Iceland Comes to Florida
Ricky Ginsburg

Redlining was the unspoken name for the process when Teddy Scarlucci's father bought the house in the Bronx where the boy would lose his virginity. Gentrification took its place when Teddy retired, sold the house, and moved to Cocoa Beach, Florida five years ago. The forced sale, blamed entirely on the invasion of "rich filthy a-rabs", a phrase Teddy often shouted at his new neighbors, left the three-hundred pound former homicide detective with a bitter taste every time he uttered the words.

Pensions and Social Security aside, he could have lived out his life in a comfortable fashion, but with his friends and relatives slurping at the constant flow of homebuyers who poured into his neighborhood, Teddy realized the futility of now being the square peg in a round hole. The final blow came with the closing of Tuttenello's grocery and its replacement with a shop selling products that reminded Teddy of the bags of food they doled out in the zoo for little children to feed to the goats.

His escape to Florida, ahead of the invading hordes, was to be his last. He drew a line in the sand and dared anyone to cross it.

He wouldn't have to wait long for a challenge.

In terms of Global Warming, the scientists weren't even close. None of them, from the stodgy, cigar-smoking Nobel winner to the stuttering first year grad student, foresaw the unhitching of Iceland. No thesis ever published had predicted that the melting of polar ice from decades of rising sea temperatures and the sudden eruption of Mount Hekla would together rip the island nation from the Earth's crust on the first day of summer. "Unhitching" was the word pounded into the public by the media, with the notable exception of the New York Times, which, in its disdain for the gerund, ran the two-inch headline "Unhitched" to describe an event never envisioned as a possible outcome of man's rape of the planet.

The roar of granite and basalt - the very skin of the Earth - splintering into gravel, shattered windows on the tiny island nation and awakened everyone from London to Baffin Bay. In about the same time that it takes to properly fry sheep testicles, forty-thousand square miles of habitable land tore itself free and began bobbing and drifting in the North Atlantic, a life preserver of volcanic pumice keeping it afloat. Icebergs, too numerous to count, were spawned as the permafrost and glaciers collapsed into chunks large enough to pummel ships twice the size of the Titanic. Early reports, from the same group of embarrassed experts, predicted with pie-eyed certainty that it would sink. Yet after nearly a week had passed and the land mass remained afloat, a splinter group of doomsayers admitted to a hideous fear that it would collide with Scotland and possibly Ireland.

Fortunately for whiskey drinkers worldwide, the southbound currents of the Atlantic skidded the island several miles clear of both. However, seaside residents on the northern coast of Spain and Portugal evacuated several miles inland as Iceland headed in their direction. Yet, they too were spared, as it was now hurricane season and a series of tropical waves that spun off North Africa pushed the island clear and sent it on its final journey where it would come to rest - along the east coast of Florida.

The landing was more of a thud than a crash, as Iceland merged with the Florida seacoast after almost three months adrift. All of the beaches, from Boca Raton north to Jacksonville, disappeared as the peninsula and the island became one. Days prior to the arrival, local authorities had moved the entire coastal population a minimum of ten miles inland, fearing a possible tsunami. In addition, every available Customs agent and the entire US Border Patrol, who had been policing the Mexican and Canadian boundaries, were shipped via the Air Force to Florida to handle the expected influx of 320,000 Icelanders.

Orders from the White House came down to welcome the new arrivals, invoking the popular "Feet Dry" policy that had been used for Cubans for almost twenty years. The thought being that these folks might easily be convinced to vote on the side of the current administration in the next election.

However, the Icelanders had other plans.

Initially, these rugged descendants of hairy, dirty-knuckled Norsemen gave serious thought to attacking the United States and sealing the border between Georgia and Florida with a western boundary along the Apalachicola River just west of Tallahassee. The blood of conquerors and the burning taste of Brennivin, an alcoholic substitute for gasoline, gave birth to an undercurrent of lunacy under the sharp edge of the tropical sun. Armed with only ice picks, pitchforks, and a trio of unfueled British Harrier Jump-Jets, even the loudest of the catapult builders soon realized they were outgunned.

