Lindsay was sprawled next to Nick under the big oak tree, fanning herself with her “Life is Good” baseball cap. Nick angrily swatted at a pesky fly on a never-ending insect-kamikaze mission.
The posse was all there: Nick and Lindsay had been a hot item since Junior year; Melody couldn’t decide which of the twins, Josh or Jason, she liked best, so she hung out with both. Graduation was a week in the past; the last summer of freedom was trickling away.
“Man, it’s so hot my sweat’s boiling. Y’all wanna shoot the ‘Hooch?”
Lindsay sat up so fast her head swam. “Yah!” The thought of lounging in an inner tube, floating in the cool Chattahoochee, was heaven. She rubbed sweaty blond bangs off her forehead and cheered.
Echoes of agreement bounced against thick, humid air. “Shoot-The-‘Hooch! Shoot-The-Hooch!”
Melody broke it up by demanding, “Ok – let’s go if we’re going!”
Lindsay rescued her hat from the wind whipping through the convertible as Nick sped north on I-285.
“Lindz, take it off or you're gonna lose it.”
“Nope, I’d rather hang on to it than burn my nose.” She tightened the strap and jammed the cap firmly over her wind-mussed curls.
“Turn up the tunes, dude,” called Josh from the back seat.
When Nickelback faded to a news-teaser, Nick moved to change the station. Lindsay clutched his arm. “What’d she say?”
“I coulda sworn she said “Gator in the ‘Hooch. Leave it – I want to see.”
“Guys, you hear that? Lindz thinks there’s a gator in the ’Hooch!”
Hoots erupted from the backseat and Nick snickered. Lindsay smacked his arm. “I didn’t say that, I said she said it. I think. Shhhh – commercial’s over!”
"…Department of Natural Resources was helping capture the alligator. Officials hoped the animal would provide clues as to where it came from.
The alligator was sighted around Powers Island, a popular launch area within the Chattahoochee River National..."
“Told ya.” Lindsay folded her arms and smirked.
“Hey, Lindsay, hate to burst your bubble …,” Josh shouted.
Nick lowered the volume, “What, dude?”
“She said ‘Powers Island.’ You know, like, where we’re going?”
“Man, what are the chances? It’s probably a hoax, anyway.”
Melody shrieked when her toe touched the river water. “Its COLD!”
“C’mon, quit being a baby.” Josh grabbed one of her arms and raised his eyes at Jason, who promptly took the other. Her screams of protest were drowned when the twins plunged into the river, carrying Melody with them.
She came up sputtering and giggling. “When you least expect it…”
“Yah, whatever, not scared,” Josh retorted
Nick grabbed the rented tubes one by one and chucked them toward his friends, then he and Lindsay waded in. The posse climbed onto their inner-tubes for the float through Atlanta.
“Ahhh, mucho better.” Lindsay dribbled water over her steaming skin. “Don’t forget, we’re on gator watch.”
“Not the gator again,” Nick groaned.
“Hey, the outpost dude even said to watch out.”
“Lindz!” Jason called. “Gator at 12:00!”
Lindsay whipped around, almost spilling out of her tube, and heard gales of laughter. “Dude, that’s cold.” She laughed nervously, peering around.
She had just relaxed when Jason cried, “Lindsay, what’s that beside you!” She popped up, glancing wildly to both sides. This had them all, even Nick, rolling.
“Fine, mock me. Just don’t ask me for help when the gator gets you.” She slid down in a huff, adjusting her bikini straps to match her tan lines, and pulling her cap over her nose.
All grew peaceful, and she enjoyed the cool water, the heat of the sun, and the orchestra of nature and city.
Nick interrupted her solitude. “Lindz,” He hissed
“Right. Not falling for it.”
“Mmm-hmmm.” She didn’t budge, even when Melody screamed. Man, they’re trying hard. Not gonna work.
She was wrenched from reverie by Nick’s strong hands hauling her off her tube. “Quit!” Her protest was muffled by Nick’s smothering embrace. She struggled loose and saw his horrified stare. When she looked back, she swooned.
The pointy teeth of a gator were shredding the tube as his muscular neck jerked his head back and forth. Then, taking his prize, the proud animal dove to the bottom.
Lindsay sat wrapped in a group hug. Comforting murmurs soothed her. Her shaking had reduced to a tremble.
Jason spoke up. “I get it now. ’The Boy Who Cried Wolf.’ I can’t wait to tell mom.”
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