At least once every spring, The Observer loads up Spouse and Junior, hops in the Mobile Observatory, and heads for the alligator farm in Hot Springs. Sure, others welcome the rebirth of spring by going on a picnic, or bird watching. We, on the other hand, find nothing more invigorating than going to gawk at the 'gators. Blame it on the leftover primate corner of our brain, but there's just something wonderful about paying $8 to look through fragile chicken wire at a creature that would probably like nothing more than to make a meal from our tender, juicy, warm-blooded flesh.
Looking at the 10-foot kings among the scaly horde at the alligator farm, it's hard not to let that chimp brain take over and flee, possibly while shrieking unintelligibly and flailing a convenient stick. Lying in the sun, so deathly still they might be mistaken for a rock, they're so obviously everything human beings are not that they might be the denizens of another planet — some mossy place, covered in mud and gray waters. Even at their stillest, however, even the smallest of them has that horrendous alertness in his eyes — slotted, golden, reptilian eyes that make you believe in the stories of snakes hypnotizing their prey.
“Come closer,” those eyes say. “Closer. Nothing to fear here, Two-Legs. You're much too clever and fast for me, with that big brain and those long, tasty legs.” Looking into those eyes, the cell phones and the car keys and the modern clothes melt away, and you're transported to a more stooped and dangerous age. Suddenly, you're 100-times-great-Grandpa, realizing why his mother told him not to stray too far into the tall grass, where the water turns the earth to muck.
The Observer knows a librarian. (Don't act so shocked.) She works in North Little Rock and was inspired to send her musing, “alone in the library,” along:
So I am here, just me and the stacks. The building is haunted (a ghost of a man who was hung last century — the story told in vivid detail by the History Commission).
Fireman poles still decorate the inside. No one is here; what harm would it do for me to slide down a couple times? Better not risk it. Besides, what if passers-by peeped in and saw the librarian sliding down the pole?
When I walked in, it was nice, quiet, still. I half expected a line of characters from books, or authors, to be awaiting me, like some children's film. Jane Austen would be first in her empire-waist gown and white gloves — a curtsy. L. Frank Baum next, in a waistcoat and a twisty moustache — a bow.
Naughty housewives, princesses, wizards, cowboys, shrinks and businesspeople.
The Cat in the Hat and Stephen King. Towards the back of the line, self-help authors, the psychics, genius outsiders like Rudy Ruckner and Colin Wilson.
Cormac McCarthy and Louis L'Amour are hanging out, getting along smashingly.
Time to open the doors.
I am alone again.
The Observer went down to the legislature last week to check out the special session. Imposing as the Capitol façade and the wide marble halls may be, the building is surprisingly open. Though a metal detector guards the entrance, The Observer has never been required to walk through it. Only once have we been stopped by building security, when we were toting a backpack on our paunch rather than our back. According to the officer, we were “carrying the bag funny.”
The laid-back security is in line with the mundanity of the legislative proceedings. Perhaps this session was particularly devoid of excitement because lawmakers had only gathered to rubberstamp Governor Beebe's severance tax proposal. Still, it was impressive just how boring the whole show was. The most commonly overheard phrase in the halls was, “Where do you want to eat?”
If legislators spent less time lunching and more time reading legislation, they might not have passed a bill in 2007 that accidentally allowed infants to marry one another. That miswritten law was supposed to have made legal marriage ages equal; now, after correcting earlier drafting errors, it is once again safe for a 16 year old girl to marry, as long as her male partner is at least 17. Those who advocated an equalization of the ages will have to take a page from Brooklyn Dodgers fans of yore: Wait 'til next year.