It was decided by the country's President, who had spent the eighty-eight days at sea negotiating for polo shirts, tennis sneakers, and sunscreen, to simply ask for statehood, suggesting "Floraland" - a combination of the two - as a possible name.

A bit of fifth-grade geography here. Iceland had been a totally self-contained country, free of dependence on any other nation during most of its existence. Wind power, solar energy, and unlimited geothermal reserves along with pristine drinking water and nothing in the air to evoke a sneeze made it one of the most highly rated places to live, as long as one owned furs, mukluks, and woolly underwear. A friendly bunch, as long as you weren't a male sheep, most of them spent their days relishing the lack of tourists, hoping for summer to be on a weekend that year, and smoking an abundance of local salmon.

During their trip south, however, the Icelanders passed through enough pollution and political hysteria to make them wish for the return of their frigid climate and angry volcanoes. The "not in my backyard" attitudes flung at them by Europeans they floated past was enough to make some of them grab paddles and head toward the shoreline to help keep their country away from the hostile mainland.

As luck would have it, the island - originally a monotonously flat heel on its southern shore and ruffled with the ragged fingers of several thousand mile-long fjords to the north - laid its smooth rump into the soft curve of the Florida coastline. Thus, the now east-facing fjords - thawed, mostly barren, and well out into the warm waters of the Gulfstream - offered the possibility of many times the amount of expensive beachfront property than had previously existed.

Miami be damned, towns with too many vowels in their name were calling out to the European elite, the South American crazies, and every Saudi with a Gulfstream. There was now a South Beach two hundred miles long. Around the world, real estate developers began loading aircraft, cruise ships, and tour busses with prospective clients. The former island's capital - Reykjavik, renamed RickyRicardo as an olive branch to Florida's Hispanic population - spruced up its one-runway airport and offered employment with immediate benefits to anyone who could make a bed, clean a toilet, or deliver room service at three in the morning.

None of this, however, held any interest for Teddy Scarlucci and his fellow residents at Century Village, Cocoa Beach, Florida, located exactly sixty yards across a carefully manicured lawn and forty-seven feet of pure white sand that, until the arrival of the Icelanders, had been hand-raked daily. All of their precious oceanfront had been converted into lakeshore by the island and the protrusion of Cape Canaveral to the north. The water had become brackish, mud-filled, and quite the opposite of the idyllic setting the three hundred and two senior citizens had previously enjoyed in their years of blissful retirement. Add to that the constant military presence - convoys at all hours of the night rumbling down Ocean Avenue, fighter jets and helicopters flying so low that roof tiles had been falling - and they were beginning to think the last years of their lives were going to be spent in a war zone.

The emergency meeting of the village's Board of Directors, the fifth one since the "invasion" as they'd come to call it, had started out with firearms training at the Sheriff's office before moving across the street to the bingo hall.

Teddy, who had been elected last year for his fourth term as Board President, slammed his gavel another six times before the crowd was finally silenced. "This ain't no good. This ain't right. You know, we moved outta da Bronx 'cause the neighborhood was changin'." He turned to Reverend Aloysius Sampson, seated to his right, and shrugged. "No offense."
Aloysius jiggled his hearing aid. "What?"
"I was just sayin' these people gotta be sent back to Iceland." Teddy pointed at a frail woman in a wheelchair in front of him loading nine-millimeter bullets into a clip. "And if we gotta be the ones that's gonna send 'em there, then so be it."

From the back of the packed room, several cheers erupted along with the usual release of bodily gases from noses, mouths, and rectums. Someone dropped a shotgun they'd been waving in one hand and in the effort of bending over to retrieve it, fell into a row of seats, scattering handbags, switchblades, and brass knuckles as people tumbled from their chairs. Aloysius, now properly amplified, stood and shook hands with Teddy, clasping him heartily on the back, and then collapsed into his seat, puffing on his inhaler several times.

