My father used to tell my brother and me Albert the Alligator stories when I was a child. He would make them up while we lie there, waiting for more. I wrote this one for him, in celebration of his 80th birthday, this coming April 24.
Once upon a time there was an alligator named Albert.
Stop me if you’ve heard this story before. (You haven’t, so I’ll keep going.)
Albert the Alligator lived in the swarmy, murky bayous of Louisiana. He would swim, splish, splash, and eat fish all day long.
One sunny afternoon, while he was out for his exercise, he came upon a piroux. And in that piroux sat the strangest creature Albert had ever seen! Why, what was that? It was an ugly thing, pink and soft and it made an awful noise, rather like a cat Albert had been lucky enough to snap up.
The ugly creature was a little scary to Albert, because it was so, so, so…..well, LOUD.
“Hush there, noisy, scary little monster, you!” said Albert, in a low voice. Albert was not sure whether to act all “alligator” and growl, or what exactly. Albert swiftly looked around, as alligators are known to do; he wanted to make sure he was alone for what he was about to do. There is nothing worse than a bad alligator ribbing from another of your kind.
“What is the matter with you?” Albert whispered louder, trying to ever so gently croon.
“Who’s talking to me?” the hideous creature asked, sniffling and blowing its nose on the arm of its skin.
“It is I, Albert the Alligator. Who else do you think it would be?” Albert snorted. Surely this creature did not think the snakes would have been so kind. As it was, this thing was lucky Albert had has his fill of fish for the afternoon.
“I’m hot, I’m lost, I’m scared ... and now, now, now I’m hearing voices from the bayou. Oh, boo hoo!”
The piroux started to rock back and forth, as the blubbering in the small boat became just horrible.
Albert was beside himself. To think, this miserable being was making such a scene in his bayou. Nothing good could come of this. Somewhere, someone, clearly a mama, was missing her ... ugly.
Albert said to the piroux, “What’s your name?”
To which he heard the most measly reply: “Bobby Thibedeaux.”
“Are you hurt? Because you sure are, well, you look like you might be hurt.”
Bobby said in a gravelly voice, “No. But I’m lost. I wasn’t supposed to get in the piroux, but I didn’t listen. It’s so pretty and I was just going to sit in it. I feel asleep and now I don’t know where I am.”
Albert nodded his head gravely, “I understand. I was a youngling once.”
Bobby seemed relieved. “Did you wander off?”
“No,” said Albert. “But my friends did.”
“What happened?” said Bobby, hanging on to his new friend’s words.
“They became belts,” said Albert.
Bobby did not find this amusing and the dreaded howling began again.
Albert could not take anymore of this. He asked the thing what he remembered about the bayou, where the piroux had been, and Bobby told him. Albert guided the piroux with his snout. He hummed softly, hoping that would calm the noise from within or at best, muffle the sound.
Around the bend he went, until he entered an area he hadn’t been to in a long time. He remembered this well. This was the bayou that was not for him. The bayou where bad things could happen to good alligators. He looked back into the piroux. No wonder this creature had looked so ugly to him. It was a small human, after all.
Albert realized he had a choice. The boy was already lost, he could stay lost. But, once, long long ago….Albert was set free. Yes, so it was down the commode into the bayou by way of the sewer, but all the same, he was a free alligator. And now, he was going to free the child.
He pushed the piroux to a pier and then swam off and waited. He watched.
After what seemed like an eternity, the boy was found and lifted from the piroux. Strangely though, he seemed to be searching the waters. “Whatever is he looking for?” thought Albert.
And then Albert realized. The boy was looking for his friend. Him.
Perhaps it was meant to be. Perhaps this ugly creature was something special, Albert thought to himself.
And so, Albert raised his large head from the murky masses and smiled his best toothy grin. And Bobby Thibedeaux, well, he smiled back.