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It’s a sweaty Wednesday night and Gene Schrader’s battered Ford Granada crawls down a thin dirt-road lit only by the headlights. His seat-belt dangles uselessly over his shoulder, having not even tried to pull it over his heavy frame. The radio shifts in and out of Frank Sinatra’s smooth tones to mind-numbing static as the car drags itself over terrain that becomes increasingly challenging. There are pools of viscous, stinking mud to swerve around, and Gene does, multi-tasking, picking a bad wedgie out of his ass-crack and slurping foam off the top of a piss-warm Pabst Blue Ribbon at the same time.
The car sways ever more violently as he makes a left, the plastic hula dancer on the dash quaking like it’s fucking dying. The air-con loudly spits a pretty pathetic spew of stale hot air. Schrader’s ugly floral shirt sticks to the wet spot at the small of his back to the point that he’s stopped shifting to try and peel it off. His thick tinted shades slide down the bridge of his nose and his sad synthetic hair clings to his damp forehead. All the while, no matter how badly the driver or the stained carpet in the car smell, it’s nothing compared to the absolutely noxious odor radiating from the trunk of the car.
When he steps out of the car at the clearing, an empty beer can clatters from the footwell, but beyond that, it’s mostly still and pretty much completely dark. A moth flutters spasmodically, twitching around the headlight beams. The thin black reeds vaguely rustle over the continuous refrigerator-hum of bugs or frogs or something, and Gene looks out into the wet heavy dark, long thin plants mirrored over filthy black water of indeterminate depth. For a moment his own breath, wet and heavy, is deafening to his ears.
Behind a half-submerged shopping cart, there’s a big log with only one eye reflecting like a penny in the headlight beams.
A large, meaty paw lifts to hurl the weight of an enormous groaning body, and the propeller-mangled lack of digits on its stubby end reveal its owner to be Spanky the Alligator, a living dinosaur, lurking in the shallows like a bad shit in the bottom of a public toilet bowl. Already he’s drifting over, flat, lazy, resembling a giant evil stapler, cutting through a thick film of green scum and expectantly half-beaching himself in maybe six inches of sludge.
Spanky knows the deal, knows what’s up. They’ve had this thing going on for years, and Gene’s pretty sure that the colossal reptile has been getting fat on people meat for a fair few decades before he started showing up with his sporadic offerings of acid-laced cheeseburgers and trash bags of reeking yellow meat. The gnarled mouth cracks open, flashing a few broken-glass teeth. The inside is yellow-pink and vaguely obscene. Smiling.
Gene smiles back.
He says, “here boy,” and pops the trunk of his car, letting the stink of meat waft out. He hefts Candice’s head, slimy, still defrosting, by the crunching peroxide-blonde hair, and shakes it out of the plastic takeout bag that says ‘THANK YOU’ on the side seven times in red and white letters.
“You hungry, buddy? You want somethin’ to eat?”
Schrader approaches the sloping edge of the water, feeling a little ballsy from the dope and beer, getting within maybe four feet of Spanky’s snarling nose before he tosses the head, only flinching a little, and then Gene’s offering is caught between the gator’s crunching teeth. The night is broken by the sound of something shattering. Water splashes. Bone gives way easily between the huge jaws. It makes a noise vaguely resembling a beer can being crushed, at first, then there’s an obscene series of wet crunches that make Gene’s dick twitch and his eyes glaze over behind the lenses of his shades. Stomach growling, he staggers back a little, not noticing how bad he’s sweating still.
Somehow, the entire skull has disappeared, flattened, into the alligator’s gullet. The rolls of fat under his neck shift grotesquely, making it look easy. The mouth closes. Show’s over.
Later, Gene gets back into the driver’s seat of his car, lighting a joint, basking in something that feels good like two Valium on an empty stomach. Spanky’s chomping on the lower half of a leg, splintering it. Gene’s hand is down his shorts.
It’s a sweaty Thursday morning.