by Marc Charbonnet
It began long before it started. I'd heard him on the radio before school, several mornings in a row.
"So you think singing will get it home?" the DJ asked
"Yeah, he will come to my voice when he hears me" was the precocious reply.
It had been a story around town for anyone that tuned into the radio station WTIX during the preschool hour. A snake ten feet long had escaped from its cage and was slithering around the Garden District in New Orleans, or so the story was told. No pet or animal in the area was safe with a python that size roaming the side streets. The only upside was the report that it might eat rats. Several maids had given notice that they would not walk the streets of the area until the snake was captured.
Of course, the snake, the story, it was all a hoax. The boy who'd told it was someone not a lot of people in New Orleans knew of at the time. One local writer (who would one day become world-renowned for her stories about the creatures that inhabit the night) wrote a novel set in the Garden District based loosely on this boy's illustrious family and named the book after a Catholic Holiday. The story of the snake faded into local lore, and I'd come to know the boy who told it all too well.
A few years later, there was the mysterious death of a golden haired boy on St. Charles Avenue. I knew about this awful occurrence because his parents were my godparents, and the poor dead boy was my parents' godson. He had experimented with drugs. The riddle of his death was never resolved, but at the time I'd heard that a suspicious character questioned in the case was none other than the boy who had been on the radio singing to his snake.
I had first hand information about the boy's family when my beloved Poulet told me of a gift she'd given the boy's mother, Mrs. Quincy. It was a prized old Paris demitasse cup and saucer, full of her own garden's sweet peas. Poulet had given the gift with the greatest consideration since the Quincys, in her mind, were as good as it gets. Upon Poulet's next visit to the Quincy's home she saw, in the laundry room, that her precious demitasse cup was being used as a detergent scoop! The saucer was never seen again.
The first personal introduction would come years later. I met through Poulet the second son of the Quincy clan, Darby Jr., when she brought him to my apartment one evening. I immediately recognize his voice from the radio.
We became friends...
It was in that apartment that I swore I would have nothing to do with Darby Jr. again (but did) when upon walking back into my bedroom from my bathroom, I found Darby Jr. on my bed, pants and boxers down with Louie my Papillion puppy licking his inner butt. Darby Jr. ruined for me the illusion (or delusion) of owning the same breed of dog as Mary Queen of Scots (hers hid beneath her skirts at the executioner's block as a brave witness to the wrongful death of an anointed queen.)
Louie was returned to his breeder once it became apparent that Darby Jr.'s disgusting play had permanently affected poor Louie. After that day Louie would search Blanche's (my cat) litter box for a solid treat which he would then consume on my bed. Bad habits are learned from bad people.
Darby Jr.'s great uncle had written a story of the great Mississippi flood of 1927 and the cruel treatment of the "colored folk." No apology from the uncle, but one made in the most recent editions' introduction because it was important to do so. The most recent scholar to study the uncle's writing concluded that his subject was homosexual, and that his black chauffeur was his lover. Darby Jr.'s mother and Poulet attended the scholar's talk and were shocked to hear the revelation. When Poulet told me, she said she was amused but would never tell her dearest chum, Mrs. Quincy that she and I laughed out loud! I told her that had I known this from the moment I'd read the first chapter of the uncle's book where he'd written about the whore who lived above him in his Paris flat, and the hard feelings he had for her and her profession. More telling was his disgust for the famous ancient sculpture of the hermaphrodite. I remember Darby Jr. once telling me his father, Darby Sr., said he'd punch "the teller of these lies in the face" if he'd had the chance.
Mr. Quincy's feelings for his uncle were strong. You see, this uncle was the same man that had raised Darby Jr's father, and his two brothers, one, a renowned writer and a third brother that'd never left the Mississippi delta.
