Yesterday, after everyone had settled on her deck, my wife’s friend said, “Maybe later my niece will see if she can borrow the gator.” Before I could ask if that was Minnesota code for injecting each other with angel dust (or whether they were all in the habit of loaning each other alligators, like they might snow shovels or spices), a shirtless man rumbled past on a four-wheel all-terrain vehicle with a child in his lap. “That the gator?” I asked. “Yea, that’s the gator.” I nodded and reached for another make-it-yourself cheddar and pepperoni cracker sandwich. As the kids clamored down the stairs to injure themselves, I bellowed, “If yer playin’ out there, you best MIND THE GATOR.” Honestly, it was as if I’d been waiting my whole life to say “mind the gator”–it felt that right; a defining moment; I had finally become ME…
When our host alerted us to some areas where the dog had done its business, I saw an opportunity to add some more texture to my new personality. “Don’t you step in that dog shit and make ole’ Cletus hook-up his overalls and hose ya down with whiskey!” I was wearing skater shorts, and an American Apparel tri-blend t-shirt, matched with a light athletic sneaker: the opposite of tough. But in that moment, I was a bearded giant, clad only in unhooked overalls, which draped over my waist to form an Alabama apron. I was just daring anyone to try and kick my hairy-cheeked ass. And yes, I just made up the term “Alabama apron” and I’m deeply sorry.
As I fantasized about a life full of guiltless drunken rage and northern-hillbilly (snowbilly?) aphorisms, my wife and her friend did their part by guzzling white wine and sharing their love for prepared foods from Target. “Have you tried the yogurt asiago dip?” my wife asked. “Oh my God, I LOVE ASIAGO CHEESE.” They pronounced it differently: one with a hard “g” and the other with a soft “g.” AsiaGo, asiaHo, who gives a shit! It’s delicious. “Plus, it’s yogurt based, so you can eat the whole thing.” After a short pause, I added, ”And the Little Neck Clams at Sears and Roebuck are to die for.” Silence. They were on their second bottle, and already showing signs of irreverence toward motherhood and wifery. “What are the kids doing, spraying insecticide on each other? WHO CARES! A-S-I-A-G-O Cheese! Fill up my W-I-N-E! Men SUCK.” I calmly did the right thing and took the parenting keys from her purse.
The Gator whizzed by again, reminding me that I had options.
The continuing talk of Target’s awesomeness was boring me, so I yelled, “MIND THE GATOR”, for probably the seventh time despite only getting laughs the first two. I was just bothering them at this point, anyway. I’d become irrelevant and awkward, like a babysitter who hangs around after the parents have come home.
I mustered up enough courage to suggest that it might be time to hit the road (it was 9pm). She looked at me like I did a Chewbacca howl at the opera (shocked, disappointed, saddened, confused). When she skipped off to the bathroom, her friend refilled both of their cups. I gave up and went downstairs to fall asleep on the hammock. It wasn’t long until the gator came by to pick me up, and I haven’t seen anybody since.