Andrew, Andrew Cunanan
A smooth-faced man is on the loose. They say he is a bad man, who shot a famous man who likes clothing a lot. But he is such a handsome man. Boogeymen are handsome in this town. Eyes ache from sitting too close to the t.v., America’s Most Wanted (our favorite) is on. We sit huddled, Grandma brings snacks, molasses on crackers, sits on the scratchy floor too. Andrew Cunanan is accused of shooting Gianni Versace as well as several other men. He has not been seen since last Wednesday. Not since the Gainesville Ripper, Danny Rollins, has FL been held in the grip of such a madman.
Grandma breathes out minty smoke as she says, Men who are light in their loafers get what’s coming to ‘em. Watch out now girls, could be anywhere.
Thighs stick to thin beach towels thrown down to shield legs from molten car seats, seat belts fastened at a speed reserved for hand slap games, waiting for the first bell to ring, gamey arms working in tandem: Down by the bank of the Hanky Pank, where bullfrogs jump from bank to bank. Grandma careful to avoid trees still broken on the knee of Hurricane Andrew, rolling down the windows to let the beach in (the AC had been broken for months). Bribing us with the promise of Dairy Queen, a thick drink served impossibly upside down, a red straw flag saluting chunky asphalt, a wonderful heresy. We poke our hands between the seat cracks looking for silver coins; quarters, dimes held fast with the grime and stick.
A smooth-faced man is on the loose. Girls huddle Indian-style on the bedroom floor, sleeping bags worn like neon shawls, puffed marshmallow hoods hide faces that whisper the name, Andrew, Andrew Cu-nan-an. Giggles escape as our mouths cradle the “Coo” and we fall apart by the “Naaaan,” such an impossible name and face. Would you rather is whispered, so step-fathers aren’t summoned to knock on brittle doors with The Final Warning, or else. Would you rather have Ted Bundy’s baby or Andrew Cunanan’s? The girls think long and hard about who would be a better father. Would you want your baby to have Ted’s green eyes or Andrew’s impossible cheekbones?
Solemnly the stickered spiral notebook (I ❤ JTT) is placed in the middle of the circle, flipped to the rare blank page, ready to determine their futures through the oracle, a paper game called M.A.S.H. House. Husband. Kids. Job. Car. The husbands are handsome men, misunderstood, killers of women and men. Round and round the girl draws the spiral, you say stop. You will live in a Mansion, marry Danny Rollins, have 5 kids, work as a Realtor, drive a Truck. Last time you were to live in a Shack, so your spirits lift at the mention of a mansion, more rooms for more children. You will do right by your imaginary children, promising to stay with Danny though Andrew is your first choice. (Ted is too handsome, every girl will want him.) Family means sticking together.
Finally, one of the sleeping bags crumples, the future wife and mother of Danny’s five children inside, mouth parted, no doubt dreaming of selling beach houses in the baked sun. Quiet feet barely hit the hall carpet, panties gripped in hand. The panties are baptized by the leaking tap, then secreted away between the Bagel Bites and HUNGRY-MAN frozen dinners (2 grilled beef patties, whipped potatoes, mixed vegetables and apple pie). Warm air is let in as the progress of water turning to ice is awaiting confirmation, before boredom sends us back to the bedroom, the future Mrs. Danny Rollins (now underwear-less) is still asleep.
We awake sticky, the morning sun cooks at a low temperature, you awake fully baked. Brand-less shorts, threadbare bathing suits and Kmart sandals, a uniform for the summer months. Mrs. Danny Rollins is asked to grab the frozen cinnamon rolls, breakfast, only to find her icy flowered underwear. Laughter stops when she puts the underwear on, defiantly, a satisfied ahhhh. Pure jealousy for Mrs. Danny Rollins who gets to wear cooled underwear all day. Let’s go find Andrew, Andrew Cunanan, he needs us now.
We mount pitted bikes, at least two sizes too small, confident in finding Andrew, Andrew Cunanan. Would he be downtown, coming out of hiding for a Checker’s burger? He must be starving. No sign of him: the only man there is Mr. Fabian, the high school football coach and Driver’s Ed instructor. Older girls have warned to stay away from him, never to sit in the car alone with him, or else. Andrew Cunanan could be trusted to drive you everywhere, you’re sure of it, of him, of his perfect features. A strawberry milkshake and fries for your trouble.
Bikes left sideways, locked fences scaled, crabgrass makes work of bare legs. Clearings with overturned plastic crates, empty beer bottles and tied up mutts. Rocks upturned with worn flip-flops, a tangle of shiny scales, an uncoiling once exposed. Red, black, friend of Jack. Red, yellow, kill a fellow. Or is it the other way around? Blue plastic tarps crinkle in the slow breeze, covering naked mattresses where a skinny man is impossibly curled. We dare you, we dare you, he may know Andrew. You walk up to the mattress, plug your nose, Andrew, Andrew Cunanan. A thick eye opens, a hoarse sound, you swear a fly comes out. A pumping of arms, a flurry on tanned legs, pedaling to the beach. He must miss the beach, everyone does.
Giant, hot plastic tubes float on clear water for hours and hours, with you inside them. Cupped hands scoop spring water to coat the tubes, to make them bearable for only a moment. Fish swim in and out of rusted cans, men with beer bellies and trucker hats ash into the water, skin beginning to bubble, froth. Little feet hook in and out of the tubes, making a coiling, a binding together. Murmurs about boys and teachers, eyes slit, neck exposed. Someone mentions Andrew, a moment of silence, only interrupted by a frog. You hardly notice the sunning alligators on the bank, mouths agape, horseflies flitting in and out, eating decayed flesh off pointed daggers, a tooth cleaning.
Chipped painted toenails in the pure white dirt, soft and sweet up until a clear jelly fish sneakily positions itself where your foot will fall. Or does the dreamy ocean feel mischievous and deposit it there? Little kids with primary colored plastic shovels and molds build elaborate temples to the sun (to Andrew?) that overly sun exposed beef jerky men and women with accents plow through. We see him in the distance, bright red trunks, smooth calves, hairless chest, walking towards the water. Heavy breaths, thrown paper cups sticky with Tang residue, we run to him. Too late. We lose him to the foamy blue, to the stinging jelly, the seaweed makes a noose around his beautiful neck, he sinks down, a god at the end.
Alex DiSclafani hails from Florida and now calls San Francisco home. In her day job, she works in tech, where she helps prevent real-world harm to children. On her long commutes she writes. Her favorite show is Golden Girls.