I am once again putting a note at the beginning of a chapter because this one needs a warning. This chapter doesn't contain graphic violence or steamy sexual innuendo. What it does have is a whole lot of Cajun. I have written it as it is pronounced. If you have any trouble understanding this, please make use of the bootboxes which hopefully will translate the most difficult of the dialect dialogue. The other warning is that this chapter will not answer any questions whatsoever about Jessie, Dixon, Phillip, or Jason.
Make of this chapter what you will. All will become clear later on.
René Brouillard rolled through the fading beauty of an antebellum home, once again denigrating himself for scarring the hardwood floors with the tires of his wheelchair. It couldn't be helped however. A diagnosis of cancer as advanced as his had left little choice for his mobility for the last few months of his life. He didn't absolutely have to use the wheelchair just yet; he could still walk with a cane or walker, but they got tangled in the hems of his dresses. Opening the armoire that hid his computer from view amongst the room full of antiques his family had spent several lifetimes accumulating and that he had spent a lifetime maintaining, he smiled as he saw an e-mail newsletter from his old college classmates.
"Amee Whatley Wiggins has been reunited with her long lost great-grandson," he read aloud. "Clan Short of Vulcan was responsible for saving the child's life when his kidnapper turned violent and attacked the boy and his best friend at the home of the friend." René sat back for a moment and adjusted his own great-grandmother's brooch on his lace collar.
He might live a far piece down the bayou from town, but even as far back in the sticks as he was, he had heard the news of Clan Short. Naturally their good works were being downplayed by the local news because of their pro-gay attitude, but clearly that wasn't going to negatively influence René Brouillard. He actually thought more highly of them for their efforts and prayed for their safety and survival. He wasn't sure that did any good since Father Guidry had told him that he was a sinner bound for eternal damnation. René couldn't bring himself to believe that God hated him. How could God hate someone for being the person they were made from birth? That got him back to thinking about Amee Whatley again.
"It's 'bout time dat woman had something happy took place in her life ("It's about time that woman had something happy take place in her life")," he mused aloud as he remembered the young woman who had been his only friend when it was revealed in college that he partook of the love that dare not speak its name. She had told him to never think less of himself for being who he was. She told him that God had made him the way he was and that God didn't make junk. When she shared the story of her beloved little brother with him, they had wept together at the renewed grief and loss those memories had brought up.
A knock at the door distracted him from his reminisces. He rolled across the room after closing the door of the armoire. He was able to see through the windows beside the door that it was someone who knew well his affection for the softer styles of antebellum clothing. He stood up so he could open the door graciously as the Belle of Brouillard Plantation should.
"Antoinette Pospisil, what kind of foolishness got you out at twelve o'clock in de middle of de night, wid your bébés no less ("Antoinette Pospisil, what kind of foolishness has you out at twelve o'clock in the middle of the night, with your babies no less")?" he asked as he gestured the young woman and the two small twins into his home. "Has dat man of yours been after you again ("Has that man of yours been after you again")?" No verbal response was needed as the woman stepped into the light of the grand hall. The blackened eye and split swollen lip said more than enough.
"I'm gonna call de sheriff rat now, you just set down dere on dat divan ("I'm going to call the sheriff right now, you just sit down there on that divan")," René blurted.
"It's too late for dat now, Tante René ("It's too late for that now, Aunt René")," the shaky young woman told him. "You got to took care of my bébés for me, Tante René. Dey know what happened at dat house tonight and dey can told you and de sheriff after I'm gone ("You have to take care of my babies for me, Aunt René.  They know what happened at that house tonight and they can tell you and the sheriff after I'm gone")."
"What you saying, Antoinette ("What are you saying, Antoinette")?" René asked her. "Sit down over here and told me what you doing ("Sit down over here and tell me what you are doing")."
"I'ma gived my bébés a better life ("I'm giving my babies a better life")," Antoinette said as she shoved a crumpled piece of paper into René's hand. "You told dem dat dey Momma loved dem and she don't want dem to grow up like dis ("You tell them that their mother loved them and she did not want them to grow up like this")."
