Excerpt from “101 Portraits of My Father”

Alright Creepers, my agent is all over my case to get more stuff published up here on the Web.  But I’ve been busy training for a senior’s cage match in a warehouse in San Berdoo.  They probably won’t pay much, but it’s going to be broadcast live on the web, at least in Asia.  So it’s going to take place at 11 am on a Saturday, just in time to entertain the businessmen who missed the midnight train home to the suburbs.  There’s just no accounting for taste.

So I’m trying to desperately make weight and get back into the drill of take-downs, choke moves, and remembering NOT to tear out eyeballs or shatter kneecaps.  In other words, I’m fully engaged in trying to roll back the past 25 years of bad habits, and it’s just wrecking my writing.

So here is a gratuitous story, from my as-yet unpublished blockbuster, “101 Portraits of My Father”.  If you’re wondering WTF I’m talking about, check out that part of my website you never go to (“The Project” and “Choose The Book”):

https://finnegandaley.wordpress.com/step-one-choose-the-book/book-two-100-portraits-of-my-father/

Without further ado, here it is.

Chapter 25:  Priapus

I was 16 years old when my father was picked to be the Priapus at the Mardi Gras parade for the Krewe of Santa Lucia. We were all set to go down there. We were to fly down as a family, but my brother Vincent got an absolutely terrible, terrible case of chickenpox.  He was age 17. As you might know about chickenpox, the older you are when you get it the worse it is. And he was in no condition to go to New Orleans, even if they would have let him on the plane with open, weeping sores.  He certainly could not travel.

And there was concern over his health, even if we had driven down.  It was spread all over his mucous membranes.  It was in his nose, in his mouth.  It was hard to swallow and he needed a lot of care. My mother was hesitant to let my younger brothers go because they were energetic and my father was going to be busy as Priapus.  Also, we weren’t sure if Eric had gotten the chickenpox or not, since he had a small fever and one bump when it went through his class.  That could have been a coincidence.  So there was some possibility he would come down with it on travel.  And she didn’t want him suffering alone in a strange city, basically under the care of me as a 15-year-old, while dad was off performing his duty as Priapus.  And why make Dan sit around in a hotel room in a strange city full of half-nude adults when he could be out back at home playing fetch with the dog?

And she also didn’t even really trust my dad, once he had been plied with all that liquor, to even keep track of the two of us. So that left me at age 15 to be a chaperone to my dad. And my mom, God rest her soul, thrusting two rosaries in my hand and saying “You two have to pray the rosary every day while you’re down there!  And I don’t know who I want to pray more, you or your father. I need somebody to be the man of the family! I expect good things from you.”

I didn’t really know what she meant, since I was bookish, rather shy and naïve.  I didn’t know what was going on.  But when we got down there it was amazing. The revelry, the bawdy language, the songs, bottles being passed around from mouth to mouth, the songs, the drums, the strange initiation ceremonies. My father insisted that I come along and dance through the streets with the Krewe of Santa Lucia.

And the head of the Krewe, a dried up old graybeard wearing fishnet stockings and a Pulcinella codpiece made of hammered brass said, gesturing at me, “But Priapus, Mr. Buck, by the rules of our order, no virgin may join the Krewe of Santa Lucia.  No virgin can know our secrets!”  And my dad thought about it a bit and he said, “Well, I need my son here with me, and you’ve got your rules.  So there’s only one way to fix this. I leave you to arrange the details.”  Dad went back to picking the hooves of his donkey.  The old man nodded gravely at me, bowed to Dad, and backed away.

So they brought in a member of the women’s auxiliary, a dark young widow whose husband had been hit on the head by a bullet shot in the air by a reveler in last year’s parade.  Some drunken crazy shot his pistol up in the sky, just emptied the thing, and one of the bullets came down dead-center in his head.  Some other man nearly lost his arm from another bullet, one that hit his shoulder bone. Because Easter fell later this year, the widow had just recently completed her one year mourning period; she could take off her mourning clothes and join the revelry.

An hour later, I had forgotten the whole exchange. I was sitting on a musty, overstuffed couch, re-reading my battered copy of “De Officiis” by Cicero.  She came up quietly, closed my book, pulled me to my feet, and took my shyly by the hand without a word, and led me up the steel stairs and past the office.  The headquarters of the Krewe was some ancient brick warehouse, and this must have been the supervisors’ area.  Down the hall was a storage room that had some old file cabinets in it.  It smelled musty, and there was a faint whiff of whiskey and something else I couldn’t quite put my finger on.  She lit a candle, then reached up and pulled down an old Murphy bed that had a single striped pillow with no case and an old wool Army blanket.  She fluffed the pillow, and gave me a white-toothed smile.

I don’t want to go into too many details because I hate the kiss and tell.  Suffice to say that that evening I became a full-fledged member of the Krewe of Santa Lucia.  Those rosaries never left my suitcase.