I am a teller of stories in many genres. They have appeared in Shotgun Honey. I have several stories in the 2020 and 2021 BOULD AWARDS ANTHOLOGY available on Amazon. A series of Revenge stories appear in the YELLOW MAMA EZINE in 2021 and 2022. My story "Bourbon and Bitters" appears in the 2021 Tomorrow and Tomorrow Anthology "Ghosts". Y
I am a teller of stories in many genres. They have appeared in Shotgun Honey. I have several stories in the 2020 and 2021 BOULD AWARDS ANTHOLOGY available on Amazon. A series of Revenge stories appear in the YELLOW MAMA EZINE in 2021 and 2022. My story "Bourbon and Bitters" appears in the 2021 Tomorrow and Tomorrow Anthology "Ghosts". You can read my poetry in The Delta Poetry Review and the Five=Two Crime Poetry Review.
There are three things that Southerners are adamant about. First, we love our families, even though we continue to refine Webster's definition of 'dysfunctional'. Second, we love food, preferably fried, but boiled in spices or served raw with adult beverages will do too. Finally, we love legends, tall tales and small stories, preferably passed on from one dysfunctional family generation to another while sharing fried, boiled and raw food and cold libations. My stories rise like the fog and mist along empty highways at midnight, or in crowded bars in big cities, or in the cities of the dead, or in fields around antebellum mansions or gator infested bayous. And, like the old, yellow cur that roamed the main street of every small town in America, the people, some a long time dead, are waiting to tell us their stories of the whimsical, fantastical, comical, criminal and mystical situations that make up the human condition. And so I invite you to meet them and share their stories to help the magic to continue. And soon you too will realize that you can't outrun your blood or the old, yellow cur.
When I am not writing I am spending time at home in New Orleans with my husband, our two cats and the friends and family that have made my life "The Stuff Dreams are Made Of!"
Riding with the Hogs
Cover Art by Marisa Fife
Viveca Lindfors Carmouche moved into the Book/Snack Store that was present in every airport of any size. Steering clear of the line of weary travelers holding gigantic plastic coke bottles and small bags of chips or oversized candy bars she headed to the back of the store to the books and magazines display.
The Mobile, Alabama airport’s display was a carbon copy of book store layouts around the country: the bestsellers in fiction and nonfiction were prominently displayed on the main portion of the back wall. The hardback copies, and the “just released in paper” copies, sat next to each other, arranged from top to bottom starting with the #1 book and working down to #10. The problem was browsers who didn’t always put them back in order.
Two women in their thirties were standing in front of the paperback offerings. The taller of the two held a book out to her companion.
“Have you read this yet? It is hysterical. Since we are on this monolithic flight, we need something to read. This is really great. And since we have to change in Atlanta to get to Chicago this would be a perfect read for you.”
The woman made it sound like they were headed to Alaska and not Atlanta.
“I do not like raunchy books or plots full of sex.” The shorter woman sniffed at the proffered book.
“Madge what in the hell are you talking about? This isn’t raunchy and the only sex mentioned has to do with wishes that never came true. I do not understand you.”
“Well, what are they doing when they’re Shuckin’ Clarise?”
Madge’s traveling companion stared at her in disbelief.
“What do our daddy’s do when they come in from the oyster beds all day Madge? And when you and I were working the oyster bar at the BPOE Hall on the weekends in high school, please tell me what we were doing? Because if what we have been doing all this time is having sex, I need to send a letter to the newspaper.”
“Well, we don’t say Shuckin’.”
“Fine, then get what you want. I’m getting the new thriller and since this is now in paperback, I’m buying a copy for my mama.”
Clarise held up the offending book, smiled at Madge and headed for the cash register. Madge started to follow but turned, picked up “A Shuckin’ Good Time’ and furtively followed her friend.
Viv watched them go and then turned and picked up the paperback copy of the book that had bothered Clarise. After twelve weeks as number one on the best seller lists her publisher had released A Shuckin’ Good Time in paperback, She smiled to see the cover replica of Mr. Parlonge’s five foot tall acrylic oyster shell with luminous pearl still looked great. The book had brought a much needed influx of tourists to Pelican Bayou, Alabama and several new businesses had opened.
But now Viv’s editor was on her for the next in the Tales from the Crossroads series. She was struggling for a new group of people whose lives would catch the attention of the reading public.
