Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Gator Grove (Short Story)

Rick Mendez got on the road way before sunrise. The drive from Key West to Lucky Knowles' was a solid five hours. Lucky's place was the last post before the deep wilderness of the Southern Everglades.
"You must've left the Keys pretty early Mr. Mendez," said Lucky as he walked out of the junkyard.
"Well, I'd like to serve this notice and get back home soon; it's my little girl's birthday today."
"I don't know 'bout that, Mr. Mendez; it will be a slow ride to O'Sullivan's place," said Lucky as he jumped into Mendez' Explorer.
"What is it that the County wants with old O'Sullivan anyways?" asked Lucky.
"It's an eviction order. The property is being foreclosed on back taxes. We've sent him plenty of notices to show up in court, and we can't seem to reach him."
"Well, I'm not surprised. Since this area became protected, wild alligator meat was outlawed. He can't sell his catch anymore. I haven't seen the old man in months."
They drove for two miles on a muddy road to a clearing. A mud runner boat was tied to a post a few feet into the marshland. Lucky adjusted the 4HP motor to the stern.
"Now, you will head southwest for 'bout an hour right through the open marshes," explained Lucky, "you will see a mangrove ahead of you, that's Gator Grove. By the eastern end you will find a way in through the mangrove. O'Sullivan's place is on a lagoon right at the center of the grove."
Lucky hanged a rabbit's foot at the bow.
"For good luck?" asked Mendez.
"You bet."
"I see."
Lucky noticed the skeptic grim on the man's face.
"It's not called Gator Grove for nothin'; you know? Plenty of alligator 'round there, so, keep your hands on the boat and stay dry. Oh, and remember to keep an eye on that compass too."
"Will do."
"Well, sir, good luck. I better start walkin' back, gotta feed the dogs."
"Thank you, Mr. Knowles."
"You bet."

Mendez soon realized the little motor wouldn't pick up much speed. The morning had died and now the high noon sun was merciless, Mendez was drenched in sweat; he had underestimated the blazing desolation of the marshland.
He found the opening by the edge of the mangrove like Lucky mentioned. In the darkness of the mangrove the air was sticky, but Mendez felt relieved from the scorching sun. The bellowing of hundreds of alligators filled the thick air; their presence was dark, unseen. Mendez got the message; he was an intruder.

By early afternoon, he found the clear in the mangrove. The house was standing on piles and surrounded by water. Once the boat was properly tied to a post, Mendez walked on the deck. "Mr. O'Sullivan? Are you home?" He knocked on the door, no answer.
"Mr. O'Sullivan, my name is Rick Mendez; I am with the Monroe County Assessor's Office. I have important information for you sir."
Mendez came close to the glass window next to the door to take a look inside.
The butt of a rifle came full force through the glass and hit him on the nose and forehead. As he was coming in and out of unconsciousness, he noticed he was being dragged through the deck, and then he was out again.

"Eviction?! You sonofabitch!" yelled the old man as Mendez was starting to wake up.
"What is this name on your ID? Ricardo Mendez?" continued O'Sullivan, "Where d'you come from, Mexico, Cuba?"
"What?" asked Mendez.
"This ain't no American name, you piece o' shit wetback."
Mendez was now fully awake. He was tied to one of the piles. His chest was tightly chained to the post, and from there down, his body was submerged in the swampy water of the lagoon. He was completely naked, his feet entangled in oily swamp weed.
"Mr. O'Sullivan, please..." begged Mendez.
"Shut yer mouth you fucking immigrant!"
"I'm not..."
"They send a fucking immigrant to take my home?"
"Sir, please..."
"No habla English, motherfucker? I said shut yer mouth!" As he said this, he hit Mendez in the head, this time with a hammer.

The steps of the boots on the wooden deck woke him up again. The sun was going down now and thousands of mosquitoes came out of the mangrove. Mendez kept shaking his hands to keep them away, but to no avail.
Old O'Sullivan approached him from behind.
"Did they teach you to read the Bible in your country, Mendez?"
"Please Mr. O'Sullivan; I need to get out of the water."
"You still ain't gettin' my questions, are ya?"
O'Sullivan took Mendez' left arm, pulled it back and stretched the hand over the wood deck, palm up. Then he took a four inch galvanized nail and hammered it down through hand and deck in three hits.
The screams were loud, loud and lasting. The bellows of the alligators stopped suddenly. Only Mendez' cry could be heard in the lagoon. O'Sullivan moved to the right and did the same to the other arm, only this time, it took him five hits. Blood was trickling down to the water below.
The old man stood up behind a crucified Mendez and proceeded to recite.
"O Lord, you are my dwelling place! No evil shall be allowed to befall me, no plague come near my tent. For you will command your angels concerning me to guard me in all my ways," he paused, "And here come the Lord's angels!"
Two large male alligators silently and carefully came to inspect the offering. Then one of them closed his jaws on Mendez' left leg. O'Sullivan was silent and his eyes wide open as Mendez kept desperately screaming and crying. The eight hundred pound beast started twisting his body to pull the leg out of its socket. The second reptile followed, and then others came to finish what was left. There were no more screams or cries in Gator Grove, only bellowing, only hissing.


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