Testing the Wall
Kashana Cauley

Governor Claiborne lent me his house for my meeting with the pirate. I re-filled the woodstove and sat down with a glass of whiskey before he knocked on the door.

"Jean Lafitte," he said.

"General Andrew Jackson," I said.

He provided a damp handshake and poured himself some rum. I drank more whiskey and braced myself for whatever might exit the pirate's mouth. He had a childish, wide-eyed look. I had Old Hickory, a walking cane that would double as a spear capable of killing Lafitte if it needed to.

"I don't want to join your army," he said.

"I don't want to deal with you."

"But you're going to win. The British don't know swamps, bayous, Louisiana. The thousand men under my command do. I want to win with you. Prove to these people that I'm as Louisianan as they are."

"You really have a thousand men?"

"I do. And five hundred muskets."

A thousand men plus five hundred muskets equaled mountains of dead Brits near the river, lining the Quarter, bleeding into the decks of their boats. I'd be sorry to leave New Orleans to Lafitte and his pirate men; its drink and dance and carousel of women. But it would be good to return to Rachel and Davidson County, a place where people didn't consider surrendering their land for silly reasons like lack of troops and fear of the British, figuring their party would continue no matter who was in charge.

"Why are you offering me eight hundred men and five hundred muskets? I don't believe it's to prove you live here."

"Because I want the charges against myself and my men dropped. The piracy charges, the smuggling charges, everything."

"But aren't you a pirate and a smuggler? Why should we ignore the truth?"

"To beat the British. Unless you've come up with enough sailors and weapons to do it yourself during our talk."

His face shifted into a scowl, then something darker. It had shades of all those animals you can't trust. Foxes, wolves, snakes. The fire crackled, sparked. My left shoulder flared up with a pain just as loud. I'd spend most of the next five years telling people about Lafitte's courage, about his indefatigable men, sure-shots all. The way they'd slink up and down the Mississippi and through the swamps, just as liquid as the water they crossed. The thirteen alligators they caught and fried up to mark the day we defeated the British.

But I couldn't see victory then. I could see combat. Cannons and muskets slicing through the British. The sweat and blood and gunsmoke of action. All of Lafitte's men standing with us.

"You'll need to shoot for it," I said.

I pinched warm ash between my thumb and forefinger, and smudged it on the wall next to the woodstove.

"If you hit that mark, you can join me."

"But I didn't bring a musket or a pistol."

I untied the pistol attached to my leg and handed it to him. His face traveled through fear and surprise on its journey to determination. He squinted one eye and raised the gun.

He aimed, shot. The fire sparked in approval. I went over to inspect the wall. Lafitte had blown a hole through the center of the ash mark.

"Claiborne won't be happy to find a hole in his wall," he said.

"He'll understand."

Kashana Cauley is a native Wisconsinite who lives in New York City. She is the winner of the 2012 Esquire/Aspen Writers' Foundation Short Short Fiction Contest, and she has work in Esquire, Tin House and others.

Detail of painting on main page: "General Andrew Jackson," by Samuel Lovett Waldo (oil on canvas; 1819).

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