"Antoinette, you talking crazy ("Antoinette, you are talking crazy")," René protested. He was speaking to no one, though. The young woman had turned and ran into the night. René felt a tug at his skirt and looked down into the six year old faces of Etienne and Emile Pospisil. There were tears in the boys' eyes.
"Tante René, we's fraid ("Aunt René, we are afraid")," Emile said with a sniffle. "Poppa and Momma, dey had a bad fight dis time ("Our father and mother, they had a bad fight this time")."
"Poppa hurt Momma, and she hurt him back," Etienne added through his own tears.
"Hush now, bébés," René soothed. "Y'all come over to de couch and cuddle up wid your Tante René. We forget all about dem troubles ("Both of you come over the couch and cuddle with your Aunt René.  We will forget all about those troubles")."
"I'm hungry, Tante René," Emile told the old man.
"Emmy, you ain't poseta said dat ("Emile, you are not supposed to say that")," Etienne hissed. "Poppa gonna get mad and tear you up for dat ("Our father will get angry and spank you for that")."
"But Poppa not here, and I really is hungry, and so you ("But our father is not here, and I am really hungry, and so are you")," Emile complained.
"So am I," Etienne agreed. "I not gonna said it though. I don't want Poppa mad at me, no ("I will not say that though.  I do not want our father angry at me")."
"Don't you bébés worry bout you Poppa ("Do not worry about your father, children")," René told them. "Let's go to de kitchen and I fix you some gumbo. I make dat dis morning and wonder all day long who gonna help me et all dat food ("Let us go to the kitchen and I will prepare you some gumbo.  I made it this morning and have been wondering all day who would help me eat all that food")."
"I help you, Tante René," Emile announced happily.
"I help you, too," Etienne agreed.
"Well, get you little butts in dat kitchen den. Tante René be rat behind you ("Well, go to the kitchen then.  Aunt René will be right behind you")." René sat back into his wheelchair and was rolling toward the kitchen when the two boys came back.
"Tante René, why you don't walk like us ("Aunt René, why do you not walk like us")?" Emile asked.
"You Tante René don't feel so good no more ("Your Aunt René is ill")," René replied. "I got to had dis chair did my walking for me ("I have to have this chair do the walking for me")."
"We help you, Tante René," the boys chorused. They each grabbed a handle of the chair and began pushing it towards the kitchen. Unfortunately they couldn't see over René's shoulders. They ran the wheelchair into a table in the hallway and broke one of the legs. René was able to catch the even more valuable vase that fell as the antique table collapsed to the floor.
"We sorry, Tante René!" the boys exclaimed as they cowered on the floor clutching each other for dear life. René almost dropped the vase when he saw how terrified the little ones were that they were going to be punished. He quickly put the vase on the floor, and spoke to them soothingly.
"Dat's just an old table; even older'n me by a long piece. Don't you worry bout dat. I sprised it ain't fell like dat years ago ("That is just an old table that is much older than I am.  Do not worry about that.  I am surprised it has not fallen apart years ago")," he said with a dismissive wave. "I told you what. How bout I did de driving and you bébés jes hop up here in my lap for de ride ("I have an idea.  How about I do the driving and you babies just ride on my lap")?"
"You not mad?" Emile asked nervously.
"Why I'm be mad at you bébés? It's not you fault you can't see over my big old shoulders ("Why would I be mad at you babies?  It is not your fault that you are unable to see over my big old shoulders")," René assured them. "Now you jess hop up here and we go for a spin round de park ("Now you just hop up here and we will go for a spin around the park")."
"We goin' to de park?" Emile asked excitedly.
"Dat just a figger of speech ("That is just a figure of speech")," René answered, but when he saw the disappointment on their little faces, he added, "It's too late to go to de park tonight, but I promise I took you dere tomorrow ("It is too late to go to the park tonight, but I promise I will take you there tomorrow")."
"YAY!!!" both boys bellowed as they scrambled up into René's lap.
"Now you bébés hang on tight," the old man told them. "I ain't never had passengers in dis contraption before ("I have never had passengers in this device before")." The boys grabbed onto his waist, one on each side, which of course made moving the wheelchair difficult, but they got where they were going. Once in the kitchen, the boys hopped down so that René could stand up again. "You bébés gonna help you Tante René some more now ("Are you babies going to help your Aunt René more now")?"
