The doctors never diagnosed or treated the problem, crocodile they used to call her in school – not original, but it hurt. Her skin was scaly, like a crocodile, so maybe not original, but accurate. Children are magicians – finding their peers worst fears – preying on them, mercilessly.
Through years of comments, sneers, good meaning, she developed a sense of people’s true selves. Sticks and stones may break her bones, but words gnawed.
She was sitting on a train one night. A man was sitting opposite, smiling at her – incessantly. He wore purple crocodile cowboy boots and a Stetson – conspicuous.
The alcohol had exceeded its peak and left a sludge of sleepiness, as the train rocked, her head dropped. Every jolt woke her, ahead and unmistakable, the man never ceasing to show those pearly whites, a crocodile smile. The end of the line – ‘howdy ma’am’ a Texas twang as he helped her to her feet.
There was no reason, years of warning, but she felt safe – flattered. His carefree manner tickling with charm, a soft caress, those boots, that hat – yet she didn’t reply. She touched her face and gazed at him with her light green eyes.
‘Can I take a liberty, ma’am? I’d like to walk y’all home, it ain’t safe out there’ – 30 something, 6ft something, towering over her delicate frame. He’d dipped his hat when he’d asked, she’d noticed – good people? She nodded, head swooshing, but slowly clearing – the cool night air working wonders.
They climbed the bridge to cross the tracks, she stumbled up the stairs, he held her – kept her steady with his strong grip and stronger will. Halfway over he stopped and peered over the edge ‘kinda looks like ridges of bone’ he commented, nodding towards the railway tracks, his smile beaming with larger teeth.
Arm in arm, down twisted roads, streetlights fading to moonlight as they reached the canal; the water rippled with dappled darkness as the wind whipped up. He put his arm around her waist ‘wouldn’t want to slip in and drown’ he sneered, wrenching her close like a snapping jaw.
She eased into him as the canal guided on, the night lights behind them, natures reverie in heavens above. ‘how much further?’ he asked, impatience turning his drawl-sharp, playful-stern, safe-aggressive.
She nodded her head towards some lights, hovering on the water like a school of fireflies, winking at the night ‘a boat, I see’ he said as he looked around.
He grabbed her hand and dragged her roughly, she stumbled and lost a shoe, ‘stupid bitch’ he hissed – his accent gone. He bent to retrieve it, – one nudge, one push and splosh, but she didn’t fight, didn’t escape.
They reached the narrowboat and he barged her on, she landed hard on the deck, splayed and strewn, things crashed around her. ‘Get the fuck in’ he said, shoving her down into the darkness. He looked around one more time before following her into the cabin.
‘What the…’ he startled as the crocodile snapped its jaws – pop like a balloon. Gnawing and gnashing it rolled and spun like a whirling dervish, a merry mess of blood and guts, painting the cabin red.
She picked up his Stetson, with a frown she placed it like a crown, the queen of carnage she thought.
‘Oh dear’ she said, with a crocodile tear.
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