This post is something of an experiment, inspired by Kristine Kathryn Rusch who posts a free short story every week on her blog. I like the idea. However, I don’t have nearly as many stories as Kris, so I’ll post a free story on every first Monday of the month. It will remain free to read on this blog for exactly one month, then I’ll take it down and post another story.
And so I give you “Big Puffball”, a tale of a friendly swap monster with a taste for shiny things that may also be found in the collection Southern Monsters, available at fine e-book retailers everywhere:
All right, so listen, cause this — like — really happened. I should know, cause I was there. I looked into the eye of the swamp monster and lived to tell the tale. And if you buy me a beer, I’ll tell you all about it.
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. Swamp monster stories are dime a dozen here in bayou country. Pretty much everybody here in the bayous claims to have seen a ghost or a vampire or a swamp monster and most of the time, the so-called “monster” is no scarier than an alligator. Though alligators can be pretty fucking scary, if you ask me.
But my story is different. Because it’s one hundred percent totally true, cross my heart and wish to die and all that jazz. And for only the price of a beer, you get to hear it.
Okay, so it happened a long time ago, more than thirty years now, when I was but a little boy. It was February, Mardi Gras time, and me, my Mama and Papa and my sister Cally had gone to New Orleans to watch the parades. And now we were on our way home, Papa behind the wheel of our Pontiac Le Mans, Mama in the passenger seat and me and Cally on the backseat, counting our doubloons and beads. I was seven and Cally was five, both of us totally carefree, like children will be.
I still don’t know quite how it happened. One moment, we were happily chattering on the backseat, while Mama and Papa were quietly talking among themselves on the front seat. The radio was playing Zydeco music and the car was cruising along a dark backroad in bayou country, the headlights the only illumination. The next moment, there was a shadow, sharply outlined by the headlights, as something crossed the road.
I never knew what it was, a possum maybe or a raccoon or maybe something bigger. All I remember is that Mama screamed and Papa pulled the wheel around. The Pontiac swerved, avoiding the thing on the road. But Papa couldn’t get it under control again, so the car careened off the road, down a slope and right into the Bayou Marron.
Cally and I were wearing our seatbelts, which probably saved our lives. But nonetheless I was thrown forward and knocked my head against the back of the driver’s seat. I was out for a few seconds and when I came to again, our car was gradually sinking into the brackish water of the Bayou Marron.
Already water was seeping into the footwell, muddy and icy cold. On the backseat next to me, Cally had pulled her knees up to her chin to escape the water. In the front seat, Mama and Papa were rattling on the doors, but it was to no avail. The doors were jammed.
This story was available on this blog for one month only, but you can still read “Big Puffball” in the collection Southern Monsters. And if you click on the First Monday Free Fiction tag, you can read this month’s free story.