10 YEARS AGO
THE LAND OF VOODEAUX
The morning air was soup over the swamp, the sort of sticky summer heat that pinched clothes to skin and made ya slick with sweat up, down, and center. The fishermen had ventured out onto the water before the sun poked through, getting started before the heat found them, but no one was escaping the heat now. It wasn’t the sort of thing that one could hide from. The sun was still low and climbing up. It was going to be a rough day any way it shook out, the sort of day where slow and steady work maintaining a controlled level of effort was the best way to balance the sweats, skin burns, and exhaustion. But when little JK came running down the dock to fish out the frog traps from the water to find what her family had captured over night, she did so with gusto and speed. The heat wasn’t anything at all.
“Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy.” JK rattled with contained excitement. She was all of six years old, barefoot and wearing a pair of dungaree overall shorts with straps that came up over a t-shirt with horizontal blue and white stripes and yellow trim along the sleeves and collar. Two blonde pigtails bounced as she thumped down the old dock, and she was going so fast that she almost spilled right over the edge, past her traps and into the drink.
“Did mama feed you jumping beans for breakfast?” Bishop carried up the rear with a more patient pace. She was old and ancient in JK’s eyes — freshly sixteen — and JK wasn’t sure she could imagine ever being that old. Bishop wore an old pair of rubber fishing boots and baggy taupe colored fishing pants that didn’t fit her and had to be held up by moss green suspenders that stretched up over her white halter top and disappeared under the jungle of dreads that fell from her head. She carried her own empty trap, an old wooden box dangling off her shoulder by a knotted rope, and she got to the docks end just as JK was pulling the first trap from the murky green water.
“I’m just excited, that’s all.” JK set the first trap down on the dock. It was slick with mud and burping out water. Bishop took a seat behind her cousin, perching on the dock beam, and laying out her trap carrier ahead of her.
“Excited for chores. Girl, you are foolish. You know, if I didn’t know any better, cousin, I’d say that mama found you half way up a wacko tree with no way— GIRL, what the hell are you doing??”
JK had pulled the first frog from the trap and had her lips pressed flat up against the frog’s mouth, planting a big wet smooch on the croaker. JK pulled away deflated, sighed, and tossed the kissed frog into Bishop’s box before plucking out another from the trap. “What?” She kissed the second frog, went through the same disappointment, and tossed it too before going to grab the third.
“Are you trying to win Fool Queen at the Bayou Parade this year or are you just empty headed?” Bishop thought of slapping JK upside the head but she had to contain the frogs her cousin kept adding to the box, making sure they didn’t leap out and escape. All the while, JK grabbed frog after frog, kissing each one before tossing it in the box.
“I’m no fool!” JK shot back with righteous certainty between kisses.
“You’re no fool? Cousin, your lipping slimers.”
“I’m testing them.” JK kissed the last one in that trap, sighed in disappointment again when nothing happened, and tossed it in the box. She kicked the trap back into the water and pulled up the second trap to start all over again. “You never know which one will be a prince.”
“A prince?” Bishop’s mouth hung open before she doubled over, guffawing, almost knocking the box over and letting all the would-be princes escape. “You’ve spilled your damn gumbo. You’re just an empty pot now, Jay.”
“I aint’ spilled nothing,” JK shot back sharply. She gripped a big bull with two hands. He was a warty sucker and it made JK wince some but she kissed him anyway. Just in case. Don’t judge a bullfrog by his warts, that’s what she always said. “Could be a prince. You don’t know until you’ve tried. We got a lot of frogs here, Bishop, lots of chances. See!” She tossed the bull into the box and searched for a smaller one next.
“You’re a trip, JK.”
“Don’t laugh,” JK puckered up and kissed another. “Or I won’t invite you to my prince wedding.”
“Where in all of Voodeaux did you get the idea that kissing a frog will lead you to marry a prince?”
“I read it,” JK said.
“You can’t read.” Bishop reminded her.
“Well Auntie read it to me. Still reading, ain’t it? C’mon, stupid frogs. C’mon.” JK kissed the last frog in the second and final trap, and she sighed a little after tossing it in the box. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and kicked the trap back into the water.
“No princes?” Bishop asked.
