A Crocodile Family Crisis






Ezra Azra


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Copyright 2023 by Ezra Azra


 
Photo by David Clode on Unsplash
Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

26 June 2023, a news item in "Cottage Life Media." Toronto, Canada: "First virgin crocodile birth recorded in Costa Rica Zoo."

All right, Zarena, what's so important you couldn't tell me over the phone?

It is huge, Liz. Come in. Tea will be ready in a minute. Tell me, have you seen Gabriel, lately?

Gabriel? Gabriel who?

Liz, all of us know only one Gabriel.

They stare at each other in silence for a second or two.

Scallywag alligator Gabriel?

Good for you, Liz. Right on.

I could have told you that on the phone, Zarena.

It's not about him. Have you seen him around, lately?

No. And I do not care to. Now, please, give me that cup of tea. I will be leaving after that.

Tea and cookies coming up. I have not seen that scallywag, either. And so the mystery deepens.

What mystery?

Remember cousin Mary a few years ago?

Oh, that's what this is about. Okay, everybody thought she and Gabriel were an item. They were not. She denied ever knowing him.

Yes, all right, that, too; but what about the other thing?

What other---? Oh, jeez, Zarena, do you have to bring that up?

I haven't brought it up, Liz; Mary herself has brought it up. She is claiming it again.

There was stunned silence; Liz was struck speechless, which encouraged her elder sister to strike a posture of smirky triumph. Liz was almost hoarse when she asked.

When?

Mary was here this morning. This time she wants the family to help her hide from the media people.

Hide her? That first time she invited them. This time the family should stomp on her!

Liz, most of the family does not know how the first time ended. I told you what I suspected; but I do not know who else in the family suspected.

Ohhh, shoot, Zarena! That's why you wanted to know if scallywag Gabriel was around?

Uh-huh.

If he was, again, you had better tell cousin Mary to not wait this time until the baby starts looking like an alligator, before shipping her off to Okefenokee.

Liz, I've been reading a lot on the subject of animal parthenogenesis. It's real, Liz. It does happen. To a lot of us: Komodo dragons, honey bees, rattlesnakes, zebras, sharks, insects, pythons. Heck, Liz, self fertilization happens in vegetation, too; there it's called autogamy.

Zarena, listen to yourself. You are beginning to believe Mary. You are losing it, kiddo.

Liz, Mary is the only one ever in this family that made it to a university degree. She has more intellect in a fingernail than the rest of us together have in our brains.

My children are going to change that, Ruthie. All four of them are going to University; and all are going to work in NASA!

That's great, Liz. I will be with you, all the way.

Zarena, that child of Mary's she claimed to be a virgin birth baby, began, after a few years, to look like an alligator in our crocodile family. Right?

Right. And it was Mary herself who drew my attention to it, in confidence. And I, shamefully, betrayed that confidence by telling you. I have yet to confess to Mary. Anyway, Liz, I have been reading on the Internet a lot about how obsessive thinking by a woman during pregnancy can cause changes in her baby's features.

Liz glared at Zarena in angry disbelief. Zarena raised her right palm in a silent oath. Liz spoke slowly and forcefully through her teeth.

You're saying Mary was obsessing over alligator Gabriel when she was pregnant?

Why not, Liz? Just about every women we know still obsesses about him. Tell me to my face that you, a mother of four, did not fantasize about him. Come on, Liz, that freshwater felon reptile is as handsome as an Oscar-winning movie star. Remember you and me?---Brando's fan club?---when Brando came to town---?

Zarena, we promised each other we would never mention that silly embarrassment again!

You're right. I'm sorry. I'm just trying to be fair to Mary. She is family, Liz. There is a respectable organization on the Internet whose members believe people can change into animals. Therians. If people can change into animals, Liz, why not crocodiles into alligators? Genetically, they start off as kissing cousins. Our own family is awash with both, Liz.

Okay. Okay. But you said nobody saw Gabriel around that first time, and you did not have the courage to ask Mary straight up, face-to-face. So, if Gabriel was not the one, that could mean there was a real daddy; which means we do not need your shape-shifting Therian theory. Where did Joe fit into all this? Weren't Mary and Joe going steady at that time?

Liz, those four teens of yours must be taking up all your attention. Have you forgotten what happened to Joe?

The look on Liz's face was a confusion of surprise and failure and bewilderment. Zarena did not wait for Liz to reply.

Liz, Joe and Mary were an item for only a few weeks before he went off to a seminary to study to become a celibate priest.

Really?

What? This is the first time you you're finding that out?

Yeah. Absolutely positively. Was Mary the reason?

What reason?

Joe turning celibate.

Both burst out laughing.

Let's try extra hard to be nice, and not go there. Mary is family.

Okay, but recall what that stand-up comic said about her own nakedness. That when stagehands backstage saw her naked while she was changing costume--

One stagehand threw up; and the other became homosexual on the spot.

More wild gigglings from both adults.

So, now you know. Joe had been so long out of her life, that Mary did not try to claim him the father.

There was a long, long silence, before one of them spoke.

So, Zarena, you really think Mary could be right this time?

I'm finding it difficult to be clear about what I think, Liz. It would have been easier had her child not begun to look like that scallywag. It's much easier, now that I have read so much.

You said Mary was here this morning?

Uh-huh. Told the whole family. And this time she is deathly afraid of the media finding out.

Was Granny Jane here?

No! Heck, no, Liz! Granny still does not know of Mary's first child.

Granny came from Okefenokee.

Yes. Lived there the first twenty-nine years of her life. That's the family Mary sent her daughter to. Don't you remember the stories Granny told us about being the last crocodile in the family among all those alligator relatives?

Perhaps Mary should allow family history to repeat itself; go live in Okefenokee and be the only crocodile there, again. Before this second child is born. Just in case this second one, too, morphs into that side of the family.

And what if it does not? That would really complicate the situation, Liz, because who could Mary possibly be obsessing about this time?

One of her professors?

Yikes!

A professor would be best because none of us has seen any of them, although she tells us all her university professors are scaly-wag reptiles.

Perhaps, one of us should suggest someone to her?

If we were better cousins, we would have a heart-to-heart talk with Mary; you think?

And somewhere in that talk we should recommend she move to Australia. They don't have Gabriel's type down there. They're sweet down there under; they call us "Salties."  


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