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Ancient Cypress
About the Author: Allan Durand was the winner of the 2012 Motion Picture Academy Nicholl Award in Screenwriting.


Danny couldn’t believe what he was hearing. But then, knowing what a mean jackass Brick was, he had to.

“Buddy, Brick can’t get anybody fired, especially you. The sheriff wouldn’t fire you if you shot somebody.”

“He said, Danny. He said he’d fire me if I helped you anymore,” Buddy believing it wasn’t possible for anyone in a uniform to lie. Brick was a deputy sheriff, and had been a greedy bully his whole life. Buddy was a poor guy who lived next door, which in the country was a quarter mile away.

Buddy spent all twelve school years in special ed, couldn’t read, add or subtract, but was, for reasons known only to nature, a savant when it came to car engines, so the sheriff had given him a job repairing the fleet of sheriff’s vehicles. He needed supervision, of course, but he could diagnose problems like a wizard.

Danny was mad enough to bite through a nail, but he smiled. No point in upsetting Buddy, poor little guy. He smiled, pretended like it was no big deal, then patted Buddy on the shoulder. “It’s ok, partner. I picked up most of my cages already, I don’t have much left to do anyway. I’ll be fine.”

That seemed to satisfy Buddy, so Danny got in his truck and left. Buddy loved to come along with Danny to run his crawfish cages, and now that asshole Brick had scared the boy from even thinking about doing it.

Brick had been tightening the screws on Danny since the ‘cypress log miracle’, and now he’d found a pressure point Danny couldn’t wiggle out from under. And he’d keep looking for more.


Danny waited until he drove out of sight, then, “Goddamn that chickenshit son of a bitch!”

Venting didn’t help a lot, but it did help a little.

“Goddamnit!” That last one caused by a new pothole in the levee road which he hadn’t seen, coming just as the blacktopped portion ended and the gravel section started.

Danny drove to the Sandy Cove landing in the Atchafalaya Basin swamp in deep south Louisiana. The fifteen hundred square miles of swamp was contained between two levees about thirty miles apart, when you got this far south, closer to twenty where Interstate 10 crossed the swamp, and it probably contains eighty to ninety percent of the wild crawfish in the U. S. A., although most of the production these days came from crawfish ponds, all of which began their careers as rice fields.

He was an only child, single, in his thirties, trim from labor, an inch shy of six feet unless he was wearing his Luccheses, with a better tan than a lifeguard, from driving a tractor for his father from dawn to noon, and then crawfishing until dark.

His seventeen-year-old Chevy truck was in good shape, never driven hard by Danny or its first owner, but, damn, he sure hated to put it through those potholes.

May was not long from turning into June, as Danny’s bones and muscles told him daily. His father, Leon—pronounced “Lay-on” among Cajuns, which were ninety nine percent of the people he knew—owned two acres about a mile from the levee, and farmed sugar cane on two hundred more next door which he leased from a cousin, a CPA who worked for a big firm in Dallas. It was enough to scratch out a living when he started farming forty years ago, but not now. Now you needed lots of acreage, economies of scale, which his father would never have. But pride is a powerful engine, and doesn’t balk at running races it can’t win.

It’s hard enough to farm with two good hands, but Leon lost his right, and dominant, hand thirty years ago in an accident on the farm when a plow disc he was repairing slipped. Which left Danny to try to do all of the heavy tractor work, or as much as he could. It would have been too big a blow to Leon if he couldn’t do some of it himself.

That was all fine with Danny, even if he didn’t get paid for it. His father tried to get him to accept some money, but he told his father that he couldn’t spend all that he made already from crawfishing, deckhanding on tugboats in the off season, and alligators.

He had made some pretty good money on alligators in years past. He partnered with a doctor from New Iberia who owned land, mostly underwater, in the swamp and was allocated twenty alligator tags every year. Danny caught ’em, just like the famous Troy Landry did thirty miles further south in his ‘Swamp People’ reality show, and split the money with the doctor.



This story appears in our JUN 2020 Issue
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