A few words of explanation – this story is set in an anthology series from a small press.
In the series, a virus got loose from a lab and killed most of the people in the world. There are two groups it didn’t kill – people who had consumed a lot of Brie in their lifetimes, i.e., Yuppies, – it turned them into zombies (Yumbies); and those that had consumed a lot of barbeque sauce in their lifetimes, i.e., Bubbas (or rednecks) – the virus left them untouched, and therefore pretty much the hope of Mankind. The latest development in the series was a Bubba-created accident with a time machine that sent a wave of time-storms washing across the globe.
This story did not make the cut for the anthology, so I’ve posted it here.
Bo & Earl’s Diny-Gator Adventure
It’s a long story, but to tell you the truth, we prolly woulda made it outta the whole mess just fine if’n Earl hadn’t run the truck into that big ol’ pile o’ shit.
In Earl’s defense, the storm that come rumblin’ across the swamps wasn’t like nothin’ we’d ever seen before, an’ what was ‘tween us an’ it… well, let’s just say our scoutin’ expedition to Monroe hadn’t gone as planned. It was a gawddamn Yumbie paradise… an’ these was the fast and full-blown-batshit kind… the kind that’d follow you to hell an’ back just to have you fer dinner. The kind that made you say ‘to hell with roads’ an’ head off cross-country through some o’ the most gawdawful swamp in these here parts, tryin’ to lose ‘em.
Really, when you done survived the Yumbies for awhile, big ol’ waves o’ stormy weirdness shouldn’t rattle ya too much. ‘Sides, Earl an’ me, we been in plenty o’ scrapes before an’ never come out any worse then splattered in Yumbie goo… although the crowd behind us looked to be a mite more’n we could waltz our way through with the guns we had with us.
He had the truck movin’ faster’n I’d’a been comfortable with on a paved road, but out there in them swamps, there ain’t nothin’ that resembles a paved road anymore’n my Aunt Ethyl resembles Britney Spears. It was a little two-rut track that we been usin’ fer years to get back where the good ‘gators still is.
All the easy places, they been hunted out an’ the best you can get is these li’l puny ‘gators, ain’t got hardly enough skin on ‘em for a pair o’ boots an’ a purse. You want big ‘gators, lotsa skin an’ lotsa meat, just as a side benefit, ‘specially since the Yumbies knocked the bottom out o’ the skin market, you got to go out deep into the swamps.
I mean deeper’n them damn tours ever used to think o’ goin’, deeper’n them ‘Save the Gator’ eco-freaks would go – so deep that if’n you’s from Fish & Game, nobody’d be surprised if’n you had a fatal accident – as such brave guardians o’ the nation’s wildlife often did before the Yumbies come along.
Only two ways to get out there – by boat, which I don’t mind tellin’ ya can make bringin’ in a big ‘gator a li’l more excitin’ than I like, or in a big ol’ jacked-up four-wheel-drive off-road dream machine, like Earl’s truck, ‘Maybelle’.
So there we was, like I was sayin’, headin’ back to town, Yumbie horde behind us, big ass weird wall-o-clouds storm behind us, little rutted road ahead of us, when the storm caught up to us an’ went rippin’ past us like my Mama when they open up the buffet at Paisano Pete’s Pizza Palace. We couldn’t see nothin’, nothin’ at all, for about twenty seconds, an’ then the front was on past us, the road was gone to Sonny-Jesus-knows-where, we was drivin’ across a bunch o’ grass that couldn’t decide if it was on dry land or not, an’ there was a pile o’ shit in our way.
I ain’t talkin’ about a pile like gets left in the toilet for your buddies to come look at – I’m talkin’ ten, twelve feet high, spread out twenty-foot across an’ smellin’ like somethin’ produced in the rottin’ bowels of a lifetime alcoholic who’s last meal was sauerkraut an’ beans… about ten tons of ‘em. The smell hit us afore we hit the shit an’ we was both cryin’ like li’l babies beggin’ God to make it stop.
