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GIRL OF THE GLADES
The first time Luther ever laid eyes on Sadie, the only way to describe his reaction to her is to say that he had an incredible, almost scary, feeling of awe. He also knew he could fall in love with her. It was a warm, muggy day in early May, and he was hiking at a community park near the campus of the university he attended in Florida.
It was a large park, some of it open, some of it wooded, with picnic tables, tennis courts, a playground, and clean restrooms. There was a large lake with a trail all the way around the circumference of it. One lap around the lake was about two-and-a-half miles, so Luther would often run or walk from his apartment to the park, take a lap around the lake, and then head back, and he’d get himself a pretty good workout.
Luther was hiking out from the trees when he heard a small commotion. Fifty yards ahead he saw a group of people on the bank at the water’s edge, excitedly focused on something, and a small dog was barking and shrieking its head off. He jogged over to see what was happening.
The dog was about twenty pounds, some fearless terrier, straining on its six-foot leash which was barely being grasped by a young mother with a little girl at her side. And right there on the bank, tete-a-tete with the pooch, was a squirmy, hissing alligator.
The gator looked to be about seven feet; it was hard to tell because some of its tail was under water. Luther had seen gators around this lake before, but usually they were minding their own business, floating on the surface or sunning themselves on a far bank. But this reptile was not in a good mood, and the onlookers seemed to be hypnotized with no idea what to do.
“For God’s sake, get that dog away from here!” a sharp, female voice cried out.
Luther, and everyone else, turned toward the voice. Standing to his right was a young woman with a concerned look on her face. She was tall and slim, and appeared to be about Luther’s age, with a dark complexion, big brown eyes, an aquiline nose and long, black, braided hair. She was dressed in blue denim cutoffs and a peasant top.
“I’m serious, take that dog away,” she said. “That’s a bull gator and it’s mating season; that dog could be lunch.”
Finally, a teen boy took action and picked up the dog and they backed away.
“Take off your belt,” she said, looking at Luther.
“Huh?” he said.
The alligator’s tail swung hard to its left, pivoting the body to the right, scaring the shit out of everybody, and moving a bit farther up the bank. The young woman tossed her satchel on the ground and kicked off her flip-flops and walked into the water, approaching the gator from behind. She jumped onto its broad back and gripped him with her hands on each side of his neck. After a moment or two the beast stabilized, and she slipped her hands around the closed snout and held tight.
“Can I borrow your belt?” she said to Luther. “You’ll get it back.”
Sheepishly, Luther unbuckled his leather belt and pulled it off and moved closer, holding it out for her.
“Loop it through the buckle,” she said.
Luther did. She pulled the snout up so it pointed toward the sky.
“Now lower it over the snout.”
Luther did as instructed, dangling the belt and lowering it around the snout. She tightened the belt as hard as she could and pulled it back the opposite way and fastened it. With leverage and stringy strength, she wrestled the gator onto its back and held the belt firmly.
“Somebody call the police,” she hollered. “They’ll need to get the Critter Gitter over here. They’ll want to relocate this bad boy.”
A woman called 911 on her cell and explained the situation. She told the dispatcher that a young lady had subdued the animal. “Oh, I think she knows what she’s doing,” they heard her say.
While they waited, the young woman kept the less-active gator under control. Within five minutes a police cruiser arrived, and then the wildlife control guys showed up and took over. They taped up the gator’s choppers and tossed Luther’s belt on the grass, then hauled and wedged the big fella into their truck.
Luther picked up his belt and looped it around his waist. He lingered while people congratulated the gator girl. When the group had dispersed, he approached her.
“That was amazing!” he said. “You were very brave, and comforting. You obviously knew what you were doing. Very impressive.”
“Thanks,” she said, blushing. “Ya don’t want to take any chances with a bull this time of year. That gator was bold; I think somebody’s been feeding them. That’s never a good idea.”
“How did you learn to do that?”
She shrugged. “Grew up with them.”
Luther found himself not only impressed, but very attracted to this girl. She was not what he would call pretty, but she had a primal, almost savage sexiness to her. Tall and rangy, with small breasts and long, lean legs, and defined longitudinal muscles lining her forearms and calves.
“Grew up with them?”
“Yeah. In the casino oyna Big Cypress.”
