Bobby B – The Jamabalaya Dream

Early July 2006 – Environmental Recycling – Gentilly Landfill – New Orleans, LA

Bobby looked across the field of broken machinery and salvage from Katrina and saw more cool stuff than he could think of uses for.

“Whattaya think, Eldridge? Heaven, or what?”

“Looks like mountains of broken shit to me.” Junior Eldridge scanned the field trying to see what Bobby saw, but decided no one ever saw what Bobby did. Except Carrie Louise. And there’d been times he’d seen her throw up her hands, exasperated. Or, like Junior was, confused.

“You can’t see it?” Bobby’s eyes were as big as a four-year-old at Christmas. The skinny Santa Claus, with so much white beard and hair all you could see was nose and glasses, handed him a clipboard. Bobby signed the waiver and took the roll of orange duct tape and the Sharpie, headed off into the junk.

Late July 2006 – Used-to-be-abandoned Celitore’s Machine Shop, West of Houma, LA

The eighteen-wheeler pulled up in front of Celitore’s Machine Shop on the narrow two-lane that dead ended a few miles away at the old Milchem mud farm. Bobby had rounded up as many friends and still-looking-for-work Katrina locals, including a couple of ex-Celitore’s employees, as he could put in the back of his old pickup. The eighteen wheeler’s crane arm unloaded parts of boats, swamp skiffs, cabins from tractors and combines, a couple of single engine planes, outboard motors and all the salvageable aluminum and light sheet steel Bobby could get the Katrina salvage yard to load up.

Senior Eldridge stood between Bobby and his son, an arm around both their shoulders, looked over the parts scattered around between the machines and through the open hanger sized door into the back lot of Celitore’s old shop. “What the hell you plan on buildin’ th’all this shit, Bobby?”

“Boats, Mr. Eldridge. Air conditioned swamp boats. Came to me in a dream.”

“I was you I’d stop eatin’ Mama Roche’s Jamabalaya. She gets her sausage over to Rupert’s.” He crushed out a cigarette under his workboot, gave Bobby a sideways glance. “Shit’ll make you crazy. Before it kills you.”

Late August 2006 – Celitore’s

Carrie Louise had on work boots with her cutoffs and tank top, her hand on a SURF LOUISIANA surfboard with a metal room fan bolted to the back end like a propeller driven swamp boat, the board stuck on a pole set in a cut-off whiskey barrel full of cement. She was toe kicking the barrel a little harder than absently.

“Bobby, I don’t want to learn how to weld.”

“Every party has a pooper. You don’t wanna learn you can hang and watch me.”

“Imagine the joyous memory that’s gonna bring me in the old folks home. Me and that ol’ numb-nuts whatsisdoodley, I forget his name because he was so boring, we were a real pair of weldin’ demons down to the machine shop.” She walked around the surfboard pole, hanging on it like a lamp post. “I want to go to Lafayette before school starts. To a real movie. Not X-Men but something with half a plot. And I want to eat some of that shrimp done up right three kinds of ways like they do it at LeCroix’s.”

“Half a plot with some slow, noisy slobbery kissing and shrimp roulette?”

“Only if you make me. If we leave early we can do all that and be home by midnight, can’t we?”

She could work him and didn’t even know she was doing it. Carrie had always liked Lafayette for some reason, even when they were little kids and one of their parents drove them up for a cinnamon pancakes and ice cream lunch after church. Lafayette was just enough college town, a little touch of metro with some lingering old school coon ass where you could still eat legitimate Cajun and listen to old farts play Zydeco. She’d make him dance with her like she did when she was ten. Uptown bayou girl. Damn. If he said ‘yes’, there’d be no welding lesson. But there’d be a shower, some happy girl rowdy sex, a boring ass chick flick and dinner outside Lafayette with a couple of no-ID-check beers. The dancing part would suck. And four fucking hours round trip in the car. They’d talk all the way there and she’d sleep most of the way home. Which wasn’t so bad. He thought she looked almost angelic when she was quiet and asleep, something he couldn’t tell a soul but felt all the same. His Mawmaw used to say Joli de fleurs printemps. Pretty as spring flowers. Prettier the quieter and sleepier she got. He tossed his grease rag into an oil stained wooden box, checked the clock. Noon fifteen.

“Pick a movie, Roche. If you’re waitin’ on me, you’re backin’ up.”


Thanks to Environmental Recycling in Lexington, KY,  for the Katrina salvage info call. That’s one of their pictures, helping clean up after Katrina

Published by

Phil Huston

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.