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American Alligator

American Alligator

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American Alligator

208 Seiten
2 Stunden
Jan 9, 2012


University student, Josiah Greene, has a secret. He’s a musical savant poised for greatness from a young age. Growing up under an abusive father and exploitive mother he developed self-injurious practices to repress his music. Finally free to make his own decisions, he obsessively seeks affection from Maya, cashier at the local super Mercado. Her beauty elicits the music he hates.
When Josiah uncovers Maya’s bruise, he vows to rescue her, no matter the cost. But under the glower of Jesus, enshrined on the side of his apartment building, Josiah’s plans disintegrate and his inner-beast becomes uncontrollable. Can he silence his urges in time to save Maya?

Jan 9, 2012

Über den Autor

Peter Schnake lives and writes in Lincoln, Nebraska. Although stories had a bad habit of interrupting his life and possessing his pen, he didn’t write in earnest until a bout of seizures in his early twenties caused him to reexamine his priorities. Now he devotes as much time as he is able to his writing and hopes soon to make it a full-time occupation. He believes that stories should surprise and move. Language should be precise and clean and images should evoke and provoke. He believes that happy endings are not always the best endings, and that sometimes a great story dissatisfies. His writing spans genres, from the dark and brooding Southern Gothic style of “American Alligator,” to the suspense-filled and intimate thriller, “Thus Arrived the Lights.” When not writing (or drinking coffee) Mr. Schnake enjoys stargazing and watching the Food Network.


American Alligator - Peter Schnake


a novel

by Peter Schnake

Copyright 2012 Peter Schnake

Smashwords Edition

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

For all the Caged Ones.

Table of Contents

























The hunger clawed at his stomach. Josiah stood along the back wall of El Super Mercado de Javier, behind the religious candles and dried beans, and salivated in the chill of los huevos. He stood just beyond the refrigerated air’s reach, content to marvel—worship—the collection of eggs before him. Gray cartons lined the shelves like multiple rows of teeth in the mouth of a humming, nightmare-begotten beast.

A mosquito of sweat rolled down the bridge of his nose and clung to its tip, extracting not blood but his attention. He removed the annoyance with his sleeve, noting that a black shirt looks blacker when wet. He dismissed his curiosity and stepped into the beast’s icy breath.

It smelled like dirty metal and rotten milk and elicited from him a shiver which unglued his shirt from his back. A small smile tightened his cheek. No predator lurked in this secluded corner, or other wildlife—imaginary or manmade. The sun could not melt him, nor could time distract him. The artificial light, the relieving cool, the promise of plentiful food: this was a sanctuary.

He stretched a pale hand—the one with the scar—into the case. Before he reached a carton, the motor growled. He snapped his hand back; then shook his head and scolded himself for fearing a refrigerator.

Quickly, he slipped a gray box from the gaping mouth and retreated from the immediate chill—just in case—to examine the contents: eleven whole eggs. Yellow oozed from the twelfth, through a jagged ring near the apex. Josiah returned the carton and chose another. Perfect. Perfectly white and smooth and un-cracked. He put the carton in his basket and reached for another.

He emerged from the food aisles with a basket full of eggs, unscathed by the toothy, fluorescent-lined beast. Sunlight tirelessly stretched through the wall of barred windows, behind the row of checkstands and the two women who leaned across their registers in gossip. He recognized both women, both permanent fixtures: the Beautiful One and the one who always pestered him.

Adrenaline warmed his chest. He headed for the lane of the Beautiful One.

Will you go to Mass with me tonight, Silva?

I don’t know, the Pestering One said. I haven’t been in a while.

Rarely did Josiah not have to stand in a line for her help. Everyone wanted to be in her line. She was, after all, the Beautiful One. Her hair swept her shoulders—her tan shoulders, Latina shoulders, perfectly narrow shoulders, as if she had swum under the fiery sun for just the perfect length of time. The straps of her tank top rested at her shadowed collarbone, which vanished and reappeared as she used snaking arms to gesture across the lane.

Maya—that’s what her nametag said in pink letters, pinned to one strap of her tank top. Josiah had memorized it the first day he shopped there.

Just as he was about to set his basket on her conveyor belt, an old man—who was probably leaning on his cart more than pushing it—swooped in from the side. His cart brimmed with groceries: three flats of bottled water topped by a trembling mountain of canned goods and heavy-duty gray tape.

