Maison Bourbon, 9:23 p.m.

One drink minimum? Mint julep then. Posture erect, your tone affected, you say,

“Southern tradition requires us to sip a glass.” I plunk down $7.75, and another $1.25 for a tip I know the waitress doesn’t expect.

I mutter a curse, a hex I don’t quite believe in, at you—at this—while you smile and point to your ear, shake your head. I wave my hand; it doesn’t matter. Your hide’s too thick for voodoo, anyway. Nothing pricks your exterior.

Onstage, the bassist wishes it were midnight for more than one reason. His fingers pull on strings, up and down the frets—if his bass were a woman, she’d be worn out from his touch but too drunk to care. I know the feeling.

Is that jazz? I suppose—enough so the tourists are fooled, if you like Big Easy Lite, but I’ve heard better rhythm from the pigeons squawking in front of St. Louis Cathedral. Besame mucho, indeed.

If I try, I can almost hear the pulse-clatter-bop of the 1920s—but the 20-somethings, roaring for another beer or two, interrupt. The waitresses flounce off with the orders, more sweat dripping off them than the band. The music breaks—a trumpet’s panhandling squeal.

I look back at you, at the julep I didn’t want—the drink, like so much else, stands between us. I push it across the table, watch you swagger to swallow it, as if you’re taking in New Orleans—as if you’re taking in me, the Mambo’s gris-gris in my pocket no defense at all.

I fold in on myself, trembling. Your face flushed, you gnaw a mint leaf, and leer. Above a cymbal-crash, you shout, “Let’s head back to LaMothe House, make our own music.”

No amount of booze—or magic—can mend those broken notes.

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JC Reilly

JC Reilly

JC Reilly writes all manner of things: poems, stories, grocery lists, manifestos on the virtues of bagels, letters to the editors she never sends, and diatribes about waking up before her alarm goes off. Sometimes she blogs at
JC Reilly

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