Paradise Dogsby Man Martin
Adam Newman once had it all. But then he lost it.
Now Adam yearns to reunite with his estranged wife, Evelyn, and recapture the Edenic life they once had running Paradise Dogs, the roadside hot-dog restaurant now legendary throughout central Florida.
He has a few obstacles along the way. For starters, there’s his impending marriage to Lily. There’s
Adam Newman once had it all. But then he lost it.
Now Adam yearns to reunite with his estranged wife, Evelyn, and recapture the Edenic life they once had running Paradise Dogs, the roadside hot-dog restaurant now legendary throughout central Florida.
He has a few obstacles along the way. For starters, there’s his impending marriage to Lily. There’s also the matter of a quarter million dollars’ worth of diamonds that he mislaid, along with what appears to be a shadowy conspiracy that is buying up land around the Cross-Florida Canal (and which may or may not be a product of Adam’s alcohol-infused imagination).
Despite his own troubles-and a brief stay in Chattahoochee-Adam looks to mentor his son, Addison, in the ways of love. Awkward, unsure, and employed as the world’s least accurate obituary writer, Addison pines for a beautiful and painfully earnest linguistic student but must compete for her attention with his older and more sophisticated half brother from Evelyn’s first marriage.
But if anybody can set these worlds in order, it is Adam, who has an uncanny knack for being in the right place at the right time and allowing others to believe he’s someone he’s not. Whether it’s delivering a baby, rescuing a marriage, or exposing a Communist conspiracy, our protagonist is up for the job. Paradise Dogs, from Georgia Author of the Year Award winner Man Martin, is a farcical tale of paradise lost, the American Dream, and the true measures of love
An Atlanta Magazine Top Ten pick of 2011
"His bumbling hero, Adam Newman, springs from an imagination somewhere between Carl Hiaasen and A Confederacy of Dunces."Atlanta Magazine
"A full-bore slapstick marathon in the tradition of Carl Hiaasen."Publishers Weekly
"A satirical cross between Carl Hiaasen's riotous rants about overdevelopment and the delusional swagger of John Kennedy Toole's Ignatius J. Reilly in A Confederacy of Dunces. Fine writing and slapstick comedy can be a prickly pairing, but Martin makes it look effortless." Atlanta Magazine
A "hoot of a tale perfect for summer reading" New York Post
"Driven by the charm of Adam, it’s bumbling hero – a sort of 'holy fool' who impersonates whatever profession is most useful at the time."Orlando Sentinel
"The pacing is perfect, the tone is the right blend of picaresque and touching. Man Martin is simply brilliant."Booklist
"Man Martin’s Paradise Dogs shouts “retro’’ with its cover, a neon title riding in the sky above an aqua car, a roadside diner and a pink (!) alligator. We’re boarding the Wayback Machine to Central Florida in the 1960s, B.D. (Before Disney)....Martin – who grew up in Florida and now lives in Georgia – has a deft hand with local color and shows true affection for his goofy hero. [A]n agreeable ride
back to an orange-blossom-scented past not yet paved with theme parks."Orlando Home & Leisure
"With a nod to It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, fans who enjoy an out of control nostalgic thriller will enjoy Adam's strange sense of second chances as he recalls his happiest moment was selling dirty dogs but ignores the grease burns." Midwest Book Review
“A generous, wry, and endlessly sweet novel, one that swept me out of a gloomy, blue day and into Man Martin’s surreal and hilarious take on pre-Disney Florida.”Lauren Groff, author of The Monsters of Templeton
“A delicious farce – with a head and a heart. At the center is Adam Newman, the most hilarious character to come along in ages, a wild-man knight errant who’s able to solve anyone’s problems but his own. Plenty of absurd situations and laugh-out-loud writing, but with an underlying sadness and compassion that will take you by surprise.”Nancy Zafris, author of The Metal Shredders and Lucky Strike and fiction editor of The Kenyon Review
“We've got Western novelists staked out on mountain ranges, Southern writers who are cast in bronze on courthouse squares, and Literary Gods sailing a beam reach up East. And then there's Florida. One state with its own sticker on fiction. So Georgia writer Man Martin must’ve slipped across the Okefenokee to get Paradise Dogs so right, and so damn funny, like a retro multi-fold post card from the middle of the Sunshine State before Disney eared its way in.”Sonny Brewer, author of The Poet of Tolstoy Park and The Widow and the Tree
"In Paradise Dogs, Man Martin has created a character full of verve and unequaled passion. Adam Newman is bound to set readers on fire with his bawdy desire to make things right. This book is righteous, riotous, and riveting. A finely wrought tale of man versus everything."Doug Crandell, author of The Flawless Skin of Ugly People and Hairdos of the Mildly Depressed
