The year is 1936. Flotation “Flo” Jones lives in the bayou country of Louisiana. Flo is young, but not so young that she and Tucker Waters, whom she knows as “the watermelon man,” can’t catch each other’s eye. Flo also has a beautiful voice and a talent for singing, and the local mayor fancies her as a decoration for parties at his mansion. But the socializing is a cover for organized crime. Flo, Tucker and some friends will desperately try to escape its clutches.
“I ain’t goin’ no further,” the Captain growled at May, his legs planted apart and his hand on the knife sheath in his belt. “I ain’t sucking up quicksand for nobody.”
“You idiot,” May shrieked, turning to face him in the jungle rain. “Our sixty grand is getting away and you’re afraid of a little quicksand. I’ll lead the way.” With that, she pulled the straw hat down on her head and took the revolver out of her pocket. “Get moving you little twerps,” she cursed at the six pirates trudging forward into the bog grass.
“You’ll get yours, bitch,” the Captain muttered, following her at a distance.
The largest boar in the pack raised his snout to test the air. He was a formidable monster, weighing over three hundred pounds and nearly four feet high at the shoulder. His bristling black hair, covered with raindrops, stood out in uneven patches. A large pair of tusks curled up to the level of his small eyes, and a short pair of tusks shot up from his lower jaw. They had razor-sharp edges.
He let out a sharp squeal and shook his huge body, the hair standing up along the ridge of his spine. Something was moving nearby, something to be investigated and perhaps satisfy the ever-present hunger gnawing at his belly. Others in the pack sensed his agitation and followed him toward the scent.
Tucker stood paralyzed, his feet covered with brown water, the muddy path completely gone now. Swamp panic raced through him and he could not make himself take another step forward.
“Is we lost?” Flo asked, peering at the steaming swamp surrounding them, the girl’s hands trembling, holding tight to her arm. Before Tucker could answer, Buster appeared out of the mist, bounding through the bog grass toward them.
“No.” Tucker let out a sigh. “We’s all right.”
* * *
May was up to her knees in the brown swirling water, and the pirates were in it up to their waists. The captain, trailing behind them, still on dry ground, shouted, “You stupid bitch, I told you you’d never make it.”
May turned toward him, and leveling the revolver, hissed, “Coward,” as she pulled the trigger. The bullet tore into the Captain’s stomach. He staggered for a moment, a look of shock on his face before his legs buckled.
“Keep going,” she ordered the band of small pirates, “or you’ll get the same thing.”
The Captain pressed his hand over the bullet wound and pulled himself up to a sitting position. Blood seeped down his legs and onto the muddy ground as the pain in his guts grew stronger.
Then he saw something peering at him through the swamp grass and rotting tree stumps. His hands trembled as he fumbled with the knife sheath on his belt. The huge boar began advancing slowly, sniffing the air. Others appeared behind him, following suit.
When the knife blade had cleared its cover, he cursed, “Come and get me, you bastards,” before shoving the weapon with all of his remaining strength into the bleeding hole in his stomach.
* * *
Buster licked Tucker’s hand. Then, as if on command, he quickly turned and started back in the direction he’d come. The little caravan trudged after the dog, with Rosie carrying one of the girls piggy-back.
Slowly the water began receding and patches of dry ground could be seen in the distance. Tucker heaved a sigh of relief and put his arm around Flo’s shoulder. “Looks like we’s gonna make it, girl.”
At that moment, Buster began barking excitedly. He was standing on a fallen tree trunk, watching them. The tree trunk spanned a large pool of thick mud and Tucker’s suspicion was confirmed when he saw air bubbles slowly oozing to the surface in the center. It was quicksand.
Flo drew back when she saw the pool. Her eyes darted to Tucker and he felt the fear in them. “I can’t walk that thing,” she whispered, shaking her head, as though talking to herself.
“You has to walk it,” Tucker said, squeezing her shoulder. “If we stop here, we’s all dead.”
He picked up the smallest girl and carefully started across the log, its surface slick from the falling rain. “I’ll come back for each chile,” he said. “Then you has to cross.”
Flo held her breath, watching each step he took. “Lawd, help us please,” she prayed, pulling Rosie and the two girls close to her.
May heard the dog bark and squinted her eyes through the warm rain. “Almost,” she cursed out loud, “almost gotcha.”
Copyright © 2012 by Ron Van Sweringen