My mother-in-law, Ms. Larda, is back home in Chalmette.
Not a minute too soon. She says she can’t never show her face in Folsom again.
She had been staying there on the Northshore with my daughter Gumdrop while her house was getting fixed after Katrina. Thank God it’s ready.
What happened was, last Wednesday she got up at 5:30 a.m. in Folsom and went to make her coffee, like she does every morning – only this morning there ain’t no coffee left in the canister.
Nobody else in the house drinks coffee except Gumdrop, and she can’t do that now that she’s pregnant again.
Now, Gumdrop lives out in the country, five minutes by car from downtown Folsom, which has a traffic light, a feed ‘n’ seed store, and Gus’s restaurant, open early for breakfast, no credit extended.
My son Gargoyle is on his Christmas vacation from LSU and since my apartment is small – and he takes up a lot of space – he’s vacationing on Gumdrop’s couch. So Ms. Larda goes to the couch and inquires if she can borrow his car to go get some coffee. He don’t say nothing, being as he won’t be conscious for another five or six hours, so she takes that as a “yes” and picks up his keys off the end table and drives off.
While she’s on her way, she notices that Gargoyle left a big old LSU 16-ounce insulated mug with a lid on it, right there in the cup holder. Sixteen ounces ought to be enough to hold her for awhile. She’ll just go to Gus’s and get it filled and be back before Gumdrop’s two-year-old, Lollipop, wakes up. Ms. Larda likes to get her up and settled in front of the TV with her bowl of Sugar Clumps so her mama can sleep late. This is the least she can do for having a place to live ever since she got too fat for the FEMA trailer.
But there’s something she don’t know about that insulated mug. Evidently there was some kind of safe sex week up at LSU and they had a bowl of what I will call “safe sex items” in little foil packets setting out on a table, free. My son must have happened to walk past there when he had his empty mug in his hand and dumped most of the bowl into his mug. He must have had a time squishing them all down, but he did, and then he screwed this lid on. And he threw the mug in his car. What kind of plans he had God only knows, and God probably don’t want to think about it.
Flash forward to Ms. Larda. She scurries into Gus’s, and she sees a couple of people she met at St. John, the Catholic church there, who are already polishing off their eggs and grits. She smiles and wishes them a good morning, hard as it is to be nice to anybody before her coffee. Ms. Larda has the feeling that they think anybody from New Orleans is a little weird, so she’s glad she at least put on some lipstick and brushed her hair before she left the house, so she looks halfway decent.
She pays the waitress for 16 ounces of coffee, and goes to take the lid off the mug, but it’s stuck. After she struggles with it a while, the waitress tries to help, but she can’t pry it off either.
Finally a gentleman from the church gets up, and says, “May I?” and he wrenches it. Pop! Off it comes. And all these safe sex items that have been compressed in that mug ever since Safe Sex Week spring out every which way.
Ms. Larda lets out a shriek, naturally, because she’s startled, and then she sees what has landed all over the floor, and she knows that if these country folks thought she was weird, now they got proof.
But I got to say, she has fast reactions for an old lady with no coffee in her. She don’t look at the waitress or the church people or anybody else. She sets the LSU mug down on the counter and says, “I think I’ll use a Styrofoam cup.” And she pours her coffee and steps over the safe sex items like they was roaches and walks out with her head held high.
Back at Gumdrop’s, she stomps over to the couch and kicks it a bunch of times. Nothing on the couch moves, so she goes ahead and gets Lollipop up. Then she starts packing for home.
I never would have known about all this if Gargoyle hadn’t called the next day asking if I had seen his LSU mug. Ms. Larda and I happened to be having coffee ourselves at the time, and I say to her that he sure seemed upset about a $5 mug. She says to tell him if he wants that cup so bad, he can go out back and dig in Gumdrop’s compost heap. I say “Is that where it is?” and she says “No, but since he wants to make his grandmother look like a dirty old woman, he can wallow around in some dirt himself.”
Then she tells me about them people in Folsom thinking she’s a sex fiend. She can hear it now – “carrying God-knows how many safe sex items in her coffee cup, at her age. Never too late, in New Orleans …” and they’ll just laugh, real nasty.
She gets up and pours us both another cup of coffee, but this time she adds a splash of Kahlua.
“It’s good to be home, Modine,” she says. Here’s to that.