Jambalaya, Volume 17 Copyright 2017,Terrebonne Parish Library System Jambalaya is housed at the Terrebonne Parish Library System in Houma, Louisiana, and has been published annually since its inception in 2001. This publication is the official anthology of the Terrebonne Parish Library System’s Jambalaya Writers’ Conference. All works are from those who either attended the conference in 2016, placed in the conference’s poetry and/or fiction contests, or presented at the conference in 2016.
JAMBALAYA 2016 Each year the Jambalaya Writers’ Conference accepts contest submissions in both poetry and fiction. Winners are awarded a small monetary prize and publication in our annual anthology. Our first place fiction prize also includes a session with an editor at that year’s conference. Only those who register and attend the conference are eligible to enter. We at Jambalaya are so very appreciative of those who continue to participate in our contests year after year.We are filled with pride to honor the wonderful talent of those who placed in 2016. To all of the authors featured in this issue of Jambalaya, we thank you kindly for your contributions and for continuing to make our writers’ conference an absolute success. And as always, to our readers, thank you.
Winners of the 2016 Fiction Contest First Place Old Ladies Who Steal Karen Rush Second Place The Wayward Shepherd Jae Le Third Place Daniel Angelo Monaco It’s Going to Happen Eventually Honorable Mention Book of Ghosts Celia Andresen
Winners of the 2016 Poetry Contest First Place A Valentine Song Victoria Fannaly Second Place My Inner Sanctity Darlene Martin Eschete Third Place Requiem Victoria Fannaly Honorable Mention Inside Out Terina McIlvaine
CREDITS…iii EDITORIAL…iv The Journey Jack Caldwell…1
Louisiana Woman’s Cajun French Soul Viola Fontenot…4 Of Literature and Life David Middleton…6 A Valentine Song Victoria Fannaly…8 Old Ladies Who Steal Karen Rush…9 Book of Ghosts Celia Andresen…13 Southern Alms John Breerwood…17 Epigrams Dr. John Doucet…19 The Strip Club Breakfast Story Daniel Angelo Monaco…20 Requiem Victoria Fannaly…22 My Inner Sanctity Darlene Martin Eschete…23 Mermaid Sightings Gail White…24 Strange Ways Daniel Angelo Monaco…26 Inside Out Terina McIlvaine…28 You Can Gossip When You Own a Bar Sara Jacobelli…29 Prayer of Seasons Monique Jones…32 Wilmer Hastings Mills (1969 – 2011): A Celebration of His Life and Work David Middleton…34 A Metamorphosis Victoria Fannaly…38 The Wayward Shepherd Jae Le…39
It’s Going to Happen Eventually Daniel Angelo Monaco …42 A Love Song Victoria Fannaly…45 Gabriel in the Garden Monique Jones…46 BIOS…47
PHOTO CREDITS Ashley Riane Booth Paupier Sunsets…iv Daniel Kariko Town of Cocodrie…1 Mary Ann Caffery Bayou Sale Sunrise…2 Dennis Sipiorski Estrogen in the Water…4 Mary Ann Caffery Reddish Egret…6 Nicole Cotten Crabbin’ with Paw Paw…6 Gary LaFleur Jr. Ship Shoal Light…9 Jill Krzycki Chackbay Crawfishin’…10 Mary Ann Caffery Standing Proud…13
Gary LaFleur Jr. Old Time Boucherie…14 Gary LaFleur Jr. Floating Life…16 Delaina LeBlanc Neuf espece d’oiseaux…17 Daniel Kariko Lifeboat…19 Jill Krzycki Green Treefrog…20 Ashley Riane Booth Terns on West Raccoon Island…23
Jill Krzycki Boys Crabbin’…25 Eva Windhoffer Lichen Truck…26 Jordan Logarbo LUMCON Marsh…28 Dennis Sipiorski Pirate Graveyard…31 Daniel Kariko Bayou Sale Panorama…34 Daniel Kariko E. Picou Cemetery…36 Ashley Riane Booth Blessing of the Fleet…38 Delaina LeBlanc October 21, 2006 Robinson Canal…39 Delaina LeBlanc Cocodrie…40 Dennis Sipiorski Last Island Elvis…44 Eva Windhoffer Bottomland hardwoods…46
CREDITS Executive Editor Design and Layout Jessi Suire
Contributing Editors Dr. Katherine Conner Dr. Gary LaFleur Jr. Chief Advisor Dr. John Doucet
Cover Art Alison Boudreaux Editorial Board Alexandria Prosperie
Special thanks to Alexandria Prosperie, a student at Nicholls State University who edited all contributing pieces as part of Dr. Katherine Connerâ€™s publishing practicum class,
and to Alison Boudreaux, an art student at Nicholls State University who, under the guidance of associate art professor Gaither Pope, contributed the Jambalaya 2016 cover art. A number of photographs in this Anthology were taken at locations within the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary during the Coastal Landscape Photography course offered by the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON). This course organized by Dennis Sipiorski at SELU, Gary LaFleur at Nicholls, and Daniel Kariko at ECU, has motivated faculty and students to explore the endangered environments of coastal Louisiana, to document the changing ecosystem through photography and visual arts, and to participate in saving the Louisiana Coast whenever possible. For more information on LUMCON's summer courses, visit www.lumcon.edu.
EDITORIAL Serving as executive editor for the 2016 Jambalaya Writers Conference anthology has been a dream of an experience. I’ve always had a fondness for small presses and the many publications that show love to shorter works of fiction and poetry that may not be captured elsewhere. 2017 marks the first year that I serve as not only executive editor of Jambalaya, it also ushers in a new era for the conference as a whole. I am a proud, delightfully daunted, and truly astounded, first-time conference coordinator. Jambalaya 2016 is a continuation of the original Jambalaya Writers’ Conference anthology that has been running strong for 17 previous volumes under different forms and titles. I would like to take the time to honor Dr. John Doucet, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Nicholls State University, with whom this project would not have been possible. Dr. Doucet, along with the help of Kathy Conner and Alexandria Prosperie, and Dr. Gary LaFleur, have helped keep Jambalaya a reflection of its former self while also breathing in new creative life. All photography featured in this anthology was provided by Dr. Gary LaFleur, whose engaging visual storytelling keeps us invested year after year. Special thanks to Matt Hise, who transformed this previously printed collection of works into a beautiful, easy-to-access digital copy. We are incredibly proud to showcase the amazing, thought-provoking, hilarious, sad, extraordinary literary work that has been created at the hands of conference presenters and attendees alike.The readings shone forth are a true testament to our community and the profound impact the Jambalaya Writers’ Conference has had on burgeoning artists. To all of those who participate year after year, we thank you.
JAMBALAYA 2016 THE JOURNEY Jack Caldwell The following is an edited version of a presentation I was honored to present to the Edward Douglas White Catholic High School Class of 1975 at the occasion of their 40th Class Reunion, held at Ducros Plantation House in Schriever on Saturday, October 10, 2015. I believe it expresses universal truths, as well. I hope you enjoy it. WE ARE GATHERED HERE tonight to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of our graduating high school. It’s wonderful to be among friends, some who I haven’t seen in forty years. Remember when we listened to Roger Daltrey singing, “Hope I die before I get old?” Now it’s more like Paul McCartney and, “Will you still love me when I’m sixty-four.” Forty years! Can you believe it? Sometimes it seems so long ago; other times, it was like yesterday. Forty years. So much has happened in those decades. I could go on to list the many things that have happened, both here and around the world, since that day in 1975 when we walked on stage to receive our diplomas. But I’m not going to do that. It has been my privilege to know an extraordinary woman—my great-grandmother. Albertine Prezlin Leche was born in Bayou Lafourche from here, in 1879, the year the automobile was invented. She lived all of her 103 years in Thibodaux, the last twenty or so across the street from St. Joseph Catholic Church. In her lifetime she saw the creation of electrical power and the telephone—in fact, she was one of the first telephone operators in Thibodaux. Women got the right to vote and the Civil Rights movement started to sweep the nation. She saw vaccines and heart transplants. Radio and movies and television. Vegetables in stores year round. Humanity went from the dunes of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina to the Sea of Tranquility, and by harnessing the energy of the atom, discovered unlimited power and the means of destroying all life on this world. She saw two world wars and countless hurricanes. She was witness to the best and worst of mankind. Once, I asked her about that.The wonders she had seen. Surely that made an impression upon her. It did, she agreed.Air conditioning was nice. But then, she turned the conversation back to the Things that were of interest to her, her life at her beloved Coulon Plantation with her late husband.The dozens of families she had known. Her long-gone friends.And the pride she had for her grandsons and great-grandchildren.
JAMBALAYA 2016 Now, Albertine Leche was not a simple woman, as anyone who knew her can attest. Her mind was as sharp as a tack nearly to the end. But in my arrogant teen-aged youth, I did not understand why she didn’t want to talk about those great achievements and monumental events. I was too young to understand the wisdom she imparted. My first clue came years later with the birth of my own son. It was then I saw the great purpose of life: the continuation of humanity and passing down of the accumulated knowledge of the ages to the new generation—growing up and raising children. It was then I saw that life truly is a journey. Our parents were our first guides along the Journey. The lessons they imparted, and the examples they showed set us upon this trip. Our faith is a guiding light in the darkness. Our years in high school are not something apart—some unique event. It was an important waystation on the Journey. Those years helped create who we are. The knowledge offered by our teachers was part of that. But just as important, if not more so, were the interactions we shared together. Certainly, we can talk about the singular events, the great successes, and tonight we will. Making the playoffs, winning the state championship. Homecoming, Sweetheart, Prom. Rings and Graduation. All of that is indelibly engraved in our minds. But these wonderful things were not all school contributed to prepare us for the Journey. It’s the small things, the people we knew. Hanging around with friends, waiting for Home Room. The girls pulling down their skirts, worrying about Sister and her ruler. The guys playing cards. Turning in your homework notebook to Brother. The agony of fifth period, wondering if the day would ever end. The librarian sweetly asking you to be quiet. Sweating on the football practice field. Marching band during a cold rainy game. Pep squad, dance squad, cheerleading. The school’s first girls’ teams. Prep Quiz Bowl, National Honor Society, Key Club, 4-H. Trying to decide what to wear to the Prom. Wondering if she’ll say yes. All of this made us who we are and prepared us for the Journey. We are not meant to go on the Journey alone. Some of us found our spouse at school.