She grew up in a swamp? he thought. Luther was a city boy, raised in the suburbs, so this was foreign to him. He was now even more intrigued by this exotic lady.
“My name is Luther,” he said, and held out his hand and they shook. “Very nice to meet you.”
“Sadie,” she said. “Nice to meet you too.”
Luther looked at his watch. It was getting on late afternoon, happy hour somewhere.
“Could I buy you a drink? Or a coffee or tea?” he said. “You don’t have to run off, do you?”
Sadie paused briefly, her natural caution, as if trying to decide whether she should. She felt tentative around others, especially in populated areas, but she knew she had to be more open and sociable. She smiled, and her posture relaxed.
“How about a smoothie?” she said.
“Smoothies for two coming up!” he said with a smile. The smoothie shop was only a short walk down the road.
They further introduced themselves as they walked to the shop. Luther told her he was finishing up his next-to-last semester at the university with a major of Business Administration, and often would hike and run at the park. He learned that Sadie had just visited the campus and had enrolled for summer school and would be starting class later that month. At twenty, she was starting college kind of late. She would be majoring in Wildlife and Wildlands Science.
At the shop Luther ordered two large smoothies: A pineapple-mango for himself and a cherry-vanilla for Sadie. They sat at a table by the window and made small talk. Sadie gradually relaxed, and Luther learned quite a bit about her.
Sadie grew up in the swamp, on a hammock edging the Everglades and the Big Cypress. Her mother Mika was a Miccosukee Indian and her father Frank was a white guy from Georgia. He was a swamp rat, grew up hunting and trapping in another big swamp, the Okefenokee. He met her mother on a trip to the Glades, fell in love, and only went back to Georgia to pack up and say goodbye. He moved down to the Glades and he and Mika found their own space, where they homesteaded, and Frank built them a cabin. Frank fished and trapped and hunted for food to eat and to sell in nearby towns. He was also a handy mechanic, known for miles around as the guy who could fix almost anything.
Sadie learned from her father at an early age how to fish and hunt and trap, and helped bring food to their table. She loved where they lived and took great interest in her surroundings. She was entranced by the myriad flora and fauna and learned all she could about every one. Her education consisted of waking up everyday and absorbing the beauty around her, and sporadic attendance at a one-room schoolhouse in a hamlet about five miles away. She would walk and run to school, sometimes her Dad would give her a lift in the airboat, but just as often she was too busy out in the marsh to bother. She attended class off and on for eleven years. But she loved when Dad would go to town for provisions, and she would go along and load up on library books, and bring them home and bury herself in the pages.
The university had a field lab on the road skirting the swamp about six miles north of their cabin. When she was twelve, she’d heard that they would pay good money for venomous snakes of the region. One day she hiked over there to find out if that was true. There were two men there, both scientists, Mr. Jake and Mr. Fred, and they assured her it was true, fifty dollars for each rattler or cottonmouth, and seventy-five for a coral snake. They used them for research and to sell to other institutions. She said okay, she would bring them some. They got a kick out of this saucy young gal, but they liked her and humored her, and told her to go ahead, but to be careful, and they would stock up on petty cash. But, damn if they didn’t end up paying her quite a bit of dough.
Over the next few years, they became her steady customers. Sadie would show up once a week with three or four snakes, and go home with cash, half of which would go to the household and half of which she would save. On those visits she would hang around and talk to the men and pepper them with questions and learn all she could about her environment and the wildlife and the plants and the ecosystem. The men were impressed with this sharp young lady from the swamp, and encouraged her to get her high school equivalency, take the placement exams and apply to the university. They wrote glowing letters of recommendation for her. And now, here she was.
Luther sucked his straw and heard the sickly slurp of an empty cup.
“What an amazing story!” he exclaimed.
Sadie shrugged. It was her life, much different than his, but nothing remarkable. Luther’s life in the suburbs was equally as foreign to her. She said she had to be going. She had an appointment with a lady who rented rooms to students. Then she had to catch the Greyhound for the three-hour bus ride home. She didn’t own a car.
Luther asked canlı casino Sadie if he could see her again. She shrugged again and they exchanged numbers. Sadie didn’t have many friends, and she was uncomfortable around a lot of people. This was one reason she’d decided to matriculate for the summer sessions, when the classes were smaller and the campus uncrowded. Luther decided then that he would register for summer school, and graduate in August rather than wait until December.
