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“Mardi Grasping at Straws”

By Kelly Anneken, Publisher

I’m back, idiots!

I mean, I’ve been back, but a certain Hopkins named Isa categorically refused to publish anything I wrote while she had me cuffed in her basement because I would only write in Pig Latin as a protest against my wrongful imprisonment. I can’t believe she didn’t just run it through Google Translate, but I guess some lazy people just don’t have any work ethic.

She did have to release me, though, on account of there’s a court order requiring me to attend Mardi Gras in New Orleans every year until 2035 (don’t ask).  Once I got out of those cuffs, I took a series of Boltbuses to Louisiana, which is harder than you’d think when you don’t have internet access and your phone is a Motorola Rzr V3 flip model, but I’m nothing if not resourceful/willing to ride with the luggage. I did manage to pinch enough pocket money and credit cards off the other passengers that I was able to post up at the Empress Hotel in Nola, known by some as the “worst hotel on the planet earth,” but known to me as “home.”

As soon as I was back in the 504, I called up my buddy Maurice, a sometime-drag queen and a full-time vengeful voodoo priest. Oh, also, sometimes he bartends.  He came to meet me at the Empress with a stash of beads he’d collected over the past year so we wouldn’t have to pay inflated Fat Tuesday prices just so we could see some titties. For the record, neither of us is super into titties, but we like to support the community, especially the disadvantaged youths who flash their goods for the local and visiting pervs on Bourbon Street.

I wasn’t in a hurry to get back to my imprisonment, and the credit card I was using had yet to be reported as stolen.  I could only assume the owner (one Sherman P. Jefferson) had been shanked to death in a Boltbus bathroom and his grieving family had yet to realize that a scrappy young go-getter was defrauding him from beyond the grave. Maurice told me that his sister-in-law, Modeste, might have a line on a cushy government job, but in the meantime, I started barbacking for him at Café Lafittes in Exile. We revived our classic Franglish drag double act, “Don’t Bleep on the Subway,” based on the life and works of Petula Clark. We were making so much in tips that I was able to keep paying for my room at the Empress after my credit card stopped working and still have enough left over to bribe the police officer who came snooping around about Sherman’s disappearance.

Things were going so well that I was surprised when Modeste called my Motorola Rzr V3 flip phone a week later. She’d arranged for me to interview for a special job at the governor’s office in Baton Rouge. Initially, I balked, because, as I explained to Modeste, I technically don’t exist on paper, and I’d hate to bring that to the attention of any state, local, or federal government. Modeste laughed and reminded me that Louisiana is the least transparent state government in the US, so I really had nothing to worry about. My secret would be safe with them.

The next day, I hopped a Megabus to the state capital—I figured I should avoid Boltbus for the time being, just in case the estate of the late/missing Sherman was still trying to track me down.  I arrived at the governor’s mansion right on time, and after some initial confusion about whether or not I was there to participate in a school tour of the premises, an aide took me through a secret passage that led to a series of catacombs. Every government building in Louisiana came equipped with a secret catacomb passage, the aide told me, and I pretended to be interested in this boring historical fact. Surely that had to win me some points in the interview process. Granted, I couldn’t remember the last time I had a legitimate job interview, but I seemed to remember it involving an elaborate points system, similar to Scrabble, but with more Cyrillic letters.

We stopped at a large door with a crucifix shaped knocker. The aide tapped the crucifix three times and the door swung open, as if on some sort of holy hydraulic lift. She gestured for me to go through, and I found myself in a dimly lit room that smelled faintly of incense. Candles flickered and Gregorian chant wafted from unseen speakers as I spotted Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, snorting Pixie Stix at his desk. As he wiped stray sugar crystals from his nostrils, he beckoned me to sit down.

“Welcome, Ms. Anneken. If that IS your real name,” he said playfully, waggling his eyebrows at me. I calmly replied that as a devotee of later seasons of The Wire, my name was my name. That seemed to satisfy him, and he did another line off his desktop. I helpfully suggested that I knew where he could get some real nose candy, but he dismissed the idea completely, mumbling something about “family values” and “immigration” and “sugar cartels.” I told him I wasn’t following, and he immediately told me I had the job.

After a celebratory dance, I asked what the job was. Boss Bobby—the nickname Governor Jindal insisted I use when addressing him going forward—informed me that I would be in charge of training teachers on Louisiana’s supplemental science curriculum, designed to “keep the Creationism in Children.” I said he might want to reconsider that slogan, being that it neither rhymed nor made sense, and Boss Bobby gave me a raise right there on the spot.

So believe it or not, I finally got a straight job. I have to relocate to Baton Rouge, but that’s all right—Maurice says I can commute back on weekends for performances of our drag act. Plus, it will be that much harder for Isa to track me down when it’s time for the next issue, and I finally get to make a real difference for America’s disadvantaged youth by filling their heads with misinformation, preparing them for a lifetime of being inundated with campaign ads. That’s better than trading beads for a nipple flash, no matter what state you live in.

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