Free Read: Pirate on a Roadtrip, Part Trois
We last left Jean Lafitte leaving the scene of a dustup at the swamp tour boat ramp….
While they continued to argue, I shook off as much water as possible and walked to the front of the building, where Antny waited in the taxicabride.
“Hey, you back already dude? Why are you wet?”
I opened the door of the automobile. “We shall discuss that later. First, we must be away in haste. Tout de suite! Meterberunning.”
“Yeah, yeah, okay. Wanna go through a drive-thru?”
“Mais oui. Please.” Another milkshake would be delightful. “Then we shall continue our hobbies.”
“Now you’re talkin’,” Antny said. “Get old Andrew Jackson out and ready to spend.”
With a loud squealing noise, Antny steered the taxicabride away from the dock. Within minutes, he had found another Scottish drivethru. “You wanna nother milkshake, dude?”
“Yes.” I studied the odd words on the large sign next to the automobile. “Which of these Scottish delicacies do you recommend?”
“Say huh?” Antny squinted at the sign a moment, then said, “They got McRibs right now. It’s a big ole po’k patty wit’ some onions and barbecue sauce.”
I did not wish to offend Antny’s Italian by questioning what a pokepatty was, but, being a Frenchman, I am fond of a good sauce. “That is what I wish to eat,” I assured him.
I was content to allow Antny to listen to his music and bob his head in time with it while I drank my milkshake and tested out, first, the pommes frites, which were superb. The lovely Drusilla once told me that the Scottish restaurateur Monsieur McDonald made her favorite fries, and I must agree.
Unfortunately, the same could not be said of the pokepatty dish. While the sauce was passable, sweet and tangy, there was an odd, grayish meat inside that I could only assume was pokepatty. I do not know what type of animal a pokepatty is, but it must be an acquired Scottish taste.
Still, it drove away the pangs of hunger, and I was able to enjoy our ride—Antny had said we should next visit the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve. He steered the taxicabride to the side of the highway so he could swipe his finger across his cellphone. They are quite amazing, I believe, and I must ask Rene to procure one for me so that I might reach him or the lovely Drusilla at any time.
“Near as I can tell, there’s five or six places they figure is part of this Jean Lafitte area,” Antny said, holding up the cellphone. “First, there’s the battlefield up in da parish where that big fight took place.”
Bah. I had recently visited what the modern folk call the Chalmette Battlefield, where the officious Andrew Jackson would have fallen to the British and lost the United States had it not been for Jean Lafitte and his ammunition and men. The specious toad and I had dueled on that very field not so long ago.
“We may pass by that place,” I said, although I was quite pleased that the site should be named for Jean Lafitte and not the uncouth Tennessee bigamist Jackson. “What else might we find?”
“Well, lemme see.” Antny made more finger gestures with his cellphone, and I wondered if one might not need some type of magical ability in order to use one. Other than a facility with the Italian language, however, Antny emitted no magical aura.
“Some’a these places, even you ain’t got enough Andrew Jacksons to go to—my meter don’t run that high,” he said. “One be over in Lafayette, one up in Eunice, and one way down toward Thibodaux.”
What wonders! “And these are all named for Jean Lafitte?” Pride swelled in my chest that I should be remembered thus.
“Now we talking. How ‘bout the Barataria Preserve?” Antny held up his cellphone again.
My breath caught in my very throat at the words. “Yes, Monsieur Captain Antny, I would very much like to visit Barataria.” There, I had made my home and plied my trade so many years ago in my human life. Nouvelle Orleans had changed so much; would Barataria, too, be changed?
“Is there much urbanblight in Barataria?” I asked, unsure if Antny was exactly an expert on the subject Drusilla found most annoying.
“Oh hell no!” he said with great authority. “Preserve means you can’t build shit on it. Them people in Washington protect it.”
Unless the people in Washington had changed from their actions during my human life, they could not entirely be trusted but I thought it wise not to express myself thus.
“What shall we see there?” I asked, watching as the unattractive surroundings that the lovely Drusilla calls urbanblight gave way to flat grasslands with sparse stands of trees. Even though the lingering odor of pokepatty and taxicabride, my soul felt the air of the marécage grow closer. I closed my eyes to allow myself to transport back in time, but the pokepatty odor was too strong to entirely enjoy such an escape.
Eventually, Antny came to a stop in an area where other automobiles were docked. “So, they got a visitor center there, and you can go back in the swamp if you want to be doin’ that.”
“Do you wish to accompany me?” I did not feel Antny was quite suited to Baratarian life, but did not wish to offend him.
“Hell no, dude. I’m gonna take a nap here in the cab. That lunch done made me sleepy. But meter keeps runnin’.”
I nodded. Meeterkeeprunnin was a constant in the modern world, but then, so had it been thus in my time.
