Magi Sumpter

Florida Man Tokes Up, Sleeps Through the Apocalypse

CONTENT WARNING: DRUG USE AND IMMOLATION

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Yawn. 


            Sleep.

 
                        Wake. 


     A 2PM calm washes over our main character as he rolls off his mattress and onto the floor. For a moment, he lays face down on the ground, soaking up as much cool as he can in the middle of such a humid, face-eating summer. Why is it so fuckin’ hot? 


     He only moves when his cat pads over to where he is laying and settles herself in the curve between ass and back, kneading biscuits into his sore spine. He slept twisted up again—sober sleeping does those sorts of things to him, so he avoids it whenever possible. 


     Eventually he reaches back and pets the creature, causing her to skitter across the hardwood and vanish into the void once more. She does that sometimes. She’s big on that whole “consent” thing that everyone’s been talking about recently. He doesn’t know what that fuss is about, but then again, he hasn’t gotten pussy in ages. What’s it been, five, six months now? Jesus Christ. 


     And he stands from the floor regretfully, the kinks in his muscles unfurling like a waterhose. He winces, then off to find the cat. She’s probably hungry, hasn’t eaten since yesterday morning when he had to leave early to go to work. That’s how Saturdays work, essentially. He spends the whole week pretending to have an ounce of energy in his body, and Fridays he comes home from work, falls face-first on the mattress set on the floor, and yawns himself away in his button-up and slacks.


     Now it’s 2:30PM and he’s just now feeding the cat, of course. She rubs herself side to side across his tummy as he reaches to that one super tall cabinet and retrieves the wet food she really, really likes, setting it out for her to gobble down and immediately shit out. 


     Tara got him that cat as their two-year anniversary gift. He loved her, then (and he’s not sure if he means Tara or the cat in this particular moment). And that love is gone and empty now that he’s making a modest wage. At least the house is more furnished than it’s ever been: he has a coffee table and an entertainment system, a china cabinet to house Funko Pops, a cat tower that reaches to the ceiling so he doesn’t feel contractually obligated to entertain her all the time. But he needs to get the central air fixed. He has the money to pay for it, just not the mental strength to make that phone call. At this juncture, a little bit of sweat is more comfortable than an awkward conversation with a drawling, whiskey-motivated repairman. 


     After the cat is fed, he checks his phone for the first time. Only notifications from Mom, Twitter porn bots, and dealer. Only opens text messages from dealer. 
     Ahem. 

 

     Ight sounds gud bru, see yhu @ noon 


     That was at 6AM. What he was doing up at such an empty Saturday hour, no one could tell.

 
     Pullup 2day, bru? Yhu kno I got that gud 


     That was twenty minutes ago. He rings the dealer and waits for the pickup click.

     “Hey bub, sorry ‘bout that, I was a litt’l caught up in something. You still good if I stop by real quick?” 


     The sound of inhalation crackles through the other line. Then a small cough.


     “Yeah, man, come on.” 


     “Aight, see ya in thirty.” 


     After he hangs up, he figures he should probably change clothes. He’s not the biggest fan of sticking out, especially when it comes to committing federal crime. Out of the now two-day-old button up and slacks and into a black tee and inconspicuous denim, he pats the cat once on the head and goes outside. 

 


     Why is it so fuckin’ hot? he asks again. The sun leans down on the world with its arms crossed and eyebrows furrowed. A bitch could melt out here. While you could argue a Florida summer is always hot by nature and that’s just how it’s always been, he’s grown up here his entire life and knows a normal July from this July. 


     The car door handle singes his hand when he touches it. It takes three attempts to fully swing the door open. The inner thermometer reads 137 degrees Fahrenheit, continually climbing. He doesn’t see the thermometer or really care enough to check—I just figured I’d let you in on that tidbit myself. He starts the car, and when it turns over, it spews hot air through the vents. He drives off anyway, figures that the system will kick in eventually and grant him cool, luscious relief. About halfway through the drive, he gives up on the notion, and rolls down the car window instead. 


     The transaction goes well at the dealer’s house, though it seems from a quick glance his air isn’t working either. He walks outside in a wifebeater, basketball shorts, and a gold chain, his skin redder than the devil on a Sunday afternoon. He shines his braces at the door, then dons his face mask, passes off the “gud” to our little friend here, and counts the money six feet away with the shoulders of a mafia boss.


     “You’re gunna like this stuff,” he says. “I told ya it’s a new strain, gives ya a third, fourth, however many eyes you damn well want.” 


     “Huh, aight. Sounds like my kinda shit, then.” 


     When our friend gets back in the car and throws his mask to the floorboards, the thermometer reads 186 with no chance of relief. 

 


     Around 4PM he decides to smoke. He takes a more rustic approach to the enjoyment of marijuana, abandoning a bong or pipe for a movie theater popcorn bucket and mutilated 2-liter bottle. 


     Ritualistically setting it up on the coffee table he owns. 


     Lighting the drill bit. 


     Watching the 


                          green? 


                                         smoke pool into the bottle strand by strand, sitting gracefully on 
     top of the water like olive oil. 


     And he breathes in. 


     The thermostat by his bedroom door shows that the house interior measures 218 degrees Fahrenheit (or 103 degrees Celsius, because it’s fancy), but once again, he takes no notice. Today is Saturday on a hot summer’s day—he surely has no other plans, so why not smoke a bowl and call it a night? 


