The scene: mrpeene’s tasteful French Quarter hotel room, 4:30 AM as he bustles about, preparing to depart for San Francisco, becoming increasingly edgy as his calls to Secret Agent Fred go into voicemail, an exercise with Fred which is absolutely pointless. One might as well write notes, seal them in old bourbon bottles and throw them in the Mississippi.
Finally, short lived relief as Fred calls in.. Short-lived because Fred’s contribution is nothing short of gibberish. I could swear the phrase “argle bargle” is mixed in with the rest.
mrpeenee: “Queen, where are you, I know you are not packed, the car is waiting downstairs and we have to go.”
Secret Agent Fred: “aq;fhpovxcmsurg;dsajhfpentmbvhsd;dfhs,mfvhsf,snf. Argle Bargle.”
mrpeenee, his voice raising with his blood pressure: “What? Bitch what are trying to say, where are you? This is the time I really am going to kill you and leave your body behind.”
Secret Agent Fred: “aq;fhpovxcmsurg;dsajhfpentmbvhsd;dfhs,mfvhsf,snf.” and then, possibly, ” I’m right outside the hotel.”
mrpeenee, knowing full well better than to take this at face value, goes out on the balcony and sees no one resembling, even slightly, Fred. “Queen, I don’t know where the fuck you think you are, but it is not outside the hotel. You get here NOW or I’m leaving you behind.”
Just then, I hear Fred’s dulcet tones coming into range and, sure enough, there he comes, shambling up Chartres street, still babbling into his phone. At that point. I leave off talking into the phone and just start screaming threats and slurs down at him. Fred is completely oblivious to many things, including the fact I am standing twenty feet from him so he stays on his phone. Kids these days and their darn gizmos. Despite the early hour on our very quiet street there are a great many onlookers taking this all in as some kind of colorful New Orleans street theater, like something out of Tennessee Williams.
Secret Agent Fred: “Drop a quarter in it, bitch” I admit it, a phrase that has certain insouciant charm, but is not helping anything.
I run downstairs and grab Fred, still blabbering into his phone, and drag him past various street vagrants, neighbors, the house porter and the car driver, whom I assure, “We’ll be right back.” He seems unimpressed.
Also unimpressed is the hotel night manager who only asks “Are you checking out?” No, fathead, we’re rehearsing for the Golden Girls reunion.
In Fred’s room. I order him to take a quick shower. He refuses and I explain he smells like he’s been rolling on the floor of a not very nice bar, a point which seems all too possible. I finally yank his shirt off, give up on his pants since his belt seems to be welded shut and just give him a once over with a wash cloth and cold water, just to be mean.
As I frantically pack his suitcase and scream at him to get his goddamn clothes on, Fred takes the opportunity to critique my packing style by pulling out everything I’m able to stuff in, announcing “I want to wear that.”
I honestly have no idea how I got him out the hotel and into the car, but finally, we are on our way and Fred entertains our long-suffering driver and me with the details of his evening’s divertissements. Choice snippets of my replies to this follow:
“You got punched in the face AGAIN?”
“Why would (our friend ) Levee hit a woman?”
“MUSHROOMS? When the fuck did you have time to eat mushrooms? How can you be tripping? We have to get through security and on the plane in less than an hour.”
The last thing our driver said to me, as he bid us adieu, not doubt glad to be rid of us? “He is never getting on that plane.” Believe me, this was not news to me.
Amazingly we did, in no short thanks to my constantly hissing “Zip it” to Fred, who wanted to befriend every authority figure we encountered. I can only assume the goons at the New Orleans airport have all seen plenty worse in their time.
God, they assure us, is a mill who may grind slow, but grinds incredibly fine and Fred got ground as finely as possible since airlines had cancelled our flight and wound us up hanging around the Dallas airport for SIX HOURS during which Fred mostly moaned and whimpered and I clarified that it was exactly what deserved.
When finally, finally, we got home Fred allowed as he thought he would stay home the next time I went to New Orleans. “Who invited you?” was all I said.
Truly, it’s a good thing I love the old thing because I can’t tell you how many times drowning him in some mens room toilet seemed like a sensible idea. It’s so nice to be home.