There were some incredible submissions for The Books Along the Teche Literary Festival competition for ages 18 and over.
The first-place winner was "No Drawl Y'all" by Margaret T. Schlaudecker.
In second place was "Fast Like Me" by Rodney Butch Baily and third place was "Southern Drawl" by Anne Simon.
Here is the first place winner:
NO DRAWL, Y’ALL
by Margaret T. Schlaudecker
It was Saturday night and I had nowhere to go and nothing to do. My little mutt Chicory and I settled into the couch with a cheap bottle of Trader Joe’s Merlot and the remote control.
“What are we in the mood for, Chick? Action, comedy, horror?” But Chicory was already fast asleep. I started clicking through the channels, hoping to find something of interest. When I got to one of the sappy movie channels, I recognized the scenery, so I paused. This movie was obviously filmed in my hometown of New Orleans. It was a rom com but the only thing that was funny was the horrible Southern drawl the lead actor was speaking in. And it wasn’t just him – the whole cast had adapted that horrid accent!
As I watched a man drive from the central business district right into a road alongside a bayou, my ears were assaulted with phrases such as, “How is your Momma and them?” and “What are you guys doing?’” as he talked on the phone. “C’mon, dude, it’s y’all, not you guys!’” I yelled at the television. “Chicory, I bet even you know it’s, “How’s ya mom and dem?!” But Chicory barely flinched at the sound of her name.
In the middle of my rant against the movie, the telephone rang. I paused the flick so I could get back to my tirade in a bit.
“Hello!” I guess I was still feeling agitated.
“Whoa! What’s got you riled up?” It was my best friend, Allie.
“Oh…nothing really…sorry! What’s up? I didn’t want to explain to her what had irritated me. She already knew so many of my idiosyncrasies, such as my aversion to grammatical and spelling errors, or how I hate when people dress their pets up, and she still chose to be my friend. I didn’t want to give her any more ammo than necessary.
“Trish, Deanie, and I were going to head down to check out the new bar on Third Street and want you to come with us.”
“Thanks for the invite, but I think I am going to stay in tonight.”
“Evie Fontenot! You aren’t staying at home on a Saturday night for another of your artsy-crafty projects, are you?!” Allie knew me a little too well! I was always inspired to try the latest craft craze, from painting and photography to beading and needle arts. Most of my ideas seemed so much better in my head than in the real world but that didn’t stop me.
“No, nothing like that. I got sucked into a movie and figure I will just chill tonight.”
“Well, record the movie, get dressed, and come with us!” Allie wasn’t good at taking no for an answer.
“Nah, I’m just not feeling it. Plus, I have already had a couple of glasses of wine, and I will probably be asleep before the movie ends.”
“You always were a lightweight! Let me know if you change your mind!” Okay, so I hadn’t even finished my first glass of wine. A little white lie wouldn’t hurt.
As soon as I hung up, I slipped back into the movie. I just didn’t get it! The movie was filmed in New Orleans – couldn’t they get a feel for the true accent instead of the syrupy sweet drawl the whole cast was infected with?
When I moved from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, I have to admit there was some culture shock. Phrases that we always used back home left locals here wide-eyed and confused. In New Orleans, an inspection sticker for a car was a brake tag and the median on a boulevard was a neutral ground. I also had to get used to people assuming that I would say things like “making groceries” instead of going shopping or that I would say “berl” and “zink” instead of boil and sink. The two cities are less than 100 miles apart, but sometimes the differences were much wider.
I spent the next hour joyously mocking every word uttered and every movement executed by the characters in the movie. I was almost sorry to see it end! As the closing credits were rolling and I was getting ready to surf the channels again, an announcement came up that caught my interest.
“The Leisure Time Movie Channel is looking for new scripts! Send us your feel-good story with a happy ending! The winner will have their movie produced and will act as an advisor on set!”
My creative juices started flowing. I was practically salivating! I loved to write – I even took a scriptwriting class in college. There was always a formula to the movies on this channel. Girl moves away from her hometown; girl returns home for the Winter Festival or something like that; girl runs into boyfriend from her past; girl and ex have some friction but eventually fall back in love and live happily ever after.
