Jim Leavell and I fully intended to join our Lowcountry Unfiltered friends for the Williman Island kayaking trip. We were going to use Jim’s wife, Judy’s truck. Unfortunately, Jim let road rage get the better of him, so Judy’s truck is in the shop. I was going to borrow Stephen’s trailer, but the afternoon that I was going to retrieve it Tropical Storm Fred pelted our area with tornadoes. Jim’s boat is a monster and not easily loaded on top of my Subaru, so I was left with my trusty Nissan pickup. We loaded up the boats with plans to drive down Friday night, visit the Old Sheldon Church, and perhaps get a good seafood dinner in Beaufort. Alas, it was not to be.
We were right on the northern edge of Four Holes Swamp when I noticed a motion coming from the right. I only got a quick glimpse, but the image is forever seared into my brain. It was the infamous Lizard Man, who had apparently moved up from Scape Ore Swamp to Four Holes.
He wasn’t quite like I imagined, and certainly not as he was portrayed in the media. He was more like an urban chic Gorn, wearing a lime green leisure suit and Foster Grants with clear lenses and tortoise shell rims. He bounced off the front of the truck as if he had a chitinous exoskeleton, rather than simple scaly skin.
The truck started shaking violently. Lizzy had knocked something loose. Jim and I knew that there was no way we could make it to Beaufort so we pulled off the interstate and into the parking lot of a BP station that would soon be closing. We checked the air pressure – 35 lbs in each tire. We couldn’t see any reason for the shaking. We weren’t sure if we should call AAA, SCDNR, or Coast-to-Coast AM.
After much debate, we called AAA. I explained about the metrosexual Gorn in the lime green leisure suit, Foster Grants with clear lenses and tortoise shell rims, and chitinous exoskeleton. She hung up. I called back, this time omitting the salient Lizard Man details and they promised to send someone out.
Instead of the soon-to-close BP, Jim and I decided to send the AAA guy up the road to a Pilot Station we had passed. We reasoned that it would be open later and we could get some food. We also called Laura to meet us just in case, also omitting the details of the metrosexual Gorn in the lime green leisure suit, Foster Grants with clear lenses and tortoise shell rims, and chitinous exoskeleton. I wanted to damage my marriage as little as possible.
We slowly headed back north on I-26. About a mile and a half from the Pilot Station we saw another flash of lime green and the truck started trembling in fear again, this time greater than before. We pulled into the emergency lane and inspected the truck. This time the front passenger side tire looked like it had been chewed, as if the Gorn/Lizard Man thought it was an economy-sized donut. I searched the truck for a jack and a spare while Jim went looking for bamboo, sulphur, coal, and potassium nitrate, just in case.
The AAA man showed up conveniently before we could figure out how to operate the jack. He had no ordnance as far as we knew, but he could change a tire. More importantly, he also knew of a place that would sell us a new tire and mount it late on a Friday evening.
I called Laura to tell her that we were under control. She countered that the previous statement on its face was completely false. Plus, I had already pulled her away from drinking with her friends and ruined her Friday night. No way was she turning around now.
We found Billy Bob’s Tires at the Harleyville exit on I-95. The truck made it with no problem and we contemplated just heading on down to Beaufort but common sense, or what passes for it in our case, prevailed. The smell of ganja wafted through the air and I got the impression that more than tire-changing was taking place. Rather than partake, Jim decided to walk to the Dairy Queen next door and get us a couple of Blizzards.
I walked in and was met by a mountain of a man, an African American who looked at me sideways so intensely that I thought I was in real trouble. He then said something that chilled me to my core. “You look like one of my teachers.” I shivered in my Birkenstocks while wracking my brain trying to remember which of my students I might have offended and who might have grown into such a mountain of a man and move to Harleyville. I must have sighed visibly when he followed it with, “Are you Mr. Riley?” A couple of breaths later I was able to respond, “No, but you got the teacher part right.” Turns out he was a really nice guy and we chatted a bit.
