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Fat Tuesday Charade

November 1993

By Catherine Kitcho

He didn't mind being called "Mikey"; he was flattered by it. Marie used it sparingly and affectionately. On this trip, he would stay for a week, and since she would be gone for part of the time, it was nice to have a house-sitter. He preferred it to a hotel; she liked the coziness and his availability.

His flight arrived from Houston early. Marie heard the buzzer and checked her watch. The apartment was as clean as it was going to get. She buzzed him in. As she heard the quick footsteps arrive at the third floor landing, Marie took one last look in the mirror and approved. Marie opened the door; Mikey stood there with a manila envelope under his arm. She said, "May I have the envelope, please." He handed it to her. She said, "Okay, I guess you can come in then." He grinned, stepped forward, and grabbed her in as big a bear hug as he could muster; Mikey was only about an inch taller than Marie - a compact little guy. "By the way, what's in the envelope?"
"Oh, just some stuff I need for my meeting Monday morning."
"Didn't mean to take it, but I just couldn't resist using that line..."

"You are excuse-ed. What's the plan for din-din, my love..." Mikey pulled her close again and French-kissed her ever so slowly.

Marie whispered "How about dessert first? - reservations aren't until 8:00, and you, my dear, are early."

Marie poured two glasses of wine, which they sipped in between episodes of their pre-dinner quickie. They barely had enough time to get dressed to leave for dinner.

"Where to, this time? " Mikey asked with a grin.

"We're just going four blocks up to Fillmore - great place, you'll love it." Mikey had led a somewhat sheltered life and was beginning to enjoy the concept of having an expense account, having finally finished his years as a struggling graduate student. And what better place to use that expense account than San Francisco? Marie knew that he lived with someone back home in Houston, but that subject was never discussed. Marie considered their relationship to be a light affair.

They were seated at a window table, the pink tablecloth and matching napkins pristinely placed; fresh flowers were in the vase. The wine list arrived first, as was the custom. Mikey looked at the waiter and said, " The choices are overwhelming, Sir, we will need a few minutes..." After the waiter left, Mikey asked Marie, "I don't have a clue what to order - what's good?" Marie was current with wine selections through the wine-tasting class she was taking.

"The Grgich Hills Fume Blanc is exceptional."

Mikey ordered, and the waiter brought it, opened it and handed Mikey the cork. He looked at Marie quizzically; she grinned at Mikey and shrugged her shoulders. He sniffed the cork and set it down. The waiter poured a taste. Mikey picked up the glass and as he started swirling the wine, he started making a "Bzzzzzz" sound like a bumblebee as the waiter watched. Marie was biting her lip to keep from laughing. Finally Mikey stopped swirling, and took a large gulp. He said "Good stuff!", and set the glass down. The waiter cleared his throat, and filled both glasses. After he left, Mikey and Marie burst into giggles.

After they ordered their entrees, Mikey said,"So, where are you off to next week?"

"I'm actually going to Mardi Gras, can you believe it?"

"Anyone I know?"

"Probably not. Actually my "friend" is on the rebound from his divorce. Or maybe it's not even divorce yet - just separation. He's a bit clingy."

"Sounds tense. But he invited you for Mardi Gras, huh? Does he live in New Orleans?"

"Yeah, he moved there from Houston six months ago. Ever been there?"

"I've been to the city, but never for Mardi Gras. It's supposed to be one long party 24 hours a day, from everything I hear."

"Me too. I thought this would be my once in a lifetime opportunity to experience Mardi Gras - too bad I can't share it with someone I really like. Even if Ben and I fight like cats and dogs when we're there, it's worth the price. I'm supposed to fly back on you think you could pick me up at the airport with your rental car?"

"Sure. Do you need a ride in the morning, too?"

"No - since I'm leaving at such an ungodly early hour in the morning, I've arranged for a cab. I thought you'd like to sleep late on Sunday."

"What a woman!"

"I know - do you deserve such treatment?"

They had finished their meals. Mikey took his starched white napkin, and laid it over his plate, as if covering the dead. Marie was incredulous. As the waiter came to clear the plates, he gave Mikey a look that could kill. Marie giggled. After he paid the check, she slipped the waiter an extra five for his patience. She wanted to be able to come back to this restaurant.

As they headed back to her apartment, Marie said, "Can I take you with me to New Orleans?".

