MIAMI ICE by Martin Buckell
I stand there on the beach in smiting snow and biting wind. There’s already a white dusting on the ground. I clutch my Ambre Solaire, wrap a beach towel tight round my shivering torso and schlep back to the hotel.
“What the fuck?” I say to the concierge.
“Fucking climate change,” he says.
I hear the distant whine of sirens. I go up to my room leaving a trail of melting snow in my wake. I turn on the television. It’s all over the news. Freak snowstorm hits Miami. It’s July, fucking July in the sunshine state. It was eighty-five degrees blue sky when I walked to the beach earlier. My numbed feet are still frozen. I flip the shower to hot and go under it. Nicely thawed, I get dressed in several layers of summer clothing. The TV is still showing the news. A bunch of surfers got caught out offshore and are missing. The news camera pans along the beach; a pack of beachgoers are scrambling off in swimwear. I can’t stop shaking my head at the bizarreness of it all. Already climate experts are voicing ‘I told you so’ opinions in the news studio. I don’t know what to believe. Satellite images show a formation of large nimbus clouds sat over Florida. I look out my fourth storey hotel window at a leaden sky and large snowflakes like scraps of paper falling onto the beach. The fronds of the palm trees are weighed down with snow and streetlights come on confused by the dimness of the afternoon.
I try to call home but the external line is out. I check my cell-phone. No network. I’m starting to feel like a player in a bad disaster movie. I recline on the bed. It’s two thirty in the afternoon and I should be soaking up rays on the sand, slathered in tanning oil.
I decide I need a drink, so I raid the mini bar. I open the small fridge door and peek inside. An array of miniature booze sits on the shelf: gin, Malibu, Jack Daniels, bottles of Bud, sparkling wine. I go straight for the beer, then the gin, then the Malibu and drink the entire contents dry leaving the empty bottles on the bed. Nicely lit, I decide to go out for a stroll. To get up close and personal with the frozen beast, to be in the eye of the storm, to experience this fucked up meteorological spasm. I double up again on layers. I throw on everything I have in the wardrobe. On go the jeans, sneakers, another hoodie. My multiple summer layers probably amount to one tog of winter clothing. I make my way down to the ground floor.
A gaggle of babes in bikinis hurry into the hotel and stand trembling in the foyer towelling off wet snow. They’re pink all over and I can’t work out whether it’s sunburn or cold.
I step out into the wintery scene. I pull my hood tight onto my head and shove my hands in my trouser pockets. I cross the road from the hotel onto the esplanade. Normally this would be chock full of buff vacationers, roller-bladers, strollers, skateboarders. Now it’s under inches of snow and there is only one or two other mad bastards like me out on it. A line of parked convertibles edge the road with their tops down. The cockpits are full of snow. As I trudge through the powder, I can feel my feet start to freeze. I turn back realising it’s super cold and bow my head in an effort to shield from the tracer bullets of snow coming at me. Back near the hotel, a bunch of kids are having a snowball fight on what was a sandy beach. Some clever dude speeds past them on a converted jet ski that he’s using as a snowmobile.
Inside the hotel, a throng of passers-by have gathered near the reception for shelter. Some make their way to the bar. Others just stand there looking out on the street, incredulous.
I thread my way through them and hit the saloon. It’s never felt so busy. These people would normally be out on the beach or by the pool. The one fella behind the bar is struggling to keep up with orders, his puckered forehead sheened with sweat. I stand behind a row of three deep people who have nothing better to do than drink alcohol. A guy sat at the bar in a Hawaiian shirt has grabbed the remote control for the television above the barman’s head. He’s surfing the channels, each one showing breaking news. I read the chyrons along the bottom of the screen: SHOPS CLOSE EARLY. SEVERAL ELDERLY PEOPLE CAUGHT IN THE SNOWSTORM DYING OF COLD OR HEART ATTACKS. SCIENTISTS BAFFLED BY FREAK WEATHER.
Nobody knows what the fuck to do. An old timer sat at the bar launches into a story about a freak snowstorm back in the day. Everybody around him smiles and nods politely.
I realise I should have phoned my boss by now to give him an update on the trade show I was supposed to attend. I stand back from the crowd and pull out my cellphone. There’re two bars of signal. I call him.
“Hey, you at the show? I’ve been waiting for your call. What took you so long?”
“Miami is fucked. I’m at the hotel. Snowed in.”
“Yeah. Check the news.”
I hear him fumbling in the background then the phone goes dead.
Several moments later I feel my phone vibrate. It’s my boss. I hold it out in front of me and press the off button.
I’ve worked up a thirst by now and shoulder my way to the bar.
“Scotch on the rocks,” I say to the barman. By now I can see patches of sweat on his shirt.
“We’re out of ice,” he says, wiping his brow.
“You’re kidding me, right?”
I sink a straight whisky and order another.