“Steve, I swear it. If you hit me with that crutch I’m gonna kick you in your good leg!”
It’s 11:30 a.m. at the Skunk Ape Research Headquarters, and I’m standing in the gift shop next to the newest shipments of alligator jawbone knives and gator tooth necklaces. Big Jack is in his usual spot behind the cash register watching news clips on the internet, and Eddie–who you may remember as the other guide from last week when I went out to Big Cypress with Little Jack–is cursing at Steve.
Moments before, Eddie shot himself in the leg. Right above the knee with a nail gun. As a result, he’d gotten the rest of the day off, and, naturally, came to the Skunk Ape Research Headquarters instead of the hospital. He’d lifted the hem of his cargo shorts and shown us the hole, exactly the diameter of the 3″-long carpenter nail, the big kind used for framing buildings.
Steve, a large man in a gray loose tank and cammo shorts with gray shaved hair and a goatee, sat in the rolling chair by the door. His left leg below the mid-thigh was missing, and, in its stead, a camouflage prosthetic that tapered into a metal pole, similar to a crutch. When Eddie lifted his shorts to show us the evidence of the mishap, Steve snatched his regular metal crutch, propped against the door frame, and pretended to whack Eddie in the knee. At which point, Eddie threatened Steve’s good leg.
I still couldn’t wrap my mind around it.
“What happened?” I said.
“I’s on a ladder, working,” Eddie told me. “And this dang nail gun doesn’t have a safety on it or nothing, so I lifted it up and was like oh, man. This isn’t good! I look down and there’s like this much of the nail head sticking up out of my leg.” He squeezes his thumb and forefinger together to make a distance of about 1/4 inch. “It was not good. So I’m like, I take my hammer out. Put that claw in around what’s sticking out and—” then he pantomimes removing the three-inch nail from his leg. “Whoa! You know, like that. And there it was.” He reaches into his pocket, where he has hidden the offending nail. It is one of the longest nails I’ve ever seen, and there is no way he shot himself in the leg without it hitting the bone. Eddie is not big.
“And I’ll tell you what,” he says. “Bossman saw it and tells me about a month ago, he’s using that same gun and shot himself right in the left nut sack. Like that.” He makes a grazing motion across his left nut sack.
“And he continued to bring that gun to work?” I said. I am baffled by everything I’m hearing.
“I know! Right?” Eddie is tottering around on his good leg, and I look over at Big Jack for some kind of Everglades wisdom, but all he can do is purse his lips and shake his head.
Steve puts his face in his hands and says, “This is why we don’t give Eddie no gun.”
“Did you put alcohol on it?” I say.
Eddie shakes his head. “I ain’t put nothing on it. Just sat down ’cause I got kinda woozy and bossman says he got me the rest of the day and I come here. Good thing I had a tetnus shot about six months ago.”
“Good thing,” I say. “Probably ought to put something on that, clean it.” I’m fighting the urge to grab the Clorox wipes and start triage, but you just don’t do that sort of thing to country boys. You let them bleed until–and this never happens–they ask for help.
“You gotta be more careful, Eddie,” Jack says, and returns to the internet.
I go check on my people, and they are happy in the back watching the morbidly obese baby snapping turtle bite Rick on the forefinger.
When I come back into the gift shop, Eddie and Steve are gone, and Dave is talking with Jack in hushed tones as he organizes the new shipment of gator tooth necklaces. I’d left Dave a note that we were going Skunk Apeing on Monday, July 26th at 8 a.m.
“Did you get my note, Dave?” I say.
He is knitting his eyebrows. “Yes. When do you want to go?”
“Monday the 26th.”
“There ain’t no Monday the 26th.”
I look at the calendar, and I’d meant Thursday. “Oh. Thursday the 26th.”
He laughed at me. “Then why’d you write Monday?” He holds the note to my face as proof.
“Dave, I don’t know. I don’t know what day it is ever. Can you go then?”
“You wrote Monday.” He is still laughing. “You know what? My snake boots are all old and ratty. I want new snake boots too for this expedition. Can you guys get me a pair if you go to Bass Pro tomorrow?”
“Sure.” I’d told him Cristina and I were pumped up beyond recognition and going to Bass Pro Shop to get brand new snake boots and cammo pants for the Skunk Ape hunt. He leaves and comes back with a blank check and a notecard with his shoe specs. “Here you go. Red Head. And I like the ones with the zipper and the laces.”
“Got it,” I say. I am going to get the same exact ones in girl shoes, and I will have to practice wearing them for a few days before we go out.
“Look,” Dave says to me, very serious, “we’re going Out There.” He points far into the Everglades north of the Sunk Ape Research Headquarters. “It’s going to be physically hard. We’re going to push ourselves.”
“Okay,” I say. I’m excited even though I am not one who enjoys physical exertion anywhere except the stage and the rehearsal studio. (Well, there is one other place…) I know Dave is planning a six mile hike, a circle of the Everglades known to be a proven Skunk Ape territory. I don’t know if Dave and I have the same idea of physical exertion, but I am anticipating a rigorous walk in the woods. I may be setting myself up here, but I can’t imagine that it’s going to be all that difficult. Please do not let me live to regret these words when I am writing next week’s blog.
(At this time next week, Cristina and I should be driving home from the Everglades after our expedition. Trust me, beloveds, I will tell you all about what happened and what we saw as soon as I can.)
Tomorrow Cris and I are going to Bass Pro to get our boots, and now Dave’s too, and our cammo, then we’re going to see Magic Mike. I may blow up before the day is over–talk about a perfect way to spend an afternoon.
To your own perfect afternoons tomorrow, beloveds, whatever that means to you.