No Dying in the Machines

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“I don’t like washing my personal undergarments here. They’s people have a thing for panties. They steal em. Then they bring em home and do Lord knows what with em. If I’m lying I’m dying. “

“Men’s or women’s?”

“Men don’t wear panties. They wear plain old underwears.”

“Drag queens wear panties.”

“Drag queens? Lord have mercy, this Laundromat’s getting too strange for me. Well–the way I was raised. I was raised that girls wore panties and boys wore underwears. That’s how I was raised. In a decent home. Catholic school, for all eight of us kids. Think that was easy for Mama and Papa? Tuition for eight children, not easy, let me tell you. I sure wish I had me a washer and a dryer. Harold, my husband Harold, we had a lovely home that he built for us–with his bare hands he did. Had a washer and a clothesline for when the weather was nice, you know, and a dryer for when it rained. And we had a car, a Buick, mind you, a real car, not one a these cheap plastic things they drive now. From my own Sears Kenmore washer and dryer and a Buick, to the Lots-a-Suds Laundromat and the RTA bus.”

“They spelled dyeing wrong.”

“What darling?”

“On the sign. It says, ‘No Dying in the Machines.’ They mean dyeing, D-Y-E-I-N-G. For dyeing clothes.”

“Oh they did, didn’t they? They must not of been taught by nuns, because let me tell you, the sisters at St. Cecilia’s made sure you could spell, yes indeed. Got hit with a ruler if you spelled like that. I never could spell, got smacked with the ruler for it all the time. Now my Harold, he could spell. He won a ten dollar savings bond in a spelling bee when he was twelve years old.  He sure did. If I’m lying I’m dying. Yes indeed.”

“What happened to Harold? If you don’t mind me asking?”

“Oh honey, he died. He sure did.”

“Not in the machine?”

“Oh, Lord no. That’s funny. Even Harold would’ve laughed at that one. You should be a comedian. “

“Yeah, people say I’m too sarcastic sometimes. Look, you think he’s one of them? A panty thief?”

“Oh, for sure. He looks like one. Way you can tell is—they hangs out all day in the Laundromat. All day. Ain’t washing nothing. Just looking for panties.”

“That guy should wear a T-shirt that says, ‘I’m a panty thief and proud of it.’”

“Oh Lord, you make me laugh. You are too much. So–you make your husband and kids laugh too?”

“No husband, no kids. I bartend in the Quarter.”

“Oh you live The Exciting Life then. I always said there was two kinds of lives. The Plain Old Life, like me and Harold. Married at eighteen. Four kids. A house. Nothing too fancy. And then there’s The Exciting Life. Movie Stars. Ballerinas. Football and Baseball Players. Boxers. Race Car Drivers. Singers like Frank Sinatra and Elvis. And bartending in the French Quarters. Ain’t been in thirty years, if I’m lying I’m dying. Used to go for coffee and donuts when we was kids, Papa would drive us over for a treat, all us kids in the car in our pajamas. Then me and Harold when we was courting. Don’t go now. Can’t see me getting on the 88 St. Claude bus and high-tailing it to the French Quarters.”

“You think bartending’s exciting?”

“Honey, believe you me–it sure sounds more exciting than being married to Harold for fifty years. He worked the hardware store and I scrubbed floors and raised kids. It sounds exciting to me.”

“Don’t forget about Harold winning the spelling bee.”

“Oh, you’re right. We had our moments. Look—he stuck something in his pocket. I think he got one of your purple gouchies.”

“Gouchies?”

“Maw-Maw called em gouchies. In polite company. “

“Hey you! Excuse me, sir. I do believe those are mine. The undergarments. The purple undergarments in your pocket. “

“That’s just my hanky, Miss.”

“Let me see it.”

“Here, you can have them.”

“I can’t believe he tried to kidnap my panties.”

“It’s a crazy world. Takes all kinds. Some days–without Harold–I just want to die. Give up. I could crawl into that machine and die. You’re young, it hasn’t happened to you yet. But when your family and your friends–they just start dying off. And you find yourself alone and too old to go the French Quarters and have a beer. They don’t even make Dixie no more, do they darling?”

“You can come see me at the bar where I’m working. The Bastille on Toulouse Street. “

“Oh Lord. I’d look like a drunken old floozy. I sure would. What happened to that cute young chick Harold was courting back in the day?”

“Don’t think like that. You’re not old. And you got kids, grandkids, I’ll never have that.”

