Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Library Lines Redux: A Brazos Bend Romance: Please Don’t Feed the Alligators: April 2004

by M. Riley

     The blazing hot sun beat down on the two weekend explorers as they searched for the fabled Brazos Bend alligator.  With sweat blinding their eyes, the two explorers parted from the main path and ventured into less chartered territory.
     Trudging through the wild marshland, Sir Thelonius Crocodilius watched as the narrow path gradually receded into a tangled outgrowth.  When he could no longer see the tops of his well-worn but trusted Adidas running sneakers, he called back to his faithful companion, “Are we crazy or what?” And again, “Has our pursuit of this legendary beast driven us to the brink of madness?”  And once more, “Are we, like Icarus stretching his artificial wings ever closer to the fiery sun, spiraling to earth in a flaming ball of self-delusion and grief?”  Crocodilius stopped and began to turn back, but the desire to go where no Friendswoodian (he knew) had gone before propelled him to turn around and face the fear growing steadily inside him. He trudged on.  He could barely make out how the terrain was beginning to curve slightly to the left and then drop totally out of sight.  As he moved cat-like toward the bend, his senses became fully engaged and his heart began to pound in the back of his throat.  He became so finely attuned to his surroundings that sight and smell gave way to pure clairvoyance. 

     He knew the beast was lying in wait just around the bend. Pulling back the dense row of cattails like a man facing his final curtain call, Crocodilius saw before him what he knew all of his life would one day be there to greet him --- and greet him it did!  He heard the sly hissing sound before he even saw those two steely eyes fixing him as if to say, “The better to see you with my dear.”  The beast was at least twelve feet in length from craggy tail to grinning teeth.  Its whitish underbelly protruded out from either side of its ancient coat and made one wonder what unfortunate being had recently crossed paths with this skillful hunter.  Crocodilius only knew that he didn’t want to find out.  
     So what did our intrepid hero do?  Did he put those well-worn but trusted Adidas running sneakers to good use?  Did he stand stock-still like a deer caught in headlights until the beast slithered off into the murky waters?  Did he grapple with the mighty gator, twisting and turning until one enemy released the other in triumph or defeat?  There is but one clue to the mystery of Thelonius Crocodilius’s fateful day.  Somewhere in the wilderness that is called Brazos Bend State Park, a single well-worn Adidas running sneaker is stuck, cemented into a patch of dried mud.  Trailing off from this sneaker are footprints set as far apart as an Olympic long jumpers, one bare the other rubber-soled.
     If you are feeling adventurous or just plain lucky, you might find this rare artifact buried somewhere beneath the overgrown vegetation.  But are you sure you want to reach down for the muddy prize?  Please don’t feed the alligators!

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