Daylight arrived while Papite hid in the swamp. As long as he stayed on higher ground and didn’t walk where all the alligators watched him, he wasn’t scared. He was more afraid of Cooter out in the clear looking for him. The thick brush and foliage made him feel secure.
Papite stumbled upon a deserted shack with broken floorboards and trash strewn everywhere. A slew of old beer cans and empty whiskey bottles covered the floor. One beer can was unopened. He grabbed it fast and held onto it. Hungry and thirsty, he opened the beer, drinking it down like water. The beer took the edge off of his hunger.
Sitting down, Papite felt the alcohol flow through his body. He felt relaxed for the first time in hours. Closing his eyes, he thought about the events over the last day and about his life.
Papite knew hard times. He lived with his mother until she disappeared two years ago. After that, it was him and his papa. Last year, his papa was hunting and fell into the swamp, never to be seen again. So, Papite was sent to live at Swarthmore.
He wished he would have been with his papa on the day he was out hunting. Papite felt he could have saved him because he was a really good swimmer. Papite wanted to go, but the other hunters, Jo Bob, Cye, and Uncle Cooter, didn’t want any kids in the boat. Uncle Cooter said Papite would take up space needed for the gators they planned on catching.
Papite stayed behind and never saw his papa again. All three men told the same story as to what happened to his papa. They said he lost his balance and fell into the swamp while the rest of them were busy pulling up a gator. When they turned around, he was gone.
“Just like that!” Uncle Cooter said, snapping his fingers.
No more was ever said about the subject.
Now, after what he’d seen Cooter do back at Swarthmore, Papite wondered if his father’s death was truly an accident.
Papite tried to fight off sleep, but the beer made his head feel heavy. As he drifted off, he thought about the sixteen foot gator terrorizing the area Cooter talked about all the time. Everyone wanted to catch him—the gator nicknamed Parrain. Jo Bob mentioned once the name meant Godfather. His massive head was four feet by itself. All wanted Parrain because all feared him.
Papite prayed he was safely hidden from the beast as sleep overtook his mind.