Mikey replied, "It depends on how much money you have....if I miss my meetings next week, I will definitely be out of a job, so you'll have to support me..."

Later, as they starting undressing, Marie asked, "Mikey, can you give me the phone number of where I can reach you next week. In case of emergency, or in case I decide to come back earlier than planned.....?"

"Have your doubts about this basket case, huh?"

"Let's just say I have a hunch..."

Mikey gave her the information. Marie turned out the light and said, "There, now I can rest easier. Or whatever..." She playfully lunged at Mikey's throat. He grabbed her arms before she could get a grasp, and rolled her over, her arms pinned behind her head. He slowly began to lick her earlobes, then her neck, and worked his way downward. They made love for what seemed like eight hours.

When the alarm rang at 6:00, Marie quickly reached over to turn it off before it awakened Mikey. Before she walked out the door to catch her cab, she leaned over and kissed Mikey's ear. He smiled and mumbled, "mmm....have fun...".

Marie had a very chatty cab driver on the way to the airport, but she ignored him. She checked her bag. There was a lot of time before boarding. It was time for the phone call. She sighed, and settled in to one of the telephone seats. Ben answered on the first ring. "Did I wake you?"

Ben replied in a thick voice, "Not if this is a continuation of the erotic dream I was having about you - wanna hear the details?"

"They said my flight should be on time... I arrive at 4:00."

"Wait until you hear about the week I have planned for you! There's one parade tonight, another tomorrow, and of course Tuesday there's a bunch, then a mansion tour on Wednesday, a river cruise on Thursday....and in between, of course the culinary delights of me and the Crescent City..."

"I want to taste everything New Orleans has to offer. And - I brought lots of film..."

"I have lots of poses for you too."

"Wait 'til you see the costumes - they turned out great!"

"I can't wait to play dress-up!"

"See you at 4:00."

"I'll be there with a hard on!"

Marie shuddered as she hung up the phone and glanced at her watch again. She had enough time. She went back to the ticket counter. "I'd like to change my return reservation, please."

The flight to New Orleans was much too short for Marie to catch up on her sleep, and her analytical mind wouldn't let her. "One day at a time...", she muttered to herself.

As they landed, Marie felt self-conscious before she even reached the jetway. Marie composed herself and looked for Ben, but didn't have to look far. He was right in front of the crowd, with a lascivious grin on his face. He grabbed her with an iron grip and locked her in place as he slid his tongue into her mouth. They were blocking the jetway. People were complaining. His hands were all over her in all the places inappropriate for public display. Marie struggled free, embarrassed, and grabbed his hand. "Let's allow my fellow passengers to get through, okay?"

Ben looked very hurt. "Well, okay, but I've got to make up for lost time." They walked with locked arms through the concourse. Marie noticed his scent; it was much sweeter than a man should smell.

Ben played tour guide on the way to his apartment. Once inside, Marie gave in to the inevitable. It was time to play the part. He let her have just enough time to hang up her clothes, when the seduction began. They were all over the bed. He used a lot of four-letter words, especially when he was near his climax. Was he always talkative during sex? It distracted Marie; her concentration was broken.

"Where to for dinner?" Marie asked.

"On to the French quarter, honey. A simple gumbo from the Gumbo Shop, then off to the Bacchus parade. Don DeLouise is Bacchus this year....should be a kick."

The food was exquisite; Marie was captivated by the simple yet enticing cuisine. "Where can I buy some New Orleans cookbooks? I've got to learn how to do this - this is wonderful stuff."

"Tomorrow when we hit the French Market, there are several gourmet shops that sell them - I'll buy you as many as you can carry home, my dear..."

They found a place to sit on the curb on the parade route. Marie asked, "Is this one of the major parades?"

"There has been one every day for the last two weeks, I think. The Bacchus parade is the most decadent, I'm told. Bacchus is the god of wine, you know. The biggest one is the Rex Parade - on Tuesday - which is Mardi Gras day, or "Fat Tuesday", as they call it."

"Why do they call it Fat Tuesday?"

"Because it's the day before the first day of lent-you know, Ash Wednesday. Everyone feasts and parties the day before they have to start fasting. Part of the tradition."