I reckon that helped Earl’s foot slip off the gas.
An’ I reckon that’s why we lived through hittin’ that pile.
Once we pried them seatbelts outta our chests, we got outta Maybelle an’ started runnin’ away from that smell, fast as we could. It wasn’t the burnin’ in my eyes I minded so much as it was feelin’ my hair get dry an’ crispy-crinkly brittle – like it was about to just burst into flame.
Well, I reckon once we was a good two hundred yards away from the truck, our noses let us slow the hell down an’ think.
We was on the same side o’ that storm front as the Yumbies that’d been chasin’ us. All we had on us was our .357’s, cause since the Yumbies came, we wear them bad boys everywhere… and I do mean everywhere. I’ve reported ‘ready fer action’ in the bedroom wearin’ nothin’ but my socks an’ my gunbelt an’ ain’t nary a word been said.
I looked around an’ realized we was in a place like I hadn’t never seen before.
Earl ain’t much o’ one for conversation at the best o’ times, an’ right after leavin’ Maybelle half buried in a pile o’ poop so pungent an’ powerful it was prolly eatin’ the paint right off her didn’t even come close to ‘the best of times’ for him. He was lookin’ back at her, wipin’ at his eyes tryin’ to clear the tears away an’ just whimperin’ like a li’l puppy, so he wasn’t gonna be no help.
I done lived around the swamps all my life. I been huntin’ purty near anythin’ that moved on four feet since I could hold a 30.06. I hadn’t never seen trees like what was all around us – tall an’ straight with no limbs till right at the top where they bloomed out kinda like a green an’ leafy dome-thingie. Ferns bigger’n our trailer was everywhere, high an’ thick, an’ there was somethin’ out there makin’ a hell of a ruckus… somethin’ big… somethin’ God-damn-zilla big. An’ everythin’ smelled wrong – I don’t just mean the big pile o’ shit we’d crashed into, I mean you get used to the way the swamps smell, an’ wherever the hell we were didn’t smell right.
Of course, it was the needle-nosed sumbitches flyin’ through the sky on wings that looked kinda like I’d seen on bats that had me grabbin’ Earl’s arm an’ shakin’ him till he come outta his funk.
“Earl,” I said, “you ever seen anythin’ like that before in your life?” while I pointed up in the sky. I ask Earl about things ‘cause he done has himself an eighth grade education.
“Well gawddamn, Bo, as if Yumbies wasn’t bad enough, now we got diny-saurs!”
“What the hell you mean we got diny-saurs? Like in them there ‘Jurassic Park’ movies?”
“Yeah, ‘cept I don’t think we’s on no movie set.”
From a big ol’ stand o’ ferns to our left, we heard that moanin’ that only means one thing.
“Scratch that, Bo – diny-saurs and Yumbies!”
“Well shit, Earl, let me mail a card to Mother, my day’s complete!”
We was feelin’ all kinds o’ naked, just standin’ out there in the middle o’ the wide open spaces, big-ass lizards within hearin’ range, Yumbies in the ferns an’ both of us real unwillin’ to get close enough to Maybelle to see if’n we could get her backed out o’ the poop and back on the… well, there weren’t no road, but you take my meaning.
“Bo,” Earl whispered, .357 out an’ lookin’ around all nervous-like, “two things – we need to find some cover, an’ I need to pee somethin’ fierce.”
No big surprise there, Earl’d always had a bladder the size of a revenuer’s heart an’ I’m purty damn sure he’d managed to piss on every tree we’d ever seen – an’ we’d seen a whole lotta trees in our time.
“Well Earl, that’s a real shocker, yes indeedy-do. You wanna whup it out right now or you wanna find some cover first,” I muttered back, tryin’ hard to keep my voice low.
“Long as we find some cover soon, that’ll be good enough,” he whispered back.
There looked to be a purty solid stand o’ trees about fifty yards away, and as a bonus they was in the opposite direction from however many Yumbies was rootin’ around in the bushes, so I pointed with my head, and Earl nodded in reply.
