This is the fifth of a series of fictional character sketches from the openDemocracy writer’s latest novel, Unimportant People
Jim Gabour
26 July 2011


Rodrigo, long the resident holy man of the Quarter and the intermittent astrological adviser of L Mutt Jeansonne, often engages eager audiences outside the Can-Can-Do Lounge at 265 Bourbon Street, Mutt’s current place of employment.  This evening a visiting psychologist from Yonkers is listening.  He tells his wife that he finds Rodrigo’s “patterns of disjointed speech, especially those parts referring to extraterrestrial forces” extremely interesting.  The shrink continues lecturing disassociation theory to his uninterested spouse while his libido is finding fulfillment in lingering, clandestine glances over Rodrigo’s shoulder, through Marty the barker’s partially opened door.  Inside he can see Melodie LaGrande again doing her thing, which involves slowly disrobing, and in the process enrolling her covert new fan who watches outside, from the street.

Rodrigo himself notices what is really happening, as the New York tourist hands him an unsolicited dollar: “...yityityittrivial incidents treated with too much respect travesty vaudeville nudity burlesque Milton.  Naked, sir, naked thanks for the buck you will undoubtedly be kept alive for your knowledge of the terran psyche here let me buy you a chili dog I have a buck right here yit yityit yes, sir, I have burnoose bushmaster bustard nice shoes, sir...”

Inside, not only is Mutt still AWOL, but two of the girls have failed to show up to dance the night shift.  One of them is Mia, the star night-time attraction of the Can-Can-Do.  The daytime number-one dancer, Melodie LaGrande, is preparing to leave, already well past her scheduled departure time.

Day Manager Abu Chaudhuri -- a well-dressed Pakistani of little social grace and questionable moral fiber -- who is himself doing a double shift, goes crazy.  Begging Mel, “You are being the star tonight, my lovely Melodie!  Be the Star and I am promising you, I am promising you the top of the daytime billing!  Within the next month.  Or so.  With certain reservations.  And of course I have to talk to the third cousin Nawaz.  I am promising.  As soon as I am able to be clearing it with Nawaz.  I am promising.  The star.”

Mel is wild-eyed and not too rational.  Being ever-so-slightly under the influence of a long convoy of the house specialty drinks called Dump Trucks, she says yes.   She calls in sick to her second job at Benny’s soon after, and stays on at the Can-Can-Do to fill in for the missing dancers.  The money is better at the Do.

Her guard dog Fred, who is staying with her due to Mutt’s required “Registered Voter” presence at a session of jury duty, figures it will probably work out fine being loyal -- even though any semblance of loyalty to the notoriously ungrateful management of the B-drinking lounge is usually wasted -- except for the fact that Mel is already drunk as a post at the end of her regular shift.

Closing in on one in the morning Mel is staggering up for her tenth or twelfth stage dance of the night.  She hasn’t even changed outfits since around ten.  On and off and on.  She doesn’t care.  It is a bad sign.

The boys are flocking to her, and correspondingly, she is making a lot of money.

Since midway through the shift, every twenty minutes Mel has come over to Fred with another wad of bills.  She has taken to wrapping them around Fred’s collar, because the money won’t fit under her garter belt or g-string any more.  Plus she is too drunk to make it to the dressing room to stash the notes in her wardrobe or makeup bag.  Knowing the ever-ready Abu would probably steal it if she left it back there, anyway.

So eight hours after Fred is supposed to be home and fed, she is still sitting on a barstool, watching Mel carefully if a bit uncomfortably.  Fred has now not been outside for a bit of relief since two in the afternoon.  But she is determined not to move from her spot until she gets Mel out of the Can-Can-Do safely.  Unmolested.

To that protective end, Fred has her ferocious face on.  Being both female and canine, the result is an immediately communicative snarl.  At this point, though, she can barely breathe, much less bark out warnings.  There is so much money twisted around her collar that she makes a high whistling noise when she inhales.  But she can still growl just fine.  Quite well enough to keep hungry hands away from Mel.  And the dough.

There are cops, however, close by.  Just in case.  It isn’t Marty the barker’s favorite brand of insurance, but as he stands at the door to Bourbon street pulling in customers, he figures that with the crowds this big and the drinking this heavy, the presence of a little law enforcement is a good thing.  Even the plainclothes boys from Vieux Carré District are working the street in force tonight.

Marty discusses the situation with Rodrigo around midnight.  “Probably breaking in some new rookies -- coming in and out of here every five minutes, acting solemn, scaring the customers to death.  Audience is a little more in control than I would expect under the circumstances.”

 “Grappling hook,” he confides in Marty.

Marty understands.

Rodrigo hopes Mutt will arrive soon.

Inside Fred is also praying for the missing Mutt to walk in the door.  Something is up.  She has noticed that Rodrigo keeps sticking his nose in every few minutes and anxiously looking around.  Fred hadn’t realized that Performance Art interested Rodrigo.  She can barely tell he’s a male, and as are many of her species, she is usually quite good at determining such things.

It’s not that odd an occurrence, the Street dweller Rodrigo showing up this night.  He normally gravitates toward chaos.  Everyone assumes that is why he is in New Orleans.  For his residence he has been rewarded.  The City has refined his senses to such an extent that Rodrigo can now feel the onset of greater and lesser degrees of chaos.  He moves decisively toward the greater.  Rodrigo is a scientific register of deviation.  A lunacy seismograph.

He is carefully watching the Can-Can-Do insanity brew this particular evening.  The seismographic needle is fluttering madly.  He is making notations in the volume he has tucked under his arm.  Volume Eight:  Imbrocado to Kapellmeister.

Rodrigo looks into the Can-Can-Do again, just as Mel starts her move.  Mel is performing a move she calls The Titty Cyclone.  Swinging those silicone spheres around like she is going to send them into orbit.  Whoop.  Staggering a little on that last twirl, but she doesn’t go down.  Regaining her composure now.

Fred is worried.  She knows that Mel sometimes exhibits the same trait that Fred so despises in cats.  Whenever they make a gigantic goof they have to immediately toss off an even grander gesture.  So that nobody will remember the goof.  And here Mel goes.

The twister expands in scope.

Mel is really getting into it now.  She is also relating to the audience a little too heavily for her own good, bending over and talking in fairly explicit terms to her admiring male fans.  The breasts are most definitely and simultaneously atwirl.

The Cyclone may be actually getting out of hand this time, thinks Fred.  Where is that Mutt when I really need him?

Mel is in prime form, coaxing a customer sitting stageside.

“I bet you never see anything like this back home do you, handsome boy?  Check these out, sugar plum.”

She takes off her pasties and tosses them to the audience. 

To the two plainclothes officers in the audience.

The cops immediately begin yelling loudly through megaphones, turning on lights and pointing outside.


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