“There’s no signal at home,” she said. “So you might not be able to reach me.”
When Sadie came back for classes, she and Luther began seeing each other. He was fascinated by her and he wanted to get to know her. She was not the typical college girl that he could party with and get high with and get into bed. To Luther, she was as mysterious a specimen of wildlife as the snakes and gators.
They met for smoothies again–the girl loved smoothies, that was one plus for civilization–and then lunch, after which he kissed her for the first time. Then dinner, when they kissed some more, and a few other dates. Luther suggested coming home with him, or getting a hotel room, but she nixed that idea. Sadie’s landlady was strict about guests, so their dates usually ended with a make-out session on the front porch swing.
Independence Day was approaching. Luther said something to Sadie about going to the fireworks together, but she said she couldn’t go. Too noisy and too many people. She would be busing home for the weekend.
“Could I drive you?” Luther asked.
“What? You drive me home?” Sadie asked. “Oh, no, Luther, I couldn’t let you do that. It’s a three hour drive each way!”
“That’s okay, I’d like to. I’d love to see where you’re from, it sounds interesting to me, so exotic. You can give me a tour, show me your favorite places.”
They batted it back and forth for a few minutes, and Sadie accepted.
“Okay, Luther, I accept. But I will buy your gas and your meals.”
July fourth fell on Monday, making for a long weekend. Saturday morning Luther picked up Sadie and they headed off. It was a sunny, clear day and driving was easy. They talked about anything and everything, plus Sadie told him about where they were headed and some of her memories and favorite spots. She held his right hand when he wasn’t shifting gears.
The first two hours were over well-traveled highways, then they turned onto a two-lane which continued to narrow as they drove into the backcountry. Luther’s nose crinkled with the sour, sulfurous miasma of the swamp.
“Home sweet home,” Sadie said, as if on cue. “God, I love that smell.”
Finally, they arrived at a hamlet beside a wide-open area of water. There were a few houses and shops including a general store, a restaurant, and a bait and tackle shop. There was a neon Busch Beer sign flashing in the window.
“Park over there,” Sadie said, pointing to a small lot. “You can leave your car there.”
They grabbed their bags, locked the car and walked into the bait shop. The place was cluttered with merchandise piled everywhere, a cooler along one wall, and two ceiling fans struggling to cool the place. Behind the counter sat a chubby dark man with long white hair on his head surrounding a bald dome on top.
“Howdy, Hawk,” Sadie said, as the man stood.
“Well, hello Miss Sadie, welcome home. Home from college, are ya?”
“Yes sir, just for the weekend.” She introduced Hawk and Luther. “Got any good fish today?”
“Grouper’s good. Fresh from the gulf.”
“Okay, give me two pounds.”
Hawk went into the back room and cut and wrapped the fish and returned and placed it on the counter.
“Need anything else? Like maybe insect repellent?”
Sadie laughed, looking at Luther. “Good thinking, Hawk. One can, please.” He put a can of Deet on the counter next to the fish. “How much do I owe you?”
Hawk look at the goods and scratched his chin. “Gimme twenty bucks,” he said.
“Got a boat I can use?” Sadie said, after paying up.
“Take number two, tank’s full. Your Dad just overhauled the carburetor this week, it could use a workout.”
They walked out where several boats were in slips along the dock. They tossed their bags onto a twelve-foot airboat. Sadie untied it and pushed off. Luther had barely sat down on the bench when the engine roared to life, and off they went. Slowly for about the first forty yards, then she hit the gas. It was too loud to talk without screaming.
They zipped over the open water but soon were barreling down narrow alleyways bordered on either side by grasses eight feet high. Luther guessed they had to be going thirty or thirty-five miles per hour, and Sadie only slowed down when she had to make a turn, and would skillfully maneuver the boat into another narrow, grass-lined waterway. The thought crossed Luther’s mind that if something happened to Sadie out here, he would die. It was a maze he’d never get out of.
Then suddenly the boat slowed, and Sadie cut the kaçak casino engine and they were adrift. She sat down on the bench beside him. She took his hand but didn’t say anything.
“What are we doing?” Luther asked.
“Just wait,” Sadie said softly. “I love this spot. After it’s been quiet for a few minutes, you’ll see.”
