The finale chapter in the adventures of Peter and Phil the roach.
“If you think I’m dressing as a chocolate M&M, alcohol must have burned out your remaining brain cells.” Phil, my sarcastic, pot-smoking roach friend trembled with anger, hands on what I guessed were his hips.
“Well, why not? I’ll go as a giant roach, and you can be my mascot.” I began to giggle and was unable to stop myself.
“Why not just go as a blind drunk? You have the drunken part down pat. You could tie a leash around my neck, and I could be your seeing-eye roach.” Phil snarled after the comment in his typical caustic manner.
“Phil, it’ll be fun. Have you ever been to the Mardi Gras?” Surely he hadn’t been within a mile of the parade route with all those inebriated humans, or so I thought.
“No, and I have no desire to get myself killed for your sake. He huffed and headed for the kitchen.
I followed after. “Come on, it’s the greatest free show on earth, and there’s no telling what you might see.”
“Like what?” Phil stopped long enough to bathe me in a look of contempt. “Mama didn’t raise any fools. I’ve survived this long because I’m smart enough not to follow some stupid human.” Phil turned his back to me and nibbled on a banana peel I’d discarded.
“What does every male dream of? Just because you’re a roach don’t till me the sight of two voluptuous breasts doesn’t turn you on.” I licked my lips in anticipation. Mardi Gras day had degenerated into a free peep show. Long, expensive beads were to Mardi Gras what crack was to an addict. Men draped beads hoping some young thing in a beer-induced frenzy would flash their ever desirable pair of ta-tas.
“Yes: small, large, rosy and ready for the picking.” I couldn’t believe I was using this tactic to get a roach to go with me. Have I really sunk so low? Yes came the immediate answer.
I despised spending Mardi Gras day alone. Nothing is lonelier than standing by yourself amidst thousands of screaming tourists at the last big party before Lent. I’d be damned if I was going to spend another Mardi Gras day sitting dejectedly in my living room watching the activity on my thirteen-inch television.
“Come on, Phil. It will be something you can tell your grand-kids about.” I wondered silently: How many will he have, a trillion? The thought made my head spin.
“Why can’t I go as Shaft or Blade, somebody cool, like me?”
“Okay. I don’t care, as long as you go.” I hated myself for whining.
“What time do I have to be ready?”
“Six in the morning.”
“See ya then. Right now I have to check out what’s happening with the lovely ladies.”
“What about Fifi? Forgotten so soon?”
“Soon? Hell no, that was fifty years ago. Have to let go sometime, and there’s no time like the present.”
I stared dumbfounded as Phil exited the back door. “Be back early,” I admonished as he slipped out the crack between the screen and door frame.
“Not to worry, mother hen.”
The alarm woke me like a blast of cold water in the face. Bleary-eyed, I stared around the room, wondering if Phil would keep his promise.
“What are you waiting for, the Fourth of July?” Phil screamed next to my tired eyes and aching head.
“Not so loud,” I moaned.
“I’m ready to celebrate. Get your sorry you-know-what out of bed.” Phil spread his wings and flew out of the room.
I caught a glimpse of his costume. “I’ll be damned,” I said under my breath. The little critter was dressed exactly like Wesley Snipes in “Blade,” even down to the samurai sword and sunglasses.
Half an hour later, I stepped into the waiting room where Phil reclined. “Ready!”
Phil looked agog. “You could pass for my brother. How did you do it?”
“I made it. After staring at you for a year, it was easy.” I slipped on my roach mask and headed out the door to catch a street car.
Phil hitched a ride inside one of the giant wings attached to my back and quietly observed the scene. “Where in the hell did all these people come from? With the way they’re dressed, are you sure the asylum isn’t isn’t missing a few of their inmates?” Phil gazed goggle-eyed at a nab wearing a bone in his hair and carrying a spear. “So where’s the party? All I see is this motley crew milling around in the street.”
As we walked down St. Charles Avenue we were jostled by the crowd, and the crush of people grew thicker and thicker as I pushed my way to a Port-a-Potty. Finding a toilet on Mardi Gras day was paramount. It was akin to finding gold and probably just as difficult. The refrain from the song, “There Ain’t No Place to Pee on Mardi Gras Day” kept repeating in my head.
“Whose bright idea was it to put up these ladders? Phil asked indignantly. “Looks like a damn painter’s convention.”
