Part of Open Link Blog Hop
The Prompt: Write a scene or story that includes a character who has a phobia. What do they fear? How does this phobia affect their life?
Among my plethora of nutcase characters, and few new lurkers, I could post novels. But there isn’t time for Deanna’s vagina or Paro’s helicopters. In fact I’m gonna cheat and drop a rerun that started life as a prelude, never intended as a self contained short, won an award long ago from Stevie Turner’s site, got tweaked and entered elsewhere and won several more.
Carrie Louise screamed a split second before the shotgun blast. Birds exploded from the cypress canopy, the surface of the water boiled with leaping frogs, crickets, surprised fish and a lone gator. The sound and accompanying activity rolled away across the bayou in an expanding halo. Bobby couldn’t look down where he hoped his feet still were, saw the look of sheer panic in Carrie Louise’s eyes, steeled himself and waited for the blast from the second barrel. CL was shaking so hard she couldn’t pull the hammer back. Bobby took a second, glanced down to see the snake that had dropped into the boat from the tree branches overhead slither through the new hole in his dad’s old, flat bottom swamp skiff. CL screamed bloody murder again when she couldn’t make the sawed-off shotgun work, started to launch it into the swamp after the snake when Bobby snatched it away.
The silence in the aftermath bordered on church-like except for the soft gurgle of the swamp slowly filling the boat.
“Dayum yourself, Bobby B.” CL, white as a ghost, held her legs out straight in front of her above the encroaching water, narrowed her eyes. “It was a, a…A snake. You saw it. I…And…You know how much I hate fuh, fuh, snakes.”
“Do for a fact.” He wiggled his feet to prove they were still there, whistled softly. “Dayyy-um.”
Bobby had no idea how deep the water was, but he dumped what had drifted into his dad’s waders, pulled them on and tied a knot in the shoulder straps while the boat slowly settled toward the water line. Under her breath Carrie Louise cussed a blue streak of randomly constructed profanity, her heels now resting on the rusty oarlocks, swamp water closing in on her cutoffs.
He stepped out into water waist-deep on his average to a little tall, twelve-year-old frame, let the breath he’d been holding go. His dad’s waders were up to his chin, so unless a snake slopped over the top they were good. He sloshed the few steps to Carrie Louise.
“When I turn around, climb on my shoulders. Baby style, not piggyback.”
“Okay. But you can’t drop me in, in there. In this…You can’t.” She looked over her shoulder in the direction the snake had taken off, climbed on his shoulders. She wrapped her arms around his forehead, her legs tucked under his arms, heels almost touching the base of his neck.
“You see a gator, CL? Or another snake?” He handed off the shotgun. “Holler and let me shoot. Got it?”
“Okay. How far is it, you think?”
“As far as it is.”
“Big help. Do NOT drop me.” She shivered involuntarily. “Please.”
“No need to get all polite, CL. You have the shotgun.”
Bobby took a minute to get his bearings, knowing how his dad was gonna raise all sorts of hell about the trolling motor. Once dad knew he could find it and the water wasn’t very deep they’d be back to get the motor, take it home, dry it out and rebuild it on the garage floor. He’d rebuild it, dad would drink beer and give bad advice, mom would put some vodka in her iced coffee or tea and read the latest and greatest from the library where she worked. And pretend to watch them like she cared while whatever was in the oven turned black.
Carrie Louise climbed off his shoulders on to dry ground and screamed again when Bobby waded out. Another snake had hitched a ride, its fangs embedded in the thick rubber heel of the waders. Bobby saw CL point the shotgun at his foot and screamed with her. She shoved the shotgun into his chest, took off down the finger of two-lane ruts that cut through the swamp. Bobby pointed the shotgun down, put the barrel against the snake’s head and pushed until it lost its grip and recoiled away. He had one shell in the sawed-off swamp boat gun, and he might need it for more than a snake dumb enough to hit waders.
Sheriff Sheridan Wylie, a little overweight in a uniform and life vest that fit a couple of years ago, swung Terrebonne Parish Swamp Patrol Boat number 2 alongside the finger of dry land, tossed out a grappling hook. He watched the two stragglers in the shimmering heat haze headed his way, waited for them to come into focus, his .40 caliber Smith & Wesson, safety off, behind his back.
“Well, I do declare, look what’s wanderin’ in out the haze. Carrie Louise Roche and Bobby Buisson. Y’know, when I got a call about two kids with a shotgun wandering the Mauvais Bois I thought maybe I had me some lost poachers or the next Bonnie and Clyde. Hell no, what turns up ain’t nothin’ but Houma’s own double trouble.” He waited for them to get within arm’s reach, held out his empty left hand. “You might crack that shotgun open and hand it to me, young Mister B. Go a looooong ways toward keepin’ my blood pressure under control.”
“Yes sir.” Bobby broke the sawed-off open, offered it butt first. “Sorry.”
“Think nothin’ of it. What’s a lethal weapon or two between friends?” Wylie took the sawed-off, holstered his pistol. He unloaded both shells from the shotgun, dropped them in his life vest pocket, set the shotgun on top of the instrument and radio cluster. “You can give this sawed off I don’t know is the wrong side of legal back to your daddy after I’ve carried you two home. And you done told me about the spent shell.”
“CL’s scared of snakes.”
