It was Fat Tuesday and she had always been curious about the holiday. She was not Catholic and she was not a Cajun but once when she was six years old she toured New Orleans with her parents. Bourbon Street was her favorite part, all that music, all those smells and dirty dancers with tassels on their nipples. Ever since that vacation, she had been appreciative of all things New Orleans but especially Mardi Gras, which she had always wanted to attend but never did.
She was in Gun Barrel City, Texas getting her toenails painted Disco Lurk and her fingernails painted Green Onion because the disability check had been deposited in her checking account. It was Fat Tuesday and she was in a festive mood. She sent sexy text messages to her boyfriend and drove to Wal-Mart intending to splurge on a King Cake, which she had seen and heard about but never eaten. She knew the King Cake was round with green, purple and yellow sugared icing and a plastic baby Jesus somewhere inside. She knew that whoever got the slice with the plastic baby Jesus inside was lucky and would get laid or win the lottery or something. This sort of thing made her ebullient, made her step on the gas and crank up the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on the stereo.
There were no King Cakes to be found in the Gun Barrel City Wal-Mart Supercenter. “Damn Baptists. Damn Texans,” she muttered. She would not accept defeat, not today. There was too much at stake. She had promised her son they would celebrate Fat Tuesday with a King Cake. He knew about the plastic baby Jesus.
He wanted proof.
The pricey grocery store down the street sold King Cakes. She bought one. She took it home and gave her son a slice.
“No baby Jesus,” he said.
“We’ll find him,” she promised.
Eventually the plastic baby Jesus was found. He was very pink and tiny.