Bringing up Baby

Holding on to the plastic Jesus

If you have a car that looks silver, but the manufacturer calls “titanium,” and you order a pick-up meal, and they ask you what color is your car, you should say “silver.”

Because if you say “titanium,” whoever takes the order writes down “tit” and when you park at the curb, the young man who comes out with orders will yell, “TIT!”

 And if you look like my sister-in-law Gloriosa, with Dolly Parton boobs, when you step out your car, that young man may never recover from embarrassment. 

Also, he won’t get no tip.

I showed up just after Gloriosa and her little daughter Flambeau got home with that order, and Gloriosa is still sputtering about it while she serves me Mandarin chicken. I poke in my chopsticks, and I find a plastic king cake baby.

Gloriosa has to explain. She realized Flambeau will eat anything if it has a plastic baby in it. She loves them. 

If you ain’t from around here, you may not know that a king cake baby is a tiny plastic baby baked into a king cake, and if you get it in your piece, you got to buy the next king cake for your office or class or whoever you’re eating it with.

Now, like a lot of people, Gloriosa assumes the plastic baby represents Baby Jesus. I been told it represents when the owner of McKenzie’s Pastry Shoppes (which used to sell most of the king cakes in town) got a sweet deal on a shipment of plastic babies from Japan, back in the ‘50s.  Before that they used fava beans. Or unshelled pecans. Or something else you would have to spit out.

Gloriosa says next I will be saying that St. Joseph ain’t Italian. I let that go.

Anyway, Flambeau is so obsessed, she even stopped begging for a kitten. Whenever they had a king cake in the house, she snatched the baby, brought it to her room, put it to bed in a egg carton nursery she set up, tucked it into an egg compartment and covered it with a tiny blanket she cut out of a Kleenex. 

 So Gloriosa started putting babies in stuff like mashed potatoes, broccoli soup, even take-out Mandarin chicken.

Somehow, it did not occur to Gloriosa that you could order king cake babies over the Internet. Maybe she thought they miraculously grew inside of king cakes. So she called everybody in the family and asked us to please save the babies out of our cakes for her. So we did.

She had to explain to Flambeau that Mardi Gras is over, and the baby supply will dry up. Anyway, Flambeau has already built a entire castle of baby-occupied egg cartons in her bedroom.

Just before I got there, Flambeau left with her Grandma Larda to spend the night.

Naturally, I want to see this amazing castle, so after we eat, Gloriosa brings me up to Flambeau’s room. First thing I notice is that the room is extremely tidy. Second thing is here’s no egg carton castle.

Gloriosa had a cleaning service in that morning. 

We race outside to the garbage can. But for once the trash has been collected on time. Flambeau’s babies are gone.

And she will be home tomorrow morning. 

Gloriosa rushes to the Costco’s and buys five dozen eggs, which she will put in a bucket or something and use the cartons, while I call bakeries to see if they got leftover babies. There ain’t no babies. Try next year, honey.

Gloriosa feels so terrible, she decides to give in on the kitten. She phones her friend Lisa, whose cat had a litter, and gets a little silver-and-brown tabby. 

Next morning, Flambeau is ecstatic. While they watch her cuddling the kitten, Gloriosa notices Ms. Larda is holding a big trash bag. 

“Her baby castle,” says Ms. Larda. “I got it when you were hugging Flambeau goodbye yesterday. I knew she couldn’t spend a night without her babies.”

“Can we name the kitty ‘TIT’ after your car?” pipes up Flambeau. (Little pitchers…) 

“We are naming her ‘Fava Bean,’” says Gloriosa. “May they return to king cakes.”

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