JAMBALAYA 2016 Others of us discovered the companion of our future lives elsewhere. Some of us took more than one try. I found mine on a blind date in a little café in Covington that no longer exists. We all know the Journey is not easy. High school helped prepare us for this. We all suffered pain, pressure, and disappointment, as well as joy and satisfaction. We thought nothing could be so bad as sitting at home without a date, or anything better than beating our rival. We learned better, haven’t we? In the forty years since graduation we discovered life was nothing like we thought. Most of us are not doing what we thought we would. Some have traveled far, others have stayed close to home. The children come, grow up, and leave, yet the Journey continues. We start thinking of the legacy we will leave behind. What kind of parent were we? What kind of spouse? Co-worker? Boss, mayor? Will we leave our family, our home, our community better than we found it? For some, the Journey is over. We have had setbacks and success, disappointment and surprise, tragedy and triumph, loss and growth, joy and sorrow, life and death. But we go on, reaching for that elusive Elysian Dream, that blissful place we all strive for, the goal of the Journey. It was while writing this that I had another revelation. The Elysian Dream is not just the goal of the Journey, but is also the Journey itself. It is why the Journey is filled with joy and hardship. Nothing worth having comes easy. For it is along the Journey we discover the things that make life worth living. The people we love. The places we’ve seen and So, tonight we celebrate another waystation on the Journey. We will stand around and talk and laugh, and perhaps shed a tear. When tonight is done, we’ll lie to each other, promising to stay in touch. We’ll try, but we all know the demands on our time from families and careers. That’s all right, after all. For tonight itself is a milestone along the Journey.Tonight is a part of the Elysian Dream.
Bruce Springsteen was wrong. Our time at high school, as memorable as it was, was not our “Glory Days.” Our Glory Days, our best days, are before us as we continue the Elysian Dream that is the Journey. This is what my great-grandmother was trying to tell me so long ago. Tonight as we laugh and converse, reconnect and reminisce, let us take a moment to remember those who could not be here and those who have left this world all too soon. And as we continue the Journey, let us appreciate the gifts and experiences that we’ve been given by He who made us. And let us pray that when the Journey is done, we all stand together again on the sunlit plains of the Elysian Fields.
JAMBALAYA 2016 Louisiana Woman’s Cajun French Soul Viola Fontenot I’m a Louisiana woman with a Cajun soul that moans and groans whenever I take a drive over to the Texas side of the Sabine River. My Cajun French not spoken there, goes AWOL in an underground hole, while I visit my children, and grandchildren too, who reside there in Tomball. I’m a Louisiana woman with a Cajun soul which seems to know just when I cross that Texas line of the Toledo Bend side. My Cajun soul feels quite alarmed, something’s wrong, something’s gone, Louisiana is more my style, so much more my size. My Cajun French, my Cajun soul, suppressed under duress, my culture too, that and more were criticized, demoralized--need I say more? But my senior years now demand that these be fully restored to soar and swell with Cajun pride in songs and stories that also need to be told.
JAMBALAYA 2016 My children and grandchildren are much adored and loved with such great pride, but now it's time to take the drive and head back to my hometown. My Cajun soul bounces back to life, my mood eclipses into bright sunlight when I cross over the Sabine River heading east on Interstate 10. Hey Louisiana, here I am. KBON 101.1 Louisiana proud, blares out loud on my radio goal Let the Meatballs Roll Cher, like the Cajuns say! KRVS 88.7 Bonjour Louisiane comes on strong. Allon’s a Lafayette, the lively hometown of this Louisiana woman and her Cajun French soul.
Festival Acadiens et Créoles comes around in October once a year to swing and shout to all the world: La Joie de Vie, La Table Francaise, allon’s danser, allon’s mangé, Gumbo, sauce piquant, jambalaya, crawfish etouffee. What can I say I’m headed that way, Louisiana French Cajun style makes me smile, and makes me proud.
JAMBALAYA 2016 Of Literature and Life David Middleton for a mother whose son died at the age of twelve But when my mind remembers, unamused It pictures Korczak going with his children Through Warsaw to the too substantial train. Edgar Bowers, “In Defense of Poetry” And round that early-laurelled head Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead, And find unwithered on its curls The garland briefer than a girl’s. A.E. Housman, “To An Athlete Dying Young” How moved you must have been to come to me When the spring term was over, not to complain— You knew you’d make a B—but wanting to say In person what you could not say before. The course was Understanding Poetry, Offered to sophomores not in liberal arts To satisfy the core curriculum: Exposure—brief—to the Humanities. Most students sat through class resigned and bored, Willing to serve their time for sixteen weeks, Cellmates with dreaming poets, eager to leave For “the real world” with their B.S. degrees. So I, to try to free them from themselves, Assigned a two-part paper, “Lit. & Life,” The students’ task, to analyze a poem, Then link it to a story of their own. And you chose “To an Athlete Dying Young,” An elegy and epitaph combined, About a runner taken in his prime, Not lingering till fame had turned to dust.
JAMBALAYA 2016 Your story made a sadder parallel. It was about your son, a player skilled At hitting fastballs hard against the wall, Running the bases, sliding safely home. But on an early summer afternoon, Driving him from the game, the shoulder-ride And trophy his to tell about and show, You eased through a left-turn green light, seen too late
By a honking eighteen-wheeler skidding ahead, Its swinging trailer smashing through the door, Crushing a boy who died before your eyes, Gone before you or he could say a word. How long you searched for words, pleading with God To give you understanding and a peace Not found in years of therapy and prayer— A consolation deeper than your grief.
Then, in good time, something would draw you here, Not chance or fate alone but common grace That led you to another like your son Who died and lived again in Housman’s verse. And having said at last just how that poem And paper had the power to touch and heal, You left in tears, yet strengthened, not by me, But by the virtue found in poetry.
I never saw or heard from you again Though memory brings back from time to time The image of a mother who returned In gratitude for “literature and life.” And though I know that you were not alone In writing on a poem you made your own, Of all who might have come to tell me so You were the only one who ever did.
JAMBALAYA 2016 A Valentine Song Victoria Fannaly I would paint you in autumn colors of glowing red embers, sparks of light haunting accents of warm rich blues. Warm strong arms on a wintry night. I would drink to you with moonshine, lusty love songs heartily sung. Or perhaps sweet sparkling vintage gently teasing on the tongue. I would love you on a winter’s evening, heart to heat, my flesh on your skin with no regrets about tomorrow— no dark thoughts of where we’ve been.
JAMBALAYA 2016 Old Ladies Who Steal Karen Rush Bernice was a round old woman, as comfortable in her own skin as if she had customordered it. She didn’t even mind having wrinkles and often said “I’m blessed,” but not in a cooing, pious voice that sounded like she’d had too much artificial sweetener. Instead hers was snappy, nasally, with a distinctive squeaky lilt that so captivated those around her it was easy to overlook how odd it really was. A voice that hinted of mischief. Despite chronic cheerfulness and lipstick that was far too red for her age, Bernice had another quality that Kate found endearing, amusing. She was easily annoyed by people who suffered from reticence or stupidity. And the person who annoyed Bernice the most was Bootsy, her very best friend. Kate was ashamed to admit how she felt about Bootsy. She knew it was probably a character flaw, maybe even a sin, not to like an old lady, but she didn’t. She imagined Bootsy as a fly, irritating, but not much of a pest until she got too close, and then Kate wanted to swat the hell out of her. Plus, Bootsy was a squawker, and nobody likes them. If Bootsy wasn’t fussing about the quality of an item, it was the price, and since Kate often browsed the competition, she knew the thrift store she managed had the best prices in town. When the other stores raised paperback books to a dollar, Kate upped hers to thirty-five cents and Bootsy got so hot it was like her panties had been set on fire. “All that fuss from a woman who never even opens a book,” Bernice told Kate. “But don’t you worry; I sent her out to the parking lot. She can just wait for me to finish shopping. I know how to behave.” The store had a no refunds-no returns-no exchanges policy, but like most people, Bootsy thought she was special and the rules didn’t apply to her. Last September, she bought a blouse that had the seams purposely sewn on the outside, as some sort of bohemian fashion statement. Thinking she had tried it on inside out, nonplussed, she bought it anyway. Once home, she was unable to figure it out and brought it back. She was so insistent it was defective, she wore Kate down. Kate found sometimes she had to bend the rules, or kill the customer.
Bootsy browsed with an attitude that wavered between childlike innocence and defiant chutzpah, and she was tiny and old, so the other customers always smiled at her and stepped aside. Bernice would roll her eyes and revel in the knowledge that Bootsy could only come to the store when Bernice wasn’t annoyed with her. Bernice had all the power in the relationship: a driver’s license, and better yet, no grown kids in town to take it away. “You know, I don’t like to bring her anywhere,” Bernice said. “Watch her. She’s a thief, that one. She steals everywhere we go. I don’t even want to talk about what happened in Sears last week. It gets embarrassing after a while.” “Bootsy? Bootsy’s a thief?” “Oh honey, her fingers are so sticky, I don’t like her to touch me. See that blue necklace she’s wearing? She stole it from this very store.” “No, we carry jewelry straight to the register.” “Ha! You know how she is, stubborn little thing. She probably said she needed to wear it for a bit to make sure it wasn’t too heavy for that scrawny chicken neck of hers. Next thing I knew she was sitting in the Buick spit-shining those beads. I was so flustered I could hardly drive the getaway car.” A tiny spark exploded in Kate’s brain. She cringed with the memory of Bootsy smiling wanly when asked to give the necklace back, how Bootsy simply turned and walked away. Kate was so done with her that time. She feared she might choke her to death, so she let her go.That was before Kate realized old ladies steal, and sometimes, they pee in the dressing room. Kate scanned the store and spotted Bootsy just as she placed her purse into a larger one and slung it over her shoulder. She was wearing a second blouse on top of two cardigans, and there was a splash of purple something peeping out from under all that.A skirt partially covering green sweat pants that were pulled up to her knees. She started to hum “Camp Town Races” as Kate approached. She wouldn’t meet Kate’s eyes. “Bootsy, you know what we call old ladies who steal? Thieves. Do you know what happens to thieves?
