Her eyes glistened, and a smile crept silently across her lips, as she watched the blood drain from my rigid body.
It was the first time I’d had blood work done — part of my annual Medicare Wellness Exam — on Halloween; and the nurse’s pallid makeup made the always-daunting experience — I don’t care in general for sharp things piercing my skin — even more chilling.
On a quiet day in Thibodaux, things go quickly, so I decided to wait for the results, thumbing through worn magazines in the waiting room to pass the time.
Shortly, Nurse Elvira appeared, with a little smirk on her face: “Things look good; but, if I were you, I’d lay off the Halloween candy tonight — blood sugar, you know. And maybe the fried foods.”
On Bayou Lafourche, hardly more than a stone’s throw from Boudreaux and Thibodaux’s fried-seafood emporium in Houma?
Shocked by this advice — scarier by far than anything a haunted house could offer up, I aimlessly reached for some reading material to ease my pain. I held in my hands the first copy of Garden & Gun magazine I’d ever seen.
At first I thought I’d grabbed the latest Real Simple. Same size, same thick matte paper, same classy illustration on a white background.
But it didn’t have advice on which revolver would be best for shooting down stubborn cobwebs on the ceiling, or gardening tips about which brand of gunpowder would restore balance to your flower bed. It had classy columns from noted writers such as celebrated New Orleans scribbler Julia Read, and sublimely-styled photos of a luscious blackberry cobbler that a politician might eat after accidentally spraying a friend with buckshot during a little outing.
Second-Amendment rights, and a second helping of that dessert, please.
But what really caught my eye was the erudite Letters to the Editor section, especially the response from a reader who found himself “somewhat mystified by the fact that a lady like Ms. Read would be canceling weddings when she possesses the talents that most men would love to see in their wives. Any woman that would decorate a falling-down antebellum mansion with a taxidermy theme and various mounted trophies has to be a rare find and in great demand.”
As I was unable to find the referenced column, “Big Racks and Perfect Parties,” apparently one of Read’s monthly “The High & The Low” series in the magazine, I can only imagine that mansion and party; but it reminded me of my own mansion horror story long ago.
All Saints Day is always a time of memories for me. Antics of the long-gone come flooding back, and I found myself thinking of Francis Dorsey, who ran Madewood with impeccable standards and an iron hand. It must have been four decades ago that Miss Dorsey took me aside one late October day to advise me that I was one lucky man.
“You missed this young woman and her momma from Dothan, Alabama. Said they had a big house like this over there; but it must not be big enough, cause when the girl looked around Madewood and saw your picture — when she asked, I had to tell her you weren’t married — and liked what she saw, well she made up her mind right there that she should marry you and the two of your could rebuild that house that fell down, Belle . . . over by White Castle.”
“That’s right. They’re headed there now, and she’s gonna call you. Now let me get back to the kitchen.”
But there’s nothing left of that mansion — several times the size of Madewood — I thought, determined not to answer the phone for the next few days.
Talk about something that could take your last drop of blood as well as your last dime!
No thanks, if I’m gonna go down, it’ll be with a Nestlé’s Crunch bar sitting next to an overflowing fried seafood platter.