:: Article

The Later Gator

By Mikael Covey.

Reading Offbeat poetry, I had this vision. Ridgwell driving cross country, hot out, dusty road. Stops at a little country store in east Kentucky; or maybe its west Australia, doesn’t matter. The little store is primitive, oddly 19th century. Potbellied stove in the middle of the wooden floor, farmer types hanging around, faded bib overalls and fat stomachs, playing cards, whatever. Joe grabs an icy 32-ouncer, spins the top off with his thumb. Sits down with the old farmer types, says “gents, lemme tell ya a story.” Coleman’s behind the camera, filming.

Or maybe it’s a little tin roof shack along the Florida-Alabama border, Spanish moss sagging from the trees. Middle a nowhere, out back a weathered dock sits even with the black water, half sunken, water flowing over the lower end, the higher end dry and hot, baking in the sun. Gators float at the surface, red eyes in dusky light. Coleman thinking ‘we shoulda stayed on the freeway.’

Here the farmer types are old white-haired Negroes, husky, slow-moving, blind in one eye. Never seen white folk in these parts before. A skinny young bare-foot girl in faded cotton dress sits on the shakey wooden railing of the dock, bare legs dangling carelessly. Like she’s always been sitting here, waiting. She’s eyeing Ridgwell, then Coleman. Wondering if they’ll take her away, to the city, the real world. Or end up like the others.

Idyllic maybe; dreamy, all the peace and tranquility you could ever find, all hidden away. Worlds apart from the hustle, noise, and squalor of big cities. Time meaning nothing here, do whatever you want; fish off the dock, drift down the river on a lazy little boat, immersed in the raw beauty of nature untamed. Coleman looking through the camera lens, sun breaking through dense tree cover, striking the water in a shimmering dance. The strikingly sharp distinction – warm muddy water in the sun; cool dark black in the shade. Then to the girl, her sweet soft skin, pretty eyes, a little goddess out here in the jungle.

Which will the lens favor – unspoiled paradise, or lovely young girl. Where does the real beauty lie. Maybe line up the two together, let the cutting room decide. The girl smiles and Coleman looks up to meet her gaze. A big old man in the doorway, darkness inside behind him, bright sun in front. Rushes forward, knocks Coleman off his feet, down into the black water, camera still in hand. Ridgwell takes it all in, everything – past present future all in this one moment. A godlike vision of all that will ever be. The choices are all his, and gators closing in. Dive headlong into the river, heedless of death and danger, the killing teeth and powerful jaws. Save your friend; or grab the girl and get the hell outta here. One split second and everyone’s fate depends on you.

Later, driving down the two-lane blacktop, he takes a long swig from the icy 32-ouncer. Glances over at the bare leg of the pretty young girl. She’s smiling, looking out the window, going somewhere for the first time in her life. But what will he tell the folks back home. Coleman had a lot of friends, good friends who’ll want to know. Suddenly it hits him, smack in the face, like the blinding Alabama sun. “I’m a writer.I’ll make something up.”


Mikael Covey lives in Dakota with his little girl. He writes books and other stuff and edits Lit Up Magazine. His first novel is due to be released this summer.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Friday, April 3rd, 2009.