Josiah didn’t even think the old man had seen him, fully enthralled by Maya’s beauty. Or maybe her beauty so quickened his blood as to give him a certain confidence which blossomed into delight by the act of slighting Josiah for an advance view of her radiance.

Sir. The Pestering One waved at him. Sir, I can help you over here.

It wasn’t that she wasn’t beautiful. She might have been beautiful on her own—maybe. It was too difficult to tell against the nonpareil beauty of Maya, as when the stars can’t be seen because the sun burns too brightly for the higher heavens to effloresce.

Josiah shook his head at the Pestering One.

I don’t have a line, she said. I can ring you up and you won’t have to wait.

Josiah shook his head a little more forcefully.

Fine, she said and threw up her hands.

Josiah blinked and looked at the ground. The speckled linoleum imitated sand between his shoes.

Hola chicas, he heard the Pestering One say. A short woman, towing a wandering-eyed young girl, wheeled a cart into her lane. The cart could have been a fraternal twin to the old man’s: bottled water, canned goods, tape, plus rope, and a candle bearing the sacred heart.


The short woman nodded and laughed. The Pestering One lilted something en Español and the short woman nodded. She unloaded her cart and the Pestering One scanned. As she passed a can across her machine, she caught Josiah’s eye and raised an eyebrow. He looked to his shoes again, wrinkled his nose at the odd combination of potatoes and shaving cream emanating from the old man ahead.

He wished he had spent more time in the chill of los huevos. His shirt might have lost its mottled color of sweat. Maybe she hadn’t noticed him yet. He could take his basket and go back.

The conveyor belt started rolling before he could escape. Maya scowled more scathingly than the Pestering One had. Her eyes flared like amber held to the sun, focused the light to penetrate his skin and sear his soul.

You don’t always have to come to my line, she said. Contrary to her eyes, her voice was as chilled as the beast’s breath in the back corner.

Josiah shrugged and put his hands in his pockets. The warmth of adrenaline resurged through his chest.

It hurts Silva. You should go to her line sometime.

I don’t want to, he said, and cleared his throat. He hadn’t realized how long it had been since he had spoken.

And what would you do if I wasn’t here?

He wanted to say something, especially since his throat was cleared, but he truly didn’t know what, so he shrugged.

Maya clicked her tongue. Five eighty.

Josiah dug warmed money from his pocket, while Maya bagged the eggs.

Eggs won’t last. Ana’s coming, haven’t you heard?

Josiah shook his head.

She’s not coming.

His damp jeans wouldn’t release the cash. Denim chafed his scar.

I have a good sense about these things, he said.

He risked a glance. Her coronated eyes repelled him with a flare.

I hope you get stuck without any food or water.

Hey Maya, Silva called from her line, there’s no price tag on this rope. She held up the white coil in one hand and rested her other forearm on top of her head.

Twelve ninety-nine, Maya said, half turning and craning her neck. The man-made light above and the natural light from the windows lining the front of the store met on Maya’s neck, elongated it, illuminated it, made it glow from collarbone to jaw.

Suddenly, Josiah had the urge. He needed to go. Badly. He needed to get out of there. Music of impatience played in his head.

No, no, no, the short woman said. Cuatro. El señal dice cuatro noventaynueve.

Cuesta Doce, Maya said. Yo hice la señal.

The young girl’s wandering eye had fixed on Josiah. She peeked over her mother’s cart, hung on its edge, sucked the back of one hand.

Josiah held out his money for Maya and tapped his foot against the speckled linoleum, not to get her attention but to calm his nerves, hold back his urges. Sweat beaded at his temples and along his spine, a swarm of mosquitoes with eager saline proboscises.

The women argued over the rope. They ignored his needs, abused his time.

Here! Josiah almost shouted. He threw wadded money onto the scanner, more than enough to pay for the eggs. He didn’t wait for change. He grabbed the bag of eggs, stuffing in the cartons which Maya had neglected.

Hey, Maya said.

Lo siento, he whispered. Gotta go.

He ran to the automatic doors and didn’t look back.

