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The Alligator's Lunch
The world’s a dangerous place.
Especially when you get away from civilization, because well.. the deadliest places on Earth are squarely in the middle of nowhere. Nature’s good at killing off any stranger wandering into its domain. But then again those kind of places are where the best stories come from.
Our story begins with Jeff Pratt, just a boy living in rural Louisiana. He didn’t fit the profile of your stereotypical bayou billy. He wasn’t a Zydeco blues musician, he wasn’t nicknamed “Bubba”, and he didn’t speak the local creole language, which sounds like complete gibberish unless you got an ear for it.
He was just Jeff Pratt.
Jeff was a tall and lanky thirteen-year-old boy, with a tuft of curly red hair atop his head. He lived with his father somewhere along the Atchafalaya River possibly around the Hooppole Bayou… boy that’s a mouthful. Anyway, I’m not at liberty to say where they were on that river partially because they weren’t really supposed to be there and partially because I didn’t know exactly where they actually were; I mean out there in the swamps it all starts to look the same after a while. Anyway Jeff and his father, whom he referred to simply as “Yes, Sir”, lived in a tree-shaded makeshift shack, though I imagine with the money they were making they could’ve afforded a pretty respectable RV or prefabricated home, however it’s hard to get one of those things that far into the sticks without causing a noticeable amount of damage to the surrounding wilderness.
And I’ve said too much already.
But actually I’m here to tell you about Jeff’s adventure.
Now most adventures begin one of two ways: either something tragic and life-changing happens or someone gets really bored.
Let’s go with the latter.
There wasn’t much to do out in the bayou so boredom was a pretty common problem. One hot summer’s day Jeff was hanging around the shack with, not surprisingly, nothing to do. His father was out in the woods checking on the distillery equipment… I mean hunting. He was hunting.
Suddenly Jeff had an idea to help alleviate this menacing boredom. He’d take a float down the river and have a picnic. Sure it’s not as exciting as an XBox or whatever the kids are playing these days, but when you’re this bored you’ll take whatever you can get. Jeff figured it’d be at least a couple hours before his father got home so he grabbed some peanut butter, bread and his trusty bowie knife; stuffed them into his backpack; and ran down to the raft. It’s called “the raft” because they only had one of them. It was little more than a large collection of wooden planks resting on polystyrene blocks. There was also a long metal pole attached to one side in case he got stuck. The raft floated about a foot above the water, which was perfectly fine for a gentle river ride; just don’t go taking it to the rapids.
Jeff untied the ropes holding the raft to the dock and pushed it out to open water taking care not to fall off in the process. The last thing you want when rafting is to tumble headfirst into the muck at the bottom of a four-foot-deep pool of stagnant water.
Jeff rode the floating platform across the murky water until it slowly crept to a halt. He then took the pole and got himself some more momentum, digging the pole into the muck on the riverbed, pushing the raft forward trying to get it going on the river’s current. There was about a mile of swamp water before it would catch onto the river’s gentle current. Now using a metal pole to guide a large wooden raft through the muggy waters of the bayou is fine as long as you remember to take it slow. The minute you start to rush it that pole’s gonna get stuck in the mud and…
Jeff slowly crawled back onto the raft. It was a good thing he didn’t go into the water face-first, though he would have preferred not to go in at all. His clothes were completely covered in… whatever was in that swamp water. By this point in the journey he was almost a mile away from home and a considerable amount of slimy swamp water was thoroughly entrenched in his britches. So doing the most logical thing he could think of he stripped down to his bare necessities, which in the middle of the waterlogged woodlands is completely nude. Well it was certainly better than wearing some muck-filled trousers.
He fastened the pole to the side of the raft, sat down, and took a deep breath. This river ride was a good idea to pass the time. The only problem with this idea was that when he wanted to go home he would have to either paddle against the current or ditch the raft and make a trek through the woods. Of course all that wasn't really on his mind at the moment as he improvised a pillow out of his lumpy belongings, stretched out onto his back, and got comfortable for a quick nap.
Now you might think that taking a nap in the nude on a rickety raft floating aimlessly down a winding river is a bad idea… and you would be right. Jeff didn’t have any natural camouflage so his pink naked body stood out on that raft like a sore thumb, making him a ripe target for any wandering predators. For all the time he spent outside Jeff really should’ve had more of a tan than he did, since his skin was almost as pale as a ghost. Maybe it was his Irish heritage, or maybe he was anemic; he should probably see a doctor about that… the anemic part I mean. Of course that also wasn’t really a concern of Jeff at the moment as he drifted off to sleep.
It only was a minute, or at least seemed like a minute before...
Jeff’s eyes popped open; his heart was pounding from such a startle. Although it wasn’t really the sound that woke him up as much as the massive amount of rocking the raft endured as the polystyrene blocks bobbed up and down in the water. And then he saw it…
On the other side of the raft was a very big alligator. Okay, it wasn’t that big, however it was big enough to cause big problems for Jeff, who by now was probably starting to look like a tasty pink morsel. The gator had a big grin on its face as it looked at its next tender fresh meal. Jeff reacted by doing what any reasonable homo sapien would do in such an embarrassing situation and promptly cupped his hands over his crotch.
“Oh you don’t have to do that, baby,” a southern lady’s voice spoke.
Jeff looked around, but there was nobody else; just him and the gator.
“We all naked here,” there’s that gentle voice again.
If Jeff didn’t know any better he’d swear that gator was talking to him.
“Such a lovely day,” the gator grinned. “I saw you sunning yourself on this big log, and I thought you could use some company. I hope you don’t mind.”