Don DeLouise lived up to the part of Bacchus. He was dressed only in fig leaves, with a large crown made of purple grapes on his head. He took swigs from a huge jug of wine he held in the crook of his arm. Many scantily clad but masked maidens surrounded him, dropping grapes into his mouth. He alternately nibbled on the grapes and the maidens.

As the float approached, people yelled "Throw me somethin', mister!" arms outstretched. Marie joined in, cued by Ben. People sitting on the edge of the float threw strands of Mardi Gras beads into the crowd, as well as aluminum doubloons. There was a mad dash in the crowd to pick up the doubloons that had fallen on the ground. Marie retrieved two of them, the beginnings of her stash. The plastic beads were in the Mardi Gras colors of gold, green and purple. The purple strands had a medallion on the end imprinted with "Bacchus". Ben put some around Marie's neck as well as his own.

Marie said, "This is great fun, I can't wait to see what Tuesday will be like!"

"The costumes will be outrageous on ain't seen nothin' yet! Let's head back over to the French Quarter - I have another treat for you, my dear!"

"Any hints?"

"One - it has something to do with food..." They walked lazily through the Quarter, toward the waterfront. They walked in to a place called Cafe du Monde. People were seated at small cafe tables on the patio as well as inside. The place was packed at 11:00 P.M. It smelled of freshly ground coffee, and honey-sweet confections.

"What is this place? People look like they're eating donuts or something..."

"Those are beignets, honey. And you won't call them donuts after you taste one.

They're made fresh, sprinkled with powdered sugar, and served hot with chicory coffee. You can get cafe au lait, if you want, too. No visit to New Orleans would be complete without coffee and beignets at Cafe du Monde."

They ordered, and found a table outside after a short wait. Marie bit into the beignet as soon as it had cooled enough. A powdered sugar mustache settled on Marie's upper lip. "Wow - these are incredible! They melt in your mouth. Let me see what the coffee is like." Ben waited for her reaction; most people didn't like the bitterness of chicory in coffee. Marie's eyes widened as she took a sip, then she said, "Okay, I'm hooked. Where can I buy some to take home?"

Ben laughed and said, "Same place that sells the cookbooks - you can also buy the beignet mix if you want. Let's go back and try on our costumes, my sweet."

Back at his apartment, Marie retrieved the costumes from her suitcase. She had designed and made the costumes; they were bumblebee suits made of bright gold velour with black stripes on the oversized rear end. They would fill the rear part with wadded up newspapers. Marie asked, "Did you find a black turtleneck and pants to wear underneath?"

Ben said, "Sure did - I found some with my skiing stuff. What else do we need?" "Well, I brought the wing assemblies - see - they're made with coat hangers and netting. And I got the headband contraptions that have the glitter ball antennae on springs. I even have matching gold socks, but I couldn't find any in your size...shall we try them on?" They put all the pieces on, then stood admiring themselves in the mirror, laughing. They then selectively removed pieces while chasing each other around the room. They ended up with just the wing assemblies on, nothing else. Marie teasingly shouted, "Don't come near me with that thing, you'll break my wings!"

Ben cornered her and said, "No problem, we can do this while standing up....or while we are flying."

Monday was spent shopping the French Market with all the wonderful smells of the waterfront; fresh seafood, the spices of gumbo cooking, the roasting of chicory coffee, the sweetness of pecan pies. Ben and Marie toured the French Quarter, including a spooky little place called the Voodoo Museum. Marie bought Mardi Gras posters, cookbooks, gourmet food packs, and took many pictures. They took a cruise of the harbor on the Natchez. They ate pungent, olive-oil laden muffaletta sandwiches and munched on rich, creamy pralines. Marie was in tourist heaven. In the evening, they went to Commander's Palace for dinner, then back to the French Quarter to Preservation Hall for some classic Dixieland jazz. They sat in the back row as people hearing the rousing music from the street came in to pack the doorway. Marie leaned over to Ben and said "Do they play here every night?" She tapped her foot to the infectious rhythm of Sweet Georgia Brown..

Ben said, "Yeah, different musicians show up every night and they jam together - it's different every time. Let's go down the street to Pat O'Brien's and get a Hurricane."

"A what?"

"A Hurricane is a drink - it's sort of a rum punch. They call it that because after you drink it you don't know what hit you."

Marie was hit with the Hurricane, all right. As they left, she was staggering somewhat as they walked along Bourbon Street, blending in with the other carousers.

