Call of the Rougarou

In keeping with the original purpose of ye olde blog, I’m using this as a means to trial new stories.

This one was submitted for the horror anthology It Came From the Trailer Park: Volume II. If you haven’t read it or Volume I, you should. It’s good old-fashioned pulp horror from multiple talented authors.

Sadly, this one didn’t make the cut, so you get to enjoy it here.

**********

Angola State Penitentiary
January 1, 2000

My name is Bobby Joe Delcambre, and this is my last will and testament, to be read by my family no later than January 15, 2000.

To my little brother Claude, I leave my .38 Special concert tee shirt signed by the whole band, and my cassette tape collection, and all my model cars in my bedroom, with the exception of the ZZ Top Eliminator car that sits on my chifferobe. I’d like to be buried with that one.

I want to be buried in my Molly Hatchet shirt, and Flirtin’ With Disaster played at my wake. I figure Billy Gibbons will forgive me being buried in another band’s tee shirt as long as it’s a proper rock band, not like that shit they play now. I can’t even listen to what passes for music these days, like that Brittany Spears girl. I’m told she’s from down the road in Kentwood, but if that girl has even gone crawfishing or gotten a skeeter bite, I’ll eat your hat. She ain’t Southern.

To my oldest brother Pierre I leave the title to Daddy’s ’82 Camaro IROC-Z with the T-top and the genuine faux-leather seats. He’s been driving it all this time I’ve been in the joint, and I figure it’s his anyway.

They’re going to execute me on January 18, and I have requested death by firing squad as is my right. Please be sure the firing squad uses the Barnes X-Bullets as requested in Appendix A of this document; this point is very important. After my wake I want my body cremated and the ashes scattered in the swamp behind Daddy’s old fishing camp on Bayou Folse. This last point is also very important, and my attorney Mr. Boudreaux is aware of all the particulars. The cremation must be accomplished as specified, no later than January 21, 2000.

I want you all to know that I regret nothing I did. I go to meet God with a clear conscience and a full heart. My only regret is not acting sooner. I am sure the media will report my execution with much relish, and repeat all the lurid details of my supposed crime, but I want you all to know that it was an act of love and mercy and not a murder, just as my refusal of further stays and appeals is also an act of love.

A few of my friends know the whole story, but for those of you who have spent the last fourteen years wondering what led me down this path, I suppose you deserve an explanation.

What follows is the story of summer 1986 when I was 15 years old, and the rougarou came to Mink Bayou Trailer Park.

œœœœœPlaquemine, LA
August 15, 1986

“T-Bob, you find that damn dog yet?” my mama shrilled from the back porch. She was washing a mess of okra, which meant one thing in my house – gumbo for supper.

I like gumbo, but Mama insists on putting okra in it, and I loathe okra. Fried is okay, but boiled okra tastes like slime, and afterward you can lay on your stomach and shit into a martin box. Ex Lax has got nothing on boiled okra.

“Ain’t seen her, Mama!” I hollered back, and she went to griping and bitching like she always does. Y’all know Mama and how she is.

“Well keep lookin’!” she ordered, and then trailed off into a string of curses muttered under her breath, “Damn couyon cross-eyed, floor-shittin’ dust mop, runs off like a damn German Shepherd whore every time she goes into heat… ”

“Your mama sounds mad,” whispered my best friend, Timmy Delafosse. Timmy was a bit shy, probably because he was the rich kid in the neighborhood trying to fit in. His mama managed the Piggy Wiggly, and their trailer was a double-wide. It had a deck and an above-ground pool and everything.

“Mama always sounds mad,” I explained. “Daddy didn’t come home last night.”

“Your daddy does that a lot,” Timmy observed neutrally.

“The salvage business is hard,” I said defensively. “He works irregular hours!”

“Your daddy steals copper from construction sites at night,” Timmy corrected, “and grows weed.”

“Being a small businessman is hard,” I shrugged, then glared sharply at Timmy. “Besides, how do you know?”

“Mama buys her weed from him,” Tim answered smugly. “I stole a few of her joints before I left the house,” he said, reaching into his pocket and showing me. “Wanna get high?”

“Fuck it,” I grinned at Timmy, “the dog’ll come home when she gets hungry anyway.”

œœœœœ**********

“So, do you think there’s more wheels or doors on planet Earth?” Nate asked, waving his joint around to illustrate the question. We’d picked up Nate on the way out of the trailer park to the sugar cane fields along Bayou Folse, to a place way back close to Daddy’s fishing camp. Nate Dionne was sixteen, sunburned and skinny, and was currently sprawled across a plaid sleeper sofa, his eyes squinted as he took another deep toke. 

Over the summer we’d drug old milk crates and a cable spool out there to our hiding spot, and Timmy donated an old sleeper sofa his mama had thrown away when she won a new living room suite in a Labor Day giveaway at Conn’s. Getting that heavy bastard out to our hangout on bikes was damn near impossible, so I wound up asking my big brother Pierre if we could borrow his pickup. Of course Pierre said no, since I wasn’t old enough to have a driver’s license and Pierre needed the truck for work. In the end I had to pay him ten bucks, and we still had to tote it the last half-mile because I’m not stupid enough to let Pierre know where my hangout is.

