Tuesday, February 21, 2012

One Pea Short of a Pod: Part Two

A Weekend at Oak Alley with J and M… continued

Day Two:

The mansion and oaks -- stunning.
There’s a certain kind of quiet one will experience whilst sleeping in an old quarter-house situated alongside the pastoral landscape of the Mississippi River Road. And at its heart, Oak Alley A.K.A. Bon Séjour -- even in all her glorious grandeur -- is merely a not-so-small country home. I’d forgotten how eerily quiet a country home could be.

I woke with a start in the middle of the night to a mysterious creak coming from the next room. The living eyes of the child’s portrait -- dusted in the sick yellow glow of a nearby security light -- hung over my bed and glared down on me. I shivered. The fractured images of the dozens of people that must’ve died on the grounds over the estate’s long life flickered through my mind. I heard another creak. My palms sweated. My heart raced against an inexplicable mounting fear.

The child's photo over my bed.
Then, with a hiss of breath whispering from the next room, I remembered the mysterious voodoo dolls J had acquired the day before. I felt my body grow cold, rigid.

Not really.

The truth? J’s bed was incredibly squeaky and it caused me to giggle like a child at a sleepover every time she adjusted herself under the covers. And… it was crazy cold! I think our first night in Cottage 6 might’ve been the coldest January night in Valcherie, LA (sound familiar). As you may recall, we did have central heat and air, but M wasn’t getting out of bed to crank up the thermostat at 3am. Brr.

A few hours later, as daylight broke, I heard another creak, a frantic rustle of fabric, and a low groan. I peered around the door to spy J, shuffling off to the kitchen with a sheet over her head and mumbling something that sounded a bit like, “Goffeeeee...”

That was my only undead sighting of the Pea-treat.
J wakes early for a voodoo-doll-wielding-vampire.

We followed through with our plans to tour the mansion. Off to breakfast we ambled -- knowing more coffee (ie: liquid life) awaited us at the cafe. We were seated near a few tables of excited travelers, snowbirds from the north, and J and I did what we do best. We eavesdropped while noshing on our eggs and crispy bacon

Old typewriting in Cottage 6 -- fitting

After breakfast, we toured the house. With the clang of the bell, the doors opened and a period dressed lady met us. We went room by room, learning the history of the former residents since 1839 – the Romans, the Stewarts, and what little is known of those that came in between. Afterward, standing on the portico of the mansion, we sipped our icy lemonades as the winter wind whipped around us. We said to one another, “I don’t know about reclaiming our Mojo but this iced drink thing was a pretty ridiculous plan.” So we bundled our frostbite phalanges into the pockets of our coats and headed to the cottage for hot tea, lunch, and an afternoon of writing.

Having consumed a lovely broccoli cheese soup and sandwiches, which we cobbled together in our cottage kitchen, J set up her voodoo dolls and laptop at the bar. I settled onto the couch where I promptly emailed J -- formally requesting her participation in an interview for Court Street Literary Collective. (grin) “Really?” she said to me, unamused.

By late afternoon we’d consumed liters of tea and coffee, and were in need of an outing. Out the door we went -- but this time I had my fancy camera in tow. We wandering the grounds until after the tours closed for the night, snapping dozens of photos. Only the two of us and one other passive-aggressive photographer -- who we couldn’t decide whether he followed us because he wanted us to leave or he was frightened to be alone but too shy to say as much. Either way, the miraculous method in which he juggled his large camera whilst talking on his mobile will forever be remembered and may, or may not, be recorded for all time as a character trait in some future story.

Sunset reflections in a sugar kettle at Oak Alley
By dark, we were hungry and we headed back to the cottage where I offered to cook and promptly tried to burn the building to the ground. (Perhaps, a mild exaggeration?) Well, see… what had happened was… I left the Panko crusted fish under the broiler for a tad bit longer than intended. As I tried to rectify my folly, J entered the kitchen and said, “Um… Chel. It’s kinda smoky in here.” Not bothering to look at her, because I was fiercely scraping the burned bits off the top of the fish, I replied, “Yeah, I know. I know. The fish was a tad over broiled-” Silence. Then J said with a sternness that I’d not ever experienced before, “No! You don’t understand. It’s smoky in here…look!” So I did. As I looked above me, into the fifteen-foot ceilings of our quarter-house, I saw thick black smoke blotting out the ceiling light like an eclipse. Then, I watched it roil under the door casings into the adjacent dining and living areas like an evil Louisiana swamp fog. We looked at one another and promptly darted in opposite direction to open all the windows and doors before the fire alarm went off.

It was a crisis averted, until I sat down with my fish and inhaled its Panko crust into my lungs. The sting of fresh burnt Japanese breadcrumbs raked against my organ walls with each breath I took and I realized it was time to lick my wounds, curl under the covers, and call it a night. The fish was determined to get me one-way or another. I was convinced. Before the lights switched off, J said to me, “Maybe we need to go back to the gift shop and buy you one of those health warding voodoo dolls...”

One of the newer oaks by twilight.

Tomorrow, one final installment of One Pea short of a Pod and my love affair with old trees exposed. I promise... it's almost over. I've fallen into a mire of gluttonous overwriting. It can't possibly last much longer. Better here than my manuscript. (grin)

Then, on our next featured Tuesday, Alexis will be a Pea in the Pages with some suggested reading and perhaps a review or two. She's been mad reading these days and I can't wait to see what books she's had her nose tucked into.