If Only it Had Rained Cats and Dogs, fiction by John Sharp

When hur­ri­cane Kat­ri­na fin­ished bury­ing New Orleans it swept up the cen­tral Unit­ed States, turn­ing into thun­der­storms that dumped rain and hail on the Mid­west, and ulti­mate­ly drop­ping an alli­ga­tor into the back­yard of Joe Pringle of Wingett Run, Ohio, which prompt­ly ate his Yorkie, Pud­dles, who was out for a pot­ty break. Joe saw the whole thing from the porch, where he was hav­ing a cig­a­rette since Lucy banned smok­ing from the house after her lung biop­sy came back negative.

Joe grabbed the base­ball bat he kept by the door and head­ed out to have a chat with the "mur­der­ing bas­tard." The alli­ga­tor was only four feet long but that was plen­ty big enough to make Joe slow down halfway there and recon­sid­er. Stand­ing in the pour­ing rain he decid­ed a gun would be bet­ter, and he went in the house to find his deer rifle.

"You're track­ing mud all over," Lucy said. "Get back in the kitchen and take off those shoes."

"Can't," Joe said, "an alli­ga­tor ate Pud­dles." Then he dis­ap­peared into the basement.

"What?" Lucy yelled down the stairs.

Joe came up a minute lat­er with his .280 Rem­ing­ton, shov­ing the mag­a­zine into place. "A god­damn alli­ga­tor ate Puddles."

Lucy's eyes popped wide and she fol­lowed Joe to the back yard, scream­ing. The alli­ga­tor was pret­ty much where Joe left it and he got close enough for a good shot.

"Are you sure?"

Joe nod­ded. "I saw."

Lucy fell to her knees and sobbed. Joe had got­ten Pud­dles for her when she thought she had can­cer, to give her some­thing besides her­self to look after. The first thing the pup­py did when he brought her home was pee on Lucy's foot. Joe laughed and took Pud­dles out­side for the first of a thou­sand such times. He'd let her loose in the yard while he sat on the porch enjoy­ing a smoke, let­ting his thoughts wan­der into ter­ri­to­ries bright and dark. For the few days they wait­ed for the test results they were most­ly dark, and with tears in his eyes he begged God to let Lucy live. He promised God he'd give any­thing. Anything.

"Where'd he come from?" Lucy cried.

"He fell from the sky."

"God sent us an alligator."

"God didn't send us no alligator."

"It's like one of the plagues of Moses," she said, "like the frogs."

Joe gri­maced. "He's not from God, he's from Louisiana. Storm must have scooped him up and car­ried him all the way here. I saw a show about cows and tor­na­does once."

The rain fell hard­er and it was dif­fi­cult for Joe to get a good bead on him. Joe moved clos­er and the gator swung around to face him. Joe retreated.

"What if he swal­lowed Pud­dles whole?" Lucy said. "What if Pud­dles is still alive in there?"

"I don't think so," Joe said.

"Did he chew him up?"

Joe couldn't remem­ber. "It hap­pened so fast," he said.

"You got to shoot him," Lucy said. "You got to shoot him and open him up. You got to do it right now before Pud­dles suffocates."

Joe tried to fig­ure out how he'd dis­pose of an alli­ga­tor. Maybe chop him up and put him in bags. Or bury him. Or take him to the lake and dump him. Just then the alli­ga­tor decid­ed to make a break for the neighbor's yard.

"Go get my hunt­ing knife," Joe said. He turned, aimed and put two rounds into the alligator's head. He dragged him behind the garage and Lucy brought him the knife. Joe sliced him open from end to end and reached inside. He found a big lump that must have been the stom­ach and made a slit in the side of it. Pud­dles tum­bled out. Joe picked him up and shook him—he only weighed four pounds. Pud­dles was life­less and wet, and smelled like he'd been dead a month. Joe tried again and squeezed the dog's chest but noth­ing hap­pened. He looked at Lucy and shook his head. Lucy cried as the rain drove hard­er than ever and washed the alligator's blood into the mud­dy lawn.

Joe looked to the sky. The rain beat on his eyes and he couldn't hold them open, but he didn't want to close them either, didn't want to get hit in the head with anoth­er alli­ga­tor or what­ev­er else the mon­ster storm decid­ed to drag along with it. Final­ly he cov­ered the alli­ga­tor and Pud­dles with a tarp weighed down with rocks, and took Lucy inside where they changed out of their wet clothes and climbed into bed.

Lucy could smell Joe's smoky breath and she want­ed a cig­a­rette. She want­ed to take long drags and hold them in until the nico­tine filled her blood­stream, until she felt like she used to before Pud­dles and before the can­cer scare.

She turned her head toward Joe. "All I know is Pud­dles didn't deserve to be eat­en by no alligator."

Joe held Lucy in his arms while tears filled his eyes. He had thanked God a hun­dred times since the good news, but that was before the bill came due. Tonight he sim­ply hoped that was all he owed.

F. John Sharp
lives just west of the foothills of Appalachia in Ah-hi‑a, as they some­times say. His poet­ry and prose have appeared in numer­ous online and print pub­li­ca­tions, includ­ing GUD, Salt Riv­er Review, Hobart, Pin­deldy­boz, Flashquake and Eclec­ti­ca and he hopes you'll go to at least one of those sites to check them out. He is a lit­tle behind on build­ing a web site, but asks you to check fjohn​sharp​.com every sin­gle day until he gets it fin­ished, even if it takes years. If it says no such web site exists, take a few min­utes to stare at the blank screen and con­tem­plate his alli­ga­tor sto­ry. (The pho­to was tak­en in 1959 when he was 2).

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4 Responses to If Only it Had Rained Cats and Dogs, fiction by John Sharp

  1. sue miller says:

    how'd i miss this one?

    nice going, fj!

  2. Kathleen A. Ryan says:

    I stand cor­rect­ed; I meant to say Rusty's site and John's sto­ry! This is a great place to visit.

  3. Kathleen A. Ryan says:

    I am so glad that San­dra Seaman's Top 10 list brought me to your site and your sto­ry. I laughed out loud, your sto­ry is hys­ter­i­cal. Beau­ti­ful­ly writ­ten, John! What an open­ing paragraph…you had me hooked. The dia­logue is outstanding.Congratulations ~ and thanks for a great story.

  4. Rochelle Spencer says:

    great sto­ry!

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