Airborne, T-Jean’s big sedan flew across the main highway, landing on a shell road like an airplane coming down wrong. He had to find his cousin Floyd before the little girl was lost. The car hydroplaned over dips filled with rainwater, blasting muddy showers over the hood. T-Jean was afraid of the brimming roadside canals, so he watched instead the white frame house up ahead in the big field, and in a minute he swirled into the farm road that was also the driveway, his tires spraying shells into the rice ponds. He braked, leapt from the car before it fully stopped, and charged up across the gallery and through the screen, almost knocking down Tante Sidonie.
“Floyd, where he’s at?” T-Jean asked, his breath coming in little gasps.
Tante Sidonie adjusted her bifocals to look at him. “You T-shirt is wet as a dishrag,” she said.
“Where’s Floyd? The Texas man got his HT girl.”
She had to think for one second who the Texas man was. When she remembered, she yelled, “All the way to the tree line.” She followed him out the door with her hands on his back, pushing.
T-Jean gunned his big Ford and drove straight back until the shell drive turned to mud and rainwater. When the car settled down to its frame, he was by the old tractor shed, and he headed for it, his boots blasting the sloppy mud. Without breaking stride he ran up onto the only machine left, a heavy International M, retired because it was too old to pull and ate gas by the drum. One yank on the starter ring and the worn engine rolled twice and fired, T-Jean slamming it in first gear and taking out the rotten back wall of the shed, the big rubber cleats throwing boards in the air behind and then biting ground as the machine found high gear and waddled up on top of the mud track toward the tree line, where Floyd’s big air-conditioned John Deere was stopped in the water. T-Jean stood on the seat and yelled Floyd’s name over the roaring tractor, his voice cracking with effort, but he was too far away. Floyd was a short, blue-jeaned island off at the edge of two thousand acres of swamped rice field. It was five minutes before T-Jean got there.
“What’s wrong with you?” Floyd asked. He wanted to be calm. Since he’d turned 30, he’d tried to cool down. He had a ten-year-old daughter to raise.
“The man from Texas, he came when your mama’s at the store and got Lizette.”
Every feature of Floyd’s face shifted, a movement of flesh terrible to watch.”You mean my wife’s new boyfriend?”
“Yeah man. Grandmère saw him. She sent me. She’s waitin’ by the house.”
“Not 20 minutes.”
“His favorite way to Texas.”
Floyd cupped his elbows in his palms, curled his upper lip, and sniffed his mustache, the whole parish road system lighting up in his mind, an aerial view of black lines against a green, watery screen. He batted the other man on the knee, wheeled, and leapt onto his hulking tractor, starting up and rolling the balloon tires north out of the field and into a trash woods of briars and saplings taller than his machine, exploding through in a scream of machinery and a rattling black column of diesel smoke. Trees snapped under his tires like breaking bones. A mile through all this was Mrs. Boudreaux’s little white house, closer to the main road than Tante Sidonie’s, if he indeed could come out of the woods in her back yard. Floyd adjusted his cap and pushed the pedals of the frantic machine with his thin legs, trying to think, trying to stay calm. He didn’t know where his wife lived. She was still his wife because once the priest married you, you were married forever, in spite of a spiritless divorce court and a Protestant judge and a Texas lounge bum in snake-skin boots. Floyd thought of Lizette, her moon face and dark hair. The girl was scared of her mother, who had beaten her with a damn Chinaball branch for playing with her makeup. But she was smart, smarter than Floyd, the kind of smartness that sometimes got you in trouble with people. He hoped that she would not sass the Texas man. Not him.