My script was set in Louisiana. Since it was almost Mardi Gras, Camille Boudreaux - girl who moved away - will return to her small town in Louisiana for a Mardi Gras ball. It's a costume ball so Camille has no clue that the man she is having a wonderful time dancing with is none other than Joseph St. Pierre, her high school love interest who she had been carefully avoiding since her return home. It would play out like a Cinderella story. Once Camille finds out who the mystery man is, she makes a hasty exit before he can learn her identity. To put a modern-day spin on the story, while racing out of the ballroom, she drops her cell phone, which Joseph finds. Eventually of course, Joseph and Camille come face-to-face, and they both realize that they still have feelings for each other.
I spent all my spare time in the next week writing and rewriting my screenplay before I was finally satisfied enough to email it to The Leisure Time Movie Channel. I was determined to keep the people, places, and things – and especially the accents – authentic to my home state! There was no Southern drawl in my script! There was nothing to do now but wait with crossed fingers. Even if I didn’t win, I was pleased that I finished yet another creative venture.
A couple of weeks later, Mardi Gras season was well underway in New Orleans. Allie and I headed down for the big weekend before Fat Tuesday. It had become a tradition for her and I to go to the Krewe of Bacchus parade. It always had a celebrity grand marshal, and the beauty of the floats never disappointed.
“Okay, let’s find a good parking space in a place where we can get out easily once the parade is over.” I was the practical one.
“Evie, I just want to find a spot where I can get a good picture of the grand marshal! He’s one of my favorite actors!” Allie had her own priorities.
We found a parking lot that wasn’t charging a fortune and scurried to St. Charles Avenue just in time for the start of the parade. Allie and I were having a ball. She got the perfect picture of her celebrity crush. We were getting bombarded with beads, and no, we didn’t shout, “Throw me somethin’, mister!” even once. Finally, some Bacchus doubloons were raining down on us and I really wanted one for my collection. As every New Orleanian knows, you don’t try picking one up off the ground without first stepping on it. As I was attempting to step on one close to me, a man was also trying to get his foot on the same doubloon. Our feet collided but he was victorious and claimed the gold-colored coin. I wasn’t expecting the man to be a gentleman but after he retrieved the doubloon, he handed it to me. I was shocked.
“Thank you so much!” I exclaimed while looking only at the prize in sight, not the man who belonged to the hand.
“Evie? Evie Fontenot?” There was something familiar about the voice. I looked up and immediately recognized David Broussard, who I dated our senior year of high school. He looked the same, just a little older…and even better, I must say. I stood there for a moment with my mouth wide open. Once I got over the initial shock, we started making small talk.
“When I came home for Mardi Gras, I sure didn’t expect to run into anyone I knew, especially in this crowd!” he said.
“Came home? Where do you live now?” I was feeling just a touch disappointed. I thought it might be nice to get reacquainted. The only reason we broke up after high school is because we both went away to college hundreds of miles apart and knew it just wouldn’t work. Imagine my surprise at his response.
“I recently moved to Baton Rouge for my job.”
Fast Like Me
Rodney ‘Butch’ Bailey
He awoke just as the plane began its descent into LaGuardia, put his tray table in place, and pulled his seat belt extra tight. When they began deplaning the passengers, he waited patiently in his seat there at the rear of the aircraft. He was in no rush, and he especially disliked being thrust into the midst of crowds. He was happy to let the jostling mob get off, then walk at his own easy pace down the aisle, stopping to thank the flight attendants and the pilot.
His wife was waiting for him at the baggage claim, pacing back and forth in front of the belt. The idea was not lost upon her that once again she was standing still, waiting on her husband to collect and manage his personal baggage. This keen sense of irony was one of several changes she had adopted over the two years in which they had tried to make their long-distance relationship work.
“Why on Earth do you insist on checking your baggage?” she asked, as he grabbed her and hugged her neck. “Most people would just carry on their luggage. So, I guess now we wait!”
“What’s the hurry? Just hush, and let me hold you a minute. We got all the time in the world. ‘And indeed, there will be time. There will be time, there will be time.’ Isn’t that what your old fancy poet says?”
“How the hell do you answer that?” she thought to herself.
