My mother-in-law, Ms. Larda, don’t just drive her car. She wears it.

She is a big woman, and it’s a little car, so she occupies all its nooks and crannies. It don’t bother her a bit. She belongs to the Sisterhood of the Elastic Pants, Chalmette Chapter. “We don’t need no red hats to have a good time. Just our feed bags,” she says to me.

They got their annual pre-Thanksgiving banquet coming up, and Ms. Larda’s hoping she has time to help with the cooking. She sews decorative muumuus for Uptown trash cans, and now that New Orleans has added recycling bins, her business has doubled.

But things are easier than last year, when she had to make a Count Dracula outfit for her car.

I got to explain. My sister-in-law Gloriosa lives in a neighborhood where, instead of trick-or-treating from door to door, the parents go to the schoolyard, park in a circle and the kids go from car to car saying “Trick or trunk!” Every trunk is full of treats. The kids get to show off their cute little costumes, get candy that ain’t poisoned and everybody feels safe. And last year they were giving out a trophy for best decorated car.

Now Gloriosa is the competitive type. It ain’t enough that she got the richest husband, the tastefulest house, the biggest boobs and the most healthfully nourished kids Uptown, she had to win the best decorated car trophy. But she drives a mini-van, and that’s a lot to decorate.

Then she thought of her mama’s little VW bug. Perfect – especially if her mama would run up a Dracula costume for it, one with a cape. Then the trunk could be its mouth, with fangs out of poster paper, and Gloriosa could attach this audio gadget she got at Party City, so when she opened the trunk, it would laugh real scary: “WHAAHAHahahahahaha.”

Well, Ms. Larda is talented enough to make this Volkswagen look like Dracula, if Dracula was a car. But she couldn’t fix the trunk latch, which been broke for years, and which you got to open with a table knife.

The other parents gave out Rice Krispy treats and such, but Gloriosa and her husband Proteus, who regard sugar as arsenic, gave out sugar-free Popsicles. (One thing about this trick-or-trunk business is that everybody knows everybody, so parents got no excuse to go through the kids’ candy and eat all the Snickers because they look suspicious.)

But not all the parents had goodness in their hearts. The car next to the VW had a life-sizes plastic skeleton rigged to pop up whenever the trunk opened, and the little trick-or-trunkers always screamed and ran away. The mama decided her husband just wanted to bring the candy home and eat it himself, so when he took a bathroom break, she asked Gloriosa if she could hide the skeleton in the VW.

Naturally Gloriosa and Proteus won the trophy. And, while she was accepting it, Proteus undressed the car, stuck the skeleton in the trunk and loaded up the kids and their loot. Next morning he brought Ms. Larda’s car back in time for her to get to the cemetery with fresh plastic bouquets for All Saints’ Day.

He forgot about the Popsicles.

Well, that afternoon, on her way home from the cemetery, Ms. Larda passed NOPD Officer Earl Fitzwhistle, recent graduate of the police academy. He saw something red dripping out her trunk, so he turned on his flashers and motioned her over. She didn’t notice him, and he went after her. Now this was a low-speed chase, since she was only going 20 miles per hour, and it ended in two blocks when she stopped for a red light. But when he caught up to her, Ms. Larda got very upset. She is a graduate of Celibacy Academy and she got a lifelong guilt complex. So immediately, she acted guilty as sin. She broke out in a cold sweat and her hands shook so much she could hardly get out her driver’s license. This, according to Officer Fitzwhistle’s new police academy handbook, is a red flag that she’s a drug dealer.

This is what his police report said:

Officer requests access to trunk. Subject produces knife (a table knife, but still). Subject claims knife is necessary to access trunk. Officer confiscates knife and directs subject to exit car and stand with both hands in view. Office accesses trunk with his personal multi-purpose Swiss Army knife. Officer notes blood-curdling laughter, observes skeleton in pool of red liquid.

(Officer Fitzwhistle didn’t put it in his report, but him and Ms. Larda let loose a shriek that raised hair on people’s necks all the way to St. Claude Avenue.)
Back-up Officer Della Wirth arrives at scene, checks liquid for smell, then taste, surmises liquid is sugar-free cherry Popsicle. Officer Wirth also notes skeleton stamped “made in China.” Officer Wirth engages in unprofessional sarcasm toward Officer Fitzwhistle. Subject released on own recognizance.

And the subject’s daughter Gloriosa got a very cranky phone call from her mama, and immediately sent her husband to hose out the trunk.

After she calmed down, Ms. Larda decided to name the skeleton Fitzwhistle. She brung him to the Sisterhood of Elastic Pants banquet. She told the ladies he was an example what happens to people who take dieting too serious. They all drank – and ate – to that.