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Thursday, June 8, 2017

Key West Horror Story No. 8

Just like reading the opening credits of each new episode of Fargo this is a true story. Everything told here really happened. This is the simple tale of the house I bought 22 years ago and the events that led to a trip to the psychiatric hospital and later to death at my Key West house.

There were three primary reasons I bought my house:  it was located in the Casa Marina Area of Key West which was close enough that I could ride my bike to work or to the beach. It had one of the largest private pools on the island. And it had a small (and legal) apartment which I could rent to help pay for taxes, insurance, and have a little left over for lunch money.
The house was located on a very large corner lot about four blocks from the ocean. The area is lush with huge palms and tropical foliage everywhere. Most of the streets do not have sidewalks and gutters to the feel is more rural the urban. The front door of the apartment was set back thirty feet or more from the front gate and hidden from view by a dense tropical garden and a small pond inhabited by fish and frogs. I regularly removed as many tadpoles as possible to keep the frog population in check, but the tadpoles ate the mosquito larva so it all worked out okay.

One day I decided to clean and repaint the pond and to make it into a KOI pond. I had a KOI pond years earlier when I lived in Denver. (I had a greenhouse of sorts. The fish lived and thrived there. My dog loved to watch stare at them and imagined getting to catch and eat one someday.)

I used a bucket to remove the stinky brown water and bailed it into the foliage. Then I got out my pressure washer and began to power wash away the years of scum on the sides of the cement pond when all of a sudden I screamed so loudly that the tenant bolted from the apartment to find what had happened. I was grasping the fingers of my left hand to stop the blood. I had been holding the nozzle end with my left hand directing water and used by right hand to regulate the water pressure. The water accidentally cut deeply into finger. The tenant ran back inside her place, grabbed a paper towel, and wrapped it around my finger. She offered to call an ambulance. I thanked her and said I would drive myself to the hospital.

I ran to my part of the house, grabbed my keys and wallet, and got into my car and raced down Flagler Avenue. I turned left on Kennedy Drive and drove a block or so and then ran inside Depoo Hospital. It was like an episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE: nobody was there - in the hospital. Not a sole.  I remember walking through the entry way looking for someone, anyone. Then some man emerged. As I recall he was wearing hospital green. Then someone else came out - maybe a nurse. I remember a woman. They saw the dishtowel around my hand. I said something and one of them responded NO. NO. NO. And then they talked more in Spanish. Oh this truly was THE TWILIGHT ZONE.  Finally someone else came out and told me that I had gone to the wrong place. Depoo is not a medical hospital. I needed to go the hospital by the golf course - of course, the one by the golf course. Where was the golf course? This was before the Key West Golf Club Community was built so I had no idea where to go. Later I learned that Depoo Hospital was our local psychiatric hospital.

When I got to the real medical hospital the intake lady asked for my identification, insurance card, and so forth. She told me to have a seat and wait. I did. I stuck my arm up into the air to prevent what blood I had left in me from dripping onto the floor. It seemed like I waited twenty minutes or longer to get inside the trauma area. Finally a doctor came in. He recognized me from the gym.  He asked what happened, sewed me up, and sent me back home.

Soon after my wound healed I went back over and finished cleaning the pond. I patched a couple of holes to plug a leak. I then painted the surface.  I bought a new pump and some chemical to treat the water so that the new fish would not die from the chlorine. Everything was ready for the fish.

I bought two or three large KOI and a lot of feeder fish plus several water plants. I acclimated the water and later added all the fish and water plants. The pond looked really cute. The tentant came out and thanked me.

Back then I was working at Prudential Knight Realty on Duval Street. I routinely road my bike to the office. I road my bike to work the day after I stocked the KOI pond. As I neared me house that afternoon I noticed an egret strutting around out in the middle of the street. We don't have much traffic in my area. I remember thinking "The Fish". I raced around to the apartment entrance, opened the gate, and headed toward the pond.  The tenant came out and said something like "Gary I came out as soon as I saw it". (Meaning the egret.) "They are all gone." The KOI were gone. Eaten alive. Dead. I didn't know or even think about a bird eating the fish. My fish in Denver had never been exposed to anything that could eat them except my dog. And she knew better.  Those fish had lived their lives just fine until I got involved. It was my fault. I decided then - nevermore. I tore out the pond and planted some more foliage. You can't kill anything green in Key West.


Joseph Graham said...

Great little story, Gary. Thank you for sharing. You know, it's kind of funny. As I read the story, I could see it all play out in my head, like a little movie. Sorry about your injury and about the koi. I'm glad it all worked out in the end.

Gary Thomas said...

Hi Joseph, I am sure the KOI got over it quite quickly. I have never got over the experience of walking into the psychiatric hospital. They came looking at me with my hand dripping blood and wondered what I had done. Thank God someone spoke English or I might have got restrained and medicated.

Anonymous said...

Gary, what happened to Sunday's post? I wanted to show my wife yesterday, but it is gone?

Gary Thomas said...

It was for that day only. It may appear again on a new open house.


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Key West, Florida, United States
I first read about Key West in a magazine called "After Dark" sometime in the mid 1970's. But it wasn't until March 1984 that I made my first visit to the island that would become my home. I had two weeks for a vacation and reserved a room at Colours Guesthouse (now Marrero's Guest House) for one week. I thought that if I didn't like Key West, I could always go back to Miami or Ft. Lauderdale for the rest of my trip. But after a couple of days in Key West, that was no longer a consideration. But when I wanted to extend my stay for the extra week I found there was no room at the inn. The guesthouse owner did find me a room at LaTeDa, the infamous guesthouse/restaurant. That's a story I'll write another day. But those two weeks in Key West gave me the realization that I had found Paradise. Key West has been my home since 1993 and my only regret is that it took me so long to get here. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties CRI. Let me help you find your new home or business in Paradise. Living in Paradise is not a slogan, it's a way of life.