Friday, September 25, 2015

Meanwhile, back at Tunie's Place...

: It happened suddenly.
Tunie Dufour was sitting downstairs in the living room watching the 6 o'clock Eyewitness News on WWL. The report was 15 seconds away from starting when Harold Amos suddenly appeared in the loft, shouting,
"Woman! You've got some explainin' to do. Now."
Tunie's lips purse into a tight, nearly perfect circle. She's never responded to idle commands from men. But then again, there hasn't been a man in her life like Harold since her late husband died in 1975.
So...what else is there to do but trek upstairs?
Making her way up the incredibly narrow staircase encased in the matching barge boards taken from the last Dutch-African emigre ship to made port in New Orleans, she meets Harold on the landing with a traditionally distrustful sneer.
"Woman," Harold exhales with ferocity. "I've seen the worst of humanity. I've seen horror, terror, starvation, want, greed, and evil in my time."
Tunie adjusts herself so as to not give the appearance of impertinence. She's spent a few years with this man. She knows when he is serious. Intentionally crossing her hands in front of herself, she widens her eyes and looks to him with the closest approximation of innocence she can muster. She didn't grow up with her sisters and brothers for nothing.
"But." Harold intones with the ferocity of a Piney Woods preacher. "I. Have never. Seen anything. Like. This!"
At the word "this" Harold pulls an aged binder from behind his back. Tunie knows in a heartbeat what he is holding. and it fills her nearly to overflowing with the curious mixture of pride and shame that only a native New Orleanian can fully understand. She bolts for the kitchen, her only thought a full glass of her treasured muscadine wine.
A slight grin crosses his thin, wizened lips. With the alacrity of a man a quarter of his age (a situation which causes him a world of disgust,) he goes after her. He clutches the ornately-inscribed leather book as if his life depended upon it. Reaching the bottom a step and a half behind her. Harold lands on the linoleum-clad hardwood floor and nearly shouts,
"Petunia! What have I found in the book?"
Tunie freezes. She is taken over with alternating feeling of rage, familiarity, violation, consummation, and revenge. None of which particularly appeal to her. Still. He's crossed a line. He's gone someplace he shouldn't have. He's--
"I found your scrapbooks in the attic while I was putting up the digital antenna."
Tunie bristles, half expecting what she's gotten in the past.
Damn it. Why does he always, ALWAYS have the exact right answer??
"You......why?" he asks, blinking back his emotions. "Why would...I mean...why not?"
Tunie doesn't know what to say. She has never known what do to in this situation. Her siblings had always denigrated her for being so forward. Yet the friends she made were so incredibly supportive. Tunie intentionally freezes her face. She's learned over the years to keep her emotions to herself.
"Petunia, I'm talking to you!" Harold bellows like the musician that he is; easily heard over a twelve-piece combo. Next door, Jerry and Patrick rouse for a moment from their reverie on the davenport.
They will realize in a fortnight when Tunie relays the story that they felt the sound through the ground and floorboards.
"FINE!" she caws, throwing herself against the upstairs railing, trying her best to look like Dorothy Dandridge. "I...I wa...s hoping. YES! Hoping! That you would...deeeeee.... cipher my...ah...uhm--intentions.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Sad, Sordid Tale of Bruce Halloran-25