"We just bébés, we can't help," Emile said looking at the floor. "We breaked you table when we help. We help again, we maybe broke sum'tin good ("We broke your table when we helped.  If we help again, we might break something valuable")."
"I done told you not to worry bout dat old table ("I have already told you not to worry about that old table")," René reminded them both. "Matter of fact, I'm glad it's gone. Dis chair got more room to move now ("As a matter of fact, I am glad it is gone.  This chair has more room to move now")."
"You really not mad?" Etienne asked.
"No, baby, I'm not mad," René vowed. "You bébés come over here and got you some loving from you Tante René ("You babies come over here and cuddle with your Aunt René")." When the little ones got near, he grabbed them both and hugged them tightly. "Tante René promise rat now, I won't never get mad at you, not no how ("Aunt René promises right now that I will never get mad at you for any reason")."
"Not ever?" Etienne asked bashfully.
"Not never nohow ("Never for any reason no matter what")," René swore solemnly. "Now you bébés get de cow's milk out de fridgamadator, and I get de gumbo and some bowls. We have us our very own little fais do do ("Now you babies get the cow's milk out of the refrigerator, and I will get the gumbo and some bowls.  We will have our very own small party")."
"You gonna lock us in de closet ("Are you going to lock us in the closet")?" Etienne gasped in fear.
"Why I'm a did dat ("Why would I do that")?" René asked the little boy.
"Poppa, he always lock us in de closet when he take Momma to de fais do do ("Our father always locked us in the closet when he would take our mother to the party")," Emile answered honestly.
"I don't like de closet," Etienne sniffled.
"Enny gets fraid de dark ("Etienne gets afraid in the dark")," Emile whispered loudly. "Poppa tear him up good for it, but I tink he just gots more fraid ("Our father beats him for it, but I think that makes him more afraid")."
"I don't like de dark myself," René told them. "I been dat way since I was a bébé."
"You was a bébé like me?" Etienne asked in surprise.
"Errbody was a bébé," René explained. "You Poppa was bébé, too. I member he powful fraid of dem gators."
"He still is," Emile giggled. "He won't even watch dem on TV."
"Well, gators can be pretty mean sometimes, but if you spects where dey live, dey spects you rat back," René told the boys. "Dat's de same wid any animal, or people too." By that time the gumbo had been reheated and was ready to eat. "You bébés want some cornbread wid dis?"
"I do," Emile said quickly.
"Tante René, could I had light bread wid mines ("Aunt René, could I have white, sliced sandwich bread with mine")?" Etienne squeaked nervously.
"Enny, you et what Tante René give you and shet you mouf ("Etienne, you will eat what Aunt René gives you and shut your mouth")," Emile said firmly. "[bootbox-start]Our father will beat you if he hears that you have asked for something else[bootbox_break]Poppa tear you up if'n he hear you axed for sum'tin' else[bootbox_end]."
"I ain't gonna told you Poppa nothin' ("I won't tell your father anything")," René told them both. "One of my little popsicle bébés want light bread, I get him light bread."
"How you know Momma call us popsicle bébés?" Etienne asked innocently.
"Who you tink give her dat name to start wid ("Who do you think gave her the name to start with")?" René laughed. "I call you dat when you still in de hospital just born. You Momma she laugh bout dat good. You Poppa he don't tink it's so funny ("I called you that when you were newborns in the hospital.  Your mother laughed about it very well.  Your father did not think it was funny")."
"He get mad at Momma when she called us dat, so she don't said it if'n Poppa home ("He gets angry at our mother when she calls us that, so she doesn't say it if our father is at home")," Emile told the old man."
"[Well, your father doesn't come in this house for any reason, so I will speak to you the way I want[bootbox_break]Well, you Poppa don't come in dis house here not no how, so I spoke at you de way I want[bootbox_end]," René said a little more forcefully than usual for him. He had never liked Junior Pospisil and the more he talked with these innocent children, the closer he came to actually hating the man. René looked at the table and realized that something was missing. "You bébés didn't get de cow's milk?"
