It’s that time of year again! Our literary magazine at school is beginning to collect submissions in the areas of art, poetry, and prose to include in our final book at the end of the year. I will be submitting more poetry pieces this year than last in hopes of getting one published. Unfortunately, my poems were not accepted last year. But, my short story was published. This was probably one of my proudest accomplishments because I’ve always doubted the quality of my writing. So, I’ve decided to share that piece. I wrote the story while in a high school creative communications class. Our assignment was to create a strong character. I hope you enjoy the character I created!
It was morning in the steamy bayou. Various creatures were beginning to awaken and stir in the murky water. The call of a Great Egret broke the soft ambiance of the still swamp as a large crocodile grumbled about, showing only his devious eyes. The sun wove through the trees’ leaves and kissed the ground with its comforting, warm lips. A little farther inland, the light lay upon a desolate house.
The house was made entirely of wood and was built in the late nineteenth century. Its weather-tortured boards had long since warped and discolored. There was a large porch at the front of the house, a good place for watching the day turn into night. It had a few windows, blackened with dust and allowing little light into the dwelling. The house had four rooms with only the essential bits of furniture. Although it looked quite antiquated, even dilapidated, it held precious memories. It had been filled to the brim with love.
Inside the house León Roy Bujeau slept peacefully in his room. He lay calmly until an unpleasant dream seemed to shake his entire body. His breath quickened and small droplets of perspiration began to appear upon his brow. His feet moved restlessly as if he could not escape an approaching predator. Finally, a loud snore that escaped his throat woke him up. He sat upright in his bed for a moment, collecting his thoughts and gaining a hold on reality. He looked around his room gravely and realized that he was still in the same house he had lived in for the past five decades. He sighed and shook his head as if to physically shake the dream from his memory. León slowly transferred his legs to the opposite side of the bed and lowered them to the floor. He felt around for a moment to find his faded leather slippers and slid his feet into their worn openings. As he lifted his body to stand his tired joints popped. He groaned with reluctant acceptance of his old age.
León was sixty-eight years old. He was quite short for being a man, and had leathery, deeply tan skin from hours of sun exposure. His hair was as white as a snow drift, which he had never seen due to spending his life in the South. He walked with a limp ever since he fell from his boat in the swamp and damaged his leg; it would never return to its previous condition. But, he was a crafty, intelligent man and had found a way to fix the problem on his own, without the help of the doctors. He carved a stick that he had found near his house into a cane. It was a beautiful piece of art. It was a shame that all of his intricate lines and relentless effort would just point out the flaws of his aging body. He also paid a visit to the local shaman, who happened to be a long friend of his. After a few spells and the burning of an assortment of fresh herbs, the old man had felt renewed.
León is a great cook, as most Cajuns are. He especially loves to cook spicy crawfish and other Creole favorites. His thick accent, a hybrid of French and Spanish, was difficult to understand; it didn’t help that he spoke in a fast-paced manner. León was known to speak in metaphors most of the time. He thought that everything that needed to be known in life could be related to the crawdad.
He had a wife at one point in his life; her name was Lucia Renee. She was very warm-hearted and all of the marsh-dwellers knew them for the loving couple they were. She took care of León as if he were the only one in the world who mattered (and to her, he was.) Unfortunately she had died unexpectedly the year before. Her death had changed him through the year. He no longer had a light in his eyes. León was now more brooding, thoughtful, and dark.
When he was finally standing, he set on his search for a possession he had left somewhere in the room. He shuffled toward the dresser on the opposite wall and picked up a small golden locket from its surface. He examined its delicate chains and the letters ‘LRB’ etched in the glittering face with great intensity. León had given this locket to his wife after they had gotten married. He had saved money for weeks to be able to afford such a luxury for the love of a lifetime. The inside contained two faded photographs. One was of León and the other was of his wife. He hadn’t opened it since she died for he did not want them to cease looking into each other’s eyes.
He held the locket in his hand, raised it, and pressed it delicately to his heart. Outside the clouds parted, revealing the sun. Rays of light burst into the room. A tear appeared in León’s eyes. He could feel his wife smiling down upon him.
León picked up his cane and slowly walked to the front entrance of his house. He opened the screen door and stepped onto the creaky boards of his wooden porch. He hobbled over to the twin wooden rocking chairs and lowered himself into the nearer of the two. Gingerly, he placed his wife’s locket onto the empty chair beside him. He inhaled deeply and closed his tired, wrinkled eyes. As he lay there, his heart ached for his lost love. Once again, the sun emerged from behind their cloudy covering. A shower of light poured from the sky and illuminated the old, deteriorating porch with matching rocking chairs.