“Chick-chick-chick-chick, venez id. Mangez-ga.” Mrs. Boudreaux scolded her white hens in a tone she once used with her six children at breakfast. She broadcast the chicken scratch over the dirt of her backyard, then turned for the steps of her small cypress house which shone white with rainwater. A terrific noise in the woods startled her chickens, and they raced ahead of her under the house. She watched Tante Sidonie’s big green machine mash three willow trees down into her yard, then she saw Floyd climb down from the cab and step over her one rose bush. He was sad looking, she thought, like his grandpere with the big mustache. When Floyd was a baby and she held him in her lap, he was like a tough little muscle made hard by God for a hard life ahead. He was not a mean man, but determined enough to always do a thing right when it counted. It was rough, raising a young daughter with no help, having a wife who ran off with a cou rouge. She clucked her tongue at him when he came over to her, a pretty man, little, like she liked them, and dark from work.
“Hey, Misres Boudreaux, is T-man still in the service?”
She hitched her chicken scratch bowl up under her bosom. “What you need his car for, you?” Why else would he come here through the woods like that? she thought.
“The Texas man, he came stole Lizette just now. I got to catch him. T-Jean’s grandmère is waiting to tell me.”
She looked past him toward the rattling tractor, but not seeing anything. A fear crept up through Mrs. Boudreaux’s stomach as she saw the dark-haired Lizette ruined by outlanders, dragged off to the dry plains of Texas she imagined from cowboy movies. She wondered if her mother would bring her to Mass or to the stations of the cross during Lent. She knew Texans had some kind of god, but they didn’t take him too seriously, didn’t celebrate him with feast days and days of penance, didn’t even kneel down in their church on Sunday.
“My old Dodge can’t go fast, but you can use T-man’s car if you can crank it,” she told him.
She watched Floyd run over to a plastic-covered hump next to the barn and pull bricks and tire rims off so he could get to T-man’s primer-painted Z.The key was in the car, and it started immediately, sounding hot and mad as a bee in a bird’s beak. In ten seconds he was on the blacktop road, and Mrs. Boudreaux imagined her house as a white speck shrinking in his rearview. He disappeared onto sugarmill highway, and she heard the exhaust storm as he accelerated toward his house three miles away where she imagined that T-Jean’s grandmère was standing in the tall grass by the mailbox, leaning against her walker, her faded cotton dress swinging at her ankles.
Potato salad. I’m going to make some potato salad and then something with gravy to pour over that and then some sweet peas. I got a deer roast in the icebox. I could put some garlic in that and make a roux. She was always planning meals. Three a day, if not for her husband, then for her children who lived in the neighborhood. Her grandbaby, T-Jean, had asked her to stand by the road and tell Floyd something. What was it? Why was she standing out in the mist? Then she remembered Lizette. What would that poor baby eat for supper?
Can she get turtle sauce piquante in Lubbock? And T-Jean’s grandmère thought of the gumbos Lizette would be missing, the okra soul, the crawfish body. How could she live without the things that belong on the tongue like Communion on Sunday? For living without her food would be like losing God, her unique meal.
She heard the approaching blast of a car and the cry of brakes as Floyd stopped next to her, driving something that looked like a dull gray space capsule on wheels. He asked her what color the Texas man’s car was, and she remembered again why she was there. She began to talk in her creaky voice, “Ey Floyd, bebe, comment ça va? Ah, it’s a big man what come up you driveway wearing a John Wayne hat, a skinny man straight as a railroad with big tall boots. An’ Lizette, she was crying she wanted to take a suitcase, but he pulled her in the car like this.” Here she cranked up a skinny arm, a bony right angle.”This is what her arm was like.”
“Mats, what kind of car was he driving?” Floyd banged the backs of his hands on the steering wheel.
“Oh yah. It was a green Chevrolet truck. A old one. At least I think it was that. Me, I don’t know one from the other. I ought to have a garde d’soleil on my head in this weather.” Floyd revved the engine, getting ready to tear off, but she reached over the rail of her walker and put a hand on the window ledge.”How you gonna ketchum?” Her face darkened as she leaned down to Floyd’s window. He told her quickly, all the while staring along the blacktop. Ah. He would take the farm roads and pass up Eunice and two other towns and catch him at Poteau.”Look,” she told him, “take this. I pulled it off the dashboard of my Plimmet.”
He took a plastic statue of St. Christopher from her spotted hands.”Grandmère, the Pope said St. Christopher wasn’t for real.” He glanced at the magnet on the bottom.