“Okay then,” I said, soft an’ low, “you make for the trees an’ I’ll be comin’ behind ya… watchin’ for Yumbies, diny-saurs or the Shriners on parade.”
It was then that, in a crash o’ noise an’ fury, I seen somethin’ I never thought to lay eyes on in my life. Out of a stand o’ them tall-ass trees come the biggest animal I’d ever seen, bigger’n an elephant, huge ol’ bony ridge comin’ up from it’s neck, three sharp-ass horns, two long an’ one short, on it’s face, beak like my Aunt Valdean’s parrot, an’ it was covered with this bumpy hide, looked like it’d take a damn sight more gun than we was carryin’ to punch through.
Oh, an’ it was covered with Yumbies too, tryin’ their damnedest to see if’n it was edible – which it didn’t take too kindly to. That much pissed-off diny-saur – well, it’s a sight, I tell ya.
Earl took off runnin’ an’ I was backin’ away as quick as I could, keepin’ one eye on the Yumbie-coated-three-horned diny-saur, one eye on the ferns an’ wishin’ I was a circus freak with a couple o’ more eyes to keep on everywhere else.
Once Earl made the tree-line, he hollered back, “Run for it, Bo, I’ll cover ya!”
Well, I turned tail an’ run for them trees just like my ex-wives was behind me, bayin’ for alimony. It didn’t take me long either, ‘cause like Earl an’ me found out when them damn Yumbies first showed up, stark ravin’ terror focuses your mind an’ speeds up your body like nothin’ else.
I got there to find that while Earl said he was coverin’ me, he’d’a had a bit o’ trouble getting’ any kind o’ straight shot off. He was doin’ the “I gotta go potty” dance so hard I was tempted to poke ‘im in the belly just to watch the explosion.
“Fine, enough already Earl, go find some place an’ drain your damn liz-, well, take a piss!”
I pulled out my pouch o’ Red Man an’ put a wad in my mouth – helps me think, see? I still didn’t have no more clue what’d happened than a dawg would have about a magic trick. We’d been no more’n fifteen miles, as the crow flies, from Gaston an’ safety, an’ now if’n it wasn’t for Earl recognizin’ what they was, I’d swear we was on another damn planet.
“Hey Bo, come take a look at this!”
Y’know, them words right there shoulda been my first clue.
I found Earl at the edge of a big ol’ stretch o’ water, lots o’ things like lily pads, ‘cept bigger, around the edges an’ this big ol’ log layin’ nestled up to the shore. He was still finishin’ up the final li’l dribbles an’ drabbles that ya don’t want on your pants, an’ pointin’ at a big ol’ knot on the log, ‘bout a foot round, roughly.
“Bo, don’t that look like an eye?” he said, chucklin’ to himself. Earl’s always findin’ rocks that look like faces an’ such nonsense, so this was nothin’ unusual.
When the knot opened up an’ we found ourselves lookin’ into a mossy green eye, with a slit runnin’ up an’ down the middle… dang near a foot across… I just knowed, deep in my heart, that our day had just gotten so much damn worse.
It’s at moments like that that ol’ Earl can surprise me. He real calmly finished puttin’ himself back in his pants, zipped up an’ said “Bo, I think I just peed on a diny-gator.” He slowly scanned the log from the end with the eye to the other. “I’d say about thirty-five foot, eight, eight-an’-a-half tons of diny-gator.” He turned, ever so slowly. “Y’know, I’m thinkin’, seein’ this, that I’ll race ya back to the truck an’ to hell with the stink.”
I said, “Be careful Earl – remember, I ain’t got to outrun the diny-gator, I just got to outrun you – an’ like as not you’re gonna be slippin’ in my shit.”
“Fair enough, Bo… I’m thinkin’ o’ unlimberin’ the ‘Fuck You’, sound good?”
“Ahyup, sounds real good. On the count o’ three…”
And then together, “THREE!”