Years ago, she had decided to make a new start on the career of her dreams. This then evolved into making a new start on the life of her dreams. She had pursued and obtained her graduate degree from NYU, and went to work at one of the large publishing houses there in the city. He had remained at home in New Orleans, where he had a growing legal practice. His reputation as one of the premier trial attorneys in that city was solid, and well-earned. With his slow southern drawl, easy empathetic manner, and relaxed intellect, he was always happy to let adversaries underestimate him. A southern gentle man, with a black belt in a kind of legal ju-jitsu.
For her part, his manners and mannerisms were enough to make her grind her teeth. She had begun to detest the way he would think and speak in such a deliberate, factually correct but maddeningly slow style. In her time in New York, she had begun to work with men and women who knew exactly what they thought and why they thought it, and could express those thoughts rapidly and precisely. She always dreaded taking him to the dinners and parties that were part of her new work world. From all their years together, she knew he was remarkably capable and intelligent. But her friends there in the business did not know him, and she could only imagine what some of her authors, editors, and executives thought of him and his slow-talking, gentleman farmer sounding ways.
As he took his bags off the belt, he heard her say in an astounded voice, “You’re wearing your cowboy boots? When did you get those? Are those the only shoes you brought?”
“You’re hitting me with a lot of questions. Yes, I’m wearing them. I got them in sort of a, well, you know, exchange payment kind of deal. This client of mine had gotten into some legal trouble stemming from what you might say was a little old embezzlement activity. Alleged activity, I mean. Anyhow, I was able to help him quite a bit, but he didn’t have any money, because, well the bank he worked for was sort of catching onto the embezzlement thing. But he did have this high-dollar brand-new pair of boots, in my size, made from sea turtle hide. So long and short of it is, we sort of swapped. Don’t they look good?”
“You’re not wearing those to the book launch party we’re having tonight.”
“Well, I’ve got to wear something, and I don’t do barefoot, even in the park.”
“I know what a disappointment this will be, but we are going to find some decent, fashionable shoes for you. And for God’s sake…. sea turtle! Do you have any idea what kind of people you will be meeting?”
“Well, if I had to bet, I would bet they’re pretty nice,” he said. “And just for the record, dear…. I didn’t kill the damn turtle!” He immediately felt badly that he had let his anger get the best of him and said the curse word. He had nothing against cursing, except its overuse which, to his way of thinking, robbed it of its power.
He knew what really made him angry was the way his wife had changed over this time she had been living in New York. Her once soft voice now had a stridency to it, in sentences that were mostly strong and declarative. She walked, everywhere, as if she were always in a hurry. She had cut her beautiful long hair, and styled it in some kind of bizarre Einstein-like fashion. And her clothes were, well, just different. He could see he would have to buy her a whole new wardrobe when someday she came back down South. And as he thought that, the thought also came to him that she was never going to come back down South.
He tried to relieve the tension, “I meant to bring a pair of your capri pants with me so you would have them to wear in the park.”
“You won’t see a lot of capri pants here in New York City,” she said to him, without even a glimmer of a smile.
“Well, I’ll be damned,” he said, “and here I’ve always had it in my mind that New York City had nothing to offer the rest of the civilized world.” He remembered her trademark quick wit, and the insightful sense of humor that had always been part of her beauty.
Mostly he felt bad because he knew what a disappointment he had become to her, with his obvious lack of… sophistication… especially relative to her new circles of travel. Certainly, she must have been tired of hearing his voice, with its southern drawl and his slow, odd way of phrasing his sentences. He now realized that he knew this because, well, she had kept telling him so. “Is there some reason you can’t quickly and efficiently decide what you are going to say, then say it…clearly…precisely…quickly…instead of dragging it out for what feels like an eternity? People here don’t have all day, you know!”
All this, and more, was on his mind as they went into the men’s clothing store in downtown Manhattan. It took a while, but finally they found shoes and other attire appropriate for the evening’s activities.
“I did not have time for this today!” she said angrily as she pushed the full bag into his arms.
They walked down toward the taxi stand on the other side of Lexington Avenue. He heard her whistle loudly and yell ‘Taxi!” “Handled like a true New Yorker,” he thought. A taxi driver waved to her and she started in his direction.
