excerpt from Meely LaBauve,
gone off again to hunt gators. He says the police might come lookin' for
him ‘cause of some problem with his ole truck. He says I can hide or
not gonna hide this time. If they come they'll ax me questions. But I
won't know where Daddy is any more than they do. I'll say back in the
swamp somewhere, which is close as I can come. They'll go lookin' but
they won't find him, not unless he wants to be found. Or unless he gits
drunk, which is always possible with Daddy, and he comes roarin' into
town raisin' hell. He might run right into the police station and bust
up a couple of 'em till they throw him in jail.
sometimes happens that way. That’s Daddy for you.
live way down on the lonesome end of Catahoula Bayou. Our house is ugly
and fallin' apart here and there. Daddy won't fix it. He says he's give
up on houses and when this one falls down he won't have another. He'll
go live in the woods.
don't say what I'm s'posed to do.
Momma was alive, she kept it up pretty well. She mopped and swept and
got after Daddy to carpenter and paint and mow. He listened most times,
as I remember.
since Momma's gone, Daddy don't listen to nobody. He runs off into the
swamps huntin' alligators and just stays. Otherwise, he’s pretty much
in town, drinkin’ in a saloon.
myself have never tried to tell Daddy anything, though I might one day.
name is Emile LaBauve, Emile comin' from my Grandpa Toups on Momma's
side. I never liked my name and people that know me, ‘cept the
teachers and Father Giroir, the bayou priest, call me Meely. I'm
fifteen, small for my age everybody says. I tend to stay away from
school and such. Every so often, the police come lookin' for me instead
of Daddy. And I run off, too, and hide in the woods. It's amazin' how
poor the police are at findin' people.
hope I never git lost and need the police to find me for real.
police come ‘cause I live pretty well by myself and I don't go to
school unless I want to. Daddy, him, he won't make me. He says I'm
pretty near growed and got his hound dog ways and Momma's brains. He
says a hound dog is good at scroungin' and will never starve and
somebody with brains can always figger out what to do.
says I don't need much else, and anyway school never did him much good.
don't mind school sometimes, just like sometimes I don't mind breakfast.
wouldn't mind it, actually, if Daddy bought groceries now and then.
I'm doin' okay. I've planted my own garden and there's fish and frogs
and crawfish in the bayou and swamps, and I take my twenty-two rifle out
and shoot me some birds and rabbits and such.
is good, though people don't think so.
I roasted a mockin' bird in the oven once.
cooked up itty-bitty but was all right. Sweet it was.
Guidry says only a moron would shoot a mockin' bird 'cause the law is
against such things and they could put you in the jailhouse. I don't say
nothin' to Junior Guidry, usually, as I know he's plannin' to bust me up
good one day. He’s tried a few times already. Sometimes I look at him
the way Daddy says I should, with the Evil Eye.
a big ole s.o.b. and mean as a gut-shot gator. He's been in eighth grade
a long time. I keep hopin' he'll just quit school but he won't 'cause
his momma makes him go.
don't like the Evil Eye.
don't know what the Evil Eye is all about. It comes from Daddy's side of
the family. His ole Tante Eve knew all about it and put the gris-gris
on lots of people and they took it serious. Daddy taught me how to look
just like Tante Eve looked but it don't mean nothin’ to me. But I
guess I look like one scary booger when I do it.
what Daddy says.
matter what it means, Meely, just what it looks like.
thinks I'm crazy, which is prob’ly a good thing for Junior to think.
got one real friend far as I know, Joey Hebert. He lives up the bayou in
a big ole house kept nice. It's white and once, Joey says, slaves tended
it. The yard's bigger than the grounds at school and the oak trees are
so big and old that the slaves tended them, too. Mr. Hebert mows the
grass hisself with a big tractor, though the Heberts, Joey says, got all
the money in the world. His daddy could hire twenty people to cut the
grass but he don't want to, Joey says. He just likes sittin’ up on
that tractor mowin’ away. He don't work much anymore, otherwise.
Heberts got all that cane land and people tend it and give Mr. Hebert
the money. They got two Cadillacs, one black for Mr. Hebert and one
white for Miz Hebert, and a pretty new red 1961 Ford pickup truck and a
colored maid who dresses like a nurse, and a colored cook who does too.
Hebert mows the grass and drives his truck up and down the bayou lookin'
at his cane land. He drives the Cadillac to church on Sundays.
don't like me much, though Joey does.
says I'm smart, which I think I am, and he says I'm lucky 'cause I git
to do just what I want when I want to do it. He says he would love to
skip school 'cept he cain't. He says I'm lucky I don't have a momma
‘cause he has a momma and she gits on him every day about this or
that. He says Daddy is a character and he wishes his Daddy was. He says
Daddy's right when he says a boy with hound dog ways and brains is about
as good as a boy gits.
agree with most of that and, anyway, Joey's the only person I know who's
ever agreed with anything Daddy’s said.
and Joey do things sometimes when he can slip away. We go swimmin' down
at Poule d'eau Curve and I
take him out in the woods and show him things I know about that Daddy's
showed me. We catch garter snakes and frogs and we tease cottonmouths
with willow switches, which ain't dangerous provided you use a pretty
long switch. We track deer. We’ve never got close enough to shoot one,
though we’ve seen the backsides of a few.
we shot a rabbit with my twenty-two. I skinned it and dabbed it with
Tabasco sauce, which I carry in my huntin’ vest, and we roasted it on
a spit out in the woods over a fire I made. It was tender and good. We
shot it out of huntin' season and Joey was afraid we'd git caught. But I
told him I knew all about the police and game wardens, too. If they come
to chase us, I knew just where to run.
what do the police care if I eat me a rabbit?
says the woods and what's in 'em are free to a hungry man.
says he agrees with this, too.
is popular down at the school with the teachers and girls and such. He
says he's gotta go to a college called Tulane--he cain't git out of it.
His momma would have a fit ‘cause her own daddy went there. He says
he's gotta be a lawyer or else his Daddy will leave him out of his will.
He says there’s lots of money in that will,
Meely, so you wouldn’t wanna be left out of it.
we ate that rabbit in the woods, he said he was gonna invite me to
supper. But he ain't yet.
interested in that big ole house. I think about slaves and ghosts and
2000 by Ken Wells
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