JAMBALAYA 2016 They go to jail. Is it worth going to jail over some used clothing? I mean really, if you’re going to steal at least go to the mall and get something new.” “Oh, I can’t go to the mall and I don’t where the jail is. Besides, I don’t drive.” Kate placed her hands on Bootsy’s stooped shoulders. “If I’m forced to call the police, they’ll drive you.” “My daughter says I can only get in the car with Bernice, no one else.” “Well then, how about you take off those clothes and pay for them?” “Take off my clothes? What? Here?” She glanced around and then began straightening the layers, patting down the fabric, pulling at her sleeves. She turned to Kate. “I don’t even want these old things, they smell. And this,” she pulled at the hem of a pink blouse, “needs to be ironed. You can have all of this, but I’m keeping my panties and I’m not wearing a brassiere.” Bernice appeared with an empty shopping cart. She began to cackle. “Bootsy, what is wrong with you girl? You can’t stand in the middle of a store and start putting all these clothes on, silly woman. People gonna think you lost your mind.” Bernice reached out and began to fumble with the top layer as Bootsy stood pouting, her bottom lip thrust out. She wobbled with the concentrated effort of trying to stand still while Bernice’s gnarled old fingers struggled with the buttons. Finally the two blouses were free and dropped to the floor. “Two down, forty-seven to go,” Bernice shook her head. “How much did you put on old woman?” Bootsy looked down and shrugged. “Well, those sweaters are going to have to come up over your head, like it or not. I’m done with buttons.” She grabbed both cardigans and yanked, accidentally un-footing Bootsy, who let out a surprised yelp, did a slow motion fall, and then lay flat on her back. Bernice started to laugh and bent over Bootsy, exactly the way you’re not supposed to bend. Her skirt hiked up over her broad rear end revealing plump knees bulging over her knee-highs. Her legs were covered in veins and she had very fat thighs. When she grabbed Bootsy’s hand to pull her up, her own giggles and probably her weight got the best of her, and over she went. She landed with a plop beside Bootsy. “Well, long as we’re down here, let’s pull off those sweat pants. They’re not even your style, what were you thinking? You’re an old man gonna work in his yard? And green? Really, Bootsy, green?” Bootsy just lay there. Bernice nudged her. “Don’t you go to sleep on me now. We still gotta get those pants off and stand up somehow.” She looked at Kate. “You see what I mean? This gets embarrassing.” She reached her hand out.“Please?” Kate pulled with all her strength as Bernice grunted and shifted and finally managed to get up. Kate grinned until she saw Bootsy give her the evil eye and stick out her tongue. It was so gray and frothy; Kate had to glance away even though she wanted to stick hers out right back. “Whew,” Bernice said, as she looked at Bootsy. “Well, get your skinny heinie up. No one’s gonna help a little troublemaker like you.” Her laughter crackled all the way to housewares. Bootsy was crotchety, but she managed to get to her knees and finally stand up.
JAMBALAYA 2016 She kicked at the pile of discarded clothing. “Thanks for helping me Bernice.You’re a good friend.” “Well, that’s what friends do. They don’t let each other stand all old and wrinkly-naked in the middle of a store.” “Especially a horrible store like this.” “This place isn’t too bad.You wanted those clothes.” “No, I didn’t.” “No?” “No.” Bootsy looped her arm through Bernice’s and steered her towards the exit. With the smug confidence of having won, Kate crossed her arms and watched as the two old ladies left the store. With the purse.
JAMBALAYA 2016 Book of Ghosts Celia Andresen It was time for the girl to die.
She wasn’t supposed to have heard that. It was her fifth day in the cave, and she had begun to wonder when her tribe leader was returning. So she had called a bird from the earth. She had only to ask, and the skeleton of a cardinal came to her, a little mimicry of life click click clicking into flight. She was happy to see that her tribe leader was nearby. He walked with his two sons, all three of them wearing the red-stained furs of their tribe. Shana assumed they meant to release her. “She is cursed,” her tribe leader said. “Shana,” said the elder son. “Are you sure? Little Shana?” Shana watched through the eyes of the skeletal bird. I don’t think I’m cursed. “If father says she’s cursed by the evil spirit, she is,” said the younger son. Her tribe leader and his sons walked quickly. Shana made the bird keep pace. It fluttered between tree branches on feather-less, muscle-less wings. “She attacked our father,” the younger son continued. That didn’t happen! Shana thought. Sagely, her tribe leader nodded. In his storytelling voice, he said, “Her eyes turned black as the void. She grew the fangs of a wolf and attacked me, snarling, with the strength of ten men.” I didn’t! “I’m just surprised,” said the elder. “None more than me,” said her tribe leader. He shook his head sadly. “But I have thought about it, and it must be done.” They were less than twenty feet from the entrance of the cave. “Yes, it’s time for the girl to die.”
Shana’s tribe was sixty-three strong, and they all loved her dearly. She was their treasure. They loved her because she was kind. Shana had never wished harm on anyone. As is such with people like her, she assumed that everyone else was just as kind.
JAMBALAYA 2016 But the fate of those who believe in the good of others is that they will be proven wrong: Her tribe leader was her grandfather. She’d gone to him with her worries—the voices and her strange powers. He had urged her into silence, and she had agreed. Her tribe leader was wise. But the dishonesty wore on her. She returned to ask if she could stop the deception. He had nodded seriously, thought about it, and then hit her with the butt of his spear. While Shana’s eyes sparked with stars and her ears rung, he tied her up and brought her to the cave. Shana believed she must have done something to deserve her imprisonment. She couldn’t imagine that her grandfather had acted out of paranoia or petty jealousy. If he deemed that she must wait in the cave, then wait she would. But the ropes were uncomfortable, so she called skeletal mice to gnaw through them. After a while, she got hungry. She left the cave to forage, then she returned. Currently, the cave was deserted, but it had not always been. There were bones nearby. Human bones, not of her tribe. Because she was lonely, she pressed her ear to the dirt and spoke to the bones. They never changed; they never remembered her from one day to the next. But they did answer her questions. They were from very far away. They spoke of a land on the other side of the ocean. Of the longboats they sailed. Of their metal weapons and tools. And of their great feast halls and the grand cathedrals of Britain. She listened, and she fell in love with their whole world. For five days, she lived in a dream—in a faraway fantasy. But now her grandfather had returned.
Shana turned her awareness to her own body. She didn’t even bother to return the bird’s bones to rest. They fell and scattered on the forest floor. Two things struck Shana: betrayal, and the lovely cathedrals that were going to be taken away from her.
JAMBALAYA 2016 There was nowhere to hide in the cave, so she raced to the entrance. Maybe if she was fast enough— Shana's grandfather and uncles were already there. She tried to slip past, but her elder uncle caught her by the waist. Struggling would be useless, so she cried a greeting and turned the grip around her waist into a hug. “You’re back!” she said. Her voice didn’t shake, her smile didn’t falter. “I have something to tell you. I am no longer cursed! The voices have left. Can I go back home? I miss everyone.” Shana smiled when she spoke, as she always did. Her tribe loved her for that smile, perhaps selfishly. The smile itself was flawed—crooked teeth, lopsided, too much gum—but the feeling it inspired was addictive. Shana’s smile made you feel as young and as uncomplicatedly happy as she was. “Of course,” said her tribe leader. Shana saw the truth in his eyes. One of his hands remained behind his back. “I was thinking of leaving,” Shana said. “Leaving?” “Yes.” Thud-thud-thud went Shana’s heart. “I’m worried— I’m worried the voices will come back. I don’t want to be a burden.” “That is kind. Look how sacrificing the girl is.” The tribe leader nodded at his sons. They gripped Shana’s arms. “Wait!” she cried. “I never did what he said! I never hurt him.” “I told you she would deny it.” “Please, you know me. I wouldn’t!” The younger uncle spoke. “If you never did it, then how did you know about it?” That moment condemned her. Guilt flashed over Shana’s face—for the bird, not the attack—but guilt nevertheless. “Hold her steady,” said her grandfather. Shana squirmed. She turned sideways and would have fallen if they hadn’t been holding her up. It was then she decided she didn’t want to die. Not even if her tribe leader decreed it. She didn’t fear death. She knew in her heart that it would be like traveling from one place to the next. But she wasn’t done with this place, and she wasn’t going to let it be taken away from her because of something she hadn’t done. The calling required finesse because the earth was knotted with roots, but the ground was soft and this came as naturally to Shana as breathing. They rose. Birds. Mice. Rats. Deer. Wolves. A single cougar. All held together by nothing but memory. Shana’s uncles released her. She made the skeletons rain petty mayhem. Her uncles shouted. They didn’t notice that the deer missed them by feet when they charged, or that the birds swooped circles around their heads, or that the wolves snapped only at air.
JAMBALAYA 2016 Shana called the cougar to her. It was missing a leg, but it remembered having all four. It paced fluidly, with its shoulder blades rolling, and came to a halt before her. Soundlessly, it roared, fangs bared. One of Shana’s uncles ran. The other tried to stab the beast. It was spectacularly ineffective. He ran, too. Shana used the exposed ribs for a hand hold and pulled herself, sidesaddle, onto the cougar. Her grandfather appeared from nowhere, stone dagger raised. The whites of his eyes showed. He screamed obscenities in their language. “You will not usurp me!” It was instinctive—the cougar reacted for the girl. Its paw sliced sideways, knocking the dagger out of her grandfather’s hand. Shana saw blood. Her heart stopped. “I’m sorry!” she cried. She knew that it wouldn’t be enough, so she held tight to the cougar and made it run. Fast. Far. Shana's limbs trembled as she held onto the cougar, her legs were beaten by the exposed bones, and her breath was jagged. The cougar came to the bank of a river. She thanked the bones, sent them back into the dirt, and settled herself onto the bank. Her stomach twisted with guilt. She felt as if she was going to be sick. She thought about her grandfather’s betrayal, her family that she had left behind, and the blood. She curled around her knees and sobbed over things irrevocably broken. Eventually, Shana started walking. She followed the river downstream, slowly, slowly, slowly. She did not see the old woman until she nearly bumped into her.
