Curse of the Bayou [Cynthia's Attic Book 3]
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by Mary Cunningham
Category: Children's Fiction/Fantasy
Description: Colorful pirates, SuRana--a shape-shifting puma, and an old Cajun guide named Mud Bug join Cynthia and Gus as they explore the Curse of the Bayou. The latest quest for the adventurous, twelve-year-old best friends finds them in a Louisiana bayou. There, they search for answers in the disappearance of Cynthia's great-grandfather, Beau Connor, who was on his way down the Mississippi River to sell a flatboat full of produce. With the help of a magic trunk in Cynthia's attic, this time-traveling duo venture back to 1914 New Orleans. The warm welcome and advice from old friend, Gabriella, is small comfort when Mud Bug warns them to stay away from Buzzard Jack LaBuse, the meanest, orneriest pirate this side of the Mississippi, his gang of misfits, Snags, Darby, and Salty Sam, their thieving parrot mascot. A trip to the Connor's Southern Indiana farm reveals a strange connection between Beau and Buzzard Jack, and a family curse that might be responsible for Cynthia's great-grandfather's disappearance. Returning to New Orleans, a harrowing ride on a roller coaster sends them farther back in time to 1844, straight into the clutches of the evil pirate, fighting for their lives. A mysterious treasure and heart-stopping adventure lead to a final confrontation in the girls' mission to save Great Granddaddy Beau.
eBook Publisher: Echelon Press/Quake, 2007 2007
Filament eBookStore Release Date: December 2007
1 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [171 KB]
Reading time: 101-142 min.
All Other formats: Printing DISABLED, Read-aloud DISABLED
"Are you kidding? Why on earth would I move?"
Just another boring trip through the trunk. There we were, hanging on for dear life to a log in the middle of a swamp.
My best friend and I had been on some frightening adventures together since discovering time travel through an old trunk in her attic. But nothing prepared us for a face-to-face encounter with an alligator. No, siree. Nothing prepared us for this.
"What do we do?" Cynthia trembled.
"Do I look like I know what to do?" Perhaps patience wasn't my best quality.
"You don't have to yell, Gus. We've gotten out of worse jams than this. Remember the lions on the circus train?"
"One big difference," I muttered, thinking back on our narrow escape from Killer, Fang, and Brutus, the laziest circus act ever. "The lions were in cages. This swamp monster is a few feet away from deciding whether to eat the tall, skinny morsel, or the short ... sorry ... plump gator bait."
I wished the words back into my mouth as soon as I said them ... but it was too late.
I am not plump!" Cynthia briefly forgot our life and death situation. "I'm just hanging on to my baby fat longer than most people!"
Cynthia wasn't fat or plump. It's just that I was so darn skinny that everyone looked a little chunky standing next to me. But I didn't want perhaps the last words my best friend ever heard, to be hurtful.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean it. But we have a bigger issue here ... and I just might have an idea." If it worked, maybe I could get back in her good graces.
"It'd better be fast," Cynthia moaned. "I can't hold onto this log much longer."
Curiously, the alligator wasn't moving toward us, but his ever-widening jaws revealed razor-sharp teeth and a ... was that a smile on his face? Gus! Get your wits about you. I tried to focus on the danger at hand as this monster swished his tail back and forth ... back and forth. This can't be good.
"Cynthia, do you see that small branch over your left shoulder?" I motioned as inconspicuously as possible.
Slowly turning her head, she looked back and nodded, then reached for the stick. At the same time, I dug into my pocket and took out a hunk of bologna I'd saved from yesterday's (was it just yesterday?) shopping trip with my dad to Cliff's Meat Market, and shoved it onto the end of the stick that Cynthia now held in her grip. I ignored the incredulous look on her face. "When I count to three, throw the stick toward the alligator and swim for the bank as fast as you can."
Stunned that I had actually pulled lunchmeat out of my pocket, I had her undivided attention.
"Okay. One ... two ... swim!"
Cynthia threw the bologna-skewered stick as far as she could, and we took off, flailing and kicking until we reached land, climbed the muddy bank, and ran until the swamp was out of sight.
Panting and wheezing until running was no longer an option, Cynthia bent over and gasped, "I ... never thought ... I'd say this, Gus, but ... your weird appetite ... came in handy for once. But, one ... two ... swim? Whatever happened to three?"
