Chapter 5 - Kreyol Pale Kreyol Komprann
They drove south for about half an hour talking about their morning with Mrs. Walcott until they came upon standstill traffic. The road was completely washed out due to the Mississippi River flooding and police were directing traffic to the only available road. So, with an abundance of indelicate language from Amy, they did as they were told and headed west.
The scenery swiftly morphed from highly populated cities to swamps, with thousands of shades of green and brown and textures that shifted from cloudlike to razor sharp. She hadn’t been out of Crescent for fear of discovery and capture so she sat in the passenger seat hypnotized by the wetlands and the wonders that only grew in this part of the world.
She saw eyes meticulously moving along the surface of the bright green-skinned water and birds with legs so long she was sure the songs she’d heard on the radio were about them. The trees that shaded the ground were a wonder in themselves. They were monstrous and gnarled and looked as old as time itself. Growing on every available treebranch were vines and moss that appeared to have grown together forming its own impenetrable layer. And to securely round out the creep factor, the fog that laid right on top of the still water seemed to be moving as if it were alive.
After traveling for about an hour, Theo’s stomach started growling loud enough to startle Amy from her fascinations. “Do you need something?” Amy insisted, staring at Theo’s stomach.
“Yeah, I’ve been getting hungry for a while now, but I didn’t want to say anything since we are already going so far out of the way” Theo rubbed his stomach unconsciously and frowned.
“Stop at the next restaurant, that noise is concerning” Amy stated, pointing at Theo’s stomach and giving him no room to argue.
They’d just passed the last city for a while, so Theo was concerned that there wouldn’t be a restaurant for hours, and just as he was finishing his thought they came upon a run down shack with an old sign that read Po a Pou Kwit Manje.
“Is that a restaurant?” Amy asked
“Well I see smoke coming out of that fireplace, and there’s a sign that says The Cooking Pot” Theo responded
“How in the hell could you know that?” Amy asked
“What? You don’t speak Creole?” Theo smirked, knowing full well that very few people outside of Southern Louisiana did.
Theo parked the car in a hurry and before the dust had settled Theo was out of the car on his way towards the diner. Amy followed a bit less enthused. As they made their way to the porch of the shanty, Amy saw a sign above the door that read Kreyol Pale, Kreyol Komprann. She wanted to ask Theo what it meant, but he’d already bolted inside and sat at a busted table that looked like it could barely hold his weight, an excited grin already spread on his face.
The question lost, Amy carefully sat at the table Theo had chosen and began to look for a menu.
“They don’t usually have menus at these kinds of places. You eat what they make, and you love it” his smile never wavering.
Then a heavyset lady with caramel colored skin and dreadlocks decorated with metal beads and small white fragments burst through the door shouting something that Amy couldn’t understand at the cook when she noticed the two sitting at table. She quickly calmed her demeanor and placed a big broken toothed smile across her face.
“Byen Venu, I’m Mama Luce what can I get you to drink, we have tea and water.” the lady spoke with a thick creole accent
“What kind of tea do you have?” Theo asked,
“Oh honey, we got the best sweet tea in Louisiana, I’ll get you both a cup” she said beaming then left through the same door she’d come in continuing her rant directed at the cook.
Mama Luce returned with two mismatched glasses of sweet tea and twinkled, “I add a little magic to every pitcher, y’all want some food too?”
“Yes please!” Theo responded straightening up as he reached for his glass, “What’s on the menu?”
“Today we got jambalaya, that okay?”
Theo’s eyebrows jumped in anticipation “I love jambalaya!”
Ami’s back also straighened. She loved jambalaya, it was her favorite dish from this world.
“Okay, be right back cher” and Mama Luce was gone again.
Ami took a sip of tea and her eyes shot open “Holy shit” she exclaimed, then took another large swig, “this is better than mine!”
“Well, I haven’t tried yours yet, but yeah, Mama Luce was right. This is the best sweet tea I think I’ve ever had” Theo pronounced.
“She is definitely a witch” Amy joked.
Just before the glasses were emptied, Mama Luce came out of the kitchen carrying two colossal bowls of steaming jambalaya. The scent hit their noses as soon as she entered the room, and both of their mouths immediately started salivating. The scent was savory, but also burned their nostrils, and once she sat the bowls in front of them, Amy could see that the entrée looked nothing like the jambalaya that she’d been taught to make by the folks in Crescent. It had rice, shrimp, and sausage along with ample peppers and spices that added a rainbow of colors to the dish.
Theo dove into the bowl like he was in a competitive eating competition, devouring half of the dish before taking a breath, and after her first taste, Amy wasn’t far behind him.
After refilling their glasses, Mama Luce sat down at the table with them. “We don’t get a lot of visitors this far away from town. What brings you to my house?” She asked, clearly trying to make conversation with someone other than the cook.
“The road was washed out on our way to New Orleans, we’re on our way to solve a murder” Amy said without realizing that she was giving away much more information than she normally would to a stranger, but she was largely absorbed with the meal she was demolishing. Then she dropped her fork and sat up realizing what she’d just admitted, her face was a mixture of rice, spice, and confusion.