“In Paradise Dogs, Man Martin offers the reader my favorite type of protagonist: part Willie Loman, part Ignatius J. Reilly, and part Roman Strickland from Brad Barkley’s Money, Love. But Adam Newman is his own man wholly. He’s the true lovable scam artist wishing to do right. This is a great, fun read, full of absurdities, perplexities, and wonderfully cathartic insights.”George Singleton, author of Half Mammals of Dixie and Workshirts for Madmen
“In the beginning, Adam and Evelyn had it good—they had love, questionable good looks, even riches—they had Paradise Dogs. Then, who screws things up? Refreshingly, Adam. Adam Newman, the ultimate Everyman: sweet-talker, conjurer, sneak, klutz, schemer, gambler, inventor, conspiracy theorist, hero, loveable drunk. After bringing banishment upon himself, he embarks on a wild adventure with more twists and turns and ups and downs than Space Mountain, keeping his eye all the while on an ultimate return to Paradise. Don’t miss out on this ride—it’s sure to make you gasp, shout, and laugh out loud.”Meg Kearney, former Associate Director of the National Book Foundation
“Paradise Dogs is crisply paced, sharply written, nimbly structured. It has that rare combination of headlong momentum and the line-by-line finesse that makes a reader linger and luxuriate. Man Martin is no longer just a talent to watch; he’s a writer to celebrate. Loudly, and now.”Michael Griffith, author of Spikes and Bibliophilia and Trophy (forthcoming) and founding editor of Yellow Shoe Fiction
- St. Martin's Press
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 8.70(w) x 5.70(h) x 1.06(d)
Read an Excerpt
Adam, ín Perfect Health, Begins
Ernie Costa buzzed the door to let Adam out, and it clicked locked behind him. Eight A.M. on a peaceful downtown sidewalk with two hundred fifty thousand dollars’ worth of stones in a purple bag in his jacket pocket. A cool breeze stirred the collar of his favorite blue windbreaker, but the December sun was bright in the cloudless sky.
The lark was on the wing, the snail was on the thorn, LBJ was in his White House, and all was right with the world.
In the three years, two months, and eight days since Adam had been separated from the only precious things in the world—his wife and son—he never once stopped hoping to be reunited with them. At last he figured he would unbungle all his previous bungles. At last he could be happy again. In his excitement about reuniting with Evelyn, even his anxiety over the Cross-Florida Barge Canal receded. He recalled some lines they had taught him at Sisters of Mercy Academy: “I, now forty-seven years old in perfect health, begin.”
Honeysuckle grew from an asphalt crack and pulled chunks of paint and stucco from the wall of Costa’s Diamonds, but it was winter, and there were no blooms on the vine. Morning was the best time of day. He wished it were earlier, while sunrise still pinked the sky between the telephone wires on East Central and the air was not yet spoiled by exhaust. Still, better than half the day remained to change his life and outrun disappointment.
Two hours before it opened to the public, Costa’s Diamonds had held just Adam Newman, Ernie Costa, and Ernie’s teenage daughter, Rachel, who sat behind the counter sullenly watching a transistor TV with an orange-capped antenna, a screen the size of an index card, and a handle like a lunch box.
On the snowy screen, the Cheerios Kid—“He’s got Go-Power!”—mounted and armored, rescued Girlfriend Sue from a dragon’s clutches. To be fair, the dragon was not actually clutching Sue at that moment, but sitting close enough that he might clutch her any second if he hadn’t already. If the dragon thought his fiery breath would avail him, however, he soon learned otherwise because the smoke rings merely recalled to the Kid those tasty O’s. Pausing only to guzzle a stream of Cheerios straight from the box, our hero charged stage left—legs whirling like a rotary saw. A sound effect like dishes thrown downstairs indicated he had landed a punch, and in the next scene the Kid flexed an outsized bicep, his other arm protectively around Sue, as the chastened dragon woozily watched the stars orbiting his field of vision.
Meanwhile, Ernie had arranged the diamonds on a black velvet square.
“So, boss, what do you think?”
Adam picked one and let it fall into his palm; with his thumb he push-broomed the others into a pile and then swept them all up in one pass. Misgivings about this exchange mounted in Ernie’s chest like a wave, and he stiffened slightly, his hands raised in front of his white shirt. Adam pressed the diamonds into his lifeline a moment, then let them rain through his fingers. They fell into casual groupings—most of them gregarious, two slightly aloof. “What size are they?”
“Two and a half to four carats. I mixed them up—there’s a couple of emerald cuts and a princess cut in there.” Ernie bent behind the counter and retrieved a sheaf of twenty-four papers, two for each diamond in Adam’s hand. “I’ll need you to sign these papers before you can take them out of the store.”
“That’s right,” Adam said. “I guess it wouldn’t do for me to go losing these, would it? Ha-ha.”
“Ha-ha.” Foreboding swelled in Ernie again, and a serious look fell over his face like a damp rag. “I want you to be careful out there, boss.”
“I’ll be careful.”
