17 July 2016

Albert 2: A Gator's Grand Adventures

Pogo and Albert
Pogo and Albert
by Leigh Lundin

Last week, I introduced Albert, the family pet alligator. People often ask if he ever bit anyone– just my youngest brother and he deserved it. It’s not nice for strangers (which my brother was then) to tease a baby dinosaur, especially constructed of armor and weaponry. Initially we treated his jaws and tail– part whip, part club– with respect, but gradually Albert grew used to us. He actually liked to cuddle with the alpha male of the house, but more on that in a minute.

Reptiles can go days, even weeks without eating, but when hungry, it’s not wise to stand between them and the drive-thru window. He wanted burgers and beer, but hamburger is too fatty and no one under 18 was allowed beer. On professional advice, we fed him ground horse meat supplemented with baby mice we occasionally discovered in the barns. His favorite treat was June bugs, which he ate like popcorn. We discovered he also liked cheese cubes, which we offered sparingly.

Dad obtained an industrial-strength plastic pan that he set behind the living room stove with an inch or so of water. The gator liked the living room. He’d doze in the sun behind my mother’s chair and, when he wanted food or to dump, he’d visit the pan. He became, you might say, litter box trained.

Albert Wins a Speech Competition

My freshman year of high school, I took part in a state speech competition. The contest was judged upon the number and variety of talks before local groups and television and radio.

I was a young mad scientist and I thought some topics were pretty boring, so I incorporated a robot I’d built into presentations. After the arrival of the alligator and, considering his surprisingly good behavior, I brought Albert along.

As it turned out, Albert won the boy’s division pretty much on his own. I went along for the ride, but I didn’t complain– lots of cute girls came up to visit with him and his brave, brave homie sidekick.

Albert Stars in a Play

Occasionally Albert visited school. During Show-and-Tell, he’d sit on the desk, one leg crossed over the other, and discuss logic and rhetoric. He won over faculty and students with smooth manners and sonnet readings.

Then came time for the school play. It was a dramatic comedy set in a spooky mansion. Miss Buchanan, recognizing fine talent when she saw it, invited Albert to star in the production and gave him credit in the school playbill. Because of Actors Equity rules, he didn’t get his share of lines but he garnered the longest laughs of any of us as he stalked my dramatic classmate Karen around the stage. Quite the applause hog he was.

Albert Adopts a Father Figure

Our reptilian lodger developed an attachment for my father. No, not the teeth-in-the-ankle kind of attachment, but a genuine liking. In his tiny brain, he adored my dad. Hey, I hear your eyeballs rolling from here, but Albert enjoyed being around my father.

When Dad came into the living room to read, Albert noticed. Once Dad settled on the sofa or in the easy chair, Albert crawled over to Dad and rested his chin on the toe of Dad’s shoe.

Dad ignored him.

He’d slide his chin up Dad’s ankle.

Dad ignored him.

Then up his shin until he rested his muzzle on Dad’s knee.

Dad paid no attention.

Albert would keep sliding up until he pressed his nose against Dad’s book or magazine. Finally he pushed so far up, Dad could no longer read. He would haul Albert onto his lap, roll him over and scratch his stomach, which was what the alligator wanted all along.

Albert and the Salesmen

My parents taught the alligator to come to their whistle. Really, truly. If Lauren Bacall wanted Albert, she could just put her lips together and blow. And Albert would arrive.

My mother posted a placard on the door that said ‘Beware of Alligator.’ From time to time a door-to-door salesman would arrive and remark how hilarious that was.

“Ha-ha, very droll,” they’d say. Okay, salesmen never said droll, but we hoped one might.

“Really?” said Mom. “You think that’s comical? Do I have to call the gator to get the message across?”

“Sure, sure, lady. That’s funny stuff. Listen, I’m here to tell you about new Amazo-Perq, the fabulous, fashionable, tasty tonic, scalp treatment, all-purpose cleaner, and gardening aid that comes with a free necktie and Fuller brush if you purchase tod— Jesus! What the hell’s that!”

“Mr salesman? Oh, Mr salesman! Yoo-hoo! You dropped your sample case. Mr salesman, come back.”

Next week: Albert Takes a Vacation

12 comments:

janice law said...

More of a Albert! Delightful!

Leigh Lundin said...

Janice, as Albert's Boswell, I'm pleased you like it.

Elizabeth said...

So when does the book come out? I'll buy a copy for the grandchild I don't even have yet.

Leigh Lundin said...

Elizabeth, will you illustrate it for me?

Elizabeth said...

I'd love to! The only problem is, I'm not very good at drawing ;-(

Leigh Lundin said...

Oh, darn! But maybe your unborn grandchild has art talent!

A Broad Abroad said...

Thanks for another Albert instalment. In light of recent horrors in Nice, France; Ankara, Turkey and Baton Rouge, USA, it is good to read of simpler, albeit unusual, domestic life.

Shows even the most unsociable of beasts can be socialised, if not tamed, with a little love and kindness.

PS Am sure Steeeeve would do the illustrations...

Leigh Lundin said...

Thanks, ABA. Albert made a surprisingly good pet… quiet, clean, protective, and trouble-free as pets go. And he even demonstrated affection when it came to my father.

Yes, Steve would do the illustrations, but I bet he’d insist upon the latest Mac Pro with a 5-speed transmission, bored-and-stroked 8000cc turbo-charged engine and alky fuel injection.

Leigh Lundin said...

On mother’s day two years ago, I caught a juvenile gator from my dock. He was only 3½-feet but very unhappy. I wanted to lasso another juvenile that had his left front and hind paws hooked with a nasty fishing lure… he couldn’t use those feet at all. Agent Nathan Cooper came out on a Sunday (and Mother's Day). The gator tried to object, so the officer taped poor Fluffy's mouth shut and hauled her (or him) away in his truck.

I wrote about Fuzzy’s adventures at the time. Wildlife Services probably banded the fellow and then released him in a more prosperous neighborhood. I miss Fluffy but she (or he) had been inviting herself (or himself) to lunch a few times too often. I don't expect a postcard.

Eve Fisher said...

Oh, that Albert! What a croc! I mean, alligator!

Anonymous said...

Oh hot dog! Another Albert episode! I especially liked the way he gave talks and quoted sonnets, I must say. Thank you for posting this. Once again I will join the general pleadings for a book!

Leigh Lundin said...

Eve, that’s the best alligator pun yet.

Anon, thank you. I need a good illustrator, don’t you think? I’m very glad you enjoy the tales of my talented pal.