I encounter many people of diverse origins while taking my Sunday walks along the shore in South Miami Beach. Some time ago, during the annual wine festival, I espied a buxom beauty standing at the water's edge with a plastic tumbler in her hand.
I struck up a conversation. She had come over from the other side of Florida with some friends. No, she was not in town for the festival - by the way, she was drinking a plain soda. Her name is Karen, but I sometimes I call her Senorita Cia because of her story about a misinterpretation of a spy game she had played at the Bush Inaugural - one of her messages during the game had been intercepted by the federales, which resulted in the appearance of a special investigator at her office.
Karen was almost as verbose as yours truly, hence we hit it off famously, doing our best to out-talk each other as we strolled southwards in the wet sand. I took a responsible, fatherly interest in her. She is twenty something, faithful, fearless, fateful - providential is the better term. She said she liked Florida, had a great job and fine friends, but was thinking of removing to some better place. I said a good job is something to stay put in for awhile, maybe climb up the ladder a few rungs. Besides, there is always a Better Place, even when you're ready to drop dead. No doubt she'll do what she's inclined to do, I supposed, but what I said did seem to give her pause for a moment.
She said she was to meet her friends at Nikki Beach. She did not know about the tragic fate of young Nikki Penrod, so I filled her in on the accident. She was moved by the story. To deepen the Nikki Culture even further, I made sure she was given a copy of Nikki's delightful magazine when I dropped her off later.
As we splashed along in the surf, I offered to take her for a little tour of the south end of the beach. She accepted after a couple of sidelong glances - No, he is not a dirty old man. I showed her the pier, then promenaded her alongside the canal: we watched cruise ships and freighters glide by Fisher Island.
Ring! Karen's dad called her on her cell. Oh, I hope she doesn't tell him some old guy is taking her into the park, I thought. No problem. After their chat, Karen and I turned towards Nikki's, walking across the stretch of lawn behind the Continuum condominium tower.
"Ohhh!" Karen gasped and suddenly got shorter - she had stepped knee-deep into an obscure hole.
"Oh, my god!" I exclaimed, and I am not even religious. "Are you okay?"
I envisioned her in the hospital, explaining to her dad, "Dave took me to the park and broke my leg, and then.... "
"I'm all right," she said, extracting her shapely leg - her ankle was scratched up some by the rocks in the hole. I fretted and fretted while examining the damage.
"You're more worried than I am, and it happened to me," she observed.
"To take you for a little walk and break your leg is not my cup of tea. And what the hell is this hole doing here? By gum, nobody can see it. It's hidden by leaves and grass. Someone could badly hurt themselves. Maybe we should report it."
"I think so," Karen agreed.
"There's a cop over there." I nodded at a squad car in the parking lot. "We should report it, just in case your cut gets infected or you get tetanus or something, then get you cleaned up."
"I think you're right. Let's report it."
We approached the squad car, and I told the policewoman what happened. In Manhattan, I said, if someone reports a dangerous situation, the city is no longer immune, so the next person can sue for damages sustained. She said that was interesting, and she dug in her portable filebox for a special form to fill out and forward to the relevant agency.
Karen made an innocent but terrible mistake at that juncture: she leaned into the car window and stretched over the officer to look at the form.
"Get back!" the officer commanded. Startled, we stepped back - she got out of the car with one hand on her weapon.
"Don't ever lunge at an officer," she said, and started to relax.
"Oh, I'm sorry, I got excited and wanted to help."
"She's in government relations," I explained.
"She should know not to relate to government that way."
"I'm sure she will never do it again," I assured the cop. Please accept our apologies."
"I'll need you to put your name down on the form," the officer said to Karen - she laid the form down on the hood of the car and started to smooth it out.
"Oh, no, I don't want my name down on forms," Karen whispered to me. "You're a man. Do something."
"Officer, never mind. My friend isn't hurt. Maybe you can just let the Parks people know about the hole over there before someone gets badly hurt."
"I'd rather not say what my name is," Karen chimed in.
"She's related to the governor," I blurted out - what a stupid thing to say!
"Why are you bothering me with this hole, then?" said the cop.
"Good question," I responded. "Officer, we thank you very much, and apologize for the trouble. I hope that hole gets fixed soon."
I whisked Karen away before either one of us could say or do something stupid.
"Damn, I can't believe I said that. I was thinking of you in government relations, and said you were related to the governor. She looked suspicious."
"Ha, ha," Karen laughed.
"She probably thinks you're the govenor Bush's daughter, down here fooling around."
"Ha, ha, ha! I don't want my name on forms down here."
I walked Karen over to Nikki's so she could clean up her scratches and meet her friends. I didn't blame her for having second thoughts about having her name down on a police department form which might be posted onto the police database, not after what had happened to her after the inauguration.
Karen and I exchanged numbers at Nikki's. She reunited with her friends and they went on their way. I returned to the park the next day, found a Parks Department employee raking leaves, and pointed out the hole to him. He said he would mention it to his supervisor. Every Sunday thereafter, I checked to see if the hole was still there. It always was, and I faithfully reported that fact via etext to Karen. We exchanged little notes via our cells, such as:
"The Hole exists!"