"I mean, it's bad enough we ain't got no beach anymore. And not that I'm not patriotic or nuthin' but these kids, these little punkass kids with uniforms and rifles and shit. That's the US Army?" Teddy paused to catch his breath. "There ain't no milk in Publix, you go into Costco or Sams and the shelves are empty, and if ya need to fill up your car? Fugget about it. Army's got the pumps locked up." Leaning over the podium, he held his hands out and shook them as though in prayer. "If this ain't war, I ain't Catholic!" He looked over at Aloysius and smiled. "No offense, Reverend."
Aloysius nodded. "None taken."

Sheriff Cragmorton, rapidly approaching retirement himself, and looking forward to his move to a ranch outside Fargo, North Dakota, and as far away as possible from these people he considered an annoyance until election time every three years, hoisted his bullhorn. "Safeties on folks! Make sure the safety is on!" There were several bullet holes in the ceiling tiles from past meetings where the crowd had been wound up like this. As much as he appreciated their zeal in removing this latest threat to his native stomping grounds, and for as little as he could do to stop them from procuring firearms in this gun-friendly state, the high chance of an accidental homicide and the resultant paperwork was his responsibility to prevent. He placed the bullhorn on the floor, leaned over, and whispered in Teddy's ear, "Calm 'em down or I'm turning off the air conditioning."
"Hey, you got 'em riled up wit the pistol range." Teddy reached for the gavel, banging it several times to get the crowd's attention. "Yo, check yer guns. Sheriff says to make sure the safety is on." He cupped his hands and yelled toward a white-haired man wearing a torn, faded Beatles t-shirt, "Jackie, check Mrs. Nussbaum's .45, willya?"

The meeting went on for another half-hour or so, complaints followed by threats, until the crowd realized "Jeopardy" was coming on, and then the seniors piled out of the bingo hall faster than kids running for the Good Humor truck. The Sheriff and two of his deputies collected an empty clip, four full ones, and a handful of loose bullets - everything from a .22 up to a fully jacketed 50-caliber machine gun round. Cragmorton dropped the huge bullet into a shirt pocket and buttoned it closed, shaking his head and counting the days til the end of the year.

Other than protecting themselves against these two groups of invaders, the next greatest concern to the residents of CVCB was a fresh supply of lox (smoked salmon, for the uncircumcised in the audience), a key element in their daily breakfast routine. This is not to say that bagels and cream cheese took secondary roles, but the former was considered a joke in Florida and the latter easily supplanted by either butter or margarine in a crisis. Even the standard bagel could be replaced by rye bread, whole wheat, or crackers, but for these former northeasterners, not the lox.

However, owing to its proximity to Cape Canaveral and its plethora of military hardware, Century Village and most of Cocoa Beach fell within an armed perimeter established by the Army to protect the government's interests. None of the local supermarkets were prepared for the sudden influx of three thousand hungry soldiers and thus the available food supply dwindled rapidly despite the best efforts of the military's supply chain. Refrigerated trucks, loaded with fresh produce, were backed up halfway to the Georgia line, puffs of white smoke chugging away from their overtaxed freezers. Moreover, to the displeasure of the local citizenry, those that got through before their cargo spoiled were delegated to the young soldiers who had held them back in the first place.

Folks at CVCB had now been without lox for over a week and as most of the village's inhabitants were retired New Yorkers like Teddy, where the morning bagel and lox was as traditional and required as the midday hot dog, the loss of this precious commodity was far worse than a hurricane. An impromptu meeting took place the following afternoon, just as the Early Bird Specials kicked in, at the Waffle House on Ocean Avenue by the Post Office.

Philomena Nussbaum marched her walker over to the cashier and punched the Off button on the restaurant's background music, smiling at the teenager manning the register. "Teddy's gonna talk, sweetie. And I can't hear shit with all that noise!"

Teddy swiveled around from the counter, holding a sheath of pink and yellow shipping documents for all to see. "Line forty-seven, Lox - Nova Scotia, quantity: zero cases. Line forty-eight, Lox - Regular, quantity: zero cases." He slammed the papers on the empty stool next to him. "That's the last truck until Monday. What the hell is this? Are they tryin' to starve us to death? Who's more important - United States Americans or a buncha sheep herders and fishermen that are tryin' to invade our country?"