They slowly drifted. Even though the swamp water seemed still as a millpond, Luther could feel a subtle current pulling them along.
“Look!” Sadie whispered, pointing off to their left. “Moccasins!” They watched two snakes swimming with their fat heads craned above the water, until they disappeared into the grass.
Sadie reached into her satchel and pulled out a baggie which contained two marshmallows. She threw the marshmallows into the water.
“What was that?” Luther asked.
“I want to introduce you to Mabel. Oh, here she comes now,” she said, pointing to their right.
Luther looked over and saw an alligator swimming toward the boat. It opened its mouth and the marshmallows disappeared into it. The gator hung around the boat for a couple minutes as they floated, and then swam off. For the next twenty minutes they drifted and basked under the warm sun, watching the comings and goings of numerous birds, a stork, an ibis, spoonbills, pelicans, herons and egrets. Sadie identified all of them, as well as most of the plants and trees along the way.
“I wonder if Mongo is out today?” Sadie said.
“Mongo? Who’s Mongo?” Luther asked.
“You’ll know him when you see him,” she said.
She started up the boat engine and they sped off. They passed a rise where a pack of wild hogs were scavenging, and a couple of them stopped and stared at them as they passed by.
Sadie backed off the throttle as they entered a watery expanse. She tapped Luther on the shoulder and pointed to the left bank. Luther’s eyes dilated as he took in the sight of a gigantic alligator, easily sixteen feet long and nearly four feet wide, lying lazily on the grass.
“Mongo!” he shouted. Sadie smiled and nodded.
A few minutes later a log cabin came into view, and as the boat puttered up to the dock a woman came out onto the porch and waved. It was Sadie’s mother, who hugged her daughter and welcomed them in. Her Dad, a huge man with a thick mane of black-gray hair and arms like tree trunks came in the back door drinking a beer, and soon Luther had one too. They talked a while, then Sadie and Mika fried up the fish and they all ate an early supper.
“Luther is the first person I met on campus,” Sadie said. “I’m taking him to The Nest.”
“Ah nice,” Frank said. “Beautiful night for it. I was out there last week and repaired the screen.”
“I’ll fix you a cooler,” Mika said.
A half hour later Luther and Sadie got back on the airboat with a cooler full of food and drink and a stuffed duffel bag. For the next twenty minutes they sped down more alleys of grass, turning this way and that numerous times, until they reached what looked like a large, wide-open shallow lake. About two-thirds of the way across, in open water stood a square building on stilts. As they closed in Luther could see that it was just a room with walls on three sides, with the fourth side screened, facing west.
It was early evening and the sun was starting its descent. It was clear skies.
“It’s going to be a gorgeous sunset,” Sadie said.
They secured the boat beneath the cabin and got themselves and their gear up the ladder and through the hatch in the floor. They put their bags and the cooler on the built-in table along the east wall. Sadie opened the duffel and took out two sleeping bags, a giant air mattress and a foot pump. They spread out the mattress and Luther started pumping. In a few minutes the mattress was plump with air and they rolled out the bags. Sadie pulled two beers from the cooler and they sat down.
The sun was now low and sinking fast. They held hands and sipped beer.
“Isn’t it beautiful!” Sadie sighed.
The sun kissed the watery horizon, and she squeezed Luther’s hand and kissed him. Moments later the sun disappeared and a green sparkler hovered briefly above it and disappeared.
“Oh My God!” Sadie said. “The green flash. That’s only the second time I’ve ever seen it.”
Luther kissed her, long and lingering. He wanted her.
“You know something?” Sadie said. “When I agreed to let you drive me home, I knew then we would have sex. And I wanted our first time to be here.”
Their mouths mashed together, each open and eagerly tasting the other, and Luther couldn’t keep his hands from roaming Sadie’s sultry flesh. He kissed her neck and held her breast and slipped his hand inside her shorts.
Sadie was ready. She broke their embrace and pulled her t-shirt over her head and tossed her skimpy bra to the side and wiggled out of her shorts. She helped Luther out of his pants as he vacated his shirt. Finally naked, they fell back onto the mattress.
They kissed like hungry cannibals, two naked primates ready to explore, anxious to love, raring to fuck. Luther’s cock was hot and hard, and already secreting dribbles of love. Sadie’s cunt was soaked and pulsing, and she was ready to give it to him.
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