Timmy pondered the question a minute. “Doors,” he said, sure of himself. He took another toke, coughed a bit, and squeaked, “Yep, definitely doors. Every house and building got one, usually two.”

I stared at him a minute. Weed makes some people like Timmy stupid. Me, I get a greater insight into the universe, likely because I’m a deeper thinker anyway. “Pffffft,” I scoffed. “Wheels, for sure.”

“Every damn house in the trailer park got a front door and a back door,” he argued, “plus all the doors inside. You got bedroom doors, closet doors, cabinet doors, bathroom doors…”

“And every damn house in the trailer park got at least five axles, with dual wheels on each. That’s 20 wheels right there.”

“My house ain’t got no wheels!” Timmy protested. “We got a real faux brick trailer skirt and everything!”

“It has places to put wheels,” I told him smugly. “That counts.”

“Bullshit!” Timmy flared, looking to Nate for help.

Nate took another deep toke and held it as he contemplated. After both of us started to wonder how damn long he could hold his breath, he choked out, “A wheel is any round thing that rotates around a central axis. An axle with the hub still attached counts.”

Nate was a smart kid.

“There,” I declared. “I win. There’s way more wheels than there are doors.”

“No way!” Timmy insisted. “Cars got only four wheels, but they got two doors, usually four, and them are just the ones to get in and out of. Hood and trunk count, too, plus glove box door, console doors, windows…”

“A window ain’t a Goddamn door, you couyon!” I hollered. “Everybody knows that!”

“A door is a solid barrier that is movable,” he argued, “so windows count. They’re just doors made out of glass.”

“Gotta have hinges to count as a door,” Nate refereed. “So only swinging windows count.”

“There,” I triumphed. “That rules out car windows and sliding glass patio doors. As a matter of fact, those patio doors have little rollers on ‘em. They count as wheels too, so your patio doors count more for me than they do for you.”

“Then again, the General Lee’s doors don’t open,” Nate mused absently. “I reckon a door’s gotta open to count as a door…”

“He’s fuckin’ high,” Timmy protested, “and you got him as the judge?”

“You’re fuckin’ wasted right now yourself,” I laughed, then thought of another argument. “Also, pulleys on car engines count as wheels. So do all the bearings, and all the lug nuts. Any nut, really. Waaaaayyy more wheels than doors, dude.”

“Dude, no way you’re gonna tell me a Goddamn lug nut counts as a wheel!”

“It’s a round thing that rotates around a central axis,” I quoted.

“Dude!”

“Duuude.”

AAAAROOOOOOOO!” Our debate was interrupted by an unearthly howl from out in the sugar cane, and Timmy and I froze.

Nate looked up at both of us, smiled happily, and said, “Y’all say somethin’?”

“What the fuck was that?” I hissed.

“Coyote, maybe?” Timmy wondered.

“That wasn’t no damn coyote, man! That was big, like a wolf.”

“Coyote,” he decided. “Definitely a coyote. Ain’t no wolves around here.”

“Wolf,” I hissed back.

The howl sounded again, much closer this time. “Whatever the fuck it was,” I decided, “I ain’t stickin’ around to find out.” Timmy nodded in agreement, his eyes wide. I hopped on my Huffy and he hopped on his Mongoose – like I said, rich kid – and we both started to pedal away, only to notice that Nate wasn’t with us. I braked and looked back, and Nate was still sitting on the sofa.

“Hey,” he called out. “Would you rather fight a horse-sized duck, or 100 duck-sized horses?”

That was when the thing came out of the sugar cane and got him.

œœœœœ**********

I didn’t have no time to scream, and Timmy let out some sound that sounded like a tree frog. Mama’s German Shepherd bitch Clotilde burst out of the sugar cane like the devil himself was after her, and I ma cher I tell you, maybe it was. Clotilde never let up, and this… thing… stopped at the sleeper sofa, grabbed Nate by the shoulders and clamped down on his head like a gator eating a marshmallow. It shook its big old shaggy head a couple times and ripped Nate’s head clean off, landing with a thump at our feet. Nate’s eyes were wide in surprise, and the smoke from Daddy’s finest Acapulco Gold was still wafting out of his nostrils and his severed windpipe.

I don’t know whether it was Timmy or me that shit himself, but at the moment I didn’t much care. We pedaled out of those cane fields like our asses were on fire, and all of a sudden I wasn’t high any more. We didn’t let up until we hit the River Road, and Timmy pulled up next to the gas pumps at Thibodeaux’s Grocery, panting and wheezing. The love bugs were swarming like something from a Biblical plague, but we scarcely paid them any attention.

