My mother-in-law, Ms. Larda, broke her leg. She says she’s been hoping for this her whole life.
This is because she broke it just before Mardi Gras. “Nobody catches more beads than an old lady in a wheelchair,” she says to me.

What happened was she was running for the phone and her Chihuahua Chopsley must have thought it was for him, because he was running for it, too and they crossed paths and she tripped and grabbed at the bookcase, then the lampshade, then the lamp table, then the wastebasket and wound up underneath all of them.

Thank God the phone was under there, too, so she called 9-1-1 and the EMTs dug her out and hauled her off to the hospital. She called me up from there and I went to Mr. Wheelchair out on Jefferson Highway and rented her a wheelchair, deluxe.

The next day, a bunch of Gunches get together at her house to bring food, being as she won’t be cooking for a while. We help her get a head start on eating it while we talk about which parades we’re going to and what we’re going to catch.

Ms. Larda is saying she’s going to have a laundry basket on each side of her wheelchair, so she can toss the beads in there quick and afterwards bag them up in a gigantic leaf-and-lawn bag.

My daughter Gumdrop says, with due respect and all, Ms. Larda might need two laundry baskets, but she, Gumdrop, will need three because her kids are so cute that when she puts them up on top a ladder, the beads just rain down on them. She ought to charge people to stand next to them, just to scoop up what they don’t catch, she says.
“Boobs,” says my brother-in-law Lurch.

“Yeah, boobs,” agrees my other brother-in-law, Leech. By which they mean that when it comes to attracting beads, ladies who show their bosoms will outdo little kids and crippled old people every time.

The rest of us – who happen to be female – say that ain’t true.

So the gauntlet is thrown down on the linoleum. We will have a contest between Gunches. We will all go to a parade together and stand on the same side of the same block, a couple of float-lengths apart. After the parade, we’ll compare – bead-by-bead, trinket-by-trinket – and see who caught the most.

There is an obvious problem: Leech and Lurch don’t have boobs. Not the kind anybody wants to look at, anyway. Now they got girlfriends, Chiclet and Trinket; and Chiclet and Trinket got boobs. But Chiclet and Trinket are insulted at the idea of flashing their boobs for beads. They inform the boys that they ain’t that kind of ladies, and besides which, their daddy paid too much for their boobs to use them for such cheap purposes, thank you very much. No, not even for long beads.
Leech and Lurch say they’ll think of something.

So we pick a parade. It can’t be one of them ladies’ parades like Muses or Nyx, because boobs don’t get you nothing at those parades. Obviously. We decide a daytime parade, but I ain’t going to say which one, because of what happened.

We get there and we line up. First me and Ms. Larda in her wheelchair and baskets. Then down the block Lollipop with Go-Cup up on a ladder seat looking as cute as they can with bicycle helmets on. The helmets are not part of a costume. They are wearing them because their mama, my daughter, Lollipop, got it in her head that sitting on top of a ladder in the middle of a hysterical crowd might be dangerous, even though I pointed out that she and her brother and sister spent whole Carnival seasons on ladders and they was just fine. But she don’t listen. Finally, to take the curse off the helmets, I glued bunny ears on them and that helped.

Down the block from them are Chiclet and Leech, and then Trinket and Lurch. Chiclet and Trinket are all buttoned up, and their shirts are tucked into their belts, just to make the point that they are being modest. But Leech and Lurch are standing next to them and they’re wearing rubbery fake chests with boobs that they found at some shop in the French Quarter. Their theory is that if a float is moving fast, a float rider with a few drinks in him will look down and see Chiclet’s face and the same glance will show Leech’s fake boobs, and the images will blur in his head and he’ll throw long beads before his brain processes that the lady and the boobs are separate. And then he’ll do it again when he sees Trinket’s face next to Lurch’s fake boobs.

Now, that’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. I assume this contest is between Ms. Larda’s leg and my grandkids.

After the parade we all meet up at Ms. Larda’s to sort out the loot. And I got to admit, everybody got plenty.

In the stuffed animal category, the winners are Lollipop and Go-Cup, whose cuteness peeked through even under helmets.

Ms. Larda got more beads than the kids did, but not as many stuffed animals. She also got a lot of jokey things like plastic dog doo-doo (good for hiding your house keys in the front yard).

But, would you believe, the boys with the boobs got twice as much of everything as anybody else: long beads, panties, cups, the works.
Boobs – and I’m talking about fake boobs, draped over a hairy chest – beat out adorable kids and handicapped old ladies.

Well there’s next year, and there’s Muses and Nyx.
We will just have to hope for another broken leg.