Follow this link to find Part 1 of the story.
Thick swamp water has its own flavor. I inhaled a mouthful during my unexpected baptism and imagined the tropical diseases attaching themselves to my innards. I had no idea which way was up in the pungent soup, but burning lungs suggested finding the answer to that question was of paramount importance.
I breached and wiped strings of slime from my glasses which miraculously remained on my nose. Was a ravenous pack of gators closing on our position? Would we even see them before they chomped off an appendage?
My bride treaded water near the overturned canoe. I recovered our paddles then pushed her onto the canoe while I worked a solution. I marveled that her hair was dry. Had she avoided the plunge with some masterful swimming prowess?
Plan A was to tow the wreck to a stand of tree stumps thirty yards away. Plan B was a vast improvement. A boater had heard the scream and changed directions to intersect us. He helped my wife onto the front of his boat while I worked with the canoe. Could I push off the swamp floor then lift and flip the canoe? I submerged a second time but found only mud.
As I pondered another dive my foot stuck in the crotch of a sunken tree which I interpreted as a hungry gator about to dine on a sized-thirteen filet-migJohn. I was instantly motivated to improve our situation. The extra burst of alligator-fear launched the canoe skyward. She flipped gracefully and landed right-side-up with a splash.
I stabilized the craft as the First Mate slid aboard. Amid her protests that the ship was about to capsize I squirmed over the side and joined her. I cannot say whether I spoke or only thought this response to her complaints about the rocking canoe, “Shut up, Woman!”
With fragrant mud plastered halfway up my legs, I paddled in silence determined to complete our return voyage at flank speed.
The man who rented the canoe spat a long stream of tobacco juice into the murky water, slapped his hat against his thigh, and cackled, “Didn’t dump it over, did you, Bud?” I looked him straight in the eye and answered, “Yeah, I did, and I’m returning one freshly-washed canoe and two clean paddles. Now give me back my deposit.”
The skin-ripping sun-heated vinyl truck seat was a blessing as the swamp stains might eventually burn away. My wife attempted to draw me out of the funk, “It could have been worse. We could have been eaten by an alligator. Think of the story we have to tell. Someday we’ll look back on this and laugh.”
My freeze-ray stare silenced the banter, but she was right. It did get worse. We pulled into the lot and sloshed to our room. While she fumbled with the key I heard shouting and turned. The couple next door was having a bad day, too. The lady slammed the truck door and strutted to her room. The man reminded her she better show him a little respect. The nickel-plated revolver he pointed at the lady’s back trigger a fresh adrenalin surge. As our lock clicked open I tackled my wife onto the floor and slammed the door.
Was this the end of adversity? Would our last night be restful?
Swamp water acted as a fertilizer for poison ivy. The severe itching took my mind off the seasickness triggered by the ocean-wave bed, though. Besides, we weren’t sleeping anyway. A nearby room housed an all-night drunken celebration of some kind, possibly a wedding party. The last song ended about 4 a.m. when the local police force tucked the performers in for the night. I drifted to sleep interrupted by visions of swarming gators.
The morning sun gave birth to a glorious day, our official second anniversary. After my third shower since treading swamp water I carried our bags to the truck. A nail protruded from the rear tire. A spit test revealed a slow leak, but rather than change the tire I decided we should get out of town before anything worse happened. A man can only stand so much celebrating.
Marriage consists of more than candlelight and mood music. Sometimes we have to wallow in the swamp and wrestle the unexpected gators. Cuddle together, cling tightly, and make things work. We may just find our best friend for life.
By the way, we never saw any gators … on that vacation anyway.