T-Jean’s grandmère gave him a scoffing look. “If you believe in something, then it’s real. The Pope’s all right, but he spends too much time thinking about things instead of visiting people in grass huts like he ought.”
Floyd stuck the statue on the dash. “There.”
She make a poking motion with her knobby forefinger. “Turn him so he sees the road.”
Floyd twirled the plastic. “Comme fa?”
“Mais, oui. Hey, Floyd?”
“The Texas man.”
She smiled widely, wrinkles chasing around her face like ripples on a sun-bright pond.”Bus’ his ass.”
The parish had just blacktopped the farm roads, so he drove hard, afraid to look at the speedometer, feeling for safety through his tires, feeling from the sway and swirl of rubber for the point at which the car would slip off the asphalt and pinwheel out into the green blur of a rice field. The image of his daughter, Mary Lizette Bergeron, her pale face and dark hair inherited from her Cancienne forebears on his side, appeared on the shimmering road head. He saw his daughter growing up on the windy prairie in a hardbitten town full of sun wrinkled geezers, tomato barbecue, Pearl beer, and country music, away from her blood. There’s nothing wrong with west Texas, but there’s something wrong with a child living there who doesn’t belong, who will be haunted the rest of her days by memories of the ample laps of aunts, daily thunderheads rolling above flat parishes of rice and cane, the musical rattle of French, her prayers, the head-turning squawk of her uncle’s accordion, the scrape and complaint of her father’s fiddle as he serenades the backyard on weekends, vibrations of the soul lost for what? Because her mama wants her too? Her mama, a LeBlanc gone bad, a woman who got up at ten o’clock and watched TV until time to cook supper. Who learned to drink beer and smoke dope, though both made her throw up the Jew things she ate. Who gave up French music and rock and roll for country. Who, two years ago, began to stay out all night like a cat with a hot butt, coming in after he left for work on Tante Sidonie’s farm. Who disappeared like that same cat would, leaving him to rock on the porch in the evenings wondering whether she was alive or dead, kidnapped for the nervously pretty brunette thing she was, cut-up in the woods, or worse, cowboy dancing in some bar out west laughing at him with all the cous rouges she thought she loved. Six months ago she called and asked him for Lizette. He told her to come home. She laughed so loud he thought he might hang up the phone, open a window, and hear that keening laughter threading in from the west over the bending heads of the rice plants. Then she told him she would send the Texas man and that he’d never find Lizette in a place as big as Texas.
Floyd’s black eyes were shiny and small, his mustache as dark as a caterpillar. There was not one ounce of fat in his 145 pounds though he was fed by Tante Sidonie, who had already loved her husband to death with her dark gumbo. Floyd drank beer and made noise with his friends on weekends, spent his extra money on his daughter, her clothes, her Catholic school, her music lessons. Everyone in the community of Grand Crapaud knew he had good sense and would do a thing as soon as it needed doing. They knew this because he never hit a man when he was down, the grass in his yard stayed cut, he washed his car, and there were no holes in the screens of his house.
T-Man’s Z seared the asphalt on the straight road south of Highway 90, spinning between rice fields swollen with steamy mirrors of rainwater. After two panic stops at intersections, he reached the turn-off to the north, blistered along for two miles and cut a smoky bow-bend onto 90 west toward Texas, looking for the truck.”What kind of man would drive a green truck?” he said aloud. He checked his watch and struggled with the math until he figured he should be close, unless, of course the Texas man had taken another route to fool him. But he felt in his bones that the cowboy, who used to drive a cement truck on this route day in and day out, would try to escape him this way, this road.
He had gone but three miles, skimming the potholes at 90, when he saw the truck, a 3/4 ton model with steel mesh across the back of the cab. Through the window he could barely see the top of Lizette’s head on one side of the cab and the Texas man’s broken-brim hat on the other, not a real cowboy’s hat, just a dance hall hat. He passed them up blowing the horn and motioning them to the side of the road. In his rearview, he saw the truck move onto the grassy shoulder, and Floyd smiled. It was easy, he thought. He got out, and the Texas man got out. They came together, and Floyd realized that he was much smaller than his wife’s new boyfriend. He looked down at his own Red Ball boots and then over at the reptile splendor of the Texas man’s footgear.
