“I can resist anything, except temptation.”

– Oscar Wilde, Lady Windermere’s Fan

This story is a retelling of a rumor I heard growing up in Florida in the ancient times of the 1980’s. When big, immobile hair sprayed with enough product that it seriously contributed a giant hole in our atmosphere was ‘in’. When Don Johnson could get away with wearing a $2000 ill-fitting white Italian suit with a tank top and flip flops. When all of the Ramones were still alive, and actor and former leader of The Funky Bunch Mark “Marky Mark” Wahlberg was just a racist dick, still a few years away from beating an elderly Vietnamese man so badly that he was left blind in one eye for the crime of being not-white. When there was a 95% chance that if you did cocaine you were helping Pablo Escobar buy exotic animals for his gigantic, and frankly weird, private zoo.

Two columns in a row that mention Pablo Escobar in an organic manner.

Strange.

If next months has a mention of him that fits within the articles narrative I think I get a free 8ball by mail or something. No doubt along with a free dehydrated DEA agent ready to spring into action the moment I so much as look in the general direction of my mail that day. Anyways, back to the surely true and 100% plausible urban legend I am about to relate.

This story deals primarily with pets and the love we feel for them. Everyone with an ounce of humanity has empathy for animals, even those of us who eat them. I make no apologies for the eating of meat, and in fact fill my freezer with tasty, tasty Bambi meat whenever I get the chance. Venison is truly delicious, but I digress.

I, like most right minded people, love animals to some degree or another. There is one group of people among us however who take that love and allow to become warped and twisted for some unknown reason.

They start to see animals as symbols of status, as living trophies with which to display their opulence and wealth to others via a living creature. The more rare and the more exotic the better. You have a tiger? I have a pair of maneless tsavo lions, the same species as the famed hunters of men The Ghost and the Darkness. Pfft. Amateur, I have a leopard with opposable thumbs that can deal poker. And so on.

Read ’em and weep

An endless arms race of who can possess the rarest, most interesting of exotic, and more often than not, endangered, species. This bizarre cold war occurs among the elite and the super rich, and even among them primarily within one specialized group.

Drug dealers.

For some reason drug dealers LOVE having exotic animals to show off to their friends, enemies, and perplexed and terrified neighbors. The drug dealer status pet is a pretty large industry. Enough so that when Hurricane Andrew hit South Florida with more force than  any recorded hurricane in US history (dethroned by Katrina years later) it wrecked EVERYTHING.

My mother and I ventured outside as the eye passed over us to take stock of the area we lived in and we might as well have been stepping into a post-apocalyptic film. Everything that wasn’t leveled had large chucks of the things that were leveled buried in their walls and roofs. Powerlines spitting sparks and randomly sliding back and forth in the water on the street like spitting cobras. It was a sight to see, one I will never forget. We only went about a block from the house before we heard it. The back half of the storm was fast approaching.

If you are in the eye like we were it has an eerie quiet and calm, then it starts, a sound not unlike a runaway freight train that has just ruined your life and somehow is swinging around to have another go. So we rushed back into our barricaded condo to wait out the rest of the storm.

Hurricane Florence eye as viewed from the International Space Station. Elements of this image furnished by NASA.

Of all the effects the storm had one was never even taken into consideration until a few years after the storm. Namely, where it is that drug dealers get the vast majority of their exotic status symbol pets. The Miami-Dade County area had more exotic pet stores per mile than any other place in the United States. It also seemed to have more drug dealers per capita back then than any other US city, two facts that are most likely unconnected. Surely.

Like I said, drug dealer vanity pets were, and still are, big business. Nobody knows exactly what species and how many of them escaped but a few years later the Florida Department of Natural Resources were surveying a section of the Everglades and found a colony of Nile Monitor Lizards that had been happily breeding in the depths of the swamp.

Worse than that were the pythons and anacondas. The anacondas in particular are a problem as they are displacing the alligators as the apex predator of the Everglades and its far too late to do anything about it. As the snakes grow they push the smaller anacondas, alligators, and pythons out of their territory. 12’ to 14’ specimens have been found in suburban areas. Feeding on dogs and cats in the neighborhoods that border the swamp, which means deeper in the swamp there are larger specimens. They are out competing the ‘gators (and the small population of the endangered American Crocodile it hosts, for now) for food and growing to monstrous sizes as a result.

As one FDNR officer put it “Yeah, we have a real problem on our hands.” No shit, buddy. No shit.

Now, with the context and then some out of the way we can get to the part you came here for, the extremely difficult to verify story of a drug trafficker, his beloved pet, his irresponsible party guests, and a tragic death.

This fellow, the drug trafficker who lived in an upscale Miami suburb was well liked and will not be named in the story by me, we will simply call him ‘Roger’. A sound and reasonable name for a feared Columbian drug kingpin who was known to be a kind and generous man, unless you crossed him in business of course, then he had to take your balls. Or worse. But that, as they say, is how the game is played.

