Queenzie, a famous New Orleans drag queen, felt like an elephant was sitting on his throat when his 20-year old Chihuahua named Cha Cha passed on to her celestial transformation. Agnes had mastered the art of guarding the Raw Hide Bar while always on high alert 24/7 throughout her bitter life.
The sudden loss was mourned by all, even those customers wearing permanent bite marks. A black lace wreath with tiny pink paper rose buds hung on the front door of the bar while a huge water-color painting of Agnes rested on an easel in the entryway. A tiny aqua leather silver-studded collar, rhinestone earrings, Agnes’s porcelain feeding plate, lavender votive candles and her pink chenille bed were all reminders of her extended, surly, disagreeable life.
A final resting place for Agnes became a challenge. Queenzie insisted she lay in peace with his other family members at Saint Louis Cemetery #2. A large, above-ground tomb caked with algae, peeling paint and grime along with the name “BROCATO” carved in cement on the front was all part of the sun-bleached tombs. Generations of Queenzie’s family were buried inside that tomb. Queenzie was very familiar with the cemetery since many of his evening drug deals were conducted there. The spot was strangely comforting for him.
Queenzie wrapped Cha Cha up in bolts of lace lingerie remnants and placed her temporarily in a tarp in his basement freezer. This bought him both time to think things out and make good burial decisions.
Following a week of grieving, Queenzie took Agnes out of the freezer and into his car. He filled the back seat with gardening tools; an assortment of quilting needles and hoped the New Orleans August heat would not melt the body. The cemetery was normally always busy with tourists or burials in progress. He picked an off-time when the cemetery was vacant, right after dark, carrying his burlap bag of gardening tools to the location of his family tomb. Bending down on bony knees, he carefully took a razor-sharp knife from his canvas bag and like slicing a piece of sheet cake, he began slowly cutting a finely shaped square into the lush St. Augustine grass. Once all four sides were meticulously carved, he gently lifted the moist, square piece of sod and placed it on the side while holding the defrosting animal in his arms. He made certain none of the cemetery alcoholics of the evening noticed him. Red fingernails carefully polished, Queenzie placed Agnes inside the finely dug hole. He positioned the swatch of sod over her ever so neatly. Insistent that no one discover this was a final resting place for his beloved Agnes, he took his quilting needles and began to weave each blade of grass around the square sod until it all became one. Queenzie used manicure scissors trimming any unwanted loose pieces of grass. Finally the square cut piece of sod blended perfectly with the lawn. Agnes would now eternally be surrounded by family, while awaiting Queenzie’s arrival in years to come.
The Raw Hide Bar was never the same without the sounds and smells of Agnes. In less than a month, another dog named “Jolene” appeared without notice. She became the new custodian of the bar. Washed-out white with patches of black spots, Jolene had hay-like strands of coarse hair extending from her round body. Queenzie immediately enrolled her in the Krewe of Barkus, a “dog-only” Mardi Gras parade comprised only of canines who looped throughout the French Quarter each year. Wrapped in tangerine boas, Jolene clipped on the cobblestone streets proudly as she was destined to become a drag queen doggie. Plus, she was so proud to be part-owner of a famous New Orleans gay bar.
Jolene quickly became attached to Queenzie and developed her own style of a “she-devil” temper. She followed his every move, learning how to snap and bitch easily at all customers. She was taught early in life the tools of the trade on how to become mean at all times and revere red beans and rice with Andouille sausage, a typical New Orleans Monday meal. Soon the bar’s regulars would experience the bites and yowls of Jolene. Eventually, when grieving became easier, Queenzie put on his leopard skin leotards, chartreuse tutu and danced to old-fashioned strip songs on top of the bar. With his new co-owner.