Gloriosa at the Ball

It ain’t easy being rich.

Take Mardi Gras. Once me and the Gunches stake out a bathroom, our problems are solved. Everything else – costumes, beads, beer – is optional.

But for my rich sister-in-law Gloriosa, it’s a whole other story.

She has Carnival balls to worry about. She wants to join one of them super ladies’ krewes like Muses or Nyx. But her husband’s mother, Ms. Sarcophaga, informed her that the ladies in her family join one krewe only: The Duchesses of DRAB. It don’t parade in the streets, but it is known for the Drooping Rhododendron Annual Ball.

DRAB-ettes don’t believe in vulgar excess. They wear pearls, not rhinestones. They don’t ever put glitter in their cleavage.

The DRAB motto is “Taste and Tradition.” Not tradition like in the men’s old-line krewes where young girls are court maids and flounce around the ballroom with old rich guys wearing tights. The DRAB-ettes will do the flouncing themselves, thank you very much. But otherwise. Tradition.

This year, the theme is “Monet’s Flowers” and Ms. Sarcophaga herself is Grand Duchess. Gloriosa will be a maid on the court. Now, Monet was a famous nearsighted artist, so each maid will represent a blurry flower. Gloriosa is the azalea. Ms. Sarcophaga will dress as an entire out-of-focus garden.

When Gloriosa goes to see the DRAB seamstress, Bitsy Butterick, Ms. Bitsy asks what color azalea she wants to be. Gloriosa says “Whatever. Just not pink.” (She hates pink.)

Unfortunately, Ms. Bitsy is hard of hearing. She thinks Gloriosa said “hot pink,” which is a surprise, since the DRAB colors are always muted. Given that, plus Gloriosa’s looks (Gloriosa is drop-dead gorgeous), Ms. Bitsy decides she can create a glorious masterpiece. For once.

Now, Gloriosa should have shown up for fittings. But she didn’t. So the day before the ball, I get this hysterical call. The dress has been delivered, it’s the opposite of tasteful and muted and the Grand Duchess will kill her.

This pink ain’t just hot, it’s shrieking-on-fire neon. (We find out later that Ms. Bitsy has cataracts, which makes colors look duller. She had to go some before she could find fabric that looked to her like hot pink.)

Normally, we would call my mother-in-law Ms. Larda, who sews for a living. But Ms. Larda is busy. My gentleman friend Lust, who owns the Sloth Lounge, hired her to make a Sloth Lounge slogan for my jazz umbrella. (I carry it when I lead the French Quarter walking tours that he sponsors.) She is experimenting with special beads that will light up at night under the streetlights.

Then yesterday she took a break for a group outing to the Gulf Coast casinos. We call her cell phone – screeching – and she says to calm down; just take a couple yards of white nylon net and cover the dress with it. We can use the bolt of net she left on her dining room table. We rush over there.

Too late. My brothers-in-law Lurch and Leech already took the entire bolt to make bead-catching nets. We look all around the house, and finally we find some white net folded up on the end table by the sofa. It should be enough. We notice some beads sewed on it, but that’s OK. We ain’t talented at sewing like Ms. Larda, but we got staples and a glue gun, and we get the dress covered up and toned down.

The next night I’m at the ball, sitting with the peons, while the maids are introduced. Spotlight. The Magnolia Maid in white. Smile. Curtsy. Clap, clap. Spotlight. The Lavender Maid in lavender. Smile. Curtsy. Clap, clap. Spotlight. The Azalea Maid in … yozwa!

“SLITHER TO THE SLOTH LOUNGE” is written across the skirt in big, huge, glowing letters.

That extra beaded net must have been for my umbrella.

Gloriosa, being gorgeous, is used to gasps, so she just smiles and curtsies. And Ms. Sarcophaga is blind as a bat and don’t wear her spectacles. So she don’t notice.

Everybody else notices. This ain’t just untasteful, it’s commercialization, which is worse. The DRAB-ettes are going to grab torches and pitchforks and run her out of there, I just know it.

But nothing happens.

It turns out, everybody is afraid of Ms. Sarcophaga.

So nobody says nothing.

And Glorisoa still belongs to DRAB.

It ain’t easy being rich.





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