As a rule, I would rather gargle with drain cleaner than go to the mall. Motherhood will do that. After playing multiple games of hide and seek in the clothes racks, and later, listening to weeping on the other side of the fitting room door, it got to where my back would start aching the moment my foot crossed the threshold of a department store. Now menopause has come and gone, taking my waistline with it, and the tears have come from my side of the door.
My shopping trips are normally very focused and carried out with military precision. I locate the item(s) on my list, sprint for the register, and throw money at the confused cashier on my way out the door. The only exception to this routine is if I am buying toe fungus medication. Then I will try to shake off any possible witnesses by casually strolling through sporting goods and ladies’ lingerie before making my escape.
I have the unfortunate handicap of not being built for speed. My osteoporosis and me would never survive a Black Friday stampede in an electronics store. You definitely don’t want to lose your footing anywhere near Gloria Lister. I hear that she wears cleats.
I decided instead of shopping, to do some research for a book. I firmly believe in personal experience to help add life to a story. This is a recent development in my life, born out of personal heartaches and lack of good programming on TV. This hands-on approach required that I look for a hobby for my protagonist, which would also provide enrichment and personal growth for myself. I settled on rock collecting. The flaw in this plan was immediately apparent. I looked in dismay at my geological survey map of South Carolina, discovering that most of the low country consists of clay and sediment.
I could either smack the heck out of clay globs with my new rock hammer or range farther afield for my hobby. On a suggestion from a friend I typed Pee Dee basin into my search engine and made a remarkable discovery: the Lizard Man of Scape Ore Swamp. Since the name “Godzilla” is already taken, let’s just call him Hal.
The first written account of Hal was made by 17 year old Christopher Davis in 1988. According to the story, while returning home through the swamp, his car developed a flat tire. As he was cleaning up after changing the tire, he glanced out into the swamp and saw a creature, 7 to 8 feet tall looking back at him. As the monster ran toward him, Mr. Davis jumped into the car. The irate critter took his frustration out on Mr. Davis’ side view mirror.
Godzilla picks on unsuspecting elevated trains, while Hal picks on innocent minivans. I think we can all see the connection: Monsters hate commuters. Evolution has equipped Hal with 3 inch talons in order to better rip up your leather interior. He does not spew flames from his mouth and has not been reported getting tangled in high tension wires, but otherwise, the similarities are uncanny.
On Christmas Eve Day, without regard for the safety of myself, my son, my dog or my truck, I loaded up and headed for Mayesville, South Carolina. We found our way to a swamp near town, where we learned that there were no neon signs indicating the names of local swamps.
We chose the most likely location of Scape Ore Swamp based on the lack of “No Trespassing” signs in the area. After driving for several hours, we were not going home without slogging through a swamp, and if we were guilty of trespassing, we might not be going home until after Christmas. I parked my truck down a dirt road as bait for Hal. Under the canopy of trees, only the wheezing of my overexcited dog broke the silence.
In that moment I could clearly see one overriding truth. I would rather be standing in alligator and leach infested cypress swamps than waiting in line at the mall. Even though Hal was a no-show, the prospect of meeting up with his 3 inch talons was less scary than Gloria Lister’s cleats.