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The Lives of Alligators

Story by Robert Kloss (Read author interview) March 29, 2011

art by William Warby

Always your family locked the doors for alligators. Your family locked the front doors and back doors and the porch screen doors for alligators hissing along the gutters of the streets. Your father propped chairs against the basement door and leaned against the front door with a mud-grayed shovel. Your father lost his job and collected unemployment for those weeks spent against the door with bloodshot eyes. With a drawn gray face he made you fetch drinks from the stock above the refrigerator.

“A given alligator may live a billion billion years,” your father would postulate, “so why should a man die by age 75?”

How your father trembled for the scratching, when sober or seeming sober. His old haunted gaze. How the collie dog moaned from some darkened corner. How your mother wept at the occasional bursts of gunfire in the neighborhood. The squealing of truck tires, the tin thunk of alligator corpses against the flatbed.

Your family watched from second story windows as alligators crept from the sewers and the leather factories. Your family watched from second story windows as alligators devoured flower beds and dog houses and crunched the bones and snouts of dogs in the doghouses and swallowed with a terrible suddenness the old women who stooped to pull weeds in their flannel nightgowns, the old women who had not heard the emergency broadcasts or the tornado sirens.

Into the evenings, the hoarse screams of old women echoed within the dank bellies of alligators.

And in the black night how the yellow eyes of alligators trailed like fireflies along the lawns while your father slept against the backdoor. The whisky bottle on his lap and his fat slick lips glazed with booze. How he did not know the long off howling of neighborhood dogs devoured, for the sounds of his snores.

At bursts of shotguns and rifles in the streets your father would say, “to a kill an alligator one must shoot the back of its skull, but I have known many good men killed with shots to” and he absently touched various areas of his throat, chest, arms, abdomen, face.

Your family kept the doors locked for the alligators and through the days your father pressed his ear against the cellar door and listened with chest throbbing. You did not know if you heard the hissing of alligators for the wheeze of your father’s ragged breaths.

About the Author

Robert Kloss has known the valley of alligators. He can be found online at rkbirdsofprey.blogspot.com.

About the Artist

William Warby earns his living as an analyst/developer for a local government authority in London. His spare time is divided unevenly between photography, software/web development, movies, XBox, and the occasional novel. You can see more of his photos on Flickr.

This story appeared in Issue Thirty-One of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Thirty-One
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