To a sailor in ‘68, liberty any where else in the world finished second to New Orleans’ Mardi Gras. It was his ship’s turn to do the Mississippi crawl from the Gulf of Mexico, up the Delta to the French Quarter and carnal bliss.
Unpretentious women, potent Hurricane drinks in delicate tulip glasses, parades, carousing, abandoned debauchery, plus any other sin forbidden by Lent after Fat Tuesday ends. Eighteen was the legal drinking age. Bars never closed; one just lifted his feet when they swept the floors at shift change. All he lacked was a woman who’s hormones screamed as loud as his.
On his way to the next bar on Bourbon she caught up to him and slipped her arm around his waist. Neither spoke. Surprised, he drew her closer, stroking her solid upper hip, her female curves offering alms to his begging palm. Her straight raven hair spilled down to the small of her back like silk threads spun for the loom. Her brows were two matching feathery sweeps, as if airbrushed above her gem-like hazel eyes. Lips thick, skirt short, legs like smoothened marble; she was a copper skinned Demi Moore from toe to upper thigh and neck to crown, although all parts between were uniquely hers. They broke six of the Ten Commandments that first night, beginning a three day honey moon of lust. Both whispered mutual promises neither meant to keep past the last parade
It all ended at midnight, Fat Tuesday. Avoiding goodbyes, the sulking couple wandered, heads bowed, on a side street toward Canal, as if searching the ancient pavers on the Quarter’s cobbled road for advice on what parting words to say. A shrill car horn sounded off in klaxon key of C behind the sullen pair. The sailor flipped it the bird without looking back. An angry cop flew from his cruiser, heaved the sailor on the hood quickly frisking him, missing the knife in his shoe. The girl, not privy to her lover’s gesture, slugged the cop, screaming obscenities at him in her sailor’s defense. The cop cuffed and threw his sailor in the back seat, then went for her, slapping her face with his blackjack before she hit the hood. Blood rushed out like Niagara from her battered nose. He tossed her in with her dazed sailor. She hurled gurgled insults at the cop’s lineage between blood choked coughs. Guards split them up at city jail.
The stacked bunks in his cell were filled with drunks. He lay that night curled up fetal, sleepless on the frigid concrete floor. Roaches scooted past his nose on their urgent errands. His cell mates’ snoring echoed, as if in a cave, compounding his whiskey hang-over pain. A guy on board ship he owed money paid bail. Next morning the sailor met muster. Then, the ship turned down stream to antagonize Castro’s Cuba with war exercises out of Guantanamo for three months.
That was the end of Mardi Gras.