How to Fight an Alligator

Last week, my mother sent my brother and I the following email. The subject line was “Seriously guys”:

“If an alligator ever grabs you, do you know what to do to get him to let go before he eats you?? TAKE YOUR THUMB AND POKE HIM RIGHT IN THE EYE. It was on the news the other day!! XXOOO”

I wrote back: “Where was this email yesterday, when I really needed it?”
Minutes later, my brother responded:

“Seriously, i’m emailing you from the alligator injury ward at st. mary’s hospital in hoboken…”

In her reply to our replies, my mother tried to achieve some relevance:
“ I’M TALKING ABOUT IF YOU ARE EVER IN FLA OR THE BAYOU AND YOU WERE, WEREN’T YOU??????? MICHAEL’S BEEN IN FLA — MAYBE EVEN THE BAYOU. THE OTHER DAY A GUY IN FLA WAS STANDING BY THE WATERWAY OR WHEREEVER AND THE GATOR JUST APPEARED FROM NOWWHERE AND GRABBED HIS FOOT AND DRAGGED HIM INTO THE WATER. THAT’S WHEN HE EYEBALLED HIM WITH HIS THUMB, AND HE LET GO!
I’M NICE AND COOL AT THE LIBRARY TYPING AND READING. HOPE YOU’RE BOTH COOL TOO. LOVE, MUM
P.S. DID YOU KNOW THAT IT WAS JUST REPORTED SPOTTINGS OF GATORS IN WISCONSIN AND NEWARK, NEW JERSEY ON THE WATERWAY??”

I was not aware of this, nor did I believe it. So, when I stepped outside that afternoon to get some coffee, I was completely unprepared to see an alligator gnawing on the head of an elderly man right there on the sidewalk.

“T-take your thumb, and poke him in the eye!” I shouted, pantomiming the action.

The old man silently reached a hand out to me. Three of his fingers were missing.

“Jesus,” I said, and went back inside.

*

Last week, you could walk outside your door and take a walk without being eaten. You could eat a sandwich without being eaten. You could even eat alligator without being eaten by an alligator. Last week, the irrational fear of being eaten by an alligator was still irrational.

Today, I got a call from the recently erected Alligator Injury Ward at St. Mary’s Hospital in Hoboken.

“It’s more of a MASH unit in an abandoned parking lot next to the hospital than an actual ward,” my brother was saying. “It’s not abandoned anymore, but you know what I mean.”

“Mmm-hmm,” I grunted, crunching a carrot stick. Outside my windows, the streets were rolling green. “So…everything’s okay there, then. I mean, you’re okay, right?”

“I’m fine. Yeah, I’m fine,” he said. “It’s healing. I think it’s going to…”

On the other end of the line, a siren flared, drowing out the rest of my brother’s response.

“I’m glad you’re doing better,” I said.

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