Excerpt and Sweepstakes: Tales from the Beach House by James Aylott
Tales from The Beach House is a satiric work of fiction that sharply captures the
“Man-Bites-Dog” world of contemporary South Florida. The Beach House, a
crumbling old motel, is home to a collection of eccentric residents. Amongst
their ranks; a tennis pro at the end of his game, a mortuary scientist whose
love life has flat-lined, a paparazzo photographer searching for scoops, a
bawdy duo fronting an improbable Ponzi enterprise, a beauty from “The Islands”
with a dark secret, a fried-out TV weather man who claims to channel God, a
middle school principal with a soft spot for Crack, a Rod Stewart cover artist
searching for redemption, and a waitress serving a side order of erotic
fiction. Each member of this cohort is in search of something – fast money, an
easy hustle, fleeting romance, enduring love, fame, power, dignity, happiness…
a place they can call home. As well as facing their own tender, tragic, and
often hilarious personal circumstances, this eclectic gang is compelled by
necessity to band together when a sinister developer threatens the very
existence of The Beach House.
Apartment #12 Walking on Lake Okeechobee
Randy Showers stood outside the front door of Apartment #12, drinking his morning
coffee. He drank only one hundred percent Hawaiian from the Ka’u region of the
Big Island. He never added milk or sugar. Any “junk” put into what he said was
the finest coffee in the world was, in his opinion, sacrilege.
Randy was well versed in sacrilege; after all, he was a collared Man of God who often
told his flock that he personally channeled Jesus. From his elevated second-floor
corner position, Randy had a good view of the hive of activity around The Beach
House. Palm trees were bending in the force of strong, warm winds that were
blowing from the direction of the Everglades. A team of surveyors was measuring
up the property parcel with an array of fancy gadgets. A slow-moving and
confused-looking man from FPL was tagging and flagging the route of the gas
lines between the building and the street. A crew from Surf Way Developments
could be seen busily cleaning vulgar graffiti that had appeared on the
billboard advertising its new planned development – a large penis and balls in
flamingo-pink spray paint wasn’t exactly exuding the dream of luxury that would
soon be on offer in this locale. The swimming pool had already been drained and
cordoned off to save the Homeowners’ Association spending money on cleaning
services for the remainder of the building’s existence. All these events and
commotions only added to the general glumness and end-of-days feel circulating
around The Beach House.
All the tenants had been served a thirty-days notice to vacate. Pete and Angel,
with their inside knowledge as owners, said it was almost certain that nothing
could be done to halt the sale, as it had been a binding majority of title
holders who had pushed through the deal. Paperwork had been processed, permits
pulled, and the City and State had all signed off on the condominium
termination and the replacement project. The city of Delray had been
overzealous in accommodating this development – no doubt seeing all the extra
dollars that increased assessment on the new building would bring to their
coffers. The State was also unexpectedly helpful. They hadn’t relished the
impending takeover of this dysfunctional Homeowners’ Association, as it would
have been real work for some happily underworked Tallahassee civil servants.
The owners were simply ecstatic to be rid of their real-estate headaches and
were united in satisfaction that the beasts that were Bessie and Gabriel, if
not slain, would soon become someone else’s problem.
The people who lived at The Beach House and called that place home were, of course,
the real victims of this tragedy of events. Pete and Angel, not that they
wanted to leave The Beach House, would be paid out for their property and could
easily start afresh someplace else with the proceeds. Bessie and Gabriel would
be made homeless, but the consensus was that “you reap what you sow,” and this
entire mess was down to their crazy out-of-control antics. The remaining tenants
were in another situation altogether. With their bad credit, cheap rent deals,
police rap sheets, lack of references and short-term horizons, they would
struggle to find local digs where certain questions by landlords weren’t asked.
Tonight there was a residents’ meeting with the aim of attempting to halt the
redevelopment; but at best this was seen as a feel-good Hail Mary with little
chance of success and more likely just an excuse to have a party.