“It was the rougarou,” Timmy moaned in fear, rocking back and forth on the seat of his bike. “A real-life, Goddamn rougarou, just like MawMaw Camille used to tell us about when we was little!”

“Hold on and let me think for a minute!” I hollered at him. “It was some kinda animal, you’re right, but it wasn’t a damn rougarou. They ain’t real. Maybe a mutated dog or a wolf or somethin’…”

“It was a rougarou!” Timmy shrilled. “Come to punish us ‘cause we was smokin’ the devil’s lettuce, and we skipped confession too many times!”

“Rougarou is just something old Cajun grandmas tell little kids to get ‘em to behave,” I scoffed, already convincing myself that what had killed Nate was some kind of mutated critter. “Hell, my mawmaw told me that I’d turn into a rougarou if I didn’t keep to the rules of Lent for seven years in a row. I never gave anything up – I mean really gave something up – for Lent since I was little, and I still eat meat on Friday ever now and then, and I ain’t turned into a rougarou!”

“Well, maybe…” Timmy allowed grudgingly. It rather hurt how he looked at me real suspiciously for a few seconds.

“The Monsanto plant is just up the river a ways,” I theorized. “I bet some chemicals got into the water, some wolf or big dog drank from it, and got mutated. Mutations happen a lot, like in the X-Men comics. Weird shit happens, like you get superpowers and stuff.”

“Dude, superpowers ain’t real,” Timmy sneered, which kinda insulted me, since I’m the smart one.

“Maybe not like teleportation or shootin’ laser beams outta your eyes,” I argued, “but it might warp a dog so it could walk on his hind legs. You remember that two-headed calf we saw at the fair?”

 “Whatever it was, it killed Nate,” Timmy quavered. “We gotta tell somebody.”

“Tell somebody what?” a voice asked behind me, and I spun around to see old Mr. Thibodeaux, with that suction cup thing on a long pole that they use to change the letters and numbers on the gas sign. He had a bucket of letters in the other hand, and he smiled at me and Timmy. I like old Thib; he used to let us kids earn extra money in the summers and after school, stocking shelves and doing’ odd jobs. Mostly I just took my pay in free Chic O’ Sticks.

“Uh nothin’, Mr. Thib,” I stammered, shooting a warning glance at Timmy.

“Tell somebody what?” he asked again, and this time he had that look grownups get when they’re fixin’ to tell your mama you’ve misbehaved.

 “Mama’s dog got out again,” I lied, trying to look apologetic instead of how I felt, which was terrified. “She’s in heat, and Timmy was sayin’ we oughta just tell Mama we can’t find her.”

Thib clucked and shook his head. “Maybe that’s where Eustace got off to,” referring to the ancient bloodhound that usually lay like a dead thing next to the air pump at the station. “He’s been gone a couple days. Your mama oughta keep her penned up.”

“She jumped the fence, Mr. Thib,” I explained as Mr. Thib went back into the store.

His voice carried through the screen door out to us. “You boys look thirsty,” he called. “You want some Cokes?”

“Sure!” we answered.

“What flavor?”

“Dr. Pepper!” Mr. Thib came out with three bottles of Dr Pepper, popped the tops off them, and handed one each to me and Timmy. We clinked the bottles together in a toast and drained them. Mr. Thib smacked his lips in satisfaction, burped gently, and went on, “Expensive dog like that, she gets knocked up by some Heinz 57, your mama ain’t gonna be happy. You boys better find her, and soon. There’s coyotes out tonight too; I heard ‘em howlin’ just a few minutes ago. She might well be runnin’ with them. You catch her, you make sure she’s penned up,” he said sternly, holding his hand out for the empty bottles.

“We will, Mr. Thib,” I promised as Timmy and I turned our bikes back toward Mink Bayou Trailer Park.

“You do that,” he called after us. “There’s nearly a dozen male dogs gone missin’ in the trailer park in the past week, and they’re probably all trailin’ her!”

œœœœœ**********

The next morning, Mama called me to the phone. I spent the night at Timmy’s, and his mama cooked red beans and rice which I much prefer over Mama’s okrafied gumbo. Tim and I had rehearsed our story – we had all been swimming in Bayou Folse, and Nate went home before the rest of us – and in the morning we’d figure out what to do. Neither of us wanted to tell the police that a friggin’ rougarou or a mutated dog or whatever had ripped Nate’s head off right in the middle of our hideout while were high as kites. We’d volunteer to participate in the search, and one of us would make sure all traces of our presence had been cleared away before we led them to Nate’s body.

That was supposed to happen that afternoon, but apparently Mrs. Dionne was worried about her boy. She called Mama at half past nine.

“No Mrs. Dionne, haven’t seen him since yesterday afternoon,” I said innocently into the phone. “He left before we did, said he was going home to watch The A-Team. Have you checked at Timmy’s?”

That was the plan. If she called my Mama, I was to say that maybe he spent the night at Timmy’s. If he called Timmy’s, he was to say maybe Nate had spent the night at my house. While our mamas were figuring out who was where, we’d get the gang together and go figure out how to sanitize the hideout and tell somebody about Nate’s body.

