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Flotation Jones
and the Watermelon Man

by Ron Van Sweringen

Chapter 9
Flotation Jones synopsis

The year is 1936. Flotation “Flo” Jones lives in the bayou country of Louisiana. Flo is young, but not so young that she and Tucker Waters, whom she knows as “the watermelon man,” can’t catch each other’s eye. Flo also has a beautiful voice and a talent for singing, and the local mayor fancies her as a decoration for parties at his mansion. But the socializing is a cover for organized crime. Flo, Tucker and some friends will desperately try to escape its clutches.

The Captain and May rushed aftwards on the trawler. Two of the pirates scrambled onto the metal ladder, like stone crabs with their pincers in the air.

Flo was nearly free of the bloody water, but as she drew her leg up, a hand encircled her ankle. A face covered in blood bobbed up beside her, gasping for air. It was Knuckles, or at least part of him.

“Help me!” he screamed, “the sharks got me!” And then he was jerked under water again. He released his hold on Flo. More blood gushed up in the roiling water as pieces of flesh were thrown about in the pink foam.

“Serves you right, stupid,” May laughed, while the two pirates grabbed Flo’s wrists, pulling her up the ladder. “Now we can shove off, Captain,” she cackled. “We’ve got the canary.”

“Good,” he replied, the engines starting up. “We should make the island just after sun-up.”

“No need to tie her up,” May said to the pirates, suddenly bringing the revolver down hard on Flo’s head. “Po’ chile looks tired. She could use a nap.”

* * *

At daybreak, the gray silhouette of an island appeared ahead of the trawler. The island had a low configuration made up of scrub oak and palms and a length of about two miles. In the center of the island, jutting up in the sky, was a deserted oil rig, its skeleton resembling a giant decaying grasshopper.

When Flo came to, she was lying between Tucker and a sea bass in the fish hold. An iron grate formed a hatch above them and she could see the sky turning pink through it.

Tucker appeared unconscious and Flo pulled back in horror on seeing the ice pick sticking out of his side.

* * *

May and the Captain toasted each other with a glass of whisky as the trawler neared the island.

“It won’t be long now,” he smiled, winking his blind eye. “After dark tonight, we transport the girls to the mainland and get our sixty thousand.”

Downing the last of the whisky in her glass, May leaned forward. “I have a surprise waitin’ for our little canary and her friend. As I remember, there’s a bunch of mighty mean wild pigs on the far side of that island. Maybe it’s time we fed ’em a little lunch for a change.”

The Captain finished his whisky and leaned back laughing. “I seen one of them boars. He was damn near big as a cow, with tusks on him sharp as a razor.”

* * *

Tucker moaned softly and opened his eyes. Flo was leaning over him, a look of terror on her face.

“Does it hurt bad?” she whispered, pointing at the ice pick buried deep in his side.

“Naw, it ain’t bad,” he smiled. “It landed square in the middle of my Golden Glow Cantaloupe and Ruby Red Watermelon catalog I always carry tucked in my jacket for easy readin’.”

“Lawd, that ain’t funny.” Flo frowned. “You about had the color scared out of me.”

Tucker agreed. She did look three shades lighter, sitting there in the ugliest underwear he’d ever seen.

“Girl, where did you get those...?” he started to ask, but Flo cut him off.

“Mammy made me wear ’em,” she replied, looking down at the baggy flour sack underwear. “She done said, ‘If’n you has to work in a place like that, you sure better cover up everythin’ in good underwear’.”

They both laughed, in spite of their situation. But then they heard the Captain shout, “Land Ho.”

“Put the ice pick in my pocket and loosen the rope around my wrists,” Tucker said. “Not too much, just enough so’s I can wiggle my hand out when I need to.”

Flo’s hands were trembling as she worked on the rope.

“Don’t worry, girl,” Tucker said softly when they heard the pirates opening the hatch above them. “We ain’t done yet. I can’t let nothin’ happen to Mammy’s best drawers.”

Proceed to Chapter 10...

Copyright © 2012 by Ron Van Sweringen

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