This short was inspired by my friend Kevin, the bull-fighter and alligator wrestler. A man of great aficion. ____________
Last Friday I read an obituary. I expected it to be about this old dame from College Station named Maude, the one with fourteen cats and an intense love for the Aggies. She used to sip Shiner out of a Muppets tumbler, the one with Kermit the Frog riding a bicycle. Maude was a football broad; she watched the Aggies faithfully, sometimes with her nephew Kevin. He wasn’t really her nephew, but he let her call him that because they went to the same church and all. Sometimes, Maude would ask to stroke his beard. That made Kevin uncomfortable.
Maude was eaten up with cancer. Had been for years. I suppose that’s why I half expected her to be dead. But it wasn’t Maude. Instead, it was this old alligator wrestler name Willy One-Leg. You can imagine why he earned the surname “One-Leg.” Once, he brought his B-game to an alligator wrestling match down in the Atchafalaya basin. The alligator brought its A-game. Kevin used to rib Willy in the local sports bar, said “hey hop-along, don’t you know you can’t half-ass it with an alligator?” Willy would smile, buy Kevin a round, and pull up his pant leg to reveal a single alligator skinned boot. Willy wore his missing leg like a badge of honor.
Willy was a church going man, a Methodist, which he said was against his upbringing. His daddy was as Catholic as the Pope, just not as high and mighty. Willy used to cry during baby baptisms, which was also against his upbringing. Alligator wrestlers and sugar-cane farmers aren’t supposed to cry, but Willy didn’t care. He’d quit caring when the gator (who used to wear the skin on Willy’s left boot) had eaten his right leg. One-legged men tend to stand less firm on their upbringings, I have found.
The obituary was not short, but was artfully crafted. It rambled a bit about pimento cheese and ink-wells. Willy was a writer for the local rag and always ate lunch at his desk. Pimento cheese on rye with a dill pickle spear. Same meal every day. Willy said he liked the continuity of it. He liked the tang of the pickle against the creaminess of pimento cheese. That’s what he said and, by God, if Willy said it then he meant it.
In the end, the article never said how Willy passed, what caused him to follow his forgone leg into that great eternal swamp. I suppose that’s newspaper etiquette, but I’ve never understood it. Never could figure why they wouldn’t just write it—“Maude died of the cancer so don’t miss your annual check-ups;” or “Willy’s truck was passed through by a train at the Old Miller Crossing.” In a better world, an obit would serve as a public service announcement.
In any event, one thing’s for sure. Willy didn’t meet his end at the hands of a hungry gator. He’d learned to avoid hungry gators the hard way, but at least he got a nice left boot out of it.