The novel opens on a calico cat who has been abandoned by the side of the road. To make matters worse, the cat is very pregnant and a rain storm has opened up. She wandered into the woods, far away from the road where she had been left by her family. The storm grew worse and lightning and thunder compounded its effects. Finally, the cat came upon an old tupelo tree with an abandoned nest at its base. Exhausted, the cat curled up and went to sleep.
The trees in this forest had been there for a long time; some of them for hundreds of years. At the opposite end of the forest from where the cat was sleeping was a loblolly pine that had been split in half by another lightning storm. The tree was located near a creek named Little Sorrowful. The lightning storm that severed the loblolly pine had come twenty-five years ago from the Gulf of Mexico, gaining steam from the Sabine River, which separates Louisiana from Texas. When it struck the thousand-year-old tree, the base remained standing despite losing its upper half.
When the storm struck the tree, it also had another impact deep beneath the earth. In the ground below the loblolly tree was a clay jar that had been buried a thousand years before. Inside of the jar was a mysterious creature that had been asleep for centuries. The lightning’s reverberations loosened the roots of the tree that had formerly held the jar in place. Twenty-five years ago, during that huge storm, the creature began to wake, knowing it would one day make its return.
The next morning, the cat awoke to the sound of a hound baying. The baying came in the form of a song, which told of the hound’s loneliness and captivity. After listening to the lament, she began to follow the sound of the dog’s voice.
The cat followed the song deep into the woods until she arrived at dilapidated, tilting house with an ancient, rusty truck parked outside. The hound dog was chained to the porch; he continued his doleful song. The cat knew she should be cautious as cats and dogs were usually enemies, but the song stirred not only her, but also the baby kittens in her pregnant belly. As she approached the dog, she felt like she knew the response to his song.
On the night of the storm twenty-five years ago, a mean young boy set out into the woods. His father had been a bad man who drank, caroused, and mistreated the boy and his mother. His mother left, and the father continued to beat the boy. On the night of the storm, he hit his son in the face and broke some bones. The boy stole his father’s rifle and set out into the woods. He still lived in the woods, his birth name long forgotten. He was known as Gar Face, and he was a very bad man.
The dog, whose name was Ranger, was surprised by the cat. He had seen others in the woods, but it was his job to scare them off. His chain was twenty feet long and allowed him to keep other animals at a distance. This cat, however, was not afraid of him; in fact, she nuzzled him and licked his ears as if she understood that he had been lonely.
The woods were a swampy and dangerous place in East Texas. There was mud and water everywhere, and the forest was filled with all kinds of snakes; plenty of them were poisonous, but even those that weren’t could still bite. The swamp also had crawdads, bullfrogs and ancient turtles; however, the most fearsome creatures in these swampy marshes were the alligators. The most ferocious alligators came from Bayou Tartine, which was near Little Sorrowful creek. Bayou Tartine had a sister Bayou, Petite Tartine, and the land in between was the most dangerous part of the woods.
The Gar Face was on his boat returning home after a day of hunting. He hunted virtually every living thing in the forest, but most of them provided little challenge or enjoyment for him. The one exception was the alligator; Gar...
(The entire section contains 9969 words.)
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