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The Anna Maria

by Richard Muller

The phone call from my brother had been short and to the point. “Rich, I think you need to get down here.” (Down here being Daytona Beach, Florida, where Dom was handling the sale of Auggie’s winter residence --- just one final detail to close out dad’s estate.) We need to talk. We, being me, Richie and my brother, Dominic Polermo --- the Polermo Brothers --- rising stars of the pizza industry.

“No biggie”, Mark our lawyer had said. “A mere formality.”

“What’s the matter?” I laughed… “Are some formalities more difficult than others?”

“That could be the understatement of the century”, came the reply. “Look, I can’t explain this over the phone. You just have to be here to see this yourself”, and then he chuckled, “This is really something!”

“Well, you know he did chuckle”, I kept telling myself. “How bad could it be?” I laughed, more or less to convince myself.

For more than three years we had been involved in a battle royal with our sister, Ann Marie, over dad’s estate. Finally after all of this interminable stalling, delaying, and outright obstruction, we were down to one last loose end. Sell the winter house --- the money was ours --- Dom and I had inherited the house.

“How bad could it be?” I mused to myself one more time.


The drive from Savannah, Georgia, where I was opening a new store, was pleasant and not too long, and I arrived convinced that we could clear up whatever the problem was and hit the beach in short order ---Hah!

“Tell me again”, I asked quizzically. “Why are we staying in this overpriced beach “no tell” motel, especially when dad’s beach condo is sitting right there?”

“It’s the money --- stupid --- we got here just in time for Spring Break, and the condo management company has leased it out for the occasion.

“But look at the bright side --- they made us an extra ten grand for the month, and trust me, it could be worse. I got here last week --- Bike Week --- you just have no idea --- these college kids --- as drunk and obnoxious as they can get --- just can’t hold a candle to those bikers.”

“This is just ducky. We’re stuck here at Dayton Beach during Spring Break --- gaggles of young drunken college students --- hot sand --- hard bodies --- party --- party ---party—and we’re at least 30 years late --- What are we going to do here?” I threw my suitcase onto one of our double beds and gazed out at the beach crowded with hard partying college kids --- at least half of them scantily-clad females --- such a waste!

“Stop bitching and get changed. We’ve got a boat ride to take.” Dom handed me one of his A & C Grenadier cigars and told me to “Light up --- you’re going to love this trip.”

With that, we climbed into Dom’s truck (a big red pick-up), and drove down S. Atlantic Boulevard --- through Willard by the Sea, and to Ponce Inlet. Once in Ponce Inlet, we drove to the point, went around the lighthouse, and pulled down the street, stopping in a parking lot next to the Sun Cruise Casino ships.

“So you had me come down here to take a Casino Cruise? We couldn’t have found a better time for this?” I was just a tad perturbed.

“Close, but no cigar”, he replied. “Take a look over there.” He pointed to a large charter fishing boat, the “Anna Maria”, moored next to a restaurant bar called The Docksider.

“Great timing”, he said. “Looks like we’re here just in time for the “Two o’clock Businessman’s Special.” He walked up to the charter captain (a disheveled looking man with a Yassir Arafat type half beard). “Hey Mikey! How’s it going?”

“Not bad, not bad” was the reply. So this is the brother? Welcome --- Welcome!!” He extended his hand to me. “Any son of Auggie is a friend of mine. Just take a seat over there by the back. We’re just getting the tour under way. Sit back --- relax --- we’ll get you some drinks and food, and perhaps some cards --- once we get out to the ocean, its party time, then we talk --- relax boys --- have a Cuban.” He handed us two large genuine, but still quite illegal Cuban cigars --- “Light up boys --- once they been smoked who cares where they came from. Aye boys?”

We leaned back in our deck chairs --- puffed away on our Havana’s --- sipped our drinks, and enjoyed the tasty lunch the comely hostess provided.

It was a warm sunny day. The rays just sparkled across the waves.

“This is really nice --- a guy could get used to this --- it could really grow on you, but tell me --- Why are we here? What’s the point?”

Dom leaned back, put his feet up on the deck chair across from him, took a long draw on his Havana, looked at me with a mischievous smile, flicked his long cigar ash --- chuckled and said, “You don’t get it --- do you? We own this boat --- or should I say, dad owned it, and now it’s ours.”