“Naw cher, I ain’t,” she answered. “I’ll call over there right now. You be a good boy and mind your mama now, T-Bob.”

“I will, Ma’am,” I promised. I hung up the phone and hit the back porch at a dead run, tossing over my shoulder to Mama, “Be home later, Mama! I’m going to the bayou with Timmy!”

“You keep your voice down and quit slammin’ doors!” she hissed at me in a stage whisper. “Your daddy’s sleepin’!”

I didn’t hear whatever else she said as I rode off, and Timmy fell in with me as we rode our bikes a couple streets over to the Hebert’s trailer and asked if Paul and Randy could come outside. The Hebert twins were long and lanky, all blonde hair and dark brown eyes, and all they ever wore was overalls and white gum boots. Grand Isle Reeboks, we called ‘em, and at school they’d have a tee shirt under their overalls, but in summertime they wore ‘em with no shirt or underclothes at all. Mr. Hebert was a commercial fisherman as Cajun as boudin and crab pots. I was born and raised in Lafourche Parish, as Cajun as it gets, but sometimes I felt like I needed an interpreter to understand him. His twin boys looked so much like him, as Mama put it, “Looked like the good Lord dug ‘em both directly outta his ass with an ice cream scoop.”

“Whar we goin’?” Randy asked in a swamp Cajun accent you could cut with a knife. He had both hands jammed down the front of his overalls – not his pockets, but the front of his overalls themselves – and I made a mental note not to shake hands with Randy.

“Hideout,” I replied tersely. “We got us a mission, just like on the A-Team.”

Paul and Randy whooped happily, running for their bikes. We lit out of the trailer park and down River Road, tossing a wave to Mr. Cypert, the trailer park manager as we did so. He was wearing nothing but a pair of cutoffs, flip flops and engine grease, his head under the hood of his car, wrenching on something or other. His dogtags were on a chain slung around his back so they wouldn’t get in his way while he worked. Mr. Cypert used to be a Green Beret, or so the trailer park gossip had it, and his wife cheated on him while he was off fighting somewhere top secret. She took him for everything he had, everything but his ’82 Camaro IROC-Z and enough money to buy a trailer.

I lusted after that car. Mr. Cypert and Daddy were good friends, and I got to ride in it once when they went to Thibodeaux’s for beer. Mr. Cypert peeled out when he hit River Road, and left a strip of burnt rubber thirty feet long. Mr. Cypert owed Daddy a lot of money for weed, and Daddy kept telling him he could just give him the car and call it square, but Mr. Cypert kept holding out. I secretly hoped Daddy acquired that car by my senior year, and I could take Adele Fontenot to the prom in it.

We stopped at Thibodeaux’s for Cokes, and Paul and Randy followed me and Timmy into the cane fields. We made the Hebert twins hold up at the head of the trail to my hideout while me and Timmy went in first, and they pulled up reluctantly, Paul grumbling in Cajun French about what was the big secret. Timmy and I went in cautiously, with me scanning the sky for buzzards as we approached. There weren’t any, though, and when we rounded the trail and could see into my hideout, there wasn’t a trace of Nate Dionne left –  no head, no body, no stink of dead body, nothing.

Timmy and I traded a look.

There was just a smear of dried blood on the back of the sofa, and all our stuff was strewn about. The ground was torn up, the sofa was tipped over on its back and shredded, the milk crates overturned, and my boom box was busted open with the C batteries lying on the ground. My cassette of southern rock hits was laying in the dirt, all the tape pulled out and tangled up. That pissed me off; I had spent three months making that mix tape, calling the request line at KAJN FM 97 I don’t know how many times, and half the time the Goddamned deejay would talk over the beginning of the song.

Paul and Randy pulled up on their bikes, and Paul let out a low whistle as he looked around. “Mais non, they done trashed de camp!” he exclaimed.

“Yo T-Bob,” Randy nodded at me. “You gonna tell us what de big secret, cher?”

“Nate got eaten by the rougarou,” Timmy informed them solemnly. Randy made a choking sound and spit Coke out his nose.

“Mutated dog,” I corrected.

“Rougarou.”

“Whatever it was,” I said impatiently, “it ripped Nate’s head clean off right in front of us. The body was right here, and it’s gone now.”

Paul whispered something in French and crossed himself. Randy just looked at us, eyes narrowed.

“A rougarou,” he repeated skeptically. “A real, honest-to-God rougarou. You pullin’ my dick, T-Bob?”

“You gotta believe us!” I blurted desperately, hating myself for the tears forming in my eyes. “We don’t know what it was, except it was no man, and it wasn’t an ordinary animal. It walked on two legs, was maybe eight feet tall, and all covered in hair. It had a thick mane, and a long snout like a dog.”

“You ain’t pullin’ my dick,” Randy breathed wonderingly. “So why didn’t you call the cops?”