Darby's mother was the daughter of a dashingly handsome heir to a gentlemen's chapeau company; he had deserted his family shortly after Mrs. Quincy was born. Mrs. Quincy's mother was desperate for a solid marriage and a home for her daughter. Unlike Mr. Quincy, a southern gent, Mrs. Quincy was a Yankee debutante. Mrs. Quincy's mother would hit the jackpot when she married Mr. Big Bucks, the owner of a New York publishing company and he had a daughter, Topper; Darby Jr. told me that after Topper and his mother jabbed a diamond brooch's pin into each of their index fingers Topper would treat Mrs. Quincy, her half sister, as her own full blooded sister.
Topper married very well into a glass company fortune.
I never had the chance to meet the Mr. or Mrs. Big Bucks, who were recently dead. But I was privy to their private lives through the "front door version" by Poulet, and the "in-house version" by Darby Jr., and the "back door version" by an African American furniture refinisher named Columbus, a recovering heroin addict with an amazing gift for French polishing. As fate would have it, he refinished both my and Mrs. Quincy's mother's furniture.
I did get about as close as you can get to two people you have never met. This relationship with the dead is what cause a rift that was never to heal between Poulet and myself.
During Darby Jr.'s extra hard times (out of a job, out of cash, out of drugs), Topper's Christmas checks, and checks for any other reason. I recall many a loan Darby Jr. borrowed that would never be repaid, but would come in like the extra checks, extra handy. I was no one to judge, I had a lot of fun with Darby Jr., which was another reason for the ever widening divide between Poulet and myself.
Darby Jr's paternal grandfather went mad and killed himself, as did Darby Jr's grandmother, which is why the great uncle raised Mr. Quincy and his siblings. It seems a Quincy was always shooting or hanging him or herself. The latest generation, Darby Jr.'s siblings, were brow raisers themselves. The oldest was a beauty who ran off with a Mulatto seamstress, a story that was the shock of the town. They returned to New Orleans to open a successful ladies emporium. The older brother, Bill, named in honor of his great uncle of Mississippi flood fame, like his father, attended law school and became a Juris Doctorate but his heart and habit was not in such business. Bill preferred music whose poetry was for the complete opposite of the lifestyle he lived. He desired hard lived stories-funny the whims of the very rich-Bill lived these stories through expensive audio equipment, until through some connection actually met his once hard lucked but very famous heroes. He also when on the hard road highway, with heroin, or horse as he called it. Oh Bill and Darby Jr. did if not it all they did a lot together. Drinking, Drugs, spending wads of cash on amusements that bored the boys before the money had left their hands. Bill liked sharing girls, and sometimes guys dressed like girls, with his brother, Darby Jr., in suites at the Pontchartrain Hotel, on Mrs. Quincy's dime of course.
The reason I was rather close to people I'd never met was simple. After their demise, I was called in for service. Darby once told me that he'd performed CPR on his grandmother, and it was never clear if she'd stopped breathing because of his breaking several of her fragile ribs in the process, or if the genteel life style of drinking far too much had done her in. Proof was on several pieces of upholstery, and that peculiar odor of old lady wee-wee and expensive perfume, generated long after the cause had left. This had been the life led behind the extravagantly redecorated carriage house that Mrs. Quincy's mother and stepfather shared in their Garden District home. They'd moved south some years before they bid their farewells to New York and it was after their final farewells that I became involved.
Being a decorator and antique dealer, of sorts, I'd been hired by Darby Jr., with his Mother's permission, to dispose of the secondary property. I was dealing with mostly decorative things. I found the old gentleman's clothes so exquisite, labels with the dates of the pieces' fabrication, button flies, single needle tailoring, shoes and boots of amazing quality. It would be years before I would myself have a wardrobe as fine. But the crowing object was the toupee, a piece so fine that most people never realized that the old man did not have his own hair. The secret, I learned, was that the term "rug" was a mistake. This thing's mass was no more that the sweeping found in a carpet sweeper. Hardly there at all. I (being bald) placed it on my head and my q-ball scalp was re-crowned with, if not Samson's glory, at least a man's full head of hair! Genuine hair! Sadly, too many knew that I was bald, so it became a joke at parties, "Oh Marc has hair tonight!"
