Lonnie and Tiny went to Tybee Island with the wives, where Lonnie took a notion to wrestle an alligator. Sometimes I wonder where that man gets these ideas. Then I remember: Oh, yeah, I give them to him.
THE REPTILES OF TYBEE ISLAND
excerpt from “Lonnie, Me, and the Reptiles of Tybee Island”
by Marian Allen
Outside the restaurant, they had this big cage with pools and plants and stuff, with signs all over it like, “Feed the alligators!” and “Live alligators!” I trailed Lonnie like a barge following a tug, knowing without being told that he was circling the cage hoping to find a way in.
He said, “Betcha I could wrestle me one o’ them bad boys.”
I snorted. “How ‘bout that one? The one the size of a Cadillac El Dorado?”
“I seen ‘em doin’ it on YouTube. You just gotta know how.”
“And do you know how? No, you don’t.”
We were on the opposite side of the cage from the wives when Leona gave a big squeal.
Lonnie was past me like a tall, skinny streak of light, his shout of, “I’m comin’, honey,” disappearing into the distance almost before I saw him going. Mary Lee was over there, too, so I was right on his heels, scared to death that one of the gators was out and after them.
I felt about half relieved, half mad, and all foolish when Lonnie and me rounded the gator pen and found the wives cooing and clucking over a bunch of damn cats. They’d spotted a mini high-rise with Cat Shack painted on it. There must have been seven cats in it or peeking around corners near it. Whoever put it there wasn’t any kind of a fool: right next to it was a door with a GIFT SHOP sign.
I was so hungry I could have eaten one of those alligators, but the wives just couldn’t wait to shop, so we followed them in, me kissing some dollars goodbye in my mind. Leona carried most of the cash in their family, so I don’t know what Lonnie was thinking, assuming he ever does.
While the wives were yakking with the gal behind the counter, Lonnie and me went through a narrow door and down a step into another room. It was lined with tall cages full of birds. I mean big birds. Not, you know, big like Big Bird, but a damn sight bigger than sparrows.
Turns out parrots and cockatoos and like that live a long time, and these ones had outlived the people who owned them, and the Crab Shack people rescued them instead of letting them get put down. I barely read the sign about them biting in time to keep Lonnie from poking his fingers through the mesh.
He went around to every cage, saying, “Polly want a cracker?”, and complaining that none of them talked when they just looked disgusted and bored.
We were about to go out and tell the wives to come see when one of them – one of the birds, I mean, not one of the wives – spread out his wings and ruffled up his feathers, and said, “Headlock! He takes him to the mat! What a wrestler!”
I could hear my heartbeat over the laughter of the wives in the other room.
Lonnie moved closer to the bird. “What did you say? Wrestler?”
“What a bout! He struggles up!” The bird groaned. “Scissor hold! Headlock! He’s down again. Where’s the ref?” The bird made a ding sound that I could have sworn was a timer bell. It was pretty amazing.
Lonnie breathed, “It’s a Sign.”
A lot of detail in this story came from the week some members of the Southern Indiana Writers Group spent on retreat on Tybee Island. I’m happy to report none of us even thought about wrestling any alligators.
A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Set a scene in a place you’ve been.