He said, “first of all, what you gotta do is get your hands on some sloths. Sloths are booming right now.” I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about. Get your hands on some sloths. Sounded kind of stupid. But he is pretty offbeat sometimes. He could have been serious. Then again, he can be pretty sharp, too, but usually only when it came to offbeat kinds of things. Like sloths. Jake probably knew things about sloths, and probably just strange things about sloths, like that they’re booming right now. I didn’t feel up to humoring him on it. So of course I asked him how I could get my hands on some sloths. Not surprisingly, he gave me a thought-out answer. “Well, the problem is, is that with sloths, sloths are exotic, like real exotic, so you can’t just walk into Petsmart and get yourself a sloth. It doesn’t work like that.” Sure. Phase one, checked, phase two, still waiting. “But you can get penguins, you know. They’re real exotic but you can still buy them Bill said. Remember when he said?” No, not really, phase two, still in process. But apparently Bill did say that, whoever Bill is. And apparently, you can indeed buy penguins but they cost up to like ten thousand-dollars or something just to even get, and you also have to transform your basement to match their natural environment or something, to which that cost Bill never mentioned. So I guess Bill was right. Apparently. Phase two still yet to be happened. So far, it didn’t look to be coming. But I wasn’t ready to count it out. I felt it would happen at some point. So we went on with the trail.
I thought I’d like it here. It was different, and it was new, but somehow it seemed familiar. I felt local before I even had the right to. It was mad hot, and I was real pale. The Sun did its best to remind me I’m a stranger, but I wasn’t ready to get beaten by something I had no control over. So I just rolled with it. Jake went on pointing out some of his favorite spots. Places to find alligators. Naturally I was pumped. I always liked alligators. I forgot I liked them for some years between, and lately it seemed like I was making up for lost time. We walked off the path, down the hill and to the waters edge. He brushed aside the tall grass with his walking stick lovingly named his “gator poker”, with which he did own, carry and use for the purpose of poking alligators. We couldn’t find any alligators. There were a few marine toads sitting on boulders, some minnows shoaling near the waters edge, plenty of bugs were everywhere, enormous huntsman spiders were sleeping I was told, but no alligators. I don’t know if I was glad or disappointed. On one side I prefer thinking I was disappointed, but on the other side, I’m really not as fearless as I like thinking. Jake is pretty fearless, at least in terms of alligators. He’d been going to the trails a lot lately. Usually in the dead of night, when the alligators are out, when you can hardly see their bodies but their eyes reflect every bit of the moonlight. Jake once caught four cottonmouths in one night. Bagged them up in burlap. I was out of my element. Out of my league as well. I was beyond ready to climb back up the hill but Jake didn’t even budge. He just kept looking out in the distance, like something was supposed to happen. I knew enough to know it wouldn’t, and I cared too much to test whether I’d be right. We walked back up the hill.