I was so excited to box up what I thought would be the best of the mementos for Poulet, being a friend of these snooty folks prevented her from enjoying the tour I had of the drawers and closets in the home. Looking over the old man's riding boots, hunting jacket, crop, etc., it was like styling a Ralph Lauren photo shoot, except this stuff was the real deal. Unlike the Ralph Lauren Madison Avenue "Mansion" stuff, Mr. Big Buck's gems were really used for the purposes they were made.
Other beautiful items included a Hermes clothes brush, genuine tortoise glass frames and case, and an assortment of other tea nanas. When Poulet received the box, instead of being happy or excited, she was silent. The miasma of hate and loathing all found their way from her heart to mine. She wasn't thankful, she was furious. Through gritted teeth she muttered words I did not hear or comprehend, yet my soul knew the sounds would banish me from her life forever.
In the course of my heartbreak for the loss and breakup with my mentor, I knew I still had to make a living. Mrs. Quincy asked that I try my hand at selling some of the "good items". They were very good. A pair of Chippendale vitrines, amazing French pieces and the most majestic of all, an Adman sideboard with classical motifs and carved ram heads as capitals for each of its six legs. The sale went well as a few months rent was earned.
Oddly enough I ran into that sideboard again years later in New York where it was selling at one of the finest antiques dealers in the world. Its price when sold by me was $20,000.00 which seemed like a king's ransom (and that's when $20,000.00 was really $20,000.00), was now $250,000.00!
Once the "good stuff" was sold, I felt a change in the air when I was in the company of Mr. and Mrs. Quincy. They were not talkative and stared a lot. That is when I heard through the grapevine that Poulet had begun to spread rumors about my not being the best company for Darby Jr. to associate.
When Mose, a man that did odd jobs for me and also for Poulet, told me that Poulet told him that I was "bad news," I was angry and hurt, but not surprised. It was sad, but I was now more determined than ever to keep my relationship with Darby Jr.
Darby Jr. soon found himself in need of cash, and eventually asked me to sell some of the pieces he told me he'd inherited. I was wary thus I made a Photostat of his expired ID, and a signed acknowledgement of his request for my services in selling. The loot included sterling silver trumpet vases, baskets, salvers, platters, candlesticks and trinkets, which were traded for cash from a vendor that purchased silver and gold. When I saw the monograms, I remembered the stories of family members in Darby Jr.'s great uncle's book during the Mississippi flood. I was able to match the fine engravings to different Quincys that had offed themselves.
I thought it sad that Darby Jr. would relinquish such treasure to the furnace. One beautiful sunny afternoon Darby Jr. arrived at my home to find me polishing my silver. He literally attacked me, physically. After I protested angrily, and confused, I found out he believed that the silver in my hands was somehow related to the silver he'd just had melted (just like Louis XIV melted the silver furniture from Versailles for France's wars in the 17th century). I assured him, with a shove, that they were my pieces, and that I would find myself in the furnace of Hell should my silver ever find its way to the dirty finger nailed hand of the man who bought Darby's treasures for weight alone.
He apologized, but that was how I learned I was a friend of a true criminal. Instead of being warned and moving on, I was intrigued, and stayed to see what else this person could do.
We continued our friendship but with a wariness that removed the polish and gleam that Poulet had wrapped around this Quincy. Poulet once told me; "The cemetery in the Delta has a sculpture of a knight with the Quincy coat of arms and the word 'Honour' at its base." She would speak in the hushed tone of a loyal upstairs' maid.
Honor my ass!
I loaned Darby Jr. some cash and when he couldn't repay the loan, he swapped a 19th century Swedish style daybed for the cash. This created another brouhaha. I took the daybed and sold it at action for less than what I was owed, only to learn that it was not Darby Jr.'s to sell. This gave Mrs. Quincy ammunition to cause trouble. I heard that she was in the hospital under anesthesia with heavy dental work, and the only words she muttered were "dayyy beddd." If I hadn't arranged for those copies of signed statements from Darby Jr. for the sales at the swap shop, I'm sure I would have been in a lot of trouble (with Darby Jr. enjoying himself, watching as an onlooker). Funny how no one thought of how I could walk out of Darby Jr.'s room with a daybed in the Garsoniere without anyone noticing! When I made it clear that those receipts would not remain secret, and that Darby Jr. had better put out the fire, it all died down with a sputter. He was the baby of the family, and he'd lost his twin at birth (I would later learn), so it was impossible for his mother to deny him anything.