JAMBALAYA 2016 John Breerwood Southern Alms Annette loved the Gulf of Mexico between her toes. The stuffy church made her skin dry, so she rolled up her blue Sunday dress and tied it with a red ribbon just above her knees. The priest’s Latin was meaningless as always, and her father wasn’t there this time to make her stay. She scooted past disapproving faces down the pew and ran for the cypress doors, forgetting to drop her father’s silver dollars in the poor box as he instructed. As she pushed the heavy doors, she flooded the congregation with blinding, inviting light as if the very gates of Heaven had opened. The morning sun beamed across the choppy waves, and she raced across Sugar Kettle Road to the beach with her church shoes in hand. Seagulls circled above a distant sandbar along the shore. Softshells. Her stomach grumbled at thought of them fried. They only had a pot big enough to fry one at a time. It wasn’t the best pot, but it was all they had. Distracted by the refreshing feel of cool water whisking through her toes and thinking of a succulent fried softshell, Annette realized she had walked too far. Sugar Kettle Road ended at a scrubby brown marsh, where she would watch for blue herons and coots with her father. They never passed that point, even if they walked along the beach. When she asked him what was back there, he just answered, “Nothing worth worrying about anymore.” That morning, however, he stayed home, recovering from the shrimp boat accident. She waded along the shore, feeling slightly guilty. God was watching her now, she knew.
A cluster of oaks draped a dark canopy over a mansion upon a manmade hill. She had never seen a home so big, and she stepped on the beach for a closer look. The hot sand bit at her bare feet, so she scooted on the cool dirt. It was no longer a house, though; there were no people. The roof had collapsed. Behind the house, spears of sugar cane stabbed through acres of briars and blackberry bushes.
JAMBALAYA 2016 Sun and storms had stripped the white plaster from the columns, which were as massive as tree trunks, revealing crumbling red bricks. The wooden door lay warped on the porch, and a spider web had taken its place in the doorway. As she stepped near the porch steps, a copperhead jolted from behind the steps. She backed away from the grim house. A massive chimney rose from the nearby kitchen house. She walked inside. Grease thick as tar coated the once-white firebricks around the hearth. Cast iron pots hung neatly on the walls, one of which could fry a whole dozen crabs, she thought. Annette didn’t know much about money, but she knew they couldn’t afford a pot like that. And she didn’t know when her father could go shrimping again. She put her arms around the cast iron pot and lifted it, unhooking the handle. The weight overwhelmed her and it crashed on the brick floor, ringing like a boatman’s foghorn. God was watching, she knew, so she couldn’t steal. She felt coins jingle in her dress pocket. Setting her church shoes neatly on the ground, Annette slipped the coins inside down to the toe. She couldn’t lift the pot, so she dragged it to the beach, scouring a small trench down the hill. Perhaps the gulls left us some, she hoped, as she raced into the Gulf with wet cotton tugging her ankles.
JAMBALAYA 2016 John Doucet Epigrams MOURNING MOZART
Coffee makes the brain find The lost night of the mind: The dance, the sex, the wine— The nachtmusik, eine klein. MUSIC OF THE SPHERE International Astronomical Union, 2006 Its place undone In orbit’s night, Pluto’s not one And Holst was right. STAR-CROSSED "... that I should somehow, you know, do a Jedi mind meld with these folks and convince them to do what’s right." —President Obama, 01 March 2013 Opposition. Their provocation lingers, Wrinkling your well-ironed thought and phrase until The three cracked claws of your melder's fingers Tenderly press your face. Bounce back you will. NOTES ON FEEDING BATS IN CAPTIVITY —after Gates, W.H. (1938) Proceedings of the Louisiana of Academy of Sciences, Vol. 4, pp. 157-58. • • • • • •
Breadcrumbs soaked in buttermilk Soft veggies, kale, the lettuce ilk Fruit not-too-tart, unseasoned meats Crackers, cereals, starchy treats A bug or two—the bowel eases They most prefer the milder cheeses.
JAMBALAYA 2016 The Strip Club Breakfast Story Excerpt Daniel Angelo Monaco I go to strip clubs. I know that to the female members of my audience, this admission may sound, well, upsetting. In reality, this is the better of two options because when you’re a guy as ugly as I am, with as few social skills as I have and as little money as I possess, you either go to a lot of strip clubs or you admit that you won’t see a woman’s breasts in person all that often and then take up one of those creepy hobbies. You know the hobbies I’m talking about. The creepy hobbies. The kinds of hobbies that only men who have given up on female association enjoy. I’m talking about taxidermy, or survivalism, or that fucked up thing where you pin insects to foam core boards and then frame them. I honestly believe that my enjoyment of strip clubs is truly the lesser evil because at least when I go to a strip club I’m getting out of the house. Meanwhile, the only time a taxidermist leaves the house is so he can deliver his manifesto to a newspaper where it can be read by a heroic FBI profiler who is desperate to stop this madman’s reign of terror. Not me. I go to strip clubs and I know how to judge what makes a good strip club. I have a whole ratings system for strip clubs, like scorecards and stuff. If I wanted to, I could’ve taken Bob to a nice strip club, but since I was not in a terribly positive place, and because I was mad at Bob, I rounded up a couple of Bob’s friends and took those dudes to the rattiest, skankiest strip club I could find and I paid for a round of lap dances. Now for those of you who have never been to a gentleman’s club, allow me to explain a dirty secret: no matter what your local feminist scholar tells you, men are not supposed to enjoy strip clubs. Trust me. I’ve been to a lot of Strip Clubs. I consider myself a Malcolm Gladwell10,000 hoursexpert on the subject. Women of america heed my cry. Strip clubs are actually so dangerous to the male species that merely walking through the door to these places is a practice in self destruction that should be pitied instead of persecuted. Strip clubs are where a man goes to die inside. Don’t believe me? First there’s the parking lot, where you have to stop and tell somebody that you’d like to park. Usually there’s a parking lot fee or a valet fee and it’s like six bucks. Yeah, you heard me.They make you pay to use the parking lot.
JAMBALAYA 2016 Plus, the parking lot attendant is always standing in this brightly lit area that’s covered by six different cameras, and you know you’re being filmed so you have to cover your face or hide your head. Then there’s the bouncer, who cards you at the front and it doesn’t matter if you look fifty or fifteen. He will card you up front and glare at you while he does it. By the way, every strip club bouncer on earth is a tall, muscular guy who doesn’t need to go to strip clubs off duty because he’s swimming in poon during his private time, and there’s a better than average chance that he’s had sex with the prettiest girl in the place. So in addition to carding you, he’s also subtly judging your chubby ass. Next comes the cover charge, and there will always be a cover charge.You pay this cover charge to a really cute girl who sits behind a desk just inside the front door. This girl is always really hot but never gets naked. The really terrible strip clubs will deliberately hire a hostess who is hotter than the dancers so you get all excited to pay the cover charge and then leave immediately after you step inside. I’m not kidding. It’s a thing. And then there’s the inside of the strip club. Every strip club has the same dull purple, hot pink lights that pulse to whatever song is playing at that moment. The floor has the same darkcolored carpet that looks clean under dim lighting, but I assure you it is not clean so don’t touch it. You’ll sit down in a chair that is usually an armless swivel chair covered in red polyester or light brown pleather and you’ll sit at a tiny cocktail table with an ashtray and matches in the center. You can buy cigars in the strip club, but they will be really fucking expensive and not terribly good. For some reason these little cocktail tables will have two chairs, but unless it’s a bachelor party you will be sitting alone, I guarantee it. Strip clubs are not places to make friends. Another word of advice? Don’t sit up front near the stage. This area is known as Perverts Row. I’m not kidding. That’s what the strippers and bouncers actually call it. It’s an industry term and sitting up front at a strip club immediately marks you as inhuman, an animal who deserves to be exterminated. Once you’re seated in the back row out comes the Waitress, who is always a single mom with tattoos on her arms. She’ll tell you there’s a two drink minimum, which means you have to order two Bud Lights because it’s the cheapest thing on the menu. She’ll bring you your drinks, and you’ll nurse them for two hours to keep her from harassing you again. Next comes the money because if you forgot to bring singles for the dancers you will have to go to the ATM and Strip Club ATMs are practically a hate crime against the male species. On average, based on in-depth observations by me and other scholars in this field, Strip Club ATMs charge a fee that is four times higher than even the evilest, most soulless gas station ATM. In LA, I once used a strip club ATM that charged a nine dollar fee. I shit you not. Nine American dollars. So in summation, Strip Clubs are terrible places that victimize men from top to bottom. Women the world over should cheer the existence of strip clubs. These places are roach motels for the male ego, and even the least self aware man on earth typically leaves these places with a slight tinge of shame and regret. Strip clubs are places that make you appreciate real women, because real women suddenly seem kinder, and less expensive, by comparison.
JAMBALAYA 2016 Requiem Victoria Fannaly If I should die before you do, how well will you remember me? More as a loverâ€”or a friendâ€” or just as someone you once knew? Do not mourn my passing, my dear. Remember my life burned brightly. I did more in that very short year than I did in the first sixty. In the spring when sown seeds come up, when the oak trees begin to green, think then of me, for I'll be there. A kiss on your cheek, light spring rain. Remember me in summertime though you haven't yet known me there flower garden blooming brightly, a deep red rose in my dark hair. Will we see the fall together? Only passing time can possibly know. Zephyr winds whip wildly about us, dancing leaves call for us to follow Don't forget the cold winter months, when lust first reached its conclusion. Our fire burned so brightly, the cold seemed to us a mere illusion. Remember me laughing always. Put no dark flowers on my grave. A prayer for me in passing, when red roses on a trellis wave.
JAMBALAYA 2016 My Inner Sanctity Darlene Martin Eschete At peace within my inner sanctity, The breath of nature embraces me. Birds flitter about – silently. Butterflies are mingling with the bees, As the wind whispers in the trees. Oh, I feel like I’m home and free to just be – me! Suddenly, tiny feet tickle my nose. What is that? Do you suppose? My eyes cross as I strain to see, A purple dragonfly peering back at me! Instantly, I find myself in an alternate state of mind. A world of unworldly things – of the unnatural kind…
Gripping its wings, I hold on for dear life! Soaring above the trees.... Oh, what a sight! Whoosh, whoosh… up and down, all around… Slow yet fast, scary but fun, nature sounds. Snails were big like Ferris wheels! And bears honked like wet seals. Ant mounds were the size of circus tents! “Where are we going?” I wanted a hint! Time was no more… And space was flat, My heart beating like it was flyin’! Surely, I’d wake that sleeping cat… Or… Was that a lion?
JAMBALAYA 2016 Giraffe’s had stripes, and Zebra’s had spots! Monkey’s flew kites, and Tigers had polka-dots! Birds drank wine, and Gators ate cheese! What? Oh please! Give me that “stinky cheese!” I felt a tickle on my nose… Was it a bee? Awe, there he goes… It was the purple dragonfly, waking me… Ouch! Is that ants all over my pants? For real? Is that gator watching me dance? Oh really? Did that bird just poop on me? Wait… A snail is licking me! Nature, with all her creatures, has embraced me… In MY Inner Sanctity!
