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Death Punts A Quick Pirogue In The Thiébaux

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Chapter 2

During his long and arduous slog south, Jean François Thiébaux learned to avoid Colonial English cities, he was a wanted man after all, and speak as little as possible as much as possible. Upon arriving at the bustling port city of New Orleans, Jean François found the place a squalid cesspool of beggars, thieves, pirates, drunks, dishonest merchants, lazy tradesmen and well-worn whores; just the sort of place even a man of his towering stature could blend in and disappear. Though his French accent would draw no attention in the former French colony, Jean François seldom spoke and mumbled when forced to words. He went by the English name John and found ample work in the river town’s multitude of metal working shops; because of his size, almost three hundred pounds of muscle and bones stacked up a hair over six and a half feet tall, it wasn’t long before he was known up and down the riverfront as Big John Blacksmith … which began to vex him more and more.

Until he met up with a slick-talking dandy named Hoddget …
In a seedy back-alley whorehouse.

Shack was five rooms of woven palmetto frond walls …
Held up by rotting pine timbers …
Floored with cast-off flatboat lumber …
And moth-eaten blankets for doors.

The Madame was a mean-spirited Spanish cross-dresser …
With a Piece Of Eight eyepatch …
And a boar-hide whip laced with silver threads.

Whores were French (more or less)
With greasy flea-infested powdered wigs …
Rotten teeth …
And heavily perfumed pussies.

Liquor was mostly local sugarcane rum …
Wild-berry wine …
And home-brewed beer.

Clientele was anybody with a cock between his legs …
Lust in his heart …
And money in his pocket.

Big John Blacksmith didn’t much care for the smelly, sad-eyed working girls; he came to drink himself into a stupor without having to fight every loudmouth blowhard trying to show off for his whiskey pals; which of course is not to say that he didn’t allow the ladies to relieve his physical buildup from time to time. It was during a particularly satisfying three-days-and-nights binge that he met the acquaintance of one Josiah Hoddget, an Englishman of some apparent means who had sought out the big blacksmith with passion in his heart and a plan in mind.

Jean François Thiébaux hated Englishmen above all else …
And likely would have killed the slick-tongued devil at first sight …
If they hadn’t both been drunk in the company of giggling whores …
Busily plying their trade.

“New Orleans is a riotous spittoon of blackguards and scoundrels, as is the case with most port towns of note worldwide, and as such is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future, if ever. The Spanish Governor knows this and seeks settlement of lands around the port by peoples of calmer and more productive demeanor.”

Jean François slugged down another hit of rum and grunted to indicate that he was listening, which he really wasn’t; Englishmen were long and laborious talkers, that being about all they were good at in his opinion.

“Settlement of lands around New Orleans has been, shall we say, far less successful than those who desire above all else to squeeze taxes from common working folk had hoped. Imagine their enthusiasm when boatloads of your fellow Acadians showed up on our doorstep. Land grants have been flowing from the Cabildo like autumn leaves blowing in the wind.” Finally realizing that the big man across the table was dozing more than listening, Hoddget cut to the chase. “I myself have secured a rather … sizeable … land title. Well, to be a bit more honest … I actually won it in a rather … fortuitous game of cards. Imagine my dismay … at winning neither gold nor silver nor jewels… and discovering that my new holdings are … some distance northwest … deep in what is quite likely the largest swamp in the entire bloody world!”

Big John Blacksmith farted, scratched, swilled more rum, and could not have cared less. Hoddget leaned in closer. “A very wise man once shared a wee bit of wisdom with me over a pint: Prosperous villages aren’t born around pompous fools who own land, they form around men of trade and skills. Men who work the sea. Men who work stone. Men who work iron. A good ironwright will gather about himself all the laborers ever to be needed. And I have it on sober authority that you are quite likely the best ironwright as ever swung a bleedin’ hammer.”

Took a while for the verbose dandy’s words to congeal in Big John Blacksmith’s rum drench head. “Got me all job I need.”

“Not offering you a mere job, me big friend. I’m offering you your own forge … and a chance to build a new and far better life …”

“I don’t work for no pig fuckin’ Englishman!” the big man boomed like close thunder!

“Leave us,” Hoddget ordered their startled and perpetually skittish whores. When they were gone, he leaned close to the woozy giant and spoke in calming whispers. “Deep within the most inhospitable swampland imaginable lies enough fertile farmland to support a sizeable plantation to which I have perpetual rights. I have already gathered over a hundred of your fellow Acadians together and brought them to the place. I have come to bring as many more as are willing … I have come to bring you … Jean François Thiébaux.”

The big drunk man stared long and hard and mean at the smaller drunk man, who again spoke in his soft, conniving whisper. “Yes, I know who you are, sir. You are not a fellow who can easily hide himself in plain sight. And if I can spot you out … so can those who hunt for bounty. Amazing that someone hasn’t already taken your head. A thousand English Pounds draws such despicable bastards like fresh shit draws flies. You’ll not last long in New Orleans, my friend, not with all the Acadians flooding in by the boatloads. This is the place to look and your enemies know it!”

“A … thousand … Pounds?”

“You killed a British Officer during your escape from Fort Frederick. Bad luck that the bloody sot happened to be a nephew of the garrison’s Lord Commander.” Upon seeing astonishment on the big man’s face, Hoddget shook his head sadly. “You did not know …”

No …”

“You must believe me when I say that your days are numbered here. You must come with me to the only place where you will find refuge from relentless hellhounds sniffing after your heels …”

The big man reached over and grabbed the smaller man and wrenched him across the table. “And just why the fuck would I trust my life to a sharp-tongued English man?”

“Because … Hoddget is not the name I was born to … and I have a British bounty ten times yours on my head … and I am not a bloody fuckin’ English man!”

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