Masquerade Night
by Karen

New Orleans, Present Day

Standing square shoulder to square shoulder, ramparts of glass and steel rose above Canal Street all the way up and down the historic French Quarter. Beyond the glittering lights of modern day high- rises, brick townhouses, and marquees, the ante-bellum houses of the Deep South appeared. They looked much as tourists imagined they would: all marble pillars, whitewashed walls, and gabled roofs.

Elsewhere, in the back streets where it was born, the syncopated strains of jazz could be heard at all hours. The odors of river silt, gasoline, tobacco and shrimp, among other less discernible scents wafted through the air.

A fiery curtain of red/black fire appeared and hovered about ten feet above a crowded street in the heart of the Garden District.

It expanded outwards in a circle, then deposited two figures: one red and one green, on the sidewalk. Then it vanished.

A woman on her way back from market shopping chanced to look up at that particular point in the sky: "Dey must be starting the fireworks early," she said just as the fiery corona vanished.

A man passing by overheard her and said, "Nah, it's too early for the town to be getting up with the pyrotechnics for Carnival.

"That dere must be just a shooting star or something like. Did you make a wish?"

"Now if it is or isn't? Besides if I did make a wish, if I told you it wouldn't come true," the woman said as she hailed a cab.

"Yeah," another person said.

Meanwhile Brooklyn and Sata picked themselves up and started looking around their surroundings attempting to get their bearings. They realized they had something of an audience and hurriedly capped their wings.

"You're a little early for the festivities, folks. You got several hours' march on the rest of us. Which Krewe you with?" a tall, muscular black man remarked upon seeing the two winged figures standing on the sidewalk who peered around and shook their heads as if trying to clear out the cobwebs. "Nice entrance though. You okay?" the man asked.

"We're fine. Thanks. Could you tell us where we are?" Brooklyn asked.

"How is it, you've come somewhere, and now you don't know where you've come to." He shook his head. "Never mind. And to answer your question, you're in New Orleans. By the way, since we're at it, the name's Jordan Robbins. What's yours?" the man said, extending a hand to shake.

"I'm Brooklyn," the brick red gargoyle replied, running a hand through his long, tangled mane of white hair.

"If you say so, man. Who's your lady friend?" Jordan asked. "You guys seem a bit lost. You tourists or something?"

"I am called Sata. It is a pleasure to meet you," the Japanese gargoyle bowed.

"Well, Brooklyn, Sata, it's my pleasure to meet you both. And if this is your intended destination, you couldn't have picked a better night for it! Why, don't you know what night this is?"

Brooklyn and Sata looked askance at each other, wondering what made this night more special than any other.

"No Jordan-san. But I am sure you will be more than pleased to tell us," Sata replied.

"Why, It's Mardi Gras!" Jordan exclaimed.

"Mardi Gras? Sata asked, wondering what the strange sounding words meant.

"Only the biggest party anywhere. It's like one big celebration made of a bunch of small celebrations, all rolled into one! The big party before Epiphany or the beginning of Lent," Jordan replied.

"Is it always this humid here,' Sata gasped a little in the heavy air.

"Yeah, this climate is terrible. Fit for nothing. Well, except shrimp. If it floods, that's when the sycamores start seeding." Jordan frowned, and then smiled, thinking of the sycamores that surrounded his home in the French Quarter. "I love de weather, your gills dry out if you go inland. That's why we call it the Crescent City."

"Do you live here? It sounds like you love your home," Sata asked, a small shadow passed across the jade-green gargoyle's face as she fondly recalled her first meeting with Brooklyn under the shade of the apple blossom trees in the garden of her home is Ishimura. The way Jordan talked of the sycamores made her think of those trees before leaving her home to travel through time with Brooklyn.

"Born and bred. Couldn't imagine living anywhere else, growing up. I love it here. I was working the shrimp boats that come in off the Mississippi, until I got my big break. You mind if we walk while we talk?"

"Not at all," Sata replied. Falling into step Brooklyn and Sata followed Jordan down the street.

