Swamp Monster Memories

I remember being strapped into the station wagon, on dark, rainy evenings. There is a certain quality to the Lowcountry dark that I haven’t seen in other places I’ve lived. It isn’t every night, but sometimes if the conditions are right, the trees and ground seem to absorb any ambient light; even headlights do little good. Twenty years ago highway 78 between Baptist College* and College Park road was a narrow, lonely stretch of road. There was very little between I-26 and Ladson Bait and Tackle. I remember the trees pressing in on the road and not being able to see far into the swamp. This was a place monsters could lurk, we were on their turf.

My sisters and I must have been misbehaving one evening, as we travelled that stretch of road. My mother pointed to an abandoned car, “Hey girls, do you see that car?”

“Yes,” we saw it, it was just a car.

“That car belongs to parents of bad kids. They finally had enough. They parked the car and went for a walk, leaving the kids inside. While they were gone, the swamp monster came up out of the swamp and sucked the kids through the cracks in the windows. Their seatbelts are still buckled.” At this point my dad would start to pull the car over. We pretended it didn’t bother us; we were tough. The truth was, each of us had the image of our seatbelts buckled and empty seared into our minds. We were quiet the rest of the way home.

On occasion, one or both of our parents would run into the grocery store, leaving us in the car to wait. It was a different time and things like that were OK. This was just fine during daylight hours, but at night we would beg for them to park under a street lamp. My parents thought it was so we could see to read or play. They had no idea that we were all terrified of the dark recesses of the parking lot. We just knew that we’d been bad. They were going for a walk and even our seatbelts couldn’t save us.

They had no idea that the swamp monster was alive and well in our, three private panic attacks. My mom has since apologized. According to her, she had no idea we were scared.

Twenty years have passed and I still drive highway 78. Now, living on the other side of town, I have few occsions to travel that section at night. Somehow, being four lanes with a large center median, I doubt the swamp monster still haunts the area. I suppose he, like my other childhood fears has had to move to new haunts, maybe he’s moved out by Cordesville, it still gets dark enough out there.

*Baptist College is now the more politically correct Charleston Southern.

1 comment so far ↓

#1 Charlie on 05.01.06 at 5:41 pm

It’s funny the little things from childhood that scar us. I used to think that pineapple rings could sting you. When I was 4, I got a splinter in the palm of my hand, and then somebody a few minutes later handed me a pineapple ring. Obviously, it was the acidic content in the open wound that was the problem, and not the fruit itself, but for years, I wouldn’t eat them.

Anyway. I love the “All consuming” feature on your sidebar. I’m totally adding that to my blog when I get a few free minutes.

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