“What we gonna tell Sheriff Duplechain?” Timmy snorted. “’Hey Sheriff, we was half-baked on T-Bob’s daddy’s weed, like we are every night in the summer, when a rougarou ate our best friend.’ What you reckon he’d do, form a posse and sweep the cane fields with everybody loaded up with silver bullets, or throw me and T-Bob in juvie?”

“He’s been after Daddy for years,” I sobbed. “I can’t do anything to put Daddy back in jail. We lead folks back here, they’ll find Daddy’s weed patch for sure.”

“But there’s a rougarou out loose in the cane fields,” Paul protested, fingers clutching his St. Christopher medal in fear. “We gotta tell somebody.”

“I know who can help us,” Randy said decisively, shooting a look at his twin brother. Paul looked up, and a hopeful expression spread across his face.

“Well,” Timmy said impatiently after a few seconds. “You gonna keep us in suspense?”

 “Tante Marie,” they said in unison. “She’ll know what to do.”

œœœœœ**********

Marie Landry Hebert, Tante Marie to her grandchildren, and there were dozens of ‘em, lived in a shack on Bayou Folse not far downstream from Daddy’s fishing camp. The place had no electricity or running water, not even a driveway. It was accessible only by boat, and the four of us had to leave our bikes on the bayou bank and take a pirogue across. The rickety wooden pirogue wouldn’t hold all four of us, so Randy had to take Timmy across on the first trip while I waited with Paul on the near shore.

Tante Marie is kinda touchy, and she’s liable to shoot first if she don’t know who’s comin’,” Paul explained in a whisper as the pirogue faded into the gloom. It was barely six o’clock, but in the shade of the switch cane and cypress trees towering overhead, the shadows were long. I was jumpy as hell, seeing rougarous in every patch of shadow or rustle in the underbrush. Presently, we heard an owl hoot from the opposite bank, and Paul started hauling on the rope to pull the pirogue back to our side. I gingerly got into the boat and Paul paddled us across. I could barely see in the gloom, and the stairs to her deck were slimy with moss, almost causing me to slip into the water. And old woman with skin wrinkled and brown like the meat of a pecan sat there in a lawn chair on the deck, smoking a pipe. Her eyes glittered almost black as she sized us up.

Tante Marie,” Randy began respectfully, “these are our friends T-Bob and Timmy. We want to ask you about – “

“The rougarou,” she cut him off. “You seek how to kill the rougarou.”

We all just stared at her, open-mouthed.

“You think I don’t know when a rougarou is roaming my bayou, boy?’ she cackled mirthlessly. “I have read the signs. I have heard his howls as he hunts. The swamp is silent in fear of him. Even the birds have stopped singing. Have you noticed any pets going missing lately?”

We all traded a look.

Tante Marie nodded sagely, puffing at her pipe. “While his human half still has some control, he will hunt pets and wild animals. As the moon waxes, the human half will lose strength, and the beast will take over.”

“He killed our friend last night, Mrs. Hebert,” I said bluntly.

Her eyes widened, and then she nodded again. “Then it has begun. Once he has tasted human flesh, he will not be able to resist it. He will kill again.”

“But why is the rougarou here now, Mrs. Hebert?” Timmy asked. “Where did he come from?”

“His spirit was infected on the blood moon back in the spring,” she said gravely. “Likely because he did not follow the rules of Lent.”

“Told you,” Timmy whispered, elbowing me. I glared at him in annoyance.

“I have felt his power grow with the passing of the summer,” she went on. “With each full moon, his strength grows, and his control slips. He will walk by day as a man and transform into the rougarou at night. As the moon waxes, he will find himself unable to resist the change, and when the moon is full, he will be a ravening tou tie, a monster. He will kill and eat anything in his path, and if you do not kill him before the blood moon in October, he will become the beast, day and night. I do not know if he can be killed once that happens.”

“How can we tell who he is?”

“He may not know himself,” Marie warned. “I do not know how to identify a rougarou in human form.”

“Then how do we kill him if we don’t know who he is?” I asked, exasperated.

“Why, you hunt him, boy,” she chuckled, as if the answer was obvious. “Set a trap and shoot him when he gets close.”

“Yeah, but we seem to be all out of silver bullets,” Timmy said sarcastically. She glared at him, and I was genuinely scared for Timmy. That old lady looked like the type to kill you and bait her crab pots with your remains.

“You don’t need a silver bullet to kill a nascent rougarou, child,” she explained, “just a bunch of regular ones.” She paused, and then clarified, “He’s not at his strongest yet, and he has only just begun killing. You don’t need precious metals to kill him, just good Catholic boys brave enough to fight evil. You better be quick, though. The full moon is in three days, and he’s gonna be tough to kill by then.”

“Then we don’t got much choice,” I said grimly. “Tonight we hunt rougarou.” I looked around at the other three boys, and they all nodded in agreement. They were scared, but they were willing. All we needed was a plan.

