Do you know what it means to miss


Victor the fat corset maker strolls home through the French Quarter at dawn, streets empty except for delivery vans and deliverymen.  His natural dread of life has been tempered by an evening with a new lover, an FBI agent posing as a waitress named Paula.  The sunrise stalls on the horizon, and sherbet light falls on all surfaces in all directions.  Every trash bin, every brick, every angry bird, is suffused with an erotic glow.  Which is wrong of course.  The morning light is wrong.  A beer man rolls a keg to the middle of the street.  He stops there, stands the keg on end and looks up at the sky.  Victor looks up too.

Orange clouds are beautiful but not right.  Drama at dawn is the product of coastal atmospherics, but this phenomenon is unrelated to meteorology.  Orange damn clouds.  Against a blue-eyed sky.  Hurts.

"The fuck," says the beer man.

Orange clouds don't fade as the sky brightens, though there are variations.  Most are pastel like giant circus peanuts floating overhead.  Others are sharp hued, conjuring citrus and melon flavors to bloom in the back of the mouth. 

"Fuckin' artists," the beer man says.  A candy fist of a cloud takes a swipe at the sun, and its brief shade travels over Victor.  He doesn't mind orange clouds.  The beer man, finished with the moment, horses his keg into a brick and fern-filled courtyard.

At Decatur and Esplanade, we have come out from our homes, shops, and hotel rooms to stand on the banquette and consider the sky.  No chatter; our community has run dry of theories and assumptions.  Victor's big body is the only body on the move.  Some of us watch from iron balconies, coffee gripped. 

A man with a red scalp leans on his broom in front of an espresso bar.  He tilts his flushed face to the sky and weeps.  Tears dangle from his squat, ruined nose.  Orange clouds are terrible.

Victor recognizes him: Gerry.  Gerry the staggerer and shouter and curb brooder.  Born and raised a tourist.  Victor punched him in the nose once, pre-Katrina, and the nose went kablooey.  Blood all down a holiday shirt, one with guitars and fish printed on it.  A street fight with no subtext, a pure event because it happened before the storm.  These days Gerry's face is a mess, skin blotched with acne or chicken pox scars.  Red and tight from crying.  And God that nose.  Looks like a circus peanut.

Victor's post-coital buzz ebbs as he hurries away. 

Gerry weeps into the blinding sun.

How dare he.  Victor can't help it.  He returns to the weeping man.  "Look here.  Do you remember me?"  Gerry, confused and scared, doesn't recognize Victor at all.

On a balcony a shirtless Creole in Tweety Bird pajama bottoms raises a rifle to take some shots at the clouds.  This dude is pretty.  He looks so handsome and natural shooting clouds that he is fast on his way to becoming the mayor of New Orleans.

Victor ignores the ruckus.  Fails to witness the pretty man's ascending grace.  Says to Gerry, "You don't remember me."

From the balcony the new mayor makes an announcement: "This.  Is a national disaster!"

We are in love with the new mayor.  Already.  Gerry changes his grip on the broom.

The new mayor shouts:  "Everybody.  I am pissed!"

Bangboom.  Pretty.  Masterful.

From above we hear a metallic creak, like a barge tearing free of its moorings.  An orange cloud is giving way.  This Victor notices.

The mayor resumes firing.  "You gotta be kidding me!"

Now the cloud makes a sound like a school bus being dropped on a row house or two.  Gerry is over stimulated.  He tries to strike Victor with his broom.  But Victor the fat corset maker knows a thing or two about broom fights.  He wishes Paula the FBI agent were here to see him in action.  (But Paula is across town, in the middle of Poydras in an egg-stained apron, firing at an orange cloud with her service piece while six rummies cheer her on.  She has been expecting these clouds, oh yes.)

Gerry lies in a heap across the threshold of the espresso shop, delivered there by Victor the tormentor, now accidental hero.  And the new mayor manages to shoot down the cloud.

Over Victor, Victor under.  He is crushed to death.  By sweetness, by fancy.  By the manifestation of desire.  Fucking art students, that's what.  The new mayor has no choice but to blame it on the weather.  

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