When he had been roused back to consciousness by Mrs. Muriel, Buddha sat up and Mr. Curtis snatched the old fedora from Buddha’s head. He started trying to shape the hat, then looked at Buddha disapprovingly when the hat didn’t fit just right. Buddha shook his head and thought, ‘Yeah, it’s him.’
Spider grabbed Buddha’s hand, having returned from up town with the signed checks, and pulled him up. “You alright? You didn’t have to come in today…”
“You did.” Buddha gave his friend a meaningful, unblinking stare.
“I thought it would help me to stay occupied.” Spider shrugged and turned from the knowing eyes.
“Maybe it’ll help me, too.”
“Cool. Look, since you’re here, no one brought the candles to St. Ferdinand. I need you to get them blessed and get them all back before tomorrow.”
Even though the Prince was a magician, wizard, or priest, he made his living as a pardoner who dealt in religious relics, namely prayer candles. New Orleans is a city built heavily on its Catholic roots. The main example is that the state of Louisiana is divided among parishes, more like a diocese than a state with their counties – even more so is the city of New Orleans because every neighborhood had a church. In the not so distant past the only form of indisputable birth record was the church’s Christening records, and family Bibles with genealogies signed by priests were the forerunners to the Department of Vital Statistics. With that type of ingrained, almost genetic, association with church and the saints, the Prince made a fortune selling prayer candles. The glass candles themselves were painted in Haiti, which shares a voodoo connection to the Church of Rome, then they were blessed by Father Quentin O’Flannery at the church of St. Mary on Ferdinand and Royal in the Faubourg Marigny.
“I better hurry then, because if I’m late, he’ll make me sit through mass. Where’s George?”
“He already went that way with a load of candles, St. Valentine’s day and St. Anthony’s cleaned us out. Plus, he went to get there early so he could be in time for confession.”
Buddha’s temple thumped. “Confession? George is Jewish. Jews don’t confess.”
“Father Lucious says Catholics don’t have a monopoly on sin or confession. Maybe he just wanted someone to talk to.”
Fish ran out from some menial task behind the register and gave Spider a pleading look.
“Yes, Fish, you can go, too.”
Buddha, exasperated with this second change in such a short time, walked out the back door where the old beach combers they used for deliveries usually stood. There in their place were two shiny new Redline Valkyrie series Freestyle bikes. “Where did these come from?”
“A silver guy brought ‘em.”
“Tinman Taz.” Buddha stormed back into the store. “Where did the new bikes come from?” he asked again.
“Rambo had ‘em. Tinman Taz brought ‘em since ‘Bo is in jail.” Spider said.
Buddha turned to grab his backpack from the place on the floor where he had fainted earlier, when he had a sickening thought. He froze and stared down at that backpack he carried every day in horror. The backpack was like his world on the go. No matter what life threw at the bald kid, if he had his backpack, he had what he might need. It was like a Bat Utility Belt, a D&D bag of holding, and Hermione’s purse all rolled into one.
Buddha’s grieving mind knew every item in that bag. He also knew that at the bottom of that bag was the letter that he had pulled out of the mailbox on St. Anthony’s Day. What if he had given that letter to Jesi?
Everyone was surprised that Bobby came home early. Would she have had the power to resist that temptation to get high, the temptation that killed her, if she knew he was coming home?
The boy shook his head and put on the backpack. Only now, it wasn’t the comfortable bag that gave him his strength. It was an anvil with straps. He set it down on the chair and said, “Hey, I’m gonna leave this here.”
There was an audible gasp as Mrs. Muriel and Spider said in chorus, “You never.”
Buddha rubbed his eyes with his palms and shouted, “Well people change, dammit!” he snatched up the candles and stormed out.