I claimed an empty spot between two eight-foot ladders and settled down to wait for the parade. The neutral ground, a local term for what other parts of the country call a median, was packed with everything from from ladders to sofas. The smell of chicken, crawfish and shrimp began to make me hungry. I’d left the house without eating, and now I was suffering for it. My stomach would just have to wait. I wasn’t about to lose my spot.
“Is the parade coming?” Phil asked all atwitter.
I stepped into the street and surveyed the crowded avenue. “Zulu is coming our way now.”
Phil stepped to my shoulder and hid in the pocket I’d made for him.
The crowd went wild when Zulu riders tossed out their signature hand-painted coconuts to a lucky few.
“Wow! What have I been missing all these years? Look at the babes! Phil lit from my pocket and flew towards the float. “Baby, oh, Baby, where have you been all my life? We could make beautiful music together!”
“Phil!” I called out, but my voice was drowned in a chorus of “Throw me something, mister!”
I watched in horror as Phil alighted on the Witch Doctor’s float. The sounds of the Olympia Brass Band drifted over the crowd, and I could just make out Phil dancing to the beat.
“Phil!” I pleaded, chasing after the float as a coconut crashed into my skull. The crowd forced me to the ground in a fight over the glittering object. It danced from hand to hand until a giant man snatched it from a little old lady.
“That’s mine!” she protested, red-faced.
“Finders keepers,” the man said before slipping back into the press of bodies.
Phil was a block away by the time I got myself up from the beer-saturated street and staggered after him. “You can’t do this!”
Dejected, I watched the float move toward Lee Circle. I made my way through the crowd and followed at a distance. The fun had gone out of the day. “Damn you, Phil!” I raised my fist and shook it, but the effort only caused spots to dance before my eyes. I pulled the flask from my pocket and took a giant swallow. The deafening roar of the crowd closed in, and I hurried away. What a sorry son-of-a-bitch I had become. The only saving grace in my life was a damn roach–and I was hurrying in hot pursuit of him.
Beads pelted me, but I didn’t feel a thing as I hastened toward Bourbon Street, determined to drown my sorrow among the other drunks. The crowd pressed against me and forced me to a halt below a balcony of Bourbon Street Blues Company where Girls Gone Wild and company lavished the crowd with beads and boobs and other decadent delights.
Eyes bulging, I watched the silhouette of a roach crawl between two luscious breasts. “Come on, honey,” I heard the blonde bombshell scream over the crowd as she hoisted Phil up to sweet ruby lips and kissed him.
How drunk do you have to be to kiss a roach? I cringed. I was more than a little miffed that a roach could get such action when I couldn’t.
“Phil,” I screamed above the noise, trying to wave as I was swaying.
The blonde looked down, then whispered something to Phil. They both laughed. “Hi, Sweety!” She leaned over and exposed more flesh than I could handle in a single eye-full. My deprived and eager body responded.
“Down, boy,” I heard Phil shout.
“Phil,” I pleaded….
“Oh, all right, Gotta go, honey. Send me a line when you’re back in the neighborhood. You ain’t lived until you’ve done the town with old Phil here. Ladies….” He bowed. “Until next year, may your assets remain upright.”
A burst of giggles erupted from the balcony. “Bye, Phil!” The farewell echoed down to me in rounds as a bevy of the most beautiful women I’d ever seen pressed next to Phil to give him kisses.
“Farewell, my lovelies, parting is such sweet sorrow,” he crooned as he lit on my shoulder.
“What a day!” Phil sighed.
Where have you been?” My tone was anything but cordial.
“Where haven’t I been? Up and down and all around. You’re right; they come in all shapes and sizes.” Phil’s contented smile said it all, and he borrowed a jingle from a Fred Astaire musical to punctuate his journey. “Heaven, I’m in heaven….”
I pushed my way through the crowd and nearly dislodged Phil from my shoulder.
“What’s wrong with you?” he asked indignantly, adjusting his Blade attire to shrug off my gruff question.
“You little reprobate!” I stomped toward the streetcar that would take us home.
“What fly got in your ointment?”
I rolled my eyes and mentally massaged my injured pride. Phil went into hysterics. “No action on your end of the parade route, huh?”
“None,” I snarled.
“You, my dear Peter, should learn to respect your betters.”
I shook my head. “Bested by a damn roach! And the whole Mardi Gras fandango was my idea.”
“One of God’s creatures all the same,” Phil said smugly and settled in the special pocket I’d made for him. I was debased to the irony of being a chauffeur for a roach!