The Ripple

The sunrise was lavender gingerbread glazed with carnation-pink icing, and ripples of carnation-pink bayou water hazily mirroring the lavender sunrise. Two blue jays, like pterodactyls, flew squawking in the sky above me, as a tangerine-orange jellybean bubbled up from the mossy treeline.

I’d paddled a canoe to the easternmost bend of Bayou Berard in the dark. I wanted to be floating on rippling water when day broke, so as the first streaks of pink were beginning to frost the morning clouds, I was standing in the middle of the canoe, gently rocking it side to side, broadcasting liquid ripples into the lavender-and-brown mirage . . .

When the whine of a wide-open motor getting closer cut through all of that.

I knew the waves from the passing motorboat might tip me over if I stayed standing, so I picked up the paddle I’d laid across the canoe and, camera in one hand, paddle in the other, slowly folded my legs into the shape of a seat and sat.

And swept the paddle like a second hand in the water, rotating the canoe counterclockwise to point into the approaching waves, which is how you want to be pointing in such a situation.

When the driver of the boat noticed me, he cut his speed in half, his motor whining half as loudly. Then — silence. His motor was off.

Now he’s coasting toward me, only the sound of lavender lapping against my canoe and the flying blue dinosaurs squawking.

It’s Uncle Cheese! Should’ve guessed it would be another Theriot at this hour.

“Gangsta!” He angles in toward me.

And I remember that I’m wearing a navy blue bandanna around my head.

“Big time!” I lay my paddle down.

He’s twenty feet away, he’s ten feet away, then, weirdly, he morphs into my grandmother.

Now it’s Mamom steering the boat toward me instead of Uncle Cheese, and I don’t think it’s my mind playing tricks on me. It’s really her.

“Killed anything?” She has that kind look in her eyes she always had. Has.

I show her my camera and smile.

Last year Uncle Cheese showed up in one of my dreams. He was putting lipstick on his lips, and as his floating head rotated it morphed into Mamom’s floating head rotating. That wasn’t my mind playing tricks on me then either. Isn’t that what ghosts do? Ripple through people?

He parts a patch of waterlilies with his boat and pushes a crab trap overboard.

My uncle is an early bird. My father is an early bird. Mamom was an early bird. I come from a long line of early birds.

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