“Fuck me Jesus,” were the strong and unchristian words that came from Reverend Randy
Showers’ mouth as he witnessed a fleet of police cars pulling up all around The
Beach House. They’ve finally nailed me, he thought. Randy, from his high-ground
vantage point, counted at least six vehicles, half marked, and the rest black
SUVs with blue lights bolted onto the roof. He slugged back the remainder of
his coffee knowing that, if he were lucky, he would be getting truck stop Joe
once they had hauled him to jail. Randy knew there was always a chance that
this day would come. Not only was there a likelihood that his past would catch
up with him, but there was also a looming menace that his present would bite
him firmly in the ass. At the very least, he was reassured that he was wearing
a pair of clean underpants and his hair looked good. A man with a C-list
celebrity resume and a local standing in the church community needed to look
cool and classy in the obligatory police mug shot.
As a young, fresh-faced graduate with a liberal arts degree from a South Carolina
university, Randy, like many in his position, had no idea what job he was
equipped to do. After deep conversations with the careers department he could
only come up with a slush pile of jobs he had no interest in. Needing to pay
his way through life, he used his fallback good looks and his given name, and
signed himself up with a stripper agency.
It was while working a bachelorette party, undressing as a character cop, that a
fortunate encounter would take place. On occasion, upon demand, he would give a
little “extra service” for a tip. It just so happened that the guest at this
party who had paid to play with his baton and cuffs was a high-flying female
television executive with local Charleston network WCIV. Upon getting up-close
and personal with his good looks and learning that Randy Showers was his real
name, the woman told him, “Do I have a job for you!” Randy was hired as an
on-camera weatherman for the local evening news. It didn’t matter that he had
no meteorological education or television experience. This job was all about
looking good in front of a camera and reading a teleprompter. However, the name
Randy Showers was the real clincher for this job, as it was the perfect catchy
byline for a primetime local television weatherman.
For twenty-five years Randy was Mr. Weather in the Greater Charleston area. He
loved getting out of the studio for big events, such as standing on a beach and
being blown around in a hurricane, filing his report from a kayak floating on a
submerged street during a flood, or going on air shirtless during a heat wave.
For a man with zero formal training in this profession he was the consummate
local weatherman’s weatherman and won numerous regional awards. However, a local
weatherman is also expected to be a trusted pillar of the community, and this
part of the gig Randy only half-embraced. He was good at turning on Christmas
tree lights, opening new school libraries and being a member of that
bright-teethed WCIV team that delivered “dependable news”, but he had one major
off-screen flaw – he was a crazed womanizer with a chronic sex addiction. Randy
was amazed at just how much of a pull being a local television weatherman was
to the ladies. Interns, fellow anchors, women he encountered on promotional
appearances and generally anything in a skirt he chased. For twenty-five years
his employers somehow managed to pay no attention to the ethics clause in his
contract, and like a modern-day Don Juan, Randy thought nothing could ever put
a stop to his bed-hopping ways.
While Randy kept his looks as youthful as possible with tax-deductable investments in
hair plugs, dental veneers and Botox, these weren’t enough to defy a changing
environment. It was a slightly sleazy and embarrassing affair that had been
brought to the attention of a new generation of station executives that would
lead to his downfall.
During a Friday-night live weather report broadcast from a local High School football
game, Randy managed to lure and subsequently corrupt two teenage cheerleaders.
In his defense, they may have been sixteen but he swore they had the bodies of
eighteen year olds and were experienced in the ways of pleasing a man like a
woman of thirty. It was not the first time that Randy had descended on the
slippery slope of jailbait, but it wasn’t so easy in the modern era to get away
with it when the girls posted incriminating evidence on Facebook. Possibly it
was all used as an excuse by management to bring in a cheaper, younger guy. Perhaps
it really was a different era where feminist ethics were not only preached but
also practiced. The parents came to a deal with the station. Randy was released
from his contract, the cheerleaders were given hush money and the hope was that
the authorities and the women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred would stay well
away. However, there was a statue of limitations that had not expired, and in
the eyes of the law it was rape, and a payoff would not save him if the girls
ever chose to press charges.
