Peacocks – Quarter Stories 9

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1979: The crowds were still in full force around the stage for the Bourbon Street Awards and the only space available was under the balcony where the stage itself blocked the view but gave a bit of space to hang out. Clyde and Al and I watched the very end of the Bourbon Street Awards here under Lafitte’s beefed up balcony- it was closest to the front door where there was at least breathing room. It was just the 3 of us. Huge cheers had gone up for the last of the award and Ed Smith was winding the awards down. I was buzzed and very happy because I was hanging with my two favorite daddies and I know they were as buzzed as I was. I saw Al looking at me and just smiling. He grabbed me with both hands and gave me a big ol kiss on the lips.“I’m so happy to be here with you for your first time,” he said. “And I’m proud of you.” I choked up as this was a pretty huge for him to say. Clyde put his arms around both of us. This was a big moment. We 3 relished it. Then Al turned to me and Al said quietly, “Bobby I’m leaving on the redeye back to San Francisco tonight.”

This took me by complete surprise because for some reason I had never knew when we were leaving, I hadn’t thought about it. I said “we’re leaving?” My heart was dropping with the thought I wouldn’t be working here and that I’d have to go back. Clyde could read my thoughts it seemed, He jumped in and said “I think ol Al here is trying to tell you he forgot to buy you a return ticket.” They let that sink in for a few watching me and then they both burst out laughing and said “You gotta work!” I was stunned. “So I can stay?!?”

“As long as you want” Clyde said. “You can even have the front bedroom for now cause the house will start to empty out.” I just kept huggin onto these two big daddies, they hugged back, rubbed my head and we wrestled around a bit. I was a little sad but also excited to not be going back to San Francisco. All I could do was look at them both in the eyes. I was a little choked up. Clyde broke that spell quickly, “We all better be getting back to the house now before George gets hold of us,” Al said. “Jesus, we can’t have that,” replied Al. And with arms around each other the 3 of us worked our way around the stage, enjoying hanging onto each other and walking through the crowds towards the stage ramp. We ran right into Jason who was upset and nervous and staring right at me.

“What’s up?” I said as the 3 of us stopped. Jason said, “I need to talk to you now.” “What about?” I asked. Jason didn’t reply. Clyde said “You best go with Jason. We’ll see you at home.” Clyde frowned, he had an intuition. I didn’t and both he and Al knew enough that I needed to go with Jason.

“We gotta get in back of the bar now,” Jason wasn’t even looking at me. He was already heading back in the direction we had just came. I chased after him saying “What, we gotta work?” He turned right at the front doors, looked me in the eye and stated. “The Ayatollah quit. Walked out. Did the night banks and left. He’s already on a plane to Houston.” I was stunned. I thought to myself, “Steve had quit. What the fuck does this mean?” I was so up and now I was down. I thought I should ask Louie about this. Then I dismissed that idea.

Jason and I shoved our way to the back counting area where Jeff Beauregard was on a stool with a drink in his hand. Some of the other bartenders were there and had heard the news. Looking very serious, Jeff beckoned us over and we sat on the barstools next to him. “For the last night of Mardi Gras, this was not what I was expecting.” We sensed enough to not say anything. Jeff said flatly, “Steve has quit. He’s done the banks. Nothing has changed regarding any shifts but be fucking on time tonight and be expected to be watched. As of now I’m acting manager but the office will be on our asses tonight. I need you to have my back.” We all nodded in agreement.

The other guys walked out leaving Jason and I with Jeff. “Jason, you know this routine. Bobby I hope you ain’t planning on going anywhere back to California cause we’re gonna need you.” My head was spinning. At least I had the job still. Jason piped up and declared, “Neither one of us works mornings, we’re telling you that right now.” Mornings was the lowest form of life for a New Orleans bartender. Jeff nodded. “You won’t.” “And we want to be moved downstairs to the café” Jason was being pushy. Jason got quiet. He’d won one battle. “You ok?” I asked Jeff. He nodded and the look in his eyes told me he appreciated me asking. “I’m staying,” I said, “you need help, call me at Clyde’s” “Don’t think I won’t Bobby!” Jeff said. “No idea yet on how all this will work out. You two have nothing to worry about. You go give those boys a hell of an end of Mardi Gras.” We left Jeff sitting on his stool. He hadn’t even touched his drink.
Jason and I pushed through the packed bar and out onto the street. Then we went our separate ways down Bourbon Street.