"Let's sell the Hole to a gypsy for ten percent of the take. He'd make a fortune breaking his leg!
"Praise be to Nothing, the Hole is here!"
"I'm going skiing. How's the Hole?"
"Break a leg. The Hole is fine!"
"A Hole is a Hole is a Hole."
Not only did our wee exchanges go on for weeks and weeks, the matter of the Hole in itself was actually discussed on a philosophy blog. And while hanging out in the park, I pointed out the Hole to many residents and tourists as a precaution. The Hole prompted a number of amusing remarks from them. I also reported the Hole to another groundsman. As far as I know, nobody was hurt.
And then, on June 12, 2005, during the course of my usual walk through the park, I saw a Parks Department truck traversing the parking lot. I ran in front of the truck, waved it down and reported the Hole to the driver.
"What are you talking about? What hole? I don't know about any hole," the man said gruffly.
"The Hole!" I explained what had happened. "Lots of people know about the Hole. It's been discussed on the Internet."
"That's the most ridiculous thing I've heard. What do you mean, on the Internet?"
"There's a blog about the Hole."
"Like a journal."
"Where is this hole of yours? Show it to me," he demanded.
I took him to the Hole.
"Why, there is nothing in this hole, no sprinkler down there," he observed as he cleared the Hole of leaves with his trash-picking tool.
"What do you think?" I asked.
"Think? You say people are writing about this hole?"
"Yes, and I am thinking of doing a full report on it myself, as I'm a journalist."
"Well, this is unbelievable. You tell them that Jimmie Newton saw this hole at eleven o'clock on June twelve," he said, glancing at his watch, "and that he said he'd fill it up as soon as he found some dirt."
Sure enough. I inspected the exact spot a short time later, and have this report to file:
READ ALL ABOUT IT!
THE HOLE IS GONE!
And what is the point to all this? Must there always be a point to everything? Is not the Case of the Hole enough to think about?
Visitation to the Hole became part of my Sunday ritual after I wrote 'The Case of the Hole.' The sight of the well-filled hole made me feel that I had finally accomplished something, that perhaps my faith in Nothing was not for naught, that Nothing is potentially pregnant with everything, that Nothing is a reliable source of progress after all.
And then something very strange happened on the fourth Sunday: three tunnels of about five inches in diameter and seven inches apart had been bored deeply into the dirt filling the hole. One could see by their irregular, natural twisting that some sort of critters had been at work.
So that's the cause of the hole, I thought. Critters must live down there. I felt sorry for them, but figured they should relocate so someone doesn't break her leg in a public park. What kind of critters? For some reason, baby Puerto Rican chupacabras came to mind first of all. On second thought, rats were the most likely candidate.
I spotted a patrol car and decided to report the dangerous situation.
"Officer, do you know about the hole?"
"Hole? What hole?"
"The hole the Parks Department filled up. Some kind of critters have bored holes in it, and if it gets completed dug out again, someone might step in it and break their leg."
"Where is this hole?" the officer asked.
"Over there, over the bridge, between the palm trees," I pointed. "I'm thinking rats might live down there."
"It could be crabs," he said.
"The hole is famous, you know. People all over the world are reading and talking about it. Have you read my story about the hole?"
I started to tell him the story, but he interrupted me.
"You don't sound credible," he said with a frown.
"It's on the Internet," I responded, as if that were a font of truth.
"Oh?" He reached for his computer, and I gave him the Internet address of my story. He started to smile as he read, shaking his head a little, at which point I bid him good bye and left him to his duties.
Needless to say, I let Karen know right away that the story of the hole had been continued by some sort of creatures:
THE HOLE IS BACK! THREE HOLES FOUND IN THE FILLED HOLE. MIGHT BE THE WORK OF CHUPACABRAS!
Despite this development, the press still would not run my original story nor send a reporter and photographer out to the scene of the hole. Even the counter-cultural Miami New Times and the frustrated establishment weekly, the SunPost, remained silent after my submissions.
I have often supposed editors cover up reality with fair and unbiased reporting of carefully selected facts instead of digging up the truth of the dirty details. But after I yelled bloody murder in the case of the drowning that the media had ignored, the editor of the SunPost took interest in my article, THE BLIND SPOT. Of course he did not publish it, but laid out some of his own facts in his column one week; and two weeks later he ran a letter of mine in response to his exposition.
Perhaps the expose on THE BLIND SPOT influenced developments at THE HOLE, which I continue to visit religiously.
LO AND BEHOLD! THE HOLE HAS BEEN REFILLED!
Yes, the hole has been refilled, and this time it is doubtful whether any natural critter will work its restoration to nothing, as some sort of black, tarry gravel has been packed down very tightly into the hole, making its excavation highly improbable. Of course an aardvark could do the trick faster than three men with shovels, but aardvarks are not found in South Beach yet. Chupacabras are something else again.