Just as Viv was lamenting that her grandmother, Grand Lena Carmouche’s passing had cut off the steady stream of gossip for Viv to use she received a letter. A woman who had been close to her grandmother growing up and had kept in touch when she moved to Florida sent an article about a town called Fish Head Bay on the Florida coast of Gulf of Mexico.
The article was in a magazine devoted to all things southern and all things having to do with hunting and fishing. It wrote in graphic detail about a plague of Biblical proportions that was threatening the very existence of this quaint village. The headlined had a photo of a huge, ugly looking tusked creature staring angrily at the camera. It seemed that the village of Fish Head Bay was being overrun by wild hogs and the bad press was threatening the town’s main source of income, big game fishing.
The Chamber of Commerce touted the town as one of the best fishing resorts in Florida and the perfect place to search for Tarpon, the great Silver Kings of the gulf waters. But its proximity to the inland swamps was drawing the hogs into the town proper. The mayor noted they were adopting a battle plan to attack the problem but wouldn’t say what it was. The story struck Viv as perhaps a perfect topic for the next book.
So, two hours after watching Madge and Clarise carrying their books off to their gate for Atlanta, and an additional hour and half drive from the Tampa airport Viv’s rental car crossed over an old, dangerous looking bridge that connected the spit of land known as Fish Head Bay to the swampy marsh of the mainland.
Viv stopped at the Chamber of Commerce, housed in an old Dairy Queen, and using the visitors guide she found the “Silver King Inn”. It was located on the main street, all three blocks of it. Pulling up in front of the inn she noted six stray cats strolling or lolling about the boardwalk on the other side of the street.
The cats had settled near the local seafood warehouse where the fishermen brought their catch each day. The smell from old crab traps, trawl nets, salt water and recently caught finned and shell fish wafted out to Viv and the cats.
Taking her bag out of the car she looked up at a huge Tarpon hanging over the entrance to the inn. Viv judged it to have weighed at least 250 pounds. Closing her eyes, she could feel the tug of the spoon as the giant took it and could see the silver scales shine in the sun as the fish cleared the water three feet into the air. She had done her share of Tarpon fishing. Even though most fishers now used the “catch and release” method the memory of the excitement of outwitting and outfighting the giant fish into a boat was enough to make her smile.
“Well, young lady I’d say from that smile on your face that you have landed a Silver King at some time.”
Turning Viv saw a short, sun tanned man smiling at her.
“Yes, I have. This one looks to be about 250. Right?”
“Right, you are and a good eye you have on you. Are you going to stay at the Inn?”
As Viv nodded the man eyed her more carefully.
“You don’t look like you have come for the fishing and we don’t have much of a beach. What do you plan to do, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“Not at all. I’m a writer and I read about the problem you are having with wild hogs invading the town. I thought I would come and do some research on it. Have you been troubled by them? Is anyone doing anything about them? Is there someone I could talk with?”
“You sure ask enough questions to be a writer. But you aren’t from one of the tabloid papers come here to report we have aliens living in the swamp with the hogs, are you? We have enough problems keeping the tourist business up without any wilder stories. But if you want to know what’s going on and what we are doing about it you have come to the right man. I’m Travis Bixley the mayor of this fine town.”
He took a bow and then smiled up at her as he escorted Viv into the small lobby of the Silver King. Its décor looked much like the set in Key Largo and was about as old. Grand Lena would have loved it. After seeing that Viv was given the best room in the Inn, she agreed to meet the mayor in the afternoon for sunset and drinks.
The best room turned out to be on the second floor with a view of the bay and the gulf available from a small wooden balcony that the proprietor assured Viv was safe to sit or stand on. It was also the best room because it was on the far side away from the seafood warehouse and its “authentic” smells.
She unpacked, showered and checked in with her mom and her editor. She almost dialed her home in New Orleans but reminded herself that she and Joe had decided to end their ten year relationship. So, there was no one there to answer except the cats and they weren’t speaking to her since she had left them with the cat sitter again. That was one crossroad that she didn’t plan to write about.
At the appointed hour Viv came down the stairs into the lobby and saw the mayor standing at a makeshift bar with two other men. One man was about the mayor’s age and height and was clearly a tourist that had been out fishing. He was lobster red and filthy with sweat and salt, but with the look that only comes on the face of someone who has done battle with something bigger than himself and won.
“Wait till Eunice sees these pictures. She won’t believe it, no one will. You say he was over a hundred pounds, right?”
