There seems to be a recent connection to dystopia in the South Louisiana aether. It makes its way through the collective consciousness of our region with artistic endeavors like Beasts of the Southern Wild and Moira Crone’s novel The Not Yet‘. Perhaps the humidity hastens the invisible conduits of thought from person to person?
That film and novel got me thinking a short story I wrote back when I first started blogging. It was meant to be a serial series here on The Chicory. It was called “The Independence Day Sermon of Jasper Theriot” and was about a ragged group of New Orleans die-hards who after the oil crash, a series of storms and the sea level rise, huddle on levee encampments, salvage scrap and drill for the last remnants of oil around the area to run their city. Their spiritual leader was a weird fella named Jasper Theriot.
I remember what I was thinking at the time it was written. I was thinking that no matter what, New Orleans was doomed. Like the wounded, vulnerable member of the pack, it wouldn’t last. It was too improbable. I connected the exuberance of the culture and its relentless, hypnotizing fascination with celebration, death and rebirth with an unconscious acceptance by each and every person who walked on this alluvial silt that New Orleans, like our singular lives, was temporary. So do what you can, while you can. Live, love, revel and rejoice because the darkness is almost upon us. Define the negative space with your joys and happiness.
I recall telling a neighbor about the story and he thought it would make a great film so I ditched the serial idea and began trying to piece together a larger, more sprawling story with him. He thought it would be intriguing to make it a third incarnation of the “Heart of Darkness” story wherein an outsider comes into the makeshift encampment to kill Jasper due to his inciting the country to revolt from the safe confines of the no-longer-sovereign city of New Orleans. The story grew from there and several more characters came into creation but then, like so many long-term art projects, it faded away for one reason or the next.
I held on to “The Independence Day Sermon of Jasper Theriot” film idea but my friendship with the neighbor also faded and, since he had some sort of creative ownership over the whole “Heart of Darkness” idea, the story kind of remained tied to that.
Inspired by what I saw in Beasts of the Southern Wild and by what I have head of “The Not Yet” (haven’t read it but am anxious to get to Octavia books and get a copy) I feel compelled to follow through on my original plan and post the story here in its serial form.
That said, I will also feel compelled to make a few edits along the way. There is no better editor than your future self you know!
I’ll begin posting it next week. The word count of the document is about 3600 words making it a decent length for a short story. Less than a novella, more than “flash fiction.” I’ll know after it is all said and done how much I edited it by comparing word counts before and after. It’s an exciting exercise for me actually, fascinated as I am with the continuing interaction between people’s past, present and future selves. How the past self helps and hurts the future self for example.
Anyway, if anyone feels like taking the time to see a sneak preview, I will post a short list of character traits I wrote out as I tried to establish who Jasper Theriot was. So I pictured him and his history in my head and wrote out this list to sort of provide a constitution for me to reference as I wrote about him. It’s actually a bit hysterical.
The Truths of Jasper Theriot
Jasper only wears Earth tones.
Japser is often seen chewing on stems of herbs.
Jasper listens to everyone’s story.
Jasper accepts everyone except those who reject him or his loved ones.
Jasper has many loved ones.
Jasper has self actualized.
Jasper is 6′ 4″.
Jaasper never issues an order.
Jasper never makes a decision.
Jasper was born in an unidentified Acadiana Parish.
Jasper’s hair is silver.
Japser is not afraid of death.
Jasper never mourns.
Jasper doesn’t hold government in contempt, only it’s failures.
Jasper likes young, creole women.
Jasper has been shot three times and stabbed once.
Jasper is known for elaborate costumes on appropriate occasions.
Jasper has a large tatoo that reads “Farewell to Flesh.”
Jasper’s closest confidant is Bruh Andre.
Jasper’s eyes are pale blue.
Jasper reads only text books.
Jasper does not do drugs (without a spiritual reason).
Jasper was chosen by his people, he did not choose them.
Jasper is a creature of the night and sleeps through the morning.
Jasper killed an oil executive in self defense.
Jasper is fascinated with geneology.
Jasper swims in the river for excercise.
Jasper can identify more than a hundred species of butterfly.
Jasper is suspect of social sciences, particularly historians.
Jasper’s home is equipped with many weather instruments.
All the women Jasper ever loved are dead.
Jasper will never trust someone who has been proved to be a liar.
Japser has no family.
Jasper was known to hitchhike on highways.
Jasper keeps up with friends on the other side.
Jasper calls his closest friends “cousin.”
Jasper has never driven a car.
As a child, Jasper was terrified of church.
Jasper does not believe in destiny.
Jasper sometimes feels effected by Universes vast and miniscule.
Jasper doesn’t wear sunglasses.
Jasper loves the pipe organ.
Jasper’s is a relentless journal keeper.
Jasper is a relentless letter writer.
Jasper has jumped from many bridges.
Jasper looks at you when he is talking to you.
Jasper loves farce.
When Jasper smiles, his eyes come close to shutting.
Jasper is left handed.