I remember the time when Darby Jr. was an orderly at Touro Infirmary, and had everyone believing he was a surgeon, it took not one of the "I am God" surgeons to bust Darby Jr. but a security guard on break from lunch. He saw Darby Jr. snooping around the Nuclear Medicine wing and questioned him and when Darby acted offended and superior the old guard stuck to his guns and actually pulled his pistol on Darby Jr.
If it hadn't been for his ancient society fraternity of The Boston Club connections, between Darby Sr. and the head of the Hospital, Darby Jr. could have served big time in the clink.
Again, Mrs. Quincy refused to believe a word. Even back while Darby Jr. was still employed at Touro and in need of cash for the day, his mother would drive to the hospital with money "for his meal." After one of these exchanges, Darby, as a joke, handed Mrs. Quincy a large garbage bag of considerable weight. When she asked what was in the bag, Darby Jr. told her to look. The next thing that was heard was the sound of the BMW's horn, as Mrs. Quincy head now rested in the center of the steering wheel. She had fainted upon seeing the amputated gangrene leg that the bag held. Yeah, Darby Jr. was a prankster.
At one point, I was employed at a clothing store called Claude's, that catered to the tightfisted uptowner. There were much finer shops on Magazine Street, but no finer deals than Claude's. Yes, you shopped at Claude's when you wanted a pair of Sperry Topsider boat shoes, Haspel seersucker suit, or Madras belt. The items may be a slight bit "off," but what did that matter when the cost could be ¾ of retail?
My hours were, to say the least, very relaxed. I would wake up, smoke a joint, get dressed, smoke five cigarettes while doing so, then a cup of coffee and I was ready to face the day. Darby Jr. was good for a ride to the shop. One morning I was out of sorts because I was out of pot. I hadn't spoken to Darby Jr. in a while and as I recall was angry with him, but can't remember why. As I approached the door of Claude's I was greeted by one of the boys that, for some reason, hung around the shop to ask questions and otherwise drive me crazy. But I was happy they were around because they'd usually run and get lunch for me, or make bank deposits, and sometimes they knew a pot dealer when mine were out of stock. One sad and rather pathetic boy I remember in particular (how he wound up at Claude's I can't begin to tell you), he had extra-large eye lids and was always working extra hard on keeping his eyes opened. Lenny was his name.
One Saturday Darby Jr. appeared in his mother's BMW and asked if I'd like to share a doobie with him. I jumped at the chance. I threw the keys to Lenny and told him to "open up" and that I'd be back shortly. After the joint on the Audubon Park area, above the Mighty Mississippi, I felt mighty stoned and began a lengthy discussion on the commerce of the great avenue of America. Before I knew it two hours had passed. I rushed back to Claude's and found a long line waiting to get in. There was Lenny cussing to himself "fuck fuck shit fuck" trying to unlock the door "hell ass shit fuck". Darby Jr. and I could only laugh hysterically.
There were times I was surprised that I came out of any situation with Darby alive. One night while speeding his mother's car through the awfully paved streets of New Orleans, the underside of the BMW hit a manhole cover that rose from the road by a good six inches. When he called the police to get an accident report. Darby Jr. leaned over and asked me if I could I tell the officer that I was driving the car, since he didn't have a valid driver's license. That was news to me, but stupidly I said ok. When the police arrived I went through the motion of telling the officer that I was driving and wanted an accident report, and was promptly arrested! Mrs. Quincy had reported that the car was stolen. I learned that since Darby Jr. was driving it without permission, he'd park around the corner from his home. He also knew full well that it had been reported stolen. I was brought to the parish jail (Louisiana doesn't have counties, we have parishes, a holdover from the French days). Darby Jr. was let go without so much as a question while I was "throw under a truck, so to speak." My one call was to Mrs. Quincy and I said, "Tell Darby Jr. I have receipts that I want his mother to examine." I was out in two hours, and Darby Jr. had a lot of explaining to do, none of which I heard.
