SUN WAKE 05
Something long, warm and wet. It tickled at my right ear, my head resting against my hands. Maybe it’s the redhead again.
Her gentle hands ran through my–
“Aww, wake up sleepy head,” I heard in a soft nurturing voice.
Then, “WAKE UP! WAKE UP!” a torturous voice rang loud inside the car – a now non-moving car. The voice? Hunter. He was sticking a wet-willy finger in my ear.
Yeh, sometimes he was so NOT cool.
“Ready for the last day of your life,” he said. “Look alive, you might even learn a thing or two. I’ma-na help Gramps launch the boat. Make yourself look useful, ‘kay, Hatch?”
I wiped my eyes, stepped out of the car and realized I’d slept through the whole three-hour ride.
I missed everything: the icing down of the coolers, the gassing up of the boat, the endless counting of sugar cane field after sugar cane field.
Ol’ Gatar’s Foodery, the rusty sign read over a weathered tin roof and paint-peeling shack. While Grampa and Hunter untied the straps and readied the boat, I set out on real business.
“Hey, Hunt, I’m gonna take a, well, you know.” I squished my legs together. “Gotta, yeh.”
Hunter pointed me in the right direction – inside.
Ol’ Gatar’s Foodery looked pretty grim. Lights flickered. The floors were sticky. Shelves were stacked mostly with bread, packaged pies, beef jerky and shiny fishing lures. The air reeked of funkified fish and the walls were covered with random license plates and tin signs.
A few of them read:
Death. Taxes. Fish.
Be nice or GET the heck OUT.
Who Dat eight me fish?
Unless Ya’ Mama Werks Here, Pik Up Ya’ Stuff.
One stood out in particular. It had an alligator with its mouth open wide.
WARNING: Children left unattended will be fed to Gators!
Just then, a one-armed man clomped out of the bathroom. I tell you he was seven-foot tall if he were a centimeter. He had a midnight black wandering eye and a low-hanging beard wrapped in rubber bands.
His name was Lazarre.
I know this because I’m writing this life-changing essay after it already happened. So go with it.
Lazarre Bio: details unknown.
Despite having a nub for an arm, he used it to close the door behind him. Then he poked me in the chest with the stubby nub.
“AY! Ya’ lookin’ at somethin’, sonny? ‘Cause I couldn’t help notice ya’ be eyeballin’ me, cher? Wouldn’t be ‘cause of me looks, now would it now, ay? Ya’ thinkin’, how I got dis souvenir. Right, cher?” The one-armed man grabbed his arm.
“No, not at . . . No.”
I back-pedaled, the urge to pee no longer an urge.
“No, SIR!” Lazarre shouted and sprayed my face with spit. “Twas’ the fiery-eyed beast of Bayous Vivrè.”
“Garou,” I said under my breath.
“AYYYY! So you’ve heard of the beast?”
Lazarre leaned back and pulled on his barbed-wire beard.
“Two hours.” Lazarre imitated holding a fishing pole in hand. “TWO DEVILISHLY LONG HOURS I grappled with da beast,” He spat. It nearly hit my shoe.
“Lesser sportsmen woulda snipped da line, high-tailed it outta dere. BUT NOT I. Lazarre, stood TALL. Determined to bring in da legendary beast. Dragged me good, she did,
through the prickly marsh,
over cypress knees,
across crayfish mounds,
into murky meadows,
and under the brackish waters.
“Madness, I tell you. Maddening, I STILL AM! Because finally, after two grueling hours, I paused only for a moment to scratch my nose – just a NANOSECOND, I TELL YA’ – and she dove straight down into da blackness. Snapped me line, PZIIP, HA HA!”
Lazarre cackled, picked long and hard in his nose and continued.
“See this HERE–“ He pointed to a scar running over his left eye, down to his cheek. Lazarre’s face was so close, I felt the scorching breath from his nose.
“She done dis. Fishing line, PZIIP – me lucky souvenir. Words of advice I give you, cher. You see a loose chartreuse line out there, sonny. PRAY.” He smiled, missing teeth and all, but a smile nonetheless. “Questions?”
My back was hard-pressed against a rack of those packaged pies. A bunch fell off.
“Well–” I squished a pie onto my shoe.
“YES, go on.”
More pies fell.
“Well, um, your, um, how’d you–” I couldn’t ask it, so I motioned, grabbing my own arm.
“WHAT? Dis here?” Lazarre tilted back. He scratched his beard with his stubby, nubby arm. “Birthed this way, cher.”
The doors chimed and a familiar face stepped into the doorway, Grampa.
The caustic look on his face said only one thing: TIME TO GO!
“So . . .” Lazarre’s tone changed instantly, more smiley. “Will you be eatin’ lunch with us. OR just makin’ groceries, cher?”
“Lazarre,” Grampa answered with a nod.
“Leon,” the scare-face Lazarre replied.
The men stared at each other good. I could tell they didn’t like one another.
“You finished here?” Grampa asked of me.
I swayed my head no.
“Finish your business then, boy.”
For what did my eyes see before me? Never before had I seen such a way’er-than-cool thing of things.
Lying on the ground in the middle of the bathroom was a rolled stack of moolah. Washingtons. Lincolns. That ten-dollar guy. Even a few Jacksons.
I snatched it up and peeked under the stall. No one there.
I wondered whose it could be. I wondered what it was for. I wondered – who cares!
You snooze-y you lose-y.
Ten. Nineteen. Fifty. There must have been like twenty of every bill.
Rich. I’m filthy, stinkin’ rich. Filthy because, yes, I picked up money off the bathroom floor. A public men’s bathroom floor.
In my pocket the money went, and I never widdled so fast in my life.