JAMBALAYA 2016 Mermaid Sightings Gail White Nobody ever sees an ugly mermaid. Only a fool could mistake a dugong for one. The Fiji mermaid that Barnum used to rake in the shekels from gullible crowds was only a monkey's shriveled torso knit to a mackerel's tail. A narwhal is not a unicorn. No one believes in an ugly mermaid. Surf the net for them and you'll find a host of sightings â€“ beauty that hides behind the sponges and coral fans. We want, O how we want to believe in the webbed hand on the diving bell, the bright tail flashing over a rock, the fishermen who are afraid to speak of strange bones caught in the net, because the salt is in our blood, and in the amniotic sac we still had gills. Our chance for beauty is in the genes we brought from the sea before we took a sudden lurch to sandy ground, to fur and tails that replaced our graceful silver fins. Our dreams and nightmares carry us beyond the African savannah to the tidal pools, the breakers' hiss, the blind shapes climbing the abyss.
JAMBALAYA 2016 Strange Ways Prologue: Incident at a Rest Stop on the 174 Daniel Angelo Monaco James “Jimmy” Bionel drove his Bentley Continental down the howling darkness of Interstate 74 at an unsafe speed. If you have never driven down a poorly lit Illinois highway late at night, the sensation is a bit like flying a plane while tripping on acid. The world becomes a long, dark blur and giant green highway signs hover in midair over the roadway. At first these signs seem helpful, advertising familiar places like Champaign, Bloomington, or St. Louis. But the longer you travel through this high-speed landscape, the signs become less helpful and more strange, with out of the way locations like LeRoy, Downs, and Carlock. Soon, you are so deep inside this midwestern abyss that you find yourself in a kind of dark purgatory, where no other cars exist and none of the names on those signs are familiar, assuming you see a sign at all. But Jimmy wasn’t really paying attention to those signs because nobody paid attention to anything after 1:30. This wasn’t much of an obstacle for Jimmy because the Bentley’s state-of-the-art navigation system had long ago replaced his attention span with a sweet, polite-sounding voice that informed him when to turn, when to keep straight, and when to feel generally superior about his place in society. This sense of superiority comes standard in most Bentley models, along with leather interior. Still, no amount of technology or superiority could compensate for a lack of sleep, and when Jimmy felt his eyelids grow heavy, he knew it was time to find some place to grab coffee. He tapped the voice activation button on his steering wheel and directed the vehicle to seek out the nearest rest area. The dashboard complied with a happy ding and after ten miles, a loud female voice spoke to Jimmy in a graceful British accent:“Bear left to exit the motorway.”
JAMBALAYA 2016 The Bentley’s navigation system had come with several voice options. Jimmy chose the British female because he thought it sounded sexy and he often tried to create an imaginary woman to match the system’s elegant voice. A brunette, he mused, with freckles and big tits. He imagined this gorgeous creature sitting in the seat beside him, smiling as she carefully guided him through the dark night and onward towards his destination. “Your destination will be on your left in twenty feet,” said the imaginary Girl Friday. Jimmy dreamed of her cherub face, her heaving breasts. He continued to build the specifics of his digital ingénue as the Bentley slid to a stop in the parking lot of Rest Area 25, two miles outside of Peoria, Illinois. And then, when the car came to a complete stop and the dashboard screen had flickered into darkness, James Bionel stepped out of his $200,000 car and into the American Midwest for only the second time in his life. He was out of place here and he knew it. Jimmy’s athletic, well-dressed frame simply wasn’t built for the pudgy flyover states. He shivered a little as he felt the full effects of fall weather for the first time in ten years. He suddenly thanked god that he’d decided to wear all three pieces of his dark blue Canali suit because the chill that travelled up his Italian-American spine was stiffer than what he usually experienced in downtown L.A. The wind blew again, tossing his hair in all directions, until Jimmy decided enough was enough. He reached into the backseat of the Bentley and removed his $1200 dark gray Ralph Lauren overcoat. and when he was certain he wasn't going to receive any ugly surprises from the Illinois weather, Jimmy locked the car and walked across the parking lot, towards the main building of the large highway rest stop. It was hard to believe that a rest area could be busy at a quarter-to-two in the morning, but in this case it was true. Jimmy walked past four other cars in the rest stop’s parking lot and his tired eyes looked them over as he passed. There was a second generation Toyota Prius, a kind of family crossover from Ford, some late model Subaru. And a fourth car, an ugly one. This vehicle caught his eye and he stopped for a moment to consider what he was looking at. It was a rusted out 1982 Chevy El Camino, with an ugly gray paint job and cracked rear windshield that had long ago been replaced by a piece of particle board. Jimmy could see rust across almost every visible surface and dents peppering every part that wasn’t rusted. It was a hideous vehicle, the kind of thing you’d imagine would be parked outside a homeless shelter or a junkyard. Just looking at caused his stomach to tie itself into a knot. He started to turn away from the car but stopped when he heard a loud rustling sound from somewhere inside the El Camino. Jimmy’s head whipped back around and for a moment he swore he saw the outline of something moving around in the El Camino’s spacious cargo area. His breath caught in his throat and he bit his bottom lip. For no good reason, Jimmy had an urge to get closer to this hideous shit mobile, squinting at it in the dim light of the parking lot. This felt like a stupid idea. He had no reason to get closer to this vile-looking rust bucket. He still had another hour of driving ahead of him and somewhere in the back of his mind he knew he should be walking inside the rest area to get a coffee or a coke.
JAMBALAYA 2016 Inside Out Terina McIlvaine Looking isn’t the same as seeing. Hearing isn’t the same as listening. Being able to laugh doesn’t mean you are happy. Crying doesn’t always mean you are sad. Having money doesn’t mean you are wealthy. Being poor doesn’t mean you aren’t rich as well. A chip on your shoulder, usually comes from a brick in your heart. Empty eyes show internal overflow of pain. Hugging someone isn’t the same as holding them. Saying “I love you.” is meaningless if actions don’t say the same. Curling into a ball usually means you need the world to open up for you Taking the first step to heal is the same as taking your last step out of your private hell.
JAMBALAYA 2016 You Can Gossip When You Own a Bar Sara Jacobelli New Orleans Late 1970s I.The Dead Bum Gina was part of a loose-knit tribe of French Quarter street kids called the Violators, who ranged in ages from twelve or thirteen to nineteen or twenty. Some had a wayward parent who worked in the Quarter, most were on their own. One day a new boy with dark curly hair ran up to her and said, “I’m Claudio. I’m from Italy.” He was only ten. “Ciao,” Gina said.“Piacere di conoscerti. I know some Italian.”
“Bourbon Street Bob and Speed the Pimp are having a feud.” Little Jimmy lit a cigarette as he and Gina walked down St. Peter. His father was Larry Fontaine, a former vaudeville and burlesque entertainer. Now, a down-on-his-luck doorman with a taste for Heineken. “Who cares?” “Bourbon’s not that big. They can’t avoid each other. Maybe they’ll have a shoot-out right in front of the 500 Club. Unless Speed moves his hookers and hustlers to Dauphine Street.” Gina stopped and stared at a bum lying on a stoop a few feet in front of them.“Is he dead? “I don’t know.All I smell is stale beer and stale piss.” “I think he’s dead.” His grizzled beard was graying, and his clothes were so timeworn they looked painted on. “He must’ve died drunk.Two blocks away from all that partying, and he’s just. Dead.” “We don’t want the cops bugging us. Let’s go.” They walked down the block. Jimmy turned and waved at the bum.“First dead guy I ever saw.” “Probably won’t be the last.” II.The Feud Bourbon Street Bob told anyone who would listen that he was going to kill Speed the Pimp. Gina told Curly the Carney while she helped out at his Lucky Dog cart. “You best stay out of it, kid. What’d I tell ya when ya first got to town, a sixteen year old runaway? Keep your nose clean, mind your own business. Like them monkey statues. See no evil, hear no evil, smell no evil.” “Speak no evil, Curly. Not smell. And I wasn’t a runaway. I was a walk-away. There’s a difference.”
JAMBALAYA 2016 “Lucky Dogs! Git your red hot Lucky Dogs!” Curly sat on his stool by his giant hot-dog shaped cart. “Well, it don’t matter now. Pimps, drug dealers, bikers, gangsters, drag queens, hookers, hustlers. Everybody’s always fighting. Just like the carnival. First they fight, then they start stabbing and shooting. You wouldn’t believe how many carnies got in a feud with someone and just disappeared. You never saw em again. You know when you can gossip, kid? Ya live long enough to be an old lady, own a bar. Ya get yourself a hubby who works off-shore, ya buy a bar, like that old broad Patsy owns the Pair-A-Dice down by the wharf. Then you can drink and gossip to your heart’s content. In the meantime, mind your Q’s and P’s.” “I better tell Little Jimmy to stay out of it. He thinks it’s a soap opera.” “OK, kid, watch my cart.” He took off his red and white striped jacket, motioned to Gina to put it on. “Ten bucks, and whatever tips you make. I need a break, gonna go get me a bottle of Seagram’s Seven and relax by the Moon Walk.” “This coat’s too big.” He put his cap on her head.“Don’t matter.And don’t just sit there. Hustle!” “Lucky Dogs! Git your red hot Lucky Dogs here!”
III.The Shoot-out The consensus among Bourbon Street denizens: Bourbon Street Bob and Speed the Pimp were both jerks. Doorman Larry put it this way. “It’s like this, kid. You can only piss people off for so long. So Speed’s a pimp, he pimps boys and girls. And he sells bunk drugs. A lotta folks hate him. And Bob sells drugs, he has kids do all his dealings.At least his drugs are good. In the scheme of things.” “Speed’s the bigger jerk.” “That’s what I’m saying. Now, I heard you was working the card games by Johnny White’s. Lemee tell ya, kid. You’ll make more tips, make better connections, running errands for the card games in three hours, than you would all night on Bourbon. Work them games, get them gentlemen their drinks and smokes.” Larry adjusted his shiny suit jacket, ran a comb through his wavy graying hair. “Keep your mouth shut. You’ll make some good connections, let me tell ya. No matter what they say, keep your mouth shut. Don’t be a smart-ass. Keep it copacetic. You’ll do all right, kid. You shoulda seen me in my show biz days, me and Jimmy’s mom. Did I tell ya she was a fan dancer? Taffy Castle was her stage name.What a looker she was.” Gina split and headed over to the Bourbon Steamboat. The shirtless, tight-jeaned Hustler Boys bought a pitcher of beer and joined her at the front table by the street. Lucas got up to play pinball when they heard the shots. Bourbon Street Bob shot Speed the Pimp twice. Speed died while reaching for his own gun. The pimply-faced teenaged drug dealers who worked for Bob ate French fries and resumed their air hockey game. The boy hustlers and the girl hookers who worked for Speed shrugged, drank beer and Cokes, popped black beauties and smoked Marlboros.
