My sister-in-law Gloriosa is real popular this time of year. She lives close to the Uptown parade route, so she got what everybody needs. And I don’t mean long beads.

Other people stock up on beer and bottled water and fried chicken for Mardi Gras. Gloriosa stocks up on toilet paper.

Of course, either her or her husband Proteus has to stay home to open the door for their friends who are hopping from foot to foot and show them to the facilities. So Gloriosa and Proteus have to take turns going to parades.

Proteus’s mother and daddy live next door, and they usually get plenty of company for the same reason. Even more, actually, because their friends are older and have to go to the john more.

But this year, his parents have broke tradition and left on a cruise during the first part of the Carnival season.

Which makes Gloriosa and Proteus’s place twice as busy.

Naturally, disaster strikes. There are three toilets in the house, and each one stops working, one after the other, like dominos falling. Something is clogging the main line, and getting a plumber right now is next to impossible.

Thank God, Proteus has the key to his parents’ house. So all the potty guests are escorted through the backyard gate that leads next door and inside to their bathroom. That works fine, but his parents get home tomorrow, when Carnival is full swing, and that bathroom line is going to get very long.

Thursday night, Gloriosa takes her kids to the Krewe of Muses parade. She is real excited about seeing Celibacy Academy’s Prancing Penguinettes. She herself is an award-winning former Penguinette – she won Sassiest Strutter at the state dance group competition, and after three kids she still looks pretty sassy. Anyway, she’s training her little daughter Momus to strut in her footsteps.

When they get home, lo and behold, there’s a plumber that Proteus bribed to drive through the Mardi Gras traffic after hours. He is shaking his head. “It don’t look good,” he says.

Gloriosa puts the kids to bed and decides she will just dash next door and take her shower. So she grabs a towel and flashlight and leaves Proteus with the plumber.

What she don’t know is that Proteus’ parents got their dates mixed up. Their plane landed a couple hours ago: They came home in a cab, jet-lagged, and are sound asleep in their own bed.

Gloriosa is relaxing under the nice, steamy water when her mother-in-law, Ms. Sarcophaga, hears something downstairs. (This is an old house and the bathrooms are in weird places – wherever they could convert a closet and run plumbing. The main bathroom is on the first floor.) She creeps downstairs, sees light under the door, hears water, runs upstairs, sees that, yes, her husband is still in bed and calls the police.

Gloriosa steps out of the shower in time to hear the police swarming in the front door. She assumes it’s burglars. This bathroom has a low window, so she hurls her clothes out and jumps behind them. She can’t find them in the dark, but she landed in a clump of elephant ears, so she grabs a couple as modesty shields and tears across the yard to her own house.

Proteus is sitting alone in the kitchen feeling good. The plumber is gone. Turns out one of their bathroom guests somehow dropped a dozen beads down the john.

But now everything is flushing, even though it cost time-and-a-half plus a hefty tip. He can now drink a beer without worrying about consequences.

Then Gloriosa runs in with elephant ears covering her essentials and things look even better. “Hello, hello, hello!” he says.

Gloriosa says there’s burglars. Proteus says that’s quite a Mardi Gras costume she got on. She says call the police. He asks what she got on under that. This goes on for a while, until finally he looks out and sees police cars in front of his parents’ house. “Looks like they got it all taken care of,” he says, and beams at her.

 The next day his mother comes over to announce that they’re home a day early. Later, she tells his daddy how glad Proteus was to see her. “He just couldn’t stop smiling,” she says.

Happy Mardi Gras to you, too.