“Cancelled? How?” Andy asked through a mouthful of donut dust.
Lana, his producer, swatted at a mosquito. “Look Andy. I don’t make these decisions. But you had to know…I mean the ratings were dismal.” She took a step back. “And what are you doing? We’re in the Everglades.”
Alligator Andy took a look around. At his crew rolling up cords, packing up the van with that same low energy gusto that had been their trademark for the past five years. Of course he knew it was the Everglades. So where was his air-conditioned tent?
“So that’s it? We’re just….done?”
“Sorry Andy. It’s been fun. Look, I was hoping you could hitch a ride with the crew. I gotta go see about the bubble gum girl.”
“Hitch a ride? Wait, the what?”
She was talking over her shoulder now, as good as through with him. “You know, on youtube, the girl who makes music with her bubble gum, we’re giving her a show.”
“You’re kidding me?”
“Gotta stay fresh, Andy. Look, good luck dear.”
With his producer gone and the crew at the vans, Andy nearly had a moment of clarity. The one time Flash Magazine “People to Watch” hunk took a seat on a stump, without noticing the missing button from his chamois shirt. The late morning sun blasted through the cover of trees. He wouldn’t miss the heat. But still, replaced by the bubble gum girl?
Just as well, he supposed, taking inventory of his pudge. Sure, he’d annexed a new hole in his belt, but he still had the chops, that million dollar smile that shined a hole through those glossies. On his phone, he scrolled down to Chet, his agent. At least now he could lose the ridiculous accent, the one that was one part Irish and one part Dudley Moore.
Donut crumbs fell to his boot. Andy chucked his empty soda bottle at the blue heron gazing over the water. The bird took flight with a majestic grace that went unnoticed by the sulking star.
He noticed the six foot reptile watching him from no less than twenty feet away.
“What do you want?”
The alligator yawned, revealing empty gums. Her teeth had been extracted for filming, although the suckers kept growing back.
“We’re done, Sal,” he said, standing up. He shuffled over to the edge of the swamp. “Maybe now you’ll have to earn a living.” He put a boot on the gator’s nose. Sal’s tail flapped in the water.
“Save it for the cameras, show off.”
The alligator spun over, revealing its white belly, then back to her feet.
“Look, you’re not still sore about that wrestling scene, are you? Man, we had some great times, huh?”
Andy heard the vans rumbling up the road, and it was then he realized that both of his rides were gone. Amazing, he chuckled, how quickly he turned into an afterthought. It was also around the time that he noticed another set of eyes on him.
“Easy there,” said the man known as Alligator Andy. The truth being that Sal was a thirty-five-year-old teddy bear the producers had found in a zoo off of I95, caged off in this small part of the Everglades. But there were no other gators in the cage. That is, if there still was a cage.
Andy’s heart woke up. The soda bottle bobbed in the water with the eyeballs. Two sets now, he saw clear as day. The sun, a ball of fire overhead, pressed down on Andy’s bald spot. He jumped as Sal’s tail swished again, with a strength he hadn’t witness in any of the four seasons of manufactured wilderness.
He backed away slowly, as the prehistoric hides emerged from the ripples in the water, gently as though part of the swamp. Two, then three, five or six humps in the murk. He turned to find two more blocking his way. Wiping the donut filling, his phone buzzed at his hip. Andy took his phone. With a wobbly hand he put it to his ear.
“Andy, Chet here. Good news. I got you that part for MicroDX, that erectile…Andy?”
The phone fell into the marsh. Eight alligators, glistening and hungry–seven with a full set of teeth, surrounded the washed up actor. One last live studio audience.
Andy’s last thought, besides how his urine actually felt cool on his thigh in comparison to the Florida heat, was how well this scene would have played out on the season finale of Alligator Andy.