“How’s t’day’s gumbo, chérie?” he said in a low Louisiana drawl, leaning over from his table toward hers.
“Good,” she choked, taken off guard, “but I have nothing to compare it to as I never tasted gumbo before.”
That was his in to slide over to her table with his bottle of Swamp Pop and a smile as he said, “I love a woman in a ponytail.” Taking cue from her blush, he sang: “Chantilly lace and a pretty face and a ponytail hangin’ down, a wiggle in her walk and a giggle in her talk make the world go ‘round.”
Someone behind the counter applauded this character who seemed a café regular. She told him she was cutting it off today as a way to cut off his unwanted attention.
“Ooh, chérie, I do love a butch woman,” he was quick to respond, not missing a beat in his flirtation. “I wanna see you in dat cut, later t’night after work. Come to the best restaurant in New Orleans, the Delachaise on St. Charles, where I am chef. I can cook you up a midnight special of spicy jambalaya or some very sexy frogs legs in remoulade.”
“We’ll see,” she said, fumbling with the bill he grabbed from her hand as he pulled his billfold from his checkered cook’s pants pocket saying,
“Mais non, dis on me.”
He walked her out the door, his crocs squeaking as he stepped, and she slipped off for an afternoon in the bustling French Quarter—vendors’ stands gleaming with Mardi Gras beads and barware, fragrant with handmade soaps and cajun spices, tempting with tastes of beignets and coffees, and of course the sound of zydeco everywhere.
Walking along, her straw bag of souvenirs bulging, she stopped where two boys danced at a raised antebellum stone marker in front of an historic house and garden while a guide led a walking tour by. The boys danced with makeshift tap shoes, worn cleats on the toes and heels their only music, Crescent City embossed baseball caps filling up fast with bills.
Instead of heading to the restaurant for some rendezvous, she returned to her lodging, a stable and slave quarter converted into B & B. There she devoured a last slice of leftover muffaletta, flopped onto the bed under the moonlit skylight, drifted off with the sounds in her head of horse hooves and the words chérie, chérie.
She dreamed a brown skinned girl in cotton frock and head wrap running barefoot out of breath. Running through the stable from a man pulling off a checked ascot, crying after her: “you ain’t gettin’ away from me ma chérie, no wench ever get away from me chérie!’
Andrena Zawinski’s flash fiction has appeared in Flashes of Brilliance, Unlikely Stories, Summer Shorts Anthology, Digital Paper, Panoplyzine, Beneath the Rainbow, Short Stories & Poems Weekly, Ginosko, Pretty Owl, Oye Drum. “Chérie” is part of her collection Plumes forthcoming from Writing Knights Press. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Photo – Authors own