By Peter J. Stavros
“It’s not right,” Sadie says, apropos of nothing, as I walk into the living room, and I can’t tell if she planned it that way, if she calculated the exact time it would take me to enter the house after hearing the car door slam shut outside, or if I merely happened upon Sadie ruminating aloud, as she is apt to do, but regardless, I’m in this now.
“What’s that?” I ask as I mercifully remove my tie, yank it from how I had loosened it on the drive home, while pondering, like always, what sadist came up with the notion of knotting a silk noose around your neck from nine-to-five. “What are you talking about?”
“That lady,” Sadie says, setting down her phone from where she was staring at something on the screen, and looking up at me, those searching blue eyes, “who got eaten by an alligator.”
“What lady who got eaten by an alligator,” I say, incredulous, fearful that alligators might have somehow invaded our sleepy, landlocked neighborhood, sliding next to Sadie on the couch, and I notice an opened bottle of wine on the coffee table and a half-empty glass in front of her. “We’ve got alligators here—along with everything else?”
“Not here,” Sadie says with an abrupt exhale, as if it was a stupid remark, and perhaps it was, but nothing really surprises me anymore, in the world. “In Florida—where else?”
“Guess that makes more sense,” I say, sheepish, and I grab her half-empty glass of wine and I have a swallow and Sadie doesn’t seem to mind because she’s plainly preoccupied.
“She was walking her dog along this lake at her condo or retirement village or whatever,” Sadie begins to explain, not that I necessarily care for her to, but she does all the same, “and this alligator beelines it out of the water, snatches her and takes her back, and under, and eats her.”
“Oh, I see,” I say, “that isn’t right.”
“No, not that,” Sadie corrects me, then quickly corrects herself. “I mean, yeah—that isn’t right for an alligator to eat a lady. And by all accounts, a nice woman, not that that would make a difference, not that it would be any better if a nasty woman got eaten by an alligator, not even that old boss of mine with the brown teeth and support hose who tried to fire me.”
“Of course,” I say, not sure what else to say, not knowing where Sadie is going with this yet no doubt I’m about to find out.
“But then they captured the alligator, and killed it,” Sadie explains. “For no reason—”
“Well …” I’m tempted to interject.
“Other than for being an alligator.”
“And for eating a lady.” I couldn’t resist.
“But the alligator was just being an alligator,” Sadie says, adamant the way she gets when she feels she’s right about something and it’s everyone else who doesn’t have a goddamn clue. Then she backs off a bit, uncharacteristic. “I mean, I know, it’s not right for the alligator to eat a lady.” She exhales, as if exasperated that I don’t think the same as she does. “Even so, they all knew there was an alligator in that lake.” Sadie throws her arms out. “Chrissakes, they gave it a name!”
“A name?” I say, as I’m struggling to keep up with her, and I just want to change out of my suit and into my sweats. “What name?”
“And she was walking right along the edge of the lake,” Sadie continues, undaunted, ignoring my question. “I mean right along the edge of the lake. Her yappy lap dog was practically in the water. I saw the security footage on Twitter.”
Sadie pauses, to take a breath, or maybe she’s waiting for me to contribute. When I have nothing, because I hadn’t asked for this, or expected this, when I walked in after another typically long day and I still have to cook dinner since it’s my turn, Sadie goes on.
“It’s like that wedding they had at the zoo a while back, that socialite, at the sea lion exhibit, and the sea lions were lined up along the edge of the concrete pond clapping like amphibious best men when the bride walked down the aisle.”
“Yeah, I remember that,” I say, and I can’t help but smile as I recall the pictures that were published in the paper, how dapper those sea lions looked.
“Well, like …” Sadie kind of stutters, and realizes at that moment that I drank the rest of the wine from her glass, so she shoots me a glance and pours herself another, cradling it close. “Why can’t they just let the sea lions be? And why couldn’t they have let that alligator be? Why can’t people just leave things the way they are, why do they have to change them for their own needs?”
I nod my head like I understand, but it’s not clear to me if we’re still talking about sea lions, or that alligator, or something else entirely, though I suspect it’s something else entirely.
Softer, slower, Sadie says, “Well … anyway,” which is her way to end a topic and move on to a different one, or to nothing at all.
It turns out to be the latter, and we sit there, in silence, in the living room, and Sadie finishes her glass of wine with a desperate gulp, then I subtly take the bottle, and whatever is left of its contents, into the kitchen, as I consider what to cook for dinner, and I wonder what Sadie does all day after quitting her job last month in the middle of her performance review because she said no one appreciated her at that place, and then Sadie returns to her phone and stares at something on the screen.
* * *
Peter J. Stavros is a writer in Louisville, Kentucky, and the author of the short story collection, Three in the Morning and You Don’t Smoke Anymore (Etchings Press). More can be found at http://www.peterjstavros.com, and follow on Twitter and Instagram @PeterJStavros