Saturday, February 11, 2012

Hurricane Tide

Hurricane Tide

Me and Smiley taken that little old pirogue made of marine
plywood and started putting out lines to hold her in the

We knowed we would be there from can til can't cause that's
what Thibodeaux said it would be like. Storm tide. Sho'
nuff hurricane.

Bad juju.

They call Smiley by that name - call him out his name -
because you never see him smile, no, hell, no. I don't
hardly know what his right name was. Never heard nobody
call it. I just woke up one morning with my head on the
galley table when we was laying at Fourchon and there he was
sitting in the barber chair in the wheelhouse sound asleep.
This was when Jean Baptiste was rigger. He hired him on
Grand Isle.

So we shrimped together for three years before that storm
come along and I never really got to know him. It don't
work like that. It ain't fishin' to get too chummy, man.

She's a top line boat - high liner. Super slab, steel hull,
refrigeration plant, flash freezer, keep her shrimp bagged
and ready to sell when the market gets right.

Thibodaux says he figures he's got to run the diesel all the
time to keep her pumped out and keep her up, why not stow
his own shrimps?

I throwed in with him a long time ago on a half share and
made more money the first season that I'd made sharing up
full on fuel, ice, groceries and gear for the past two

White shrimp. Gulf shrimp.

Hell of a business.

So me and Smiley were rowing around with these coils of line
tying up to the trunks of trees in the bayou - trees
standing out in the water, cypresses. I was paddling and
Smiley was paying out the line and tying bowlines around the
tree trunks.

Thibodaux was hollering at us on the loud hailer, telling us
how he wanted the lines criss crossed, sprung, like they
call it. She will do a little dance - dance like a
hypnotized elephant waiting for show time - one leg, then
the next, then the next when she reaches the limits of that
line and gets "sprung" to the limits of the opposite.

"Y'all muddafucka don't s'posed to put dat line dere, no!
Y'all don't be on no vacation. Y'all get y'all ass in

He never was able to say anything in a normal tone of voice,
at least, not when he's busy.


He no fuss you, no. But he sho' nuff sound like it all the

That's okay. I always did like money.

So when she started in to blow, I wasn't all that sorry to
be where I was at. We had plenty of coffee and cold beer,
lights, good radios - no problem.

At least until dawn of the second day when the radio said
the eye was headed straight over us. That's when Mr.
Blanchard hollered from his boat on the radio to look over

Out in the bay, I counted seven water spouts. You know,
twisters made of water, columns of green and bluish white
water twisting like hell and coming down the wind at us.

She pitched and yawed and raised all kind of hell, dancing
and carrying on like a voodoo queen, but the lines held even
though the trees were bent double one direction until this
dead calm came and the air turned all yellow and funny.

Birds started to sing and chirp a little bit and we all
smiled at each other. Somebody started picking up the cards
and poker chips off the deck where they had gotten thrown.
I swept up the pieces of a broken ashtray and the cigarette
butts that got thrown on the deck from before.

I remember George Jones was warbling and playing his guitar
on the radio. He sounded like he was coming through from
another dimension, singing to us from another planet and
another time.

When she started to blow again, the water just started to
show some whitecaps, then the trees began to sway, this time
in the opposite direction.

By the time they had bent double, we all looked at each
other and realized that Smiley wasn't nowhere on the mess
deck or in the wheel house. He wasn't in his bunk, and he
wasn't in the engine room.

Smiley was gone.

Solid gone.

She rose up to the point where the lines we had tied around
the tree trunks were buried under that angry green water.
Just the tops of the cypresses showed. The storm tide -
hurricane tide - was getting held up against the bank and in
the bay by the hard winds blowing onshore.

It blowed the rest of that day and all night before we could
get back out in the pirouge and get our lines back.

When we started back down the bayou, an old boy running a
crew boat he had tied farther up the line come by with
Smiley's body lashed down in a grocery box on the back deck.

He throwed the blanket aside and asked Thibodaux if he had
ever seen him before.

"Yeah, I seen the fool befo'. Hell, yeah. He still don't
be smilin', no, hell, no," he said.

We laughed, but there was no humor in it.

"We found him all up in the branches of a tree way up the
bayou by my house," the crewboat captain said.

Thibodaux had to send the Coast Guard guy to his brother-in-
law's office to get Smiley's right name. He was the only
one who knew it because he used to make out his check and
his tax paper.


No comments:

Post a Comment