Late afternoon sun angled through Spanish Moss and cypress trees, sending spotty light to the murky bayou. A small aluminum john boat, laden with bags of groceries and two young men skimmed over the water. The wake sloshed against the banks and disturbed dense mats of water hyacinths. At the tiller, Jason Thibodeaux followed the twisted path of the bayou. They passed egrets stalking through shallows in search of supper. Alligators floating at the surface, in hopes of an egret dinner, ducked under the water when the boat passed.
“Jason, you think it’s true that T’ Mamou’s house moves around the swamp?”
Jason laughed and said, “Yeah, it get up on its legs and walk around to find the best spot to be. “Seeing the look of fear on his cousin’s face, he added, “That old house don’t walk. It’s always been in the same place, just past the big cypress around the bend where the bayou double back on itself.”
“We should have brought Etienne.”
“Why you think we should bring him?”
“He knows this part of the bayou better’n we do. He knows magic, too.”
“Bobby Boudreaux, you think we’re gonna need magic to find T’ Mamou’s place?”
“I’m jus’ sayin’ weird stuff happens out here and this is Halloween.”
Jason gave the engine more gas as the sun dipped below the horizon. “The only thing we need is light an that’s goin’ away fast.” They rounded a sharp bend and passed a giant cypress tree with knees standing five feet out of the water. The rotted remains of a dock marked the spot. “Here we… ,” Jason started to say when the words dried up.
The house wasn’t there. The engine died and the drifted by the mouldering dock. Wisps of fog rose from the dark water. Bobby’s voice quavered. “The house ain’t here, Jason. T’ Mamou made it walk away.”
“Shut up, Bobby. We just ain’t gone far enough.” Jason pulled the start rope and the little engine fired up.
A crescent moon rose as they continued up the bayou, adding only a ghostly bit of light. Bobby pulled out his flashlight and shined it along the bank, watching for a dock by every cypress tree they passed. Around another bend and another big tree, they saw a small neat dock. Jason slowed the boat. There was no house.
A loud crunching and crackling came from the woods. Bobby shone his flashlight into the trees. In the beam, they saw something moving, something big. Spider-like, the house walked on its stilts to the edge of the bayou and settled in place. A flight of stairs rolled out from the porch to the dock.
“I told you, Jason! I told you her house walks!”
“Our eyes playin’ tricks on us in this light. Tie the boat up.”
“Both our eyes saw the same trick.” Bobby grumbled as he hopped to the dock and tied off.
A dry cackle came from inside the dark house. The screen door creaked open and a tiny skinny ancient woman in a long black dress hobbled out onto the porch. “You boys bring me groceries?”
“Yeah, T’ Mamou, we bring you groceries,” Jason said as he handed the bags to Bobby.
“Bring dem in. I got gumbo and boudain and fried frog legs for Halloween, We’re havin’ a party.” She turned and went back inside. Yellow light from a kerosene lamp glowed through the screen door, lighting the dock and stairs.
Toting the bags of groceries, Bobby and Jason climbed the rickety stairs. Each tread groaned as they stepped on it. The porch boards screeched when they crossed it. Bobby whispered, “I swear, Jason, this place is alive.”
“I think you’re right. I wish we had Etienne here.” As Jason reached for the door handle, a shadow filled the doorway and deep evil laughter wafted through the screen. Jason shrieked, dropped the bags he carried, and jumped backwards, falling over Bobby.
The shadow stepped through the door and said, “You jus’ in time for de party. I hope you bring dem chips and dips. De beer, it cold already.” Jason shrieked again as he scrambled to get to the stairs. A hand caught his tee-shirt, dragged him back kicking and screaming, and stood him in the front room.
The darkness wafted away from the shadow and there stood his cousin, Etienne Comeaux, grinning. Jason turned to see Bobby leaning against the door post, red-faced and laughing. Together, Bobby and Etienne said, “Trick or treat!”
“You two! I’m gonna get you!”
The odor of sulfur, like a freshly struck match, reached Jason’s nose. From behind him a deep voice said, “You don’t stand a chance, toad.” A large hand caught him by the scruff of his neck. “This is my holiday, so kick back, drink some beer, and enjoy the party.” The hand sat him in a chair. Jason looked behind him and saw Allyn Jones, the redheaded magician who married his aunt. He took the beer the magician offered.
“Okay, where’s Aunt Nan?” Jason asked. “I know she’s in on this too.”
“Right here,” Evelyn Eden said as she set a platter of smoked boudain on the table.
Several beers and lots of food later, Etienne picked up his accordion, Bobby and Jason got a couple of old guitars off the wall, and Allyn produced a violin from thin air. The strains of Jolie Blond filled the air and drove away any evil spirits that may have thought to join the party.
Happy Halloween from the swamp.