What Mischief at the Governor's Ball?


AUTHOR'S NOTE: When I was in New Orleans, my friend gave me this writing prompt: "What mischief at the governor's ball?" On a hot Louisiana morning beneath the willows in Louis Armstrong Park, I wrote this short, short story. Enjoy with a sazerac in hand.

Wouldn't you like to know? Yes, you most certainly would. Well, I'll tell you, even though I swore myself to absolute secrecy.

The mischief began on a Wednesday, the worst day of the week—too soon to be excited for Saturday, too late to reminisce about Sunday. The Governor held his annual Donation Ball then because he knew no one else was doing anything except lamenting that it was Wednesday, which I've already mentioned is terrible.

Anyhoo, after receiving a spiffy invite and donning a semblance of a suit—the City Comptroller must look his best at all times, you see—I found myself swimming through the humidity into the Garden District. Gas-flame flickered within iron lanterns as I trotted up the front porch of the antebellum plantation home which dripped with greenery and that afternoon's shower. The evening breathed its July heat down my neck, turning the insides of my suit into an instant tropical storm. When I first moved to New Orleans, I used to pack bags of ice into my pockets to cool my nethers. Until, one day, the bags leaked leading to a most disturbing sight.

As I pushed through the doorway, music and laughter greeted me kindly. All the "who's" were there from the richest Vieux Carré cocktailers to the old money mansioneers. Drinking. Smoking. Southernizing. To be honest, I never cared much for those things. I'm the City Comptroller, if you can remember—not a man who enjoys such trifles. But when there's penny pinching to be had, I'm your man. Why, I smash those pennies into atoms.

So then I see them, Governor Billy and his wife. I don't believe she had a name. His introductions always went, "I'm Governor Billy and this is my wife." For the sake of this story, let's just call her "Tits." I shan't tell you why.

Governor Billy and Tits stalked through the drunken party-goers like Serengeti predators, prowling for new names to add to their donation list. They were bloody ruthless when it came to raising money for the Governor and his campaign. Butting in on conversations and dances without a goddamn pause of patience. Like every calendar year, the state's funds sank lower, and the Governor grew desperate for fresh cash to keep Louisiana afloat. If he didn't win re-election, his career—and life—would be over. No one cares for ex-governors. They're as dead a grilled catfish and never invited to parties. Poor boys.

Though Governor Billy inherited a momentous gin fortune, he never invested any of it into his campaign. He always relied on others to keep his job, and the state he loved, afloat. He was a bastard, if you pick up what I'm putting down. The selfishest, richest man the South had ever seen, and no one would ever change that.

After a few sips of my perspiring Dr. Pepper, I performed my usual party trick: stealing from the host. I'm the City Comptroller, as I've said several times before, not a perfect person by any stretch. But don't be alarmed: I didn't plan on keeping whatever I stole.

You see, these rich folk have gone everywhere and done everything. All they have left in life is to rub elbows with others like them, trading stories and counting the days to their death. I believed that by "removing" an item from their house these moneybags would have a jolly mystery!

"Where did my scrimshawed narwhal tusk disappear to?"

"Have you seen my priceless Rembrandt?"

"Why are my pearls not around my fat neck!?"

Once said item was found missing, they would proceed on a house, street and city-wide treasure hunt that would pre-occupy them unlike any horse race or gala ever could. It would fill their boring lives with mysterious fancy. Quite altruistic of me, if you look at it like that. At least, that's what I like to think, when I really should just fess up to being a kleptomaniac. For, once stolen, the item is never kept but flung willy-nilly into the mighty Mississippi.

So, back to the mischief, a short traipse up to the master bedroom illuminated my target. A Fabergé egg. And what a jewel-encrusted honeypot it was! It rested atop a crushed velvet pillow on a byzantine column at the foot of the bed. The egg must have been worth millions and would be noticed within minutes of missing so I had to act promptly.

I stuffed the egg into my pant's crotch, not realizing until later how elephantine my groin must have looked, and hurried down to the party. Well, I was so giddy from thieving the Governor's prized egg from beneath his mustachioed nose that I away'd to the nearest bayou to deposit my bounty post-haste. With a good luck kiss, I hurled that egg like a grenade right into the water with a satisfying plunk.

Ah, but my fun fizzled there, for the plunk silenced the singing cricket frogs which two boys had been hunting from the shore. Their young eyes locked on to the egg, its diamonds sparkling in the moonlight, and cast slack-jawed looks to one another. Instead of sinking (like my heart did), wouldn't you know it that egg floated! Right there in Bayou St. John. Bobbing like a top. Well, before those frogs could start burping again, the boys went a-splashing into that bayou and damn near drowned each other.

I nearly squealed with fear. Not wanting to be caught gold-handed, I bounded away like a jack-rabbit and didn't look a single person in the eye for an entire year. Not even my own mother, God rest her soul.

Life became hot and boring for a while until twelve months passed and another invitation arrived to announce the Governor's Donation Ball. Thinking I was out of the proverbial bayou, I decided it was high time I return to the scene of the crime to see what happened with Governor Billy and his rotten egg.

I arrived late and sweating, as I always do on summer nights, just as the moon rose above the Missipp'. To my perplexitude, parked right out front were a pair of dueling Dusenbergs, both apparently dipped in gold. Strangely aroused, I waltzed inside and came face to face with the two frog-hunting bayou boys dressed in tailored suits and top hats. Can you believe it? They were shaking hands with Governor Billy and signing the biggest donation check he had ever seen.