“Am not.” She threw an elbow into Bobby’s side. “Don’t like ’em much, that’s all.”
“Is that right?” Wylie offered both hands, helped them step off into the boat. “Life vests are in the box under the aft seat. Gotta be a longer version of ‘scared of snakes’ puts you two on foot in the bayou. Bobby?”
“You know daddy’s rusty old skiff, one used to be kinda green? She blew a hole in the bottom of it tryin’ to let a snake know she didn’t think much of it droppin’ in.”
“Damn, girl.” The sheriff checked their vests, cinched down on Carrie Louise’s. “You kill it?”
She shook her head.
“For a fact?”
“That all anybody can say?” Carrie Louise dropped on the aft bench, hung her head in her hands.
The sheriff and Bobby shared a look while Bobby collected the hook, dunked it a few times until the mud was gone. When he dropped it in a bucket on the deck the sheriff idled the boat around and out into the swamp in no kind of hurry.
“Either a you two been gone so long anybody’d be worried enough I should call?”
“No sir. Daddy’s out on the rig, mom’s at work.” He checked CL, still moping. “Mama Roche said be home before dark or she’d throw dinner out.”
“Be a shame to waste Mama Roche’s cookin’ on that lazy ol’ bag a bones.”
“Daddy’s quit drinkin’.” Carrie Louise raised her head. “Again.”
“I was meanin’ that ol’ dog of y’all’s, Carrie Louise. Not your daddy.” He squeezed the trigger on the mic. “Wylie, Bayou two. Armed poachers turned out to be a pair of swamp rat minors name of Buisson and Roche. Had ’em a shallow water equipment failure. No casualties, no prisoners, no backup or medical required. They’ll need deliverin’. May take me a while. Bayou two out.”He let the radio squawk back, hung up the mic, leaned against the instrument panel where he could keep one eye on the swamp and one on CL and Bobby, held the boat on course with his forearm on the wheel.
“Now we got y’all’s particulars out the way, lemme tell you two what I need.” He throttled the boat up a touch.” I’m headin’ back in no big hurry ‘cause y’all are gonna spin me one hell of a lot better stow-ree ’bout that spent shell. Tellin’ you now it better have a 15, maybe 20 foot gator and a witch and a toothless coonass pervert or two in it, ‘cause bein’ as we’re out here and it’s hotter’n hell an all? I’ll be stoppin’ in at the marina for a ring-of-fire hot link, some of Louella’s fried shrimp bites and an Abita Amber just this side of ice. On the Parish dime. And I’ll need to write me up a nice report when I get back to justify burning half a shift and a butt-load of Parish gas in them two Hondas back there rescuing a couple born on the bayou kids who should know better than blow a damn hole in the bottom of a boat.” He gave Carrie Louise a fatherly squint. “An me just puttin’ down ‘girl don’t like snakes’ in that big ol ‘precipitating action’ box ain’t gonna cut it.” He turned back, idled the boat up a little. “There’s water an Cokes in the ice chest if you want any. Go easy, Carrie Louise. Ain’t nowhere for a girl to pee for a good forty minutes.”
An hour and a half later Sheriff Wylie dropped them at a makeshift dock on Bayou Black across the street from Bobby’s house. Bobby went home carrying the unloaded sawed off and his dad’s waders, Carrie Louise huffed off to her house next door with a greasy paper bag of leftover spicy shrimp bites.
Fifteen minutes passed before she banged on the screen door to Bobby’s kitchen. He toed the door open, her eyes said she’d been having an angry cry, most likely from a Momma Roche ass chewing. She shoved a plate with a huge slice of peach pie and rapidly-losing-form-in-the-heat whipped cream at him.
“Momma says she guesses thanks for saving me from bein’ gator bait. I told her it was snakes, but she said thanks anyway, even though a Houma girl dumb enough to blow a hole in a boat mighta been justifiably left behind. And to say I’m sorry about your dad’s boat and scaring you shitless with the shotgun and almost blowing your foot off.” She heaved a big sigh, scuffed his back step with her foot. “She’ll see that we make it right, when we can.”
The sadness coming off of her was tangible, along with leftover steam from how mad she’d gotten on the ride back when Bobby and the Sheriff had joked and laughed about her blowing a hole in the boat and not killing the snake the whole way and coming home to her momma piling on.
“You tell Momma R not to worry. CL. I’m figurin’ I’ll tell Daddy I did it. ” He shrugged one shoulder, took the pie plate. “Dad’ll drop a couple M-80s to run the snakes an gators off so I can hook up the motor an fish it out pretty easy. And it won’t be near as bad a ‘Bobby you dumb ass’ sermon as telling him I let a girl beat me to the snake-and-gator gun.” He lifted his chin , held the door open for her. “Come on. Pie this size needs two forks.”
“You sure? About the boat and all?”
“Like certain sure?”
“C’mon CL, do I look like I’m standin’ here air conditionin’ both our back yards changin’ my mind?”
“No… ” She stepped past him into the kitchen, opened his fridge. “So I guess that means you have a couple of new shots of Cool Whip or maybe some butter pee-cawn ice cream in here to go with that extra fork and this big ol’ piece of my momma’s blue-ribbon peach pie?”
What other hoppers think is here.
Yeah, yeah. I’ll use anything for a writing exercise.