• Fraser du Toit

Bayou Boogie


Photo by Blaque X: https://www.pexels.com/photo/silhouette-photography-of-trees-near-water-1096038/


Jonah Jericho sat humming a senseless ditty as he labored in the morning sun. His hands sticky from the hot glue he smeared onto the inside of his tub. The bayou burbled nearby as his sweat dripped into the bucket between his legs.

“Gonna be a mighty fine tub,” he said.

He had lived his whole life by the swamp, but never had the capital to afford a boat of his own. That was until Jonah noticed that his washtub resembled a boat. Jonah ran to the general dealer that same day, brandishing what little money he had like a torch before him. Glue was cheaper than a boat, after all.

The sound of an outboard motor shattered his peace. He looked up from his work to see the approach of the Tucken clan’s boat. They had lived across the way from the Jericho clan since before the bayou burbled, or so it was said.

“What ya got there, Jonah?” Septimus Tucken called from the stern of his brand-new speeder.

“Never you mind, Tucken!” Jonah replied as he continued his work.

“Looks like you wanna float that old tub,” Septimus said, “gonna catch your death out there if your boat-making matches your fishing. Gonna make a fine gator-snack!”

“You keep to your side of the bayou, and I’ll keep to mine, Tucken,” Jonah said.

Septimus’ laugh prompted his three sons to follow suit. They jeered at Jonah for a while before growing bored with his silence. Finally, Septimus grunted and spat a wad of tobacco into the water. His eldest son started up their motor, and they disappeared around the bend.

Jonah’s ears rung with their words as he slapped the last of the glue onto the tub. His face was flushed red, but his resolve remained undampened. The tub would float, and it would float well!

He waited a few hours for the glue to dry before dragging it over to the water’s edge. If he had made a mistake, he would be losing more than his pride. Mama Jericho would be mighty peeved should he sink their only tub. Jonah cast the thought away as he hesitantly pushed the tub over the edge.

His tub hit the water with a splash. Tense moments passed as he checked the seals.

“It floats!” He cried with a jump.

The tub bounced on the water as he let go of it. He grabbed it again before it could float away. This was the moment of truth; would it hold his weight?

Jericho grabbed his fishing pole and clambered into the tub with all the grace of a falling brick. The tub rocked violently, but otherwise held its buoyancy. He scanned the seals and seams before letting out an elated yell.

“Ha! Can’t keep a bayou man off the bayou!” Jonah cried.

Another set of eyes watched the spectacle from just beneath the water’s surface. Jonah’s triumph seemed comical from this perspective. This other watched the tub drifting further into the stream, noting the distinct absence of a paddle on board.

Jericho cast his line out and sat back with a contented sigh. He pulled his straw hat down over his eyes as he settled in for an afternoon’s fishing. Mama would be so proud when he brought home a fat catfish.

The other kept pace with the fast-floating tub as it meandered around the bend in the bayou. Jonah resumed his merry humming as he waited for the tell-tale tug on his line. When it came, it was much stronger than he had anticipated. The rod nearly flew from his grasp as the line whizzed through the dark water.

Jonah’s hat tumbled over the side of the tub as he sat up, straining. The tub dipped deeper where he braced his feet and began moving rapidly towards the thing on the line.

Before the line snapped, Jonah caught a glimpse of what he had hooked. The thing vaguely resembled an alligator in coloration and a human head in shape. Scaly ridges ran all along its scalp and down past the gills on its neck. Its massive black eyes were coated in a filmy layer. Jonah could have sworn he saw the thing smiling at him before disappearing back beneath the murk.

The tub rocked as the rod snapped back. Jonah flailed wildly to maintain his balance in the unbalanced tub. His fingers turned white as he gripped onto the tub’s edge.

Something struck the bottom of Jonah’s tub just as it rose high in the water. The man tumbled backward with a muddy sploosh.

*

Septimus Tucken watched Jonah’s empty tub float by as he made his way back home. They’d had an unsuccessful day of fishing, bagging only a single small catfish and a fistful of crawdads.

“Looks like we underestimated that Jericho,” said Septimus Junior.

“Looks like the fool gone and lost his tub, is what I see,” Septimus Senior replied.

The other watched them move over to the tub and lift it out of the water. It followed them curiously as they set off down the bayou once more.

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