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