     And he plops down on the couch and turns on the television, flips to a cartoon geared towards children, and belly laughs. Then he slips off his black tee and jeans, curling up on the sofa in nothing but underwear and hair. Seriously, it’s really fuckin’ hot in here. Sweat flees his
body like a wildfire, pooling dark stains into the cushions. His tongue sticks to his teeth and pulses of heartbeat shoot to the roof of his mouth. 


     After a very solid ending punchline, he strolls over to the fridge and scavenges. There’s a jar of squeezy mayonnaise, two spring rolls from Thursday night, and a stale loaf of bread. Tara always yelled at me for putting the bread in the fridge, but it doesn’t mold as quickly in the fridge. You can un-stale bread, I think, but you can’t un-mold it, I don’t think. What he needs is a bottle of water, but look at that, he used his last one to fill up the cat’s water bowl at 2:30. She’s nowhere to be seen now, and the water bowl is empty. 


     He click-clicks and calls her name—she may be a bitch, but she does respond when he calls. Padding around the house, he looks for her. Under the couch, in the overpriced cat tower, drinking from the toilet isn’t toilet water completely sanitary if you haven’t pissed in it damn i’m thirsty, behind a shower curtain, in his bedroom. 


     He’d done this same walk once before, when Tara left. He was high then, too, and in his underwear. He smoked too much the night before, woke up still reeling to an empty half of the bed beside him. And he’d walked around the house, called Tara!, looked under the couch, in the overpriced cat tower, drinking from the toilet just to be safe, behind a shower curtain, in his bedroom again. He found a note on the kitchen counter eventually, and it read: 


     “[REDACTED], 


                             I can’t do this anymore. I’ll be back to get my stuff 


                             tonight. Don’t be home. Please. Oh, and check your mailbox. I 


                             love you. Always will. Tara


     He had checked his mailbox immediately after, and was greeted with a manila folder full of divorce papers. He doesn’t see his kid anymore. Maybe that’s for the best. 


     Before the bedroom, still on the hunt for the cat, is the first time he takes account of the thermostat. What has it been, an hour or so since we last checked in on the temperature? It now reads, ahem, 349 degrees Fahrenheit (and 176 Celsius for the cultured). He doesn’t believe it at first—the A/C is already broken, so it makes sense the thermostat would be out as well. And, 
well, he’d be boiling in a 300 degree house. Unobservant as always, he doesn’t feel the faint bubbling and evaporation of sweat on his forehead. 


     So he curses the state of Florida and enters the bedroom. There she is, sitting cross-legged on his bed. Fluffy black ringlets tied behind her head to shield herself from the heat, sharing in her ex-husband’s nakedness, there she is, the blaze of sun reflecting off her dark velvet skin and bringing light to an otherwise dim room. She’s soaked with sweat, and looks rather unsurprised to see him enter. God, this is the first time he’s seen her lips—anyone’s lips—in too long. 


     “T-Tara?” he calls into the light, but she doesn’t speak. She pats the bed beside her, and he takes his place, curling up into a fetal position and resting his head in her lap. He tells her how much he misses her and he’s really sorry if she can tell but he’s really high right now and tell him if he needs to move because it is hot in here and skin-skin contact might not be the best move. How he misses their son and how is Nash doin’? Is he in school now? Of course he would be, he’s nine. Is he playing any sports making good grades making friends can he come to his baseball games can he take him huntin’ one time this winter when it’s colder?


     So many things to say, but his mouth works faster than his brain and most of the words come out as garbled spit. He shuts up with the gentle stroke of her hand on his hair and closes his eyes, humming their favorite song. 


     As for the cat, she currently paws at his damp head attempting to wake him up. She’s drooling. It’s been another hour now. He hasn’t moved. The sun still sits atop the sky as if it were noon. She can feel his heartbeat settle into place way faster than it should. She finds hope when he twitches—he twitches once every few minutes—until he stills again, leaving her to wonder when she’ll next be fed. 


     Outside, the city melts. His neighbor’s plastic lawn flamingo sinks into a pastel-pink puddle in his front lawn. Streetlight wires bend and mold themselves until they snap, falling onto passing cars. A desperate mother three streets over (her name is Tara, by the way) jumps into her car with her young son carrying several gallon-jugs of water. She cranks the ignition, reads the internal thermometer Oh my god, we’re in Hell to be 578 degrees. Celsius or Fahrenheit, I’m not sure. I can’t quite remember what model car she drives. Either way, it’s a miracle she’s alive. But all four tires are flat and blending with concrete, so she’s not getting anywhere any time soon. 


     The dealer sits at home staring out of his open window, sharing his nakedness with the entire city. He watches all giddy and flying high as the sky above him rages orange, trees ignite, and families scream. This isn’t how he imagined he would die. He figured that his tastebuds would shut off, he would cough a few times, and then wake up in hell. Then again, isn’t that exactly what’s happening?


     When he was working on his master’s degree, the dealer wrote a paper on the KT extinction. Way back then, the earth supposedly grew to temperatures of 750 degrees for two straight days, wiping out almost all life on earth. Seventy-five percent. At the time he thought it was cool, since it would never actually happen to him. Now that it’s actually happening to him, he still thinks it’s cool. The 25% of people that survive will write stories about him. 


     Or they won’t, and they’ll simply write newspaper articles about the man he sold weed to the night the state of Florida burst into flames. And everyone else in America will snort under their breath and retweet it because the headline reads “Florida Man Tokes Up, Sleeps Through the Apocalypse.”

30 January, 2021

Magi Sumpter drafts divorce papers by day and eats them with spinach artichoke dip by night. You can find her as the editor-in-chief for Southchild Lit, or on Twitter @MagiSumpter.