JAMBALAYA 2016 Fat Phil came out from behind the counter to watch the swirl of cops as the ambulance tried to snake its way through the chaotic crowds of clueless tourists. “Jimmy’ll be pissed he missed this,” Gina said. Claudio jumped up and down. “Just like cowboys! Malviventi!” She felt protective of him since he was only ten. His mother dropped him off on Bourbon Street a few months back. Gave him twenty dollars, said her new husband didn’t want kids. Once a month his mom would come to the Quarter looking for Claudio and give him a ten or a twenty. Gina spread the word that the pimps were not to touch him, he was off limits. He was proving to be smart and a good thief, so he had potential. The Violators looked out for each other. Gina ran errands on Bourbon Street, and she kept an eye on Claudio. Soon he would be eleven.
JAMBALAYA 2016 Prayer of Seasons Monique Jones When the white clouds gallop upon warm winds and azure skies, will you walk along the shore and gather the pieces of me? Pale and washed on wet sand, fragile form, tumbled under waves thunderous and unceasing render me to sand and silt. Do I fear the waves or the breaking down? Remembering that Fall is the dying time brittle brown, naked arms reach to catch the cirrus manes. Too high is HeavenI can only shiver and shed the last vestiges of my green and gold. Scatter me to the four winds and cover all with a snowy shroud. Hold me, while I learn to be still, Still.
JAMBALAYA 2016 The stillness of fallen snow the silence of distant stars as far away as promise and hope and memory glistening light reflecting, shimmering over frost and ice, still as the ring around the moon. Be Still. Listen the way the Earth listens for the whisper of the crocus; as the grass hears the tender song of mist and dew, the music of rain. Listen for the gentle footfall of Spring and the quiet certainty of a Voice that resonates in bones and blood change my name call me forth to this new season of my becoming.
JAMBALAYA 2016 Wilmer Hastings Mills (1969 – 2011): A Celebration of His Life and Work David Middleton In April of 1985 the first Fletcher Lecture in American Literature was held at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, Louisiana. The speaker was Robert Penn Warren, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in both Poetry and Fiction. Among the hundreds of people in the audience that night was a 15-year-old boy who had been born in Baton Rouge in 1969, had spent his childhood from ages 3 to 11 in Brazil where his father was an agricultural missionary for the Presbyterian Church, and then had grown into his middle teens near Baton Rouge on the family farm in Zachary -- land that had been worked by members of his family since the late 18th century. Little did that young man know, by his own later admission, but his life as a poet was about to be changed forever. So, years afterwards, was the life of a somewhat older younger man, then 35, a member of the Nicholls State English Department, who was also in attendance that night. This younger faculty member, himself a poet, had been heavily involved in the preparations for Warren’s visit. The 15-year old farm boy from Zachary and the 35-year-old faculty poet at Nicholls did not meet that April night in 1985. Only 17 years later, when the Zachary “plowboy poet,” as he was called, published his first book in 2002 did the older poet, by then in middle age, become aware of the younger one when Story Line Press sent him a review copy of Light for the Orphans, a first fulllength book of poems by a fellow Louisiana poet. The older poet was so moved by the powerful poems in the book that -- with the gracious permission of poet and editor Jack Bedell, who is with us here today -- he wrote a review of it for Louisiana Literature, a review that led to a correspondence, first by mail and later by email, that lasted for nearly ten years. The younger poet, as you will have guessed, was Wilmer Mills.The older poet, now 64, stands before you this afternoon.
JAMBALAYA 2016 Light for the Orphans was acclaimed as an extraordinary first book. Pulitzer-Prize winning poet Donald Justice praised the orphan narratives while former Poet Laureate of America Richard Wilbur noted the poems’ “striking phrases and happy accuracies” and “emotional density” and found in Wil’s verse both “pain and darkness” but also “a continual relief and gaiety as the right words are found.” Austin MacRae commended Wil for giving “a voice to others” and not being self-centered. MacRae called Wil “a deeply spiritual poet” who unselfishly “speaks to universal human experience” and predicted that Wil’s verse would last “For, in the end, unselfish works of art stand the test of time.” How did Wil come to write such poems? Wil has said that his decision to become a poet was a “gradual unfolding,” but if there was no single “youthful epiphany” as Wil has it, nevertheless, by his own admission, something like an epiphany did occur in April of 1985 when his mother, Betsy, took a somewhat reluctant 15-year-old to hear Robert Penn Warren read his poetry at Nicholls. Wil recalled “seeing that oak of a man stand up in front of grown people and read poems.” He said that “Warren’s poem ‘Audubon: A Vision’ particularly moved me. The painter, John James Audubon, had lived and painted birds only minutes from my family’s land in Louisiana. I had grown up hearing the name and knew that my ancestors would have almost certainly had dealings with him. The last section of Warren’s poem about him made me want to be a poet: ‘Long ago in Kentucky, I, a boy, stood // By a dirt road, in first dark, and heard / The great geese hoot northward. // I could not see them, there being no moon / And the stars sparse. I heard them. // I did not know what was happening in my heart.’” To this Wil added: “The end of the Audubon poem reads, ‘Tell me a story of deep delight,’ and this may be utter silliness but I have taken that as an exhortation as if given to me personally as a charge. It is my motto as a writer. I met Warren that night. He asked me where I was from. When I told him north of Baton Rouge, south of St. Francisville in an area called The Plains he said,‘there are good people there.’” Over the years both before and after Light for the Orphans, Wil’s poetry continued to appear in major national journals including The Hudson Review, Poetry, The Sewanee Review, and The Southern Review. Wil also won literary awards and was anthologized. By 2010 he had gathered his later verse into at least three possible collections for a second book. In February of 2011, Wil sent me for critique the typescript of one of these full-length collections, Arriving on Time. I could readily see that he was moving into a new, even more powerful phase of his writing -- often a sign of a major poet at work. Then, unexpectedly, Wil was diagnosed with liver cancer in May of 2011. A few weeks later, when further medical treatment held out little hope, Wil asked to be taken from Tennessee to his family’s farm in Zachary. He said, “I want to go home before I go home.” There, he was given a few precious weeks with his family and friends. He died at home in the afternoon of Monday, July 25th, at the age of 41. Wil’s Selected Poems was published posthumously in 2013, edited by his widow and literary executor, Kathryn Oliver Mills. Other works remain to be collected and brought into print.
JAMBALAYA 2016 After Wil’s death, the distinguished American poet X. J. Kennedy published “The Poems of Wilmer Mills,” a brief, moving tribute to Mills’ poems in The Sewanee Review: “Each one is like a coin of heavy gold, / Modest the denomination on its face, / Not meant to spend, a valuable to hold, / One that no common mintage can replace.” These qualities of immovability, weightiness, and value inform Wilmer Mills’ strongest poems, poems that simply ring true with those rare qualities of simplicity, depth, humor, and wisdom so often found in the very best poets of this or any other time. Wil is remarkable as a writer who looks primarily at other people and the world outside himself. There is something nearly universal in the appeal of Wil’s best poems with their undiminished sense of wonder about the joys, sorrows, and mysteries of the world and of the human condition. Wilmer Mills died young at 41. Did he die thinking that he had fulfilled his promise as a poet or did he believe that he had many more poems to write and much more to say? Given Wil’s views on providence, eternity, and time it is hard, for me at least, to guess whether he felt that he had been given enough time to do all that he had in him to do. God’s ways with humankind are sometimes inscrutable. However, Wil’s mother has told me, “Wil got his work done early” and “burned through life.” Wil’s poet friend Jeff Hardin also said, “Wil’s own life span, in our limited view, seems tragically short, but Wil would say that it was ‘appropriate’ for whatever God needed to accomplish through him. Like anyone, he wanted to live a long life, but he also believed in being obedient to God’s purpose for his life.” And, Hardin added, when both of them had unpublished books near Wil’s death, Wil reminded Jeff that “God’s really our only reader, the only one that matters anyway.”
JAMBALAYA 2016 However that may be, the presence here today of poets and poetry lovers -- family, friends, patrons, neighbors, and some of Louisiana’s most distinguished poets -- is strong evidence that Wil has written poetry of wide appeal and lasting value. In my own estimation, Wil is in the front rank of Louisiana poets and among the best contemporary poets of the South and indeed of America. And, as his widow and literary executor, Kathryn Oliver Mills, has written, Wilmer Mills was a “magical Southern gentleman of a poet” who “devoted himself to making a handmade life that was beautiful and full of meaning” and of whom it can be said,“his life gave shape to his art, and his art gave shape to his life.” How far in 26 years had that young man come, who, in 1985, at age 15, sat one night in an auditorium at my university, perhaps only a few feet away from where I was, and who, before the evening was over, had been fully awakened as a poet by hearing Robert Penn Warren read his poems. And when Warren read from Audubon: A Vision, his poem about an artist who once had lived and worked so near to where Wil was born and where Wil’s body was laid to rest, the great southern poet’s spirit surely spoke to Wil’s own soul: “Tell me a story of deep delight.” And the torch was passed. Some parts of this introduction are adapted from “’Singing the Pieces Back in Place’: The Life and Verse of Wilmer Hastings Mills (1969-2011),” my memorial essay on Mills first published in Modern Age, Winter/Spring 2013, pages 111-119. Permission to use previously published material is granted by Modern Age. –David Middleton
JAMBALAYA 2016 A Metamorphosis Victoria Fannaly I remember well the hungry early days, working to survive; Then the dark years when I slumbered trying very hard to revive. Locked in a cocoon of dying, struggling long to help my lover in a fight against the darkness, defeated by death - t’was over. I have emerged as from a long hard sleep, world changed before my eyes. Bemused, my folded wings unfurl then they lift after a few tries. The garden is alive with bloom— perfume does shatter my senses, so much to try, but where to start, my mind swirls without defenses. Reborn now without direction. So many things I need to do before time for my migration, reaching skyward so high and blue. Then nestled in the heart of God, I’ll find the peace that He affords. My wings folded tight in repose; my soul will enjoy His rewards.
