Welcome to the Bayou – by Jessica B. Bell

English: Honey Island Swamp, Louisiana, USA

“Welcome to Bayou Bonhomme,” the thin man said with a toothy but debonair grin as he stood at the door, with perfect posture, ushering his guests into the small dining room that was never empty, rain or shine. “Welcome to Leroy’s Grill, home of Louisiana’s best barbecue.”

He’d almost look like a gentleman if he wasn’t wearing an apron that was constantly smeared in barbecue sauce and grease. Leroy’s beloved mother had always told him that there was no excuse for poor manners, whether you were speaking in church or serving up barbecue, it didn’t matter. Do it all as unto Jesus, she’d say, and even though Leroy had seen things — some horrible, some incredible — since then that had made him question the whole Jesus thing, old habits died hard, and so Leroy honored his mère’s memory and her Creole heritage by always being polite to his guests.

Outwardly, Leroy was polite and courteous to the dozens of tourists that flooded through his doors each day, because that’s what his mère would want. But oh, if his mama only knew what he had to put up with each and every day, how he had to smile and laugh at the outsiders’ jokes — most of them at the expense of Leroy himself — or folks Leroy liked. They found the Cajun lingo some folks around the bayou spoke charming or quaint, and treated the people of Bonhomme like curiosities, which was really just city folk’s way of looking down their noses at the Creoles and the Cajuns. City folk watched too many movies, and seemed to have a picture of what the bayou should be like, and Leroy was happy to oblige them so long as they had money to spend. Leroy could put on the heavy Cajun accent when he needed to, and could even drop in a smattering of French words for authenticity — after all, his granmère had been Creole, and not one word in three that came out of her mouth was English.

The tourists came from all over — some folks from as far away as Texas or Florida — heck, there was even one couple made it all the way down from Kentucky last summer — drawn by the legend of the green man — Ol’ Remy LeVert as he was known around these parts. Things had been slow for the past few months, but then that little boy and his dog had gone missing, a couple of weeks back. While the proper newspapers were writing it up as a likely gator attack, The Bonhomme Gazette had run the headline Legendary Swamp Monster Returned? This had infuriated Oscar Blanchette, the Chief of police, but Amie LeBeau insisted that the presence of a question mark indicated that she was merely speculating on what she thought was a viable possibility, and Oscar only scowled at her and prepared himself for the tourist invasion. As expected, the monster hunters and gawkers had swarmed into Bonhomme like flies to shit, and Bonhomme welcomed them with open, hungry arms. The people of Bonhomme were, as a rule, flat broke. Remy LeVert was the town’s meal ticket, and so the coals of the legend needed to be turned from time to time to keep the fire burning.

There were Remy LeVert t-shirts and bumper stickers to be sold, and anyone with a boat was hiring it out for tours of the bayou. Tourists lined up for hours to take one of these tours with old Jean-Baptiste Levesque — not a tooth left in the old man’s head, but he made himself understood well enough when he gave a tour of the swamp and told the story of the angry old swamp god that the first peoples called C’thu N’chuk, which, he said, meant “The Good Man” — hence the name of the town. The truth is, ol’ Jean-Baptiste was one hell of a yarn-spinner, and if any of the tourists recognized that his stories were basically a jambalaya of H.P. Lovecraft, Len Wein, Ramsey Campbell and Stephen King, well, they never let on. After all, that kind of melangerie was all part of the Creole tradition.

There was even a sign as you entered the town proclaiming Bonhomme as the home of the legendary swamp monster, and some local kid had drawn a picture of Remy, though it was really just a drawing taken from an old Swamp Thing comic. If Bernie Wrightson, the man who had actually helped create the comic book character, ever came to town, well, the folks of Bonhomme could only hope he’d be flattered and not litigious.

Leroy passed that sign every day and shook his head every time and laughed, because Leroy knew first hand that Ol’ Remy didn’t look anything like that.

————

This is the first chapter of a novel currently being edited for publication. Thanks for dropping by.

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36 responses to “Welcome to the Bayou – by Jessica B. Bell

  1. Love love love. I want to drive to New Orleans right now and visit—I know this is just the intro but you’ve already developed such a rich and detailed setting and some characters I can’t wait to hear more about!

    Tres bien, mon amie!

  2. I went off to the woods in New Orleans once and had the best barbecue shrimp. The guy serving them looked like Leroy. This brought back some fond if scary memories

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  9. Reblogged this on Being the Memoirs of Helena Hann-Basquiat, Dilettante. and commented:

    This is a cheat as much for me as it is for you — you being long time readers or brand new readers, or readers who feel like you’ve been here for a long time and want to discover or re-discover something anew. The fact is, Jessica was writing something really excellent, and then fell into a deep despair and had to be medicated, thrown into a padded cell in a straitjacket so she couldn’t hurt herself — and then there was that incident with the Cheez Whiz and Saran Wrap, but she’s feeling much better now, and when I mentioned to her that she kind of left her Swamp Story dangling, she grunted something that I can only interpret is a bittersweet mix of regret, longing, and quite possibly hunger pains, as it had been a couple of days since I fed her. She pointed out that it had been several weeks since she’d last written an installment, and so it was possible that people might want to read them again to reacquaint themselves with Bayou Bonhomme (and further, she said that it would give her some time to read through it again and remember where she was going with it. And so, per Jessica’s pleading, I’m going to re-post this here for you — whoever YOU may be. Enjoy, darlings!

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