The other man was tall. His black hair and olive complexion made his azure blue eyes sparkle. He wore an amused smile and from his clothes and build it was clear that he was one of the local fishing guides.
“Well Mr. Talbot, you had a Tarpon that was at least 150 pounds. And your 40 pound Wahoo is nothing to scoff at either. We are going to be sure that you get plenty of pictures with it while you decide whether to send it Pfluger’s to be mounted or cleaned to eat. Your choice.”
“Boy Mr. Castro, I am going right upstairs and get Eunice so she can see it and decide. But that Tarpon, he was something. When he took to the air with that silver flash. I just couldn’t hold him. But, next time!”
Talbot was shaking his head.
The mayor joined in.
“Like I told you Mr. Talbot in Fish Head Bay ‘All that Glitter’s is not gold’.”
The three men laughed and as the neophyte fisherman passed her the fishing guide caught Viv’s eyes. She could feel the appraisal going on because she was doing the same.
“Oh Ms. Carmouche, I got so carried away with the fish stories I almost forgot our meeting. This is Duke Castro our main big game fish guide and this is…”
“Viveca Lindfors Carmouche. Best- selling novelist and lover of all tales big and small coming from the crossroads of America. It is a pleasure to meet you. I loved A Shuckin’ Good Time.”
“Duke, is that a nickname?”
“Actually, no. My father loved western movies and my mom loved big band music. So, they compromised and named me Duke Wayne Ellington Castro.”
“As you can tell from my name my grandmother was big into movie stars too, thus the Viveca Lindfors.”
“Are you here to write another book? I wouldn’t think our little town would have much in the way of action to interest a writer?”
Castro smiled down at her and Viv noted mentally that not many men she knew were tall enough to do that. Of course, Joe was and then she remembered that didn’t matter any longer.
“Actually, I think that Fish Head Bay has a great story to tell. I was sent an article about your hog infestation. It said the town was planning to take unique steps to fix it but didn’t say how. I thought perhaps you planned to pipe them into the gulf like lemmings or snakes?”
They laughed as the mayor took her arm and suggested they head down the street to the Alligator Gar Bar for a drink and a snack. As they walked Castro explained how the hog population had gotten out of control and the real threat they posed, including crossing the bridge at night to threaten the local pets and citizens.
“We have the same hunting rights as most every other area where they are out of control but haven’t been able to attract enough hunters to make a dent in the population.”
Castro showed the way into the bar and out on to a deck that would provide a perfect view of the sunset. Drinks ordered the conversation continued around the various efforts and plans that had been tried and failed to get the hogs under control.
“So, now we are planning to use tourist power to help.”
The mayor flashed Viv a bright smile.
“I’m afraid I don’t understand.”
She turned to Castro who reached down into a satchel he was carrying and pulled out a large poster. He stood up and unfurled it.
“We give you the first annual premier festival event on the Gulf of Mexico. Behold!”
A really ugly wild boar stared out ominously from the large poster. Its tusks were shooting fire and smoke and it wore a black leather jacket and sat on a large Harley Davidson. The wording on the poster was silver and looked like Tarpon scales. And it called out to all to join in “Riding with the Hogs.”
Laughing, Viv listened to the plans for the traditional hunting expeditions. The fishing rodeo grounds would host the festival. There would be hog tying events, a greased hog contest and hog races. And there would be plenty of barb b que, fried pork chops, baked hams and all manner of raw and fried seafood specialties. The local brew master had created a special beer for the event. Reaching into the satchel Castro pulled out a beer can with the poster hog holding a can of ‘Hog Wild’ beer. The hunter who brought in the biggest hog at the end of the competition would receive a $500 prize.
As the sun set Duke Castro invited Viv to come to the General Store that his mother owned to see some of the local artists’ work and get some background for her book. They walked slowly and he pointed out the sights and called the names of the cats that still hung out on the street.
When they reached the general store Duke went in first and called to his mother that he had someone special with him. She saw the old hand painted cypress sign tacked to the walk-way:
Fine Art, Smoked Mullet and Ammo sold inside.
Viv heard Grand Lena’s voice come to her as she started up the stairs to the store porch:
“Just remember Vivie, you putting lipstick on a pig or a hog doesn’t change the nature of the creature. But this new man isn’t either one. You might freshen your lipstick dear. I love you.”
Viv looked at the last bit of the sun as it splashed red gold into the gulf waters and whispered:
“Thanks again Grand Lena. You never let me down and maybe this time there will be more romance in the story.”