Table Seven: Joseph Suglia

The crocodiles are snapping at you where you walk. The jaws of the crocodiles move up and down and down and up musically. Their jaws are snapping at you. They snap at you, and they snap at the air. Their mouths are open hideously wide. You stare into their gullets.

There are crocodiles in the 7-11. There are crocodiles in ZED-451—the swanky steakhouse at 739 North Clark Street.

There are crocodiles in Superior Wine & Liquor. There are crocodiles in the Shady Lady Lounge, the wine bar-cum-bistro.

There are crocodiles in Celtic Crossings, the fake-Irish dive bar. There are crocodiles in the upmarket Italian restaurant, in the nameless fake-Italian restaurant, in the genuinely faux ristorante without a name. There are crocodiles in the internet café. Shuttered café, no one inside.

A pair of crocodiles sloshes down the wet-black staircase of ZED-451. Sploshing noises as they slosh. Crocodiles slough through the milk and orange juice swirl in the convenience store. The maundering, marauding, meandering eusuchians are swaying their bodies to the left and to the right. Other crocodiles are lazing and dazing in the plasmatic sun.

(An eusuchian is any alligator, crocodile, or gharial.)

You lower your gaze. There it is. An African dwarf crocodile. The African dwarf crocodile looses a terrible silent roar and scratches its head with a foreclaw. The African dwarf crocodile is roaring at you.

Fifty feet straight ahead, ninety degrees! A gigantic alligator is attacking a black car—an unshiny black Mercury. It smashes the automobile with its heavy tail.

The angry saurian brings its tail down hard on the hood of the vehicle.

The couple inside, the couple with their young boy, the couple is screaming as the alligator is smashing.

You walk and walk further and further, faster and faster. The crocodiles are staring at you. On the sidewalks. You watch them watching you. They watch you watching them.

Gilt-eyed, gold-spectacled caimans are waiting for you. Gilt-eyed, gold-spectacled caimans are watching you. Bony-ridged crocodilians are emerging from cardboard boxes. A greenish-blackish crocodile lurches from its box and is staring at you.

The six eyelids of the crocodile unveil themselves one after another.

You regard the alligators as they crawl into the hotel lobby. You see the alligators undulating into the hot dog-and-hamburger joint. Lashing their tails, the alligators crawl along. Their stubbed legs splayed, they walk quadrupedally and silently.

Humans are slinging lemons at the parked police van, indifferent to the spreading army of crocodiles and alligators.

To your right is a Komodo dragon, laying its eggs. Draconic lizard. You see a second Komodo dragon wriggling alongside the curb, its lizard tail waggling. It slips through the grill of a sewer grate and disappears.

Two human lovers—one man, one woman—are squatting on the curb, watching the alligators, the crocodiles, the caimans, and the Komodo dragons. They are both blonde and thirty-something—graphic designers manqués. There they sit, holding hands, as if nothing had changed, and yet everything has changed and everything is changing. While the animals have proven themselves adaptable to the human world, you notice that everywhere you go, the humans cling to their older forms of existence.

Within the hotel restaurant: Snapping their jaws shut on the chicken flesh, the alligators are feeding.

You cannot see the swimming pool, but you know that there is a swimming pool on the hotel rooftop. The swimming pool, you imagine, is bubbling with alligators, caimans, gharials, and crocodiles—all of them fearsome-looking yet playfully serene.

You cannot see them, but you know that they are there. Drifting in the swimming pool, the alligators, the caimans, the gharials, and the crocodiles.

Walk past the hotel. Go on, keep walking. Look into the window. You notice that the lobby has been transformed into a makeshift cinema. Set up by the hotel management, perhaps, to entertain—to distract—the hotel residents.

The residents of the hotel are staring at the wall. Staring at an apocalyptic film. The film is Independence Day (1996) or Armageddon (1998) or some other film you have never seen or no longer remember, projected on to the wall.

Caimans—jaws agape smilingly—race for the popcorn sprinkled beneath the gimcrack theater seats. Sinuously, they move.

Dragon-like crocodiles are stealthily stealing into the cinema. The patrons do not scream.

Pygmy tree shrews are rooting around in the cinematheque, chewing up the seats. Tree shrews are nosing their beak-shaped snouts into abandoned popcorn bags.

Keep on walking down Clark Street. Keep on walking southward. Keep on walking. You sidestep the crocodiles at your feet—crocodiles that no man or woman dare garrote. Snapping, snatching saurians.

A clutch of black-wet crocodiles is swarming about your feet. Devouring unfrozen chicken patties. After devouring the meat, the scaly predators embark on a journey. A journey southward, they are your traveling companions.

You lower yourself and palpate the skin of the crocodiles. You feel skin of the roughest texture.

Copyright 2014 by Joseph Suglia


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