“You must be the coon-ass,” the cowboy said. He had a nasty way of holding his head tilted off to the side with his mouth belled out a bit to the left like he was used to drooling on himself. Floyd decided that even if this guy would be a Cajun, he would be an asshole.
“I want my daughter back,” Floyd told him, looking past at the pale, wise face of Lizette in the truck. She leaned out the window on her side.
“Daddy, I want to go home,” she said. “This man talks funny.”
“She’s a-goin’ to where she belongs, with her mama,” the cowboy said.
“No, she’s not,” Floyd started for the truck. The Texas man grabbed him, punched him in the mouth, and Floyd went down. He came up swinging, striking the other man in the jaw, but after a flurry of counterpunches and two sharp kicks from a set of pointed boots, Floyd found himself on his back in the roadside mud staring at a new set of storm clouds coming up from the Gulf, listening to the green truck screeching off into the flat distance. He sat up feeling his head spin and thought it best to rest a while before trying to drive. A car slowed down, and a farmer asked him if he needed help, but he waved him off. Then another car came along and pulled off onto the shoulder. It was a 20-year-old Dodge driven by Mrs. Boudreaux. In the front seat was T-Jean’s Grandmère, who pushed open the door with her tiny hands. He got in and sat next to them.
“You caught ‘em, and he beat you up,” the older lady said, running a cool hand over a lump on his forehead.
“Mais, that about sums it up.”
Mrs. Boudreaux, who still had on her stretch jeans from the chicken yard, leaned over to look at him closely.”You got to catch ‘em, Floyd.”
“I’ll start in a minute.” His head spun like a pirogue caught in an eddy.
“Yah,” T-Jean’s Grandmère began, “you got a bump on the googoon that’s gonna make you wreck for sure. Me and Alida will drive after him.” She tried to see over the dash to check the traffic.
“No, no. I’ve got to drive fast.”
Mrs. Boudreaux clucked her tongue thoughtfully. “It’ll take an airplane to catch him now.” She and Floyd looked at one another instantly.
“None Rene,” they said in unison.
Rene Badeaux sat on his front porch steps patching a hole in a diatonic accordion with super glue and a piece of oilcloth snipped from an old table covering. He pulled the bellows, and the instrument inhaled a squawk.”Merde,” he said. He tried to play “Allons a Lafayette,” but on the fourth note the little patch blew off and floated toward the road like a waxy leaf. Then a C button stuck. He shook his head, thinking that he should have played a waltz until the glue dried. Looking up at a plane taking off from his strip he remembered that the black fellow he had hired last week as a pilot was going 30 miles north to spray some worms. He waited until the drone of the engine had gone over the tree line, and then he popped the C button loose and laid the bellows of the old Monarch against his great belly and played, spraying the reedy music around the yard like nutrient for the atmosphere, himself breaking into whiny song.”Mon coeurfit mat. . . .” he sang, himself a windbox of lyrics playing for his own amazement.
Floyd was sitting next to him on the step before he saw him. That was one thing about Floyd, he was a quiet man, saying only what needed to be said, not yammering all sorts of bullshit when he came up. And then he said what needed to be said to his uncle. He told him about Lizette.
None Rene had sung so many sentimental songs so badly over the years that he had become a tender man. Every woman he knew was an Evangeline bearing some great sorrow in life, and now he imagined his grand niece dragged off to live among lizards and rock and only Mexican accordian music. How could she bear to stay there without the buzz of a fiddle and the clang of a triangle in her pretty head, the love songs sung through the nose?
“Please, None,” Floyd was saying, his little eyes shining with need in the late afternoon light.”You know what I’m talkin about. You know what to let me do. I can fly good.”
“You could call the police,” Rene teased.
