Excerpt in draft of The Bayou: Tell Us About the Light March 31, 2015Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
Tell us about the light.
There was the lemon fresh light of early morning, the sun’s abundance after the long night, grasses, vines, leaves, and saplings all stretching toward it as the morning cupped them like a breast and the bayou echoed with the moan of a distant outboard, droning unseen toward some secret breakfast haunt of the speckled trout. It was then, in the early hours when the water was darkest in the shadow of its own shining, that its browns were most golden, its greens iridescent. The long stalkers fished the shallows, the egret and the ibis, while pelicans stirred but rested in their nests waiting for the coasting updraft of the warming land, for the water clear of the sun’s reflection, for the vision of fish. This was the hour of the gamey peat and green smell percolating as the heat slowly seeped into the water and its soft land, and then the boiling of the coffee.
Where did the darkness hide?
It lay quietly beside the water every which way, where the pirogue-narrow channels slithered into the tangle of cypress knees and creeping things green and black, rooted and rootless, where the logs had eyes and the only way to tell a water snake from a cotton mouth was with a stick, watching for that flash of white in the day-long twilight, far back from the canals where men went about their business, far from the fishermen and the oilmen and their noisy, oily boats rusting away to nothing beneath the scraping of the deck hands. Back there the water gleamed faintly with leaf-rot, another delicate color in the palette of this water forest, not the false rainbows of sputtering two-strokes. On the bayou the pelican traced the bayou coasting up and down, hunting for lunch, a marker of the bayou as certain as clouds and flotsam speak of an island over the horizon. Ice tea tinkled in glasses besides sandwiches.
And later? When all grew dark?
In the mosquito evenings the bayou floated golden brown beneath the creeping shadows of its soft land, the water prairie grasses mellowing from green to yellow, and the dense growth explored each new shade of green blacker than the last, the land camouflaging itself in the growing darkness as the sky turned a burning autumn and the first and strongest star winked. It was the hour of the needling whiz of the mosquito and growling drone of the homeward bound boat. The bayou itself was silent except for the chirp of fish picking dinner out of thin air. Somewhere in the darkness, a roux was stirring through the colors of the evening.
Someday there would be the horns of morning traffic, come afternoon the smell of warm asphalt and finally the flickering buzz of street lamps: that was the darkest of all.