Revenge of the Swamp

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Chapter 9

Old man Jarvis had just killed his hundredth iguana. Man, he hated these lizards like crazy. Much as he tried, he could never imagine why anybody would love to keep such an ugly creature in their backyard.

It all began some years back.

One fine Sunday afternoon he observed this ugly lizard intruding on his front porch where he was taking his usual Sunday afternoon nap after a good meal of southern fried chicken with black-eyed peas. This was a meal his only daughter, who was very supportive, always delivered to him every Sunday without fail for the five years his wife Ellis had been gone.

Maria was a fine girl who loved her papa and didn’t want to see him suffer. Well, this is what old man Jarvis told himself every Sunday as he ate his favorite meal on the front porch, not caring if the Miami Marlins won or lost in the baseball game at the Swamp Stadium. He was long done with baseball. He now preferred to watch one of them shows where those fine ladies did silly things in their skimpy costumes.

Yeah, the world was changing too fast for old man Jarvis. Now, how does anyone go and buy one of them ugly creatures and pollute this fine God-given land with them, ugly creatures?

“Damn! How I hate them big ugly lizards more than I hate raccoons!” Old man Jarvis muttered under his breath. He would blast away his shotgun, killing an iguana in one smitten splash. He would walk over to inspect the damned iguana, or what was left of it. He would stand over the shredded creature, satisfied by the ribbons of flesh and skin hanging in his uncut hedge where he often found the cursed creatures.

Problem was, old man Jarvis’s jungle-like backyard catered for all the nourishing insects the iguanas loved to eat. And come they did like guests in old man Jarvis’ slaughter house. Sure, old man Jarvis would come hunting them down like he was back on the battlefield in Korea. He would lick his mouth and suck and chew his tongue, saliva dripping from his mouth with his tongue hanging out between clattering false teeth.

He would fire but often miss.

The lucky iguana would scuttle into the thick scrub and live another day. But old man Jarvis wasn’t done yet. No, sir. He would release two more shots into the thick bush, destroying branches.

Sometimes luck would shine on old man Jarvis, and an unlucky iguana would find itself the latest victim of old man Jarvis’ bad marksmanship. At times he would hit the poor creature in the tail but would catch it square in the head with the next shot. It would be a savored moment for old man Jarvis.

This one kill alone was enough cause for a celebration. He would pull out a dusty glass and a bottle of whiskey from his pantry. He would grab a chair and let his old body collapse into it with a yawn. He would drink to a good kill, release a fart or two to add flavor to the occasion and gulp a stiff one with a wince.

Coiled in the deep, dark branches of the big oak tree that marked the far end of old man Jarvis’ yard, Rufus watched the old man rocking himself on his patio. Old man Jarvis had just killed one of his many iguanas.

Rufus pushed out his tongue and he smelled the lingering odor of gunpowder and something else. It was the smell of rotting flesh. Old man Jarvis’ backyard had become a killing field for iguanas. Their desecrated threads of bodies lay scattered all over the yard like strings of giant cobwebs with the green flies feasting on them. Rufus watched the old man. A young iguana scuttled across the front porch and disappeared into the thick backyard brush.

“You don’t go running and trespassing on my property, you ugly lizard!” old man Jarvis called out excitedly as he reached for his shotgun. “If I see your sorry ass on my property I will kill you! Damn ugly creature!”

It sure as hell beats me why anybody would want to have such ugly creatures in their home, old man Jarvis agreed with himself. He wasn’t done with keeping his yard free of them exotic creatures. Yeah, all them fancy names and fancy ideas they were coming up with was why his backyard was now crawling with them damn poisonous snakes.

Imagine coming across one of those devils’ serpents in his backyard?

It used to be fine back then. You would walk upon a rattlesnake and it would warn you to damn stay away. So you wouldn’t get bitten unless you went on, ignoring the rattler. Now the whole of Miami was being deliberately infected with all sorts of so-called exotic poisons; cobras, lizards, spiders as big as your hand and the pythons.

One of them damn pythons ate all the chickens in neighbor Hambros’ coop. All twenty-four hens and little one swallowed by the damn beast. Why would anyone go and bring such an evil thing onto this beautiful land? Old man Jarvis had long declared war on the pet shops in his area. Twice the police had come and interviewed him about him going and being abusive to three exotic pet shop owners. Those crazy cops even said he had threatened to burn the shops to the ground.

I bet you one fine day we’ll wake up and find one of these greedy exotic pet shop owners had gone and set alight his own shop so he can collect a fortune on the insurance and blame it all on poor old man Jarvis. What was this damn world coming to? Sure, he had his shotgun and you are damn right he would use it if one of them exotic devils dared to enter his property. Aren’t nobody going to make him allow any of the damn creatures come on his property!

