My first trip to Florida was a non-stop marathon drive from Detroit to St. Petersburg, in an old Buick. It took 3 days and nights going an average of 55mph (a speed insisted on by the passenger, my landlady, whom I was chauffeuring to visit her elderly parents). I hardly slept the whole time, although she took over the driving a few times so I could rest up a bit.
We arrived at their retirement home, which was situated on the banks of a network of canals in a marshy area. I was completely exhausted, and after introductions I asked if there was somewhere I could lie down for a nap. The elderly gent suggested I use the lawn chair on the patio out back.
In the balmy weather of a Floridian winter, I soon dozed off. Probably about twenty minutes later, I was roused by a strange sort of plopping sound followed by a slurping, sucking sound. I was lying on my back; the sound was coming from the direction of my feet. I peered with bleary, bloodshot eyes between my sneakers and saw a large, dark amorphous shape emerging from the canal.
My first impression was that I was looking at a huge turtle or tortoise. As my eyes focused , I suddenly realized that I was seeing an immense alligator that was heading directly for me! From head-on he was nearly round in cross section, like a barrel, and had a large, tumerous growth on his snout that obscured his appearance. He took a few slow-motion steps toward me, the deep mud sucking as he pulled up his feet. Then he made a sudden rush for me.
The realization of what he was up to hit me like a thunderbolt. Instinctive primal reflexes took over my body. In a flash, with no thought or volition, I went from flat on by back through a full flip backckwards over the lawn chair, landing on my feet. I gripped the flimsy lawn chair in both hands, banged it around and screamed at the top of my lungs. The alligator stopped his rush at the other end of the lawnchair, bumping into it with his misshapen snout. I then spun around and bolted for the back door, nearly colliding with the people running out to see what was wrong.
I think the alligator only stopped because he diidn’t quite see where I had jumped to, and was just pausing to calculate his next move. Alligators can sprint at an amazing speed, and what probably saved me was the thick mud and steep embankment.
As I recovered, panting like an animal and sweating buckets, the elderly gent hobbled around, shaking his cane in the air angrily. “Those alligators are dangerous! I want them removed from the canal! Why, just last week they bit a girl’s arm off!”
Ironically, he didn’t seem to realize he had nearly sent me to my doom. I had to excuse him, though, since he was 95 years old. Outside, the alligator snorted, huffed and turned back to the canal. We could hear him clearly because they had left the door open. He had been watching us from a few feet outside.