My mother-in-law Ms. Larda is usually so busy minding other people’s business she don’t think about herself.  But now she got a problem. She decides to ask for advice from her daughter Gloriosa, because this problem involves money and Gloriosa is the  only one in the family who never hits her up for any – being as she married rich.

BEAUTY AND THE BINSo Ms. Larda bakes a batch of carrot muffins – Gloriosa’s children ain’t allowed to have real junk food – and goes Uptown to see her. She gives a muffin to each of the kids, who ain’t too grateful being as they always hope for doughnuts, shoos them out of the kitchen and sits down to have a mother-daughter chat.

She is just dunking her first muffin – which she wishes was a doughnut – and deciding how to start this conversation, when Gloriosa starts unloading her own problem. The thing is, Gloriosa really got no problems. She come through Katrina with a house and a high income and everybody alive. But no, that ain’t enough. Her life is miserable, she says, because of the garbage police who have taken over Keeping Our City Tidy. Every household in Orleans Parish has been issued a garbage bin and the occupants are required to use it. By law.

Ms. Larda, being as she lives in St. Bernard, says she don’t see no problem with a free garbage bin and to tell you the truth, Orleans Parish has needed tidying up for a long time.
Gloriosa says this garbage bin is not only ugly, it’s so big it comes up to her boobs and so heavy she can’t pull it around front once she puts the garbage in it. So she got to make one trip all the way from the back yard and down the driveway dragging the empty garbage bin and then two or thee more trips with the actual garbage to put in it, and it is just tooo much.

So keep this bin on the front lawn, says Ms. Larda. Put it off to one side a little. Well, she should have known better than to suggest that.

 Gloriosa is a lawn Nazi. She has grass you can comb; she has hedges clipped so perfect they would make a French poodle jealous; she has matching azalea bushes on each side of her steps that bloom twice a year in perfect unison and know better than to drop their dead flowers on her front walk; and along the side of the yard, she has a straight row of very well-behaved elephant ear plants – they don’t droop and they don’t spread and when Gloriosa comes along, they stand at attention.
And now this blot on her perfect landscape.

Now, Ms. Larda has a real problem. She retired from her last job in the foundations department at Krauss years ago and up until Katrina, she got along fine on her savings and social security and what she inherited from Mr. Gunch. But rebuilding the house used all that up, the insurance company she been paying into all these years has absconded and she ain’t holding her breath waiting for Road Home payments. She got what Gloriosa – if she shut up long enough to listen – would call a cash flow problem. Ms. Larda literally don’t have a pot to (ahem!) in. She bought one of them new ecologically correct low-flow toilets and it’s turned out to be no-flow. But she can’t afford a plumber.

She knows she has to calm Gloriosa down before she can talk about this. The two of them go outside and stand in front of the garbage bin. “What you need is a way to disguise this bin, make it less obvious so you can keep it on the front lawn,” Ms. Larda says.

It so happens that she’s been driving around with a bag of old clothes in her trunk, hoping to pass by a Salvation Army store or somewhere that is accepting donations. So she roots through the bag and she pulls out one of the muumuus she wore while we was evacuated at Orange Beach.

Ms. Larda is the hefty type and she says there ain’t a bathing suit ever been designed that will flatter her figure, so this is what she wore instead. It comes up to just below her armpits, is gathered there with elastic and the print looks sort of like elephant ears. She takes it and wrestles it over the garbage bin. It’s a perfect fit. Gloriosa runs to her back shed and comes out with a enormous straw hat and they plunk it on top the lid, and voila, a eyesore turns into a thing of – maybe not beauty, but not too bad. It blends in, especially when Gloriosa drags it into the line of elephant ears along the side fence. 

They’re standing there feeling proud of themselves, when Gloriosa’s neighbor Bitsy Boswell strolls over and exclaims and then says she would give $50 if she had one like that for her garbage bin. “Sold!” says Ms. Larda. And she roots out one with an azalea print and they put that one on Bitsy’s bin.

And just like that, Larda Gunch’s Garbage Gowns Ltd. is born. And not only do people want gowns to match their gardens but them people who love to put up wreaths  and flags for every holiday see a whole new way to one-up the neighbors. So she starts a new line for different holidays – her Halloween designs are coming out soon. Lucky she’s talented with sewing.

So now she got enough cash flow to take care of the no-flow. And if that’s the only flow problem she has to worry about this hurricane season, she’ll be happy. Won’t we all.

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