Old man Jarvis had bought himself a pair of old army binoculars and a pair of infrared goggles until someone told him the devil’s creatures were cold-blooded, like the devil himself, so they wouldn’t show up on the infra-red thing. Now old man Jarvis became even more irritated when he learned this. It was fine to chase something you could see in the night with that fine infra-red thing. But to chase them devils when you can’t even see them made old man Jarvis mad. How was he supposed to find them devils in the dark? It made him hate all of them devil’s creatures even worse.

Every night he would lie awake on his old spring mattress bed and turn and be damn sure one of the devil’s creatures was creeping on him. He had long decided he would sleep with his lights on. No devil’s creature was going to come creeping on him in the dark. They can have the devil’s evil powers to slither safely without fear of being spotted by them goddamn high-tech nonsense red-infra-glasses, but I aren’t gonna let them creep on me in the devil’s night. No, sir. So the lights stay on all night.

Once, every few hours, he would wake up and run an inspection. He would bring out his army issued torch, the one he had bought at the Army and Navy shop. The bright beam would circle the semi-dark space beneath his bed. Slowly, he would scan the room, his shotgun tucked under his arm. Satisfied there weren’t any exotic devils under his bed, he would pull back the duvet, careful to check every inch and fold, to make sure not any one of them devils was hiding there.

He had read somewhere that the devils’ creatures could fit even in a crease of a blanket. Satisfied all was clear, his next inspection was the bathroom.

Every night before sleeping, he would close all doors and windows in the house. The bathroom was conveniently close by, an en-suite. Here he took his time. Once he found a lizard, well could have been one of them exotic ones but he couldn’t tell. The damn thing disappeared before he could make up his mind. Seemed like the creature heard the devil whispering to it to run before he killed it. He never did find it.

Old man Jarvis scratched his head, puzzled to bits as to where exactly it could have gone and hidden.

So one fine day he hinted to his daughter it would be a good thing to fumigate the whole house. That way he could be assured it was gone for sure. The fumigators had him vacate his house for a couple of days. He refused to go and live with his daughter and her noisy kids.

In the end, she booked him into a motel. A fine place it turned out to be until he discovered the owner kept one of the devil’s creatures as a pet in his foyer. Yeah, it was an iguana. The good thing was, old man Jarvis was checking out that morning. So, home he went.

Early one fine morning old man Jarvis walked into his bathroom, which he had inspected an hour before. He sat on the toilet seat to relieve himself.

A few yards away outside his property, Rufus lay waiting. He had been tirelessly working to get the old man to rush to the bathroom. Problem was, old man Jarvis had emptied his bowels after the first watch’s inspection around two in the morning.

Rufus had arrived late. Now he sat there having patiently worked on old man Jarvis’s system until the urge to relieve himself got the better of old man Jarvis. Now he was in the bathroom, taking his time to relieve himself. And Rufus was waiting for him.

The black mamba is a lethal creature known for its swiftness. It is brown or dark green in appearance. It derived its name from its black mouth, hence the name black-mouthed mamba. It has one of the deadliest Vernon in the world. Rufus sent signals to the black-mouthed mamba, a five-foot long adult male, which was smuggled into America from its native Africa by one of Willie’s suppliers.

Two days earlier it had escaped from its owner’s glass cage. Earlier on, the mamba slid into old man Jarvis’s toilet shank having entered through the air vent outside. At Rufus’ instruction, an angry set of sharp needles attached to a five-foot slithering length struck old man Jarvis’ bony left buttock. The one-and-half-inch long fangs dug deep into the wrinkled, shriveled flesh and injected deadly lethal venom, enough to kill ten men.

Old man Jarvis screamed louder than he has ever screamed, louder than he did when the doctor plucked him out of his mother’s womb at birth, some seventy-eight years ago. They all heard it, a blood-curdling scream that yanked the sleep out of them.

At death, his scream was a cry of disbelief, a cry of how could these devil’s exotic creatures have outwitted me so well. He turned around and fired one shot.

The mamba’s toxic venom reduced his co-ordination, locking him into immobility. In response, his mouth drooped with saliva. His breathing became labored and his entire body went stiff. He crushed and hit the floor, his gun firmly tucked in his arm.

The neighbors said it was old man Jarvis screaming at five in the morning for sure. And the scream was an ugly scream like it had a mouth of its own and a story of its own. This was followed by a single gunshot. Yes, they all said the gunshot came afterward like it was responding to old man Jarvis’s war cry. They found him slumped on the bathroom floor, his pajama pants tucked around his ankles, his shotgun clutched stiffly in his hands, the miner’s lamp still beaming on strapped to his head.

He was wearing the thick goggles he used as protection against a potential cobra’s blinding spit.

Old man Jarvis died, not taking chances, nor prisoners too. They had to yank the shotgun from his hands, for even in death he wouldn’t give it freely.

Nearby, what was left of the toilet shank lay with blood splattered all over. Inside was a ribbon of a black-mouthed mamba twisted as it tried to coil an escape. The shotgun shots had torn through the mamba and killed it.

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