“I have to do this,” Tim said.
I knew there was no point in reasoning with him. When Tim wanted to do something, Tim did it.
“Okay, well is there anything you want me to tell your wife?” I asked.
“Yes,” Tim replied as he adjusted his gloves, “Tell her her husband died boxing an alligator.”
Tim leaped over the gate into the enclosure and began punching down at the prehistoric monster- so well suited for its environment that it had barely evolved over millions of years. A near-perfect killing machine being repeatedly bopped on the head by a drunken monkey.
“I hate you, alligator!” Tim screamed, as he danced around the gator’s head to avoid its massive jaws.
“Tim, I’m gonna get going, I don’t want to watch you die,” I announced, buttoning my coat and making for the zoo’s exit.
That was the last time I ever saw Tim. I later found out that the alligator had grabbed his leg and pulled him into its pool, drowning him. The zoo staff found his remains the next day. I never told anyone that I’d been with him that night.
Sometimes I go to the zoo and see that same alligator. I’ll reminisce with him. Or her. I don’t really know if it’s a male or female. Tim was an interesting guy. I wondered what the alligator thought of him before it bit his leg and brought him under the water.
I learned from the alligator keeper that it’d just been fed the previous night. So it likely only killed Tim out of annoyance. That’s a shame, I guess. More than anything I regret not asking him why he hated alligators so much.