throwin' the hammer down
by Johnny St. Clair
there is a school of thought that puts forth the proposition that there is no such thing as fear; there is only confusion. and while that may seem preposterous at first - or even like some kind of hyper-macho credo - upon further reflection, i am inclined to agree. but you should understand that some of these moments are profoundly more confusing than others, and some will leave much deeper scars on the brain.
i got this one scar when i was driving south in a '69 mercedes benz 250…solid steel, black with blood red velvet interior. i had just crossed the Pennsylvania border when i noticed water soaking the carpet beneath my feet. in the rearview, i could see the alligator's head through a hole about the size of a basketball in the backseat.
i cut the wheel hard to the left and stopped the car in the gravel alongside the interstate. the gator tracked me from left to right as i leaned over to grab a roll of duct tape from the glove box. when i opened the rear door to deal with the problem, the animal gave a slow guttural growl before lunging for my forearm. i grabbed a fireplace poker from the floor behind the driver's seat and chased the beast back into the dark confines of the trunk before taping the hole shut with a healthy amount of duct tape. with any luck, it would patch the hole and keep the alligator confused enough to remain silent until i made the delivery.
it was just after i finished my patchwork, when i was stuffing the dynamite back into the glove box, that i noticed him. he was rustling around in the weeds and empty beer cans along the highway. our eyes locked once he made it onto the asphalt. he stood about knee-high, bald-headed, covered in tattoos and mud, wearing a diaper. after a moment of disbelief, i threw a stick of dynamite at him, but he knocked it aside and let loose this snarling scream and ran at me full-bore. i slammed the driver's door shut and heard him smash against the black steel.
i stomped on the gas. the benz sputtered and wheezed, finally kicking gravel and gripping the road underneath as i lurched it back onto the highway. the gator growled again and thrashed violently as the car picked up speed. i could hear its teeth and claws tearing at the duct tape, ripping it loose from the red velvet. it was when i turned to look at the back seat that i saw that foul dwarf again, running alongside the car just outside the passenger door. as i was about to throw it down into second, he jumped through the open window and bit my arm, clamping down and locking his jaw. i shook the vicious little bastard wildly and heard another rip from the back seat and another low guttural growl. more water spilled onto the floorboard near my feet. i brought the midget forward - still attached to my arm - and smashed his skull against the dash, then wrenched him backwards toward the backseat. i heard the dull thud of flesh and bone against glass as he smashed into the rear window. the gator by now was completely out of the trunk and lying prone across the backseat. the dwarf crawled from the window and stepped down, unaware of the animal. i could hear him yelping and the gator slapping it's tail on the back of my seat as i reached for the glove box. i grabbed a hammer by its rubber handle and swung behind me, never taking my eyes off the road. we were nearing 100. i heard an eggshell-like crack and felt the claw of the hammer catch and grab something like soft earth.
and then silence.
i breathed easy because i was on my way again and no longer confused.