: The midday sun streams through the louvered windows of Jeremy Youngblood’s Uptown condo, creating vivid stripes of light and shadow upon the good doctor sitting silently in the easy chair facing the windows. From this perch on Benjamin Street, he can see nearly the whole of Audubon Park. He’s recovering from a week of...indulgences, of which he is not proud. His excesses have once again caught up with him, and he is paying the price for the extravagance. Dehydrated, over exerted, and taken with a powerful malaise, he sits like a wax figure at Musee Conti; unmoving, slightly pained, and unaware of the outside world.
He’s been a bad boy of late, immersing himself in the bar life yet again. Only it’s very different now. He’s well over 40, though still remarkably fit. Even that detestable Bruce Halloran said so. ‘I never forget an ass,’ he said. He’s certainly paid for it. In his twenties he spent maybe two hours top at the gym. Now, it takes over four hours with diminishing returns. But this past week? No time for the gym. He was too busy stalking the old stomping grounds in the Quarter and the Marigny.
What a creature of habit I am, he thinks. More than a decade removed and he still haunts the same places. At least the ones that are still open. Golden Lantern, Good Friends...The Corner Pocket. It also used to cost him much less. But nowadays the young blonde hustlers are more concerned with cash than with gifts and attention. Still, he spent the cash. Chasing. Chasing, chasing after…
In Old Metairie, Phil Tupperman pads quietly through the sprawling farmhouse, going about his daily chores. Today, he’s dusting, and finally trying one of these new “dust collection systems” from the grocery store. Mainly because he hasn’t been able to locate a store that still carries feather dusters. Even that old neon green nightmare he found six years ago was more convincing at the end than these frilly fabric pads in the box. And what’s this fork-thingy for anyway? Fortunately, the instructions on the box aren’t entirely undecipherable, and he is soon on his way.
He has to admit it. These things certainly do the job. Though it is unnerving to be able to actually see the dust as it accumulates on the fabric. Seems accusatory somehow. Running the duster over the telephone desk, he spies Bruce Halloran’s card. It’s been a few days since he entered Phil’s life. He’s beginning to wonder why he hasn’t called since he...he...since he forced him to remember. He should have called by now. But maybe there’s a good reason why he hasn’t called yet. He did say he would call when he knew more. But more about what? He told Mr. Halloran everything he could remember…
The porcelain cats need dusting…
Enjoying the solitude of her office without Halloran’s pernicious smell, Avalena Beasley fairly hums through her work and his with an alacrity usually reserved for the young and unjaded. In the past weeks since he took his extended vacation, the office has thrived. Not one complaint from the call center, human resources, or any customers. All she has to do is deal with the paperwork, which is just fine with her. She prefers it. Now if she can only find some way of convincing the higher ups that she can do this on her own and have them get rid of Halloran.
Reconsidering her limited options, a knocking sounds at the door. Before she can grant entry, Myrtle Mae sticks her head in and coos,
She pushes aside the door and enters, carrying a large white box. She looks like the last snowman of spring, just about two days away from being a puddle. She’s a nosy old biddie who has to know everyone’s business.
“This was just delivered for you, so I rushed it right over!” Myrtle Mae fairly gushes the words, settling the box on Halloran’s empty desk. “It’s heavy. I wonder what it is? Oh, there’s a note.”
She produces a folded sheet of paper and hands it to Avalena. She takes it and opens it up, turning your back on the squat, fawning turnip with a henna rinse. Opening the paper, she reads;
I signed for this, but I’m leaving town today for my vacation. I asked a friend to drop this off so you wouldn’t have to wait for me to come back. See you in two weeks.
Avalena inspects the shipping label, and her heart sinks.
“Thank you Myrtle. I appreciate you bringing this by.” She takes Myrtle by the arm and begins escorting her out, but Myrtle won’t be deterred. She turns her way out of Avalena’s grip and heads back towards the desk.
“It’s just so heavy,” coos Myrtle, her heavily lined doe eyes rolling uncontrollably in their sockets. “And I did carry it all the way up here from the lobby.”
“We’re on the second floor, Myrtle.”
“Well, the elevators were busy, so I took the stairs.” Myrtle oozes, flashing her lashes like pennants. “What is it?”
Avalena smiles a broad, false grin and says evenly, “I’m sure I don’t know. I wasn’t expecting anything.” She takes Myrtle once more by the arm, this time a bit more forcefully and says as they walk towards the door, “And I won’t know until after we close up, because like you I have a lot of very important work to do. Thanks for stopping by, goodbye Myrt!”
She slams the door for emphasis.Avalena knows exactly what is inside this box. She recognized the postmark instantly. Damn you, Dalloway, she thinks. You could have kept the damned thing for two weeks! Still, it’s not a total loss. Halloran wasn’t here when it arrived. And Myrtle Mae is no bother. She thinks no one notices when she skips lunch and takes off from work a half-hour earlier than everyone else. Locking the office door, she walks over to the desk. Using her ring, she slices through the packing tape, the overpacked box springing open. Inside is a white and mauve miasma of real chiffon, satin, and rhinestones. Ambrosia Delight’s new gown. Afraid to pull it from the box for fear of never repacking it properly, she stares at the intricately beaded bodice now puffing up from the cardboard. She wants desperately to put in on but instead retapes the box closed, effectively emptying Halloran’s tape dispenser. She shoves the box under her desk and returns to her work. Just a few more hours until she can get this beauty home...This Is My New Orleans.