“Louisiana police? Give me a break, None.”
Rene rubbed his gray stubble and rolled his eyes toward the plane shed.”Lollis took the good machine.”
“Even a bad plane can beat a pickup truck,” Floyd said with that smile that isn’t a smile but a trick with those little dark eyes.
None Rene was waiting for that smile that wasn’t a smile. That’s all. He wasn’t hesitating for a minute. He remembered that Floyd was still famous in the region for installing an ancient DC-3 engine in a big biplane, and when he got that Pratt-Whitney Twin Wasp tandem radial engine in the sky, it screwed his homemade canvas plane through a cloud like a windmill, like the engine was twirling the wings instead of the propeller, and straight down he came into a rice paddy. When None Rene and his brothers got to the field, there was just a gasoline slick on top of the mud and nothing else. They dug Floyd out with their hands and boards torn from a fence. His clothes had been ripped off by the concussion of the crash. Three brothers at once had their fingers in his mouth digging out a pound of mud so he could breathe. They pinched clay out of his nose, washed it from under his eyelids, cleared it from his ears with twigs. When they put him on the toilet that night at the hospital—mud and six grains of rice.
In eight minutes they were in the sky, Mrs. Boudreaux and T-Jean’s grandmère watching them through the windshield of the old Dodge. The biplane burbled off toward the west, following Highway 90 at two hundred feet.
It had seemed the thing to do at first. The tall bony man with the long neck, she had never seen a neck like that, with a big bump in the middle, he came into the house without knocking, took her by the arm and said “Let’s us go see yore mama.” She could smell the raw leather of his gaudy belt. He would not let her pack a stitch and when she protested, he jerked her along the way you pull an animal out of a hole, and her arm still hurt. She asked him where he was taking her and he said “God’s country,” which made her wonder if he was an Arab terrorist, though she didn’t think Arabs had red hair and yellow freckles up their arms. She had ridden along hoping for the best, watching the fields full of blackbirds and puddles fly by the truck’s windows. Then her father had stopped them, and she had screamed when she saw the tall man knock him down and kick him, and kept on screaming when the Texas man got in the truck. He hit her then, a bone-hard backhand to the mouth, a striking out that she had never felt before, and her teeth went into her lip and stuck. But the pain and the blood didn’t bother her, just the flying scent of his hand, the pasty tinge of cigarettes which made her think of her mother, lying on the sofa smoking one after another, staring past her at the television, always the television. She looked back at her father as the truck tore off toward Texas, wondering when he would get up. They drove by little wood-and-tin towns, rice elevators connected by bent and rusted railroads, and she felt an empty-hearted flutter when she saw the sign that said Texas was a few miles ahead. She knew then they would pass out of the land of her blood and into some strange, inevitable place, into what must happen sooner or later. She looked over at the man in the checkered shirt, glanced at his pearl buttons, bent over and spat blood on the floor mat, looked between her knees at the blood on the floor and thought of her mother again, closed her eyes and said a Hail Mary, opened her eyes and said a second Hail Mary, but stopped after “blessed art thou among women” when she saw a crop duster fly under the phone wires and across the road about a mile ahead. The plane looped and rolled over, coming back under the wires again, as though the pilot and his passenger were practicing for the air circus. There was a barrel roll, another loop, a pass over the truck, and then the plane disappeared, swallowed up by a field of tall coastal Bermuda. She looked out of all the windows, but the plane was gone. She settled down to watching the straight strip of narrow highway threading through open fields now, fields with rows freshly plowed for cotton or soybeans, some experiment the rice and cane farmers were constantly trying, those dogged Labats or Thibodeauxs who had owned the land for more than 200 years.
