That's true. She was walking her poodle, Mr. Peepers — TV made a big deal about the name — and some lovely neighbors raising pit bulls in their backyard car-chassis farm left the gate open. Anyway, the pit bull wouldn't let go of Mr. Peepers, so she bit its ear and it ran off yelping. The way the media reacted, you'd have thought she cured cancer or invented a car that ran on tap water.
So I guess it's my turn. I don't mind telling the story again, but they always bring up the sex, like at the mere mention of it I'm going to do a handspring for them.
Or maybe: "Yippeeeeee!"
I shouldn't complain. I'm having the time of my life. I'm married to the man of my dreams. I've had a crush on Ambrose since I was seventy-eight.
They just told us to get ready here in the green room. They say we're about to go on. We have notecards about possible questions. About what kind of neighborhood it was.
They say it was such a quiet neighborhood. It's always a quiet neighborhood. Then the whole place goes berserk and everyone acts surprised. But they shouldn't. If you ask me, it's just people. Even the quietest neighborhoods are just two or three arguments away from a chain-reaction meltdown.
We can hear the audience applauding. They want the story. Can't say I blame 'em. So did we. I mean, me and my girlfriends — we were just trying to stay alive. We didn't see a tenth of what was going on in the neighborhood. Same with everyone else. Things were happening all over the place. Everyone only saw a small part of the whole picture, but we were able to compare notes at the rehearsal dinner and pretty much piece it together. The entire wedding party was involved in some way. My bridesmaids were all with me, trapped as we were. Ambrose probably saw as much as anyone, riding up front in the big chase after the shootout. His best man was Jim Davenport. Poor Jim Davenport. He was such a nice, gentle man. Still is, but I don't think he's ever going to be right again. It was just one thing after another; I still don't know how he held up. The ushers, Ambrose's neighbors — they saw a good bit, too. Then there was Serge. Serge had actually been Ambrose's first choice for best man, but nobody knows where he disappeared to after the gunfire started, and the explosions and all the car wrecks and the electrical transformers blowing up and strippers running naked in traffic and nearly half the city burning down.
They've just gave us the one-minute signal in the green room.
Story time again. Probably the best place to start is Jim Davenport, seeing as he was in the middle of everything.
Yeah, we'll start there.
And I guess we should start with the one question everyone's asking these days. Not just the TV people, but folks everywhere. They all ask the exact same thing ... I'll shut up now and let the narrator take over.
So what's up with Florida?
Talk about a swing in reputation. Forty years ago the Sunshine State was an unthreatening View-Master reel of orange groves, alligator wrestlers, tail-walking dolphins and shuffleboard. Near the turn of the millennium, Florida had become either romantically lawless or dangerously stupid, and often both: Casablanca without common sense, Dodge City with more weapons, the state that gave you the Miami Relatives on the evening news every night for nine straight months and changed the presidential election with a handful of confetti. Consider that two of the most famous Floridians in recent years have been Janet Reno and the Anti-Reno, Secretary of State Katherine Harris. Is there no middle genetic ground?
And yet they keep coming to Florida. People who maintain such records report that every single day, a thousand new residents move into the state. The reasons are varied. Retirement, beaches, affordable housing, growing job base, tax relief, witness protection, fugitive warrants, forfeiture laws that shelter your house if you're a Heisman trophy winner who loses a civil suit in the stabbing death of your wife, and year-round golf.
On a typical spring morning, five of those thousand new people piled into a cobalt-blue Dodge Aerostar in Logansport, Indiana. The Davenports — Jim, Martha and their three children. They watched the moving van pull out of their driveway and followed it south.