"We sho nuff get to had cow's milk ("We can actually have cow's milk")?" Etienne asked shyly.
"Poppa make us drink goat milk back home," Emile explained. "He say cow's milk too good for to waste on bébés. Poppa said if'n he could, he milk de nutria to been give us, cause dat's what bébé rat like us been oughta drink ("He said that cow's milk is too good to waste on babies.  Our father said if he could, he would milk the nutria so that he could give us that, as baby rats like us should drink it")."
That comment settled René's mind. He now hated Junior Pospisil more than he had ever hated anyone. That was saying a lot for a man like René Brouillard. He prided himself on trying his best to get along with everyone. The only other person he had ever disliked half as much as this was Junior's Poppa, Guidry Pospisil, Sr. and even Guidry had once held a much different place in René's mind and heart.
Guidry Pospisil had been the first boy that René had ever had a crush on. René had mooned over him like a lovesick puppy for years until Guidry finally figured it out. Not only had Guidry made it clear that he was not remotely interested in René, he had outed the boy to everyone at school and the whole parish. René's Poppa had a massive heart attack that night after hearing the news. It was only as his father was dying two days later that René learned that it wasn't rejection of his son that triggered the attack.
"I worry for you, son," Guillame Brouillard told his son. "[bootbox_start_That boy did not tell me anything shocking. Do you think I do not know about you prancing around the house in the old hoop skirts you found in the attic[bootbox_break]Dat boy don't spoke no shock to me. You tink I don't know bout you prancing round de house in dem old hoop skirt you found in de attic[bootbox_end]?"
"Poppa, I won't never wear another one," René sobbed. "You stay wid me, I swear on Momma's grave I never wear dem again."
"Don't you never swear sometin like dat on you Momma's grave ("Do not ever swear something like that on your mother's grave")," his father scolded. "[bootbox_start]"If you are going to swear on your mother's grave, it had better be for something you will do for sure.  I know will wear those dresses again"[bootbox_break]You swear on you Momma's grave, it best be sometin you gonna did for sho. I know you gonna wear dem dresses more[bootbox-end]. You just be careful when and where you do. Brouillard Plantation belong to you now, son. You took care of it and someday you leave it to you bébés for dem to took care of."
"I don't tink I'm gonna have bébés, Poppa," René admitted honestly.
"You got too much love in you not to have bébés some kind of way," Guillame told him. "Even if dey ain't you blood, you'll have bébés. You love dem as much as I love my baby."
"I love you too, Poppa," René wept as he saw that his father was gone.
René thought of that moment as he looked at the innocent faces of the two small boys at his table. He knew in his heart that his father had been right. He had found his bébés. He looked now at the piece of paper that Antoinette had shoved at him before she disappeared. It was written very sloppily, but it gave custody of Emile and Etienne to René Brouillard. It also confessed to the killing of Guidry Pospisil, Jr.
"What has dat girl did?" he wondered before noticing that the boys were starting to nod off into their bowls of gumbo. "Emile, Etienne," he called out. They looked up at him sleepily. "Climb up in dat chair and let Tante René took you to bed."
"We ride in your lap?" Etienne yawned.
"Not dis time, popsicle baby," René answered. "I give you more rides tomorrow."
"You promise?" Emile asked as he too yawned.
"Cross my heart and throw me in a crab trap if I don't," René vowed with his hand on his heart. Moments later he wheeled the already sleeping angels into the spare bedroom. They had slept through the ride in his newly installed elevator. They roused as he stopped beside the bed, though. René watched with a smile as the boys stripped to the bare and climbed into the big feather bed and cuddled up together. He pulled the blanket over them and kissed them each on the forehead before going to his own room and turning in himself. His last thoughts before falling asleep himself were, "How I'm gonna raise dem bébés and I ain't even gonna live to see another Mardi Gras ("How am I  going to raise those babies when I will not live to see another Mardi Gras")?"
Well, Boudreaux has delivered again! René is certainly a memorable character, and I hope you all are as charmed with the "popsicle twins" as I was. And contrary to his author's note, I had no problem understanding the Cajun dialect. Now, to see how these folks fit into the picture….