“Auggie owned this boat? You’ve got to be kidding me!” I was more than a little incredulous. “What the heck was he doing with this boat --- he didn’t even like the ocean --- he only came here because mom liked the winters --- Hell when we were kids you couldn’t hardly get him in a row boat!”

“It seems that Captain Mike was a friend of his, and dad bought the boat as a tax shelter, and to save Mike from the Repo Man.”

“So they were partners?”

“In a manner of speaking. Auggie owned the boat and leased it to Captain Mike --- apparently it developed into a lucrative operation --- but you’ll see.

“So how does Ann Marie fit into this?”

“Who knows --- this whole thing is kind of an off the books operation anyway --- I mean, the way she futzed up this whole estate thing, we shouldn’t tell her a damn thing. As near as I can tell --- this is where most of his income came from in the later years”

I sat back and surveyed the boat with a certain wonderment --- Auggie --- a riverboat gambler --- this was almost too much to comprehend.

The boat reached the three-mile marker and began its slow cruise parallel to the coast. The hostess refilled our drinks --- I tipped the girl and turned to Dom --- “This is really good, but just look at all these girls looking around the deck. You’d swear this was a Hooter’s.”

“Ha! You don’t know the half of it Bro --- all I can say is what a country!!”

In short order Captain Mike appeared with most of the crew in tow. “Hey guys these are Auggie’s boys, Dom and Richie --- They’re big-time pizza boys up north --- We got to treat them right --- Auggie was our No. l guy --- We wouldn’t even be here now without him. He sure pulled our buns out of the fire. That man could sure keep a mean set of books, and you know he almost taught me more about investing than God --- Auggie never invested in a bad stock. It’s too bad he’s gone, we sure miss him --- You know you should a let us scatter his ashes out here --- we would a done him right.

Mike smiled at us. “We’re gonna treat youse guys like family! So hey, boys, what’s your pleasure?”

“Pleasure? What pleasure?” I asked quizzingly.

“Come on guys” Mike insisted. “You gotta pick --- What’s it gonna be --- blond or brunette?” He gestured toward the lovely hostesses.

Shazam! Now I understood, Auggie and Mike had been running a floating bordello operation with quasi legality or immunity outside the three-mile limit.

--- “And Mom? – Mom didn’t know anything about all of this? --- That’s hard to believe!

Well of course she knew about the boat and the gambling --- but the hostesses --- Hey! Nobody knew --- that was the whole point!! I mean what the hell --- it was news to us after all!!

“I believe I’ll have that drink now.”

Dom chuckled as he motioned for the hostess’ attention --- “But it’s not five o’clock yet Bro!”

I peered over the rim of my newly filled mug and replied, (Stealing a line from Jimmy Buffet) “It’s five o’clock somewhere --- that’s good enough for me ---Here’s to Auggie –Cheers!!


Later that evening, at the Dockside Bar --- conveniently located on the same pier --- and, it turns out also part of the same business enterprise.

Captain Mike explained the operation plan to us. It seems that the customers contracted or arranged and paid for the tours in advance. The whole shebang --- cash in advance trip --- food --- drink --- hostesses --- no cash changed hands on the boat. The operating theory --- No cash – No crime --- the sex --- while understood --- was supposedly completely voluntary.

“Auggie came up with it.” Mike chuckled. “I just had this marginal strip bar and a broken down fishing boat. I occasionally took a tour or two out on the boat, but that was it --- Auggie saw the possibilities --- We took the girls out of the bar --- turned it into a respectable restaurant --- fixed up and ultimately upgraded to a better boat. Your basic three-hour tour --- Auggie called it “The ultimate Gilligan’s Island Tour”.

“Works like a charm boys.” Captain Mike leaned back with a contented smile on his face.

“Well there you have it.” Dom said. “Now you can see why I just couldn’t give you any of these details over the phone.”

What to do? What to do? Holy catfish! What a predicament this was. We decided to mull it over and get back together tomorrow on the Businessman’s Special --- the Fantasy Island Tour.


The boat pulled into its three-mile cruising mode, and we got down to brass tacks with Captain Mike. We told him that, despite his generous hospitality, we just couldn’t participate in the operation of the business --- We couldn’t explain it to our franchisees and stockholders at home, and we sure didn’t want to get into any more firefights with Ann Marie.