There was a clattering of canes, walkers, and water glasses as those in the diner unleashed their agreement.
"Somethin's gotta be done about these foreigners," he continued, his voice growing dark, "before they run outta their own supplies and come lookin' for ours."
Several in the restaurant shouted "Amen!"
Reverend Sampson stood from a chair across from Teddy and turned to face the crowd. "Ain't no prayer gonna solve this one, brothers and sisters."
"Aloysius is right." Teddy stood as well and walked over to put his arm around the preacher's shoulder. "The time has come for action."
Someone shouted from a corner, "What do you suggest?"
Teddy stepped back and leaned against the counter. "Tow the whole friggin' island back out to sea and let the Gulf Stream take 'em back where they came from."
Mrs. Nussbaum clasped her hands together and winked at the cashier. "Oh goody, a boat ride!"
The Reverend turned toward Teddy and cocked his head to one side. "We ain't got no boats. Whatcha talkin' 'bout?"
"No. We ain't got the boats and even if we did, they's too small to pull the whole island." Teddy shook his head slowly and pointed out the window as a column of camo-beige Humvees roared past. "No. We ain't got the boats, but they do."
All eyes turned toward the window and stared at the soldiers.
"How you gonna get dem boats, Teddy?" Aloysius narrowed his gaze at the Village's seemingly mad spokesman.
Teddy pulled a nickel-plated .44 magnum from the holster on his hip and held it up to where the sunlight glinted off the barrel. His words were more spat that spoken and his eyes glazed over for just a moment when he spoke, "With these."
"You can't be shootin' no Army." Aloysius looked up toward the ceiling. "For the love of God and all the Saints in Heaven."
Teddy seemed to catch himself with a quick shake of his head and reeled in some dark spirit that had taken hold of him. "I ain't sayin' we're gonna shoot 'em, Reverend." Laying the heavy pistol on the counter, Teddy smiled at the group. "Hey, we're just a buncha old folks, right? Buncha old, crazy New Yorkers; don't take no crap from nobody, right?"
A chorus of cheers rolled out in agreement. Someone yelled, "And you're the craziest one of all, Scarlucci!"
Reverend Sampson stepped closer to Teddy and put his hand on his neighbor's arm. "Just what do you propose, brother Scarlucci?"

Teddy looked at Mrs. Nussbaum and nodded. The old woman hobbled over and locked the doors of the diner, giving him a thumbs up when it was done.
"No, we ain't gonna shoot nobody, Reverend, but they don't know that, do they? Teddy began pacing in front of the row of empty stools, his hands tucked into the back pockets of his Bermuda shorts. "First thing you learn on the streets is that there's always one guy at the top. One guy who makes all the decisions. Lotsa rats, but only one weasel. One guy at the top of the food chain who holds the ace of spades." He stopped and nodded at the group. "You find him," he turned and smiled at Mrs. Nussbaum, "or her, and you can make things happen."
"The President?" Aloysius blinked several times. "You want to go after the President?"
"Uh-huh." Teddy nodded. "But not ours, theirs." He slapped the counter, awakening a bald man in a Yankees t-shirt sitting closest to him. "These bastards invaded us, now we're gonna invade them back."
Aloysius coughed several times, pulling his inhaler from his pocket but pausing as his breath came back. "You wants to invade Iceland?"
Teddy smiled. "Yep. And take their President hostage until the Army pulls the freakin' island back out to sea."
"And how do you propose to get him?" Aloysius wheezed.
"We don't have to get him, Reverend." Teddy strode triumphantly over to the newsstand and pulled the morning edition of the Cocoa Beach Tattler from the rack. Holding it out in front of his chest, he panned the newspaper around the diner and announced, "He's coming here."

President Gustafson of Iceland had heard the rumblings from the displaced citizens of his newly acquired neighborhood and as an offering of peace had announced plans the previous afternoon to visit several of the former beachfront communities in the hopes of interesting them to relocate further east where they could once again dip their toes in the Atlantic Ocean. In addition, he planned to spend the following afternoon at Cape Canaveral to see if NASA could be persuaded to move its launch pads to the tip of one of Iceland's largest peninsulas. He would be passing through Cocoa Beach just in time for Happy Hour.