"Yeah, I got the call to play in the major league baseball. My brother, well he went off to Nam. Me, I went to play with the Kansas City Royals."

"What position do you play?" Brooklyn asked.

"One of the few southpaws," Jordan replied.

"I do not understand," Sata asked, as she peered at the man's hands. "Southpaw?"

"It means I'm left-handed," Jordan laughed.

"We've been out of touch for a while," Brooklyn said.

"My brother, Jeff, after the war ended, moved to New York. He managed to make it out alive, but he was cut in some shelling and lost his sight. So, I think I know what you mean when you say, you've been out of touch," Jordan said.

Alarm bells were going off in Brooklyn's mind as he heard the word 'Nam. For some reason a bit of memory stirred from the places where such things were stored; he tried to make the piece of the puzzle fit with what he was hearing. He tried to put the word 'Nam fit with the name Robbins. For a while he walked along only half listening to what Jordan was telling them, when it clicked.

"Jordan, you wouldn't be related to a guy named Jeffrey Robbins, would you?" Brooklyn asked.

"Yeah, I would be. But how did you know? He lives in Manhattan now, but he usually keeps to himself. I sure didn't expect y'all to know him," Jordan said.

"It is a small world," Sata teased, as she elbowed Brooklyn and whispered, "See, I too am capable of learning these gaijin expressions of yours. You promised to teach me."

"Gaijin?" Are you Japanese, Sata?" Jordan asked, amused, but holding back his laughter at the interplay between the couple.

"Ah, it's kind of a long story, but my uh grandfather, met him about two years ago, " Brooklyn answered

"What's your grandfather's name? I receive a few letters now and then from Jeff. Although, I have to get someone to translate them from Braille to English, so's I can read them. He might have mentioned your grandfather," Jordan said thoughtfully.

"Uh, his name is Hudson, like the river," Brooklyn replied, wondering what weird impulse guided the Phoenix Gate and its reasons for selecting particular times and places.

"Hudson? I remember reading something about a fellow named Hudson, and Jeff being inspired to keep writing his novels, if I recall correctly," Jordan remarked.

"That would be him," Brooklyn answered.

"Your grandfather must be a remarkable individual, Jordan said.

Thinking of Hudson, his clan's elder and mentor, Brooklyn realized he hadn't thought of the Manhattan clan in a long time, He wondered if it was because he wanted to avoid feelings of being home-sick. The next thing he thought of was if Sata missed her clan back in Japan.

"Yes. Yet Brooklyn-san has not yet fulfilled his promised to introduce me to the other members of his family," Sata laughed.

"Yet my grandfather, Honshu, he tells me, resembles Hudson a great deal.

"I know you won't want this free advice, Brooklyn but, you have got to introduce the cherie to the family sooner or later. You can't put it off forever." Jordan shook his head.

"See, he can turn an even more interesting shade of red," Sata teased.

"Oh! Shut up!" Brooklyn muttered under his breath, as his naturally red coloring hid his blushing. "What's that?"

"It's a trolley car, Come on, I'll show you around."

The small group boarded the streetcar and sat down on the reversible wooden seats, Sata and Brooklyn next to each other, while Jordan assumed the seat opposite them. While the car trundled through streets lined with great oaks as Jordan pointed out historical landmarks.

"Once upon a time, there was a streetcar named Desire, so called for a tenement made legendary by a playwright named Tennessee Williams."

"That there is the Voodoo Shop on Dumanie Street where you can get gris-gris for almost every malady you can name and some you can't."

"Voodoo?" Sata asked.

"It's kind of like magic brought over to New Orleans by African slaves and their descendants until the 1920'. Some its rituals still survive in local 'spiritual' churches," Jordan explained.

"Do they play music all night? Sata asked, wondering why there were bands everywhere.

"Pretty much." Jordan shrugged.

"That's my favorite restaurant, Commander's Palace, where dey serve up haute Creole cuisine."

Jordan pointed out the windows towards a restaurant that stood several stories tall.