I left Antny to his nap and approached the building, stopping to admire a map of the Jean Lafitte Baratarian Preserve. There was a good bit of writing on one of the signs about the gold and treasure that I was said to have buried here—an alarming development. It can perhaps be attributed to my long absence from the modern world that it had not occurred to me: modern folk might attempt to find my hidden treasures.
With only a glance at the other items on display, including an unfortunate depiction of my brother Pierre with his crossed eyes far more pronounced than in truth, I exited the rear of the building to find a raised wooden walkway stretching into the swamp itself.
It being a rather warm, humid day, there were few folk on this walkway. Soon, I strolled far enough that I was alone and, I must admit, had I access to a pirogue, I would have sailed along my old waterways to see how my home on Barataria Bay looked today. I had more urgent matters to attend to, however, for I saw before me an ancient cypress tree I recognized.
With excitement, I leaned over the rail that ran alongside the walkway, looking for a particular mark I had made deep in the tree during my day—and there it was! Time and tides and hurricanes had not taken Jean Lafitte’s ‘X’ at on the north face of the tree, above the oldest knee.
I looked around, seeing no one. To retrieve this particular treasure by hand—for, indeed, I had gold hidden all along the coast—could be treacherous. A cocodrie slid silently through the water, moving aside the thick vegetation that would have made travel by boat slow and treacherous. My pistol had gotten wet earlier, so I feared my powder would fail. I had little doubt I could handle a cocodrie with my dagger if needed, however. Usually, unless they had grown more bold in modern times, the creatures would avoid men.
And so it was with this one. I knelt and slid to the outside of the rail before standing. As soon as it sensed my movement, the beast swam away with a graceful, swaying motion. I studied the grasses around the tree and the dark lines left by tides, and gauged that the water here would be no higher than my boot tops.
Thus assured, I stepped off the wooden walkway and made my way cautiously through the water, being far too wise to place a foot on the floton that looked thick enough to walk on but which would often collapse, sending one quickly underwater. I scanned the water carefully for snakes.
Once I reached the tree, I studied its roots. There was no avoiding what must be done—I must reach into the mud and dig for the glass containers in which I buried my gold.
“Sir, might I ask what you’re doing?”
I froze at the sound of a woman’s voice and then turned around slowly. Mon Dieu, but modern gendarmes were everywhere! And this one was female, which was most inappropriate. She wore green trousers and a drab shirt, like a man might wear, with a strange hat that appeared to be constructed of straw. I saw no pistol, however.
“Pardon, Mademoiselle, might you be a gendarme?”
“Sir, what I might be is a park ranger here at Barataria. And why might you be in the water? It’s dangerous.”
I gave her my most charming smile, which she did not return. If she made more attempt to assume a pleasant expression, she might have a husband to provide her clothing so that she was not forced to dress as a man and pretend to be a gendarme. “Pardon, Mademoiselle, but I am quite accustomed to working in the waters of Barataria.”
“Could I see your trapper permit? Are you looking for turtles?”
I took a moment to consider this and decided that perhaps it would be wisest to accept her assumption.
“Oui,” I replied. “I am in search of turtle. They provide excellent meat.” Much better than pokepatty, in fact; I should write the Scottish restaurateur Monsieur McDonald that he might wish to use turtle in his concoctions.
“May I see your permit, sir?”
I shrugged and gave another smile, a tactic I had found quite effective on those of the fairer sex. “Pardon, but I do not understand.”
“Are you Italian?” She frowned at me, and I fought to keep my temper from rising. Such ignorance! “Well, no matter. You can’t trap turtles without a permit from the state. I’ll have to ask you to please come back onto the walkway and let me escort you from the park.”
She wished to escort me? Perhaps my charms had not fallen on unfertile soil after all. “But of course, Mademoiselle. I should enjoy having you escort me. Perhaps you might provide me with one of these permits?”
“Go online and download the application and file it over the Internet, and then wait a couple of weeks until you receive the permit through the postal service.”
I stared at her a moment, unable to deduce meaning from anything she said. I wondered if perhaps she might be speaking a language with which I was unfamiliar—perhaps Dutch.
She gestured for me to walk in front of her on the walkway back to the building that contained the unfortunate clue to my treasure. Clearly, I would need to return in the dark of evening to retrieve the treasure or, still better, simply retrieve it in Old Barataria so that it would no longer be here to tempt modern folk.
Outside, Antny was snoring quite loudly so I pounded on the front of the taxicabride to awaken him. He jumped as if shot. “Whoa, dude. Don’t do that; I’m packin’.”
I had no idea what packin was, so I reclaimed my seat in the rear of the taxicabride. “Let us depart,” I told him. “I wish to visit the town that bears my name.”
“Dat’s what I’m talkin’ ‘bout.” Antny started the engine and steered the taxicabride in a tight pivot as we left my unclaimed treasure behind for another day.
To be continued tomorrow…
To be completed on Thursday…