Dissections logo scissors body by Deena Warner


Dissections logo pterodactyl by Deena Warner

Dissections logo pterodactyl by Deena Warner




Eyes of the Black Bayou

Cathy Buburuz

Joel LaBlanc paddled his way through the onyx waters of the swamp, his green boat lit with the fluorescent glow of a July moon. The gators would be hungry tonight. Their rapacious hunger usually escalated during a hot spell and this was the worst summer he’d witnessed in his 23 years on the Louisiana Bayou. The man he’d met at the liquor store earlier tonight had exclaimed, “It’s going to get hotter than a whore in heat.” The stranger was right.

Joel laid the paddles down into the boat where they rested on the body. He popped the tab on a can of Red Dog and swallowed long and hard, downing the contents in just three gulps. He pulled out the butt stashed in his shirt pocket, struck a wooden match, and stared up at the moon. Something splashed in the distance. Probably a catfish or a gator. Joel tossed the beer can into the water where it floated lazily nearby.

“Well, little lady, guess it’s just you and me,” he cackled as he lifted the 12-inch bowie high above his head. “Just you and me and Bobby McGee,” he sang. He’d always been a Joplin fan. He dropped the blade to her neck with such force, he scarred the belly of the boat. Usually he had to saw his way through the last inch of flesh and bone, but tonight he had the strength of two men.

The Cajun killer buried his sausage-like fingers in her long, dark hair and raised her head for a closer inspection. She was easy on the eyes but hard on the nose. She smelled of death and cheap perfume, that heady patchouli scent worn by younger, foolish women. She’d died with her eyes wide open. Unlike the others, this one’s eyes were mesmerizing blue. Yessirree. True blue.

Joel removed the woman's earrings, pushed them down into his jeans pocket. They’d make a fine gift for Mamma on her next birthday.

He used a spoon to extract his personal trophies.

“Well, little lady, turns out you’re nothin’ more than gator bait,” he whispered as he tossed the head face down into the shimmering waters of the bayou. He almost lost his balance when he stood up. But when he regained his composure, he managed a tight grip on the woman’s ankles and swung her legs over the boat’s rim. One of her red high heels splashed into the water. He grabbed her shoulders and tossed her overboard, spraying water all over himself and the boat. He grabbed the old silver pail that hung from the hook on the bow, and scooped up swamp water to wash away the blood. With a yellow sponge, he sopped up the mess, then flipped the sponge overboard. He lit another smoke and hummed the chorus of Me and Bobby McGee. Before the cigarette was finished, an 8-foot gator carried off the body. Joel knew the horrid creature would return for the head. He hated gators. With a passion.

When he was just knee high to a crawdad, Papa LaBlanc taught him the fine art of skinning. Joel often wondered why so many women paid top dollar for handbags and shoes fashioned from such vile creatures, and why the tourists were willing to pay five bucks for a single gator tooth on a string.

Sometimes, after a kill, Papa drank hurricanes and told stories about swamp witches, while bullfrogs sang back-up for his tales. Papa loved to describe the physical attributes of the witches and often, for emphasis, he’d slap a denim-clad knee or whack his son upside the head. Every now and then, when he was pissed to the gills, he’d let out an old Cajun call: Ahhh eeeeeee.

To support his many addictions, the old codger played Cajun accordion under a street lamp in the French Quarter, where passers-by dropped pocket change into his old derby. Once, when he performed an old Queen Ida tune, a ritzy-titsy tourist woman handed him a pink Canadian fifty dollar bill, which netted him $28.50 American when he exchanged it at the bank.

Sporadically, Joel accompanied Papa on the washboard. Visitors to the Quarter enjoyed his rhythmic beat, achieved with a pair of spoons on a well-weathered, stainless steel washboard, commonly known as the gator’s belly. The only competition for tips was a little kid with steel taps on his sneakers. It was rumoured that little Reaction Jackson (his tourist trade name) had Sammy Davis Junior’s blood cruising through his veins. Reaction’s mamma, who worked the finest whorehouse on Bourbon Street, claimed to have laid down with Sammy’s cousin on his mother’s side. Joel knew it was a gator-shit lie, but Papa believed every word spewed from the mouth of a slut. Papa was a die-hard whoreman.

When Tyrone LaBlanc finally left this world for the great unknown, he never burdened his family with a costly funeral and burial. Interment in Louisiana was a tricky, costly business due to a lack of solid ground. Poor Cajuns buried their dead above ground in cement plots, while the rich laid their loved ones to rest in crypts that rivalled those of the Grecians.

