A few quick notes before Jean takes over:
If you have a chance, hop on over to Fun-Size Reads today, where I have a quick five-question and admit to my guilty TV pleasure–it might surprise you :-). Thanks to Heather for the awesome review of PIRATE’S ALLEY.
Now… here is part two of Pirate on a Roadtrip. Missed the first part on Sunday? You can find it here.
And so we continue…
The taxicabride captain steered the automobile toward a corner of the drivethru store land and stopped. From his pocket, he pulled one of the cellphones of which Rene and Drusilla were so fond.
“Okay, let’s see what we can find,” he said, moving his finger atop the cellphone. “We done got you on Lafitte Highway. We got us a Jean Lafitte National Historical Park, there’s a Jean Lafitte Swamp Tour, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar, Jean Lafitte’s Absinthe House. Oh, and they got a town over across da river called Jean Lafitte.”
Such riches—and an entire village named after myself. I leaned forward. “Will you take me to these places in yourtaxicabride?”
The captain turned and looked at me, setting his milkshake aside. “How much money you got on you, dude? It’s gonna cost ya.”
“Meterkeeprunnin,” I told him. “Take me there. Tout de suite.”
“Well, all right then.” He held out a hand. “My name’s Anthony. You?”
I shook his hand. Antny was a fine Italian name. Although he did not have the look of most Italians of my human acquaintance, he seemed quite fluent in the language. “Il mio nome è John,” I said in my best Italian.
Perhaps Antny was not as fluent as I thought. “John,” I said slowly. “John Lafayette.”
He turned back to the front and again looked at his cellphone. “All right then, Mister John Lafayette. Where ‘bouts you wanna go first?”
I pondered wherebouts for a moment, then decided he was asking where I wished to visit. Rene had already taken me to the bar housed in my brother Pierre’s old blacksmith shop, and I found it filled with disturbing images of a most unattractive gentlemen the proprietors claimed was the handsome pirate Jean Lafitte. I procured one of the worst of the lot when no one was observing my actions and burned it in the nearest alley. Drusilla had been most upset when I related this action to her, fearing I might be jailed.
I believe Ma Jolie cares for me more than she herself is aware, n’est-ce pas?
“I wish to attend this swamp tour,” I told Antny. If a captain was, indeed, dispensing information about Jean Lafitte, I should like to ensure he spoke truthfully.
“You got it, dude. Swamp time.” With that, Antny steered the taxicabride with purpose, taking us on a broad field rising high in the air with many automobiles crossing it with great speed. Rene had called it an elevatedhighway, and I found it most alarming, particularly when we crossed so high above a strange body of water that the ships below us appeared to be as children’s playthings.
“What is this place?” I asked, sucking hard on the round tube stuck in the milkshake. I found the sweetness calming.
“That be the Industrial Canal,” Antny said. “You know, for industrial boats and shit.”
“Indeed. It is quite high.”
“You ain’t never been over da highrise? Uh, uh, uh.” Antny shook his head, as if I had been deprived of a great experience. I did not care for the industrialhighrise at all, however.
The highrise was a poor imitation of what was to come, however, as we bounced over the elevatedhighway at a rapid pace, I saw ahead another, much larger body of water. “Is this the Gulf?” I asked Antny. Surely we had not yet traveled so far.
“Naw, dude, this is Lake Pontchartrain. We gotta take the twin spans across it to get to the swamp tour. Had to rebuild these suckers after Katrina.”
“What are the suckers—mon Dieu!” Before I realized what was happening, the taxicabride had moved onto a narrow strip of elevatedhighway over the deep, blue expanse of the lake. In my day, one would spend a full day crossing these waters but only a few minutes passed before we again were speeding across land. I did not wish to admit I had drawn but a single breath the entire way across.
Before long, we left the elevatedhighway and were again riding in more comfortable surroundings. Through Antny’s open window, I could smell the warm, salty tang of water and sea, which did much to relieve me after the disturbing voyage over the twinspans.
Antny stopped the taxicabride before a small structure, behind which I could see an odd vessel with people sitting high on seats; propellers stuck out the back of the vessel. How very interesting.
“You lucked out, Mister John, dude. Looks like you got here in time to get on da airboat tour.”
It would not do for Jean Lafitte to admit he knew not what type of seafaring vessel might be an airboattour, so I merely nodded and exchanged several bills featuring the brutish scarecrow Andrew Jackson in exchange for which Antny agreed to wait on me to return.
After ridding myself of several more Jackson bills, I followed two women wearing a distressingly small amount of clothing onto the airboattour and took a seat behind them should they need assistance in the sea breeze with what clothing they had remaining. I wondered if perhaps a ruffian had stolen their remaining finery. I have always considered myself a gentlemen with regards to ensuring ladies’ comfort, something Drusilla will learn when she grows less stubborn and mulish.