Teddy's plan involved a pair of car crashes - his 2003 Cadillac would be the first of the sacrificial lambs, colliding with President Gustafson's limo at the point on Ocean Avenue where the railroad crossed the four-lane highway. The second would be Mrs. Nussbaum's Oldsmobile, as long as they could get the car started after several years under a tarp in her driveway. As an alternative, one of the other CVCB residents had a three-wheeled bicycle with a large basket on the front that the man insisted he would give them, as long as it could later be repaired.

With the President's car isolated from its military escort, Teddy and three of the younger seniors would rush the limousine and spirit their enemy away in a rented Camry to a large cabana on the north side of the shuffleboard courts. They figured that without a clicker for the security gate, there was no way the Army or any of the foreigners could get into the village fast enough to follow them. A ransom note would be left in the glovebox of the Cadillac, demanding that the Army remove the invading island within two days or the President would be fed to a large alligator - one finger at a time.

As it turned out, the plan was flawed in several areas that the seniors failed to consider. The presence of the Secret Service, trained at protecting foreign dignitaries, and dealing with angry senior citizens, squashed the attack while the residents were still putting on camouflage makeup from the local Army/Navy store in the Waffle House parking lot. Philomena Nussbaum's Oldsmobile had started up just fine but ran out of gas two blocks from Ocean Avenue and the oversized tricycle had two flat tires, neither of which was a size they could find in Sports Authority.

Teddy and his gang of gum-grinders found themselves face down on the asphalt, their weapons confiscated, and the keys to his Caddy in Sheriff Cragmorton's pocket before the motorcade had left the hotel.

Yet a bit of luck was still in their favor. As the President's limo crossed the railroad tracks, a loose pin from one of the rails spun up with the front right tire and sliced the belt running the vehicle's air conditioner. The motorcade pulled into Waffle House from the front just as the Secret Service was escorting their prisoners in through the kitchen. They met at the counter.

President Gustafson peered around his bodyguard and pointed at seniors. "Who are these old men? Do they live here?"
"Yeah, we live here and we want our lox!" Teddy shouted before the agent holding him was able to pull him back into the kitchen.
"Wait!" the President stepped around the towering guard and walked up to the counter. "What does he want? Let me hear."
Holding Teddy's arms behind in his back, the Secret Service agent paused with his prisoner in the swinging doors to the kitchen. "These men were going to kidnap you, Mr. President. I think you should step back."
"Kidnap me?" the President laughed. "For what?"
"For lox, Mr. President." Teddy strained against the agent's grip and managed to point a shoulder in the direction of the daily special board with its full-color photo of the $2.99 bagel and lox platter. "You invaded our country and took away our lox."
The President walked over to the photo and put on his glasses to read the text before turning to face Teddy again. "This is salmon?"
"Yeah, smoked."
"And you call it 'lox'?"

Laughing, President Gustafson turned toward his group of aides and said something in his native tongue. The group and the bodyguard quickly joined in the merriment, pointing at Teddy and his compatriots and laughing even harder.
"Hey! What's so funny, iceman?" Teddy nodded toward the President.
"Iceman?" The President shook his head, pursing his lips. "My friend, we call it 'gravlox' and if you want some, we have far more than we can eat." Gustafson chuckled, "I would not have ever expected to be kidnapped for some fish. But this is America." He smiled. "Land of opportunity, yes?" Turning to his aides, he spoke again in Icelandic but the final word was "iceman" and they all rolled their eyes in unison.
Teddy shrugged. "So, iceman, how much you got and how fresh is it?"
President Gustafson rubbed his chin and looked up at the ceiling for a moment, then turned and smiled at the old man. "It will be better," he pointed at the photo, a look of disgust on his face, "than anything you've ever eaten... my friend. And the price? Well, it depends on how much you're willing to pay, yes?"