JAMBALAYA 2016 The Wayward Shepherd Jae Le It was hot. Only in south Louisiana can it be hot at three in the morning. That sticky, nasty weather that will make you sweat just sitting on a park bench.The only saving grace was a gentle breeze coming off of the Mississippi River behind me. There’s nothing like New Orleans in August, where even at three in the morning the streets are full and the party is still jumping, if only you know where to look. Although it was hot, it was still a pretty night I was currently leaning against a post in front of St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square, watching people enjoy their beignets and café au lait. None of them were aware of the dangers around them. They did not realize the threats that lingered. Many demons are attracted to a city like this, where temptation is on every corner and in every bar. Of course, there’s always Las Vegas. I went once to track down a particular demon and no money in the world would convince me to go back. If New Orleans is where they go to hunt, Las Vegas is where they live. I can’t even watch CSI without getting chills up my spine. I pulled the sleeves up on my black leather jacket to check the time. Three o’clock is the hunting time for demons. That time when the world of the living and the world of the dead are closest to one another. That hour after closing time when people stagger home from the bar and make mistakes they think will make great stories some day.
It didn’t take long before I spotted him. He looked like any other high school jock that had been handed everything he ever wanted. He wore a polo shirt, designer jeans, and shoes that probably cost more than most people make in a week. He had an olive complexion with dark hair, gelled and spiked, and eyes that were even darker. He stood tall and looked like he could bench press a mule.
On his arm was a petite little blonde. Her look was classic with bright blue eyes and a pouty little mouth. She was beautiful with curves like a rally car track. She had herself plastered to his side, and his every move said he was there for one reason only. I followed them as they left Café Du Monde and made their way down St. Peter Street. They turned off at Royal Street and continued down Toulouse until eventually making their way to the Maison De Ville Hotel. I waited until they entered their room and positioned myself outside of the
door, waited for the screaming to start. I didn’t have to wait long. To my surprise I heard the guy cry out, yell and curse in a high-pitched voice. I shrugged off my jacket to better access my weapons and made my move. I pulled my Stoeger double barrel from the webbing attached to my back and blew the entire door knob off from the door. Even before the roar of the shotgun died I kicked the ruined door back. I dropped the Stoeger and pulled the two Ruger Vaqueros from the small of my back and leveled the revolvers at the demon standing before me. I had been mistaken. I had thought the male was the demon, tempting the young girl back to his hotel room. I wasn’t prepared when I came face to face with a full blown succubus from the Abyss. Her powerful veil washed over me, and it seemed as if I was looking at the most beautiful woman in the world. She was no longer the little blonde I had watched eat at the Café. I now realized that she had only seemed so ordinary because of the distance that had been between us. Now here she was all sensual curves and dark lashes. positively radiating sex. She was beautiful in a way I would never be able to explain. It wasn’t her looks or body, although they too were quite amazing. It was something more primal. Something in her reached into me and touched the basic instincts that all animals possessed, turned the libido up to eleven. All it took was a little concentration and I was able to see her for what she really was.
JAMBALAYA 2016 She stood there in all her horrible glory, her emaciated frame and sagging breasts. I was able to pierce her veil, to see the monster that she really was. Her skin was the color of fresh blood and her head was bald. Her mouth was like a gash that had were more teeth than was right for such a small space. They were horrible teeth, like those found in a shark. But the worst part was the eyes. It’s always the eyes. Where her eyeballs and eyelids should have been were nothing but deep black pits. And in those pits burned a fire, a fire that spoke of fever, suffering, and despair. I calmly thumbed back the hammers on my Rugers and moved between it and the innocent young man. I could hear him whimpering, pitifully behind me as I stared down the demon. Seeing that she could not sway me with her veil, she dropped it and the young man behind me started to cry. She continued to stare at me, tilted her head to the side like a dog who had found something interesting in the back yard. “I know who you are, Padre,” hissed the demon, in a voice that reeked of suffering. “You are well known to us of the Abyss. You are the man who made a deal with the devil and was surprised when there were strings attached. You are the man who sacrificed his world to save one soul. Do you think you can harm me with your mortal weapon? I am a High Priestess of the—” “Silence,” I said, with all the weight of the Holy behind my voice, and smiled silently as the demon was struck dumb. “I don’t care if you were Elvis’ private call girl. This is my city, demon, and as many of your kind have found to their displeasure, no demon hunts in my city fo long. As for my ‘mortal weapons’, I doubt seriously that you would even flinch if you were shot by a tank. But tell me demon, what do you think a .357 Magnum round dipped in holy water blessed by the Pope himself will do to your sunny disposition? Well, speak helispawn!” “I cannot be harmed!” screeched the succubus, “I am—“ I never learned who she was. The Ruger in my right hand bucked, and as the 158 grain hollow point blew through the wench’s misshapen head, the dark magics that held her in this world blew away. She dissolved before she could even hit the ground. “Go to Hell, skank,” I said grimly, before turning to check on the young man crying on the floor behind me. The poor bastard was shaking, crying like a three year old who had finally realized that there really was something living in the closet. I called 911and had them en route to the hotel for the young man as I walked out of the room. I retrieved my shotgun and duster and made my way down Toulouse Street, whistling show tunes as I walked. Another demon down, another innocent saved. Another good night for a damned man.
JAMBALAYA 2016 It’s Going to Happen Eventually Excerpt
Daniel Angelo Monaco Sometimes a lawyer takes a case because he really wants some publicity.You see those cases in the headlines all the time, a dime a dozen. Usually some psychopath butchers thirty people and cooks them in a pizza oven at 350 degrees. After this nut-job gets arrested, sure enough his fancy lawyer is on the courthouse steps with a grim expression on his face shouting to the cameras. Other times, a lawyer takes a case because he thinks it’s a quick payday. A guy gets smacked by a city bus and needs sixteen stitches, the legal equivalent of a lay-up. A lawyer sends a letter to the city’s attorney and then somebody somewhere cuts a check so fat it has diabetes. The check covers medical bills, a ride in an ambulance, and a modest sum is set aside for the poor struggling law school graduate who will surely use that money to pay off his crippling student loans. There wasn’t anything wrong with those kinds of cases because every lawyer from Clarence Darrow to Cicero has at one time stood on the courthouse steps or sent letters to bus companies. Lawyers liked money and prestige, so they worked hard for both. But Jimmy Bionel was not a typical lawyer, and when he agreed to meet with Jennifer Johnston and her manager, the main thought that passed through his brain was maybe she’ll have sex with me. Jennifer Johnston was one of the most physically attractive women in the world. She was Hollywood’s current “It Girl,” the newest blonde bombshell to step into the shoes of Marilyn Monroe. She looked like Aphrodite’s hotter sister and talked like she stepped out of a Rockwell painting. He wanted her, just like nearly every other heterosexual on the planet, and so on that particular Thursday morning Jimmy was running around his Beverly Hills office, shoving piles of unread legal documents back into his handmade mahogany desk. He wanted everything to be perfect. So when Amy, his assistant, broke the news of Ms. Johnston’s arrival over the intercom, Jimmy felt himself hesitate. What if she didn’t like him? What if he hadn’t done enough cardio this week? This internal crisis lasted thirty whole seconds, and he could hear Amy getting anxious on the other end of the line. “Should I send her up?” Jimmy could hear the indecision in the girl’s voice through the phone system.Amy had no idea what to do with important people. He immediately scrambled for his phone and lifted the receiver to his ear. “God no!” Jimmy whispered into the mouthpiece.“Give me ten seconds and then send her up.” There was a pause on the other end of the line. Jimmy could practically hear the dusty wheels in Amy’s small brain turning slowly.“Like ten seconds starting now?” Jimmy took a deep breath, resisting the urge to growl his next instructions. “No. Hang up the phone and then count to ten, like they do on Sesame Street, and then send her up.” There was a familiar crack on the line as Amy slammed the phone back into it’s cradle. Jimmy imagined his assistant was now pouting and fuming at her desk in the outer office. She was going to act like a kicked dog for the next seventy-two hours and Jimmy knew he deserved every second of the silent treatment.
JAMBALAYA 2016 His hard-on was now making him act like an actual hard-on. But Jimmy did what everyone in LA does, and he pushed his shame aside. He counted to ten in his head while adjusting his sixty dollar Calvin Klein tie. He used the tips of his fingers to gently straighten out the sports coat on his twelve hundred dollar Brooks Brothers suit. It was his power suit, his super hero costume, a gray three-piece that kind of looked like the one James Bond had in Goldfinger. With the rest of his ten seconds he examined his angular, pointed face in a small hand mirror and dragged a comb across his thick black hair. Then he slipped a pair of lifts into his ninehundred dollar loafers to turn his lumpy Italian 5’ 11 into a godlike Anglo-Saxon 6’ 1. As the countdown neared ten, Jimmy leaned against his expensive desk and grabbed an expensive-looking law book from his book shelf at random. The spine creaked because no one had ever opened it before. Moments later the gloomy clouds parted at the offices of Howard, Fine, Besser and Associates as Ishtar descended from the heavens and graced the mere mortals with her divinity. Jennifer Johnston walked through Jimmy’s office door. There was no point in describing her since because literary descriptions of angels were exclusively a matter for religious texts and bibles. But it would be accurate to say that in person Jennifer Johnston lived up to the hype. Every part of her body had the adjective “perfect” connected to it. Perfect breasts, perfect legs, perfect face, and perfect hair that was the color of freshly harvested honey and seemed to waft in the imaginary summer breeze that magically followed her around. Jimmy deliberately added a little base to his voice when he said “How are you ma’am? I’m James Bionel. How may I be of assistance?” “I’m Jennifer,” She said.“That book is upside down.” He looked at his hands. Sure enough he was holding his copy of Forensic Accounting for American Defense Attorneys upside down. He felt a fountain of blood rush to his face. “Enough small talk!” Jimmy shouted as he tossed the heavy tome across the room. “Let’s get down to business because, I, like all great men, prefer action.” Jennifer giggled, creating a sound that danced through Jimmy’s ear drums like refreshing spring rain falling through evergreen trees.“Oh, my sister handles all that business stuff.” “Sister?” Jimmy shouted.“What sister?” “Over here!” Her voice was sharp and had a nasally quality to it. Jimmy’s eyes reluctantly cut short their vacation at Jennifer’s face to find the other person in the room. She was standing at Jennifer’s left side, totally invisible unless you looked directly at her. There was no point in describing Laurel Johnston because literary descriptions of trolls were reserved for fairy tales and fables. But it would be accurate to say that if you woke up next to something as short, fat, and as unpleasant looking as Laurel, you’d probably quit drinking. The only part of Laurel that Jimmy actually liked looking at was her suit, a men’s pinstripe navy, probably bespoke and definitely from Savile Row. But the fresh mustard stain on the suit’s lapel made it clear she did not appreciate her suit as much as he did.
