There is far more to Orlando than the ‘happiest place on Earth’, but the closer one travels to the big theme parks, the more plastic things begin to seem. Beautiful weather may encourage bright colored houses, mansions set with their own tall white gates and palm tree groves. Or, maybe it’s just smart business to make everything seem like a thrill, an adventure. Lots of places, not just restaurants, or other fancy do’s, have that star-lit quality, the big, colorful signs. Glistening characters–all kinds–perched wherever they can fit. Not quite Eden, and certainly not like Vegas. But what if, to some souls grasping desperately for a fairytale happy ending, there is a real talismanic power in all that grand effort? For example, Harmon and Carmen Davis are not natural residents of Orlando, and they didn’t come for any practical reason other than Eden being an impossible place to get to, and Vegas being worse, because of the LA traffic.
But Buster Sparks liked to think of himself as a normal human being, in fact, completely different from those dangerous plastic types. He only needed one thing to make himself happy on mornings, when he didn’t have to work. When that beautiful red disk sailed just over the grass, ultimate Frisbee was Sparky’s game. And they were usually smart enough to pass it low too, take full advantage of–who else–but the team star. The man destined to be, top dog, this Spring. But no, six-foot Jolly Green Jojo decided to show up for their season opener, and Mister Finnegan was throwing it high today.
The team regrouped at midfield and Sparky idly pulled the scruff of some bruise on his neck, then nudged captain Finnegan in the shoulder. “Zeus, man, why are you throwing it so high? I was wide open.”
“So was Jojo… I simply couldn’t see ya Sparky. Now, we can still win this. They’re just barely ahead. Ralph and Hot-Spot, get on D this time. That way, everyone else can–”
“Yes you could see me; I was right there.” Sparky liked being called tenacious, the Spark-plug.
“Would ya look at those other guys, Sparks? Jojo is the tallest one out hea; I’ve gotta take advantage of that.”
“Well Zeus, throw it lower then, where they can’t reach it.”
“Sparky, I’m tired of hearing your cartoon voice, man. Now, we gonna to talk about midgets or play this game?” went the green giant. Sparky craned neck up, and doubly felt the inconvenience.
Zeus re-adjusted a Red Sox cap. He was a freshly transplanted Yankee with weird orange-gold hair the exact color of a gold-fish cracker.
“Alright, stop. Some of us are weirder than others, okay? I accept that. But right now, if you want, we can all finally talk about the game instead. Though, I was trying to be polite, giving Jojo and Sparky a chance to chit-chat about their vertical fetish.”
Ready. Set. Throw. The whole field animated as shirtless men sprinted after the shirts who scrambled into position. But the opponent knew better. Eventually, everybody fought to get near big Jojo. Two safety-orange cones sectioned off the goal line directly behind.
Instantly, Sparky jumped up and down waving his hands. “I’m open, Zeus!” he cried. So different from the husky male shouts around.
Captain Zeus Finnegan’s defender wouldn’t give up on him, and the redhead jogged a few steps trying to see. He kept the red frisbee tucked in the crook of his arm like some ancient discus player. At last, a swift, clear launch.
Shirtless, stronger men stayed with Jojo the giant as he reached to catch, but the shirts fought them off hard. Below, dark forms pressed in everywhere. Blue sky swallowed up as hands laced together so many long dark fingers. Heavy bodies crashed. More mud, more sweat–geesh, was everyone here a dog lover? It was possible to smell dog hair, onto of everything else. So low to the ground now that he was in his element, Sparky noticed a scant opening in that tangled canopy. He itched his neck furiously, then smiled.
Buster Sparks clambered up–someone got kicked in the mouth–and snatched the frisbee. Now to run. Sparky would need to dive over or fight to the goal line. Sparky dodged a few good tackles, used both hands to shove away someone else coming in hard–frisbee clenched in teeth achieved the trick. Then backpedaling, strafing, now sprinting in the other direction.
“Yer goin’ the wrong way, ya damned idiot!”
Sparky was aware of this too. He’d seen it happen on so many after school specials to become a victim. No, no, no. Frisbee is too valuable. Plastic tastes salty, good. Put it away, save it. The short man hit the floor as they snagged him round the knees. Sparky forced fingers into the dirt, scraped, wedged the bright red disk as deep as he could get. Not enough. Cover it completely. Can’t they see it’s mine and over? Too late? Sparky threw himself over the hastily buried frisbee, wedged hands away from their angry grasps, beneath, opened fly, and if he had been standing, he would have been able to let fly…
Revulsion unpeeled the pile-on of men like no football referee ever could. And maybe it was partly their fault too, when it was just a neighborhood park and the game wasn’t so serious in the first place. But Sparky, in his present state, couldn’t possibly reason all that fast enough. Because, man or animal, urine possesses this striking offensive quality that definitely and always says, ‘get the hell away from me.’
Some whistle blew, though it didn’t have to. That was certainly game.
Zeus Finnegan was usually a blue-mood, level headed guy no matter what. He’d probably even breathe water like air, if he was drowning. It was frightening for Sparky to see the team captain this angry. “No, don’t you come any closer, Sparks. And what are you doing, fetching the frisbee after all that–god-dammit, you’re off the team!”