Looking back at his compatriots, Teddy winked quickly and gave them a nod. He turned to the President and smiled. "Money's no problem but what about the invasion?"
With a snort, Iceland's lead sled dog nodded, pointing at Teddy's cohorts. "You say that as though we are here willingly."
"Shit, everyone from up north ends up in Florida eventually." Teddy shook himself loose from the Agent and took a seat at the counter. "I never thought I'd be here and now I'm so wrapped up in the day to day workins of this place that I can't imagine livin' nowheres else. And then you guys come along and screw up all I got left." He frowned, closing one eye and targeting the President as though through some invisible riflescope. "And you ain't even rich filthy a-rabs. You're a whole new sorta problem that's gotta get dealt with."
"You need to look at this with both eyes, my friend."
"How so?"

The President walked over and sat down next to Teddy. There was a long pause, as the words gathered in the elder statesman's thoughts. And when he began to speak, it was with more the oratory than the friendly tone Teddy expected. "Your perception is jaded by an unjustified animosity, bred by incipient fear, toward the unknown. Look at your 'lox' problem and how simply this unknown invader was able to solve it for you. Is that the mark of an enemy? Is that the action of one who seeks to do you harm? Of course it's not; even the dullest amongst us can reach that conclusion."

He paused again, holding his hand up in front of Teddy's face, while he seemed to be searching for either an ending or the link to a much larger debate. With a nod to himself, President Gustafson continued, "Some force of nature, with much help from the global community, brought us here, not money, not the desire to leave the environment we've enjoyed since the beginning of time."
"And so we're stuck with you."
"And we with you."
Reverend Sampson shouted from where he was being held just inside the kitchen, "Ask him about the boats!"
With a puzzled look on his face, the President asked, "Boats?"
"Yeah. We figure if the Navy hooks up to your island they can tow it back out to sea, catch the Gulf Stream, and send you home." Teddy smiled. "And we get our beach back and everyone's happy again."

The Icelandic commander-in-chief said nothing for several seconds, although it was obvious from his smile, the faint tears, and the rapid shaking of his head that he was doing everything in his power to hold back nearly uncontrollable laughter. He turned toward his aides and translated Teddy's suggestion, breaking into a coughing series of guffaws along with his countrymen.

He was about to respond to Teddy's comments when, from a short distance away, came a sound similar to bones crushing, but loud enough that they could have been from a pile of castrated sheep carcasses. The Waffle House shook, several glasses fell from the shelves behind the counter and the daily specials board collapsed sending a cloud of dust into the middle of the floor.

Moments later, air raid sirens, unused since the Cuban Missile Crisis erupted in a blaring song and everyone turned toward the former coastline, staring in wonder. Radios in the pockets of the Secret Service Agents burst into undistinguishable chatter and within a few seconds, all of the Agents bolted from the Waffle House, heading with a now growing crowd in a stampede to the east.

Sheriff Cragmorton pulled up to the Waffle House and rushed in through the door. "It's sinking!" he shouted, "The island is sinking!"
"What? How?" President Gustafson grabbed the Sheriff and shook him as though the answers would fall out of the man's pocket. "What the hell are you saying?"
"It came over the radio about ten minutes ago. All that new construction. All those people, tens of thousands of them. Aircraft, trucks." He shook his head. "It was just too much weight for the land mass to handle. Iceland is sinking into the Atlantic and pulling away from the shoreline. They're saying it's going to float into the Gulf Stream." The Sheriff grinned. "Headed north."

Teddy shifted his bulk off the seat at the counter and laughed, nearly popping a lung with a cough that brought up a jellybean-sized chunk of phlegm. Catching his breath, he slapped both palms on the counter. "Hey Prez, there's a great neighborhood in the Bronx that could use a change. Sounds like yer headed that way. Good schools, lots a great restaurants, and you can get a real bagel and lox, fresh, every day. Cheap." He held his arms out to the Sheriff so the handcuffs could be removed, before walking over to President Gustafson and putting his arm around the man's shoulder, the sound of a happy farewell in his voice, "Tell 'em Teddy sent ya. Tell 'em he's livin' on a nice, sunny beach in Florida and there ain't no room for nobody else."

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