridge.

A quiet little island key, with a bait & tackle convenience store, sailor man (now known as Captain Chameleon) bought her a fountain drink, mixed in some rum – they sat down together, as locals do, to process the events by keeping their eyes fixed to the water.

The End

The events of that night will always be with me.  Most prominent, are my thoughts that are centered on the man who died; his body badly broken, in the middle of a dark and desolate road.   I believe his spirit, as it left that night, saw that he was not alone, and that I was there – crying for him, struggling to make sense of what I could see and not see, while focused on the basics that would hopefully keep me from becoming a victim.

There were no newspaper articles, no additional police information that was made available to me.  Aside from prayers, I choose to remember him by writing this story.

Until we meet again,

Show Me Gal / Seamore Nautical Spirits

Echoes in Rain by Enya

Ophelia by Natalie Merchant

Needing Answers (Part 2: The 18 Mile Stretch 1992)

It was close enough to midnight when he stopped checking the clock, switched off the brass salon light, and turned towards the companion way.   Reaching for his flashlight, he used his other hand to loosely hold and guide himself up the creaky teak ladder.  Stepping out and into the dark, a curtain of humidity and stillness greeted him.  Drawing in a slow deep breath, he pulled his shoulders back, rolled his neck slowly to one side, and casually appraised what he believed to be every sailor’s idea of paradise; the Florida Keys.  Exhaling, his senses had already finished collecting and processing the moment: it was a pungent infusion of outgoing tide; exposed mangrove roots, seagrass beds, and millions of crusty barnacles on every piling – from Key West to Miami. 

He looked upward, along the mast.  Confirming Maria’s anchor light was shining bright, his curiosity ascended to the dome of brilliant stars that seemed to exist, if only for the sake of this one particular harbor.  Noticing the absence of any wind, his gaze settled onto an imaginary line of a hundred or so other swaying anchor lights – Maria’s neighbors.   It was a field so to speak, of nautical wheelers…Magic, Namaste, Wanderer, Free Bird.   

The music of Santana, wafting from Dockside had just stopped, signaling closing time and last call at the bar.  If he hurried, he might reach the dinghy dock in time for a Captain Morgan and coke.  Not his usual habit, but tonight it made sense.  He’d order his drink, and then check the worn corkboard located at the end of the bar for thumbtacked notes scribbled with the name, Maria.  Between the bartenders taking phone messages for the live-aboards, and the coconut telegraph, information got around.   None of the boaters in Boot Key Harbour seemed to miss or need a phone.  Consider it one less string attached.

Pleased there were no new messages, he tipped his glass to drain the last bit of vanilla infused rum when the glass sliding door signaled that Dockside was done for the night.  Stepping outside onto shadowed planks, he watched the last of the last fumble into their dinghies and putter home to their boats.  Smiling and very much awake, in spite of the late hour, he walked over to an outlying bench, sat down, and waited for her to arrive…any minute.

Minutes multiplied to an hour.  At least a dozen pair of approaching headlights had danced among the palms, growing brighter and brighter; each time, he watched and hoped it would be her car rounding the corner.  Where was she?  If she left work as planned, she would have had plenty of time to make the drive from Miami.  Yes, he barely knew her, but at the same time he really liked her…last time they spoke, she was looking forward to a visit to snorkel Sombrero reef.  Digging in his pocket for quarters, he made his way to a payphone, dropped the necessary change in, and dialed her number.  


Hours and hours overdue, and no answer to his calls, he drove north to retrace the only route linking the Keys back to Miami.  Stopping ever so often to feed another payphone and leave another urgent message on her answering machine, the night had suddenly gotten very long and confusing. 

Early dawn, her abandoned Toyota 4Runner was found.  At a convenience store where the 18 mile stretch becomes north Key Largo.  The guy working the night shift confirmed he saw the red Toyota pull in and park near the door, during a particularly strong down pour.  A lady with long hair was driving.  What he knows is that after the rain let up, no one came in, the car remained in the same spot, but she was gone.  That was quite a few hours earlier.

It didn’t occur to him until now, that he probably should have called the police.

to be continued…  

18 Mile Stretch (Part 1)

Three years ago, I set out to write a short story about a particular event. I thought after the first story was posted, the second piece would come about rather quickly. But that’s not what happened. And that’s ok. When I woke up this morning, I had no agenda but to first enjoy my coffee. Within five minutes I was fixing breakfast for Captain Chameleon. Sometime between that second cup of coffee and drinking a glass of fresh squeezed Florida orange juice, the energy, the desire, the ability to sit down and create part 2 happened. It’s not polished but that’s ok also, because I fear if I were to sit on it…it would be another three years. These challenging weeks, this month especially, I really need a diversion from 2020. So I hope you enjoy a blast from the past…1992

Seamore Nautical Spirit is isolating on a boat in Tarpon Springs, Florida.

Prayers that you, your family, and friends are well, and that we find ourselves on the other side of this great challenge, as stronger, kinder, and more in love with life.

Seamore Nautical Spirits

Story from a bottle. Mexico
Anclote River, Tarpon Springs. Sunrise.
Sponge Docks, Tarpon Springs.

The 18 Mile Stretch (1992)

When my rearview mirror swallowed up the very last pinpoint light coming from Miami, instinct took over.  Shoving the cassette into the dash player, the right hand abandoned its DJ duty to take over the wheel – just so the left could be free to roll up the window.   When the window was down, the acrid smell of swamp, sawgrass, and Cypress slapped my hair at a rushing 55 miles per hour.  It felt good.  Same as the humid night that drenched every bit of space up to and including my Midwestern naïve skin.  Amazed, perhaps a bit disoriented at how intensely dark it was, rolling up the window seemed for no other reason than to keep my dashboard lights from disappearing in the same manner as the Miami lights had.

The two lane ribbon of luminescent road waged its own resistance against the darkness. The line between night and asphalt pavement was invisible.  In the very moment my tires made contact, I saw him; stretched across the road.  Blue tank top. Wearing shorts. Did I just run over a man on the 18 mile stretch?

Darkness of this sort all but has to lead to a showdown.  On this night, it was a South Florida standoff between a girl traveling alone and without a cell phone (because in those days only Miami Vice and drug dealers owned cellphones), an everglades road, a dead body, and a car on the side of the road with a guy inside….talking on his cellphone.  I certainly was glad I didn’t have to pause and explain this all to my mother.

The feel and sound of driving over a body is distinct.   Irrational thoughts and survival instincts competed for reality.  First my knees and legs jerked up, instinctive of running over a large snake.   Then remorse set in for running over a homeless person that took to a warm road and accidentally fell asleep. “No, no. That couldn’t be right,” cautioned my breathless voice.  But finally it was raw and controlled fear that ultimately surrendered, as I pulled in behind a lonesome car with eerie  beacon flashers.  “Was that actually a person in the road or was it staged to get me to pull over?”

Alone, at night.  On my way from Miami to the Florida Keys…on the 18 mile stretch.   TO BE CONTINUED.

Spring 1992, Dade County Florida.

Seamore Nautical Spirits

Stories in a Bottle

While in between the sea and the road, Seamore Nautical Spirits has enrolled in two  writing courses.  It’s a work in progress, meant for remembering, reflecting and honoring the past.