Having literally blown into North Alabama from New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, my life became surreal as I searched for distractions in any way I could find it. Having owned four addresses in four months, I lived like a gypsy and remained in a baffled and confused state of mind. Shortly after the hurricane, I found myself sipping copious amounts of coffee at a quiet North Alabama Waffle House with people I didn’t know who all spoke a strange language and ate massive amounts of grits. In spite of escaping the worst hurricane in history and a few tornados along the way, I felt comfort with these genuine people, who were a true living example of “Southern Hospitality.” Quite a change from the “Murder-A-Day” life I had lived in New Orleans.
Rather than flea markets, N. Alabama has “trade days.” The first one I visited was snugly placed into a small slice of a suburban shopping center surrounded by hills, trees, flora and fauna along with sparkling neon lights of a Papa John’s Pizza. Once inside the building, my retinas were bombarded by vertical steel structures with climbing tube socks, neon wildlife T-shirts, and more funnel cakes than the law allows. Blinking, I headed down the aisles and focused on the strangest things. Ear clips for cows? Bottles of poison for critters? Where were nose rings, leather jewelry collars, and rusted ironware? Where were broken cemetery pieces for sale? That’s the flea market I knew in the French Quarter of New Orleans.
A short stout woman and her husband approached me from their booth as they stood in front of empty animal cages stacked one of top of the other. “Wanna buy a sugar glider, lady?” I asked what that was. I didn’t see any animals. The woman’s short, pudgy fingers began pulling out a series of teeny tiny metal chains from her orange and brown floral scoop-neck polyester blouse. Attached at the end of each foot of chain was a bat-like silver-gray creature with huge brown eyes measuring six inches long. “These are my sugar glider babies. They live on my breasts,” the woman proudly said.
I asked if they were with her all the time, thinking how co-dependent these teensy creatures were. “Sure are; they live off my scent. Make great pets; live for 20 years; and attached to your body all the time.” I personally thought the animals had great potential as little purses or vibrant colorful wallets. Like a circus performer, she quickly pulled out over half a dozen sugar gliders out of her blouse. “Only $200 and I’ll throw in the cage for free. Just in case you need a break from the wigglin,” shouted her husband in bib-overalls and a red handkerchief tied around his ruddy neck. Now, I’ve seen souvenir alligator heads, necklaces made of bayou fish bait, and dead crawfish shells, but never living creatures surviving on a tiny woman’s pendulous breasts.
My mind started debating ownership of a sugar glider. Can I live in harmony with this little pet that becomes one of my appendages? What are the negatives of these little creatures? Will they urinate and stick to me like a leech? How will a sugar glider perform “number two” while flowing freely inside my blouse? Do I really want to be that co-dependent on a tiny creature? Also, the bib-overall man reminded me that a sugar glider produces love calls consisting of barks and shrieks and is considered nocturnal. Great. Does this mean I will never sleep again? OK, so a sugar glider alters my life span, I can deal with that. Will my Clinique make-up promote aggressive behavior? I concluded that I didn’t own sugar glider nurturing in my gene pool.
We haven’t even discussed the question of whether this tiny animal would be crushed by my own breasts. Without constant attention, could he die of loneliness? My conscience told me I could not be everything to a creature that lives on my body. We just can’t be that inseparable, I needed to have my space! The idea of a sugar glider as co-dependent was actually a sweet thought, but I think I’ll pass. The plastic alligator key ring in the French Quarter flea market fits my personality so much more.