Swamp Witch...Part Five
Mercy sat along the grass line up against the curb in the river walk park. She sipped slowly on the tall cup of cafe au lait as she watched the big tankers, freighters and the paddle wheelers negoiate the currents and turns of the Mississippi under the GNO (Greater New Orleans) bridge that led to the West Bank from the East Bank where the French Quarter lay. She was waiting on Henri to return from talking to the captain of the company pilot boat of a new oil rig they were erecting fifty miles off of Grand Isle. Despite the disaster of the recent BP oil spill, the company had proceeded ahead with a new rig to replace the Deep Horizon rig. Mercy had no idea why Henri wanted to leave the oyster boat where he had worked so long.
The Woldenburg Riverfront Park had taken the place of the once active docks after the World Fair in the early '80's had changed the look of it by expanding the old Moon Walk and building the Riverwalk Mall. Mercy liked to sit near the Pilgrim Statue that had been installed in the late 1990's to honor all the pilgrims that had come through New Orleans to move on and make the United States their new home. She loved the look of the statue with the angel facing to the river and in her arms, the refugees from other lands. The docking area near the Riverboat Natchez was too crowded.
Mercy directed her sight once again the west bank of the river as she watched the ferry slowly pull out to begin its brief journey across the Mississippi. She sighed when her vision wandered to the jutting point in the deep s-curve of the river.The famous restaurant was gone that had dominated that point most of her life. It had disappeared before Hurricane Katrina due to a failing income and lack of interest in it but now so much more was gone even though the West Bank had fared so much better than the eastern bank of the river farther down. In the coming of her people's time, all of that had been wetlands and swamps created by the river but eventually, families had made homes out there and most of it had been laid to waste by the hurricane. New Orleans once a thriving metropolosis was a mere shadow of herself. It was nearly six years later and a great deal of recovery had come about but the Crescent City still bore her scars and probably always would.
As a teenager, Mercy had been excited to come to New Orleans and eventually spent three years in the late 1990's living there but the civil unrest, the weight of heavy prejudice on both sides, the ever doubtful politics and the horrifying crime rate had bogged down her love of the city's rich history, amazing buildings and beloved traditions. She left for Paris, vowing she would never again live within the city of New Orleans. It saddened her that much of the rot and disdain that plagued New Orleans also gripped Paris but she then realized that it was a cancer that ate at all most large cities.
Her trip to Treme to see Madam Felicity had surprised her at the old mixed neighborhood's rising comeback after the storm. Like the French Quarter, St.Charles Street, the Irish Bayou, and the Marginy had been restored to somewhat their former glory but they were the heart of New Orleans and the tourist magnets. Treme, once known as the only place before the Civil War where a free person of color, could own their own home and its famed Congo Square deep within Louis Armstrong Park still drew record crowds when the famous Indians (a wildly vivid walking Krewe) filled its streets during Mardi Gras.
Tourist trade had made Voodoo something of a joke with its sad misguidied rendition of Marie Laveaux and others like her in legend and the Creole culture had been twisted up as well but if you knew the right ones and the right places, the old Haitian and Africian religion not only still existed but thrived as well. Walking down the Chartres side of Jackson Square, Mercy saw the false tarot readers and mumbled to herself but Wicca and alternative belief still lived just as did the ever constant beauty of St. Louis Cathedral and the brass or jazz music still throbbing on the street corners.
Mercy had puzzled over the information that Felicity had given her and she also knew how precarious a position she could put herself in if she used it but she had to stop the "foille a deaux" between her and Jura. Her thoughts were hard on this puzzle when Henri found her by the statue and they returned to his borrowed friend's car to begin the trip back to Arbre Noir.
(to be continued)