I am hiking a trail in the North Floridian woods. My dog is beside me. The longleaf pines go on for miles. I am here to walk my dog, take in the fresh air, and, God-willing, pull a hamstring.
The weather is cool and dry. The sky is so clear you can touch it.
A young couple is ahead of me. I have been trailing them for a mile and I have formed some opinions about them.
For one: they are in love, I can tell by the way they hold hands and lean onto each other.
Second: they are in fantastic shape—I have been trying to keep up with them and I am exhausted.
My dog and I pass a swamp. There is a sign beside it that reads: “Beware of alligators.”
I pause to observe. After a few minutes, I see something in the water. It’s a dark shape that sort of looks like a shiny log.
We keep walking.
Gators don’t scare me.
Once, I lived in an apartment that had a pond behind it—actually, it was more of a drainage ditch. There was a hand-painted warning sign next to it that read:
“YALL MEMBER BOUT THE GATORS.”
Rumors claimed that a gator once crawled out of the pond and ate a Yorkshire Terrier named Izzy. Everyone in the apartments retold this horrific story, but nobody knew if it were true.
Until one day, when my uncle came to visit. I came home one evening to find him out back, sitting on an upside-down five-gallon bucket, holding a fishing rod with a raw chicken breast hooked on the end.
“Are you outta your mind?” I said.
“Ssshhh,” he said. “I wanna see if there’s really a gator out here.”
There was. After an hour of tempting fate, the thing came crawling out of the water faster…