Her Last Mardi Gras
Party streamers. Luciana LaBalenciaga surveyed the balcony meticulously before proceeding, taking great care not to step on any of the colorful beads and paper shards that only recently had been blasted onto revelers who’d poured out of the apartment for a prime position at the rail. Not that she really feared twisting an ankle; it was more a matter of respect for the spirit of the past and the dignity of the dead, even if the departed amounted only to a few beer bottles and strips of crepe. After all, Mardi Gras, with all its pomp and ceremony, floats and New Orleans marching bands, served only as a masquerade for people’s hidden agenda, drinking and obscenity.
Women who’d never dream of revealing their breasts in a public setting would, for the price of a few strands of worthless beads and an equitable amount of exotic alcoholic beverage, stand on the balcony and, to the exhortation of the multitudes, bare their feminine finery for all the world to behold—and hoot. How many of the same people would find themselves on their knees tomorrow waiting for the priest to smear chrism in the form of a cross on their foreheads, reminding them of their sinful ways and asking them to search their conscience, to rededicate themselves to the banishment of iniquity from their lives?
No matter… it wouldn’t be her. Not tomorrow, not ever again. This balcony would be her last. The dark, cool dampness of the late March night weaved its charms through the fine loose hairs at her temples, tickling her cheeks and whisking her to a simpler time when the breezes foretold only a storm of the natural variety, the spring rains that threatened daddy’s pirogue and made a walk through the bayou a muddy mess. Thoughts of mama standing at the screen door in her simple housedress and apron pushed their way past all the others, demanding that she concentrate, insisting that she listen. Luciana… you come on in now, chil’, de supper ready an’ you ain’t washed yo’ hans. A girl ‘most fo’teen years ol don’ need to be tole more’n once. You hear me, Luciana, don’t dawdle now, come on in.
“I’m comin’, Mama,” she whispered, “I’m comin’.”
With few regrets and malice toward no one, Luciana LaBalenciaga quickly scaled the ornamental wrought iron and stepped off the balcony. Somewhere in the sixty feet between balustrade and destiny she took her last breath of New Orleans honeydew and joined mama and daddy in the ageless memory of days gone by.
Bob Church© 2007