The gate at 1132 was wide open and the hallway was filled up with suitcases with guys leaving, jumping in cabs. Then I saw Al. He was getting ready to leave in an airport van to head to the airport and back to San Francisco. A lonely feeling swept over me. I owed this man a lot. We hugged. My life would not be the same because of him and I told him that. “Awww, you’ll be out to see me, just come to San Francisco and skip the LA part.” He winked. Then I watched him throw his bag in the back of the van and get in. Clyde watched from the stoop. Al gave us a big smile and waved.

Clyde and George said “Bobby, let’s go in the back.” We went into their room in the slave quarters. They shut the door. George gave me a screwdriver. George ordered “Drink!” I did. “Steve gone?” Clyde asked. I began to see this as an interrogation. “How’d you know?” I replied “He up and quit didn’t he?” George wanted to know. “Yeah, I guess he’s already on his way to Houston,” I said. “Jeff Beauregard is in charge—for now.” Clyde added. It was beginning to dawn on me what was going on. “You guys knew!” I said. They both gave me a quizzical look. “Of course we knew Bobby,” George began, “you are cute but did you think that Steve was gonna hang around this French Quarter without Louie Hartfield’s horsecock going up his ass? It was only a matter of time.” Clyde was now speaking seriously “Louie is family. I knew that trouble with Steve was coming the night it happened”

The 3 of us stared at each other a minute at this situation and then we busted out laughing cause it was so obvious to them. I had been oblivious to it all. George continued “I’m sure Louie already knows and when we get to Jewel’s tonight he’ll be like a peacock with all those pretty feathers out and struttin–even more than usual.” At that we all started laughing again—everything was starting to seem so funny I couldn’t stop.

I told George I was staying and he looked at me in the eyes and said, “Of course you are. I knew the minute Al brought you to us.” For the second time I just choked up and stared at these men in this house. Al had asked them to take care of me. And they had. But now I was beginning to wonder if I didn’t have a part of my own.

“By the look on Jason’s face you better get cleaned up for that bar. I think you’re gonna see some fine looking peacock tonight!” Clyde bawled. That cracked us all up. We went out to the courtyard. A few big raindrops were starting to fall into the pond. I was wondering what tonight would bring. I bounded up the stairs for a shower. I stopped at the door to my room. I didn’t even have a return ticket. What the hell!
When I got to the bar that night, I could tell something wasn’t quite right. The energy was off, there was some tension. Jason and I got our banks and he got a couple shots for us to get our night started. We slugged em down. “Goddamn it! What the hell is that bitter shit I just drank again?!?” He looked at me like it was juice. “Just a little speed in some soda water. With what’s going on, we’re gonna need all the help we can get behind that bar tonight.”

I got a shot schnapps for both of us. I just needed to get the bitter taste outta my mouth. We relieved the afternoon bartenders who seemed awfully nervous, and then we were behind that bar a from late afternoon until way after midnight. He was right—we needed those shots.

It was the last day of Mardi Gras, that meant at midnight it would all be over. Jason and I drank a lot of shots. Dennis, the hot guy from Pensacola who had been after me all weekend, came right up to me in a wild mood grabbing and kissing me and telling me we were meeting later. He liked hanging out at Louie’s end of the bar, so I said I’d meet him there as soon as I could. “No note for Louie?” he asked. “Hmmmmm,” I thought. “Nope, I’m gonna keep him guessing.”He gave me a questioning look, then turned and headed back down the stairs.

At the stroke of midnight, Mardi Gras was officially over. And with that, the cops started down Bourbon Street making everyone immediately move off the street itself and onto the sidewalks and into the bars. Once forced inside It was non-stop pouring liquor and popping beer open till past 1 am when the crowd seemed to have had their fill. You could hear the sirens on the streets. The cops were serious—some on foot, in squad cars, and on horseback too. A lot of drunks were trying to hang out as long as they could. But the bar was clearly emptying out around 2am, so Jason sent me back to count the tip money out. Then he came back to join me, leaving Craig on his own. Jeff came back soon after, and brought us more shots and sat. “Y’all did fantastic!” he said. “Lonnie from the office was in just to make sure it was all handled and didn’t stay long, thank god!” Jeff was smiling now ear to ear. “You two are done for tonight but I need to talk to both of you tomorrow at 4, so be here on time!” Jason answered before I could, “Yup, we got you Jeff!” He smiled and Jeff kissed both of us.

