Zooming into the Present

Last year I was complaining about the heat, saying that’s why we can’t never have a Fourth of July parade around here.

If people prance around in nothing but glitter and a few feathers for Mardi Gras, which is in February, what would they wear in July? Two stars and a firecracker, and that would be it.

This year I say, “Bring it on.” The coronavirus don’t like heat. Or sun either. (And it came from a bat. Why don’t they call it the Vampire Virus?)

Another thing about the virus: it made my mother-in-law Ms. Larda realize she’s old. Which come as a shock.

Way back in March, she said she was worrying about all them old people who were susceptible.

“So how old are you?” I say.


I haven’t seen her since.

She stopped cruising Walmart to see what they got; stopped driving from supermarket to supermarket to check prices and compare the cantaloupes. Stopped everything.

All the Gunches take turns delivering groceries to her porch. She winds up with coffee with no chicory and mushy tomatoes and mayonnaise that ain’t Blue Plate, but it’s better than risking her life, she says.

She ain’t bored. She sewed about a zillion masks, got sick of that, and then, can you believe, she got into computer stuff.

I always said she’d rather throw a brick with a note on it through my window than text me on a cell phone.

But suddenly she’s an expert on everything digital. She figured out Zoom right away, and started Zooming Gunch family meetings, her altar society, her Stitch & Bitch Club, and who knows what else.

She says she has now seen as many ceilings as a street walker.

“I can’t believe it, Modine,” she says. “People go into a Zoom meeting and then set their phone down with their camera pointing up, so we all get to watch their ceiling fan.

“Or they put it up high, with their eyes peering over the bottom of the screen, looking like ‘Kilroy was here.’

“Or hold it so it points up their nose. I have Zoomed with people who, if I ever meet them in person, I will have to look up their nose to recognize them.”

And there’s Facebook, which Ms. Larda never paid no attention to before. Suddenly she is sharing warnings about rapists lurking underneath cars in parking lots; exploding bottles of Drain-o and Alka-Seltzer; and prayers that if you copy and paste them onto your page you will get rich.

Then she found out about Twitter. Next thing you know, she’s tweeting at some idiot who said old people should gladly sacrifice their lives for the economy.

“It’s virgins you want,” she tweets. “You never seen a movie? You throw virgins in the volcano to save everybody else. You don’t infect old people.”

She needs to be around real live humans.

So, the Gunches decide to social distance with her at a picnic at the lakefront. But then Adelia Fogarty from the altar society comes down sick, and Ms. Larda get scared and backs out.

The rest of us decide to caravan to the lakefront anyway, and on the way, we’ll swing by Ms. Larda’s and leave some Popeyes on her porch.

We don’t know she is crouching behind her front door with a hose she strung in through the window. Some cats have been using the planter on  her front porch for their litter box, and she’s listening for them, so she can leap out and squirt them.

Only it’s me she squirts, dropping off the Popeyes. I screech and the whole family swarms out their cars to see what’s going on and the devil gets in Ms. Larda and she squirts them too. Then my sister-in-law Gloriosa grabs the hose and squirts Ms. Larda, and the battle is on, with everybody joining in and squirting each other.

Finally, somebody turns off the faucet. Ms. Larda brings towels, and we all socially distance on the front lawn and eat wet Popeyes and it turns out to be the best time we’ve had since the virus started.

You can’t Zoom a water fight.


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