JAMBALAYA 2016 Laurel reached into her jacket and pulled out a bedazzled iPhone with a pink case and handed it to her sister. â€œJen, do me a favor and go play your candy game in the waiting room.â€? The actress accepted the phone and happily glided out of the room with a smile on her face.
JAMBALAYA 2016 A Love Song Victoria Fannaly My dark hair ribboned on your skin I reel in the wonder of you. An old song playing in the back mourns of lost love, but we are true. Still too new together to know if this is love or just desire. But thinking this could work for us, weâ€™ll wait and see what will transpire. Loneliness makes the mind age, so may we be forever young. When you no longer yearn for me, my name no more on your tongue. I will remember these tender first days, your warm skin next to mine, the passion you ignite in me, the lust as dark as heady wine.
JAMBALAYA 2016 Gabriel in the Garden Monique Jones Stretched out like an afternoon in August, he is penciled in hues of charcoal, smoke and ash against a background blooming in kaleidoscope colors verbena, geraniums, petuniasâ€” blossoms a riot of summer. Bees, oblivious, move with single-minded determination flower to flower. Hummingbirds flit and fight over sprigs of honeysuckle. Mockingbirds scold from high branches. But he sleeps, diminutive tiger, under gently nodding blooms of daylily only long whiskers twitching dreaming of the hunt, perhaps the smell of tender prey the taste of blood to curl velvet paws remembering
John Breerwood is an aspiring novelist, currently finalizing the draft of his first novel that is set in a dystopian future New Orleans. Native to the New Orleans area, he received a BA in English from Louisiana State University and a MA in English/Creative Writing from New Mexico Highlands University. He has published articles in Where Y'At Magazine, New Orleans CityBusiness, Louisiana Conservationist, Cigar Magazine, New Orleans Advocate, and Maine Brew Guide. John and his wife Madelyn recently moved to Maine, where he will be working as a beer writer and a brewer in Portland, ME.
Jack Caldwell, born and raised in the Bayou country of Louisiana, is an author, amateur historian, professional economic developer, playwright, and like many Cajuns, a darn good cook. Jack is the author of five Jane Austen-themed books. Pemberley Ranch, Mr. Darcy Came to Dinner, The Companion of His Future Life, The Three Colonels,The Last Adventure of the Scarlet Pimpernel. In 2015, he released the first four of a series of historical novels about New Orleans, titled The Crescent City Series. The Plains of Chalmette begins the series, commemorating the Bicentennial of the Battle of New Orleans. Jack marked the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina with three modern novels: Bourbon Street Nights, Elysian Dreams, and Ruin and Renewal. When not writing or traveling with his wife, Barbara, Jack attempts to play golf. A devout convert to Roman Catholicism, Jack is married with three grown sons. Jack’s blog postings, The Cajun Cheese head Chronicles, appears regularly at Austen Variations.
Ever since that fateful poetry contest in second grade, Dr. John Doucet has been a writer. The coastal Louisiana native has written thirteen plays set in the state’s history and culture and for them has won both the Louisiana Native Voices and Visions Playwriting Award and the Louisiana Division of the Arts Fellowship in Playwriting. He is the author of two collections of poetry, A Local Habitation and a Name: Poems of the Lafourche Country (now in a second printing) and the forthcoming A Grumble of Pugs: Epigrams. He also writes “Under the Scope,” a monthly column for Point of Vue magazine. In real life, he is the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Director of the University Honors Program, and McIhenny Professor of Human and Molecular Genetics at Nicholls State University. As such, he writes lots of scientific and technical stuff as well, but—not to despair—that's for a different writers’ conference.
Darlene Martin Eschete is an award winning poet, artist and photographer who enjoys writing about nature and life. She is a 1994 graduate of the Institute of Children's Literature and a 2009 graduate of the New York Institute of Photography. She has had several poems published in magazines and newspapers along with freelance photos/articles for newspapers. Darlene recites poetry at a local venue called, Heaven and Hell, monthly. When she is not writing, painting, sculpting or enjoying time with her family at her cypress home along the bayou in Bourg, Louisiana, you will find her hiking along one of the many nature trails found around south Louisiana, studying and photographing birds and wildlife.
Victoria Fannaly is the author of Ponchatoula Dreams and Ponchatoula Sojourn, both books of poetry. Her recent book Ponchatoula Automania deals with her husband's passion for antique automobiles and contains many trivia quizzes for old car buffs. She received first and third places in the 13th Annual Jambalaya Writerâ€™s Conference held in Houma LA, April 2, 2016. Her work has been published in a few Magnolia Quarterly publications put out by the Gulf Coast Writer's Association. She was born in Manila, Philippines, and grew up in New Orleans LA. A graduate of the Academy of the Holy Angels high school, she attended Loyola University and was a graduate of LSU Baton Rouge. She worked for IBM Corporation in the New Orleans, Metairie, Memphis and Baton Rouge branch offices, as well as the New Orleans district office. An avid gardener, she served twice as president of the Gardenettes garden club. She received honors from the Louisiana Garden Club Federation Inc. as a member of their Circle of Roses and received the silver tray Maude Viskell flower arranging award. She is a Tangipahoa Master Gardener. Assisting her husband actively in his used car and antique auto parts business, she also served three terms as president of the Florida Parishes Vintage Car Club. She continues selling antique auto parts online. Her original crochet patterns have been published in many craft magazines. She is currently studying watercolor and acrylic painting. She is an active member of Antique Automobile Association of America, Gardenettes garden club, Tangipahoa Master Gardeners Assn., NAIM Widow's Group Mandeville, Ochsner Golden Opportunities, Ponchatoula Chamber of Commerce, Red Hatters, St. Joseph Rosary Altar Society, Slidell Antique Automobile Association, Ya-Ya Supper Group, and Knights of Columbus Auxiliary, Folsom Native Plant Society, Creative Minds Writers Group, Friends of the Art Station, Gulf Coast Writer's Association. She enjoys ballroom dancing.
Viola Fontenot grew up a sharecropper’s daughter along the prairies and nearby bayous in the vibrant Cajun culture of Acadia parish, Louisiana. She spoke only Cajun French until she entered public school. Beginning in 2009, Viola, a student of the University of Lafayette’s Life Writing classes, writes her life stories and has presented pieces of them in class. She is the author of A Cajun Girl’s Sharecropping Years, the feminine voice of sharecropping . The book is currently being considered for publishing by University Press of Mississippi. Two of her stories were published in 2016 in the book Growing up in South Louisiana by Acadian House Publishing of Lafayette, Louisiana. Viola lives in Lafayette and participates every week at several Table Français.
Sara Jacobelli left home as a teenager to hitch-hike around the country. She survived in New Orleans by running errands for the doormen and strippers on Bourbon Street. She has worked numerous jobs including dishwasher, bus-girl, bartender, newspaper reporter, private investigator’s assistant, special education teacher, and librarian. She lives in New Orleans and writes fiction and nonfiction. Her work has been published in various places including Drunk Monkeys Literary Magazine, First Stop Fiction, Fiction on the Web, The Story Shack, Page & Spine, Postcard Shorts, The New Laurel Review, and The NewYork Times Metropolitan Diary. Visit her blog at https://capitareafagiolo.wordpress.com/
Monique M. Jones is a freelance writer who holds degrees in English and Biology from Nicholls State University. Her articles and essays have appeared in diverse magazines, newspapers and online venues, and her poetry has been featured in various literary journals and anthologies. When not tapping away at her keyboard, she can be found mountain biking, gardening, tending her small farm and wandering the woods. She lives with her husband and four children in Raceland, Louisiana.
Jae Le is a part time writer and full time Law Enforcement Officer with 8 years of experience. He is a husband and father of two and resides in Bayou Blue, Louisiana.
Terina McIlvaine was born and raised in south Louisiana. She has always had a passion for writing and has written a few freelance articles for The Houma Courier and online blogs. She recently self-published her first novella “Twisted Fate” and is currently working on putting together a collection of her poems and additional works for future publication.
Until his retirement in June of 2010, David Middleton served for 33 years as Professor of English, Poet-in-Residence, Distinguished Service Professor, Alcee Fortier Distinguished Professor, and Head of the Department of Languages and Literature at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, Louisiana. He was made Professor Emeritus at Nicholls in January of 2011 and Poet in Residence Emeritus in 2014. Middleton’s books of verse include The Burning Fields (LSU Press, 1991), As Far as Light Remains (The Cummington Press [Harry Duncan], 1993), Beyond the Chandeleurs (LSU Press, 1999), The Habitual Peacefulness of Gruchy: Poems After Pictures by Jean-François Millet (LSU Press, 2005), and The Fiddler of Driskill Hill: Poems (LSU Press, 2013). Middleton has also published several chapbooks of verse the latest of which is The Language of the Heart, (Louisiana Literature Press, 2003).
Daniel Angelo Monaco is a former video journalist, failed actor, and current graduate student. He moved to Louisiana six years ago from Los Angeles and he still has trouble pronouncing words like "Atchafalaya". He likes king cakes, hates Mardi Gras, and doesn't understand why they cancelled MST3K. If you enjoy his work, please free to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org so he can hear your feedback. If you didn't like his work, feel free to email someone else at random.
Along with listening to the voices in her head and the stirrings of her heart, Karen Rush draws much inspiration from watching people grocery shop. With her husband Jim, she enjoys hiking The Rocky Mountains and fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. She’s crazy about her own family and the familial energy they exude. She believes in an afterlife, frozen Snickers Candy Bars, and that everyone has a story worth telling.
Gail White is a Formalist poet whose work appears regularly in such journals as Measure, Raintown Review, and First Things. She is a contributing editor of Light (www.lightpoetrymagazine.com) and a two-time winner of the Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award. Her poetry collection Asperity Street, was published in 2015 (and Kelsay Books has just published Catechism: Poems with cats). exhibit at the She lives in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, with her husband and cats.