Way back before the whole damn world went to hell-in-a-handbasket an’ killin’ Yuppies went from a pleasant daydream to a necessary part o’ everyday life, we was – to put it plainly – poachers.
‘Splains a lot, don’t it?
An’ while most days, what you could buy in any ol’ gun store was good enough for what you run into out in them swamps – there was them special occasions, y’know, when you wanted to send the very best.
That’s why we’d invested in a Barrett M82 – a .50 caliber sniper rifle that could stop anythin’ – man, beast, car or truck – dead in its tracks.
‘Cause sometimes, you needed to do things like that. ‘Sides, back in the day, it was fun to put holes in the engine blocks of Fish & Game Humvees from a mile away. Discouraged the hell out of ‘em.
An’ we’d named it ‘Fuck You’.
While we was runnin’ fer our lives, caught ‘twixt a diny-gator, a pack o’ Yumbies tryin’ to eat a diny-saur, an’ a truck half-buried in what smelled like the remains of a septic tank explosion in Hell, I don’t mind tellin’ ya I was prayin’ like a muthafu- well, I was prayin’ hard. Earl mighta had blind faith in the .50, but I wasn’t so sure. ‘Gator hide’s tough, y’see, an’ I didn’t ‘spect super-sizin’ one had softened up its skin none. In fact, lookin’ at the world it lived in, I ‘spected it was a damn sight thicker than it woulda been otherwise. So yeah, I was prayin’ hard, ‘cause if’n ‘Fuck You’ didn’t work, I was reckonin’ we was ‘Purina Diny-Gator Chow, Spicy Redneck Flavor’.
When we got closer to the truck, that damned shit stench hit us again like a wall.
“Damn, Bo, maybe getting’ et ain’t so bad!”
“Earl, don’t say that – I got a lot to live for an’ even if’n you don’t, I need you to try getting’ Maybelle out an’ runnin’ while I unpack the rifle an’ try to save our butts!”
“Okay, but I ain’t promisin’ nothin’ – by now that shit may o’ et the whole damn front of my baby.” It sounded like he was cryin’ but it mighta just been the smell burnin’ his eyes
While Earl slid in behind the wheel, I climbed in the back an’ dug through the beer cans to find the rifle case. I had done figgered out one small problem with my genius plan – it was gonna be damned hard to focus my eyes through the burnin’ an the tears to aim at that Diny-gator. And no matter how damn powerful ‘Fuck You’ was, if’n I couldn’t hit the damn thing, we was hosed.
I looked through my waterin’ eyes an’ sure enough, the diny-gator was behind us an’ comin’ on, but not near as quick as we’d feared. It was lookin’ like he mighta wanted to stay close to the water, an’ while we was on mushy ground, it weren’t near enough water for him to swim in. Plus, he was swingin’ his head an’ cuttin’ looks at the three-horned Yumbie magnet. I can kinda understand. I’d damn near been gored by a Brahma bull once an’ two of the diny-saur’s big ol’ horns would give me a reason to think ‘hey, wait a minute’ too. The third one, on his nose, well, it weren’t nothin’ to sneeze at either, but the two above its eyes… well, they was just an engraved invitation to an ass-whuppin’. It’d managed to crush an’ stomp most o’ the Yumbies into a reddish-green paste an’ it was still lookin’ fer more. But it was keepin’ one eye on the diny-gator as well.
I slammed the clip into the rifle, figgerin’ maybe, if’n God took a particular likin’ to me, I might just get to watch these two fight it out amongst themselves. But that tweren’t to be, that ol’ diny-gator, he remembered Earl pissin’ on his eye, or there was somethin’ else about us that just plain torqued him off, ‘cause he gave out with one o’ them loud, long, angry hisses that gators use to let you know you done graduated to the top o’ their lunch menu.
I said, “Earl, tell me we got a truck that’s gonna be movin’ real soon!”
“Bo, I think this pile o’ shit done killed my Maybelle!”