Darby Jr.'s uncle, the doctor and author previously mentioned, was a famous writer best known not for his own work, but for having introduced a novel of great importance to the world, a book that would garner the Pulitzer Prize. This book was written by a young man that killed himself (those Quincys were associated with people who were always offing themselves). This book was big and fantastic. To this day it is surprising that it hasn't been produced as a film. Darby also got a lot of mileage from being the nephew of the person that brought this major work to international attention.
Later, I was employed at my first job as an interior designer in an old New Orleans furniture store. I got the job by chance. The girl that did the windows was sexually harassed by one of the workman, and quit on the spot. I was told to fill in and the rest, as they say, is history. My employer was a very old Jewish man whose voice box had been removed. He spoke by punch-grabbing his throat and spitting out orders. He thought it a feather in his cap that a person from an old New Orleans family was working for him. His son, Saul, was just as impressed and further impressed when he wanted to see how the society families celebrated their Mardi Gras. I was helpful, as was Darby Jr., in obtaining invitations to the Momus, Comus, Proteus and Rex balls. Saul asked for tickets no matter how often we explained that they were invitations not tickets. We would look through the mail and when an invitation arrived would see if anyone was going to the ball, most people would rather bathe their mother than attend a stuffy, old fashioned ball. Once we knew who would not be attending a ball, we'd pass the invite to Saul and he would attend the ball as whoever was on the invitation.
Saul developed a bad habit of the very rich: free basing cocaine. This was not crack cocaine, it predated that poor man's rush, and this was extremely expensive and very addictive. I, as a tour guild of sorts, would trail over to Saul's over-decorated home where he reclined in a hospital bed (next to his exact copy of a four post mahogany bed, in the rice motif). He'd had back surgery and was now completely hooked on pain medication and freebasing cocaine. I watched with great interest how the coke was cooked on the stove top, sifted through a screen and then smoked. I read in Time Magazine that this form of entertainment could have you under its spell and addicted if smoked just once. Well, I took the bet and smoked the stuff for seven days straight. I never really enjoyed it for more than the taste, which I found sweet, and did quit after my seventh day, without any desire to continue. Darby Jr. became hooked. I was amazed by the folks you'd meet in that bedroom; new caster, call girls, even a priest. And I thought I'd trumped that by getting three nuns from the Convent of The Sacred Heart stoned on pot while sitting in an uptown gallery, but my employer's son had me beat. One day at Saul's home a young girl stopped breathing and a doctor was called to revive her. My jaw dropped when a famous doctor came over faster than you could say "boo" and got the girl breathing. Then the doctor himself had a few puffs of free base, and split.
Darby Jr. even made himself a nuisance in the freebasing club, and was kicked out even after he presented our host with a forged book (of the aforementioned tome) containing his uncle's signature.
Darby Jr.'s freebasing coke eventually lead to a severe problem; we once saw a movie where the star main-lined in his arm, Darby Jr. told me how he and other bored Garden District pals had amused themselves with this smoking "pass time," but Darby Jr. yearned to do it as the actor in the film did! In the film, the star filled the syringe with melted coke, which had been cooked in a spoon over a flame, pulled through a piece of a torn cigarette filter to remove any impurities. Before shooting it into his vein he drew the blood from his arm, so that it mixed with the coke. He then pumped the shit into his arm. I am so glad I hate needles because, I must admit, I would have tried it and become as addicted as a punk rock debutant I knew-she lived with a couple of transvestite prostitutes in an tiny studio apartment in a once grand mansion on Esplanade Avenue. So, back at the freebase club, while we watched Prince Charles's and Lady Diane's wedding on television, everyone but me tried this new fashionable method, which I'd explained to them earlier that morning.
My friend, the punk debutant, was the only gal I've ever known to appear in the newspaper twice in one issue, in the society page and crime blotter on the same day. One making her formal curtsy to the king of carnival, the next crawling into a padding wagon for being drunk in public. We last met at The Southern Yacht Club for turtle soup; she was happy to tell me that she has since cleaned up her act and runs a chic little restaurant in uptown New Orleans.