“I mean, you’re one of the nicest people I know, boss, but sometimes you trust people too much. There’s some bad people out there.” Mr. Newman was a good man; Ernie hated thinking of his friend getting taken in. “The fact is,” Ernie added, “I’m kind of in a tight spot myself right now. I owe some money. If anything happened to these—”
“I’d make it good,” Adam finished.
“What I’m saying is I’m really out on a limb here.”
“Nothing’s going to happen to them.” Adam applied the Newman autograph on the indicated spaces. “This is going to thrill her,” Adam said.
“It sure will.”
Driving around all day in scalding sunshine looking at investment properties had blistered Adam’s puffy face into a calico of reds, browns, and pinks, which never healed even in winter. His peeling scalp clung to a few strands of red hair as fine as cornsilk floating up from his head; his nose had been mashed out of shape and one ear slightly cauliflowered from fistfights at Sisters of Mercy Academy where his mother had sent him after the Old Man’s accident; his head looked like a beach ball someone had partially inflated before giving up. In sum, his appearance was not likely to cheer love’s lingering gaze, yet he possessed a near genius when it came to women. He often thought of writing a book on courtship secrets; it was certain to be a best seller. Of course, it didn’t hurt to know a jeweler who was willing to let you walk out of his shop with a couple of hundred grand or so worth of diamonds.
What woman could resist the thing with the diamonds? When Evelyn had accepted him the first time, he’d poured a sparkling handful in her lap and said, Take your pick, darling, any one you want. We’ll set it into a ring later. He’d asked her to marry him several times before then, but each time she’d put him off. They had known each other a very short time, she was in no specific hurry to remarry, and she judged him as the type to propose as many times as it took. But when a dozen diamonds lay in her lap, shining against her dark skirt like a starry sky, there was simply no way to refuse.
It had worked once. It had to work again.
“Rachel, you need to witness these,” Ernie said, holding out the sheaf and a pen for his daughter. She ignored him. “Rachel!” She complied without taking her eyes from the tiny screen.
“Does Uncle Bert know about this? He’s not going to like it.”
“My brother-in-law,” Ernie explained, lifting his eyebrows. “He’s the one I owe.”
“A rough customer?” Adam asked.
“You wouldn’t want to meet him in a dark alley,” Ernie confirmed. Discussing his brother-in-law made him uncomfortable, and he looked away. “I’ll put the diamonds in a case for you.”
“Oh, don’t bother,” Adam said. Ernie raised an eyebrow when Adam scooped them into his bag. Ernie had a box ready in his hands, but the purple velveteen bag seemed more opulent; Adam would have to keep it turned when he poured the diamonds out for Evelyn, so she wouldn’t see the Akron Marbles label.
Standing outside Ernie’s shop with the bag of diamonds in his pocket, Adam did not kid himself that the second proposal would go as smoothly as the first. This time there were new challenges to be overcome: getting out of his engagement with Lily Manzana for openers. Then there was the whole history of the french fry incident.
A squirrel scouted the curb for orphaned potato chips. It popped upright in a moment of routine panic, but no cars were coming, and it lingered erect to savor the cool air and quiet of its surroundings. Costa’s location could hardly be called a chichi district, but then, downtown had no chichi districts. Past the city limits lay the lush hardwood hammock—cabbage palms, loblolly bays, oaks—and skirting that, orange groves that were now in full fruit, but here, in spite of the tinsel Christmas decorations overhanging the street and the reminders that there were only Four More Shopping Days, the city wore the joyless face of many a town in central Florida.
Interstate 4 had come through, but the region still fairly trembled in anticipation of the next big thing, the thing that would lift it from being a largely rural cracker town into something like modern glory, as had happened in Palm Springs and Miami. Adam had been only a child during the 1920s boom, when you could hustle Detroit and St. Paul rubes into shelling out their life’s savings for vacant lots with sinkholes, and by the end of the day, those same rubes could unload those same sinkholes on still other rubes from Newark and Chicago at a healthy profit. But the land craze had receded, leaving central Florida largely unchanged.
Adam looked left and saw the steeple of First Presbyterian, once the tallest structure on the skyline. Now the town was warted with buildings, a few as tall as ten stories. The city’s quest to modernize resulted, however, as if by design, only in raising the general squalor. The courthouse annex, a turquoise-colored concrete waffle that stood beside the Greek Revival courthouse like an ugly stepsister, necessitated not only closing Court Street to make a parking lot, but demolishing the “old” courthouse, a redbrick Victorian with a clock tower to one side that had been a fixture of the landscape even before the Old Man himself was born. Stately emperor palms had been brought in for the new courthouse, which made the place look a good deal more tropical than the uprooted oaks they replaced, but offered neither acorns for squirrels, climbing places for children, or shade for anyone. Adam had cheered with the rest of the town when street pavers came in after the last world war. It’s about time, the citizens had told one another approvingly, but now, although he scarcely would have credited that a street could be pretty, he realized that the old brick streets had been pretty, and he regretted thinking of them hidden under coats of black asphalt.