When Lizette looked west again, she saw a movement out of a low cloud, and the same plane came down over the road a mile away, flying toward the green truck, coming lower and lower until its wheels were touching the highway behind a sedan which sped up as though it were a bug being chased by a hawk. When the sedan blew past, the Texas man slammed on the brakes because the plane was taxiing now, taking up both lanes and the narrow shoulders which sloped down into twelve-foot canals topped off with the morning’s rain. Lizette began to bounce on the seat, but only a few times. Her face was rimmed with a brassy border of pain. She watched the cowboy take off his hat and place it on the seat next to her. Putting his flinty face toward hers, he told her not to move an inch. He got out, and she was glad to be rid of the smell of him, whiskey and cigarettes and some mildew-smelling aftershave.
Her daddy and uncle climbed down out of the plane, her small daddy and her old and wobbly None Rene. She knew the Texas man would beat both of them up and throw them in the canal, and she began to cry all at once with a fierce suddenness that startled her. Her father and uncle had to see her, and then it would be all right. If they did not see her, they would be beaten to pieces, so she blew the horn. She became angry when they wouldn’t look, and then, as she thought would happen, the freckled, long-legged, foreign thing took a swing, knocking the soft Rene to the ground. Her father came on swinging, but in only a minute the Texas man had him down and rolling on the ground. None came back up in front of the truck and fell on them both, and all three fought, her relatives taking a beating.
A little traffic began to back up behind the idling plane and in the westbound lane too. A five-ton truck pulled up behind the Texas man’s vehicle, and two men in coveralls got out to watch the brawl. The rolling and grunting battle went on and off the blacktop. After a good five minutes None Rene fell away and breathed on his back like a fish, his huge belly heaving. Floyd yelled and sat down, holding his hand between his legs. The Texas man tried to get up out of the mud, but Went down on one knee and rested a while. Lizette blew the horn and tried to get someone to look at her. In the corner of her eye she saw a puff of silver smoke by the driver’s side door, and she heard a tapping. Looking down she saw the top of T-Jean’s grandmère’s head. Opening the window she reached down for the old woman’s hand and bawled. The woman looked up from her walker.
“How did you bus’ you mouth?” was all she asked.
“The Texas man did it,” she whined.
T-Jean’s grandmère lowered her head and worked the walker ahead of her like some sort of field machine, and when she got to where the Texas man was still down on one knee she raised the aluminum frame and poked one of its small rubber feet an inch into his eye socket. The Texas man roared, stood up and fell back into a muddy rut where he wagged his head and cried aloud in pain.
“You don’t come to Grand Crapaud and take no Bergeron child to drag off to noplace,” she scolded, threatening him with the walker. She looked around at the fields, the thin highway.”This child belongs with us. She’s got LeBlanc in her, and Cancienne way back, and before that, Thibodeaux.” Her shapeless print dress swelled as she gathered the air to tell him more. She pointed her walker off at the horizon.”You see that tree line two mile over there? Look with you good eye.
The Texas man, one bleeding eye held shut with his left hand, obeyed.
“Them tree, they used to be right there, across that ditch. Thibodeaux boys cleared all that with axes. With axes. Live oak and cypress with axes. Two hundred acre.” She swung around to look across the road.”Over there.” She pointed into a rice field, in the middle of which an oil well pump drifted up and down. None Rene rolled up on one elbow with a groan and followed the line of her walker.”Before the Thibodeaux was more Thibodeaux living in a house made out of dirt.” She stamped her walker into the mud and turned on the Texas man, giving him such a look that he held up his free hand.”What you got to say, you what come to steal a Bergeron baby?”
“Yeah man, what you got to say for yourself?” asked one of the two men who had walked up from the five-ton truck. Lizette saw that they were twins dressed in identical gray coveralls, fellows with dark, oily curls, crooked noses.
Floyd picked up his head and laughed. “Victor. Vincent Larousse.”
“Floyd, baby. Qu’est-ce que dit?”
“Tex stole my 1’il girl and then broke my hand with his head.” Floyd stood up, still cradling his hand against his work jeans.
“Shut up, all you crazy Larousse,” T-Jean’s Grandmère told them.”I got to hear what he’s goin to say to me.” Her small, white head bobbed like a fishing cork.