: Walking Miss Sara Joy around the neighborhood with a Bermuda shorts pocket full of wadded plastic grocery bags, a wide straw hat and cat’s eye sunglasses, Bruce Halloran is still waiting for his little boy to crap. He’s marked every available vertical surface in the neutral ground on Elysian Fields from the river to St. Claude Avenue, but as to the rest there is sadly no sign of development.
Which really chaps Halloran’s ass because it’s hot outside. Not as hot as it had been just a few weeks ago, but hot enough to break a sweat. Back toward the river again.
Walking back toward the river they pass the Phoenix. Former site of his and Gary Pitts’ numerous licentious encounters. Usually far to many to remember. But today he suddenly recalls one particular incident with ringing clarity.
Sara Joy had taken up a stool at the 'all new' and 'improved' Phoenix after Katrina. In their day the Phoenix was the palace of fleshly perversion, the place to find any position or persuasion, chemical, hormonal, or otherwise. When Sara Joy and Halloran ruled the roost here, the joke around town was The Phoenix had the only pool table made by Sealy Posturpedic. The courtyard with the barber's chair so perfect for leather worship. The upstairs bar with just enough light to make out sizes and directions and the darkened cage in the corner providing the necessary hardware to create the soundtrack for the night. Sara Joy’s memories were the remnants of sweat, bourbon, cigarettes, and poppers, and he loved it. There wasn't a square inch of the building where he didn't do somebody, just in 1984 alone. But after Katrina it stood as a sterile parody of its blanching filthy glory, clogged with foreign faces and overpriced cocktails. None of those people knew him.
So technically he was 'new meat.'
Taking up a perch at the far end of the bar, he’d cruised the dismal pickings, ordering a bourbon and coke from the overly ingratiating bar bear. After about 15 minutes of bland club music and no other prospects for entertainment he was about to leave when a couple of thirtysomething cubs took up the stools next to him, obviously having an argument. The dreck on the sound system made it hard to hear everything, but he heard enough.
"...saw you looking at him...", "...nothing happened...", "...because of you, Trevor...", " always do this...", " you want Billy now...", "...have to tell you again, its you...", "...prove it!"
A thought crossed Sara Joy's malicious mind. Reaching for a nearby pen, he slipped a dollar out of his wallet and wrote in bold black letters;
'I want U now! Call whn U ditch the bitch. Billy'
Watching from the corner of his eye, he watched Trevor pay the bill while his whiny boy-toy demanded attention. Bar bear drops the change unseen by the quarreling couple. Sara Joy slipped  the marked dollar into the pile of change and walked away. The couple stormed out, Trevor in tow. Reliving the story again, Halloran can see the wide smile crosses Sara Joy's cruelly thin lips, revealing that weathered fence of teeth only seen at the Preakness or royal functions.
And he waited with the patience of one who knows the joy of anticipation.
43 minutes later Whiny Cub returned with grudgefuck in his tear-riddled eyes and a crumpled dollar bill held like a shiv in his hand. Pitts watched his prey make his way past the gossip gauntlet and march upstairs. Bruce can hear Pitts describing himself with “the leisurely stroll of Lauren Bacall”, positioning himself at the bottom of the steps, arranging for maximum impact, then "ascending to descend."
Halloran continues to follow along automatically behind Miss Sara Joy as he mulls the story over again in his head. Why would he remember this now? Granted, it’s another example of the dirty little tricks Gary Pitts lived by and adored. But what isn’t? There must be something to make that one episode leap out at him. There must be something he’s not seeing.
*swkl-plitch*  Halloran’s right foot slips slightly ahead of him before halting.
Like her namesake, Miss Sara Joy has crapped on everything again...This is My New Orleans.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