“It’s the tea” Mama Luce confirmed, acknowledging the inferred question, “it won’t let you lie, but don’t worry, I ain’t mean ya no harm. Just gotta make sure the people I feed are pure” and gave her a warm smile. “So tell me about this touye” she continued.
“Does that mean murder or crime or something?” Amy whispered through the corner of her mouth to Theo.
“Yeah” Theo responded mimicking her behavior, then redirected the conversation back to Mama Luce, he continued, “It was a patient in a mental facility in Crescent Louisiana.”
“Oh I know the place, Shady Acres right?” Mama Luce interrupted,
“That’s the one” replied Theo, “Well the patient died from a puncture wound to the heart, but there was no way it could have happened, no one entered or exited the room and there were no weapons found that could have caused it. That’s why I was hired to investigate and that’s where I met Ms. Amy here” Theo continued nodding at Ami, but not slowing his jambalaya ravaging.
“I was a cook.” Amy looked around not knowing what else to add
“Uh huh” Mama Luce raised an eyebrow, waiting for more, but receiving nothing from Ami.
“Well it seems to me that the only way someone could have come and gone without using the door is if they were from our world.” She continued looking directly at Amy
Amy and Theo’s mouths simultaneously dropped, spilling their mouthfuls back into their bowls.
“How could you know that?!” Amy said bewildered and slightly embarrassed,
“The same way you knew about me” Mama Luce replied and winked, “we gotta recognize and care for our own kind in this world bebe. It seems like the only way he coulda died is if someone from Noxaros came here to kill him or gave someone else the power to do it.” She continued, giving no notice to Theo who was still unsuccessfully trying to hide his surprise.
Amy grew noticeably uncomfortable and whispered, “I came here to get away from Noxaros because it turned me into someone that I’d rather not be” her eyes shifted as she recalled her shame.
“Oh yeah, that place can do that to ya” Mama Luce knowingly replied, “But as long as you got yourself an anj, you should be fine” her eyes darting to Theo just long enough for Amy to notice. Amy looked at Theo in a new regard, he was still shoveling the jambalaya in his face hole like he was never going to eat again, his hunger conquering the surprise of meeting yet another magical person. He’s adorable Amy thought, then quickly responded to the internal dialogue with where the fuck did that come from?
Finishing his last bite, Theo finally chimed into the conversation. “So, are you a witch too?”
“In a way, I was once from Noxaros, but I’ve lived here long enough to have forgotten a lot of it. I prefer the vodou I’ve learned since I been here”
“Interesting, how long have you been here?” Theo inquired,
“Oh ‘bout 250 years, give or take” she responded
Theo was thankful that his mouth was empty because it allowed him to choked on his response instead of rice, “how is that possible?”
“Don’t ask me, ask the girl sittin next to ya. How old are you, I’d guess about 130 mortal years?”
“134” Amy responded smiling at Theo’s bewilderment, then moved a hand over to close his jaw for him. “That’s pretty young for my world, I’d say it’s equivalent to a humans’ early twenties”
Seeing that both of the bowls had been licked clean Mama Luce asked, “Y’all got somewhere to sleep for the night? The swamp can get dangerous as the light goes down”
“Well, we slept in that POS in the drive last night” Amy replied, remembering how much her muscles ached.
“Hey, It wasn’t that bad! Susan has been there for me for years!” Theo disputed with mock offense.
“Oh no doll, you can’t do that two nights in a row, y’all got a murderer to catch. How about ya sleep in my extra room for the night?”
Ami looked at theo and clasped her hands pleading with him to escape the passenger seat for just one night.
“Fine” he surrendered, crossing his arms.
Mama Luce told them to follow her through the doors that lead to the kitchen. Amy and Theo expected to see the cook that she’d been berating when they’d first entered the establishment, but saw no one. They followed her through the kitchen, out the back door and into another house behind the restaurant.
Now, I stay in my room in the restaurant, but I keep this place up for guests. It’s cheap and comfortable and it’ll protect ya from the creatures in the swamp. Make yourselves comfortable” and she left.
“I’ll go get my bag, you have yours?” Theo said looking at the small handbag Amy had hanging over her shoulder and smirked again.
“Yep” she replied, patting the impossible pouch with her middle finger extended.
After Theo had left the room, Amy looked around. She saw a single queen size bed with battered but clean looking bedding, a rocking chair in the corner that abruptly stopped it's slight rocking when she looked in it’s direction and many figurines decorating the shelves. Next to the statues she saw a variety of jars holding different kinds of powders and liquids. She was on her way to investigate the ingredients when Theo burst into the room carrying a large suitcase and laughing to himself.
“What are you laughing at?”
“Well, when I went to get my bag I saw a sign about the door that made me laugh”,
“I was going to ask about that!” she suddenly remembered, “What does it mean?”
“It means ‘Speak plainly, don’t try to deceive.'”