Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Human Interest

'Obitchuary' excerpt: Tourism marketers won't come calling obit writer

"Before I became a murderer, I led a relatively dull existence." So claims Penny Perkins, "mild-mannered journalist, mild-mannered bleacher of hair in the bathroom sink, mild-mannered connoisseur of midnight macaroni and cheese," in Obitchuary, by Times staff writer Stephanie Hayes (Stephanie Hayes, Sept. 26, 2013). An obit writer for the (fictional) Tampa Daily Register, Penny lives in the aspirationally named Valencia at Sagamond Lake, in a dreary condo that's far removed from the designer-decorated model unit, in detail if not distance. It's all strangely appropriate for a petite blond whose Goth sister resents her for being too perfect. Yet under Penny's mild manners lies a snarky self-awareness.

Before she becomes a murderer, Penny and her best friend Tallulah sit outside brainstorming how to find a date for Penny to bring to her cousin Ashley's wedding.

It was a gorgeous Florida morning, without the humidity that normally gave me a sweat mustache. Days like these were worthy of the hype we get from other states.

See, everyone who lives outside of Florida assumes it's a perfect tropical paradise, with really tan people walking around toting surfboards and wearing bikinis. People with long, stringy, sandy hair. People who are well-rested. People who have great sex in hammocks. People who live in beach cottages with painted seashells on the bathroom counter. Truth is, Florida is a lot like anywhere else, with suburbs, fields, trees, a large helping of Mickey Mouse and an unfortunate tectonic situation. And a good many Floridians are pale and chubby and don't go outside for fear of being bullwhipped by humidity. Tallulah, for instance, had gorgeous, curly hair that turned into the wire scraping pads janitors use to clean commissary sinks on barbecue night. Together, we usually looked like victims of a shipwreck.

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