After hours of wandering through the swamp, Remy spied a shack in the distance. Stopping, he looked harder and realized Papite sat on the dock on the side of the boat shack. “Papite! Papite! It’s me, Remy!” he shouted, waving his hands all around, forgetting about the pain in his head.
Papite needed a minute to comprehend Remy stood in front of him rather than his ghost. “Remy? I can’t believe you’re here! What happened to you back at the home? I ran out the door when Cooter went upstairs. I thought he killed everyone! Boy, am I glad to see you!”
“It was Cooter? Oh man! He smashed me on the head!” said Remy. “He probably thought I was dead, too. I woke up and got out of there!”
“Why do you think Cooter killed Jo Bob and the others?’ asked Papite.
“I dunno, but I remember his eyes right before he smacked me. They was black as coal.”
“I’m so glad you’re alive, but your head looks pretty bad,” said Papite. “You need a doctor.”
“I ain’t going anywhere near town. No way,” Remy said. “I’ll take my chances here in the swamp.”
Papite glanced across the water. “Uh, look at all those alligators sunning in the swamp! We ain’t safe here, neither.”
Remy looked at the water. The longer he looked, the more alligator heads appeared. “You think they’re hungry?” Remy asked.
“Always. We best be watching out for ourselves.” Papite knew they had to get out of the swamps and that Remy needed medical attention. He smiled when he spied a small pirogue in the water. “Look, a boat!”
Both boys climbed into the pirogue, untied it, and started paddling through the swamp. Green and yellow eyes poked out of the dark water, watching them pass by. A few times they both noticed the rough back of an alligator quietly moving through the waters near them.
Pretending not to be alarmed, Papite bit his bottom lip while studying the lurking alligators. “Sure is a small boat. We better be still or we’ll be gator bits, just paddle slow.”
Remy caught a glimmer of something shiny under the seat under. He pointed to it. “What’s that?”
“Looks like a bottle of water or something.” Papite reached for it, unscrewing the lid taking a deep sniff. “Ewww, it smells bad!”
He threw the bottle out into the water. A big alligator watching nearby snapped open his jaw, revealing a pink cavern filled with sharp teeth. He bit down on the bottle and started following the boat.
“Paddle, paddle! Hurry up!” said Remy
No matter how fast they went, the alligator kept up right behind them. One minute Remy would paddle them into the bushes, then Papite would do the same.
They struggled to keep away from the alligator. Looking from side to side for a place to pull up and get out, Remy spotted what looked like a pile of floating clothing. As they got closer, the alligator also noticed and headed for the pile.
He opened his big jaws and bit down the middle of the pile, two ends came up like a giant, bursting sausage. Both Remy and Papite watched in horror as the head and feet of a woman appeared. Remy was pretty sure the face he saw before the gator yanked the body under was Elaine Emmet’s.
“Did you see that?” Papite gasped.
“I’m gonna be sick,” said Remy. He leaned over and threw up.
Papite and Remy were both quiet, unable to comprehend or put into words what they’d just witnessed. They both just sat there looking at each other, feeling they were not safe anywhere. Even though the alligator and body were no longer around, they were afraid to disturb the water. Instead, they let the current take them down the river without moving a muscle.
“Do you think that was Parrain? He was really a giant. He must be worth lots of money.”
Papite looked over at his friend. Remy’s words were slurred and he didn’t look right. His head wound was getting infected. Remy slid down to the bottom of the boat and drifted off to sleep.
Papite watched the surroundings as Remy slept. The dark green water reminded Papite of jade carpet. They floated for hours barely making a sound.
“Remy? Wake up! I think we’re gonna be okay!”
Remy poked his head up. “What? Why?”
Papite pointed to an outcropping of cypress trees. “Uncle Cooter used to live back here. He moved a few years ago, but I think I know how to get there.”
“Are you insane? He’s the one who killed everyone! Tried to kill me! And you want to go check it out? No way. I’ll take my chances with the alligators.”
“That’s all true Remy, but he doesn’t live there anymore! He sold it years ago, so maybe the new owners will give us some water and food. Oh, and maybe they’ll have a phone! We can call for help.”
