Donnie Fitzgerald stepped out onto the sidewalk, the humid summer air almost suffocating. They would be there any minute. He’d been working every other day since they started, but today was Saturday, and Saturday was Donnie’s day off.
It was cloudy today. Donnie counted himself lucky that he wouldn’t be in the beating down sun all afternoon.
As he started walking toward the corner, he heard them. It was like a low honking noise on the other end of the neighborhood.
“Right on time.” He said as he stepped past the corner shop and onto Elysian Fields Avenue.
Every day, for the past nine days, parades had been starting up at 3:00pm on the dot, all over the city of New Orleans. Ten of them each day. Six would take the same route, like the one approaching Donnie. The other four snaked through the city, changing path each day. They were lead by the hired Second Line, with no other indication of who had arranged them. But there they were, every day, beckoning the people along their paths to join in, jump into the line, and become their own parade.
The six main routes came down Elysian Fields Avenue, St. Bernard Avenue, Canal Street, Earhart Boulevard, St. Charles Avenue, and Tchoupitoulas Street. They converged at the French Quarter at about seven o’clock, at which point, the Second Lines would spread out and the entire quarter was filled with music. Classic music from the first days of jazz in the Mississippi Delta. Every other street would have its parade. They criss-crossed paths, converging and splitting up until they all stood at Jackson Square. As the sky shone Purple and gold, they stood on the green grass of the square and let the bells of St. Louis Cathedral count them in at eight o’clock on the money.
It was a cacophony of sound, reverberating through the square as they would turn and move to Artillery Park, where a massive replica of Our Lady of Prompt Succor had been erected ten days before. There, they played to the Lady and to the River and to the sky and to the land beneath their feet. The air buzzed with the sounds of brass bands blaring, children laughing, and people singing. The ground shook as they danced. The waters rippled from the waves of horns and the beat of drums. Sunbeams struck the instruments and lit the square with the light of joy. Over the past ten days, one hundred parades had resulted in hundreds of thousands of people from around the city and surrounding areas to come and stand together, to dance together, to laugh and sing together, to pray together.
This would be the last night, and it was a night of celebration. A celebration of life, of love, and of hope.