A Booming Business
“We’re here in Port Valencia, Florida where this small town, ravaged by the collapse of the house market,” CNN reporter Melba Valourez said, pausing to stare directly into the camera, a single eyebrow raise. “Is finally seeing a little sunshine.”
The camera slowly panned out to reveal a woman standing to Melba’s left. The woman was perhaps fifty, or maybe seventy. Or possibly she was only forty. Years of sun had given the woman’s face the color and texture of a well oiled catcher’s mitt. Her bright red hair, the original color long since forgotten, was piled atop her head, loose ends dancing wildly in the breeze, split and frayed by years of perms and coloring. Her pink tank top hung loosely on her wiry frame. And in her hands she held a tiny, green alligator, no more than four inches from snout to tail.
“I’m joined here by Delores Fitzel, resident of Port Valencia. Delores,” Melba said, tilting her microphone towards the Florida native. “Tell me a little bit about how you came to be in possession of this alligator.”
“Well,” she said, her words extended in a southern drawl. Originally from Tallahassee, she still held onto her panhandle accent. “This here alligator came up out of my toilet.”
“Your toilet,” Melba said with a start, glancing briefly off camera before recovering and training her eyes back on Delores’s face. “I hope you weren’t on it.” Melba laughed good-naturedly.
“Oh no,” she said with a cackle. “I’d just dropped my drawers to do my business, but luckily I looked in first. That’s when I saw this little critter just paddling around in there. Just circlin’ around.”
Melba frowned, nodding along with the story. “That must have been quite a shock.”
The redhead shrugged. “Eh. I’d seen worse in there. Nah, I recognized it right away as being one of them special alligators. The ones from the news. You know, the ones men use for their whatnot.”
“You’re referring to what’s being described as “Nature’s Viagra,” Melba said.
“Heh heh. Yep, that’s the one.”
. . .
When the government first learned of the new alligator species roaming through the sewers of the greater Sarasota area, they ignored it as simply the science headline du jour. It wasn’t until word spread that this particular reptile served as a potent male enhancement supplement that top government officials finally took notice. Their first response, naturally, was to declare it illegal.
It’s a tricky thing, regulating something that distributes itself autonomously. Port Valencia residents literally had contraband coming up through their drains and in under their doors. And given that the vast majority of those residents were saddled with underwater mortgages and diminishing economic opportunity, few were inclined to turn their illicit visitors into the authorities.
. . .
“Try a little,” James Cranston, age seventy, said to Marla Frownblat, sixty-eight. They were standing around a table in Marla’s kitchen. On the table were seventeen alligators, all between three and five inches in length. They all lay on their backs, dead.
“You know damn well it won’t do me any good, Jimmy,” Marla said, hands on her hips. “What do I need with male enhancement.”
“Then have your husband try some.”
“Oh no, the last thing I need right now is him chasin’ me around with that big ol‘ gorilla pecker of his. You should see him on The Reptile.”
“Well, then how am I supposed to know it’s real?” Jimmy said, picking up one of the lizards and turning it over in his hands.
“Of course it’s real. You ever see any other alligator that size? “ she said, shaking the smallest of the bunch in his face. “Tell you what. Take it home; throw it in a blender. You don’t get rock hard, come get your money back.”
. . .
“Oh Ra-ay,” Barbara Jensen called out to her husband from the bedroom where she was laying on the bed, naked. She had struck her most suggestive pose: on her side, hand propping up her head, rear end slightly upturned. Only, time had robbed the pose of some of its allure as both of her seventy-eight year old breasts hung down far enough to rest on the mattress.
Raymond Jensen, no young buck himself at eighty-two years of age, stared at the three miniature alligators piled into the blender he and Barb had bought forty years ago. It was avocado green and powerful as hell; he had no doubt that they would blend. What he wasn’t sure about was if he could handle the result. It’d been over a year since he’d taken Little Ray (“my little ray of sunshine,” Barb would call it) out for a spin. Between multiple heart surgeries and the general depletion of testosterone that came with age, he’d been on the bench for a long time. And now? Ray wasn’t sure he even remembered how to do it.
He took a deep breath. “Come on, Ray,” he said to himself. “Suck it up.” He turned the dial on the blender to frappe and flipped it on. For a moment, he could see a blur of green as the miniature reptiles spun about, but that was quickly obscured by a splash of dark red. The lid to the blender began to rattle; quickly Ray threw his hands over the top to keep it from erupting and painting his kitchen walls with alligator insides.
