Never mess with nuns. That has been seared into my soul since kindergarten, but some people never learn. I am talking about my brothers-in-law Leech and Lurch.

They get this brilliant idea to dress up like nuns for Halloween.

I tell them lightning will strike them dead, and they’ll deserve it.

But Leech and Lurch, they somehow get hold of what looks like genuine nuns’ habits – the old-fashioned kind with wimples and all – and they stash them in a vacant apartment over the Sloth Lounge. (They live in a double shotgun with their mother, Ms. Larda, and they know better than to let her catch them dressed up all sacrilegious like that.)

My gentleman friend Lust owns the Sloth Lounge, and he usually rents this apartment to his friend Railbird and his dog Scratch, but they’ve gone on vacation for a couple of weeks, and Railbird said it was OK to let the boys spend a night there, if they didn’t steal nothing.

Early on Halloween evening, myself and Lust are sitting in the Sloth, when the boys come in, all smirks, and go upstairs to get into their habits.

I wait for the lightning.

But God’s more creative than that.

He created dogs, and dogs have fleas. Fleas lay eggs, which hatch and jump on the nearest dog. But if that dog happens to be on vacation with its owner, the hungry baby fleas and their hundred brothers and sisters jump on the first idiots who walk in. Especially if those idiots throw off their clothes and put on nuns’ habits.

A few seconds later, Leech and Lurch are back in the bar, waving their skirts and waggling their wimples and screeching things nuns wouldn’t screech. Now, the Sloth has seen a lot, but nuns with fleas is a new one. The bartender makes the sign of the cross.

Lust ain’t fazed. He chases them two outside and sprays them down with something he keeps around for bug emergencies. Then he trudges upstairs and sets off a flea bomb in Railbird’s apartment. Which means the boys can’t sleep there tonight.

You would have thought that would have been the end of Halloween festivities for them two. But noooo, they hang around outside, scratching here and there, and watch the Halloween parade, while numbing their itches with beer.

Meanwhile, at home in Chalmette, Ms. Larda is sewing a dead cheerleader costume for my teenage daughter Gladiola. Gladiola was inspired by the movie Cheerleaders of Death, and she’s playing the DVD for Ms. Larda to use as a reference. The finishing touch is white face paint (so she’ll look unhealthy enough to be dead) and an axe in her head. It is actually a Styrofoam axe attached to a headband. Then they spray the top of her head blood-red. (With sparkles, so she’ll look like a sexy dead cheerleader.)

Then she goes off to her party, leaving Ms. Larda alone with just Chopsley, her Chihuahua, for protection.

Before Katrina Ms. Larda’s neighborhood was alive with little trick-or-treaters on Halloween, but now she’s the only one on the block. Cheerleaders of Death doesn’t help her state of mind tonight.

She never trusted alarm systems, because if you get one of them, you’re advertising that you got something worth stealing, she says.

She used to pull down her window shades and stack aluminum pie pans against them, so if a serial killer put his foot over the sill, he’d knock down the stack and she’d hear and come whomp him with her baseball bat.

But times change. You can’t get aluminum pie pans no more – just the plastic microwave kind. So she had to switch to Diet Coke cans. And she upscaled her weaponry to Mace.

Tonight she gets so nervous she takes Chopsley and her phone and Mace (actually Gladiola’s red hair spray. The cans look alike) and goes over on the boys’ side of the house, to fool any serial killers looking for old ladies. She stretches out on their couch and finally falls asleep.

Much later, the boys drag themselves home, wimples wrinkled and veils askew. They have lost their key. But they know the latch on their bathroom window is a little loose. Leech drags up a trashcan to stand on while he jiggles it open.

Ms. Larda comes awake to Chopsley’s low growl; grabs the phone and hits 9-1. She will hit the final “1” when she’s sure it’s not a cat or something.
Someone is at the boys’ bathroom window. (The serial killer figured out her trick!) She grabs the red hair spray and slinks to the bathroom, to see a black-hooded figure pushing the window up.
She hits that final “1,” not that she needed to – they must have heard her screech all the way down at the police station – aims the hair spray and fires. The figure squawks and falls backward. Ms. Larda looks out and bawls to the 9-1-1 operator that she’s just killed a nun.

Ms. Larda went to Catholic school, so she knows she’s in trouble now. She rushes outside to beg forgiveness, but she stops short when Sister sits up and says a bad word. And when the other nun standing there says, “Now Mom …” she realizes the terrible truth.

Then Lurch makes the mistake of trying to get sympathy by telling her about the fleas.

When the police arrive, they’re outside, habits gone, washing their sinful selves with flea soap and holy water.

Being graduates of the Police Academy, the cops are smart enough to go away quietly.

Leech and Lurch aren’t allowed in until they recite their Act of Contrition.

I think they got off easy.

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