I studied the construction of the airboattour with great interest, as it was a flat boat with very little below the waterline—this would be more useful in Old Barataria than our pirogues. I was pondering whether the engine was like that of an automobile or a taxicabride when a deafening roar caused me to clutch my seat, and the airboattour began to move over the water at a rapid rate.
Soon we settled into a comfortable rhythm and I found myself distracted by the female before me, who turned to lean over the seat and attempt conversation. While I was unable to do more than smile, being deafened by the airboattour engine, I was able to discern that the small strip of fabric covering her lovely bosom was in danger of slipping out of place.
I reached out to be of help in smoothing the fabric back into its desired location, upon which the ungrateful wench slapped me and moved to another seat. I do not know what a perv might be, but apparently it is a gentleman who offers help to a female who is not a lady. I shall ask Rene about this, as he claims to be very knowledgeable about modern women.
I greatly enjoyed the trip into the bayous that felt so familiar to me even after so many years. The captain of the airboattour proved knowledgeable about many of the birds and fish of the area, even stopping to feed rotted poulet to the cocodrie that gathered near the vessel. It seemed a pity not to capture and kill one of the “gators,” as the captain called them, in order to enjoy a feast, as I was growing rather hungry despite my drivethru milkshake.
Finally, Captain Wally, as he called himself, asked if there were questions before we returned to the dock. I stood and straightened my tunic, assuming my best captain’s voice, which I have been told is quite commanding and impressive.
“Tell us, if you might, about Captain Jean Lafitte. I am most interested in your knowledge about this famous privateer.”
Captain Wally looked a bit startled, but nodded his rather bald head; drops of sweat had gathered on his wide forehead. “Well, sure. Jean Lafitte and his pirates, they done sailed all through these bayous, smuggling merchandise in and out of the city. They’d a been hanged if they’d been caught, but old Lafitte, he warn’t much to look at but he was mighty crafty.”
“I beg to differ, Captain Wally.” My temper began to rise; such wrong information should not be allowed to spread. I was unsure what mightycrafty meant, but it was said with a appalling lack of respect, not to mention the lies about my appearance and occupation. It could not be tolerated.
“Captain Lafitte was a French patriot who toiled as a privateer, preying only upon the cursed Spanish and providing much-needed goods to his fellow citizens in Nouvelle Orleans. A very handsome gentleman, he was no pirate, sir, and smuggling is a harsh word.”
Captain Wally removed the chapeau that Rene referred to as a ballcap and wiped the sweat from his head. “Well, of course Lafitte didn’t want to be called a pirate. I mean it woulda got him hung, right? Like I said, mighty crafty.” He laughed, and several of those aboard the airboattour laughed with him, including the half-naked strumpets.
I drew my dagger, at which sight one of the strumpets screamed and several men leapt to their feet. “Apologize, sir, or prepare to duel.”
He blinked at me as if he were a barnyard chicken. “Now, buddy, I need to ask you to hand over that knife right now. We’re all having a good time out here and ain’t no need to get stupid about it.” Captain Wally backed up, and I recognized the behavior of a man who was prone to unpredictable behavior and violence. Many accused me of behaving thus in my time, but the difference was that Jean Lafitte was a skilled swordsman never bested in a duel and always under control. Captain Wally would be a lamb to my slaughter. He would learn what was stupid.
He reached a hand toward the steering mechanism of the airboattour, however, and turned on his engine with a noise that would awaken hell itself, and moved his steering stick hard to the left.
I feel most ashamed that he took me by surprise, proving again that I was spending too much time in the modern world . Tossed off balance, I regained my footing only to see Captain Wally wielding a heavy rifle, pointed at me.
“Now, buddy, you’re gonna take a seat right there and keep your damn foreign mouth shut until we get back, at which time a nice deputy from the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office is gonna greet you with some questions and handcuffs. The quieter you are, the easier it’ll be for you. Hell, we can’t half understand what you’re saying anyway. What are you, Eye-talian?”
Mon Dieu, the man had no shame, but Jean Lafitte has always been a practical man, above all, and I had no desire to encounter gendarmes with leg irons.
With a polite nod, much more than Captain Wally deserved, I turned my back to him and sat, remaining silent until we got within sight of the boat landing.
When the airboattour slowed enough, with no warning to my fellow travelers, I leapt into the water of the bayou, easily swimming underneath the vessel and emerging at the bank several feet away where I could climb out amid the tall bayou grasses. It was a ruse I used many times in my human life, and I was pleased to see it remained useful. I paused in my hidden vantage point as the strumpets and Captain Wally tried to tell their stories to brown-suited gendarmes, who wore heavy pistols on their hips as they peered into the boat.
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?”
“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.”
To be continued on Wednesday…