Academic journal article Southern Quarterly

Stain

Academic journal article Southern Quarterly

Stain

Article excerpt

I haven't been to Mardi Gras in ten years. My mother greets me at the New Orleans airport. I haven't seen her like this in a long time. She's done her hair and makeup, she looks relaxed and well-fed, and she's beaming with a mixture of mischief and wonderment that I know I inherited from her.

"Come here, I have to show you something!" She smiles wide-eyed as we leave the concourse and enter a plaza bordered by check-in counters and misplaced Creole eateries. "This was the triage area when we were being evacuated. There were little tents set up over there for emergency procedures. When I got here with your stepfather, he was on a stretcher, of course. We had to lay him down on his back over there on the luggage belt. But on the way, his urine bag was leaking all over the place. We lingered for a bit in this spot right here - and do you see this stain on the carpet? I'm positive that's from the bag! I can't believe it's still here after six months!"

People keep telling me that my story is worth sharing with the world. I've been trying for six months to preserve it in a narrative. I've tried vainly to immortalize the bone cancer diagnosis, the vertebra-replacement surgery, the advance of Katrina, my folks trapped in the hospital for four days with no-power-no-medication-no-food-no-outside-contact, media demons running our imaginations, getting word on day five on my way to the airport that they're alive and being airlifted to Texas, changing my flight destination from Jackson to Houston as the plane is boarding, doing my best to provide for and comfort the folks, screaming at the hotel Ty the smells and groans of the hospital, a Houstonian grumbling "now they're raping little girls in the Astrodome," diving in the hot turbulent waters of Galveston, paying a stripper to talk about cleaning garfish, talking to a cowboy about his transvestite girlfriend, hearing another cowboy's castrate-George-W-Bush fantasies, doing my best to provide for and comfort the folks, making out with a bored 50-something Thai barmaid, screaming more at the hotel TV, bidding adieu and heading home for work, watching the advance of Hurricane Rita, hearing Mom break down on the phone as they prepare to be airlifted yet again, then watching news footage of the strip mall next to the hospital burning as my folks' helicopter leaves for St. …

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