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Cajun. My ancestors were French Canadians.
Tell us something about where you live.
It’s a small cabin on Bayou Teche—not the main channel but a little tributary. Our town is called Bernadette, after St. Bernadette’s Catholic Church, which was here before I was. My family has lived in Louisiana for generations. Mamou—my grandmother—used to say the cypress trees were watching over the Teche during Bible times. I don’t know if that’s true. I just know they’re beautiful, especially early in the morning or late in the afternoon, when the sunlight is softer. That, mon ami, is a sight that will shake your soul.
Is there anything special about your name? Why do you think you were given that name?
My name is Raphael Broussard. I’m named after my great-grandfather, but only Mamou called me Raphael. To everybody else, I’ve always been Raphe—probably suits me better. I never thought too much about it until she—Juliet—asked me. There are many things I never thought about before Juliet came here.
Do you have an occupation? What do you like or dislike about your work?
I am a fisherman. But it’s hard now to make a living on the water, especially since I took in my nephew. He’s just a child, and children need so many things. I would never want him to do without because I couldn’t provide. My father taught me his skills as a mechanic before—well—before he was taken from us. So I travel to Morgan City to repair the big shrimpers. The money’s good. But it’s lonely work. The docks are loud, and the boats are hot. Can’t smell anything but fuel and fish. Makes me long for the peace and quiet of the bayou.
Who are the special people in your life?
There’s my nephew, Remy. He’s a good boy, but his parents put their selfish desires ahead of their own flesh and blood—the worst kind of betrayal. I worry that Remy will carry those scars with him all through his life. It’s up to me to see that he heals, but sometimes I don’t know if I can. What do I know of fatherhood? My sister Kitty gives me all the help she can, but she’s got a family of her own now, so I try not to call on her unless I’ve got no choice. Kitty and me, we grew up with a houseful of brothers and sisters. Now there’s just the two of us. I have friends here, most of them from the bayou but one who isn’t. His name is Heywood Thornberry and he works the oil rigs. He turned up in Bernadette a while back, looking for somebody to show him the ways of the Teche and the Atchafalaya so he could fish and take his pictures. Heywood loves that camera of his. We’re more like brothers than friends. And then there’s Juliet. But I can’t talk about her.
What is your heart’s deepest desire?
To find my missing piece. To feel whole again. To make a life with—well—I’ve said enough.
What are you most afraid of?
Finding what I’m missing and losing it again.
Do you believe the legend of the white alligator? Is it real?
That’s for you to decide. And it’s for me decide. You either see the alligator or you don’t. But this much I can tell you: Destroy it and you’ll destroy yourself.
Thanks for joining us today!
Valerie Fraser Luesse is the bestselling author of Missing Isaac, Almost Home, and
The Key to Everything, as well as an award-winning magazine writer best known for
her feature stories and essays in Southern Living, where she is currently senior travel
editor. Specializing in stories about unique pockets of Southern culture, Luesse
received the 2009 Writer of the Year award from the Southeast Tourism Society for
her editorial section on Hurricane Katrina recovery in Mississippi and Louisiana. A
graduate of Auburn University and Baylor University, she lives in Birmingham, Alabama, with her husband Dave.