Like many shamed criminals who had escaped hard time, Randy headed to Florida for a
fresh start. He knew he would never be hired as a weatherman again, as he was
too old and too many questions about his past would be asked. The only other
career that he had not tried that fitted in with his catchy name was that of a
porn star. Randy was realistic though, and his stamina and girth were just not
up to par. Not wanting to put to waste the investments he had made in that
artificial television smile and lush carpet of unnatural hair, he did the only
thing he thought he was suited for… he started a church ministry.
Reverend Showers, a name he could legally use after the religious crash-course
certification he found on the back pages of the National Enquirer, had a good
ring to it. He chose a poor African-American area of inland Palm Beach County
to start his church, as the black community was religious and would be
enthralled by a minor white celebrity priest. However, more importantly,
ebony-skinned women were not his thing, so he wouldn’t have to worry about
letting his dick interfere with God’s work.
For premises he sublet an underused synagogue. Most of the Jews in that area had
moved to better parts of the county and this temple currently sat empty. He had
been running his Rainbow Church for just over two years and he would modestly
say in public that it had been a great success. In private, though, he would
admit that it was all a bit of a racket. Reverend Showers was little more than
a smarmy middle-aged snake-oil salesman who, if he weren’t selling God to the
gullible, would be selling those same people timeshares on the beach.
Randy had one unfulfilled ambition – he wanted to make it big on a national level.
Back in his heyday he had applied for network weather jobs but was never
successful. He blamed these fruitless attempts on not having a diverse look,
never thinking it could have anything to do with a lack of scientific training.
So Randy viewed his new ministry as a way of finally becoming a household
celebrity. All he needed to take himself into the top division of
men-of-the-cloth was to perform a miracle. The one he had in mind was walking
on water, and not just any body of water but Florida’s own Lake Okeechobee.
Randy was certain that if he could make it appear that he was gliding over
Florida’s largest lake, the national attention would elevate him to the type of
riches that even network weatherman could only dream of. Randy was now devoting
all his time and money into making this illusion happen. He had reached out to
David Copperfield for help and was studying expensive manuals by magicians, as
he knew there had to be a way to make this miraculous feat occur.
It was Randy’s consuming devotion to performing this miracle that could have been
another reason for his impending arrest, as he was guilty of theft and
embezzlement from his church. The donations that his devoted parishioners put
in his tray were diverted straight into his pocket. Admittedly, some of it was
used to keep the lights on at the church, but the majority was for his living
expenses and funding the continued exploration of performing his illusion.
As the police descended on The Beach House, Randy’s main thought was what lawyer
he would use. The charge of statutory rape would be easy to defend, as he could
find one of those mud-slinging vultures who would paint a picture of those two
fresh-faced cheerleaders as the dirtiest harlots in the whole of Charleston.
The church embezzlement charges would be a little trickier to evade. Randy
hadn’t hidden the money trail very well, often paying for hair-restoration
treatment directly from the ministry’s checking account. Then there were the
escort girls who were on the church books. That would also be a problem. At the
start of his “Finding the Lord” phase, Randy had worked out that the best way
of staying out of trouble was to relieve any extra holy spirit via paid ladies.
In the light of day, Randy’s activities looked uglier than a bag of hairless cats
and he might just have to plead guilty and strike a deal. Whatever happened, it
would be hard to escape from this monster of a self-created mess. What then for
him? A man who had fallen from grace for two heinous successive “lapses of
judgment” would be somewhat challenged to find a new place in the world. It
would certainly be hard to live off his connection with Jesus again, although
he would have name recognition and good looks for a man of his age so he could
always try his hand at politics. That seemed to be an eternally forgiving line
of work. Randy was amazed just how much clarity he was having in what was
likely to be his final thirty seconds of freedom.
About the author and where to find him:
James Aylott was previously a Hollywood paparazzo photographer and staffer at an American supermarket tabloid. This is the author’s first work of fiction, although he was often creative in his career of entertainment newsgathering and hated letting the truth interfere with a good story. A prior resident of Delray Beach, Florida he is currently embedded in St. Louis, Missouri researching his follow up novel: Tales of Whiskey Tango from Misery Towers.