The Louisiana heat had taken on the characteristics of a foam mattress pressing onto the back of Eli Truck’s plastic alligator costume. He felt smothered.
“Swamp tour starts in 15 minutes!” He flapped a webbed hand in the direction of a sagging boat that halfheartedly stayed afloat.
Mosquitoes ricocheted off the mossy surface waiting for panting tourists.
Eli Truck, the youngest of four (who all have different “daddies”) had decided his best financial savings plan is to stay with his oldest brother in a small shack about 16 miles outside of New Orleans. The bar was set pretty low in his business pursuits, but Eli preferred to make small achievements rather then feel the pang of disappointment. That had been the only advice offered to him when he decided to quit high school.
For now, the alligator promo gig wasn’t too bad and didn’t cause too much stress. He could chew while he worked since the gigantic alligator jaws were the most prominent feature of his “uniform.” While shuffling tourists toward the swamp tour boat, Eli dreamed of moving up the ladder and finding a job in an air conditioned building, maybe the night shift at the Piggly Wiggly grocery store. He could stock bags of chips and cans of green beans at night and occasionally swipe Cheetos and six-packs of Budweiser as an extra bonus.
Eli had a secret collection of Match-box cars, he hid them in his shot gun case between his mattress and the wood paneling that separated him from his brother’s room. He, of course, never had a car. Couldn’t afford one, probably couldn’t pass the written test anyway. He had heard that his collection could bring some good money, enough to buy some decent bourbon, but it was the only thing his grandpa had given him besides a few black eyes.
He could and did fight back so he never felt too sorry for himself. Although left handed, he could swing a baseball bat in a fight with equal strength and precision with his right.
His front pocket would be occupied with Marlboro Reds, soft pack, on nights out after pay day.
Eli was a beer and bourbon drinker. Alternating between the two on his nights out, he would smoke a cigarette every couple rounds. Most days he wore white t-shirts and black faded jeans handed down from this older brother’s daddy, who went to jail for shooting the neighbor’s dog. Eli’s brother swears he was aiming at him that day.
He doesn’t smile much, and when he does it’s with his mouth closed. A chipped, front tooth interrupts the row of slightly, yellowed teeth. He had a best friend he referred to as “J,” but he hasn’t seen him around lately and wonders if his girlfriend got knocked up. The absence doesn’t bother Eli much since he mostly keeps to himself or watches TV with his brother. Two fans blowing on high in each of their faces, the loose blades rattling so loud they can never hear what is being said on the tiny 12” screen.