Here’s a photo I came across recently on The Facebook.
It’s the little brother of my childhood friend growing up in Biloxi, Mississippi. His name is Fred. Her name is Tricia. He used to eat handfuls of dog kibble to gross us out and if we played hide and seek, he’d always climb in the clothes dryer and close the door behind him. Hopefully they’ve corrected the design flaw — once he closed the door he’d be locked inside and sometimes we’d ignore his thumping and pleas to open the door and we’d go watch Fraggle Rock or A-Team.
He’s posed (in present day) in front of one of the signs that peppered the park we all used to play in every day as children. We never saw any alligators or snakes in Hiller Park. Although once we found a pornographic novel someone tossed in the bushes in the park and we hid that in the rafters of Tricia’s house to read at our leisure when her parents weren’t home. And this other time, my science teacher tasked us all with collecting a water sample from a body of water near our house so that we could all examine our samples under a microscope. That night, there was driving rain and howling winds but my mom was dedicated to the pursuit of education and so she drove me and my dad deep into the heart of Hiller Park and pulled up probably right where Fred is standing and she ordered us out of the car to fill my sample cup. We survived. The next day my science teacher was VERY very disappointed that no one else’s parents had dared to venture out into such horrible weather to collect pond water but his chagrin was soon wiped away when he took a gander at my sample under the microscope. “HOLY COW!” he shouted when he spotted all the crap in that water.
You know I got an A+.
So anyway, we’d scoff at the snake and alligator signs, but not far from where Fred is standing the infamous “Alligator Incident” occurred: a bunch of people were fishing from shore. One guy was fishing off-shore from his little row boat when everyone on shore heard a weird WHUMP! and looked over to see the fisherman clutching the sides of his rowboat with a terrified look on his face. Then WHUMP! WHUMP! and his rowboat tipped over and an alligator dragged him off right in front of everyone and he got eaten. I’m still not sure if that was really true, perhaps I’ve embellished the memory in my mind, but it being Mississippi, I’m inclined to think it happened just like that.
One other thing you should know: Fred was named Frederic because he was born during the eye of Hurricane Frederic in 1979. That’s bad-ass.
On a related note, I had a classmate named Camille, after the hurricane she was born during in 1969, but that was just sad because Hurrican Camille came rippin’ through a few years before any of the rest of us were born, which meant she’d been held back a few years. I mean, we watched a documentary on Camille every year in science class and it was shot in black and white, if that tells you anything about how old she was compared to the rest of us.
One look at Fred’s photo got me to thinking all of this, like a blur flashing before my eyes, and I sat back and thought, “Well. I sure had an odd upbringing.”