Alligator in my Back Yard
By Rita Monette
It was an especially hot and steamy August afternoon as I sat with my legs dangling off the dock. Of course, in southern Louisiana, it’s hard to tell when one day is any hotter than another.
I sat waiting for Groucho to show up for his usual snack of leftovers.
The muddy water started to swirl under my feet and I pulled them from the water. I didn’t want my new-found friend to think my toes were his meal for the day. I had only met him a week earlier, and wasn’t sure how much he valued our friendship.
“Hey there, Groucho,” I called as the top of his head appeared from the mud soup that was my back yard. He blinked his vertical eyelid once to clear away the film.
Living in a houseboat set me apart from most kids I went to school with, especially old Jonas Boudreaux. He was especially mean. He didn’t understand that I was no different from him. My house just floated on water while his was on dry land. That’s all.
Jonas was a year older than me, but he acted like being ten years old gave him bullying rights, and I was his favorite victim.
Groucho made his usual low grunt, then opened his mouth wide. I threw a piece of fried chicken into the gaping cavern, and he snapped it shut, then ducked under the water with a splash. What a cool pet to have. I’ll bet old Jonas didn’t have a pet like mine in his back yard. All he had was a beagle and a calico cat.
It was right then that I decided to show Jonas who had the best pet. I ran into Daddy’s shed to find a rope suitable for a leash for an alligator. All I had to do was have Groucho follow me down the road to Jonas’ house. Then he’d see.
I ran back to the edge of the bayou with my rope and the rest of my leftovers. Groucho lifted his head from the water again when I placed another piece of chicken on the bank. I watched as he slid his heavy body across the mud toward the food. When he got completely out of the water and was swallowing his meal, I tossed the rope over his head. Groucho threw his head from side to side trying to knock the foreign object from his neck. I pulled the rope tight. Groucho just looked at me and grunted.
“Here’s a biscuit, boy.” I threw another piece of food at him. He quickly gobbled it up. Groucho followed me up the bank as I held onto the rope. This was going to be easy. Or so I thought.
Just about then, the big alligator decided he wanted to go back for another swim and turned suddenly, jerking his head toward the bayou, which in turn pulled the rope with me attached to it. I tried to let go the rope, but it had tightened around my arm. I dug my heels into the mud while Groucho gently slid back into the water. Giving up holding him back, I followed him into the water and climbed on his back, hoping I could untie the rope. The alligator swam into the shallow bayou and followed the bank toward the Riverside Park where the kids played in the summertime. I tried to pull the rope from my arm, but he jerked and made it tighter. I needed to get loose before he decided to go underwater and take me with him. He swished his tail as he swam toward the old willow tree where the boys had tied a rope to swing themselves into the water.
“Hey, look, it’s Johnny Hebert and he’s riding a gator!” shouted one of the kids. It was Jonas. He stood next to a couple of his friends.
Groucho slowed down as he neared the cypress stumps at the edge of the water, then he stopped. I got the rope loosened from my arm and climbed off the alligator. As I stood at the edge of the water holding the rope, Groucho slid backwards, leaving the rope behind, then disappeared under the murky water.
Jonas ran up to me with his mouth open. The other boys followed.
I smiled and said, “That’s Groucho, my pet alligator.”
From that point on, Jonas, along with the other boys, wanted to be my pal.
I still feed Groucho at the dock every afternoon, but I never tried to put a rope on him again.