I got outta Lafitte’s and made sure I stayed on the sidewalks cause the cops were still out and so were the drunks. I was still high and very horny and my mind was racing with all that had happened over the last several hours. It was gonna rain. You could feel it in the air. It would be a relief too cause the streets smelled bad.

I burst through the doors of Jewel’s to see Louis holding a very large court at the end of the bar and even Dennis was forced back due to the homage being paid to the Shah. “Curtis!” Louis shouted over the crowd. He caught me making my way down the bar. ”How you doing Curtis? You ok? They treating you ok?” Dennis heard him shouting my name, and made his way though the crowd towards me, grabbed me and planted a big ol kiss on me. We made our way up to Louie, who immediately made two guys get off their barstools right next to him. We tried to sit but I was wound up. Louie continued, “Now, I’ve been taking good care of your boys here so Curtis, tell me how was the bar tonight?” he said, using his southern drawl for all it was worth, toying with us he went on. “And I’m concerned about my dear ex…” Now after the night I just had, this wrankled.“You are not, Louie! I yelled, a little louder than I intended. “George knew Steve left, Clyde too, even before I was told at the bar. And you knew before they did!” “You have this planned?” Louie smiled even wider now, clearly relishing every moment. He’d kept tabs on Steve using his spies and all his powers, especially the one kept buttoned up in his jeans. It dawned on me I was probably his best spy as the new kid in town and unaware of all the drama that had happened before I got there.

“Oh, the pressure, the pressure must’ve gotten to him!” Louis remarked, acting like Steve’s departure was a surprise to him. Louie was sure he’d become the next manager of Lafitte’s. It was the natural succession, Clyde and George both knew this too. It now made sense. All the bar staff knew now that Steve had left and Louie found himself surrounded by a crowd of admirers, preening himself, strutting around and relishing his newly acquired position of power ready to take back his throne at Lafitte’s. Then Louie looked crowd and yelled, “Or maybe he missed the pressure of my big fat dick and he had to leave the entire state of Louisiana and try Texas!” Everyone laughed and the shots were flowing. “You’re gonna be fine!” He decreed. “So, is the Shah returning?” I taunted, curious about his answer. “Well now we have to see about that…the pressure you know….”

Louie was annoying me now. I felt completely used. I grabbed Dennis and and headed for the exit.

“Let’s get outta here,” I said and we made it to the double doors of Jewel’s and out into the night, grabbing each other and stopping to making out, on the sidewalk and up against brick walls. The rain was starting. You could feel the big drops and I asked Dennis if he wanted to come home with me. “Fuck yeah!”

We ran down the street towards Bourbon, taking off our shirts, getting soaked, both very high and horny. I somehow got my keys out of my soaked jeans with Dennis all over me and opened the gate and got into the house. Dennis was impressed with the place and stopped to check out the stairs, the parlor, the height of the ceilings.

I suddenly remembered Clyde said I could have the front big bedroom tonight. The main house was quiet, the guests were gone or not home, so we tore up the stairs and into the big bedroom, landing on the big bed, tearing our jeans and boots off. We couldn’t keep our mouths off each other. Naked with raging hard-ons, we rolled around on the bed suckin and fuckin while outside the raining was coming down hard and lightening and thunder was hitting all around us. Then I had a wild inspiration and got up and opened the high window that opened onto the front gallery. I pulled Dennis outside. We were right over the sidewalk on Bourbon Street. There was hardly a soul on the street now, but if anyone looked up they would two naked guys grinding, humping and kissing up against the wrought iron railing. I pushed Dennis down onto the roof of the gallery and nailed him hard. We could hear people running from the rain right under us. The rain was falling hard now on us as we wrestled and fucked on those rough roof boards until we both came. We dragged ourselves back into the bedroom and fell into bed, holding each other and making out and we laughed until we fell asleep, waking every now and then to make out some more and fuck.

“What has happened tonight? Where the hell am I?” He asked at some point as I lay there beside him, rubbing his chest. I started to say something about the bar and the house, and him and me, but then stopped. I kissed him instead. There were no words I could could say then, that could possibly describe all that had happened over the course of that weekend. That would have to wait for another time, when I truly could better understand what a place I had been dropped into. We fell asleep in that big ol bed, in that big ol house, and those big ol clouds dropping that rain washing away all the sins of Mardi Gras.