Speaking of cleaning up. One of the situations that lead Mrs. Quincy to doubt my good name happened when Darby Jr. and I had nothing better to do one evening but search for his mother's now well hidden prescription containers, only to come across a bottle of "Nair" hair remover. Darby was so amused that his mother would use Nair, and not a razor. He decided we should "go smooth" really for no other reason than there was nothing better to do. We both stripped to our boxer shorts and spread the contents of the bottle all over our bodies. Once the strange burning smell and crinkled hair on our chest and legs began (letting us know that the cream had done its job) we used sterling silver butter knives to scrawl obscene graffiti on each other's stomachs, chest, legs and arms. While laughing and carrying on, we realized we were not alone. There in the doorway stood a wide mouthed Mrs. Quincy, her eyes glaring and a silent scream spitting past her lips. Darby and I began laughing so hard that we fell over and, in the process, scraped our bodies on the carpet, which then too began to burn. Months later I found a roll of carpet at my door step. It had perfect impressions of two entwined bodies forever singed into the pile like the ash bodies left in Pompeii's wake. I learned that Mrs. Quincy couldn't bear to see the physical proof of the fun her son and "that thing" as she referred to me, had had doing whatever she could imagine. Darby Jr. was kind enough to save the critical mass and deliver it to me. It is still around, proof of how well Nair did the job.
While Darby Jr. and I found play time together, I still had other friends to occupy my time, or my waste of time. One of my oldest and dearest buddies is a gal named Harriet. She grew the best home grown weed I ever smoked. And although Darby Jr. thought of himself as far superior to this "near the racetrack crowd" the sweet pot had him laying on the charm, none of which Harriet fell for as she told me several times later.
This was the time before shopping networks like QVC and HSN and other television sale giants. In New Orleans there was a local show that sold plain junk, like wall clocks in the shape of a cat, and their tail swayed and eyes opened and closed with each passing second, pots and pans, cubic zirconia jewelry and other crap. One night while at Harriet's home we were buzzed and enjoying this televised selling show...that's how great this pot was! I called the program and told Harriet to talk about the pots and pans and ask if they were really worth the money. The commentator on the show, a young woman, smiled at the camera and explained the wonders of this set of cooking utensils. Once she finished, Harriet said, "my husband wants to ask you something," and handed me the phone. I said, "Hi-ya!" The young woman smiled at the camera and replied "Hello, what would you like to know?" I was so stoned that I said the first thing that came to my mind; "You got milk in them pretty titties?" The poor girl blanched and shoved the telephone off of her desk right there on camera!
Darby Jr. decided that it was time he moved out of his parents' home. So with a recently borrowed pile of cash sent from his Step Aunt Tipsy, he began to search for an apartment. He settled on the ground floor space of a large American townhouse on Magazine Street, off of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The section of the city had been laid out in the nineteenth century, carved from plantations that had lined the river. All of the streets had Classical Greek names which, named at the time, was the heyday of the Greek Revival in New Orleans. My favorites were the nine streets named for the nine daughters of Zeus, the Muses. Melpomene Street was the street that was subsequently renamed for the slain civil rights leader, so very appropriate since she is the muse of tragedy. Darby Jr.'s place was on the corner of Magazine, named not for periodicals but for the weapons that once lined the river and Melpomene Street, now Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
Darby Jr.'s apartment was in what had once been the dining room of the home, and the kitchen and area behind the main home that had been the first floor of the slave quarter. Today it is so strange to think of a building being called "a slave quarter" but, sadly, that is history.
The town house had been completely redone and was now the home of several apartments. Darby Jr.'s being one of the nicest. While I was there one afternoon I met the no-nonsense, WASP landlady, stiff and ironed-pressed. I was introduced as Darby Jr.'s interior decorator. She sniffed, gave me the once over, and said hello.
