Bayou Mardi Gras - Suzanne Jenkins
The inhabitants of Cypress Cove spend the weeks after Christmas recovering from overimbibing—and preparing for Lent. In a few short weeks, they’ll celebrate Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. And Fat Tuesday means Mardi Gras. Only here in the bayou, Mardi Gras lasts for a season, not just a day.
Starting on the day after Three Kings, or Epiphany, the parties and feasting begin in anticipation of the next forty days of fasting before Easter. Mardi Gras is a season of family celebration, not just one night of debauchery where out-of-towners flash to get beads like they do in New Orleans.
In Cypress cove, the parties and parades begin on Epiphany, with everyone participating, switching their Christmas decorations for the traditional decorations of carnival time using the colors purple, representing justice; green, representing faith; and gold, representing power. Beads, satin bunting, masks and fairy lights adorn every building and surface. Floats are given their last once-over in preparation for the parades that will take over the village every weekend until Lent.
For hours before parade time, families line up along the curbs on both sides of Main Street for blocks, bringing folding chairs and playpens, big picnic hampers with fried oysters and fried catfish and fried shrimp and fried chicken. For dessert, Fat Tuesday donuts and king cake, bread pudding and more. Vendors are there, too, with po’boys and mini muffulettas, shrimp and sausage gumbo and hush puppies, soft-serve ice cream in every flavor, funnel cakes, and all the carnival foods.
At Bayou Cottage, food preparation was also over the top. Maggie Angel went a little nutty, for the first time baking her version of king cake. She’d let her boyfriend, veterinarian Justin Chastain, talk her into decorating for Christmas, and then she’d had an accident and couldn’t really enjoy the holiday until after the fact. And now she was obsessed, taking it out on Mardi Gras.
After New Year’s Eve, she finally got the holiday spirit and went all out for the next six days during the countdown to Epiphany. For Epiphany Eve, or Twelfth Night, Maggie planned what started out as a small party for their few close friends and family. The guest list rapidly ballooned to include the people she’d met at the wild horse preservation meetings and all of her new acquaintances in town.
Then, adding more excitement, her best friend from childhood, Annie Casson, who had married a local Cypress Cove guy, called her.
“Guess who just got in touch?”
“I’m afraid to ask,” Maggie said, flaring her nostrils. The quintessential introvert, although she was having fun with the planning of the party, Maggie still didn’t like surprises. “Who?”
“Right! She’s going to be in the area on business and wants to see us.”
Exhaling, Maggie sat down at the kitchen table with a relieved plunk. Kat Blanchard was one of the three musketeers of their neighborhood. Inseparable through their teenage years until college intervened.
“I’d love to see her!” Maggie said, relieved. “Is she selling medical supplies here?”
“Yes. Respirators or something awful like that. She’ll be in Saint John’s Parish. I said she could stay with me and Steve, but I think the family scene here was a turnoff because she mentioned staying at a room for rent above Café Delphine.”
“After living Katrina’s life, Cypress Cove is going to seem a little disheveled,” Maggie said, snickering.
“She’s lived a charmed life. And it’s because she made the effort, that’s for sure. I’m not saying it was handed to her, either.”
Out of the three girls, Katrina had been the loner, the one who resisted relationships and had set her goal as a solitary woman so there’d be no compromise, no man to try to please. It was all about making the grade in the company she represented, growing wealth, and having a certain lifestyle that few people would achieve. She even had her own driver.
“Tell her to come. She can stay with me, and then she’ll be here for our party on Monday night.”
“She mentioned wanting to be here for Mardi Gras. Could you stand someone in the cottage with you for six weeks?”
“Oh! Thought she was just passing through.”
“So did I, but then the topic of Mardi Gras came up.”
“Yes, it would be fine. Would she work remotely?”
“She would with travel.”
Then Maggie said conspiratorially, “It might put a crimp in my sex life with Justin, but he’s talking about getting his own place, and having Katrina here may be the catalyst to getting him to move out of his father’s house.”
“Oh god, that’s too