Well folks here is the latest from T-Bone! This one is a
little different from what you may be used to. T-Bone takes us "out on the road"
on a highway less traveled. One of those places
off the beaten path. One of those places that awaits the adventursome.
Beware of what you ask for, because you may just get it.
Jimmy wasn't completely sure of his reason for taking off like a thief in the night. Here he was going down a stretch of I-10, in the middle of the night, with the moon high above. He figured that maybe it was time to cut the chains and clear the pipes in his brain. This responsible citizen lifestyle he'd been living was going to kill him; the repetition of it all was making his brain rusted. He'd been a good boy for too long of a time now, far too long. Doing things on the spur of the moment was something he had enjoyed long ago, before the girlfriend moved in and before the lame accounting job. He'd put up with the monotony for awhile, but tonight was different. Tonight he became Runaway Jimmy. Tonight, the moon was full.
The warm night air was thickened by the moisture of the swamps on each side of I 10. Mugginess so thick it could be cut with a butter-knife and put in a plastic baggy. These swamps were alive, breathing and exhaling the permeating warmth of the bayous. There were very few cagers out this late, which made for a relaxing ride. Jimmy fed the throttle a bit, anxious for the decadent diversions awaiting him down in The Crescent City that never sleeps.
Luckily, there was no work to go to in the morning, or any of the following mornings, for that matter. He wasn't meant to be an accountant, no matter how easy juggling numbers around came for him. He felt quite righteous about firing his boss earlier in the day, even though his wallet would soon feel the consequences. "Fuck it" Jimmy thought, while reaching a cruising speed of 80 mph. "When I'm flat ass broke, I'll worry about work. Until then, I'm livin' on rock and roll time."
New Orleans was just the place for those grievous angels who, for one reason or another, were fed up with their routine lives. It certainly wasn't Calvary, but burdens were lifted in The French Quarter, for a time at least. Sure, there was always a price to pay, but he could climb that mountain when he got up to it. Jimmy knew the sinful pleasures awaiting him. He'd been there long ago to sample them all. This was the return of a grievous angel, flying into a city where clocks have no control over people's lives and where blues isn't nothing but a good man feeling bad.
Although he felt sorry for Tammy, the girl he'd left behind, he knew she'd be alright. She was a survivor and, besides, he'd scrawled her a note to tell her the score. Maybe she'd be there waiting for him after he'd had his fill, but probably not. "Fuck it" he thought, again. Affairs of the heart had no place in rock and roll time. He could always work things out with her if and when he needed to.
As he thundered across the Lake Pontchartrain Bridge, his headlight suddenly began flickering to a dim glow. "Awwh shit" he mumbled. He knew he should have replaced the battery last week, when he first noticed the cracked casing. Now it was too late, he was in the middle of the longest bridge in the South, to him at least, and the battery acid was leaking out, steaming as it ran over the chain. He coasted his hog into the emergency lane, although it hardly mattered with the lack of traffic in the middle of the night. Only about ten or fifteen more miles and he would have reached civilization, with all of its fine gas stations and garages. "Fuck it" he thought, while assessing the new turn of events. He began pushing the heavy bike towards New Orleans. It was hard labor on such a warm and muggy night, but there were few alternative options available. It wasn't like he could just leave his bike and expect it to still be there when he returned.
After toiling for what felt like a few long miles, with no cars passing by, he could no longer endure the struggle. He knew if he could hide the bike in a secluded spot that it would be much faster and easier to reach the city outskirts and find a battery, or even some tools. There appeared to be a field of sugarcane ahead, off to his left. Surely, nobody would be out looking for a Harley to steal in the middle of a sugarcane field. He pushed onward until an opening appeared where there was no guard-rail and no fence. The path into the dense crop field appeared as an open mouth inviting him and his bike inside. As he entered, the blackness enveloped him. There were strange sounds heard from unrecognizable creatures. He continued pushing the bike forward, hoping his eyes, which were burning from the sweat, would soon adjust to the increased blackness around him. There appeared to be a wall of sugarcane on each side of the hard path, making it seem as if he were in some kind of maze or tunnel. He trudged along the dirt path for some distance, before spotting the coast of Lake Pontchartrain ahead of him. "The bike stops here" he declared, while pushing the cycle into a small gap in the wall of sugarcane, carefully making room for it by bending the pliable stalks. He then made an X in the hard clay with the heel of his boot so he'd be able to locate his bike upon his return.
After wiping the sweat from his forehead with a bandana, an orange glow in the distance caught his attention. It also sounded like there was music, the drumbeat seemed to travel through the earth and he could feel it within his legs. "Cool" he thought, "Must be some kind of party going on, hell, maybe it's a club of bros!" he exclaimed, to only the moon and himself. Jimmy's hope was running high. He knew the battery leakage and the deserted highway were both bad strokes of luck, but finding a biker party out here along the coast of the lake would change everything. Not only could he get some help for his bike, but maybe there was a lonesome, big-tittied Cajun Mama waiting just for him at this secluded biker bash. He walked along the shoreline towards the flames. The rhythmic percussion became louder as he traveled, entering not only into his bones; but into the depths of his being as well. He no longer was able to think clearly, as the drumbeat occupied all of his attention and he found himself walking in step to the reverberating cadence.
From the perimeter of a large clearing, he could see a large crowd of people dancing relentlessly around the fire. There must have been at least forty or fifty of them and they did not appear to be bikers, but, rather, mostly colored folks. There were a few white women amongst the dancers, but the majority of them were ebony skinned and all shades in between. There were men dancing, too, with some rolling on the ground and making strange utterances while writhing their contorted bodies beside the bouncing flames and gyrating like human snakes. The whole turn of events brought to mind a poem called Spider's Broken Chain, written by Wild Bill, where a biker is forever trapped by circumstances beyond his control. "Ah, that shit don't really happen" he thought, scoffing, while trying to squash the insistent mosquitoes which were feeding on his blood. "Wild Bill was just making up a scary poem. What's a damn biker doing fooling around with poetry anyways?" Jimmy took a deep breath and decided to make his appearance known. "What the hell" he thought, "It ain't bikers, but it looks like a hell of a party. Maybe somebody here can give me a lift into town."