Ben started fondling her again, "Mmm....let's go home, honey. I want you again." Marie giggled and said "F-fine..." Back at the apartment, Marie had trouble taking her clothes off. Ben did it for her. He made love to her, but she couldn't remember a thing.

Tuesday morning, she woke up with a slight buzz. Ben was in the kitchen, banging pots and pans. She made her way out to the kitchen. He was upset. "Know any good hangover cures?"

"Grits maybe?"

"Is that what you're cooking?"


"I can handle that." Ben was not smiling.

"What's wrong?"

Ben set the spoon down. "Well, you weren't very attentive last night. You knew I had a hard on! You almost fell asleep right in the middle of it. Is that the thanks I get?"

Marie was frozen to the spot for a moment, like an animal trapped. She said,"I'm sorry, but the Hurricane was more than I could handle. I don't know what they put in those things, but it was too much for me. I'll make it up to you....we have plenty of time." Marie wrapped her arms around Ben from behind, and rubbed up against him.

He set the pan aside, and reached around and kissed her. "Then how about a quickie after breakfast?"

Marie hesitated a moment then said sweetly, "Will it cure my hangover?"

Ben said, "Guaranteed."

After breakfast and a cup of strong coffee, Marie felt a bit more human. She indulged Ben the quickie, focusing her fuzzy mind on getting through Fat Tuesday.

They donned their costumes, filled their rear ends with newspaper, and posed for pictures of each other. They parked as close as they could to Canal Street, the main parade route on the edge of the French quarter. As the crowd gathered, the majesty unfolded for Marie. More than half the crowd wore costumes, masks, face paint or body paint. She worried about having enough film with her. As the early parades started, she and Ben were standing at the curb, when two people came behind them and loudly said, "Bzzzzz" in unison. Marie turned around quickly, remembering briefly Mikey's winetasting routine and hoping by some chance it was him. A couple in full body paint looked at them, and said "Nice costumes!" No Mikey - just bumblebee greetings.

Pete Fountain's Half-Fast Walking Club came down Canal Street, playing familiar Dixieland tunes. People circulated around everywhere, in constant motion. Marie spied two more people with wings on. "Look, Ben - more insects! Oh yeah - they have doctor's surgical gowns on, and masks, what the.....Oh, I get it," Marie said to the couple as they walked by, "Med-flies, right?"

The couple cheered - "very must be from California!" Two college kids jogged along behind the band, with a six-foot "joint" balanced on their shoulders in tandem. They were followed by the Krewe of Krap - six guys wearing black garbage bags over them holding toilet plungers and rolls of toilet paper. Marie laughed with delight as she tried to capture it all on film.

They headed for the French quarter after the Rex parade, indulging in food and drink from the street vendors along the way. The floats were heading through the Quarter, with their elaborately costumed riders with sequined masks and enormous jeweled and feathered headpieces. Marie wanted the day to last forever. They stayed and watched the costume contest and the rest of the revelry in the French quarter. After a late dinner, and another visit to Cafe du Monde, they went back to his apartment. Ben starting filling the bathtub, using lavender-smelling bubble bath. Marie was sad that the day was over. "Well, I guess it's back to fasting tomorrow, huh?"

"Only if you're Catholic...we still have two hours before midnight - one hour for a bath and massage, and one hour for the orgy." It was a tight fit for both of them in the tub; they faced each other, Marie's legs around his waist. Ben sculpted soap bubbles over Marie's body. She looked down at the water, making swirling patterns in layer of bubbles.

"Why aren't you looking at me?" Ben's voice grew louder. "I mean, here we are in this intimate place, and you're not even looking at me!" He looked at Marie with sharp daggered eyes.

Her heart was pounding. As calmly as possible, she said, "I was looking at you! I do have to blink once in a while, you know!"

Ben shouted, "That's a lie. I know better! You're a slut like she was! "

"Ben - that's crazy. Just because I look down at the soap bubbles does not mean anything!"

Ben shouted again, "Are you calling me crazy?"

"It's just a figure of speech...I.."

He stood up over her in a menacing pose. "Dammit! My ex was always calling me crazy, and coming from a shrink I really took it personally. Don't EVER call me that again!"