Looking at the brown brick tiers on the storefronts across the street filled Adam with an unexpected sadness. He smacked his lips and tasted the dry air. He took a Pall Mall from his shirt pocket, lit it with his trusty Zippo, and turned his thoughts to Evelyn.
Naturally Evelyn would be hard to convince—once she made up her mind there was little chance of unmaking it—but the impending marriage to Lily would put a point on the matter. He would tell her he loved her and couldn’t live without her. If you don’t take me now, darling, I’ll be gone forever, he imagined himself saying. Gone. There could be no arguing with such patient love as he had. She would relent.
“You certainly appear incited this morning,” Lily said when he returned to the jeep.
Adam had long since learned to accept his fiancée’s peculiar mode of expression without comment. “She walks in beauty, like the night,” he quoted for her, “of cloudless climes and starry skies, and all that’s best of dark and bright, meet in her aspect and her eyes.” Just about the only thing he’d gotten from Sisters of Mercy Academy besides an ability to hold his liquor and a well-earned reputation as a fighter was the facility of quoting poetry by the yard.
Lily looked at her Reader’s Digest, a feeling in her stomach as if she were the winner on the TV show Queen for a Day with host Jack Bailey; once upon a time there was a gallant business owner who quoted his wife poetry as a shy waitress wiped his tables and bussed his trays, watching and dreaming that someday maybe someone would recite for her.
Adam backed out of the parking space. “We’re off to Evelyn’s,” he said.
“To pronounce our engagement,” Lily said complacently. At his side, she tucked the collar of his handsome starched shirt under his windbreaker.
Adam said nothing but took a drink of beer.
Lily could not restrain her sigh.
“Maybe we should postpone until later to celebrate,” she suggested in a voice she tried to make cheerful—he hated being mothered, she knew—and patted his chest.
Lily’s insinuation that because Adam was frugal, he was some kind of a lush irked him; 8:00 A.M. was early to have a beer, he knew, but he had pulled the tab on the way to Costa’s without thinking, and now that it was open, there was no point letting it go to waste.
“There is an open container law,” Lily said. A black and white squad car passed in the rearview mirror. “Are you aware of that?”
Adam was aware. “So?” She was always trying to work him—never telling him directly what he should do, but always dancing around with sly hints, queries, and insinuations. He took a defiant swallow. “You’d like to get a law enforcement officer involved in this, is that it?”
She looked at her magazine, studying Liz Taylor’s photo with the intensity of a spurned Debbie Reynolds. “I am only remarking.” Her eyes stung, but she would die before she let him see. He always took care of her; just once, couldn’t he let her take care of him? “I do not desire you to get a citation.” Lily turned a page. “Did you make a note? Dr. Bateman says you are supposed to make a note.”
Adam gripped his filter tip in his teeth and slipped a notepad from his back pocket. Holding the notepad against the steering wheel as he drove, he wrote, Monday: A couple of beers.
The other week, Lily had made him an appointment with Dr. Bateman, which Adam had assumed was for a blood test, but in reality was so they could gang up on him about his “drinking.”
You’ve got to face it, Adam, the doctor had said. You have a drinking problem.
What else can I do, Doc? I practice every chance I get.
Lily and Dr. Bateman were not amused. Dr. Bateman had looked stern and concerned, and Lily had looked worried but also satisfied—like someone’s damn mother who’s been vindicated by the headmistress. I told you what would happen if you picked fights. Adam sat on the chilly examination table, stripped to his striped boxers, on that white paper they roll out so you won’t have to think about the diseased half-naked person who’d been there before you. Adam was the only one not fully dressed. There was no way you could tell him that wasn’t a deliberate tactic: get someone to take his pants off before you negotiate with him. Adam would have to try that the next time he closed a deal, but how to get the other guy naked?
It is not just his drinking, he’d overheard Lily whisper to the doctor outside the examination room. It is also his impersonations.
Adam could have told him that his “impersonations,” as Lily called them, had nothing to do with drinking. He never planned to pass himself off as other people; he simply wanted to help. Girlfriend Sue never objected to the Cheerios Kid, Hey, you’re not really a knight! When dragons were involved, the man for the job stepped up, and that was that.
After the examination, Dr. Bateman suggested Adam check into Chattahoochee for a few days. Adam had been to Chattahoochee once before—he’d gone out of love for Evelyn, that reason and no other, surrendering his shoelaces and painting those damn therapeutic ceramic alligators—but he didn’t care to repeat the experiment.
Dr. Bateman had finally wrung a concession from Adam that he would keep a daily record of how much he drank; thus far, the record confirmed his so-called drinking problem was all in Lily’s head. The entry for each day read the same, A couple of beers.
While he was thinking about it, though, the mini-cooler did need a refill. “Tank’s nearly empty,” Adam said. “I’m stopping at the Sinclair on Eola.”
