This story goes way back. Back before Clive got nose reduction surgery because his honker was so large. Back before Cloey went to a plastic surgeon to have her acne sanded down. Even before Cletus enlisted in the Salvation Army after they busted him for stealing from the bell ringer’s pot. This story goes back to more black and white days when pleasures were simple.
My name’s Clifford, shortened to Cliffy, and my story is an episode in the soap opera life of our family, the Van Rectus clan, when we lived in Klutch Holler between Oberda Hill and Underda Hill. We lived in the prettiest part of the state where all the rolling hills are covered with beautiful green grass; in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Clive and Cletus are my two older brothers and Cloey is our older half sister. Our daddy Big Jim grew walnut trees as a cash crop. We didn’t have a mama as she ran off with Big Jim’s brother Uncle Oscar the wiener salesman. Big Jim said he was full of bologna and other colorful phrases but I really don’t want to talk about it.
When I was eight years old Clive and Cletus decided I needed to be initiated into the secret order of the Black Knights. The Black Knights was actually a gang of sorts made up of Clive, Cletus, and Cloey. Its purpose was to raid eggs and other food stuffs from our neighbors. The gang formed right after Big Jim learned that it would take seventy years for his field of walnut trees to mature.
The initiation, according to Clive and Cletus, would turn me into a full fledged member of the Black Knights. My rank would be private first class. Once a member I could pull my weight by helping to bring in food for the family. They assured me it wasn’t stealing. Not when you’re hungry and all you want is survival.
“The initiation is simple. All you have to do,” said Clive, “is swim Alligator Lake.”
Alligator Lake was located over on Dobb Planters’ hog farm. All the kids avoided the lake because of the alligators so nobody had ever swum it. Oh yeah, there are two other elements that may have been a factor. One was the radioactive sludge dump located uphill which drained into the lake. The sludge came from a uranium plant in the area. The second was the hogs themselves. But I digress.
“Now the gator is a wiley creature,” said Cletus. Clive agreed. “They lay low in the water lookin like logs and when you least expect it –Bam—they grab you.”
The original plan was to swim it at night but Cloey intervened. “He’ll never make it in the dark.” The boys didn’t want to change the time but when Cloey threatened to expose their marijuana operation they did.
It was the hottest day of the summer and I was looking forward to getting wet. I wasn’t afraid of any stupid alligators. The water looked thick and brown like wet mud and smelled something awful. When I went in the slime oozed between my toes and tickled.
I quickly learned the lake was actually a pond about four feet deep. The alligator was a tree limb that had been lying in the middle of the pond since who knows when. Once those discoveries were made I swam that thing like Tarzan – with confidence. When I got to the alligator tree limb, I jumped up on it. As fate would have it, a big water moccasin with two heads came swimming by with a two headed pig. I’d never seen a two headed snake before so I went in after it. That snake could really swim fast but I caught him as he charged at me. I grabbed that thing right behind both his heads and came wading into shore with it. I spent the rest of the day chasing Clive and Cletus with that big weird looking snake. At days’ end, the snake was turned over to Dobb’s hogs. The two headed pig eat him and I became a private first class in the secret order of the Black Knights. To this day in Klutch Holler I’m known as Cliffy the snake boy of Alligator Lake.