Farewell to Arms, by Marie Ketsia Theodore-Pharel
They named the gator Chompsky, and laughed at the cleverness of the name that, like salve, calmed the fears raging and blistering inside tired minds. In between mounds of academic words for the thesis that was evading them, they’d escaped the claustrophobic Philosophy department for some just-us time off-campus. In the canal, the alligator propelled himself, his short legs folded, his eyes looking sideway; he chomped whatever flowed into his long, skinny snout.
“So much for dipping our toes.” Sue’s cracked lips were lined with black eye-liner pencil.
“Damn it,” Jess said. “I was just trying to be romantic. You wanted to recharge,” he snarled.
Sue reached for his tensed shoulder and patted her voluptuous thighs for him to put his head.
Without acknowledging her, Jess continued, “For the life of me I can’t understand how going to Florida City Outlet mall would have been more relaxing.”
Sue made a face. “Okay, maybe my choice wasn’t the best, but plopping on the bank of the canal outside the mall isn’t much better.”
The sun hit her eyes and it was that hazel color he had fallen in love with so long ago. He leaned back and kissed her lips. He moistened them.
They reluctantly ended the kiss when two boys started shouting nearby: They had seen Chompsky too. Their rapid, foreign words ricocheted like bullets off of the alligator’s horny armor.
“Is that older boy dangling the younger boy into the canal?” asked Sue, incredulous.
“Hey, little lizard,” the younger boy shouted in between bouts of glee, waving his hands. He oscillated above the gator like an old palm frond ready to snap.
“Jess, do something. I can’t look at this.”
Gently, Jess removed Sue’s hands from her eyes. He smiled. “I think you’ve been reading too much into the Responsibility of Intellectuals. Live and let live. Boys will be boys.” He laughed and leaned back against the grassy embankment.
Suddenly, Chompsky jumped out of the water; only his tail and the upper ridges trailed out of the unkempt canal. Chompsky had caught his bait, pulling at the boy’s arm.
Jess sat back up when the boys screamed for help. The one on the bank was trying to pull the other out of the gator’s teeth.
Sue was ensnared in fear’s mandible.
Jess’s eyes scanned the embankment for a rock, and he was thankful for the dying recumbent limb of an old Geiger. He pulled at the tree’s limb, which came apart easily. Jess dashed into the pond and swung hard, until the gator let go off his prey.
Chompsky and Jesse repelled to opposite sides—each panting, perhaps contemplating the Universal Grammar Theory.
Marie Ketsia Theodore-Pharel was born in Port-au-Prince Haiti, and currently lives in Homestead, Florida with her children and husband. She earned a bachelor’s from Tufts University and a master’s in English from UMass Boston. Her most recent publications include “Kako Blood” in The Caribbean Writer, 2011; “Mercy at the Gate” in the acclaimed anthology Haiti Noir, edited by Edwidge Danticat in 2011; “Haiti: a Cigarette Burning at both Ends” published in Butterfly Ways: Voices from the Haitian Dyaspora in the United States, edited by Edwidge Danticat. Her children’s books include Beauty Walks in Nature (2010), Songs from a Tower (2009), Keeper of the Sky (2007), One More Daughter, America (2006), Daughter of the House (2005), A Fish Called Tanga (2003), I’ll Fly Away (1999). Her short stories published in magazines include “The Mango Tree” in Compost Magazine (1994); “Light Chocolate Child” in Onyx (1995), and “Soup Joumou: Diary of a Mad Woman,” in African Home front Magazine (1996).