Thunderstruck (Burning Man 15)

The road rose up and quickly receded in the growing heat as Roy ate it up on his way to Madame Jubal’s shop. He’d been there before with his Uncle after his Father had died. He didn’t remember much except the smell of sandalwood incense, a large parrot and a cornucopia of antiques and curios. His Uncle’s cigar would trigger the memories every once in a while. Like the smell of an outboard motor out on the bayou. The smell of home and childhood. He fiddled with the radio as he rolled on to kill some time.

Boom, Thunderstruck by AC/DC blasted away. He turned it up. It took him back to Desert Storm. He had a vision he was in a Hummer racing across the desert. The .50 caliber machine gun roared as the song blended into the chaos. He saw himself in the Hummer but he wasn’t human. He had transformed into a reptile, a fourteen foot alligator. His helmet was huge and scaley. He felt very protective of his unit. His sense of fealty was overwhelming.

He raced past a state cop in a ditch. The sight snapped him out of his trance. The speedometer read ninety five. The cop looked up at his radar gun, shook it as it beeped, then dozed back off pulling the brim of his hat down over his eyes. For the next ten miles Roy looked in his rear view mirror. The moment was over, Roy got a shiver. He had dreamed of the gator before. In his dreams the gator had the eye of the sun. A circle with a dot in the center. He had no idea what it meant.  It was another question for Madame Jubal, what the hell who else could he ask? Most people would think he was crazy. He reached up and felt for the opal. It felt cold inside his fingers.

He was nearing the exit for the shop. He turned off the radio. He was looking around at the familiar sights. Not far now. He slowed down to a crawl and looked over at the shop. He nearly crashed the truck. The man from the gas station stood in front of the shop. He had a cane and a cigar. He was staring right at Ray. He beckoned with his hand, seeming to say welcome. Ray stepped down and gingerly closed the truck door. The stranger walked right into the shop tipping his hat as he went in. Ray began to hurry across the road, hoping to confirm it was the same man. He heard a noise from over on the corner, a crashing of a garbage can stole his eyes for a moment. When he looked back a stray cat ran around the corner of the building.

Ray threw open the door. Madame Jubal jumped out of her chair as the bells on the door swayed.

“Here now son,” she plead, “Don’t go stormin’ about like dat!”

“Did you see him? The man in black?”

“Son ain’t nobody here but me and dis here parrot Lafitte. Maybe some spirits but I can’t count on dem.”

Roy stood in silence. Madame Jubal could see was he was confused. Roy suddenly became apologetic. The familiar smell of the sandalwood incense brought him back to earth. He looked down at the table with the tarot deck. The image of the fool looked back at him.

“Sorry to freak you out like that, I swear I saw someone come in here!”

“Well me and Lafitte been expectin’ someone. Might be you I expect. Why don’t you sit down here and catch your breath. I have some tea to calm your self down some.”

“Okay. Thank you.” Roy sat down and looked around. Everything was familiar suddenly. It was all as it should be, everything in order. He clutched at the opaline talisman. It was warm. He looked down at the tarot cards again. The card he had seen before had changed. The magician was now in its place. it was a picture of the very same man, a buffoon, in very different circumstances.

“The Prince in his own bed

Going vulture culture

Walking with the Queen

To a Hoodoo Dream”— ‘The Loop Garou’ by Dr. John

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I – 10 East, The Rougarou (Burning Man 14)

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contraband Bayou (Burning Man 13)

He heard the raucous bird cackling loudly nearby. He opened his eye to see the gathering light. The air was misty, there was a light fog obscuring the dawn. He looked over to one side and his breath caught in his throat. A gator laid not 4 feet away. This was quite a specimen, at least ten feet if not thirteen. Its’ enormous head was as large as Roy’s entire upper body. The black eye stared emptily. In fact the eye did not seem to focus on him at all but right through him. He turned to his right and instinctively reached for his pistol. It wasn’t there, he’d left it at home. Shit, he thought to himself, he had to pick today to play superman. He picked up his boot just to be sure. Right behind the boot lay a cottonmouth. Fucking lucky day! Roy thought. Same empty eye, devoid of sense, at least sense that he could understand. He breathed very slowly and put the boot down. As if on cue the serpent silently slithered into the black water. He turned to the other side to check on his other bed mate. The gator was gone. Not a sound, or even a ripple in the swamp. All he could hear was birds, the harbingers of the new day, denizens of Contraband Bayou. If he hadn’t seen the creatures he never would have known they were there.

Roy had spent the last two weeks recuperating at the house where he lived with his aging Mother. He had spent the days drinking voluminous amounts of beer and shooting cans in the backyard. He had wondered about the strange medallion that had come into his possession. It had a timeless quality to it. It somehow seemed familiar. When he asked his Mother about it she said maybe it was from Lafitte’s treasure. She said it must have floated up to him on the log somehow. Maybe a storm had dislodged it from its’ resting place. He wished his Father was still alive. His Father had always claimed he was Lafitte’s descendant. Roy figured it was his Father’s way of coping with his own origin after finding out he’d been adopted. He could never prove his relation to Lafitte but he loved to bring it up after a few drinks. That’s why Roy’s middle name was Jean. It was a reminder of his Father’s supposed heritage. It had brought him here to the Bayou. The legend was there was still treasure here. For Roy it was a spirit quest. He needed answers. He still couldn’t believe he was the only survivor of the rig explosion.

He reached for his pack and retrieved a can of sardines. Food always tasted better when camping. Roy was so hungry it might as well have been brunch at the Hyatt Regency. Yes Mr. Gillespie would you care for another Mimosa? No thanks, this water is fine. Taking a long drink he stood and rubbed his beard. He wrapped up his bed roll and groundcloth. He sat on the roll, laced up his boots then packed up. He looked around for any trace that either he or his bedmates had been there. There was gator tracks in the soft mud. The prints were as long as his boot. The snake had left no discernible  trace. Satisfied his site was clear he trekked off.

He threw open the door of his pickup as he tossed his pack inside the cab. He was thinking about his Father Claude. He thought it was interesting his father had a French name. Roy had looked into the Lafitte connection many times. It was certainly curious that no one could actually pin down where he had died or been buried. The legend that sparked his curiosity the most was one involving Lafitte’s wife. It was said that she was Haitian, part black and a voodoo priestess. That would explain his darker complexion. It was said that Jean Lafitte had divine protection, he had not died in a sea battle but had lived out his life and raised a family in the Caribbean. Roy wanted to believe this, he really did. This was the story that his Father would have liked. Roy suddenly knew where he needed to go, New Orleans.

Madame Jubal went to the front of her shop and arranged the books in the window. Something was brewing today, she knew it. The clock on the wall chimed nine times. It was rare that she was up and about so early. The sunlight caught the steam rising from her tea as she stirred it with a cinnamon stick. “Lafitte we gettin’ company today,” the parrot blinked. “Company today,” he echoed, “company today”.