Marie, still in her state of enforced calm said, "Okay. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you." They dried off in silence. Ben went out to the living room and sulked. Marie sat in the dim light of the bedroom. She had planned on telling him tonight that she needed to fly home early, but now was not the time. She didn't want to set him off again. Her eyes scanned the room for weapons - was he dangerous?

Ben came in. "I'm sorry I shouted at you. I'm still burned by some of the things Sharon did to me. Can I make it up to you?" Marie silently gestured to the bed and nodded. Marie responded correctly to his every move.

The next morning, Ben was back to his old self. "Ready to see some of the mansions along the Mississippi?"

"Yes, I'd love to. I may have to get more film, though."

They drove along the River Road, with a view of tall, forbidding levees and abandoned plantations. Marie tried to imagine the former grandeur as the theme from Gone with the Wind wafted through her brain. They toured the San Francisco mansion, named so during Spanish rule. The restoration work on the mansion was magnificent, the tour guide very proficient. After stopping in at the gift shop, they got in the car.

Marie said, "Ben, can you wait a few minutes? I need to go use the phone. I promised I'd check in to the office today."

Ben said, "Is your mind still on work?"

"No, it's just that we have an important client due in this week, and I told them I'd call."

Ben grumbled, "Okay..."

Marie rushed in, found the pay phone, and dialed Mikey's number. Someone went to get him, and he came on the line. "Hi, Mikey. I need to make this quick. Can you pick me up at the airport tonight?"

"Things going that well, huh?"

"They went as well as I predicted. Anyway, my flight arrives at eight - United 453."

"Okay - see you there!"

Marie took a deep breath and looked at her watch. She waited a few minutes, long enough for a second phone call she didn't make. She ran back to the car. "Ben, I'm afraid I have some bad news. Our client is arriving tomorrow morning to negotiate the contract for my project. I'm going to have to fly back tonight. I tried to get them to delay, but they couldn't. I called the airline and booked a flight for this afternoon."

Ben looked dejected as Marie held her eye contact with him. He said, "I knew it was too good to last."

They returned to the apartment after lunch, and Marie packed her bag. They headed for the airport. Ben was very quiet. Marie checked her bag at the counter.

Ben said, "Let's go down to the gate and find some privacy." At the gate, he repeated his routine from her arrival, French-kissing her and fondling every accessible body part. A couple in their sixties watched with disgust, whispering to each other. Marie boarded the plane after a last slobbery kiss from Ben.

Mikey was in the arrival gate area near the front of the pack. As she got off the plane, he came up and in one grand gesture kissed her and body-dipped her as if in the middle of a tango. Passengers were giggling; Marie's cheeks turned pink. They headed toward baggage claim arm in arm. "So, did you dump him?"

"Welllll...sort of. I did manage to escape with my life. Barely."

"Well, you are safe in my arms, my dear."

As they waited for the bags to arrive on the carousel, Mikey held and kissed her, rocking slowly side to side in a dreamy dance step. As Marie looked over Mikey's right shoulder, she saw the same couple from the boarding lounge in New Orleans. They were staring at her; their mouths open. Marie gave the man a deliciously wicked smile and winked at him. His wife scolded him and led him to the other side of the carousel.

Mikey left the next evening for Houston.

One week later, Marie got her pictures back, and went out with the girls to lunch. Susan grabbed the pictures and was oohing and aahing at the costumes and the sights of New Orleans. "So is this the guy you dumped on Mardi Gras day?"


Denise said, "Well, you did, didn't you?"

Marie replied, "Technically, I didn't dump him on Mardi Gras day. I sent him a letter after I got home."

Susan said, "You sent him a Dear John letter? Oh, how tacky! Cold, very cold!"

"Well, he got a little weird there toward the end. I thought I was being held captive by a real psycho. It was safer this way."

After lunch, Marie's phone rang. "This is Marie."

Ben's voice came on the line. "I got your letter today. " He started shouting over the phone, "I just want you to know that you have hurt me more than anyone in my whole life. I never EVER want to see you again. " He hung up.

Marie still had the receiver to her ear; her secretary walked in and handed her a message. She looked at the message, and smiled. She dialed the number.

"Roger Eaton."

"Hey, Roger, is there snow left in them thar Rockies?"

"You bet your ski boots, Marie."

"Is the offer still good for those ski lessons?"

"If you can pay the price, yeah....."

"How about President's Day weekend? I seem to have an extra day of vacation..."

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