On that fateful sunny day in ’94, it was Joel who’d found what little was left of his father, hanging off the snout of a gator the size of a canoe. About the only things left to Tyrone LaBlanc’s survivors were his leather belt, his alligator boots, a shitload of kick-ass swamp witch stories, and a whole lot of bad memories.


Mamma LaBlanc lit the coal oil lamp and set the crawdads to boil while she waited for Joel. Like her son, she was weighty, 300 pounds if she was an ounce. While the crawdads whistled in the cast iron pot, she chopped red peppers for Jambalaya hot sauce. Together they’d chomp heads and suck nourishment from those crusty little bodies, then wash the whole mess down with Mamma’s special gumbo soup. It’d be a fine celebration meal.

Lessaiz Le Bon Temps Rouler, she sang as her son came through the door of the houseboat, his steel-toe boots banging down on the old wooden floor.

“I’m half-starved, Mamma. I could eat the asshole out of a live gator.”

Her boy was indeed hungry. He hated gators. With a passion.

“Come sit,” she said as she set a plate of steaming crawdads on the table. “Come tell me about the butcherin’.”

“You would have loved it, Mamma. She died with ’er eyes wide open. She was a frail, itty-bitty thing but she fought like a bugger and writhed like a snake. Wait’ll you see ’er peepers.”

Joel unclenched a fist and rolled the eyes onto the table where they landed upside the old clay bowl that held the hot sauce. He wiped the sticky residue down the legs of his jeans.

“They’s blue,” Mamma exclaimed. “They’s real true blue.”

The hefty woman rose up from her chair and waddled to the cupboard where they kept the Mason jar of alcohol. She winked and passed the jar to Joel. He unscrewed the rusted lid and plopped his latest trophies into the liquid where they peered out amongst the rest.

“If your Papa were alive, we’d add the old buzzard’s orbs to the mix,” she cackled. “And it’d be less than he deserved. Whoreman that he was.”

“Aw, don’t be bitter. He’s gone and he won’t be back any time soon. I don’t doubt that big, bad gator swallowed the bastard whole. It’s been years, but I’ll bet you a dozen hurricanes at Mardi Gras that the wiry, old coot is still travellin’ the intestines of that gator."

“Maybe so, but that isn’t much comfort after all he put us through.”

Joel tipped the jar from side to side, admiring his collection. When he finally spoke, it was with sincerity, a rare quality in a serial killer.

“Mamma, do you ever feel bad about the eyes?”

“Hell, no. Eyes are windows to the soul and them bitches never had no souls. Now eat those crawdads, boy, whilst they still got heat.”

(First published in 2001 in New York in Black October Magazine)


The Illusionist

Cathy Buburuz

High in a secret universe
bathed in prisms of coloured light
she labours over meticulous illusions
singing as she paints, smiling as she waits
for the gullible and the beguiled;

Victims of our own imaginations
we are incredibly facile to bedevil
and she takes great pleasure
in creating wondrous fallacies
designed to become our own truth;

She paints rainbows in the sky
so fools will search for gold;
She illuminates dust in cemeteries
for those who would believe in ghosts;
She casts shadows in closets
to create monsters in the dark;
She sends haunting echoes
and murmurs to chill us to the bone;
and worst of all,
She sends thoughts of déjà vu
so we’ll think we’ve been here before.

(First published in The Modern Art Cave, ed. Erin Donahoe, 2002)


Ward 6

Cathy Buburuz

Today in group
I shared the details
of my childhood
and the new kid
tossed his cookies
on Doc Johnson’s shoes
...regurgitated scrambled eggs
ain’t pretty on a Monday morning.

Doc says they’ll be no more TV,
that from here on in
we’ll concentrate on our ownselves
without distractions
from Oprah, Jerry Springer,
and Martha Stewart
...life without entertainment
can be a real drag.

Babs and Jake
hosted a poker game after group;
Babs lost her dentures
to a full house
but it didn’t bother her
one iota
...it annoys me to watch Babs eat,
it does so.

During lunch, that old coot
who killed his wife and kids
got a hold of Nurse Elsie Rigby
and gnawed off her ear;
he had the full house
and took the pot
...blood and macaroni,
macaroni and blood.

Imagine that,
a full house
dealt by a man
with just half a deck.

(First published in 2006 in From the Asylum)

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