How to Scare a Gator

Dad shot the alligator in the head by accident. Sort of.

I see Dad get out his bow and arrow. “Dad, whatcha doing?” I am 19 and home from college.

“I’m going to go scare the gator,” he says.

I follow him outside. “You’re going to scare the gator? Why?”

“That gator’s keeping the catfish away.” He walks purposefully down the driveway to the road.

“Dad. You think it’s wise to scare a wild animal?”

“That gator’s scaring away my catfish. He’s got to go to somebody else’s dock.”

“And you think an arrow will scare him away?” We stop at the end of the driveway while a semi rattles by. My dad is laughing. He gets this laugh whenever he knows he’s doing something that will make me crazy. “Dad,” I say, crossing the road with him. “You don’t have a license. The game warden will arrest you!” It’s a hot summer evening, and I’m sweating already.

“I’m not going to kill it. I’m going to scare it.” We walk down to the dock. “I’m not going to get into no trouble for scaring it.” He makes a face that tells me he thinks I’m overreacting. The sun is setting and the lake is red, orange, and pink.

“Dad! You’re going to be pointing an arrow at a gator! He’s not going to think–oh that guy’s just scaring the gator. I’ll just leave him to it.”

“Well, that gator doesn’t understand that he’s scaring my catfish. All the time I come down here to feed the catfish and that gator scaring them away. I tried to tell him.” Dad makes that laugh again. “But he won’t leave.” He shakes his head. “Gators think they own everything. Well, I got news for that gator–he’s gotta find catfish somewhere else.” We’re on the dock now. The water slaps the posts, which jerk slightly with our weight. I can’t walk beside him now, and I keep an eye on my feet to make sure I don’t catch my toes between the slats or step on any splintered wood.

“Dad, you can’t shoot a gator.”

He doesn’t look at me, but I can tell he’s happy. He’s going to scare the gator and drive me nuts. “Mahda, I’m not going to shoot it. I keep telling you. I’m going to scare it.”

Sure enough, the alligator is there, a few yards from the end to the dock. All we can see, of course, is that sliver of its head, and its not moving. “Dad, you’re not really going to do this, are you?”

He puts the yellow arrow to the bow.

“Dad. What’ll you do if you hit it?”

He laughs, and takes aim.

“Dad. You’re going to get–”

The arrow flies.

“Into trouble. Oh my God.”

The lemon yellow arrow stuck out from the gator’s head. “Dad. Look what you did!”

“That stupid gator’s got my arrow,” he says. “I should’ve tied a rope to it.”

When I left a week later, that gator still had that arrow in its head and my dad still couldn’t feed his catfish.

In fiction I try to make my characters argue over things that really mean something else. You shouldn’t try and scare a gator with a bow and arrow–why don’t you ever listen to me? I want to feed my catfish–why do you always think you can tell me what to do?

3 thoughts on “How to Scare a Gator

  1. Tom

    “Stupid gator’s got my arrow.”

    “Costs ‘way too much to gas up my Hummer.”

    It’s one of the beauties of wordsmithing: all that space between the lines is just packed with revelation bombs, little and not so, intended and not so. Embedded in a well-turned tale is a Rosetta Stone for our own brains.

    Thanks for this thoughtful, writerly place, Mapelba. Write on. 🙂

  2. Pingback: I promise I won’t come find you. « writing in the water

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