"So I got anxious. And about the bologna ... I got tired of you always making fun of my agonizing hunger pains, so I thought I'd pack a snack ... and you'd never find out. Guess now I'll have to find something else to eat," I grumbled.
Cynthia shook her head and threw her arm over my shoulder. "Yes, Augusta Lee. I guess you will."
"Oh, now, was that necessary? You know how much I hate that name."
Okay, might as well get this over with right up front. My given name is Augusta Lee ... after my grandfather, Augustus Leeander. A handful of people were allowed to call me that. Gabriella, the fortuneteller we met during our circus adventure, was one ... and her father, Thomas, head of the Gypsy clan, was another. Cynthia's great-aunt, Isabelle who made Augusta Lee sound like musical notes, was my favorite. I almost didn't hate the name when she said it. But, make no mistake ... everyone else better call me Gus.
Walking side by side through the bayou, our shoes sqooshing with mud, and Cynthia complaining non-stop about the dirt under her usually perfectly manicured fingernails, we spotted a weathered, broken down cabin in the middle of a clearing being shaded by the branches of an enormous oak tree.
"What d'ya think?" I asked Cynthia.
"What I think is that I need to sit somewhere, and my choice is either in these snake-filled, bug-infested weeds, or on that poor excuse of a front porch. You can sit in the weeds if you want, but I'm heading for higher ground."
We moved toward the shack and stepped gingerly onto the front porch ... if you could call it that. Most of the termite-eaten floorboards had sunk into the ground, and one side of the roof had rotted to the point that it was balancing on what was left of the porch railing.
"Man! This place could use some paint."
"This place could use a bulldozer," I muttered.
"What you be saying 'bout my home, younguns?" a voice cackled through the window ... a window with most of the panes missing.
We jumped backward off the porch and turned to run until a hearty laugh stopped us in our tracks.
"Where you goin' so fast? Mud Bug ain't seen nobody in weeks. Come back on the porch and rest yo'selves," croaked an ancient, white-haired old man stepping out the front door.
My mother taught me to be polite to everyone, but I wondered ... do good manners extend to fishy-smelling old people named Mud Bug? No matter, Cynthia, the perfect, blond-haired, blue-eyed little angel, beat me to the punch.
"We didn't mean to be rude Mister ... er, uh ... Bug. We were running from a very hungry-looking, twenty-foot alligator, and needed a place to rest ... just for a moment, if you don't mind. Oh, and ... uh, can you tell us what year this is?"
"Fuh shore. It's 1914, and course I don't mind if you sit a spell ... I invited ya, didn't I?"
He said his real name was Mouton Boudreau, "But my mama call me Mud Bug from the day I can remember," he drawled, in an accent I'd never heard in all my twelve years. He said his daddy was Cajun ... "From up north," he explained like we'd know what he meant. "My mama came from the islands when she was just a pischouette."
Again, I guess he figured we'd understand that, too.
"Now, don't mind these chairs. They's a little wobbly, but'll hold ya good enough." He gestured at two wooden crates that looked like they'd been used to haul angry possums around before they were converted to chairs.
At least now we knew it was the same year as the newspaper clipping we'd found in the attic about Great-Granddaddy Beau's disappearance.
Cynthia and I stepped onto the rickety porch and eased onto the crates while Mud Bug pulled an old rocking chair out his front screen door, which, by the way, didn't have any screen.
"So you met up with ol' Gumbo," he laughed. "I spec' he'd be right proud being sized up at twenty feet since he's only ten at the outside. And, I can't imagine he'd want to turn ya into dinner since his taste is a little more finicky, if ya know what I mean?"
I didn't know what he meant, nor did I want to! So, I changed the subject. "Just where are we?"
Cynthia's shoulders sagged, probably with relief that my inquiry had no connection to food ... 'gator or otherwise.
"Well, now." He stuffed tobacco into an ornately carved pipe. "You in the Bayou ... 'bout twenty miles south, as the crow fly, from N'awlins."
"Na ... what?"
"New Orleans, Gus." Cynthia was phonetically perfect, as usual.
Mud Bug paid no attention to our little debate, and kept talking. "Yep. That's where you is--in Louisiana bayou country ... where folks works hard and plays hard. So what is two younguns doin' in this here swamp? If you got lost, then you mighty lost!" He threw back his head and howled ... but we didn't see the humor.
Then the laughter stopped, he leaned forward, and a chill hit the air. "You may think gettin' lost is bad, but gettin' found might be worse."