When he emerged from the brush that concealed him, he realized that something was suddenly different. The drumming had momentarily stopped. He also realized something else, that he was way overdressed for the occasion. Besides various markings and symbols on their skin, almost all of these people were nearly naked. A tall woman, wearing a blue dress, approached him. Her eyes were fierce and riveting. Jimmy was filled with fear when looking at her eyes, they resembled the eyes of a feline.
"Papa La Bas!" she exclaimed, while standing directly in front of him and staring into his eyes. Her voice had the low and steady tone of one who speaks with complete authority. Jimmy's years of being with Tammy had not prepared him for this. Tammy was a submissive woman and, in being with her for so long, he assumed that most other women were, to some degree, like her. The woman who stood in front of him was commanding and powerful. She was feminine and attractive with beautiful flowing black hair, but there was something eternally threatening in her eyes, something that made the hairs on the back of his neck stand at attention.
She held a large snake in her hands and moved her body in rhythm with the squirming of the large glistening reptile. The snake wound itself around her torso and limbs, as the drummers pounded their primitive instruments with what looked like animal bones. He began to feel weaker and feverish by the second, as the Voodoo Queen placed the snake inside a box of wood. He stood, captivated by her alluring and hypnotic sway as she walked back towards him.
"Uh, any of you good people know a way to the nearest gas station?" he asked, barely recognizing his own shaking voice. In trying to avoid eye to eye contact, he stared at the ribbon with tiny bells attached to the woman's ankles. The dancers were taking turns kneeling in front of the wooden box containing the snake, where they muttered strange incantations and called the serpent "Zombie".
Suddenly, the woman before him put her hands on his shoulders. Her arms were quivering and he felt something entering his stomach. The raw energy coursed through his abdomen like an electric current. His vision began to spin and he could only see the ancient cypress tree branches in the moonlight. He somehow felt older than the trees. The sky then fell low enough to touch his head and he lost himself in glimpsing at eternity.
"I have come!" roared a voice from Jimmy's throat. The growling tone was not his own voice, but there was nothing he could do. Whoever the voice belonged to now controlled his body, for better or worse. The drumming continued and the dancers moved in time to the beat. Jimmy moved in time to the drums and approached an altar made of stones where a wooden bowl was sitting. He dipped both hands into the bloody entrails that the bowl held and brought them skywards. "Marie Laveau, may Papa La Bas bring your spirit to us!" boomed the foreign voice, which now resided within him and controlled his speech. There was a powerful stranger in the house. As the dancers moved counter-clockwise in a loose circle around him, Jimmy ravenously ate the slimy animal innards, until there was only a puddle of warm blood left inside the bowl. He tilted the bowl up to his lips and gulped the liquid in honor of this night, known better by some as St. John's Eve.
"Eh, ye', ye' Mamzelle Marie,
Ya, ye', ye' li konin tou, gris-gris;
Li te' kouri lekal, aver vieux kokodril;
Oh, ouai, ye' Mamzelle Marie…" sang the chorus of dancers.
Jimmy fell to his knees, dropping the wooden bowl upon the ground. The Voodoo Queen stood before him, twitching the bells on her ankle. As he reached out to touch her ankle, she moved it just beyond his reach in a graceful dance. Jimmy crawled and clawed his way forward, his whole realm of awareness focused upon the jingle jangle of the bells. Her dancing was timed perfectly to keep the small bells just beyond his grasp. Jimmy continued to crawl in circles, going around the fire, groping for her ankles.
"Go into the night and find Marie Laveau!" she commanded, while making an X in the dirt with her big toe. Jimmy focused upon the point where the lines intersected, the crossroads. His range of hearing became extraordinarily sensitive. He no longer discerned color in his vision, seeing only in black and white. He took off leaping on all fours like a panther, into the gray- green walls of swampy forest leading to Bayou St. John.
Jimmy awoke with a head pounding harder than any hangover he'd ever had. His whole body ached and muscles he never even knew he had were sore. He opened one eye from his position on the hard earth. There was the head of a black cat looking back at him, with bills rolled up and tucked into its mouth.
"Oh shit!" he screamed, now crawling towards it. The cat's body was buried in the earth and only the head was above ground. "What the hell?" he asked, while digging the body out. He held the carcass in front of him and noticed that the cat had been gutted. Then he recalled bits and pieces of the night before, particularly the bowl of entrails he had eaten. "Holy shit!" he yelled, while throwing the carcass end over end where it splashed into the murky bayou. His shirt was gone and his pants were shredded. There was blood smeared all over his skin. He was alone and lost. He picked up the bills, tucked them into his pocket and began walking.
Jimmy never shared his experience of what had happened that night, late in June, many moons ago. He never felt quite the same after it had happened, though. It took him three days to finally find his bike and get back on the road again, only heading away from New Orleans. Jimmy had more than his fill of adventure from this trip with a leaking battery. He went back to Tammy and found another job doing accounting work. He resumed living a routine life, but every year since, late in June, Jimmy suddenly disappears for three days. This is when folks claim to see a biker going over Lake Pontchartrain Bridge with black cat's eyes shining in the light of the moon, grinning with a cigar made of paper bills in his mouth and riding into the sugarcane field.
Copyright © 1998, Thomas (T-Bone) Maul.
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