“We gotta head back to the trailer park, Mrs. Hebert,” I said. “Lots of stuff to get together before dark.”

“Call me Tante Marie, child,” she said, clasping my hands. “Dark times like these, all you boys are my grandbabies.”

“Okay, Tante Marie,” I said with a grin I didn’t really feel. “Thanks for the advice.” I tried to pull away, but she gripped harder and pulled me down to where she could look directly into my eyes.

She stared a long time at me, then asked gruffly, “T-Bob, you said your name was? You Bobby Delcambre’s boy?”

“Yes Ma’am,” I gulped. “That’s my daddy.”

“Tell him I need a couple dime bags,” she whispered, slipping a $20 bill into my palm. “He knows where to leave ‘em.”

œœœœœ**********

“Daddy, can I borrow the .22?” I asked. My daddy was loading up the truck with wrenches, wire cutters, pliers and the like, along with four 50-pound bags of Scott’s Miracle Gro. Headed to work, I guess.

“Whatchu want my gun for?” he asked suspiciously.

“Spotlightin’ rabbits on the levee with Timmy and the Hebert boys,” I lied.

“I don’t know,” he considered, scratching his chin. “There’s somethin’ in the air these past two weeks, somethin’ that’s got the wildlife spooked. I hear strange things when I’m working my – “ he glanced up at me and blushed, “ – at my fishing camp,” he finished lamely. “I don’t like the idea of you boys out at night, and Mrs. Dionne’s near frantic looking for her boy. Sheriff said they cain’t declare him missing for 48 hours, but everybody’s jumpy.”

“We gonna be armed, Daddy,” I pointed out. “Plus, rabbits.”

Daddy wavered, no doubt thinking of Mama’s rabbit sauce piquante. Finally he nodded, “All right. You be careful handling my rifle, and don’t go anywhere near my patch, er… I mean camp.”

“I will, Daddy!” I hollered as I bolted inside to get the .22 from his closet. I emptied a 100-round box of CCI Stingers into the pocket of my cutoffs, pulled Daddy’s Marlin Model 60 from its case, pounded down the steps and bungee-corded his rifle across the handlebars of my bike.

“And stay away from the cemetery!” Daddy hollered at my back as I rode away. “Damn Sheriff is already on my ass!” Rabbits just love fresh flowers at the cemetery.

I swung by Timmy’s trailer, and together we rode over to the Heberts’ place. Randy and Paul were waiting outside with a surprise for us – twin Honda four-wheelers, with racks full of gear. They both had shotguns in the gun racks, along with a couple of Igloo coolers and something in a Pelican case.

“Hop on back, “Randy nodded, and I climbed up on the seat behind him. Timmy did the same with Paul, and together we raced through the trailer park, out onto River Road, and down to Thibodaux’s Grocery for ice and Cokes. Old Mr. Thib scarcely raised an eyebrow at the guns and spotlights; like any good Cajun, he subscribed to a variation on the old philosophical question: if a game animal gets killed and there’s no game warden there to see it, was it truly out of season?

We unloaded the gear at the hideout, stashed the four-wheelers just up the dirt road, and commenced to hacking hiding places out of the sugar cane with machetes. The Hebert boys took to the work with a passion, like they were building a duck blind, but they hadn’t seen what me and Timmy had seen. If they had, we’d be building tree stands, and pulling up the ladders after us.

The sun was setting by the time we got our blinds constructed, and Randy proudly unveiled his special surprise of the evening; an electronic varmint call with a remote control and a red-filtered floodlight.

“Papa hunts foxes and coyotes over it,” he announced. “It makes a sound like a wounded rabbit, and the predators come a runnin’. I reckon it oughta call up a rougarou.” He set the speaker in the middle of the clearing, and put up the floodlight on a tripod at the edge of the clearing, between both of our blinds.

“Dese predators, they hunt upwind, mais non?” Paul explained in that weird Cajun lilt that makes everything sound like a question. “So we set up lahk dis, and de rougarou, he come to the call from downwind of us, across the clearing there? And when he stop, we choot him good?”

“We shoot him with everything we got,” I confirmed. “Aim for the head, and keep shooting until he’s on the ground. Reload and shoot again. Take no chances. What are y’all loaded with?”

“I got de buckshot, me,” Paul answered, loading his Remington 870. “I took de plug out an’ everythin’.”

“I got rifled slugs,” Randy spat, shucking a round into the chamber of an 870 identical to his brother’s.

“I only got Daddy’s .22, but I got 100 rounds,” I said apologetically. “It holds 17 rounds with one in the pipe. Timmy, whatchu got?”

Timmy blushed and toed the ground, dug in his pocket, and dug out a stainless steel Bryco .25 ACP. “It’s all I could get my hands on,” he said defensively. “I swiped it outta Mama’s purse.”

“Sheeeit, lookit the pimp gun,” Paul sneered. “That dahm thang even choot?”

“It shoots!”

