It's midsummer, and a rainstorm beats against the neon-lit windows of a nearly empty dive bar. Inside, our heroine sits alone. She leaves a smear of red lipstick on the tumbler as she sucks Grand Marnier from the last bits of ice. The bartender — a craggy, slicked-back cat named Riley — pulls a preposterously long piece of paper from the pocket of his Armani shirt and adds another tally to her tab. He pours and slides her the drink, then goes back to wiping the bar spotless with a rag. His barback, a black-mopped kid named Erik, runs around frantically accomplishing not much in particular.
There was a time when our heroine was the most beautiful thing you'd ever seen, a magnet for flashy Lotharios and naïve Midwesterners who couldn't see she was a freight train pile-up waiting to happen. That was about three bankruptcies, a legendary coke habit, and 7,000 busted capillaries ago. Now, she's all runny stockings, mascara-smeared headlights, and surgically inflated knockers that could take an eye out.
Her real name's Miami. But she's a long way from the A-class, so everybody just calls her Mimi.
When the little bell above the door rings, Riley doesn't look up — he just pulls out that long paper and marks something. He knows exactly who's walking in.
Hell, he arranged it.
A young giant so tall he has to bend under the doorway saunters in. He wears a purple gingham shirt and queasy little grin. He acts like child royalty, a smug prince making his first solo trip from the palace.
Riley rubs clean the spot on the bar next to Mimi, and the tall kid takes a stool. The bartender buys them a new round and Mimi launches into her favorite subject: herself. She burns through Pall Malls and manages to make coño her every third word.
The story she tells, of all the men she has messed with, is legendary. In the '70s, she danced disco and donned furs bought by flashy coke barons who wore moustaches, packed stubby machine guns, and drove batwing Benzes. But when the Feds raided, it was her bloodshot mug on the national nightly news. She emerged from the '80s indicted, broke, and with a bullet permanently lodged in her upper left thigh.
She became bait for grifter, fly-by-night types — condo flippers and Medicare fraudsters looking for a quick lay and pretty face to cover their two-bit scams. Mimi tottered through the '90s, overdid it with party pills, and spent most of the new millennium nursing a merciless hangover.
As if to swirl another rotten olive in her martini, she got involved with paper gangsters — Madoff, Rothstein, Stanford, and dozens of lesser clones — who seemed intent on finishing her off. They pawned Mimi's great-aunt's engagement ring, quadruple-mortgaged the deed to her penthouse, and stomped on her heart.
In Mimi's story, the tall kid doesn't hear a cautionary tale, but a challenge. Screw those chumps, he thinks of all the scumbags who crashed and burned with this femme fatale. I'm the king.
He stands up, suddenly feeling dizzy from the whisky Riley's been feeding him, and pulls out his iPhone. He texts his high school sweetheart, who's waiting for him at home, "Fuk u. Im takin my talents to South Beach." He might regret it later, but for now, it feels good to be cruel.
LeBron James staggers to the jukebox and, at Mimi's request, puts on some Frankie Valli. Mimi pulls him close on the splintered dance floor. Her green eyes glimmer at the thought of what a huge catch she's landed and, more specifically, all the expensive shit she's going to buy. Then she thinks: Does this mean I have to pretend to care about basketball?
This time last year, Miami was on the verge of apocalypse: double-digit unemployment, the worst foreclosure crisis in the nation, and real estate and tourism industries doing their best impression of a taxidermic squirrel. Residents fled South Florida like A-listers from a Mel Gibson flick.
OK, so all that bad shit is still going on. It's been 365 more days of bizarre, disquieting, horrifying events, of tar balls that weren't and elected morons that were. Haiti was devastated by an earthquake and cholera epidemic. South Beach's trashiest clubs were invaded by a film crew trailing a posse of sexually promiscuous New Jersey Italians who dressed like they'd been chased from their homes by fire. The Dolphins were once again the picture of mediocrity, and the hapless Marlins traded away middling utility player Cody Ross to San Francisco, where he promptly became Reggie Jackson in the World Series. Republican-hasta-muerte pol Lincoln Diaz-Balart retired, while his gun moll Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was promoted to a top job in the House. Their mummified nemesis, Fidel Castro, reanimated and donned a military costume to return to his life's work: making paranoid speeches so relentlessly boring they might drive the capitalist oligarchy to hari-kari.