The blood stain on the carpet of his motel room was really the only tell-tale remnant of what had happened. That and the dead alligator in the bathtub. He turned up the air conditioner, switched off the bedside lamp, and headed out into the heat of the Florida day. If he played his cards right, he could be across the Georgia line and headed north before the maid came in and started screaming.
It had all started innocently enough yesterday afternoon. He’d come down from Atlanta in his pickup to meet a young girl. Not for what you’re thinking, though. He’d come down to see if she was really as good as her parents said she was. Good at beer tasting. His company was looking for somebody with a fool-proof palate to test their new beers before they went to market. They sent him because the girl was only fifteen. Everybody else had their panties in a bunch over this. He didn’t see the problem.
Her Daddy and Momma lived in a shanty outside of town near the glades. They were both drunks and told him he could use the girl’s tasting skills if the company kept them supplied with beer. He didn’t see the problem with this either. So they introduced him to the girl. Her name was Wanda and she looked like fifteen going on thirty.
He and Wanda sat on the porch and talked a bit while his recorder was turned on. He told her what he wanted her to do . . . take a sip of beer, spit it out and tell him how it tasted. But, he warned, don’t swallow, Wanda. That would be illegal in Florida. She nodded and he handed her a chilled beer sample from his ice chest. She sipped it, spat it out, leaned back and with her eyes closed, described what she was tasting. He’d heard rumors about palates like Wanda’s, but now he was in the presence of one. She was truly a wonder, this Wanda.
He gave Wanda five more chilled samples and recorded each of her experiences. And each time he got more excited. At some point her Daddy stumbled out in his t-shirt and underwear and announced, “Time to feed the gator! Let’s go!” He didn’t see the problem with that. He told Wanda he’d be back in a jiffy. He took the recorder with him.
They called the gator ‘Greenie’ and had it chained up to a tree. Dad handed him a piece of meat and told him, “Hold it right above his nose.” He didn’t have a problem with that. He should have, though. The gator took the meat and two of his fingers before he could jump back. Daddy said something like, “Too close”, both laughing and belching at the same time.
Just then, Wanda shows up with a shotgun wondering what the yelling is all about. She sees him jumpin’ around and bleeding and her Dad laughing and belching and Greenie doing whatever he’s doing. She moved the barrel of that thing like she knew what she was doing and told him, “Wrap that hand of yours up.” And to her Daddy she said, “Put Greenie in his pickup.”
He didn’t have a problem with any of this except he didn’t know why the gator had to be in the truck. Wanda looked at him like he was stupid and said, “Cause your fingers are in his gut! We’re gonna get ‘em out and put ‘em back on. So, go get that cooler of beer and let’s get goin’.”
Wanda drove and drank beer. He leaned against the passenger door and shut his eyes. His hand hurt like a son-of-a-bitch. They got back to the motel after dark with Greenie’s eyes blazing with anger as they pulled into the parking lot. But they didn't blaze for long because Wanda quickly removed the lost fingers from Greenie’s gut as soon as she got him in the bathtub.
“This is gonna hurt a bit,” Wanda warned as she poured cold beer over his fingers and then sewed ‘em back on. When she was done, she went to a nearby bar and scored some pain killers and some antibiotics and told him to get some sleep.
“I’ll set your phone alarm for tomorrow morning. Best you get moving back to Atlanta as soon as you get up,” she told him as he took the pills. Then she patted him on his head and said, “See you next time.”
That Wanda, what a wonder! When he got back to Atlanta and played his recordings for his bosses, they asked him if he’d be willing to go back down to Florida for another session with Wanda and her Daddy and her Momma.
He told them he’d have a little problem with that.