Darby Jr. promptly sat down on the floor in the living room (he only had an old chest of drawers and a mattress in his bedroom). Judging from the décor, the landlady must have thought I was into minimalist design. Darby opened an 8-ball (large packet) of coke and snorted a tremendous line of the stuff using a rolled-up check from the Whitney Bank, the old line bank of New Orleans (you could tell a Whitney check from a mile away, they have an odd orange color). When I asked about the check he told me his mother had given it to him.
I told him I didn't believe him, and that he would be in really big trouble if he was using his parents' checkbooks. He screamed that I was killing his buzz and to get the fuck out.
So I did.
A couple of months later I was having lunch with a friend at Commander's Palace, a wonderful restaurant on Washington Avenue in the heart of the Garden District, the bread pudding soufflé is to die for! I was sitting with my back to a woman. I recognized the voice, it was Darby Jr.'s landlady! I overheard the conversation...
"Yes, I knew he was up to something," began the landlady, "but being a Quincy I trusted him instead of my instincts. That was a BIG mistake. I was given a check drawn on his Father's account, it was returned with a hole punched in the signature with the stamp that read FORGERY. I was stunned. I have never in my life had anything but the finest banking business at The Whitney!"
"Well of course" replied her luncheon companion.
"I was so angry that I rushed over to the property and rang the bell," The landlady continued, "but it didn't sound. I saw that a light bulb had been unscrewed from one of the entrance hallway sconces and an extension cord was plugged into the socket, with an adapter, and the cord ran beneath the door to this character's room."
"Oh my!" interrupted her friend.
"I opened the door with my key and was stunned at what I found." she continued, "The place was hot, the smell was awful, a cross between the Audubon Park zoo before its restoration and old oyster shells! My dear, pizza boxes and trash were all over the floor. In the middle of the room a large television was on and the cord from the hall was where its electric power came, on my nickel! I saw on the floor several bills opened and unopened from the utility company, the phone company and others. I called out his name and began to look around the place. There were maggots on the kitchen counter; the door to the bathroom was the first I opened and I almost wretched from the smell. I became more angry."
"Weren't you afraid?" her friend asked.
"No! I was enraged!" she replied, "Well, I kept calling his name and searching the apartment until I opened a closet door and found him slouched over. He was filthy and nude! I began to scream that I wanted him out! He was waving his arm in the air and I noticed a large wound on his arm, and that was when became concerned for myself and..."
It was just that moment in mid-sentence that she noticed me for the first time, in a mirror reflecting from across the room, reflecting me leaning backwards, ears cocked. "Oh hello" she said in a stiff sarcastic tone, "this gentleman is the decorator of the fine place I've just told you about" her friend only stared.
They began to stand and the landlady turned to me and said "oh, please give this to your client" I took a prescription bottle from her purse she continued "this was found in the apartment by the professional cleaning crew I had to hire to clean up after your client was formally evicted" I looked at the bottle, it bore Darby Jr.'s name "my husband is a physician" the landlady said "he told me that is an antibiotic prescribed for human bites."
I never saw Darby Jr. again.
I heard that he's become a television news camera man, also that he married and lives in Charleston, and that he'd divorced and moved in with his father when Mrs. Quincy died. I was told by an acquaintance that knew the family that Poulet cried like a baby at Mrs. Quincy's memorial service.
I also heard that Darby Jr. had been in the city for the ravages of Hurricane Katrina, this was relayed to me by Mose, through long distant calls. Mose said that Darby Jr. and he were both airlifted into an Army helicopter after the levees' broke and the city was under water. Another Quincy and black man sharing a flood so many years after his great uncle had about written his experience. Mose, loving gossip, was only too happy to share the talk he heard from Poulet and others.
I remembered all stories as they flooded my mind like the waters that flooded New Orleans after the hurricane. This is because I heard a voicemail on my home phone this afternoon, recorded was the voice I'd heard so long ago the radio asking "ya got milk in them pretty titties...?"
________________________________ Marc Charbonnet 160 East 48th Street Suite 12-A New York, New York 10017 212-687-1333 fax 212-983-1361 email@example.com www.mecaproductions.com