My mother-in-law says the Gunches are taking an X-vacation this year.
I got to think about that. X-rated? X-treme? That don’t sound like the Gunches.
No, she says – X-tended family – her sons Lurch and Leech; her and her daughters Gloriosa and Larva; and their kids; and me, the widow of her son Lout who tragically kicked the bucket.
She says we got to get away from this heat and humidity, which she blames on global warming, which is caused by air conditioning, which pushed all the hot air outside, she says.
So we’re going to Florida. This makes as much sense as going to the steaming Amazon jungle to get out the heat, but my sister-in-law Gloriosa says they got no piranhas in Florida, and when we’re not actually underwater we can take the kids to museums – which are air-conditioned.
I remember when we went to the Cabildo museum. That fire extinguisher did look like a hands-on exhibit. But when her little Comus put his hands on it, the alarm went off and the guard came, and if Gloriosa hadn’t batted her eyelashes and heaved her bosom a lot, there would have been trouble. (Gloriosa is drop-dead gorgeous. This comes in handy sometimes.)
Anyway, Aunt Chlorine said we can use her beach condo for a week, since we put her up when she came to New Orleans to disapprove of Mardi Gras last February. The condo is in Alabama, but it’s five minutes from Florida.
We leave on a Monday. Gloriosa leads in her red mini-van, with the cruise control set, as always, at 65 mph.
Lurch, Leech and Ms. Larda follow in Ms. Larda’s car. Ms. Larda prefers to drive at 40 mph, but Leech prefers to drive at 90, and he’s at the wheel. They compromise; when she gets hysterical enough, he slows down. This means they’ll average around 65, until she falls asleep.
Me and my daughter Gladiola follow them in my VW bug. My other sister-in-law Larva, with her kids Locust, Pupa and little Amoeba, follow us.
Larva sticks behind me like glue, being as she’s the one in the family with no sense of direction whatsoever. She could get lost on the way from the mailbox, if it wasn’t a slot in her door.
We got more X-tended family – husbands and such – but they can’t come until Friday because they got to work. Same with my gentleman friend Lust, who has a bar in the French Quarter.
So off we go, four in a row. After a while, I notice Ms. Larda’s head nodding in the car ahead. I know she’s asleep when Leech accelerates, zooms around Gloriosa and disappears over the horizon.
So now we’re three.
Then Gloriosa calls on the cell phone inviting us to take a break for the educational tour of the USS Battleship Alabama, right next to the highway.
My kids and Larva’s have taken that tour a lot of times – too many maybe, because they say they’ll lock themselves in a gas station bathroom before they do it again – so we politely decline. Gloriosa turns off and now we’re two.
That battleship survived a lot, and I’m wondering how it will stand up to Gloriosa and her kids. Then I look in the rearview and I don’t see Larva no more.
Gladiola swivels around and looks back into the distance, and she don’t see her either. No answer on her cell phone. I am about to turn back when the phone rings, and it’s her.
Well, little Amoeba threw up out the front window. Now, it’s a scientific fact that in a moving car, whatever goes out the front window zips right in the back window and, if Pupa had know that, she wouldn’t have rolled down that back window to toss out that pretzel bag just then.
A highway patrolman saw the pretzel bag go flying and he stopped them for littering, but when he saw Pupa, he said she had got punished enough.
So Larva had to get Pupa cleaned up – she wanted a new outfit, and maybe even a new skin – plus find some mints for Amoeba to settle her stomach. In all the confusion, she left her cell phone somewhere, and they had to go back to find it, and now they don’t know where they are.
All of a sudden she lets out a screech. She has spotted Ms. Larda’s car on the side of the road, because Leech is getting a speeding ticket. So Larva parks behind them and would you believe, it’s the same cop from when Amoeba threw up.
After he goes away, Ms. Larda takes the wheel, and Larva follows them – at 40 mph. She calls me again to say she’s going bonkers. And then she lets out another screech. Talking to Larva can be damaging to your hearing.
What it is, is the same cop has pulled over a red mini-van, and in that van is Gloriosa. Ms. Larda and Larva park behind her, wondering what’s going on, because Gloriosa never gets a ticket.
Larva gives me the blow-by-blow on the cell phone.
“Somebody was spraying a fire extinguisher out your back window, which is considered dangerous,” the cop is telling Gloriosa. She shimmies out of the van.
I know the rest. Out slide her long gorgeous suntanned legs, followed by the rest of her, including a bosom that would take a blue ribbon in any bosom contest.
“I’m sorry,” she says. Eyelashes flutter. Bosom heaves.
“Don’t do it again,” he mumbles.
He actually waves bye-bye as she drives off.
That night, the Gunches sit around the condo kitchen hunched over various drinks, licking their wounds.
“Well, we got our X-vacation. X-celerate. X-gurgitate. X-tinguisher, ” I say.
“X-pletive!” says Ms. Larda.
Next year we’ll go separately.