The eponymous Billy was behind the counter. I told him about the metrosexual Gorn in the lime green leisure suit, Foster Grants with clear lenses and tortoise shell rims, and chitinous exoskeleton who decided that our front tire would make a nice bagel and he responded with, “Uh huh.” I guess he gets that a lot in these parts. He tasked one of the ganja dudes with supplying me a new tire. As Jim returned with the Blizzards Billy asked me if I was going to take the old tire with me. Really? This one already had a bite out of it and I was in no mood for Lizard Man leftovers. He said it would be another $15 for tire disposal. To me, it was worth it.
It was getting late and there was the issue of the Red Roof Inn in Yemassee. It was past the point where we could cancel the reservation. I was resigned to paying for a night’s stay, but my heart just wasn’t into driving on down to the heart of the Lowcountry. I called the Red Roof Inn and explained about the metrosexual Gorn in the lime green leisure suit, Foster Grants with clear lenses and tortoise shell rims, and chitinous exoskeleton who decided to eat our tire. After suggesting some voluntary organizations to help me recover from the experience, she told me I would still have to pay for the night. I explained that I knew that, but I just thought it would be inconsiderate not to let them know that we wouldn’t make it. There was a pause, then she said they decided not to charge me. I’m assuming she meant for the room.
Laura was still en route from Greenville. Once again I told her that we were fine, but she insisted on meeting us at the McDonalds in Orangeburg. Once again we headed north on I-26. As we reached the spot where our tire bit the dust, or the Lizard Man bit the tire, we could see other victims of the cryptid. There was a car with a chewed bumper being tended to emergency vehicles, and another car with its flashers on just north of where we had stopped. We had been lucky that we were just an appetizer.
But our luck was about to run out…again. Just south of Highway 601 the car started trembling violently again. We just barely made it to the McDonald’s parking lot. Laura arrived shortly thereafter. With much weeping and gnashing of teeth we managed to get the kayaks on top of the Subaru and our gear transferred. We left the truck in the parking lot and made it safely back home sometime after midnight.
But the story doesn’t end there…
I found a Nissan dealership just up the road on Highway 601. They said they could look at the truck on Monday. A quick call to the McDonalds insured that they wouldn’t tow it away immediately. So, this morning I headed back down towards Orangeburg.
When I arrived I found that the Lizard Man must have still been hungry. The brand new tire we put on the truck was flat. I tried to put on the spare, but the ganja guys had tightened the lug nuts to the point of extremity. I limped over to a gas station hoping to put enough air in to make it to up the street. Of course, the machine only took quarters, which I had conveniently left in the Subaru. I walked into the quick shop for change, but the clerk said I had to buy something first. One Little Debbie Honeybun for $0.50 and a fist full of quarters later, I got enough air in the tire to make it to the Nissan dealership.
At the dealership the service manager greeted me sternly and wanted to talk to me in his office. “I’ve been vaccimilated, but I’m afraid most of my mechanics have come down with the covidicles. We’re going to have to postpone your service.” Once again I patiently explained about the metrosexual Gorn in the lime green leisure suit, Foster Grants with clear lenses and tortoise shell rims, and chitinous exoskeleton who decided to eat our tire. The manager reached for his phone. Fearing a call to the police, I made ready to run. He hung up and said they would be able to see the truck and I could leave it with them. Apparently a Lizard Man encounter provides one dispensation from covidicles. I started the long walk back to McDonalds, looking back over my shoulder at the truck, wondering if I’d ever see it again.
The problem with McDonalds is that they have really, really tall signs. The walk was much further than I had remembered. As I walked through the Orangeburg humidity, wishing I had brought scuba gear to breathe, I kept a wary eye on the swamps and swales along 601. The Gorn could be lurking anywhere. I knew he was there. I seen him.
And on a more serious note…
Please keep the folks at Orangeburg Nissan in your thoughts and prayers. One of their mechanics has been hospitalized with COVID and others are sick. My thanks to service manager Jon for his willingness to see the truck, despite the problems at his dealership.
Thanks to Billy at Billy’s Tires in Harleyville and his crew for getting me a tire so quickly, and thanks to AAA for coming out on the assist. Also thanks to Red Roof Inn in Yemassee for being so gracious to cancel our reservation and not charge us for the night.
Finally, thanks to Jim for his patience during this ordeal, and special thanks to my long-suffering wife, Laura, for leaving a fun gathering to come to our rescue.