As the gas pump announced each gallon with a ding, and the attendant sponged water onto the windshield and began to squeegee it away, Adam got out and spread his arms. The cool air was refreshing after sharing a ride with Lily.
“I need to go over and make a call,” Adam said, pointing a thumb at the phone booth.
“You have to monitor your business concerns,” Lily said eagerly, and Adam said, yes, it was business. The mention of Adam’s investments always made Lily feel like a schoolgirl getting to meet an astronaut. Adam had a hand in everything, and glamorous artifacts of his enterprises graced his home, such as the mysterious map of land purchases hanging over his office desk. She knew he wasn’t justgoing to monitor his business concerns, but her eyes followed him with prideful ownership.
She had worked so hard to be worthy of him, starting years ago when she had told him, There is a snake in your garden. He took a hoe out to kill it, but he never guessed what loving pains that information had cost her: practicing over and over, until she could pronounce it properly, snake—hours scraping greasy Spanish from her speech, all those vowels with never enough consonants to go around, starving for an hache or erre. Snake: she’d learned to say it precise and clean, like sophisticated Aunt Esperanza who married the Greek doctor, not flabby, silly es-nake, like Lily’s fat cubaña mother—I’m es-cared of es-nakes!—and far from the Spanish culebra, coiling and stretching in the mouth like a muscle.
She had come a long way.
Adam made a mental note before going into the Little General next to the Sinclair to donate to the bell-ringing Santa Claus on his way back out. Paying for his tallboys, Adam studied the palm tree display at the register. XMAS SPECIAL, said the sign, BUY TWO OR MORE FOR ADDED TROPICAL AMBIANCE. The sign explained that the palm trees stood five feet tall when fully inflated and came with Christmas lights attached. He fingered the vinyl fronds of a tree that had been inflated as part of the display.
“Is it Ex-mas already?” Adam asked. “Seems like only yesterday it was just Ex-giving.”
“Haw,” laughed the fat girl behind the register. “You want a receipt with that, sugar?” The farther south you went in Florida, the more high-toned people tried to act; at the Palm Springs Stuckey’s, the waitresses smoked nothing but Benson & Hedges, but here in central Florida, thank the Lord, you could still find a few genuine crackers—good-hearted Southern girls who could chew Fruit-Stripe Gum, smoke a Lucky Strike, and make small talk all at once.
“You sell many of these?” Adam asked.
“Not really,” she admitted. She sucked the cigarette between her plump red fingernails. “People want something more traditional.”
“What aspect exactly of an inflatable light-up palm tree could be considered untraditional?” Adam asked, and then, without waiting for an answer, “Can you break a quarter so I can make a phone call, dear?” He needed to get his business out of the way so he could speak to Evelyn with a clear head.
On the way to the phone booth, he dropped a dollar fifteen into the red bucket and was acknowledged with a “Merry Christmas” from Santa. Adam didn’t consult the phone book hanging from its chain, but looked through the business cards in his wallet—as always, at the sight of General Potter’s card (U.S. Army, Retired) Adam’s heart momentarily beat faster, but he continued flipping through cards until he found one with an oily stain along its crease from sitting in his wallet. He dialed the number and stared through the glass wall.
Farther south, Eola led to the neighborhood he’d lived in before his temporary divorce—sweet bungalows shaded by live oaks and, below that, orange groves with bright fruit hanging like ornaments this time of year among dark shiny leaves. A right and a dogleg would take you to the Wigwam Motel, where Adam had once spent the night in an authentic concrete Indian teepee, but here it was sandy vacant lots and sad cinder-block buildings as widely spaced as a hobo’s teeth. A sign with Winged Justice holding a flaming sword—GABRIEL ANGELO, BAIL BONDS—swayed and creaked on rusty links, and chilly sunlight scraped through green bristles of the scrawny pines between the single-wides across the street. Poor central Florida. Who would come to redeem her?
A familiar voice answered the phone, and Adam said, “Hello, Randal. How are you, you old rascal? Adam Newman here.”
“Hello, big’un. Just fine. You?”
“Fair to middling. Fair to middling. How’s that pretty wife of yours?”
“Fine as frog’s hair. She was just asking about you the other day. She says maybe we could have you out for supper. We could fry you up some catfish.”
“I’d love that,” Adam said. “Maybe I could bring,” the next word had a knob that caught in his throat, “Evelyn. If I can talk her into it.”
Randal’s response was solemn, “What about Lily?”
“She doesn’t understand me the way Evelyn does. I wish she did, but she doesn’t. Lily’s kind of narrow. I’m working on a deal right now to get me and Evelyn back together.”
There was a silence at the other end before Randal said prayerfully, “Oh, Adam, I hope so. Me and Sarah keep hoping y’all two’ll get back together. We’re pulling for you.”
“You take care of Sarah,” Adam said. “Don’t you let a good woman like her go. ‘A man who finds a wife, finds a good thing.’”
