When I was working for Hospice in the year 2000, I had an assignment that involved delivering morphine to a guy in Hallowpaw, Florida. With a town name like that, you can imagine the characters who live there.
Hallowpaw is a little village that sits out on a swamp in the middle of nowhere about forty miles south of Orlando.
It was pouring rain that day and I drove down a long sandy road with cypress swamp on either side to get to the address. When I arrive in front of the tiny makeshift shack, I turned onto a drive that was flooded in places and wondered if my car would make it out.
Sitting on the front porch was a huge Haitian man of about four-hundred pounds, give or take a few.
In a foot and a half of murky coffee-colored water, I took my umbrella and waded, in my three inch heels and stockings, to the front steps.
A pillar of smoke rose from his head and I noticed he was smoking a doobie the size of a Cuban cigar, the fragrance unmistakable. I stepped up onto the porch, introduced myself and took a seat across from him. It was then that I saw the two foot alligator on a leash that he held in his hand. It lay quietly on the floor a few inches from my wet feet.
He was jovial, but obviously in pain, wincing with every move. I handed him his bag and he told me a couple of swamp stories and I was on my way.
A couple of months later I was in Washington, D.C. attending a luncheon hosted by Elizabeth Dole’s secretary, where I was asked to describe a day in the life of a Hospice nurse. Hospice was a relatively new concept in this country at that time. We were trying to get political support.
The day I met the Haitian man came to mind because it was a full day. I had to leave him, go home and shower, and be at the top of the Winter Park Towers to give a presentation to a bunch of doctors and suits on the benefits of Hospice services and the feasibility of instituting an inpatient suite of beds in their facility. Next, I had to meet with a family in their home to process an admission of their dying family member. Those appointments took me from sunrise to way after sunset. I thought that day offered a comprehensive overview of what Hospice nurses do.
First lady: Did you call the police and report the illegal drugs?
Me: No, I was there to deliver his morphine. I doubt if anything he was imbibing in was anymore detrimental to his health than his disease or his narcotics.
Second lady: Did you call the Humane Society or Animal Control about the alligator?
Me: The man was dying. If he found some pleasure in entertaining himself with an alligator while getting high, who am I to wreck his fun.
They didn’t seem at all interested in my day beyond the flaws they found in that situation. I guess those stuffy, high society ladies had never seen the real Florida.
I told you about this man because I’m thinking of working him into this book, Naked Malice, as an ancillary character.
He was a storyteller and I’m certain he knew all the secrets the swamp could hold in his area. I need people who know secrets of the swamp for this story. I mentioned him in Red Clay and Roses, but I really want to bring him to life in this next book. I’d like the old man to be immortal. I can’t recall his name. Any suggestions?
He was Haitian, so I’m thinking something with a bit of Creole French, but also need something that suits his quirky character or swamp life.