Nouveau Zyd Short Stories

Interview with a Shrunken Head

“That morning I was not yet
a vampire, and I saw my last
sunset. And I said farewell
to sunlight, and set out to
become what I became.”
—Brad Pitt, Interview
With a Vampire

I woke up—groggy as a dead drunk in a graveyard.

“It’s not so bad—being a shrunken head in a voodoo shop,” I said to myself, looking around the joint.

Even though my eyes were sewn shut—I could still see everything in Madame Gris Gris’ dumpy little Voodoo Curio Shop there in the Vieux Carré.

“At least they didn’t pickle me—in a jar of formaldehyde,” I said with a sigh of relief.

I could sense the French Quarter—hustling and bustling out there, as if through human eyes.

Was I still human? How did I end up this way?

The funny thing was—I could still see and not only that. I had a new body now—a kinda astral nouveau Zydeco dream body identical with who I used to be.

I looked down at it—I could feel something down there. Sure enough—I had fang marks sunk deep in my bruised foreskin. Some fag vampire—had done got me real good.

New problems assailed me—like what to give up for Lent? Pizza? Pop-tarts? Voodoo boyz? How about my scrawny ugly little body—I must’ve given that up too?

Why did I have to come out this way? Outta a coffin—instead of a closet?

Anyway, I began to wonder about things—like what’s the “half-life” of a shrunken head on a voodoo curio shop’s dusty old shelf?

“If only shrunken heads could talk.”

Dat’s what Madame Gris Gris said, handing me the shrunken head thing that night during Mardi Gras—after I saw it through the display window.

Madame Gris Gris was a gnarled old witch. Her crippled wicked body and crooked smile wasn’t that much different from the shrunken head—except she had legs to hobble around on and a pair of greedy hands to take your money.

“Ain’t dat the awful truth,” I said, fondling the foul obscene thing.

Outside the curio shop, the usual tourist mob moiled about—gnawing like rats at the rotting architecture and gaudy New Orleans sights.

It was Mardi Gras time again—and the drunks and party-goers flooded the streets. It was like Night of the Living Dead—with all the creeps out there.

But in Madame Gris Gris’ voodoo shop on Dumaine and Decatur near the French Market—it was calm and cool inside.

“Look at dat expression on its face,” I said to Maurice. Maurice smirked—he was good at smirking. I liked it when he smirked—it really turned me on. Especially when he smirked at me—when I was down on my knees…

“I wonder if his dick is as shrunken as his ugly face?” Maurice joked.

Madame Gris Gris’ pretended not to hear Maurice—playing with the knob of the old fashioned tube radio on the shelf. The music shifted away from modern Zydeco NuStep—all the way back to the ‘20s to the Creole musician Amédé Ardoin with his high singing voice and accordion.

“Dat shrunken head be very rare and valuable, dey say,” she said.

Outta the ancient wooden cabinet radio—came the lone plainitve almost sobbing lament of Amédé Ardoin’s mournful sing-song voice.

It was so sad and lonely—even Maurice stopped and listened to the lyrics. It was the voice of a dead man—the founder of Zydeco music.

“Dat be his “Two Step” song from way back,” the old voodoo witch said.

Maybe it was the foul incense—or maybe the awful hangover from the night before?

Maybe it was all the crummy antiques, old delta memories, bad smelling herbs and potions—all the voodoo paraphernalia up there on all the shelves?

But all of a sudden—I felt faint and passed out.

“Dat boyfriend, of yours,” the old witch said to Maurice. “Bring him around to the backroom—he can lie down and rest a bit,” she said.

Madame Gris Gris’ one good eye—ogled at me sprawled down on the floor. While her other eye—the walleyed one—wandered up and down the walls.

“It be late,” she said, closing shop.

I woke up in the Lafayette Cemetery—buried in a crypt. At least that’s the nightmare I dreamed—on the cot in the voodoo backroom.

I dreamed seawater from the gulf was licking my toes. The lyrics of Amédé Ardoin’s sad song—was haunting me to death.

There was a chorus of strings and accordians—in the dark moody background. The squeeze-boxes had a life of their own—the strings playing their nervous slinky cords up and down my spine like a staircase down into two-steppin’ Zydeco Hell…

I heard xylophones playing juju music from the Land of the Dead—up and down dead men’s pale white ribcages. Strumming and scrapping them—like Zydeco frottoirs in that band The Gator Grinders.

Hungry, greedy pelicans flocked to my dead stinking remains—the banks of the Mississippi glutted with my various Katrina corpses.

Crabs and eels gorged and stuffed with exquisite rotting meat—an unpleasant sweet stench rising to high heaven. Hurricane victims stuck in their attics—trying to claw their way outta the roofs of flooded shacks.

I don’t know what happened to Maurice—I never saw him again. All I know is—I somehow ended up on the shelves of Madame Gris Gris’ Voodoo Shop.

Along with the other shrunken heads—caught up in the shadows of the Voodoo Dead…

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