Pet-sitting the crocodile next door
When I was 14 years old and looking for a summer job, I came across an ad seeking a local pet-sitter. It read:
Pet-sitter wanted. $30 an hour. P.S. Ask for Bacon and Eggs. — Lesley
Wanting to sound all grown-up for the role, I got my older sister to phone the number on the ad. When she hung up, I could hardly believe my luck. I had gotten the job!
The very next day, I took a bus to the countryside where my new employer, Lesley, lived.
She was a striking woman. At 6 foot, she towered above me, dark ringlets falling across her shoulders. I thought she looked like a giantess. She must’ve been taken aback by my size too, because the very first thing she said to me was, “You’re a lot smaller than I expected.”
Lesley led me up the driveway to her house where two giant crocodile statues perched on either side of the gates. Their jaws were hanging wide open, as if drinking in the sun’s rays. But there were no signs of any pets around the house.
When I asked Lesley where they were, she told me that they were “sunbathing.”
Sunbathing? I pictured two dogs wearing sunglasses lying underneath the sun.
“They get cold quite easily,” she explained.
Looking back, I should’ve put two and two together.
“You swim indoors?” I pointed at the pool in the middle of the living room.
Lesley chuckled. “That’s not for me.” But she didn’t explain any further.
We talked for a good 30 minutes. Then, just after 4pm, when the sun had begun to set, Lesley remembered why I was here.
“I’ll go fetch Bacon and Eggs.”
Thinking she was heading towards the kitchen, I jumped at the chance to impress her with my cooking skills.
“I can make us some bacon and eggs if you’d like.”
Lesley frowned for a second, then laughed out loud in that hoarse, throaty way of hers.
Without explaining what was so funny, she put two fingers between her lips and whistled an ear-splitting sound.
The hairs on my neck stood upright.
Something about the growl, it didn’t sound right — deep and guttural — with one too many vibrations.
Then I saw two of them, bodies bumping into each other and I just about collapsed onto the ground.
“But-but-but-” I managed to hold my composure. “They’re not pets, they’re crocodiles!”
“Nonsense.” Lesley’s demeanor shifted. “They’re just babies,” she cooed. “They’re harmless.”
The ‘babies’ were about as long as a two-seater couch. One of them, the bigger of the two, swiveled its head left and right at an alarming pace and locked eyes with me.
I tried to make a dash for it through the kitchen door.
"Don’t run. Crocodiles love it when you run, they think you’re food.”
I swear there was a hint of amusement in her voice.
Lesley kept a rule book. A list of do’s and don’ts for looking after pet crocodiles.
Do feed them bacon and eggs.
Don’t give them food when they’re up on trees. Crocodiles get embarrassed about eating on trees.
Do let them splash in the pool before breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Don’t block the sun when they’re sunbathing.
One rule sent a shiver down my spine.
Do sleep with them if they get sick.
I pointed that rule out to Lesley. “Oh, they sleep on my bed all the time.” She said it without giving a second thought.
That night, when I returned home, I went to sleep dreaming of a crocodile’s toothy grin next to my head.
Part 2 coming soon.
About Almond-eyed wanderer:
I’ve been wanting to write this story for a very long time, but I didn’t have the time or energy after work to focus on writing. Now that I’ve resigned from my job as an Interactive Designer and gone back to study, I’m using my free time to write.
Hopefully I will have completed this story by the time I get back into the real world.