The pirogue nudged its way between the cypress stumps, lily pads parting in its path and reuniting in its wake. The only sounds came from the rustle of leaves in the slight breeze and the occasional slap and roil of a feeding bass. It was late afternoon; a low sun dappled the brown surface of the bayou and the shadows pointed like gnarled fingers towards the east. The boy guided the boat alongside the wooden pier and stepped ashore with the mooring line. A grey heron shrieked and lifted off, startling him. He swallowed hard and waited for his heartbeat to settle before he tied the mooring line to a cleat. The shack at the end of the pier was one of hundreds in the vast swamp, erected by fishermen who came for the catfish and crappie. Some used them as a base to tend their moonshine stills. This one was different.
Early that day, as dawn turned the mist rising from the wetlands into swirls of fire, the boy had slipped out of the shotgun house where he lived with his grandparents and jogged down the dirt road towards the single lane highway. Most days he made this journey with less urgency, to meet the yellow school bus which would carry him to the junior high school in Homewood, but it was Saturday and he was on a mission. The boy paused to shift the canvas sack from one shoulder to the other then picked up his pace again. The sack carried two bottles of water, his first aid kit and his filleting knife. Also in the sack, wrapped in an oily cloth, was his grandpa’s ancient Colt Model 1909 revolver which had first seen service in WW1. He crossed the highway and plunged into the cypress trees on the far side where the solid ground quickly gave way to swamp. Tied to a tree was his fishing pirogue and into it he dropped the sack, pushing it securely under the amidships seat. Then he retrieved his paddle from its hiding place and put that in the boat too. He took a deep breath, clenched and unclenched his fists. He had to go, he couldn’t back out now.