The Texas man rocked back in the mud a bit, a rill of brown water beading over his thighs.”I’m a-goin’ get in my truck, head down the road, and when it’s time, I’m a-goin’ come back and get that little girl for her mama.” He looked over at Mrs. Boudreaux who was leading Lizette along the shoulder of road toward her Dodge.
T-Jean’s Grandmère slammed her walker into the mud again. Turning to the Larousse twins she asked them if they were still bad boys over in Tiger Island. Vincent spat between his teeth at the Texas man, who flinched. He chucked his brother on the shoulder and they walked back to their utility truck which had Mouton’s Scrapyard painted on the doors in orange paint. Two cutting torch rigs sat in the truck, and the twins put on goggles, ran the gauges up to 80 pounds oxygen, 15 pounds acetylene, and walked backwards to the front of the Texas man’s truck pulling gas line behind them, the torches hissing blue stars in their hands. When they cut the hood off the truck, the Texas man began yelling for the police.
Floyd looked at the little circle of farmers and truck drivers that was forming around the scene.”You gonna tell a policeman you stole a little girl that was given me by a judge? You gonna tell him you punched her?”
The Texas man, who was climbing out of the rut, settled back down again, watching the Larousses burn off his fenders, the torches spitting through the thin metal as though it were paper.
“My truck,” he cried, still holding his eye.
“Hot damm,” T-Jean’s Grandmère said. “Them boy is still bad, yeah.”
The Larousses cut the bumper bolts, the motor mounts, the frame, transmission bolts, and rolled large pieces of truck steaming into the big ditch where they disappeared. Three men and five women in the crowd cheered. In ten minutes they cut the frame behind the cab and rolled the bed and the cab into the canal as well. All that was left on the side of the road was a puddle of oil and a patch of singed grass. The twins rolled up their lines, zeroed their gauges and walked back to the Texas man. The one who had spoken the first time, Vincent, smiled slowly.”Mats, anytime you come back to Louisiana, Floyd gonna phone us,” he said, holding his palm up and pointing with his middle finger.”An’ unless you drive to Grand Crapaud in a asbestos car, you gonna wind up with a bunch of little smokin’ pieces shoved up you ass.” Vincent gave him a little salute and followed Victor back to the truck where they washed their hands with Go-Jo, pulled two Schlitzes from an ice chest, and climbed into the truck to wait.
T-Jean’s Grandmère gave the Texas man a long look, turned to walk off, then looked down at him again.”You, if you would’a went off with her, you wouldn’t have got nothing. Some things, you can’t take. All you would get is her little body. In her head every day she’d hear her daddy’s fiddle, she’d feel okra in her mouth. She’d never be where you take her to.”
Floyd began walking with his back to Mrs. Boudreaux’s car, and None Rene limped over to the Texas man handing him a parachute.”Come on,” None said softly, with the voice he used to call a chicken from the coop before dinner.”I’ll take you somewhere.”
“I got to get to a hospital,” he moaned. “That old lady like to kilt me.”
When everyone was loaded into the bobbing Dodge, Floyd pointed Mrs. Boudreaux’s own Saint Christopher statue forward and began to drive with his good hand. Several men turned the plane at a right angle to the road so it could roll over a culvert into the field where None Rene guided the balloon tires in the furrows. The machine splattered along until it gained the sky in a furious storm of flying mud.
Floyd drove his group west, not east to Grand Crapaud, and everyone in the car was silent. In a few minutes they pulled to the side of the road in front of the state line marker, a rough-cast concrete slab shaped like Louisiana. Floyd turned off the engine and put his arm around Lizette, kissing the top of her head, right where her fragrant hair was parted.
“Why we stopped here?” she asked, looking at the flat fields around the car. After a few moments a plane moaned over their heads at a hundred feet, crossing into Texas, and curving rapidly upward to ten times that height. It did a barrel roll and Lizette giggled.”Is that None and the cou rouge?”
“Yes, baby.” They all watched through the front windshield as the plane ascended into Texas, kept watching all that leaden sky until the little wings banked off to the south for homeland, beneath them a distant silken blossom drifting down and west on a heavy Gulf breeze.