The following is an excerpt from Carl Hiaasens Bad Monkey, which will be released on Tuesday. Additional excerpts will be published in Tuesdays and Wednesdays Tropical Life.
On the hottest day of July, trolling in dead-calm waters near Key West, a tourist named James Mayberry reeled up a human arm. His wife flew to the bow of the boat and tossed her breakfast burritos.
Whatre you waiting for? James Mayberry barked at the mate. Get that thing off my line!
The kid tugged and twisted, but the barb of the hook was imbedded in bone. Finally the captain came down from the bridge and used bent-nose pliers to free the decomposing limb, which he placed on shaved ice in a deck box.
James Mayberry said, For Christs sake, now where are we supposed to put our fish?
Well figure that out when you actually catch one.
It had been a tense outing aboard the Misty Momma IV. James Mayberry had blown three good strikes because he was unable to absorb instruction. Dragging baits in the ocean was different than jigging for walleyes in the lake back home.
Dont we need to call somebody? he asked the captain.
The hairy left arm was bloated and sunburned to the hue of eggplant.
A cusp of yellowed humerus protruded at the point of separation, below the shoulder. The flesh surrounding the wound looked ragged and bloodless.
Yo, check it out! the mate said.
What now? James Mayberry asked.
His freakin finger, dude.
The victims hand was contracted into a fist except for the middle digit, which was rigidly extended.
How weird is that? Hes flippin us off, the mate said.
The captain told him to re-bait the anglers hook.
Has this ever happened out here before? James Mayberry said. Tell the truth.
You should go see about your wife.
Jesus, Ill never hear the end of it. Louisa wanted to ride the Conch Train today. She did not want to come fishing.
Well, son, the captain said, were in the memory-making business.
He climbed back to the bridge, radioed the Coast Guard and gave the GPS coordinates of the gruesome find. He was asked to remain in the area and look for other pieces of the body.
But I got a charter, he said.
You can stay at it, the Coast Guard dispatcher advised. Just keep your eyes open.
After calming herself, Louisa Mayberry informed her husband that she wished to return to Key West right away.
Come on, sugar. Its a beautiful morning. James Mayberry didnt want to go back to the dock with no fish to hang on the spikesnot after shelling out a grand to hire the boat.
The first day of our honeymoon, and this! Arent you sketched out?
James Mayberry peeked under the lid of the fish box. You watch CSI all the time. Its the same type of deal.
His wife grimaced but did not turn away. She remarked that the limb didnt look real.
Oh, its real, said James Mayberry, somewhat defensively. Just take a whiff. Snagging a fake arm wouldnt make for as good a story.
A real arm was pure gold, major high-fives from all his peeps back in Madison. You caught a what ? No way, bro!