Sparky had to go quickly–well, he already went, but now it was necessary to truly go, flee, for several reasons. Other than the horrifyingly obvious, there was some frantic voicemail from his wife.
When Buster Sparks reached the Davis’ beautiful home, he took care to freshly re-dress, of course.
Unlocked screen door opened to Harmon lounging alone in his living room. To Sparky, Harmon always smelled… suspicious. The way Harmon was constantly on buzzed vacation, the way his wife Carmen didn’t work, the way that they both lived in this mansion, in the middle of an expensive neighborhood so unlike the graying condos and public parks with dying fountains and odd palm trees he and Binny knew so well–the difference did matter, this couple was too snooty to ever hide that fact, but yet, Harmon and Carmon welcomed Binny and himself? It felt something along the lines of pity. Harmon was supposed to be a top-dog lawyer? Weren’t those supposed to lead stressful lives and never see their wives or children. At least having no children made sense.
“Binny called me a while ago, is she still upset? And what the hell happened to your pool?” Sparky asked, knowing the answer behind all this, already. Sparky was just barking, making noise, when Harmon was always on the verge of some better insult.
Harmon was laid out on the leather couch, green flip-flops on crooked. He watched Sparky for a time, through drowsed eye-slits. “A man with a dog’s name… has no respect for himself.”
Sparky replied, “At least my marriage isn’t some sorry excuse for a divorce. If you want to go screwing around town, you selfish bastard, why don’t you just let Carmen go? I’m tired of my wife being drawn into the middle of this. She upstairs, or in the kitchen?”
Harmon lifted an arm, preventing departure. “Is Binny pregnant? She almost fell into the pool this morning, and when I saved her, she couldn’t stand being touched.” Sparky curled lip, said nothing. “And then, when we came back inside, she wouldn’t have what I was having.”
“Maybe because that thing on the coffee table is your typical third drink of the day, and it’s just barely noon now? Harmon, Binny is too obsessed with getting to be your wife’s size, your wife’s tan, and saving up for your wife’s Indian hair extensions or whatever, going on and on about the craziest, most useless things, to ever get pregnant.”
Harmon heard the difference, stared.
“To ever be pregnant, I mean. It wouldn’t be safe. And how is this any of your damned business? Bunny, I’m here–where are you, what’s wrong?”
Harmon sat up, as best he could. “I just told you. I wanted ice, she went and locked herself in the bathroom.”
“What the hell were you doing, getting my wife to fetch crap for you, Harmon? And if you make another one of your jokes about her already being my bitch, I swear, I’m going to–”
“She was happy to help. Binny’s a sweetheart.”
“No. Noooo, I know that look. I know that tone, don’t you even think it, not with my wife. Harmon, this time, you’re dead.”
Sparky instantly vaulted over the couch, bared teeth, and landed punches. Harmon winced and yowled, caught between the shock of having been attacked in his own home and being trounced in such a stupid way by Buster Sparks. Harmon threw the better of his drunken musculature, and both men crashed to the floor.
Binny emerged from the depths of the sun-streaked mansion then, but her tearful begging wasn’t enough to douse the men’s rabid competition. Proof that this wasn’t their usual dog-and-cat squabble arrived, before long.
A pair of authentic Manolo Blahniks going in tandem across the Davis’ marble floors enforced silence and obedience, before the alpha-woman even had to ask. “Harmon. I just saw the pool.”
Sparky finished shoving, as Carmen simmered with hand on her hip. Harmon forced shaking hands into what could have been Tom Selleck’s barely-there back pockets, once upon a time.
“It’s nice, honey, to see you working around the house. Ah, Binny, querida, you know how many times I asked him.” Smooch-smooch, for both tear-stained rosy cheeks, “Come on, girl, I want to tell you something about this new procedure I heard on the radio. It’s perfect for you. Remember the satellite stations from L.A. I kept? Well on the drive over, they said you wouldn’t even need to go under the knife. Pero, mira, better than that, tengo chicas back home in Cali, with con conexiones, y pueden hacer cosas muy lindas cuando dicen todos sueños en el mundo son más baratos, en México. Why are you crying? Procedure is different from surgery, right? Ir y regresar. Easy-easy…”
It wasn’t absolutely clear why Sparky then sat, took the remote and started flipping channels.
“Get out of my house!” yelled Harmon.
“Heh. Oh, but it’s not your house anymore, is it? Just like that isn’t my wife, any longer. And Harmon, I wasn’t joking earlier. You’d better not have given me any of your cat-diseases. What kind of sicko bites another man trying to settle a debt? It’s not healed since you took my money last week.” Buster Sparks rubbed his neck.
“It was late money, that’s why. Don’t come into my house again, with late money.”
“Tyson did that once, right? That‘s the kind of half-man, half Tom-cat diseased, ear-eating monster you are.”
“If you had any balls for betting real sports, bitch-boy, we wouldn‘t have any problems between us. Go to 58, I think there’s a fight on, now that you mention it.”
The shorter man peered over the edge of the couch to mind the ladies, his brow barely cleared it, and then he slipped a hundred bill into Harmon’s hand. Sparky said, “But it has got to be our last time.”
“This your Red Sox cap? Why does it smell like piss?”