“Anyhoo, the reason I called is I was wondering if you’d given any more thought to that matter we discussed. Those five acres near the interstate.”
“Listen, about that. I’m sorry, Adam.” Randal hesitated. Hearing the pause, Adam already knew what Randal was going to say next. “This other outfit showed up and made an offer. Right out of the blue.”
“Another outfit.” This was not unexpected, and yet blood rushed to Adam’s head. The telephone booth seemed to sway, and he put his hand against the smeary glass to brace himself.
“Yeah, I’m sorry I didn’t let you know first. But it was right out of the blue. And it was such a good offer—and they didn’t just want the five acres, but the whole ranch. The offer was so good, I couldn’t pass on it.”
“This other outfit. Ayefour or Compass East?”
“Ayefour, that’s the name of it. You heard of them?”
Adam exhaled from his nose. A rust-and-primer-covered Belair came gunning from the trailer park.
“Ain’t these Ayefour people on the up-and-up?” Randal asked.
The Belair hopped the curb, and with a dry, flapping pop like a fat man’s fart, its tire burst.
“No, nothing like that,” Adam said. The driver had gotten out and was staring in mute consternation at his lopsided car. Someone was in trouble, and Adam was the man for the job; this trumped even the Cross-Florida Barge Canal and the mysterious Ayefour Corporation. “I wish I could talk, Randal, but I’ve got to hang up now. There’s a situation here.” Adam imagined Evelyn watching from above, seeing him discuss the most important land deal in Florida’s history and then coolly proceeding to help a fellow mortal in distress. The Amazing Adam Newman. “Just keep an eye out and let me know if you hear about Ayefour buying up any more land in your area.” He hung up and hurriedly scribbled on the back of the card, A4 purch: 12/21/65. He ran out. “I can help, I’m really experienced in these things.”
“You’re a doctor?” came a feminine voice from the car. “Praise Jesus!”
“Jesus!” Adam echoed.
Now his angle of vision allowed him to see that a woman, a girl really, lay in the front seat. Her chest rose in rapid, desperate huffs, and her damp face shone with exertion.
“Praise Jesus,” the girl said.
“Praise Jesus,” Adam repeated automatically, crossing himself.
“She ain’t religious,” the young man told Adam. “She figures it’s better to say ‘praise Jesus’ than ‘fuck.’”
Adam nodded at the wisdom of this.
“Help me get her to your car, and we can drive her to the hospital,” the young man said. Though probably no more than nineteen, he already had the calloused hands and leathery tan of an orange picker.
“Had we but world enough and time,” Adam said, “that plan would work out fine. But your baby’s on its way right now.”
“Look—” the boy began in a truculent tone.
“Jesus, Johnny, he’s a doctor, just let him do it!” the girl said through clenched teeth and emphasized her point with a protracted grunt.
“Are you really a doctor?” Johnny asked suspiciously. He had unruly dark hair and suspicious-looking eyes.
“Have you heard of Dr. Bateman?” Adam had a vague notion he could get them to his own physician.
“We need to get her to the hospital,” the boy said.
“We don’t have time for that,” Adam said. He could already see the protruding crown of the baby’s head—a small furry coconut.
“You’re not really a doctor,” the boy said.
“Jesus, will you quit talking and let Dr. Bateman work?” the girl said.
What should Adam do? This sort of thing always seemed to happen to him. Telling them at this juncture he wasn’t a doctor would do none of them any good. Childbirth wasn’t such a big deal, was it? Women had been delivering babies since forever with no help at all; Seminole Indians used to give birth in the middle of the field and go right back to hoeing potatoes. Or was that the Irish? He wiped his stubbly chin. In an instant he made his choice. He slung off his blue windbreaker and rolled up his sleeves. “You start on that tire,” he told the boy, “and I’ll start on your wife.”
“You’re not a real doctor,” the boy repeated.
“Jesus, Johnny, Jesus,” the girl said. “Just let Dr. Bateman do his job!”
Adam Newman always stood ready to offer himself when needed, and if he wasn’t needed—for example, if Adam Newman, Real Estate Speculator and erstwhile Restaurateur wasn’t required, but Adam Newman, Veterinarian, or Adam Newman, Attorney-at-Law—he stood ready to offer that too. Once in a summer squall, he stepped in as Adam Newman, Traffic Cop and directed cars through a broken stoplight until a genuine patrolman arrived to replace him and quiz him suspiciously about his qualifications. The officer had looked less than convinced by Adam’s explanation that he was a plainclothes traffic cop, but no one could fault the judicious efficiency or the graceful, almost balletic élan with which he’d waved the cars safely past.
Adam knelt beside the rust-scabbed car. The girl’s dress, the color of dry palmetto fronds, looked as if it should belong to a much older woman. The sodden panties rolled to her ankles, dusty black loafers, and white socks made Adam sad. The upholstery was old and full of holes, and Adam imagined springs must be poking her back.