“Um uh…” Jeff mumbled as he slowly curled up into a little ball.
“Oh where are my manners? I’m Allee, and who might you be?”
Jeff was paralyzed with fear.
“Oh, dear. Maybe you don’t understand me.”
Jeff just stared in horror.
“Mo pele Allee. Sa-ki to non?... To konprann?... To pale kreyol, franswa?... No?”
After a brief moment of awkwardness, which seemed a lot longer than it actually was, Jeff finally spoke. “A talking alligator?”
“Oh have we met before? I’m Allee Gator. That’s what everyone calls me… well except sometimes they just say my last name and then they usually scream it and run away. I don’t know why.”
“You’re an alligator,” Jeff restated the obvious.
“Yes, and what is your name?”
“Um uh… Jeff Pratt.”
Allee Gator grinned. “Pleased to meet you, Um Uh Jeff Pratt!”
“Uh, sure,” Jeff struggled to make meaningful conversation.
“I haven’t seen such a fine day for sunning since I was a hatchling.”
Jeff didn’t really have an action plan for what to do next mainly because he’d never come in contact with a talking gator. What sort of topics would you discuss with an alligator?
“Nice day,” Jeff stammered. “Allee, you… always been able to talk?”
“Naw, I was taught by my papa. He was with a traveling circus when he was a youngin’. Of course that all stopped when he was at a county fair and mistook a prize pig for a pork rind. Naturally this caused an uproar, but he was able to slip away during all the confusion.”
“How does an alligator…”
“Frank,” Allee interrupted.
“His name was Frank Gator,” Allee clarified.
“How does… Frank Gator manage to slip away from a busy county fair?”
“Well he found some overalls and a straw hat and made himself a disguise.”
This story was starting to get rather preposterous, however that was fine because Jeff, while mildly terrified, was thoroughly entertained.
“So he got away?” Jeff asked.
“Yep, he’s got somethin’ down in Texas over at the South Padre Birding Center.”
“What’s he do there?”
“Nothin’.” Allee says.
“Well he’s stuffed and mounted in a display so he’s not doin’ much.”
“I thought you said he got away,” Jeff said.
“He did, but then he got himself shot about ten years later. Before he got himself killed he told me he’d do it all again if given the chance, because he says that was the tastiest pig he ever sank his teeth into... I could go for one of those right now,” Allee said as she licked her lips, which is a physical impossibility as alligators can’t stick their tongue out and don’t have lips to begin with.
Suddenly Jeff heard a rumbling sound from his stomach. He reached into his backpack and took out the peanut butter, bread, and his bowie knife. A peanut butter sandwich spread on with a dirty bowie knife wasn’t the most appetizing meal he’s had, but Jeff wasn’t in the mood to complain.
Allee Gator’s eyes perked up. “Oh, what’cha got there?”
“Peanut butter sandwich,” Jeff said holding up his lunch.
“Oh, you got a pig in that bag?”
“How about a cat?”
“No! Just the peanut butter sandwich,” Jeff replied, now a little bit perturbed. “I wasn’t expecting company.”
“Oh, alright then… boy I could go for a nice meaty snack right now,” Allee said smacking her tongue on the roof of her mouth.
“Uhh, there’s probably something around here,” Jeff said with a mouthful of peanut butter.
“Hmm, there fish n’ frogs here,” Allee said as she looked down at the water. “But, that don’t sound very appetizing right now. I want one of those pink things.”
Jeff ignored her, and continued chewing on his lunch.
“Say, Jeff. You’re not using that, are ya?” Allee asked.
“What?” Jeff gulped.
“Down there… that long dangly thing,” Allee said, motioning towards Jeff’s lower extremities.
“You mean…” Jeff said as he looked down.
“What’s it called… legs? Legs! Can I have your legs?”
Jeff was stunned, however he should’ve expected something like this.
“I need my legs.”
“Aww, you won’t miss ‘em. I knew a cougar that lost both of his back legs, and he got around just fine runnin’ on his front ones.”
“I don’t have front legs; I just got hands!” Jeff said, trying to get all his limbs far away from the hungry gator.
“But you look so pink and tasty, Jeff! I just want a nibble!” Allee begged as she crawled closer.
“How would you like it if I wanted to eat you?!” Jeff growled at Allee.
“I’d at least consider it!” Allee growled back.
“There’s a raccoon! Eat that!”
“Too much fur! I WANT MAN FLESH!” Allee snapped her maw.
“GET AWAY FROM ME!” Jeff screamed.
Allee hissed and lunged for Jeff, narrowly missing his plump unprotected stomach. Jeff grabbed his bowie knife and plunged it into the gator’s skull.
It was dead… he hoped.
Jeff didn’t like doing this, but out in the swamp it’s every animal for itself. His hands were shaking as he picked up his clothes, which were now mostly dry, and slowly got dressed. He removed the blade from the gator’s head, wiped it off, and packed all his things into his backpack. He untied the metal pole and pushed the raft ashore. He didn’t want to go on his river rafting adventure anymore. He didn’t want any more excitement. He just wanted to make the trek home.
Jeff breathed a sigh of relief as his bare feet planted in the soft soil, however it wasn’t but a moment before he looked up realized he was standing in front of the biggest black bear he had ever seen.
Jeff stumbled back, tripping over the freshly-killed alligator on the raft. The bear stood up on its hind legs, staring Jeff down. Jeff’s trusty bowie knife was unfortunately buried deep in the pack on his back, however even if he could get to it he wouldn’t be able to do much damage to the bear before being mauled to death. The towering beast reached its paws out towards the gator’s corpse and spoke.
“You gonna eat that?”
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