“Mebbe if you stick it in his ear,” Paul grumbled. “You don’t git in de blind with me chootin’ dat little pimp gun, you git inna blind with Randy. T-Bob, you wit me.”

We settled in our blinds, seated on camp stools, nervously fingering the safeties on our weapons as Randy hit the remote for the predator call. A shrill, bloodcurdling screech emanated from the speaker, and I nearly jumped out of my skin.

“Spooky, ain’t it?” Paul smiled grimly, and I nodded, swallowing nervously. “Keep a sharp eye out,” Paul advised. “Now all we gotta do is wait.”

Our rougarou safari had begun.

œœœœœ**********

The moon hung low over the cane fields, and thin cumulus clouds intermittently blew across its face. The clearing was bathed in an unearthly red glow. The screech of dying rabbit was starting to get on my nerves, and my butt was starting to fall asleep. I started to lean over to ask Paul to get off the cooler so I could fetch a Dr. Pepper, and he stopped me with a low hiss. I froze and looked at him.

“Somethin’ movin’ in de cane,” he murmured, not taking his eyes off the clearing. I turned my head ever so slowly, and something brown and furry filtered out from between the stalks and looked around warily, sniffing. Paul raised his gun, and from the next blind over, I distinctly heard the metallic click of a shotgun safety being disengaged.

The thing slunk closer, and with a shock of recognition, I pushed Paul’s shotgun barrel down and called out in a low voice, “Nobody shoot!” Making kissing noises and whistling low, I called to Clotilde.

Mama’s German Shepherd bitch, the neighborhood hussy in heat, slunk over to me, almost on her belly. I held out a hand as she approached the blind, and she licked my fingers and rolled over submissively onto her back. “That’s a good girl,” I crooned. “Good Clotilde. Heel, girl,” I commanded as I drug her into the blind. She lay down obediently at my feet, head on her paws.

“Sorry,” I started to say. “Mama would have a fit if I – “

I was interrupted by a strangled croak from Paul, and when I followed his gaze, the rougarou was standing just inside the clearing, his eyes glowing red in the light. He raised his head and sniffed the air, and a low growl rumbled from his chest. Bloody foam flecked his jaws and ran down onto his chest. He lowered his head and swung his head around, searching, then sniffed the air again. He took a deep breath, then unleased a bestial hunting howl that threatened to freeze the marrow in my bones.

Clotilde whimpered, yipped and broke away from me, running toward the rougarou. I stifled the urge to call out to her, watching helplessly as my Mama’s dog was about to get eaten by a rougarou.

Clotilde approached the beast submissively, whining, her head low and licking her chops. The beast growled at her and dropped to all fours, sniffing her backside. Clotilde froze, and then flagged her tail indicating in unmistakable canine language that she was receptive for breeding.

I don’t know any polite way to say this, so I’ll just be blunt: the rougarou fucked my dog. All we could do was stare in horror as the beast grabbed her by the back legs, ran out a red lipstick that was more akin to a small fire extinguisher, and proceeded to perform acts I ain’t ever seen in any niche porn before or since, and I’ve spent the last fourteen years in prison.

I watched all I could stand to see, and I looked at Paul, and he just shrugged his shoulders.

“FIRE!” I screamed, and we unleashed hell on that rougarou.

œœœœœ**********

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t shooting wildly, but I had the presence of mind to put my first shot into poor Clotilde’s head. It wasn’t that I thought that she could birth a litter of half-rougarou pups, it’s just that she whimpered like she was sufferin’, and I didn’t think she’d ever be right again after being serviced by that rougarou wang.

My second shot missed, and my third shot was a stovepipe, hanging up my gun. Cursing, I dumped the tubular magazine and started digging shells out of my pockets while my friends unleashed a hailstorm of lead into that rougarou. I watched as buckshot and rifled 12-gauge slugs carved pieces out of it, and the range was close enough I could hear the wet thunk of metal rending meat as we poured round after round into it. The beast flinched, seeming to give way to the blizzard of rounds, and then as we paused to reload, he unleashed a defiant snarl and another howl, and I watched all those wounds start to close up as he healed right before our eyes.

It was one of Randy’s 12-gauge slugs that finally put him down, entering one eye and blowing out the back of his head in a mist of fur, brain and bone chips. The rougarou collapsed like a wet sack of shit, and we all just stood there, breathing heavily, probably all of us hoping the others couldn’t smell where we’d shit ourselves over the stench of burned powder.

I finished reloading my Marlin and approached the beast, Timmy beside me with his little pimp pistol held out at arm’s length in one shaking hand, the slide locked back on an empty chamber. “Is… is it dead?” Timmy asked fearfully.

“Papa always said to tap ‘em on the eyeball to make sure,” Randy advised, and I gently reached out the barrel of Daddy’s Marlin and poked the beast in his one good eye.

The rougarou came off the ground as if he were spring-loaded, backhanded Timmy in a 10-foot arc out into the cane, and pounced on me, pinning my shoulders to the ground with one great paw. It bent over me, his slavering jaws glistening in my face, and I noticed something shiny in the matted fur around his neck.