The main thing, he thought, was to be a reassuring presence; he needed to sound medical. “I want you to make yourself as comfortable as possible, dear,” he said tenderly. What else? “With your knees bent at forty-five degrees and shoulder-width apart. Take light tiny breaths as if you were trying to whistle but don’t know how.” Adam demonstrated—“Whhh! Whhh! Whhh!”—before he got light-headed and rocked back on his heels. He lifted a Schlitz from its carton, pulled off the tab, and took a steadying sip. “The head is coming first, which is good,” he said diagnostically. “I don’t want us to go for anything fancy today—just the basics. Some people ask me, ‘Doc, can we have a breech delivery?’ but personally I like to keep things simple. Like Thoreau said, ‘Simplify, simplify, simplify.’ And if I might add, simplify.”
“Praise Jesus! Praise Jesus! Praise Jesus!” She craned her neck and pushed.
“You’re not really a doctor,” Johnny repeated obdurately. He frowned, and Adam realized he’d cupped his hands as if he had on a catcher’s mitt, as if he expected the baby to shoot out like a fastball. Adam rubbed his hands together and rested them on the door jamb in a more relaxed posture, and after another moment of regarding Adam distrustfully, the boy sullenly put the jack beneath the car and began to crank it.
“Now, miss, whenever you’re ready, I want you to push.” The coconut top came forward; now it was clearly a head. “Push. That’s it.… No, no, no! Loosen the lug nuts before you jack up the car. You’ll never get the tire off that way.”
“What’s going on?” The cashier and Santa had come out to see the commotion. “Oh, my God!” Aware she had stepped into a medical environment the cashier spat out her cigarette and crushed it under the toe of her shoe. Her gum she swallowed.
“Jesus! Is it out yet! Jesus!”
“Please give us room,” Adam said over his shoulder. “This is a delicate business. You’re doing fine, miss. We’ll have that baby out in a jiffy.”
“Do you need us to boil water or something?” Santa asked.
“That is a myth, sir. Like painting alligators.” Adam did not want to sound brusque, but he wished the cashier and Santa Claus would go mind their own business. These situations always drew well-meaning meddlers.
The top of the head had emerged.
“On second thought, do you have bags of ice? Get one for me.” The cashier trotted away on heavy thighs and Santa followed, unsure what else he could do.
“Do you need towels?” Johnny asked, thinking of a delivery he’d seen on I Love Lucy or else Bonanza.
The baby was coming, coming. “It’s not a bad idea,” Adam admitted. “But there won’t be towels around here. Go to the men’s room and grab as many paper towels as you can. They should be sanitary enough.”
As soon as Johnny left, the head passed through, and then the whole baby from shoulders to feet slipped steaming into sunlight as smoothly as a trout sliding down a hull into the water. “There it is! There it is!” Adam said triumphantly. He wrapped it in his blue windbreaker to keep it warm.
“Oh, Jesus,” the girl said. She laid her sweaty head back on the upholstery, her knees trembling. The miracle of childbirth operated like a magnetic field; in short order the boy, the cashier, Santa, and Lily all converged on the spot.
“What’s happened? Is it—” The boy ran up with two fat fistfuls of brown paper towels.
“It’s a beautiful baby boy!” Adam said. “Oh, wait a minute. Excuse me. Baby girl. Euggh. And there’s the placenta.” The kinked purple cable leading from the baby trailed a magenta pillow. “In olden days the mother cooked and ate the placenta for nourishment,” Adam informed them, “but that is not something I would recommend.” Adam lifted the baby up to her father. “You can take it from here, son,” he said. “I’ll take a look at this flat.” He offered the new mother a clump of paper towels. “Press these against your…” What was Latin for pussy? “Hold these against yourself,” he told the girl. “There’s a certain amount of bleeding.”
Adam knelt beside the tire, and Santa helped him slide it off the bolts and replace it with the spare. After Adam released a mechanism on the jack, he and Santa began finger-tightening the bolts, one with each hand as the car lowered. Adam did not mind that grease from the tire and bloody mucus from the birth coated his fingers in a sludgy mixture; this was the witness of a man who was master of all situations. “I, now forty-seven and in perfect health,” he said lightly to Santa, “begin.” Then he addressed the new parents, “Now you two need to get to the hospital as soon as possible. And then get a new tire. This one’s almost as bald as the flat one.”
Lily’s red capris and high heels appeared by Adam’s elbow. “Oh, Adam, you wonderful man, I saw!” She knelt and put her arms around his neck as he worked on the tire. She kissed the back of his head. “Is there anything you can’t do?” Adam felt some trepidation lest she broach the topic of his nonexistent medical training, but he couldn’t help feeling pleasure at her praise.
The cashier came galumphing back with a sack of ice. “What do you want me to do with this?” Sweat pasted her black curls to her forehead.
