Chapter Forty-Four

Daffodil took another drink of her beer, staring at Rose as she snored. Somehow, she would have to get Rose to wake up before she attempted to get her back to the motel. Daffodil was strong, but there was no way she could carry her drunken friend that far, and she couldn't afford a taxi.

When Rose still hadn't stirred by the time Daffodil had finished her drink, she got up and headed for the bar. "Do you have coffee here?" she asked the bartender, hoping that he'd give her time to wake Rose up before throwing them out.

The man glanced at Rose, who stirred slightly, then went back to snoring. "I got it, but it ain't gonna sober 'er up."

"Just give me a cup, will you? I have to try."

"It'll wake 'er up, if you can get it down 'er, but she'll still be drunk—just wide awake and drunk."

"Well, I have to do something!" Daffodil snapped. "I can't get her back to the motel like this."

The bartender shrugged and went to get the requested coffee, adding it to the bill. He handed it to Daffodil, shaking his head.

Ignoring him, Daffodil went back to the table and shook Rose slightly. "Rose…come on. Wake up."

Rose mumbled to herself and went on sleeping.

"Rose, wake up! You can't sleep here!" Daffodil shook her harder.

"No," Rose responded, opening her eyes for a moment before trying to return to her nap.

Exasperated, Daffodil grabbed Rose's orange cinnabuns and yanked her head up. "We have to get back to the motel. You can sleep it off there." She pushed the cup of coffee towards Rose.

"Owww…leggo of me." Rose gave her a dirty look, trying to put her head back down.

"Drink this coffee. You're too heavy to carry." Daffodil tugged on Rose's hair again, putting the cup into her hand and guiding it towards her mouth.

Rose took a sip, then grimaced, trying to put the cup down. "Yuck."

"Drink it anyway, and maybe next time you'll think before you drink so much." When Rose tried again to push the cup away, Daffodil jammed it against her mouth. "You'll drink this if I have to pour it down your throat!"

Several patrons had noticed them by now and were watching. Daffodil gave them a dirty look, encouraging them to mind their own business. Rose was oblivious.

Daffodil grasped the cup tightly in one hand, reaching with the other to pinch Rose's nose shut in an attempt to get her to open her mouth. Rose pulled her head away, finally taking the coffee in one unstable and hand and drinking it, some of it spilling down her front. She glared sullenly at Daffodil the whole time.

When Rose had finally finished the coffee, Daffodil fished in Rose's purse for money to pay for the margarita and coffee, then hurried to pay their bill. When she returned to the table, Rose was getting to her feet, staggering and looking as though she was ready to fall over.

Daffodil put Rose's arm over her shoulder to hold her up, leading her towards the door. Rose leaned heavily against her, nearly knocking them both over.

By the time they had walked a block, it had become obvious that the bartender had been right—the coffee had done nothing to sober Rose up. She was still drunk, but between the caffeine, the cool night air, and the motion from walking slowly down the street, she was wide awake.

It was growing late, but the streets were still crowded with Mardi Gras revelers. Rose giggled uncontrollably at a group of men in women's clothing and heavy makeup, one of whom stopped and put several strings of shiny metallic beads around the necks of both women. Daffodil gave them apologetic looks as she guided Rose away from them and down the street.

"You're lucky those guys had a sense of humor," she hissed at Rose when they were out of earshot. "Not everyone does."

Daffodil's words proved true when they came across the next person to catch Rose's attention—a stern-looking man with a sign reading Mardi Gras: Satan's Feast. He was glowering at the party-goers, holding out the sign as though he was warding off evil.

For some reason, Rose found this irresistible. Breaking away from Daffodil, she moved unsteadily towards him, clumsily removing one of the strings of Mardi Gras beads that the cross-dressers had given her.

"Wha's 'a matter?" she asked, a wide grin appearing on her face. "Doncha wanna have fun?"

He backed away slightly, staring at her as though she'd lost her mind. Daffodil tried to pull Rose away.

"Rose, come on. Leave him alone."

"I jus' wanna get him to have fun."

"He doesn't want to have fun. If he did, he wouldn't be standing there with that stupid sign."

"Sure 'e does." Rose lifted the string of pink beads, draping them over the sign.