Roger loved animals, and unlike a lot of drug dealers did not have a mini-zoo of exotic and endangered creatures on the grounds of his Standard Issue Miami Drug Lord McMansion. He only had one pet, one he had been fascinated with since he was a child. He bought it when it was barely weaned from its mother and cared for it like it was his own son. Roger loved his pet, and gave into its every whim. Which were simple most of the time.

Rogers beloved pet was an anteater.

He would sit on days off in the shade of his porch watching his anteater patrol the enormous back yard for infestations of fire ants to devour. Which is a good thing, because those little fuckers are not insects, they are evil incarnate. They are unforgiving, unrelenting, with an almost hive-minded ability to act in unison and a bite damn close in pain to the infamous bullet ant. Roger the Drug Traffickers anteater, whom we will call ‘Toby’ for the remainder of our story, was doing gods work by eliminating as many of them as he could lick up with his elongated and sticky tongue.

Why yes, I did fall out of a tree as a child and land on my back in a fire ant hill almost as big as I was, why do you ask?

So one day Roger is entertaining a ladyfriend at his home and in trundles Toby. Toby followed Roger around whenever he was home as Roger raised him, treated him very well, and gave him run of the house complete with his own bedroom. There was never a happier anteater, but Toby was about to discover that he had not yet reached the limit of his happiness. He was about to discover a whole new previously unimagined level of happiness.

The pathway to this unknown anteater Nirvana was as long as the small line of high quality blow that Roger cut out on the glass table top for Toby almost as a joke. Neither he nor his lady had any expectation that Toy would be the slightest bit interested in the finest of Columbian cocaine sitting there in a neat little line on the table for him. He sniffed at it, looked at it, and a moment later out shot his long sticky ant-retrieval device and the cocaine vanished up his snout like so many fire ants had over the years.

Roger and his lady laughed as Toby began to act a bit out of sorts. He started licking random things, moving quickly (for an anteater) from place to place, and probably requested that Roger turn on the stereo because he simply HAD to hear a particular track from David Bowies ‘Scary Monsters and Superfreaks’. You have simply not lived life to its fullest until you have danced and sung along to ‘Ashes to Ashes’ on repeat with a beautiful woman and a coked-out anteater.

I’ve been told my ‘bucket list’ is an odd thing indeed.

A few days later Roger, alone except for Toby who was patrolling the backyard for tasty devil-ants to slaughter in the name of his hunger and God Almighty Himself (I’m a staunch atheist, but seriously, fuck fire ants) decided it was a good time for a mid-morning line to go with his coffee and newspaper. So he poured some cocaine out on his glass patio table (glass furniture tops were very popular in the 80’s, particularly in Florida, and nobody has any idea why this strange trend in home furnishings took off). As he cut out a reasonable line with a credit card and tapped the card on the table to ensure no coke stuck to it he failed to notice Toby’s ears perked up, and he came across the lawn as fast as his little anteater legs could carry him. Roger noticed this, and being an intelligent man realized that Toby remembered the sounds of lines being prepared from the last time.

Roger was smart, but also very indulgent with those whose company he enjoyed, and Toby was his most beloved friend. So he did what any responsible pet owner would do, he cut out a small line for Toby and the two enjoyed their cocaine together. Roger was so amused by this that it became something of a morning ritual. Roger would drink his coffee and read the paper while Toby snuffled around the yard for invasive, unholy, and unwelcome fire ants to devour.

Then, just before lunch, the distinct crunch, crunch, slide, crunch of an obsessive coke fiend getting each line perfect could be heard by Toby and he would make his way to the patio, climb up into an empty chair, and wait for his turn.

Nobody knows for sure, but this seemed to bring the two friends even closer together. Toby had always followed Roger around the house ever since he was a tennis ball sized little thing. Now it was different, now there was purpose in how Toby trundled along. As if he had become Rogers newest bodyguard. Nobody was going to fuck with Roger while Toby was there, and they damn sure weren’t going to fuck with his stash either.

Eventually, as he was want to do from time to time, Roger threw a party. This was Florida, in the 1980’s, and he was a mid-level cocaine trafficker. The party was, like all of Rogers parties, going to be awesome.

There was expensive booze, expensive women, friends, random hangers-on, businessmen, minor local celebrities, and gourmet food prepared on site by Japanese chefs from a new high-end chain of exotic Asian restaurants where to the delight of the customers the chefs prepared your food right at the table. Yes, this party was lavish enough that it had catering from Benihana. Hell, despite being founded in New York the chains headquarters was in Florida. They were seen as a local restaurant, despite being a chain with at least 100 locations.

Years later in 1992 the founder of Benihana Hiroaki Aoki (father of model/actress Devon Aoki and her brother, EDM artist and wild party thrower himself Steve Aoki) was arrested by the FBI and the SEC after it was found he had embezzled more than half a million dollars ($590,000 was the governments official figure in the prosecutions filing) through insider trading. He was stealing from his own restaurant chain which helped invent and popularize the Teppanyaki style of Japanese restaurant. Aoki’s arrest, nor onion volcanoes, figure into this story, I just thought that was an interesting aside.