The last thing I remembered was triggering three rounds from the Marlin and the beast’s surprised bellow of pain.

I woke up a couple hours later, groggy, to the feel of wet boards under my back, and the smell of moss and rotting vegetation of the swamp.

“We musta hit him thutty, fohty times,” Paul was telling Tante Marie, “and he just came right back. Den, when T-Bob choot him with de .22, he beller lahk somebody cut him balls off, and he run away, him.”

Tante Marie shook me gently, and passed a cool hand across my brow. “Open your eyes, child,” she commanded. I did. “Whatchu got in dem pockets, T-Bob?’ she asked, and I pulled out a handful of cartridges and showed her.

Timmy gasped in wonder and asked, “Silver .22 bullets?” earning a scornful glance from Tante Marie.

“Silver’s a myth, boy,” she spat. You don’t need silver to kill the rougarou. In the Bible, the metal that represents the pure human spirit is copper. If you wanna separate the man from the beast, you gotta use copper.”

And she held up one .22 CCI Stinger, its copper-jacketed 32 grain bullet gleaming in the lantern light.

œœœœœ**********

We got home a couple hours before dawn, and I silently rode my bike home, carefully parking it next to Daddy’s tool shed. We had made plans to meet again the next afternoon, but I had something to do first. I worked for several hours until the sun rose above the cane fields, and silently slunk to bed.

I woke the next day around noon, and Mama said the Sheriff was outside and wanted to speak to me. He questioned me sternly about the last time I had seen Nate, and I doggedly stuck to my story, even though I was petrified and the Sheriff could tell I was lying. He couldn’t prove it, though, and when he realized I wasn’t going to change my story, he changed tack.

“You know Mr. Thibodaux got attacked by an animal last night?” Sheriff Duplechain asked neutrally. “Got ripped up something good,” he went on, studying my shocked expression. “You reckon something like that coulda happened to Nate?”

“Did he get kilt?” I blurted.

“Damn near,” he shook his head, spitting a long stream of Beech Nut into the dirt. “They got him in a room at the hospital now. He said you boys had been hanging out in that general area for the past week or so. Y’all seen anything you wanna tell me?”

“Naw, Sheriff,” I shook my head vigorously, mind whirling. He glared at me hard for a few moments, cussed under his breath, and got in his car and left. I waited until he was gone, got my backpack from under my bed, and rode into town, ignoring Mama’s questions about where I was going.

I rode back into the trailer park two hours later, sweaty and shaking. I was tired, and my knees shook. Mr. Cypert was working on his car again, and he greeted me cheerfully as I coasted to a stop in his front yard.

“Howdy, T-Bob,” he grinned, wiping his hands on an old rag he stuffed into the back pocket of his cutoffs. “Your daddy home yet?”

“No Sir,” I shook my head. “Maybe later this afternoon.”

“I got something for him,” he said, reaching into the glove box of his IROC-Z and handing me an envelope. I took it and looked at him quizzically. “I signed over the title to him,” he explained. “That oughta cover the money I owe him.”

I nodded sadly and looked down at the handlebars of my bike. “Mr. Cypert?” I asked softly.

“Yeah, son?”

“You still got blood on your dog tags.”

Then I pulled out Daddy’s Smith & Wesson .44 mag and put five pure copper 240-grain bullets into the center of his chest.

œœœœœ**********

They tried me as an adult, of course. It didn’t help my case when they discovered that I had spent several hours that night melting and casting copper .44 bullets from a roll of stolen copper wire Daddy had in the shed, not to mention the three copper-jacketed .22 caliber slugs they found buried in Mr. Cypert’s thigh that matched the rifling on Daddy’s gun. They even pinned the stolen copper on me.

But what made them seek the death penalty was me walking into Mr. Thib’s room at the hospital an hour before, sharing a couple of Dr. Peppers with him, and then shooting him in the head with a single .44 bullet.

They couldn’t pin Nate’s disappearance on me, but they sure tried to. But all of the evidence added up to premeditation in the jury’s eyes, and that was that. 

They called it two counts of premeditated murder, and I called it mercy killing. Mr. Thib was a sweet old man, and Mr. Cypert was a war hero and all. But they were under the spell of the rougarou, and I was the only one in a position to stop it.

I’ve lived in fear ever since that day, fear that the sickness was on me, fear that those three claw marks in my left shoulder would infect me, and I’d become what Mr. Cypert became. I followed the rules of Lent strictly, I went to Mass and confession every Sunday, I got an education and I prayed hard. I hoped that would be enough.

But I got drunk on toilet hooch on Mardi Gras, and I’ve eaten meat on Fridays several times during Lent, and on the last blood moon, I felt the beast growing in me. I’ve managed to keep him under control for this long, but I fear the next blood moon will be too much to resist.

It’s January 21 and 22, y’all. Make damn sure I’m dead and cremated by then.

THE END