Louis E. Bourgeois lives on a wheat farm in North Mississippi. His latest
book, OLGA, was published by WordTech in 2005. Currently, he is completing
a story collection entitled The Gar Diaries.
The Hound in the Tree
Vernon and I slipped out the back of the school and uncovered our pellet rifles from a heap of damp leaves. Those nuns were a bitch to get away from but we managed it just the same. We walked slowly to the back of the woods, shooting whatever we saw. Vernon had to his credit one gray squirrel and a good size thrush. I had two blue jays and a small dove. I was jealous of Vernon’s squirrel.
We saw him walking and quickly scuffled on the wet morning ground to hide in some bushes. He was a tall man carrying an inert floppy eared blood hound. We watched him walk for a long time and tried our best not to move even though the gnats and mosquitoes were eating us up from head to toe. The man wasn’t exactly old, but he wasn’t young either. I had the sense that he’d seen us but he didn’t show any signs of it. He finally stopped walking and put the dead hound in the hollow of a huge black oak tree. The dog would barely fit and the man had to struggle hard to push the entire dog into the tree trunk. When he was finished pushing the dog down into the tree, you couldn’t see any of the dog at all, not even his amazingly long ears. The man stood in front of the tree for a moment and whispered what must have been a prayer. Then he bowed his head and made the sign of the cross and turned and began walking back the way he came; he did not look down toward Vernon and I, where we were biting down hard on our tongues so as not to scratch our gnats and mosquitoes bites.
We both trembled, because we knew that the man knew we were there even if he didn’t see us.
Wayne and I stood on the sea wall overlooking the lake. We were barely old enough to know each others’ name, but I knew what birds were and I knew what cars were, as they passed over the interstate bridge, but I had never seen a fish. The wind blew right through you and it was the first cold weather I can remember and Wayne just stood there somehow knowing this moment was about to happen, even though there was no way he could really know but I could see it in his face right before the water broke thick and something blindingly silver and as long as a good size skiff cut the surface and crashed on top of the water several times before disappearing into the deep. Of course, now it’s easy to say it was a tarpon, but Wayne and I didn’t know that then and we ran back toward the fishing camp as if the fish in the lake was Hell incarnate, and fear made a home in our hearts for a long time after.
A Letter to Joe Gomez
In shop class, you couldn't draw a straight line. You always turned the wrench in the wrong direction, and you ruined every piece of wood you put your hands on. You were truly hated, even by the best of us. Your thick frame, plastic glasses, your sticky origami black hair, your out of date colored shirt and polyester britches, and that smell. What was it exactly? Ammonia and car grease?
Your mother was fifty when she had you. She thought you were a tumor at first, but this didn't stop you from entering the world. Not at all, it was the only attention you ever received. I had to walk the same dreary school hallways too. On Fridays, when I passed by, you were the only one who would be eating in the enormous cafeteria. The nerve! I think even the black ladies who ran the place didn't like you. They were always whispering behind your back. How sad. "To eat alone, and in our cafeteria. Shame itself!" Then there was the time, out by my grandmother's place on Bayou Sauvage when you pulled down your pants and took a dump right off the wharf. What an image you left me with on that cold October morning.
When I saw you again last year, you had finally graduated from cop school at the age of thirty. You showed no confidence, not even a little pride in knowing that you could kill us all now, legally, given the right circumstances. We still hate you, even after all this time. I've been meaning to ask you something for quite a while, Joe Gomez: if you shouldn't have been born, why do you go on living?