A Stopover at The L Household

: Running in from the backyard with Rex, The Wonder Dog at her grubby, blinking heels, Erica L lets the screen door slam again. They stop instantly, awaiting the onslaught from Mom lurking somewhere nearby. Don't slam the stupid door, she'll scream for the umpteenth time. Only there's no scream this time. Erica looks down at Rex's glossy black face and they stare at one another in amazement. Erica leaves the kitchen and walks into the living room. No Mom. She walks down the hall to the den and finds her dusting the room while deep in conversation with someone. Erica and Rex walk over to the big easy chair while Mom's back is turned, and jump in, Rex turning himself into His Girl so he can perch his top half on her lap. The news is on TV, but the sound is down. On the screen is a shot of an unattractive woman with long, limp brown hair, glasses, and a sweater her grandmother wouldn't wear. The crawl at the bottom of the screen says something about being arrested and put in jail.
"I know, it's amazing in this day and age," Mom says, her earpiece blinking blue as she talks. "...yep...yeah, she--...yeah..." She's stuck in a loop and begins dusting the tops of the books on the shelves, standing on her tiptoes to reach the top. "...yep... Well, that's what I was---yep....yep.."
She turns around and sees Erica & Rex in the chair and jumps a little. Erica mimes "who is it" and gets back the signal for Uncle Jerry. They both smile. Mom cuts in and says,
"Jerry, hold on. Erica just came in, she wants to say hi--" 
Erica rolls her eyes and frowns, pointing to Rex looking expectantly saddened.
"...a-and Rex. They both wanna say hi, hold on." She pulls her phone from her jeans pocket and taps the screen.
"Jerry, can you hear us?"
"Of course I can hear you! Hello sweetie. Hi Rex." Uncle Jerry's voice fairly booms from the speaker.
"Hi Uncle Jerry!" Erica shouts. Rex barks once. He's not really sure why, but everybody else was making noise, so it seemed like a good idea. He's glad he took the risk.
"Can you believe that crazy broad in Rowan County? Gawd, I hope somebody does a made-for-TV movie about her so I can watch something else!" Jerry caws, forcing Mom to put him back on her earpiece. She turns and goes out of the room mumbling. Erica grabs the TV remote and turns up the sound.
"...ordered her to jail when Davis refused to allow any of her deputies to hand out marriage licenses. Clashes ensued outside the court when the decision was announced. with one group of Davis supporters attacking a group of LGBT protesters on the courthouse steps. Televangelist Pat Robertson expressed his displeasure with the ruling, saying 'gays want all Christians thrown in jail, get used to it.' Presidential candidate Ted Cruz also came out in support saying he stands with Kim Davis, and that 'the government arrested a Christian woman for living according to her faith.' Donald Trump--"
Erica mutes the TV instantly. Some names aren't allowed in the house. That was five of them.
Mom comes back in, her earpiece in her hand.
"Is Uncle Jerry coming over?" Erica asks excitedly. "I've been working on my Tallulah Bankhead, tell me what you think!" She jumps up, throws her hair in front of her right shoulder, extends her face and says "Dahling. I call ev'rybody dahling because I can never remember their names! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAhahahahahahah!"
"If I catch you with a cigarette and a martini before you're 50, I'll murder your Uncle Jerry. Why couldn't he have turned you on to Shirley Temple?" 
Still in her Tallulah phase, Erica croaks"Louise Brooks said Shirley Temple was a swaggering, tough little slut."
"Erica!" Mom's eyes and nostrils flare. "Jerry?"
"Uncle Patrick, dahling. He also said you caaaan't get a maaaaan in a Peter Pan collar, dahling."
Mom closes her eyes and sighs deeply. She's having a flashback to growing up with Jerry. 12 years old and spewing one-liners from all the old movies he forced her to watch over and over again. And now she's raising another one. She's beginning to understand the murderer mentality.
Erica smiles. Obviously her La Bankhead is spot-on. She asks again.
"Are Uncle Jerry and Uncle Patrick coming over or not?"
"Not," Mom says, expecting what she gets; Erica throwing herself melodramatically into the chair, Rex barely able to vacate the space before splashdown. "He and Patrick have dinner plans for tonight with Miss Tunie and Mr. Harold."
"Foop!" she sneers. " What did he want, then?"
"He was going on about that clerk in Kentucky again."
"They sent her to jail!" Erica exclaims, pointing to the TV. "Isn't that what they wanted?"
"It's not that simple, sweetheart." Mom walks over and turns off the TV. "There's a lot of people who are still very upset that gays have won the right to marry. And this woman in Kentucky has become a symbol, on both sides. Do you know why she went to jail?"
Erica and Rex look at one another knowingly. Mom's decided to have what Dad calls a "Huxtable Moment." Rex lays down at her feet as His Girl gets comfortable.
"They said on TV that she wouldn't let anybody else give out licenses. Which means she didn't do her job, so they sent her to jail. But I don't understand why she went to jail. Why didn't they just fire her?"
"Well," Mom says, sitting down on the sofa. "They can't just fire her. She was elected. Only the state of Kentucky can fire her, even if she's in jail."
Erica thinks for a minute, then asks "why are they saying that she was arrested because she's a Christian?"
"That's the complicated part. She says the reason she's not doing her job is because her religion won't let her let gay people get married."
Erica frowns as she thinks, and slowly asks "sooo...if I say that homework is agai--"
"No." Mom says firmly, suppressing a smile. "Doesn't work that way, especially here. And that's why I wanted to talk to you about this before you go back to school tomorrow."

She's put on her serious voice. Oops. This can't be good.
"Because she made the decision to defy the judge and go to jail, a lot of people are upset about it. Because people think that it affects their religion. We've talked about this before, remember?"
"Yeah, I remember." Jeez Mom, it was only a couple of months ago. I'm not stupid, Erica thinks.
"So I want you to promise me that you won't get into it with people about this in school, all right? It's late summer, people get crazy this time of year. And this whole thing? Well, it''s just a little too much." Mom leans in to Erica, very seriously.
"No matter what anybody says tomorrow, promise me you won't get into a debate or a fight, OK? Promise me!"
"I promise, I promise. When is Dad coming home?"
Mom leans back and stands up, turning on the lamp next to the sofa.
"He's said he'll be home by nine, if not sooner. It's inventory at the store tonight. We'll eat when he gets home. Now go upstairs and take your bath, take Rex with you--"
Erica and Rex break for the stairs as Mom yells after them.
"--and tonight can we please keep the water in the tub?!?" The pair galumph up the stairs as Mom walks back over to the TV and taps it back to life. They're still covering the brouhaha over Kim Davis, and all the people protesting and shouting into the cameras. If they can all just get to cooler weather in October in one piece...This is My New Orleans.