A gnashing pair of jaws bursted forth from the water to devour the large chunk of raw chicken I’d tossed in. I watched as this wild, powerful creature mangled the meat in its mouth and then swam greedily closer. When I was little, Momma had told me the gators were around in the dinosaur days. This had led me to believe that gators never die, and in my young mind, that made them the perfect pets. I spent my childhood on the bayou behind our house narrating the soap opera lives of Rory and Sophia. They weren’t fearsome beasts. They were friends.
I’d grown older, wiser even, but standing on the dock with a glass of Pinot Noir, now warm from the humid air, brought me back to simpler days and simpler thoughts. We may have been poor, but we always had the bayou, and I thought I’d always have Momma. It had been Momma and me against the world from the time I was born until the day she met George. A faithless mechanic with a penchant for price gouging, George was a slob with wandering eyes. I’d never understood Momma’s attraction to him, other than she no longer had to feel alone. To me, that wasn’t worth the heavy handed blows he’d deal her whenever the mood struck. I’d been only fifteen when they married, but the wedge he drove between us lasted the rest of Momma’s life.
Today, we held the funeral. Momma looked so beautiful laying on that lamb white cloth. George shed his obligatory tears and shook all the necessary hands. I’d left home only eight years ago, but now most of the faces were unfamiliar to me. Instead, I dwelled on the thought of how flowers must have become customary for funerals to help cover the sickening stench of death. These thoughts helped distract me from the burning stares I felt tracing my body from the black pumps on my feet to the thick brown curls that shrouded my face. I met George’s eyes only once with a cautioning glance.
It was her that’s making my life miserable. It was also her that’s making my life worth living. It’s funny how someone you love so much can Also be the person you currently can’t stand. I check my watch for the umpteenth time, watching that minute hand run on overdrive. -we are going to be LATE. How will I explain that to my boss? I need to make a good impression. This is my only shot
I feel like I’m guarding the door, pacing back and forth. The only thing I’m missing is a spear, or a musket, or whatever they use to guard doors these days. “Please hurry, Liza.” I hear clanking in the bathroom. A door slams. Then enters the most amazing woman I have ever seen. 5 years together and her appearance still takes my breath away.
Her face is etched with a scowl. She is still dressed in an old band tee that swallows her. “I’m not going, Tim. I’m done. I don’t feel like being in a crowd of strangers, discussing the weather and how I’m liking Manhattan do far. I can’t tolerate the fake today.”
I’m tense. “I’ve been waiting by this door for 20 minutes on you. Couldn’t you have told me you weren’t going sooner?”
Harold chanced a glimpse behind him. Bad move. His eyes filled with terror, surely taking in the sight of me – sweat dripping from my brow, feet pounding the pavement with the force of an Olympic sprinter, and a deadly stare that must be reminiscent of the way a cheetah locks on to a gazelle. He bolted. Funny how quickly even the feeblest of creatures will move when they know it is Death chasing after them.
It wasn’t his fault, his life having to end this way. Harold Smith was just a means to an end. A means to avoiding my end. He might not have realized it, but Harold’s life was precious to me. Death chases everyone. You’ve just got to be quicker than Death. Harold was fast, but not faster than me. I’d had a lot more practice outrunning Death.
The watch face that was fused to my wrist and central nervous system illuminated as I ran. Fifteen minutes. I was cutting it close this time. Tick tick tick – I could hear it counting down in my head.