An’ that’s when I knew the Man Upstairs was just laughin’ his ass off at us, and it prolly weren’t gonna end well for Mama Rydell’s bouncin’ baby boys.
So I laid the rifle on the edge o’ the truck bed, uncapped the scope an’ tried my best to focus through my tears at that damned diny-gator. I let off one round, figgerin’ he ain’t never heard a M82 before, maybe the ‘boom’ might give him a little pause.
Sure enough, he stopped waddlin’ towards us an’ give out another hiss, an’ that’s when I took my second shot, right up through the roof o’ that big ol mouth.
When I done that, it done confirmed some o’ my earlier fears, cause there weren’t no exit wound out the back o’ its head. I figger that .50 round just bounced off the inside of his skull an’ got lost somewhere in all that body.
Then before he could shut his mouth again, I put another one in there. I figgered that had done the trick if’n the trick could be done.
That big ol’ diny-gator, he just looked at us, eyes fulla some kind fierce-ass hatred, an’ started waddlin’ towards us again.
I fired again an’ I’ll be damned if’n I didn’t see the spot where it just bounced off the diny-gator’s hide.
“Earl, you ‘member that copy o’ Playboy you loved so much, Anna Nicole’s first appearance?”
“I was the one who stoled it from ya.”
“You sumbitch, I knowed it! Why’re you tellin’ me now?”
“I just figgered to get right with you before we got et.”
He got outta Maybelle an’ crawled up in the bed o’ the truck with me.
“Bo, y’know how you was sure someone was fuckin’ Patsy Sue while y’all was married?”
“You was right an’ it was me.”
After that we was far too busy beatin’ the tar outta each other to notice gettin’ et.
Well, as you can tell, the diny-gator didn’t eat us. He finally figgered out he was dead about twenty yards short o’ the truck – just about the time that three-horned diny-saur figgered she’d about had enough o’ him eyein’ her an’ charged. ‘Tween the bullets an’ horns, there weren’t no way he could convince himself to keep movin’. The shock o’ them two collidin’ knocked both Earl an’ me outta the truck, which brought our little fight to an early end. Nothing like havin’ somethin’ that felt like an earthquake go off in your vicinity to clear your thinkin’.
Maybelle was purty much dead, but there weren’t no way on God’s green earth Earl was gonna leave her so we was stuck… till ol’ Earl noticed that the three-horned diny-saur, he called it a ‘tricycle-tops’, was kinda friendly. Earl figgered out she liked ferns – a lot – so he took to leadin’ her around with a big ol’ armful of ‘em to get her used to the idea, then we took some rope an’ old tow chain from the bed o’ the truck an’ rigged a harness. She pulled Maybelle outta the shit an’ hardly noticed she was doin’ it. We switched the rig to Maybelle’s front and Raylene, that’s what Earl calls the tricycle-tops, ‘Raylene’, just towed us purty as you please – long as someone was in front of her with a bunch o’ ferns.
I don’t know what caused the weird-ass-storm that just rolled through here, sir, but it hit us too, an’ it was just like the one what got us in this mess in the first place. That’s why you got a tricycle-tops eatin’ yer petunias out front. That’s why Earl’s done gone crazy with yer water pump an’ is washin’ the foulest smellin’ shit this side of a Wurstfest outhouse off the truck in yer front yard. That’s what that big ol’ severed head in the back o’ the truck is, it’s a diny-gator, we figger to have a taxidermist strip it down to the bone, mount it on top o’ our trailer, if’n we ever get back to Gaston in the right year.
No sir, 1910 ain’t the right year.
Now sir, that I’ve answered your questions an’ told you our story, if’n you would, please point that shotgun at them creatures tryin’ to chew on Raylene an’ shoot ‘em in the head, if’n you’d be so kind – those’re them Yumbie things an’ I’m sorry, but I think we done brought some of ‘em with us… quick, afore she gets riled up an’ accidentally stomps your brand new Model T.