A Steamy Morning, Fifteen Years Later

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fifteen years later

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fifteen years later

I am standing on a sidewalk next to a pirate.

"Seriously?" I say out loud.

I flick my hand at the man sprawled in front of my newspaper building. A black hat with a purple feather hides most of the guy's face.

"A drunk pirate? Today?"

We're the only ones on the street, but he doesn't hear me. Because he's out cold. If his belly weren't rising and falling, I'd take him for dead. Dirty green pants, black boots, and a black vest. No shirt. His torso is fish-belly white, naked and flabby. The sour stench of beer hits my nostrils, and my nose wrinkles instinctively. A thin sigh escapes my lips. The guy had probably gone on a bender over the weekend during the city's annual pirate festival. He'd run out of steam and stamina here on the concrete in front of the St. Augustine Times, the final stop on the Sunday night parade party route.

A strand of green beads hangs limp around his neck, and I curl my lip in disgust.

Because it's the city's biggest tourist draw, my newspaper celebrates the ten-day soiree of stupidity with a snappy headline. As it has for every pirate festival, every year, for decades. Hell, I even wrote the headline this year because, as publisher of a small paper, sometimes you have to step in when your city editor's on vacation.

Pillage the Village: Like Mardi Gras! With Pirates!

I snort out loud. Pirates. Tourists. Florida.

Ridiculous.

Now it's Monday morning and I—the youngest female newspaper publisher in America—am the cleanup crew. On the day I'm supposed to look gorgeous, sound sharp, and make a case for salvaging my business.

Awesome.

"Hey. Excuse me? Hey!" I shout in the guy's direction, and he doesn't move. I don't need this, not today. Taking a few steps, I prod the pirate's forearm with my black, pointy-toed stiletto that's already rubbing my heel raw. He's not budging.

Larry, the newspaper's security guard, opens the front door and peers down at the slumbering man. I take a few steps back and grimace. It's all I can do to contain my annoyance that Larry didn't deal with this when he arrived that morning. I wave my hand at the drunk.

"We need to do something. Now. Call the cops. We can't have a potential investor stepping over a passed-out pirate on their way into the paper this morning."

Larry ducks back inside, and I pace, the skin of my left heel eroding with every step. I check my watch. It's eight-thirty, and the morning air is as putrid as the beer that's in the plastic cup sitting a few feet from the pirate. Already a bead of perspiration is trickling down the back of my thigh.

I pause on the corner, trying to figure out if we can somehow drag the drunk out of sight, near the loading dock where the circulation crew tosses newspapers into the trucks at three every morning. Moving the guy ourselves might be quicker than relying on the local sheriff's department, which hasn't been thrilled with me since the paper did a kickass exposé six months ago on a string of officer-involved shootings in the city's black neighborhood.

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