“Shut up, you don’t even believe anyway. You’re not a true believer. You’re not nothing. True love’s kiss can turn a frog into a prince. I just gotta find the right frog, is all.”
“Ain’t no such thing as true love either,” Bishop chortled. “More fairy tale stories.”
“You know what?” JK put her hands on her hips and narrowed her face at her cousin who was being a real bummer. “You don’t believe because of where you’re at in the story.”
“And where am I at in the story, missy?”
“You’re not the true love,” JK said. “You’re the frog.”
Bishop broke down again, laughing so much she doubled over, slapping her knee. When she was done, she pushed up to her feet, made sure her box was locked and secured, and slung it back over her shoulder. It was heavier this time. The two walked back down the dock. JK finally noticed the heat.
“Don’t believe everything you read,” Bishop said. “And don’t believe half of what’s read to you.”
AUGUST 13th, 2019
GRAND PRAIRIE, TEXAS USA
The little bell above the door in JK’s mother’s shop rattled and sang when she walked into DejaVoodoo. The airconditioning felt good against the teenager’s skin. She breathed a sigh of relief as the sweat on the exposed parts of her skin began to cool and dry. She was in a pair of denim shorts and a t-shirt, but she had the t-shirt rolled up some to expose her midriff. “Damn, it’s hot out there.” Ever since JK’s werewolf side became more apparent to her, the heat — which was never something that bothered her before — was a constant nuisance.
“Hey, look who stopped by,” Bishop said from the counter on the other end of the mostly empty voodoo/ novelty store. She had been working there, and living in the apartment upstairs, ever since the two of them came to Earth and JK reunited with her birth family. The two didn’t get to see each other as much as they’d like, but that was why JK made an effort to get into town before school started. She wanted to spend the day with her cousin, and the only part of Voodeaux she had left. “Well, whatchu waiting for, cousin, bring it in!”
Bishop rounded the counter and pulled JK into a big hug. She wore a jacket over her blouse. Spending all day in the air conditioning was making her weak, it seemed, and JK made a point to tease her about it some, but Bishop shot back with quips about how she was a big sweaty mess, and they called it even.
“Hey, where were you last night?” JK asked as Bishop plopped herself down on one of the couches that Andy-mom had around the shop to make shopping and browsing a more comfortable experience. There weren’t any customers around so Bishop got cozy. “You were supposed to stop over after work so I could show you what I’ve been doing with my lights. I ended up shooting a beam of energy off into the ground and flinging myself up into a tree.”
“A tree?” Bishop snorted a little and covered her mouth to contain it. “I’m sorry. That’s hilarious. Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m durable,” JK shrugged. “I heal quick, too, but where were you?”
“Sorry, I got caught up with a thing.”
“Uh-huh… and what was this thing’s name last night?” JK crossed her arms and smirked. She knew Bishop better than anyone, knew that she was something of a player, and she also knew that Bishop’s idea of getting to know Earth would be to get to know the people. She heard that she already had a date with Aurelia’s older sister Shelby, but figured there was a string of other names after that of people Bishop was ‘learning’ through.
“You’re not that funny, you know that?” Bishop pointed up at JK, squinting and smiling. “Do you know that?”
“I think I’m pretty funny,” she said.
“Don’t judge a bullfrog by her warts, cousin,” Bishop nodded. “How do you know I haven’t fallen head over heels and have been distracted by a torrid love affair?”
“Oh, now you’re the one who thinks she’s funny.” JK’s face flattened.
“I’m serious, too. I know you, Bishop. True love, you don’t buy into that. You’re not a romantic.”
“I’m plenty romantic.” Bishop protested.
“You’re not a romantic,” JK shook her head. “You can take the gator out of the swamp but you can’t take the swamp out of the gator. I don’t care that you blew me off yesterday, just don’t lie about it. If you want to go around sleeping with the whole town then go and—”
The bell over the door dinged and donged again and JK turned to see Shelby Lennox, Aurelia’s older sister, walking into the shop with a paper bag full of lunch in her hand. Bishop stood up from the couch, waved to Shelby, and stood in front of JK.
“You forgot something, cousin,” Bishop smiled ear to ear. “I’m the frog.” She playfully slapped JK and went over to Shelby, greeting her apparent girlfriend with a big hug and a kiss.