The old pick up fit like a well worn boot. Just sitting in it reminded Roy of how good it always felt after being away for weeks on the oil rig. It started up and the motor made that sound that said let’s go. Roy picked up his water jug and took a swig. He put the gearshift in drive and pulled down the gravel road headed for I-10 East, right through Rougarou alley. He smiled as he remembered the stories his Father used to tell him about the legendary swamp creature. He’d never seen it but he sure knew a lot about it. Apparently it went back to even before the French Acadian settlers had arrived in the area. The local Indians had legends of a hairy beast that lived in the swamp and moved silently through the bayou with the breeze and used the Spanish moss as camouflage.
Roy turned on the radio. The news channel was blathering away about more government surveillance. He was glad at least that it wasn’t news of the blast on the rig. He still hadn’t made up his mind if he wanted to go back. He thought maybe he’d become a fry cook in some seaside town and make shrimp burgers and hush puppies for a while. He’d saved up some money from his time on the rig and maybe it was time for a change. He changed the radio station. WWOZ 90.7 there ya go, he thought, that’s what I need. Wouldn’t ya know it too, like a blast from the past, a time warp, it was Dr. John singing Loop Garoo. The hairs on Roy’s arm bristled up as he heard the strains of the Doctor’s voice. Just like the creature he thought. Looks like I made the right call, the radio is speaking to me now. Come back home it called, gonna pass the days.
Madame Jubal stood in the corner of her shop and pulled a package wrapped in brown paper off a shelf. Gingerly she unwrapped the package and noticed two beercaps slipped out of the wrapping. She chuckled to herself and thought about her Father who must have been the last to wrap it. She took out the framed carving carefully. It was a picture of her Great Aunt from Haiti. The picture was a delicately detailed wood carving that was crafted in such a fashion that it was three dimensional and almost alive. Madame Jubal held it and breathed softly as if she was in the presence of her Great Aunt. The eyes were looking at her. She could feel it. She placed the carving down and lit a candle. Everything in the shop was suddenly alive, the place was filled with spirits even as the sunshine streamed in the window. Lafitte squawked in his cage: “Company today”.
“Yo sure is right about dat honey. We got company right now!” She sat down in a chair and held a Tarot deck in her hand. The image of her Great Aunt Anacona looked up at her from the table, the eyes on the carving sparkled. Madame Jubal knew something or someone was coming soon.
Roy drove along as the bayou flatland rolled by. He had the windows down and let the warm breezes fill the truck. He’d always loved the smell of the low country. The swampy brackish air had a way of making him feel at home. The radio droned softly now and his mind drifted off. He was thinking about Monique a girl had known in high school. They used to drive this route years ago on their way to visit her Uncle. The road had changed greatly since then. There used to be many places to pull over and quickly get lost but now it was built up and the side roads were largely gone. He often wondered what had happened to Monique. She had left town and married a doctor was the last he had heard. He sighed and looked at the gas gage. It was time for a break, he looked for an exit nearby. He still had an hour to go before Slidell.
Tiger Truck stop, easy on and off, it fit the bill perfectly. Roy pulled in and turned off the engine. He got out of the cab and stretched his legs, locked the door and went inside. Coming out of the convenient store was a fine looking woman. Roy realized he was staring at her. She smiled in her dark sunglasses and held the door for Roy. He literally had to shake himself out of his stare. He swore the woman was Monique but he felt so unsure he said nothing but “Thanks”. “Pas de quoi” she replied in Cajun.
Just then Roy noticed out of the corner of his eye a man in black at the far end of the sidewalk in front of the store. The man was blind as he held a white cane which twitched back and forth like a divining rod. In his other hand he held a lit cigar. Roy blinked and went inside. The store was busy with truckers and travelers. A fresh pot of coffee was just finishing dripping. Roy gratefully poured a cup. As he turned around the man in black was right behind him. He held out an empty cup towards Roy.
“Do you mind?”
Roy said “not at all” and filled the man’s cup.
“Thank you now, y’all have quite a day ahead.”
Roy stopped. “What now, what’s that you said?”
“I said thank you. You best get going.”
Roy was puzzled by this. He headed to the counter. He wanted to avoid a confrontation. He felt for the opaline talisman. It was there under his shirt. He pulled it out and held it. It felt very cold. He stepped up to the counter to pay, he was going to pay for both coffees but when he turned around the man was gone.
He stepped outside and smelled a cigar! Sure enough there was a cigar on the sidewalk still smoldering. Roy gassed up the truck and glanced around the entire time. The man in black had disappeared completely. Just like the gator and the cottonmouth had done that morning in the swamp. He hopped back in and started down the ramp back on I – 10. He was softly humming the Loop Garoo.
“Sky full of Moon
The Night Owl was born
Gabriel was blowin’
On a little foghorn” — Dr. John, Loop Garoo