As the party raged, and booze flowed, and the music thumped and the onion volcanoes exploded with flame and flavor followed by perfectly prepared shrimp and steak the party was about to reach a whole new level.

Surely by the mid point of the evening a good many of the guests had enjoyed at least a bump or three of fine cocaine, but that was not opulent enough for one of Rogers parties. He retrieved an entire kilo from his safe, cut it open, and entreated those present to have a bump to test its purity. This is what is called in the industry cream, pure, uncut cocaine, No additives to stretch it out and make it go further and thus increase profits. Oh no, as Roger was a trafficker primarily he had access to the good stuff, Fresh off of CIA chartered planes from South America. Uncut, unadulterated, pure as pure can be. The way god intended cocaine to be enjoyed, obviously.

So in a small sitting room away from the main party, the dancing, and the Teppanyaki chefs doing their routines he cut open the brick of one whole kilo of cream. Then, like a good and responsible host began cutting out very small, thin lines as if even a casual user were to consume their normal amount of weekend get-a-way blow using the cream Roger was cutting out for everyone a trip to the emergency room would surely be in their future.

Rumor has it that Roger meticulously cut out at least 20 thin white lines for those present, and then left the room to fetch some more guests leaving those lines, and the torn open bag containing most of a kilo of pure cocaine on the table. To the surprise of myself and everyone who must have been there at some point (I wasn’t there, I would have been around 5 or 6 when this allegedly happened) all the yuppies, models, friends, employees, sycophants, addicts, and others present did not simply fall on the coke like a pack of starving vampires on an isolated homeless person. They followed Roger to gather more guests for the oncoming blizzard of pure cocaine that was about to turn one of the many rooms in Rogers McMansion into a winter storm of biblical proportions. Everyone had to get in on it, or at least see it they thought, so the room cleared out for just a few moments.

But in that few moments, from his bedroom next door, Toby heard a familiar sound. The sound of a razor blade carefully cutting coke on a glass or mirror surface. He had always been allowed run of the house, and he was shy around new people, so Roger never thought to lock Toby in. He had always hid in his room in a large dog carrier that Roger provided for him to have a place to hide during parties, and for taking him on trips.

Unnoticed by the guests, who by that point if they had noticed the anteater coming down the hallway probably would have thought it a hallucination, Toby found his way into the spare room where on the glass topped table rested at least 20 thin lines of high-test, weapons grade cocaine. As well as an open, partially spilled out brick containing the rest of the kilo.

It was sometime, nobody knows exactly how long as users of cocaine are not known for their attention spans, that Roger and his guests were rounding up more guests for the oncoming Blizzard of Cocaine. By the time they finally stumbled back into the room they did not find the lines that Roger had carefully and neatly laid out for his guests. They also found that the brick which had once contained an entire kilo of cream was missing a sizeable portion of its contents.

Roger immediately flew into a rage. One of his guests, someone he trusted, had stolen from him. Maybe it wasn’t a friend, maybe it was a friend of a friend, or an opportunistic Teppanyaki chef with an entrepreneurial streak (or a cocaine problem worthy of legend), as the options for suspects raced through Rogers mind one of his guests, a banker I think, screamed in horror.

Everyone looked for what he was screaming at and there, rolled slightly under the table, was Toby. His snout was almost pure white in color, his sticky tongue hanging out slightly, his expression, so much as anteaters have them, was one of bliss that living beings are simply not prepared for or capable of understanding.

Toby the anteater was dead.

He had consumed almost half a kilo of uncut cream while nobody was minding the supply. He must have assumed that Roger left it for him, as they had enjoyed cocaine together before, but this blow was never meant for an anteater like Toby. This was so potent, so pure it may as well have been gods own stash, and Toby plowed into it licking and snorting like a champ. He, of course, died of a massive and probably nearly instant heart attack after consuming, I can’t stress this enough, nearly half a kilo of cream.

Rogers mood swing went from paranoid and angry to beside himself with grief in nanoseconds. His pet, that he had raised from a tiny thing to a full grown anteater, his oldest friend, his closest friend, was dead at his feet and it was his own carelessness that had caused it. That Toby no doubt died happy and unaware of what was happening was no comfort at all. Friends, associates, and hangers on still hoping to score some of the remaining pure coke attempted to console the grieving man but there was no hope of that happening.

What started as a joke had escalated into a nearly daily routine of cocaine use, even though it was tiny amounts Toby had developed a serious problem. Roger had for his own amusement, with no malicious intent of any sort, fostered in his pet, his beloved friend, that very same addiction that cost him his life mere moments ago.

Roger simply told everyone to get out of his house. Those present simply stood there in shock at the bizarre situation until Roger, known for being a calm and reasonable drug trafficker screamed at the top of his lungs for everyone, EVERYONE, to get the fuck out of his house.

The party was over.

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