“You know,” he said, “I’m not at all sure that…”
“What!” She stopped and turned toward him. “In one sentence, what in the hell are you not at all .…”
It took the bus almost two blocks to come to a complete stop. The shaken bus driver then started backing up, and it seemed for a minute he might run over her a second time, as if only for good measure. Men and women were screaming and crying, and everywhere the sound of the city traffic registering its frustration with this delay. He ran to where his wife lay. He knew at once she was dead.
A nurse stepped out from the crowd and said, “Let me take a look at her,” then sadly shook her head as she felt no pulse of life from the body lying there on the pavement. “Is this your wife?” she asked with tears in her eyes.
Without a hint of hesitation or accent, the man looked at her and quickly said, “She used to be.”
Lt. William Wells stirred from the depths of sleep. Bloody battle scenes floated into his consciousness. Where could he be? Not astride his horse Excalibur. He lay on smooth sheets on a cot in a large indoor space under a high-beamed ceiling. Tall benches pressed against the far wall. In a church, perhaps?
William hailed the first person who passed: a woman with a red cross stitched onto the swelled bodice of her white uniform. A pleated cap balanced atop the swirl of her soft bun.
“Please, ma’am, can you tell me where I am?”
“In a hospital in New Iberia, Lieutenant. The hospital is in the Episcopal Church.”
“And my horse Excalibur?”
“Is that his name? He’s stabled with other Yankee horses in the camp west of town.” Her face opened in a smile. “Excalibur! His name might have helped us last night. You arrived strapped onto his back. He raised a ruckus when we tried to take you down!”
“Excalibur is beyond loyal!”
“Tea and cush-cush will arrive soon. Cornbread porridge,” she explained before the lieutenant could verbalize his questioning expression. “May I get anything for you now?”
“Paper, pen, and a bottle of ink perhaps? My wife will be frantic if she hears I’m in a hospital. She’s expecting a baby.”
The nurse set the items on a crate. William leaned over to scratch words on the paper. Should he expend energy explaining that writing from a prone position and not serious injuries caused ink splotches? Yes. Unless he did, Elizabeth would not believe his reassurances.
William sensed the presence of another person by his cot: a man in a white coat and, above the stiff collar, a smiling face and bright blue eyes. His left hand carried a black medical bag.
“Good morning, Lieutenant. I’m Dr. Alfred Duperier.”
“Lt. William Wells, 52nd Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteers, sir.”
“My nurse dressed your wound last night. General Weitzel asked me to have a look and tell him when moving on to rejoin your unit would be appropriate.”
William raised his eyebrows. “Do you know I am a Union soldier?”
“Of course, I do. And a tall one. Your feet hang off the end of our cot! And I’m a Rebel. But first I am a doctor. You are from Massachusetts?”
“Yes, sir. The Berkshires.”
“Ah, mountains. I regret we have none in Louisiana.” The doctor reached toward William’s torn pants. “May I?”
Dr. Duperier opened his medical bag to display a fine supply of needs. He removed the dressing and examined the wound. “My nurse did a fine job. I see nothing that should not be present. I expect you will heal well.” He glanced at the remains of the tintype on the crate beside the cot. “Unfortunately, the likeness of that lovely lady will not.”
“My wife, doctor. I had no opportunity to give the likeness to the Chaplain. We left in confusion.”
“Your good fortune! The metal deflected the course of the bullet and your wound is less severe. You’ll be ready to travel in a few days. For now, I recommend walking and resting.”
“I have not seen the town but the church is lovely and has a fine location at a curve of the stream below.”
“The stream is the Bayou Teche. May I take you to the front door for a better view and catch the spring breeze?”
Dr. Duperier helped the Lieutenant to his feet. The doctor stumbled as his greater height and instability challenged the doctor’s balance. They walked slowly down the center aisle and looked across the bayou flowing slowly from their left.
“That’s a fine house on the opposite bank,” William said.
“My family home; I was born there in 1826. The bricks came from the clay pit behind the house, the same brick used in this church.”
Specks of color poked through fans of tropical plants edging the muddy water below. On the shore, wildflowers and foot-high pillars of smooth bare root rose under feathery-needled cypress trees.
