Smiling, overweight Dama had the fastest hands I never saw. Inky night near Costa Rica's Tortuguero Park, he takes us alligator-spotting. We creep along in his canoe, sweat running down spines, awaiting his shout.
"Spot de light dere!"
No delay, we obey. Shine torches, two orange spots dere. "De gator's eyes, maan!" lilts Dama. As we near, they vanish: no sound, no ripple, orange spots gone. Onward!
Once, we drift closer, silent now, hearts in mouths, closer ... I don't see Dama's hand move, but that it did, I know. The gator is in his fist.
And he squawks, piteously. A baby, two feet long, terrified as he passes from hand to tourist hand. I feel for him, but I want to hold him too. Zu behind me squawks herself, drops him. Adult whip of his tail and he's gone.
Later, I held a toad. See? A mite less impressive than "I held an alligator."
June 24, 2006
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