Modine's New Orleans: Showing Your Wits
LORI OSIECKI ILLUSTRATION
Young girls used to get things for their hope chests; now they get boob jobs for their flat chests,” my mother-in-law, Ms. Larda, says to me.
“You can tell a bosom was bought,” she says, “when you see a girl who got huge – I’ll call them ‘endowments’ – on a scrawny little frame because she’s missing the natural undercarriage to support them. Me, I ain’t seen my feet since I was 14, but I got the underlying girth to match what’s on top. Now, some of these young girls ain’t nothing but sticks with feet, and once they get top-heavy they look like tall Popsicles, poor things. They got to walk fast to keep from falling over frontwards. And for this they spend big bucks.”
I guess you can charge bosoms on your credit card, but what if you don’t keep up the payments? I don’t guess you can put them on lay-a-way.
I ain’t shaped like my mother-in-law, but all my life I’ve made the most of my God-given endowments, even though they fit into double-A bra cups.
But all of a sudden, I got a problem.
I got to explain. Since Katrina I’ve lived in an apartment in the French Quarter behind the Sloth Lounge, which my gentleman friend Lust owns. Every Halloween, the Sloth puts on a parade. This year, they’re pulling a coffin on wheels in this parade, and they need somebody to sit up in it and shriek every once in a while. They want that person to look like Elvira, the lady who introduces them scary late-night movies. Lust, whose eyesight isn’t too good, asks me to do it. Now, comparing Elvira’s bosom to mine is like comparing Mount Kilimanjaro to Monkey Hill. I can’t exactly say no, but this ain’t going to be easy.
Which is why, when I ask Ms. Larda to make me an Elvira outfit, she asks if I want a costume or a miracle.
Well, we got almost two months to think of something. Ms. Larda is talented; for the past couple of years, she has been making good money creating tasteful seasonal muumuus for Uptown ladies’ trashcans.
Now she’s expanding to decorated jazz umbrellas. Those are the fancy ones people strut around with at real good funerals, and that tourists like to bring home to show how weird we are in New Orleans.
And since I need a favor, she says I can pay her back by helping with marketing. I got a job leading walking tours in the French Quarter and she wants me to carry one of her umbrellas, maybe casually pump it up and down a little, as I walk in front of each group. When people ask about it, I can hand them her card.
Next day, when I go out to lead my tour, I take her sample umbrella. It is one of them red-hat lady tours where everybody has paid with a credit card ahead of time and nobody wants to insult me by tipping. They do inquire about the umbrella, but when I say how much it costs, they tell me they can get one for $5 at Walmart and glue beads on it themselves. Before they go back to their hotel, they take pictures of it so they can remember how it was done. Very enterprising of them, but it ain’t going to do Ms. Larda no good.
Then the sky growls; it’s going to rain. Used to be, when it got real hot in New Orleans, we could count on a gentle afternoon shower to cool things off. But lately Mother Nature has got rough. We sizzle like bacon for a couple weeks, and then she blasts us off the sidewalks with her celestial power washer.
Well, I got to walk home, and I ain’t about to let Ms. Larda’s umbrella get ruined in the rain, so I run into the Bourbon Orleans and grab one of those long plastic bags they put out for umbrellas that are already wet. The bellman asks what I’m doing, and I say I’m keeping this umbrella dry. He says don’t I have that mixed up – the umbrella is supposed to keep me dry – and I tell him he don’t know my mother-in-law. Then I take another bag, in case the first one springs a leak, and head for home.
Just before the storm gets up to full strength, I remember my cell phone is in the left side of my bra. (One of my kids always manages to call in the middle of a tour, so I keep it there, set on vibrate. If my bosom stars bouncing, I know I got a message.) I quick tuck the extra plastic bag around it. I am going to get soaked, but at least the umbrella, the phone and my left bosom will be dry.
By the time I get to the Sloth, I’m dripping like a loser in a wet T-shirt contest. Bernie the bartender looks at me, and his eyes bug out. “Yowza!” he says, “Nice boob. You saving up to get the other one done?”
I look down. The umbrella bag in my bra has filled up with water. I must have tucked it in with the open side up. Now I got one humongous endowment.
If I close my right eye, I know how it feels to be Elvira.
I think about that. If I get two umbrella bags filled with water, maybe I can solve my Halloween problem. It will be dark, and I’ll be in the coffin most of the time; I’ll just pop up and shriek and jiggle once in a while, that’s all. It could work. I call Ms. Larda.
She says it looks like I got my miracle. Free, too.
I guess you just gotta have faith.