After about thirty seconds, he stopped the blender. Carefully he removed the lid and peeked over the top. Inside was a frothy concoction the color of a bloody mary. Assorted debris floated on the surface of the liquid. It occurred to Ray that this was probably what a river of blood flowing through a forest would look like.
Ray took a deep breath. “Bottoms up,” he said, pulling the pitcher from the base of the blender and giving it a little swirl. He took a deep breath and tipped the pitcher back against his lips. Where the pitcher was too wide for his slack lips, the thick red fluid spilled out and dripped down his chin, small pearls of red forming on the tips of his chin hair. When he’d drained it all, he slammed the pitcher down on the counter and, with a great, exaggerated flair, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
“Alright Barb,” he said under his breath. “Here comes Little Jim.” And as he marched resolutely towards the bedroom, he felt a tightening in his pants that he had not experienced in years.
. . .
Melba Valourez faced her camera man once again, waiting for her on-the-air signal. Today her backdrop was a small, pastel pink house. Bright yellow police tape formed a perimeter around the small ranch-style residence.
“We’re back in Port Valencia where government officials have begun cracking down on the local alligator trade,” she said upon hearing a voice in her ear indicate that she was live. “The home you see behind me was once the quiet residence of Anita Sanders. Anita Sanders,” pause for effect. “is now in jail.”
A voice signaled in Melba’s ear that they were cutting to taped material. Melba dropped her mike, dabbing sweat from her brow. She turned to watch a small monitor, footage playing on it that she and her cameraman had captured earlier that day: a full police station, loaded with blue-hair ladies screaming for their lawyers and septuagenerian men with tented pants, foolish smiles spread across their faces.
“Pre-liquified, cooked alligator is being sold on the streets, often cut with either frog’s blood or V-8,” Melba said when she was again live on the air. “This street-ready product has been dubbed ‘Crocodile Rock’. The name is acknowledged to be technically inaccurate; but as the natives like to point out, Elton John didn’t write a song,” pause, arched eyebrow, mischievous smile, “about alligators.”
. . .
“Christ, Edna, I don’t want to do this.”
“What do you want to do Frank? Declare bankruptcy? Lose our home? Our livelihood? Because you know as well as I do that, without this money, we’re going under.”
“There’s got to be another way.”
“Stop your fucking whining, Frank. Are you going back to get a regular job? At your age? With your heart condition? No chance.”
“I just don’t know, Edna.”
“Well, I do. If you can’t do it, I will. Give me that.” And with that, Edna McDonald, mother of three, grandmother of seven, grabbed the Revolver from her husband’s shaking hand and pointed it at the head of Ira Schoenfeld. Ira live down the street on Palm Meadow Drive and had been a part of Edna and Frank’s bridge club for the last seven years. Unfortunately for Ira, he and the other residents of Palm Meadow had decided to try selling their Croc Rock in Sunrise Villas (Phase II).
“I warned you about dealing in our neighborhood, Ira. This is our turf.”
Ira moaned, pleading with his eyes for mercy. Edna looked in Ira’s watery, bloodshot eyes, cocked her head slightly to the left, and pulled the trigger.
. . .
Melba faced the camera for what would be her final visit to Port Valencia. Residents of the cul-de-sac they had chosen for their final segment gathered behind Melba, some simply standing behind with their thumbs hooked in their waistbands, others waving frantically at the camera. Melba cleared her throat and assumed a somber expression.
“As quickly as it began, the Crocodile Rock craze has ended,” she said. “Florida residents have found that the improved erections found in the ingestion of alligator blood was not without consequence.”
The camera pulled back, showing in the background a medical staff wheeling a gurney out of a pale, yellow house. On the gurney was a man covered in a bright, white sheet. The sheet was stained red at the midpoint of the man’s body.
“After a few weeks of use, users of the illegal supplement began experiencing erections of ever-increasing duration. Within two weeks, their penises,” pause for effect; maintain sober expression. “Began to explode.”
“With the current clientele left penis-less and new costumers looking towards safer products, the Crocodile Rock trade that briefly was booming is all but defunct.”
“Reporting from Port Valencia, this is Melba Valourez.”