"If you're playing baseball in the majors," Brooklyn interjected suddenly. "How is it..." he trailed off.

"You mean, how did I sneak away for this?" Jordan finished. "I took a personal holiday."

"Man, we never have anything like this back in Manhattan!" Brooklyn exclaimed.


Jordan checked his watch, and motioned the trolley driver to let them off at Bourbon Street, and the three off got out of the streetcar.

"I figured you were from New York, but were you really named after a New York borough?" Jordan asked the brick red gargoyle.

"Yeah, I was," Brooklyn replied, taken a little off guard.

"Not the bridge."

"Bridge? What bridge?" Sata asked.

"Brooklyn Bridge," Jordan said.

"Come in through Ellis Island, did you, Sata?" Jordan asked.

"NO, I have never been to New York, but..."

"You guys hungry?" Jordan suddenly asked.

"Yes, but, please, you do not have to pay our way. You have done more than enough already." Sata said.

"Hey, it's no problem. If you guys know Jeff, then you're all right in my book," Jordan smiled. He stepped over to a nearby food stand and bought several items from the propietter. Upon his return, he handed Brooklyn and Sata something sweet and sticky, wrapped in white paper, and several napkins.

"What are they?" Sata as she sniffed at it.

"Deep fried eggplant covered with powdered sugar. Trust me, you'll love it," Jordan reassured her noting the skeptical look in her eyes.

Eyeing the treat askance, Sata took a cautious bite, chewed and swallowed a morsel, as a beaming smile spread across her face. Seeing that she was enjoying it, Brooklyn started eating his.

"Thank you, Jordan," Brooklyn said.

"You're welcome, guys," Jordan answered, folding his arms across his chest.


The three stood on a curb near Main Street. For blocks around, the crowd anticipated the arrival of the parade floats, and was stacked several rows deep. Meanwhile, the ever-present jazz bands played a medley of songs.

"And you say they do this every year?" Brooklyn shouted to be heard.

"I have never seen anything like this. We celebrated New Year back in Japan with small parades and red paper lanterns with candles. But this, this is, loud and noisy....'"Sata trailed off.

"You having fun, Sata?" Brooklyn asked, finishing off his treat. "This isn't bad. Wait until you taste pretzels" he said, as he thought that for the first time since he began this strange journey through time, the talisman responsible for it, had actually made the trip bearable this time around. He nudged Sata and grabbed her hand, pulling her up near Jordan where they could get a better view.

Just then the parade began, a seemingly endless stream of floats. Trying to outdo each other in sometimes bizarre, sometimes exotic designs. The people aboard were outfitted in costumes that were inspired from classical themes complete with kings, queens, and courtiers. As the masked and costumed royalty tossed strings of beads, aluminum doubloons, and other items as the slowly passed by.

Brooklyn and Sata's precarious position was jostled by a woman in a red dress, draped in all manner of beads and strings, who stretched out an arm to catch a plastic frog thrown by a man dressed as a Zulu king.

"What is this music?" Sata asked, ignoring the woman.

"It's called jazz," Jordan replied, thinking the woman looked familiar.

"As soon as I hear proper music, I'll dance to it." Sata crossed her arms and watched Jordan and Brooklyn move to the rhythm of the music. The good thing she could think about this jazz was that the tone and tempo of the beat reminded her of the Kodo drummers of home. Her tail twitched unconsciously with the music.

"Man, I love this stuff," Jordan yelled.

"I shall take your word for it," Sata replied.

The music changed to a ballad that was much more soothing to Sata's ears. Brooklyn capped his wings and made a low bow. "May I have this dance?" he said.

"Sure. Don't worry, I won't try to cut in," Jordan teased.

Brooklyn looked up at her with such earnestness that Sata found herself taking his hand before she realized that she was going to do so. It was not custom, but Sata became caught up in the rhythm of the music Jordan called jazz. Sata allowed herself a radiant smile of pleasure as Brooklyn whirled her around in the street.

Jordan watched them and grinned, wondering what the 'elders' back home thought about this. At the same time, perversely wishing the two of them the best of luck.