Once outside, he half-ran the few blocks to his apartment. The bag of eggs swished at his side. He almost stopped in the alley outside—the one near the protesters—to relieve himself, but he knew home was safer, more private, and so he fought the urges and kept going. He climbed the steps of his apartment building two at a time. The bag of eggs swung wildly into stuccoed walls. He raced to his door, but was forced to stand still while digging for the key in his pocket—which seemed worse than running. He tapped his foot. Then he tapped his whole leg. Then he jumped up and down. His right hand never worked properly; scar tissue had forced his fingers to separate and they weren’t as dexterous.

He set down the bag, which he knew would cost him valuable time, and used both hands to retrieve his keys. The clicking sound of the opening door was better than music. He picked up his bag and set it, in passing, on the kitchen counter as he raced to the bathroom and slammed the door.

After a short interval, he emerged from the bathroom and leaned against the wall adjacent, breathing heavily—happily. He adjusted his sleeves down to his wrists as he caught his breath.

He suddenly felt tired—sleepy. He would have to give in to these urges—in a moment. He’d go into his bedroom, pet the birdcage and thank the alligator and take a nap. First, he had a decision to make. He ran a hand through his hair. It fell against his forehead like a row of teeth.

He massaged the scar on both sides of his hand—palmar and dorsal—pushed the mass of dead tissue back and forth between the splayed phalanges, flexed his permanently clawed fingers in a deformed Vulcan salute, and debated whether or not to wash the blood down the sink.

He decided not to.


Josiah stared at her as they drove and tried to imagine something more beautiful than she. He failed. He didn’t believe he lacked the imagination—what seven-year-old does?—only that nothing could surpass the woman who sat next to him. She was the epitome of a southern woman, and this car was her sanctuary. The wind rushed to worship the fragments of beauty which escaped her oversized sunglasses and fluttering scarf. A deity such as she could not risk being too accessible to such an untamed admirer.

She steered her mint-green Cadillac with the most delicate touch. The very tips of her fingers impelled the purring beast along the curves of the road. The Cadillac obeyed readily, as if it in fact desired her capricious subjugation.

She glanced at Josiah and smiled without showing teeth, the way a southern lady does. Josiah returned the smile and resumed playing with the small toy alligator in his hands. He had gotten it some time ago, he didn’t remember when, maybe a birthday. Its green plastic didn’t reveal much detail. Its teeth weren’t as pointy as he wanted them to be. The paint trespassed where it shouldn’t have, the pupils dotted the eyes off-center, the whites overlapped the lids, but its crude form didn’t matter when his imagination vivified it, corrected the paint, filed the teeth. He imagined where it lived and the things it ate—how it hunted. Sometimes instead of imagining or playing, he simply rubbed the ridges against his palm or at the skin between his fingers.

Now Josiah, his mother said as they pulled into the parking lot at the Piggly Wiggly. Lack of wind finally permitted conversation. If you really want your eggs, you’re going to have to control yourself.

The warning reduced Josiah to the size of his reflections in her sunglasses.

No episodes, she said. Do you understand?

Josiah nodded.

If you feel an episode coming on, you tell Mommy right away, okay? And we’ll forget the eggs, and we’ll leave, you got it?

Josiah nodded again.

She paused from digging in her purse to look at him.

You don’t feel any coming on, do you?

Josiah shook his head.

She loosed dark tresses from her scarf and inspected herself in the rearview mirror through sunglasses. After stuffing the scarf into her purse, she smiled—this time with teeth.

Let’s go.

When they emerged from the aisles of food, Josiah’s mother towed him to the checkout queue. The single carton of eggs swung at her side. Josiah’s arm strained at its socket as his mother lifted her wrist to look at her watch. Her sunglasses caused her to inspect the timepiece closely. She eventually read the time—or gave up—and lowered his arm.

Are you doing okay, sweetie?

Josiah nodded.

The woman in front of them turned. Her basket swung dangerously close to Josiah’s face.

Susan! she said. I thought that was your voice.

June, his mother said. Her grip on Josiah’s hand tightened. How are you, dear?

Fine, fine. Another migraine?

His mother nodded vaguely.

June’s basket contained—from what Josiah could see—popcorn and bread and seeds: bird food. He always thought she looked slightly birdlike. Her nose pointed and she bobbed her head to the side when she talked.

You get them so often. You should have them looked at.

His mother shrugged, momentarily lifting Josiah’s hand.

Is that all you’re getting?


Why, June said, "you could have borrowed some eggs from me. No need to run to

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