"Get away from me, you spawn of Satan!" The man shook the beads off and stared at them as though they might bite him, his eyes filled with a not-quite-sane look.

"Rose, come on!" Daffodil tugged at her arm, wishing they were back in the bar, anywhere but dealing with a now very angry and frightened mental patient. "Come on!"

In spite of her inebriation, Rose was beginning to comprehend that this was one demonstrator she shouldn't harass. She took a step backward, ready to walk away, but stepped on the beads he had dropped. Already off-balance, the beads proved too much for her and she tumbled to the ground, landing at the man's feet.

Daffodil rushed to help Rose to her feet, but the man brought the sign down on her head. She staggered, falling to her knees next to Rose.

"Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord!" the man shouted. He gave Daffodil a shove, knocking her down on top of Rose, who was trying to get up. "He will condemn to Hell these agents of the United Nations who will not give me their bodies and brains." One hand still clutching the sign, he reached into his pocket and withdrew a screwdriver.

Recognizing the danger, Daffodil got to her knees quickly, grabbing his crotch and twisting before he could bring the screwdriver down on her. The man bellowed in pain, dropping the screwdriver and sign and grabbing Daffodil's hair instead in an attempt to make her let go.

Rose was growing more sober by the moment. When Daffodil screamed as the man grabbed her hair and yanked, she pushed herself to her feet, still somewhat unsteady from the amount of alcohol she'd consumed.

"Let go of her, you son of a bitch!" Rose launched herself at him, one hand latching onto his ear and pulling while the other punched clumsily at whatever she could reach.

Suddenly finding himself under attack by two women, the man stared in confusion for a moment, his hands still tangled in Daffodil's hair, before abruptly letting go and jerking away from Rose, her fingernails leaving a long scratch down the side of his face.

Grabbing his sign again, he swung it at them. "The Lord will protect me from demons!" he screamed, narrowly missing Rose.

Daffodil grabbed the sign and held on, trying to wrest it away from him. They fought for a moment, locked in a tug-of-war, while Rose scrabbled frantically in the darkness for the screwdriver.

"What the hell is going on here?!" a voice shouted, startling the embattled trio.

Rose turned, her eyes widening at the sight of two police officers hurrying towards them. Giving up the search for the screwdriver, she pulled herself to her feet, staggering a little and holding onto the wall as she did so.

"These agents of Satan will not share their sex and brains," the man told the cops matter-of-factly, still trying to shake Daffodil off the other end of the sign.

"He attacked us!" Daffodil exclaimed, finally letting go of the sign and hurrying in the direction of the police. Surprised by her sudden move, the man stumbled back against the wall.

"Yes," Rose added, not realizing that her words were still slurred. She felt completely sober now, though she was still a ways from it. "I was trying to get him to join the party, and he—"

"All three of you are under arrest," one of the cops told her, pulling her arms behind her back and snapping on a set of handcuffs. "Public drunkenness…" He looked at the man with the sign, who was now cowering against the wall. "Assault and battery…" He looked at Daffodil. "Disturbing the peace…"

When all three were handcuffed and their pockets searched for weapons, the other cop began to read them their rights. "You have the right to remain silent—"

"We didn't do anything!" Rose exclaimed. "He attacked us!"

"Shut up, Rose!" Daffodil told her, glowering at her. "This is all your fault."

"My fault!? He attacked us!"

"I told you to leave him alone!"

"Ladies!" the cop warned, separating them and giving them both quelling looks.

Still staring angrily at each other, they let him finish reading them their rights. The mental patient stared at his confiscated sign the whole time.

A second police car pulled up behind the first, another cop emerging from it.

"Take these two," the police officer who had read them their rights told her, gesturing to Rose and Daffodil. "The charges are disturbing the peace and public inebriation." He and his partner escorted the mental patient towards their car. "We'll take care of this one."

"Come on, you two." The female police officer pushed Rose and Daffodil towards her car.

"You're an idiot," Daffodil mumbled to Rose as they climbed awkwardly into the back of the police car.

"Both of you shut up," the cop warned them as she shut the door.

Rose ignored both of them, trying to find a comfortable position with her handcuffs and trying to figure out how exactly she had gotten into this predicament.