"When you return to New York, I'll bet you'll have more than a few stories to tell about this!" Jordan shouted.

Eventually the last float went by and the street revelers started to drift away.

"I don't think we'll go just yet. You won't want to miss the fireworks. "

Sata and Brooklyn broke off their dance, and wondered what was going on.

A rocket leapt skywards and halfway there, burst into a green blue stemmed tree in full bloom. It dissipated into brilliant pinpricks of light. It was followed by others, one after another; a virtual garden of blue, red, white, pink, and purple flowers, all in various shapes and sizes. A flower for each season of the year, followed by sizzling cannonballs that raced into the night until the sparks broke apart into colored bits and pieces of light.

The show ended as the pyrotechnic crew set off the last remaining sparklers, pinwheels, roman candles and sundry fireworks.

"It was beautiful!" Sata whispered, not daring to speak louder and break the spell.

"It was incredible," Brooklyn echoed, as he held Sata's hand.

"If you see my brother again, tell him you saw me, and that I'm doing well," Jordan said.

"We will, Jordan-san,' Sata promised.

"Is there somewhere you guys are staying?" Jordan trailed off.

Brooklyn looked up into the sky, the color was just beginning to hint at changing from the deep gray of night to dawn. Brooklyn wondered if Sata and he could sneak off somewhere before the sun rose and turned them to stone for the day.

"Uh, no. Thank you for everything, Jordan, but I think it's time for us to be going. If we see your brother, we'll be sure to give him the news," Brooklyn promised.

"Can I give you a lift somewhere?" Jordan asked.

Feeling the familiar tug of the Phoenix Gate, Brooklyn put his hand on it and felt it through the fabric of the pouch he carried it in. Seeing the worried look on Brooklyn's face, Sata drew a little closer to him.

"No, that will not be necessary. But, thank you anyway. We will never forget you Jordan-San. But it seems we really must be going." Sata said.

"I think this is one Mardi Gras that I will remember for a long time. Good luck, Brooklyn, Sata. Remember, here in the Big Easy, we have a motto, ''Joie de vivre." It means, joy of life," Jordan said.

Suddenly, the corona of the time portal emerged once more and captured its two passengers in its sphere of fire and light. It expanded to accommodate both, as it sent Brooklyn and Sata back into the time stream and onward to their next destination.


The official signal sounded, indicating the end of Mardi Gras as the New Orleans City police moved in and began to empty the streets of the drunken revelers, and the very few sober ones.

"Now, I wonder if my brother was keeping back more than he told me," Jordan whispered to himself.

"Now, those were great costumes, man!" A man with two beers in either hand, shouted out, seeing the gargoyles vanish in the fiery glare of the Phoenix Gate.

"Yeah, I wonder what float they were on. They could have won first prize, hands down," another man commented, puffing on his cigarette.

"Had the cutest little cherie with him, too,' the woman in the red dress added, counting her accumulation of strings and beads for the night.

"You don't know the half of it," Jordan replied.

"Hmm. Wonder where they ran off to. They were here a minute ago,'" she added.

"They're on their way home," Jordan said. The thought again crossed his mind, that something rather magical had just happened to him tonight. Thinking as he did so, that some equally magical happened to his brother, Jeffrey; inspiring him to keep writing his novels even after he'd been blinded during the Vietnam War. "I gotta get to a phone. I need to call my brother!"

"I think this has been a most magical night, don't you agree?" the woman in red remarked, "I'm Donna Voight. What's your name?"

"You can say that again. It's Jordan, Jordan Robbins."

"Tell your fortune," Donna offered,

"No thanks."

"Don't you want to know what the future will be like?" Donna asked.

"Not right now. I just want to hold on to the memories of the present, and remember what a special night this Mardi Gras has been Jordan said, as he walked down the street heading towards his home in the Garden District.

Donna Voight followed him with her eyes, and whispered to herself. "He has joie de vivre. Wonder what strangers far from home he met tonight."


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