Gilda, Guardian of the Green
Gilda, a 13-foot alligator, practically filled the stagnant pond just past the children’s park. No one knew where she came from, or even how she got her name, but they all knew her toothy smile.
Gilda liked children. She had little desire to eat them as her pond was well-stocked with frogs and other random reptiles. She just liked to watch them. She would sit on a log or some rocks after her morning patrol of the waters. As the algae baked into her scales, she would watch the children play on the swings and slide, made mud pies, dug in the sand. She never left the confines of the tall grass that acted as a fence between the two worlds, until last summer.
The drought had been rough. Almost two full months without rain, and the heat had turned almost everything that was green a straw-like tan. The kids actually crunched across what no longer could be called a lawn to play. Dehydrated brush had been sparking into fires for about a week, dislocating the local wildlife.
It was almost noon when the bobcat crept from the wooded perimeter of the park. Parents, unused to such dangerous felines, never bothered to look up from their cell phones and paperbacks. The bobcat was just a few yards from the playground when Gilda erupted from grass. Jaws slammed, claws slashed, a horrible screeching echoed through stunned silence. As Gilda dragged the carcass of the dead bobcat back to her log, mothers and fathers gathered their children, headed to the safety of air-conditioned rec rooms for the rest of the afternoon.
There was never an official acknowledgement of Gilda’s heroism, but from that day on, an anonymous chicken or two arrived monthly on top of her log.
A.J. Huffman has published twelve full-length poetry collections, thirteen solo poetry chapbooks and one joint poetry chapbook through various small presses. Her most recent releases, Degeneration (Pink Girl Ink), A Bizarre Burning of Bees (Transcendent Zero Press), and Familiar Illusions (Flutter Press) are now available from their respective publishers. She is a five-time Pushcart Prize nominee, a two-time Best of Net nominee, and has published over 2500 poems in various national and international journals, including Labletter, The James Dickey Review, The Bookends Review, Bone Orchard, Corvus Review, EgoPHobia, and Kritya. She is also the founding editor of Kind of a Hurricane Press. www.kindofahurricanepress.com.