“A peaceful view, Doctor, quieter than clear mountain streams gurgling over rocks.”
Dr. Duperier chuckled. “Indeed. Rocks are rare in these parts. I don’t know if you’ll go down to the bayou. If you do, keep watch for the noses of varmints. They won’t be familiar to you and few are friendly.”
The two men strolled the aisle of the church. The doctor said he'd return the next day.
Not so! Mid-afternoon he came again, reporting a change of plans. William would be moved to General Weitzel’s camp. The Union needed the church for prisoners. William and the doctor walked outside and enjoyed a long conversation about their families, their horses, and crops they raised. Neither spoke about the war.
Nightmares again haunted William’s sleep. Bleeding bodies in ripped uniforms of grey and blue displayed before him. He heard himself command his troops to mount the bloody piles, form a tight line, and fire at men in grey a few yards ahead. He watched men fall and coughed on the miasma of gunpowder.
William believed General Weitzel would commend one aspect of the first battle experience of D Company. William’s mission had been to train his men to respond quickly to commands and maintain courage under fire. Mission accomplished–––for all except one poor lad. Pvt. Harbor abandoned the battle line to toss the contents of his stomach. The lieutenant had prepared his men for dealing with the freeze of fear–––the common response to a first exposure to battle–––but not for garden-variety nausea. William hoped General Weitzel would not punish the lad too severely.
William heard again his order to his men to act with deadly purpose and, when Generals Taylor and Mouton made a strategic withdrawal, felt a rush fuel his order for deadly pursuit, firing at every Rebel within range.
Questions swirled in. Do men study how to conduct a battle and come up with the barbarity of a plan to have hundreds of men armed with lethal weapons face off yards from one another, firing until every man on one side or both falls in a bloody heap? Does this strategy of warfare continue because death fuels an energy enabling humane men to become killers?
William recalled one sight that stuffed shame down his throat. As men in blue pursued the Rebel forces, negroes–––and some Yankees who joined them–––ran from plantations along the route carrying off all manner of fine goods, then set the homes afire. Officers ordered the destruction to cease, but did not turn from headlong pursuit for enforcement.
William’s last memory before sleep turned off his thoughts was of hands strapping him onto Excalibur’s back.
The doctor found the lieutenant for another walk the following day. William had received his orders. He would join the four companies of the 52nd Regiment guarding New Iberia, cross the Bayou, and support the mission of Col. Chickering by traveling north through St. Martinsville and beyond confiscating contraband sugar, cotton, meat, and other provisions useful to the Union war effort. In addition, they would gather families fleeing enslavement, also considered contraband, and recruit men suitable for the Union Army. When safe, they would reunite with the main body of the 52nd Regiment delayed at Vermilionville.
“I’ve enjoyed our conversations, Doctor, but I have a question. I had not spoken directly to a white southerner until we met. I expected to hear a southern drawl tripling the number of syllables of every word!”
The doctor smiled.
“We’re unusual in this part of Teche Country,” the doctor explained. “French influence, I suppose. We don’t drawl. Our town was once a settlement called La Nouvelle Iberie. We spoke French at home. You were unconscious when Excalibur carried you through St. Mary Parish from the Battle of Irish Bend. If you had talked with anyone on the way you’d have heard a drawl. Where you are going, you’ll hear Acadian French and find enslaved persons who can’t speak English at all. If they join you, you’ll become an English teacher!”
William smiled. “I suppose I’ll decide whether to teach them to drawl!”
The doctor laughed aloud.
The pair rested on a bench on the bayou landing.
“Doctor, one day I’d love to bring my wife here to visit. She will be as intrigued as I am.”
The doctor, chattering like a tour guide for three days, fell silent.
“My friend, I would not recommend you visit in St. Mary Parish anytime soon. Considerable time must pass before anyone there will care to converse with someone in Union blue. I’m glad you’re leaving by another route.”
Wearing his damaged uniform, carrying his knapsack, and riding Excalibur, William reported to Col. Chickering the following morning. Once across the Bayou Teche, Col. Chickering’s flag bearer dipped his colors in salute toward the doctor’s family home. The doctor, in return, waved from the portico in front.