tell Chickie it's time to head back and I also tell him he ought to at least roll up his pants so he don't git 'em all muddied again. He does and we gather up our crawfish and nets and go. Chickie keeps the stick, which he uses to poke at the ground here and there.
I decide to go back a different way, followin' the swamp bank to where the slough comes in, then cut across the ridge back to the ditch. It's maybe a half-mile out of the way but there's some big cypress trees in there that I think Chickie would like to see. Daddy calls 'em the Church Trees 'cause if you stand right under 'em and look up, they look like they go clear to heaven.
We walk about a quarter mile and come upon a sorry sight-a brown-and-white drowned cow about twenty yards out in the swamp. Poor thing prob'ly stepped in a hole and bogged down and drowned, or couldn't git out and starved.
This is one of the dangers of walkin' swamp. Even in the shallow water you never know if the bottom'll be there on the next step.
The cow's been here for several days as it's all blowed up and stinkin'. I pinch my nose but Chickie don't. He's never seen a drowned cow or one swole up so big.
Before I know it, Chickie's wadin' out toward the cow. I don't think much of this idea.
I say Chickie, whatcha doin'?
He says just lookin', Meely.
Well you can see that cow good from here. Plus you better be careful. There's prob'ly a deep hole out there. That's why that cow got bogged down.
He says I'm walkin' slow. I just wanna see better.
Chickie is pretty soon at that cow in knee-deep water.
He says watch this, Meely
He raises his stick over his head with both hands, the sharp end of it pointin' down.
I yell no, Chickiel No!!!
Chickie stabs the cow's belly hard with the stick and it explodes like a hunderd mules fartin' green clover.
There's a shower of cow matter and Chickie's knocked down backward and the smell is so awful that I'm just about knocked down too.
I drop the crawfish bucket and the nets and put my left hand over my mouth and nose and rush in the water to Chickie.
I've never seen such a mess of a human being. He's half sittin' up in swamp goo and his face, hair, and shirt are covered with cow blow and white squirmy things.
I say Lord, Chickie. Lord. .
I'm blinded! Chickie howls. I'm blinded, Meelyl
I look close. Chickie's actually got his eyes shut tight so I strip off my T-shirt again and wipe his eyes and his face.
I say now look up here at me, Chickie.
He opens his eyes.
I say can you see me?
He says yeah.
So you're not blind, okay?
I say you are a mess though.
Chickie looks down at his shirt and then his arms.
Them maggots, Meely?
I say well, somethin' like that.
Meely Momma says maggots eat out your brains.
Only if you're dead, Chickie. You ain't dead, okay?
Chickie starts to shiver and rake at his arms. He says git'em off of me, Meely. Pleasel
Then he says I think I'm gonna throw up.
I think I might, too.
I go round behind and git my arms around his chest and drag him to the bank. I git the crawfish,bucket and, though I hate to do this, I dump 'em out on a spot of high ground as far from the water as I can manage. Then I wade into a part of the swamp that Chickie hasn't muddied and dip up a bucketful of water.
I have Chickie kneel down and I douse him.
Six or seven buckets later Chickie's back to lookin' like a half-drowned muskrat, which is an improvement.
I then run over to where I dumped the crawdads and start roundin' 'em up one at a time. Crawfish are slow on land and I knew most of them wouldn't git very far. Chickie comes over to help, though he don't git many 'cause he's scared of bein' pinched again. Though they've scattered everywhere we git most of them back in the bucket.
Chickie looks at me sheepish.
He says do you think I'm stupid, Meely?
I say no.
He says but that was a stupid thing to do, right?
I say yeah. But listen', Chickie, we all do stupid things sometimes. Now you know better.
Chickie shakes his head. He says I didn't know a cow could blow up like that. Did you?
I'm tempted to be cross at Chickie but it's a hard thing to do.
I say no, that's a new one in my book, too.
Chickie looks at me with that grin again.
He says you won't tell, will you?
Kids at school. 'Specially that junior. You know how he gits on me.
I say no, I won't tell junior.
He says whew.
I say I might tell your momma though.
I say Chickie, it's okay. I'm jokin' again. Really.
He says don't tell Momma. She'll kill me.
I say she prob'ly would. Me too.
Chickie pops out laughin' at that. Boy, she would, wouldn't she? Murder us both, Meely.
We make our way out of the woods and Chickie makes it across the log this time without fallin' in. We hike back to my house and there's a truck pulled up in the driveway. It's Chickie's Uncle Theophile.
By this time we've dried off and Chickie don't look no worse than usual. I tell him to take all the crawfish and he says no, Meely, we'll split 'em or at least why don't you come over and Momma will boil 'em for us. She's got some Zatarain's.
But I'm tired and, anyways, the way I eat crawfish I wouldn't but git started and we'd be done. Plus Miz Naquin's an excitable woman and who knows what Chickie himself might blurt out about that cow. Then I'd never hear the end of it.
Chickie's Uncle Theophile ain't never got much to say, at least to me, but he does say boys, y'all caught some nicelookin' crawdads, I gotta hand it to you.
They drive off and I go in to see if maybe Daddy's come home. But the ole Dodge ain't here so I s'pect he's not. I go round the back of the house, past the cypress cistern, and go cloppin' up the back porch steps and through the kitchen door. The house ain't locked. It never is. Daddy says people who ain't got a pot to pee in ain't got nothin' worth stealin'. It's dark inside 'cept where a streak of sun comes in the kitchen window.
I go peek in Daddy's room 'cause sometimes his truck breaks down and he thumbs a ride home. But his room is as empty and lonesome as a church on Tuesday.