The fourth call of the day was an old woman who said she had monsters. Would have told her alligator. Illegal tegu. It was all the same to her. But that wasn’t my place to say. Her fingers sweat; she gripped that crucifix tight. She offered me tequila. She drank plenty herself. You could smell it in her sweat. I looked through her flower beds and bushes. She showed up with a shotgun. For the monster, she said. I shook my head and pushed the barrel away from my face. Ain’t no monsters, I said, but that was a lie. I’d seen my brother become one. Whatever he’d seen over there, whatever he’d done, woke him up at night screaming. A bush rustled, and a distant streetlight flickered, and there was a gator, sure enough, with part of what I guessed was a cat in its jaws. An orange-and-white striped tail. The old woman raised her shotgun, trembling. Nonononono, I said, stepping in her way. More rustling. Another gator emerged. I hoped there were no shells in that gun. But, the cat, the cat! she yelled. This is just the way things go, I wanted to say, but I knew she’d not understand. We ain’t gonna kill ‘em, I said. I could take them to the ‘Glades, but there’d always be some lurking in flowerbeds and children’s swimming pools. No matter where the monsters go or what they return to, they never know it ain’t the wild.

Winner of the 2012 Gigantic Sequins Flash Fiction Contest, Justin Lawrence Daugherty manages Sundog Lit from Omaha, NE. His work appears in or is forthcoming from The Normal School, Monkeybicycle, NAP, Recess Magazine, A-Minor, Barrelhouse, Bluestem, and elsewhere. He is at work on a novel, a novella, and other projects.