Reluctantly, Captain mike agreed to assume control of the company. “It’s okay boys, we can do it. All good things, they come to an end --- but you’ve done good by your papa --- and he would be proud.”

“By the way, Mike”, I asked in passing, “All those photos of your passengers with trophy-sized fish, where did they come from? These guys didn’t have time to fish on your cruise.”

Captain Mike shrugged and laughed, “Hey Richie, at these prices, if they want a fish --- they get a fish --- We gotta lots of commercial fishers here in dis port --- it’s no problem, hey? A guy spends a lotta time on charters. He should bring home a big fish occasionally --- Right?”

We all laughed.

We were securing the boat and stowing everything away when a couple of suits came up to Captain Mike and asked to talk ---they were plain-clothes police officers --- not a good sign.

It seemed that several of the hostesses were on public assistance --- There were serious questions of welfare fraud. Captain Mike needed to provide records --- Their investigation was revealing serious allegations --- This could be serious!

Captain Mike was negotiating with the Suits. Dom and I were wondering what next. Dom looked up, cursed under his breath, poked me in the ribs, and pointed to the parking lot. Anna Marie was talking across the lot and under a full head of steam. “Well isn’t this just ducky”, I muttered. “Now What?”

“Okay boys”, she said as she steamed up, “what are you guys doing here?” --- Still panting after those young co-eds there Dom? --- And Richie --- Spring Break? Aren’t you about thirty years late? But what are you doing on my boat?”

“Your boat?”

“That’s right --- My boat ---It was named after me. I have a notarized statement from Aunt Nellie stating that mom and Auggie always intended for the boat to be mine.

She approached Captain Mike and the police, and bulled her way into the conversation. “Officer – my name is Anna Marie Polermo ---This is my boat --- I have the papers to prove it --- These men are trespassing --- Please have them thrown off!

The officer checked the papers, looked up and said, “Well these do seem to be in order.” He pointed to Captain Mike, “What about him?”

“Especially him,” she replied. “He’s been mooching off my estate for years, taking what’s rightfully mine. This business is mine --- I want what’s coming to me! Get those people off my property!!”

I looked at Dom and Captain Mike. They both shrugged and nodded affirmatively. Captain Mike said, “It’s okay by me --- It seems that dear Aunt Nellie might have skipped a relevant detail or two.

” Let’s get out of here boys.” Then we started unobtrusively moving toward the parking lot.

Ann Marie looked at the policeman saying, “I don’t mean to be pushy or obnoxious you know --- I just want what’s coming to me you know”, and then, “No hard feelings boys.”

The lead officer took Ann Marie’s papers and said, “I’m sure we can take care of this in short order mam, if you’ll just accompany us to the station. If you’ll just give us a written statement confirming what you’ve told us --- we can wrap this up in time for dinner.

Ann Marie got into the back of the cruiser, looked at us and said, “See ya around boys”, and they drove her off.

Captain Mike looked at us and said, “What can I say ---When your right, your right!

Well --- that was that --- the loose ends were finally wrapped up --- so we could head for home --- on the way out of town we made a slight detour to the Orlando airport --- Captain Mike was making a hasty exit, “stage right”.

We said our goodbyes at the ticket counter --- Mike was off to the Caribbean, and the Bahamas.

We tried to apologize for Ann Marie, but Captain Mike would have none of it.

“Boys --- Boys --- Don’t worry, I’m not hurting – Auggie prepared for all of this --- All of the cash is really in an off-shore account --- He knew something like this could happen. --- Look, your sister was right --- that boat was named for her --- it should have been hers --- but Auggie and I had three boats, one for each of you. The Nina is in the Bahamas, and the Pinta is in the Cayman’s, and they bring in plenty of business too --- So I’m not hurting --- the Nina, Pinta, and the Anna Marie --- Pretty clever, eh boys?” And Ann Marie --- Well, with time off for good behavior --- She’ll get out in about three years.

P.S. Dom and I made a point of visiting Captain Mike almost every year. Of course our visits were always “on the house boys”, and we always came back with the pictures of our “Trophy Catch Fish”