“You’re sure? He sold it?” Remy asked. Papite nodded. “Okay, I’ll follow you Papite. I hope you’re right.”
After paddling to the bank, the boys walked thru the swampy bushes. Papite looked for anything familiar to help them find the way. As they trudged on, Papite recalled years back when he used to come here with Papa. They would visit and usually get some hunting supplies, and sometimes Papa would buy some smoked pieces of alligator. Papa and Papite would snack on them when they were in the swamp hunting. The memories made Papite sad.
As they approached the trailer, it looked like nobody was home. They knocked twice with no response. They tried the door which was locked up tight. Papite boosted Remy up to the window. “Remy, what do you see?”
“It’s too dark, I can’t see anything. Let’s look around back. Maybe we can get around that fence somehow.”
Papite spotted a hole under the fence. It was the first time Papite was glad he and Remy were thin. Their small size made it easy to crawl under. Remy’s weak state made it hard for him but eventually, he made it through. Pulling themselves up, they both froze at a weird noise.
“Is it a cat?” asked Remy.
“Shh, let me listen!” Papite whispered. He cocked his head, straining his ears. Sure enough, a small, black cat skirted out from under a stack of trash. “Whew, that was scary!”
They walked around to the back through the thick plants and hanging moss from the trees. The yard was a mess, full of debris mixed in with vines, making it difficult to see past the overgrown weeds and trash. Papite stopped in front a row of close to ten upside down metal buckets with holes. “What’s in those? Oh, maybe there’s food growing underneath! Like berries or a melon!”
“How would I know? Pick one up,” urged Remy. “I’m starving!”
Papite nodded and bent down, pulling up the first bucket. Sure enough, there were small plants of some sort. “I think these are spinach or beets,” he said while pulling up another bucket. “Ha, look all these bigger ones! They are beets! We can eat these.”
“Do you hear that?” asked Remy.
“Stop worrying, Remy. It’s just the cat again. Hey, look! Water!” Papite pointed in front of him.
Remy turned to look and smiled. A rain barrel with water was less than ten feet away. Remy lumbered over and washed out his wound. The cool water made him feel better.
While Remy had been cleaning up, Papite found two rusty lawn chairs and brought them over. Remy was happy to have a place to sit.
“Okay,” said Papite after handing Remy some beets. “We have to figure out what to do now.”
“And where to go that Cooter won’t find us! He’s got to know we’re missing. Hospitals will probably be the first place he checks! Gosh, why in the world did he do it anyway? What did we ever do to him?”
Papite shrugged his shoulders. “Beats me. I remember being scared of him when I was little. When Papa brought me out for a visit, I always thought Uncle Cooter was mean. Sometimes, he’d yell and curse, call anyone near him useless or stupid. I tried to stay out of his way, but no matter what I did, Uncle Cooter was never nice to me. It’s like he hated me for just for being alive.”
Remy frowned. “No wonder you didn’t seem bothered by coming to live at Swarthmore! He sounds awful, but it still doesn’t explain why he snapped and killed everyone but us.”
Papite sighed. “I don’t have an answer for that.”
“Hey look here!” said Remy. “A little refrigerator’s over there. Maybe it has some water! Fresh, clean water.”
Papite followed Remy’s gaze and smiled. He hoped there was something more besides water inside, like beer. He went over and yanked the door open, spying several bottles. Grabbing the closest one, Papite opened it and took a drink. He walked back over and handed it to Remy.
“Looks and smells kind of rank,” said Remy. “Wonder what it is?”
“Tastes like rotten fruit,” Papite said. “I’d say it some sort of homemade wine.”
Remy took a few big slurps then burped.
“Hey, share,” said Papite.
“Fine, but save me some. I like it, and it makes my head feel a bit better.”
The two boys swapped the bottle until it was empty.
They laughed at each other when their words came out slurred.
“I feel funny,” Papite said, hanging on to the armrests. “Something is wrong.”
“I’m just sleepy,” Remy answered. He tried to say something else but passed out.