Friday, December 23, 2011

Beuregard and the 'Gator

           I'm doing a rewrite on a prequel to my published novel, Redneck Goddess.  Now, I am the kind of author who cannot write flash fiction to save my soul, but will, if given half a chance fill ten pages with what happens on the protaganists way to the grocery store.  It's both a gift and a challenge.  Ask my editors. 
           The following is what I cut today from the original manuscript of Noisy Creek.  See what you think.  Maybe I'll turn it into a short story.
                                                       Beuregard and the 'Gator
 Uncle Neil is my daddy’s brother’s wife’s sister’s husband.  Not blood kin, but a good half-assed relative.  I don’t believe I’ve ever seen him in anything but a ratty Braves ball cap and Dickie brand overalls -- the ones with the chimp’s face on the bib. His unruly gray beard is perpetually stained with Red Man juice. He is, despite what Uncle Earl may tell you, the best fisherman in the family.  He is also a close runner-up with Daddy when it comes to the rural art of twisting a story around the truth in a knot so tight and clean nobody is ever going to be able to separate the two.

      For our Christmas picnic here in southern Georgia, Uncle Neil has caught an Appaloosa big enough fill all our bellies.  He won’t tell where he was fishing when he hooked into the monster catfish but he does relate a story to rival Melville

     This is, more or less, the way Uncle tells the story.

     Seems he was fishing in that little bitty skiff of his.  His newest bulldog Beauregard was with him and the pup was fussin’ over a squirrel he’d spotted on shore in a big ole mossy oak, when Uncle hooked into this Appaloosa big as a young hog.  The fish headed deep, Uncle Neil nearly followed before he got the line untangled from the durn dog.  Well, son, it took goin’ on two hours to land that beast and then, when he got it to the boat, there weren’t room in the skiff for the fish and him and the pup all three.

     Uncle pondered on the dilemma for a spell.  Popped him a top or two. The pup had been fussin’ and barkin’ and leapin’ around the boat while Uncle reeled in the catfish, but, once the dog got a good look at that ugly, whiskered face, the dog commenced to whinin' and backin' himself up into a corner of the boat under one of the splintery plank seats. Uncle Neil reckoned that, even if he managed to wedge that catfish into the boat, that dog was going over the side. 

     He drank himself another beer and thought on the situation some more.  An idea began to take shape.  Uncle took off his undershirt, tore it in strips, threaded it through the gills and around the tail and in that way tied the catfish to the side of the skiff. He headed for the dock, real slow like and bein’ right careful of submerged stumps.

      When Uncle spotted a lumpy, dark log ‘bout seven-foot long following in the wake of the boat, he knew a gator’d done seen that catfish and the reptile reckoned he’d found himself a free meal. 

     The gator came on.  Uncle told how the one yellow eye sprinkled with amber watched him.  Unblinking.  He said he believed that gator was planning to help himself to the catfish and finish the meal with the shivering Beauregard.  Uncle grinned.  He scavenged around in his spare tackle box, found both items he was huntin’ while keeping one eye on the dark, lumpy length of the gator.  The lumpy would-be thief edged closer to the catfish. 

      Uncle popped the tape he’d retrieved into his old cassette player and, while Hank Jr. sang about country boys from northern California and south Alabam’, country boys who can survive, Uncle employed the .22 Smith and Wesson he always keeps in that second tackle box. 
     Which is how he showed up at the pier with a whoppin catfish that weighed in at well over a

hundred pounds tied to one side of his skiff and a seven foot gator tied to the other with strips of gray

 and white Dickie denim,and Uncle naked as the day he came into the world. 

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