My mother-in-law’s cousin, Jerce, says we talk funny in New Orleans. She is visiting Ms. Larda from Kansas City.

Her and me and Ms. Larda are having coffee (tea for Jerce, being as she don’t like chicory). Ms. Larda is filling her in on the family here, and she starts talking about her daughter, Gloriosa. Bragging a little.

Gloriosa is all excited about essential oil these days, Ms. Larda tells us. Only she don’t pronounce it “oy-yul,” like you’re supposed to. Ms. Larda says “Erl.”

“Earl?” says Jerce. “Like the Duke of Earl?” (showing her age).

“Erl,” says Ms. Larda. “Like, St. John the Apostle was berled in erl, but it didn’t hurt him, thanks to the grace of God. He is the patron saint of French fries. True fact, from oily choich history.”

Jerce looks blank, so I jump in and say I certainly been hearing a lot about essential oy-yuls. I say “oy-yuls,” so Jerce gets the point.
Ms. Larda says that she’s Italian, so as far as she’s concerned, the only essential erl is olive erl. And of course, Erl of Olay, which she used to wear to bed every night, until she decided that when you get old, you got a choice between dry wrinkles and shiny wrinkles. So now she don’t bother with Erl of Olay.

I remember Gloriosa got into essential oiling because she needed to stop her husband, Proteus, from snoring without strangling him. She read on the Internet that what you do is, you get essential oil of thyme and rub it on his feet before he goes to bed at night. This is the God’s truth. You can Google it yourself.

I personally suspect somebody made that up and put it out there just to see how many people would actually grease their feet before bed. I been thinking about it. Used to be you had to wait until somebody – like your mother-in-law, maybe – told you something ridiculous before you did it. But now you can get crazy advice 24 hours a day. Detoxify your body with cucumbers. Get rid of belly fat with one weird trick. If you got a cough, put Vicks VapoRub on your feet, under your socks.

Anyways, Gloriosa is desperate enough to try thyme on the feet. The first night she convinces Proteus to go to bed like that, he still snores, but then he wakes up in the middle of the night craving pizza. So he heads down to the refrigerator for some leftovers. But he slips and slides and slithers so much, because his feet are greased, he’s afraid to climb back up them stairs, so he curls up on the couch for the night. Meanwhile, Gloriosa, up in the bedroom, gets her first good night’s sleep in a long time. So in a way, it worked.

Then she started putting little candles under tiny pots of lavender and eucalyptus oil mixed with almond oil all over the house. It does smell nice, and she says it lifts the spirits.

Me, back when I was married, I would put an onion in the oven on low heat. It made everybody think dinner was cooking and it lifted their spirits. That was my weird trick.

Jerce says she could use something for her suitcase, to make her clothes smell nice, so the next morning, she and Ms. Larda take a ride over to Gloriosa’s. She ain’t home, but she has left out a bottle of lavender, with her compliments. Ms. Larda has a key, and she finds a nice big bottle on the counter, next to what looks like a bottle of nose drops.

They bring it home and dab it on cotton balls and Jerce tucks them into her suitcase. Ms. Larda got a doctor appointment, and Jerce got to get to the airport, so I drive her there. On the way, my cell phone rings. It is Gloriosa. She says the lavender oil she left out is still on the counter. But the vinegar Proteus uses for his foot fungus is missing.


 We pull up at the Delta gate, and I help Jerce get out her suitcase. “Goodbye, Jerce,” I say.

“It’s Joyce. NOT Jerce. My name is Joyce. Joy-ssss,” she says. And she stomps off.

Joyce? No wonder she’s been in such a bad mood.

It is gonna get worse.