Our last section of the class we read “Floyd’s Girl”, a short story from Small Place, Small Things by Tim Gautreaux. We are in Lafayette, Cajun Country. The area is filled with more swamps than we have seen yet and is a rather small place compared to New Orleans and Baton Rouge. I liked getting away from the bustle of the city and expensive restaurants. I took this time to decompress from the past few whirling weeks and read as much as I could from Gautreaux’s collection.
The story of Floyd’s Girl is Floyd chasing down a Texan man who his ex-wife is living with. His daughter, Lizette, has just been abducted by the Texan. In the process, Floyd barrels through trees in a giant green tractor, borrowed a car, got knocked down. He raced around, knowing which routes the Texan would be taking his girl. He grabbed an airplane and caught up to the man only to get in a bloody fight and the Texan beat up by T-Jean’s grandmére.
This story is rather different than the novels we have read here in Louisiana. The other books seemed to be unable to read without an existential crisis and crying, or profound thought. Floyd’s Girl and the other short stories truly capture life in middle of no where Louisiana. Racing around to find Floyd, his only option was to climb into
The land is littered with rusting equipment and falling apart homes. He crashes through the shed in his rush. This novel gives a sense of what the place is like. As we drive through, we notice the lack of care some places have. Whether this is from destruction of hurricanes and lack of funds to rebuild or not, it is still eerie to see these model homes next to these rotting homes. Some appear to be lived in by squatters or families unable to rebuild parts of the house.
The people are worn out, but just as hardy as the land. And God loving too.
The people in the novel are hyperaware of the state and the systems around them. As our tour guide from a Cajun Pride swamp tour said, you aren’t truly taught anything in school. All the practical knowledge and innate senses are taught at home and outside explorin’. Floyd chased the Texan, not looking at the speedometer, feeling his way around the flooded asphalt and sensing the rubber. In his minds eye, he knew routes to beat a man with a 20 minute head start.
Then there is the sense of roots in Louisiana. Communal connection and extended families is in the book and our adventure to Tom’s Fiddle Shop. At Tom’s Fiddle Shop we were welcomed to the sound of music and smiles. I was expecting some awkwardness, as we were a group of 13 intruding on this family and friends event. Immediately four kids were talking to Tara and I and fake sword battles ensued. The ten year old, Sebastian, was extremely interested in the course and was already on a mental track to be a data scientist. Three of the kids came from Alabama, they were grandkids of Tom’s, and more would come in later weeks. I met one woman who was from San Francisco and summed up the reason why I like Louisiana so much, people are so welcoming here and it is rather laid back. You could never enjoy music like this as a community every first Sunday of the month in Los Angeles. People here say hello while passing the street where that is anathema to California.
The alien nature of worship of Texas seems anathema to every narrator we have. Each character we have see into them minds of in the novel worry about Liz being in the differently worshipping Texas.
The people here are honorable and friendly. This is what I aspire to be. In this Cajun culture, I have been thinking that everyone is laid back. But when it counts, as the story shows, people in Cajun culture will stop at nothing to get what they want and protect their family.
Traveling back to New Orleans, I can imagine racing down the road in Floyd’s borrowed car. Ironically enough, a yellow little seaplane did pass over our heads heading out of the swamps to our right, just how I imagine Floyd flying down low to get the Texan. The experience of reading a story while racing in the same area the characters are beats any description or photo that could be offered to me. While there is not as much introspection on reading this, I got a real understanding of the Cajun lifestyle, family values, and urgency of living life to the fullest by being here on the ground reading along.