Zack pulled on the balaclava and climbed over the porch. The balaclava he’d bought secondhand from a guy on Craigslist who said he used to use it as a make-shift gimp mask.
Every few minutes, he’d catch a whiff of something raw and potent and retch for a solid ten seconds.
“You could have just fucking washed it first.” said Paul. His pumpkin mask from three Halloweens ago bobbed on his face.
Zack flipped him off and grabbed the window frame as Paul clambered gracelessly over the porch and fell on his ass. Zack ducked under the window as Paul scrambled to his feet.
There was a scraping as the old woman inside pulled open the window and Zack saw the barrel of a shotgun poking just above his head.
Paul stumbled, climbed back over the porch and fled. Zack, feeling his pulse begin to race, grabbed the barrel and yanked the gun.
The old woman was surprisingly strong and pulled back but Zack manage to wrench the gun out of her hands.
He stood, turning the shotgun back to face her.
The old woman looked irritated.
Zack took a step back.
Of all the ways he’d expected her to look, irritated didn’t quite make the list.
“You gon’ shoot me?”
She raised an eyebrow.
“Have you ever shot a gun in your life, kid?”
“Always time to start a new hobby.” he replied, grinning.
The old woman rolled her eyes.
“So were you breaking in? For what? My dentures? My collection of Salamander essays?”
“Duke said you had ivory.”
“Duke Ferris over at Elmore Avenue? Duke says he has a twelve inch penis, six million in the bank and a timeshare that’ll net you a whole lot of money.”
Zack squinted. “He does?”
The old woman reached out and took the gun from Zack.
“Kid, you ain’t really that bright.
Zack looked sadly at his scuffed shoes.
He shook his head, sadly.
The old woman put down the shotgun and reached out a hand. “Name’s Agatha. And don’t worry, I wasn’t pointing the gun at you.”
Agatha dropped the shotgun and pulled up the window fully. Cotton-white flecks of paint drifted down from the mantel.
“Come on in.”
Zack, not wanting to seem rude, climbed into the living room.
Hundreds of small cages littered the room, surrounding what looked like a giant pink alligator in the centre of the room, easily seven feet across.
“Is… that real?”
“It is indeed.” said Agatha. “Lazarian Salamander. The deathless snake. I found it on a hunting trip to the Congo roughly two years ago. And I honestly regret taking the bastard in.”
“I’m sorry I tried to rob you.” said Zack. “Duke makes me do things I don’t like a lot.”
Agatha shrugged. “Well it’s alright by me. Honestly, it’s nice to have company. I haven’t left them house in, well, two years.”
“Worried someone will steal your stuffed alligator?” Zack asked, gesturing to the unmoving pink creature in the centre of the room.
Agatha gave him a look of confusion, then threw her head back and laughed.
“Haha, good one! No, heh, not quite. Bastard’s alive.”
Zack recoiled to the walls.
“Shooting him helps, but he doesn’t really react to it. Bullets can’t penetrate his hide.”
She held out a hand and began counting on long gnarled fingers. “I’ve tried setting the fucker on fire, getting the fucker drunk by pouring liquor into its mouth, tried hitting the fucker to death with a bat. Drugs, injections, kicking it. Fucker won’t die.”
She lit a cigarette from a pile on the mantlepiece, neatly arranged like a miniature pyramid.
“It’s also poisonous, so I can’t move it. I mean it was fine in the jungle, we wore gloves. But now it’s aggressive. If you touch it it just spazzes out and tries to fuck you.
I was just walking over to grab my spectacles and brushed it with my foot. Hence, you know.”
She gestured at the shotgun resting against the wall and sighed.
“I regret learning about animal science in the first place. Fuck.”
“You don’t talk very sciencey for an animal scientist.” said Zack.
Agatha blew out a puff of smoke and frowned, the wrinkles on her face deepening into thick pockets.
“I got a PhD, kid. Kiss my ass.”
She coughed. “Also, this one’s a baby. It’s not very old. No teeth yet, and limited mobility. If it ever were to grow, to move and to actually bite people… I think that would spell bad news for the entire neighbourhood. Nobody, and I mean nobody, has any fucking clue what this thing is.”
They both stared at the pink alligator. Its eight ball eyes stared up at them. It looked as if it was constantly about to laugh at some unheard joke.
“Can I leave?’ Zack asks. “That thing kinda scares me.”
“I thought you were trying to rob me?”
“I’ve changed my mind. You seem nice.”
Agatha shrugged. “Well, pop by for a coffee whenever you want to. I have to keep an eye on this dickhead until the rest of time. It’s mandated by several regulations that exotic animals have to be caged or watched. Can’t cage him, so…
She trailed off.
Zack nodded and sidled towards the windowsill, climbed up, and left the house.
Charlie is a writer man and does words sometimes. You can find his work elsewhere on the internet. Just Google him or something, I dunno