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CROCODILE IN THE BATHTUB

 

by Mykah Scott

        

                                                                                          

There's a crocodile in the toilet, maybe because yesterday it died in the bathtub, and two days before that it was sick in the bayou. At least that's what my brother said when he brought it home. He said it was sickly, missing half its eyes. He said that its lips were dry, and its skin was cracked. But it was nothing but a crocodile, an ugly baby crocodile that wasn't sick till it got here, that wasn't hungry till it got here, but it's sure gone be dead when it leaves. I ain't kill the crocodile, if anything my brother did and I'm just sending the poor thing home. Probably don't got no business flushing a baby crocodile down the toilet but it had no business being here. When I asked him where he got the crocodile, he told me that its momma had buried its eggs and tried to kill them. He found their nest buried by the riverside. I ain't have the nerve to tell my brother he was stupid, not even as he ran the crocodile's bathwater and fed it fish flakes. Instead I just said, "Teddy. . . you kind." Teddy is kind, kinda strange, kinda sweet, kinda dumb, but kind nonetheless. He's the kind of kind I had to lie to. That's why when he comes into the bathroom rubbing his sleepy eyes I know exactly what he's gonna ask once he looks at the empty bathtub.

  

"Where it go Mini?"

His soft voice is raspy and his belly button pokes out of his Spider-Man pajamas as if he had grown overnight, too innocent to know that his crocodile now lives in the sewage. Perhaps if I would have sent it there first it would have had a chance.

"I sent him home."

Teddy's lips turn into a smile, showcasing his missing front tooth.

"He got a better Mini?"

It seems like the sleep left his eyes and even though it's late evening he's wide awake now, pride shining off of him, feeling as if he saved a poor creature when they were always better off without him. Teddy has a habit of tryna save the wildest of animals. Once it was a squirrel, but Teddy only fed it peanut butter and when it died, I told Teddy it was just hibernating. Then his next animal was a blue crab. Teddy tried to take it on a walk, but it got run over. I told Teddy its shell was just cracked and all we needed to do was throw it back in the bayou to find a new one.

His problem is tryna domesticate the wild, to be a savior to those who are a danger to himself and though I should tell Teddy to leave the wild things where they are, I can't ever do it. I probably should before he ends up bringing a snake home.

"Yeah Teddy, now gone and ready for bed."

I leave Teddy alone in the bathroom, turning my attention to the living room where the table is covered in crayons and construction paper and the television aimlessly plays an episode of Tom & Jerry. While Teddy hums a jingle as he brushes his teeth, I fight back the yawns that crawl up my throat, tired from the long day of bussing tables at work. It seems that even when I'm off the clock that job doesn't end. Seems like I'm always cleaning up people's messes. I don’t complain because somebody has to do it, somebody gotta take care of Teddy, and not just because he stupid, but because he innocent. I want Teddy to stay like that for as long as he can, because once he sees how wild the world is he gone realize he can’t save it.

"Momma said it's a gator Mini."

Teddy enters the living room with confusion across his face, along with a drop of toothpaste on the corner of his mouth. I clear off the table and work around his little presence that stands there and waits for my response.

"When you see momma?"

"This morning at the bus stop, she asked me for two dollars for her medicine but I told her I need it for crocodile food. Then she told me Louisiana ain't got no crocs we only got gators."

"That money wasn't for no crocodile Teddy." I sigh.

"I know Mini, it was for the gator," he replies with confidence, not even understanding that was a wrong answer.

"It was for your lunch, Teddy. I hope you not out here giving money away."

"Not even to Momma?"

"Especially Momma."

Teddy is kind, too kind to realize that we can't help Momma, too kind to realize that her home is where the heroin is and since she can't have it here she can't call it home. She was never the domestic type even before her sickness. Her days were spent waiting for nights, where she'd sneak out the door without even making sure we had dinner or that Teddy was tucked in bed. Momma lives a life separate from ours, and any time here with us feels like a cage for her. As much as Teddy wants to bring her home and nurse her back to health, he had better luck with the alligator in the bathtub.

 

The noise from the television begins to fade and is drowned out by the commotion outside, music blasting but not as loud as the shouting from across the street. Teddy and I move over to the window and peek out it, and to no surprise, Momma stands out there so thin she could be blown away: her legs wobbling but somehow managing to stand in six-inch heels, a short sequin dress that only seems to cover bones, and her track marks sat against her skin so easily I would have thought she was born with spots. It's like she's made for smoke clouds and Hennessy bottles, like all she'll ever need is a needle. It's her survival and the only time I ever see her alive is when she looks half-dead. Her eyelids hang so low I would have thought she was falling asleep, and her lips are chapped, so cracked as if she never even caught sight of water. But I ain't never seen her no different to know what better looks like. Momma loves the wild, she is the wild, and that's why I should leave her where she is.

I look down at Teddy, wondering if he made that face he always did when he wants to save something, but his eyes don't hold their natural glint; instead, they only reflect the glow from the street light that Momma stands under while drunkenly dancing.

"You want me to bring her in?"

Teddy shakes his head. "She's better out there Mini."

Mykah is a rising junior majoring in Political Science and English with a minor in Creative Writing. Mykah is from Houston, Texas, where she represented the city of Houston on the youth slam poetry, Metafour-Houston, through 2021-2023 in the global youth poetry competition. Mykah was published in Revolution Publications, as well as recognized by the Chair of Arts & Letters Houston Alumnae Chapter,  Delta Sigma Theta 2021-2023 where she received the Young Writers Award for her contributions in the liberal arts community in Houston. 

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