“Excellent, you’re just in time. Take those beers there and that ice to my jeep. You’ll find a mini-cooler in the backseat sitting on a case of sparkling Burgundy. Put the beer in the cooler and pour the ice over it.”
Copyright © 2011 by Man Martin
Meet the Author
Man Martin spent his childhood in Florida and Georgia and currently teaches high school English in Atlanta. He is the author of Days of the Endless Corvette, which won the 2008 Georgia Author of the Year Award for First Novel.
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Adam Newman wants to reunite with his ex-wife and will do anything to get the girl. This slapstick comedy of errors is set in 1960s Florida and has so much ridiculous situations you don't know whether to laugh or cry for the hero of this story. Don't try to understand the plot (missing diamonds, land speculation, Communists and Walt Disney?); just enjoy the comedy of errors!
When it comes to tasting literature, until now, I must confess that I have, in general, been hopelessly marooned in The Ivory Tower like some misguided, over-educated, haughty brother of Rapunzel, waiting for a contemporaneous, under-recognized author to arrive and and free me from my tower dungeon of ignorance with his or her beautiful words. I was somehow suffering under the delusion that great literature only came from places the likes of, "Posthumous Island," "Bestseller Bay," or "Pulitzerville." Wait a moment while I laugh at myself. Ha, ha, ha ... Ironically, I actually met Man Martin at a recent G.W.A. conference while I was reading "Crime and Punishment" by you-know-who. In fact, Man's last words to me, as I exited the conference with a signed hardback copy of "Paradise Dogs" under my arm, were something along the lines of, "My book's going to be quite a shift for you!" Yes, Man, it was, but not in the way you imagined. I held Man Martin's book up to the same scrutiny that I hold any great book up to, and, I fell in love with it and I know you will too. What do great books have in common? Well, for one, they have many themes that are finely interlaced within and leave us with deep messages that impact our lives. "Paradise Dogs" contains many such themes. My favorite theme perhaps is the eternal battle between optimistic and pessimistic ("real") fiction. And I think I know which side Man is on after reading this book. Another great theme is that through helping others, we help ourselves. Finally, the theme of idealistic versus worldly love brings thought-provoking tension to every page. And there are many other themes for the reader to discover. Great books have metaphors that hauntingly stir readers. The piteously bungling protagonist, Adam (a character every reader will fall in love with if for nothing else, his endearing humanity), shows us that bungling has a deeper meaning at work in the intellectual underbelly of this novel: true bungling is when we force our own meaning onto the world rather than letting the world speak to us. Great books have multiple sub-stories craftily woven in, their denouements kept just out of sight until the reckoning of the super plot at the end. "Paradise Dog's" is entertainingly bold in its far-reaching entanglements, which makes it a cross-genre novel in my humble opinion, and, so, as great books should be, unclassifiable and quite original. Adam is trying to get his life back. There are multiple love stories, one ostensibly unrequited. There is conspiracy, subtle and overt humor, mystery, and suspense as we follow Adam on his odd journey to the author's unique version of his salvation. Great books have quotes that you can take with you, and great messages. My favorite quote is: "I, now forty-seven years old in perfect health, begin." I love this quote! Perhaps we are all starting over. Everyday perhaps. And a great message in this book: it's never too late to re-claim one's life. Also, in a twist at the end, readers may come to know what love really is, at least Man Martin's perception of it, which is humble and honest and real. Adam can only love when he has corrected his biggest bungle, which has to do with someone he forgot to love perhaps his whole life ... the one we seem to always forget. Great books challenge and delight readers. I had to use a dictionary constantly (and as an author myself with an English degree my vocabulary is not exactly shabby). Also, Man uses his acumen and passion for great literature to perfume his story throughout with elegant allusions, poetical infusions, reverberating similes, and enjoyable description. All in all, "Paradise Dogs" is a book to applaud and cherish, and, I, now forty-six years old in perfect health, begin that endeavor. Yours in literature, J.G.C.
In 1965 Florida, realtor Adam Newman dreams of one thing, a person he once had as his wife Evelyn but no more. He muses about how happier he was when he and Evelyn managed legendary Paradise Dogs roadside hotdog diner. He is successful but knows that is nothing without Evelyn. Ironically only Adam would want a second chance with one woman while engaged to another. He tries to help his son Addison compete for a coed against his older half brother while also searching for $250,000 in diamonds not belonging to him that he misplaced. However before he assists his offspring, finds the diamonds, delivers a newborn, works a land deal, loses his Evelyn again (though he never actually had her for the second time),and more involving the Russians are coming; he needs a drink. Paradise Dogs is a fun Florida tale although there is too much frenzied humor that overwhelms at times the thin plot. With a nod to It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, fans who enjoy an out of control nostalgic thriller will enjoy Adam's strange sense of second chances as he recalls his happiest moment was selling dirty dogs but ignores the grease burns. Harriet Klausner