I stole a glance at Larry Sparrow’s phone. “7:30, good. God, if you’re there, please let me have two more hours of sleep.” That morning was the start of the longest day of my life, and I wasn’t ready for it to begin just yet. It wasn’t God that woke me up at 9:30, however, it was a call from our good friend and drunk bastard. He was leaving town soon, and wanted to know about an exchange of goods.
“We’ll pick it up later,” Larry Sparrow mumbled into the phone, and knocked back off asleep. Is this really the end? I laid awake and wondered. Leaving was something I only heard about in passing. Seven drunken nights in New Orleans were over. I was convinced we lived through nine and still had more to go. Some sadistic part of me was ready for them. If leaving was our only option, we had to tear down camp and pack it up before sign out at 1:00 in the afternoon. After that, it was off to the pub to gather and pack our merchandise. Then retrieve our bedding and weaponry from the RV Park. Sometime, we needed oil changes before the 15-hour voyage back to Ohio. There was no sense in dawdling any longer, I thought, feeling reality sink in. Camp, pub, RV, oil, Ohio… COFFEE, camp, pub, RV, oil, Ohio– I corrected myself and crossed the campsite for the pot and propane stove. With a direction in mind, I set about the morning’s work. Surprisingly enough, I was in a generous mood and let my companions sleep. They would wake on their own accord.
Breakfast was the worst we ever tasted, canned ravioli seasoned with a week’s worth of ramen noodles, baked beans, corned beef hash, and instant coffee grime. The residue baked in a hot tent for a week in the bayou. It had to do until we found a real dinner. Order was to be made from the insurmountable amount of chaos that ensued over the course of the week. We spent months preparing and had to tear everything down in hours.
At the pub, we wrapped and boxed all the etched glass, and bagged the jewelry, hatpins, and hair dangles. We folded our flags and carried the gold trunk downstairs. Just yesterday, I mused, I sat here completely lost at sea, trying to make a few a dollars. The three of us were surprised at how well we were faring.
“Bad news,” Larry Sparrow said as we stood recuperating and re-hydrating after lugging all the merchandise downstairs. “All the car places are closed because it’s Sunday. Looks like were going to have to get our stuff fixed tomorrow.”
“Okay,” I said looking determinedly ahead, “Then we’ll get in our cars and leave this place and drive straight on through to yesterday.”
“Yesterday?” MAD asked incredulously before we both started laughing. “If we had a bloody TARDIS”
“Yeah,” I said just realizing what came out of my mouth. Apparently, my brain was more fried than I thought.
At the RV resort, the three of us unceremoniously crammed the bedding in what little room we had left. The One True Pirate was nice enough to fold and bag everything, our clothes, weapons, blankets and pillows. It was all piled neatly in a storage shed waiting for us. Regrettably, we left his place a mess Saturday morning in order to vend on time. When he wasn’t a scary drunk he was a real gentleman. “What a rogue.” He shoved off long before we showed up.
Driving out, we passed a cemetery and seconds later, I received call from MAD and Larry Sparrow asking if I wanted to stop and visit. “Hell yeah,” I said emphatically, thinking that very thing. Unfortunately, after parking and walking the perimeter of the place we realized that too was closed.
“We’re stalling, aren’t we?” I sighed as we stood in a parking lot looking to where the city filled the skyline.
“Yeah we are.” As much as we had to leave, it seemed none of us wanted to put this place behind us. The screech and squeal of my belt vied with the sounds of the French Quarter. I first heard that foreboding noise in Birmingham on the way down and knew it didn’t sound well. Tourists had the run of the streets during the day. We were idling behind a horse and buggy, no wonder my car was running hot. Stopping and going, waiting and turning I tried my best to keep my patience. After all, this impromptu tour was a drive-by voyage to say goodbye. Unfortunately, it was in my car. Finally we made it through the maze of busy streets and on to the highway. There was still another 45 minutes of stopping and going before we made it out of the city. Once across the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway we parked in front of a Chinese buffet, “Nice, um, touring,” I said, glad to get out of the car; more than anything the damn thing needed to cool down.
“We were looking for places to eat. We were even thinking of Lafitte’s for a round, but its impossible to find parking for two cars.” Parking for one was hard enough.
“That’s fine, lets eat!”
We sat inside for the last supper before the voyage home. “Last year, we drove straight through, and got home at 2:00am. It is much quicker going back.” MAD and Larry Sparrow reassured me. They made the voyage before.
“Second star to the right and straight on ‘til morning.” I answered prophetically.