“You’re right, darling. Thank the Lord. I am lucky, luckier than most. Sometimes that’s easy to forget. Don’t want to move in with my daughters, though. Just wish I hadn’t lost the house, we had so many of them doctor’s bills and hospital bills with Harold. We just couldn’t pay it all. You’ll see. You’ll see, hon. There’s a lotta loss in this Life.”

“I’ve had loss.”

“At your age? Honey, you look like you just lost your baby teeth. If I’m lying I’m dying. “

“I’ve had loss already, believe me. My boyfriend JT–he shot this guy–in Johnny’s Bar. Went to Angola State Prison. I was gonna have an abortion, didn’t know what to do. “

“Oh Lord. Abortions. I never knew no one who had one of those. I just went and had the babies. Four of em. Plop. Plop. Plop. Plop. Harold Jr. Harriet. Henry. Henrietta. Harold used to tease me, said I was like a baby-making machine. And they’d all follow me around like little ducklings and I didn’t have a moment of peace. But I was happy, busy every second. All those questions. Lord, they never stopped asking questions. Why is the sky blue? Why does the sun shine? But I was happy. Now it’s too quiet.”

“I had the baby. Named her Angela Marie. I was going to keep her. But I was so scared. No one to help me. So I gave her up, I put her up for adoption. I didn’t have no one to watch her when I went to work. I didn’t want to raise her up on welfare and food stamps. So-“

“But honey, what about your Mama? “

“She died. She OD’d on booze and pills when I was fourteen. She wouldn’t have helped anyway. I lived with my dad and stepmom for a while, then split when I was fifteen and a half. So you better not crawl in that machine there and die. Your kids and your grandkids, they need you.”

“Oh Lord, you’re right about that. You think they don’t need you once they’re grown, but sometimes, they need you even more. Hey, look. He’s back. The Purple Panty Thief. “

“I should do a stand-up comedy bit about this. You know, an open mike.”

“Honey, I knew you was a comedian. “

“No–I’ve never had the nerve.”

“Go ahead. Try it. You do your comedy act–I’ll come see it and I’ll sit in the front row. Now go get your panties from that man.”

“I think he’s got YOUR panties this time. Your green striped personal undergarments.”

“Oh, Lord, Harold would’ve loved this. He laughed louder than anyone at the Vagaries of Life. He loved Life. He sure did.”

**********************

Photo Credit: “Laundromat,” Pixabay Copyright-free images.

 

 

 

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Leaps Tall Buildings

superman

 

I wrote this play for the Superhero-themed Faster Than a Speeding Bullet One-Minute Play Festival held at The Theatre at St. Claude. This play is actually five minutes long, but a shorter version was performed at the theatre.  http://www.thetheatreatstclaude.com/

This is the play in its entirety:

 

TITLE: Leaps Tall Buildings

AUTHOR: Sara Jacobelli

A Play in One Act

Five Minute Play

© Copyright 2016 by Sara Jacobelli

 

SETTING:

A small library branch in a New Orleans neighborhood, which is beset by gentrification and changing demographics, yet still dealing with rampant street crime.

 

CHARACTERS:

Molly:  mid to late twenties, a young library staff member with hair dyed (bright, multi-colored), tattoos, dressed young and hip.

Bernadine:  An older librarian lady of the old school, glasses on a chain around her neck, dressed more conservatively.

Superman: A middle aged man who appears to be homeless. He comes into the library daily in regular clothes carrying a backpack. He goes into the restroom and changes into a home-made Superman costume, complete with cape.

 

ACT ONE

The scene takes place at the library circulation desk. Molly and Bernadine are seated at high stools at the desk. Molly is chattering about her nails and thrift shop excursions. Bernadine is absent mindedly stamping books.

 

MOLLY: How long’s he been in there this time?

BERNADINE:  I don’t know. Ten, Fifteen minutes.

MOLLY: Do’ya think he’s violating any rules?

BERNADINE:  Holds up a card about the size of a postcard.  Says here, it says, “No shaving in the restroom, No bathing in the restroom, No washing clothes in the restroom, No smoking in the restroom, No sleeping in the restroom.” Doesn’t say a damn thing about changing into a Superman suit.

MOLLY: Admires her nails. Laughs.  Dude. Never heard you swear before, Bernadine. Had you for a church-lady type.  Looks at her nails again. These are mood nails. They change colors with your mood.

BERNADINE:  Reminds me of mood rings!  Shakes her head. There’s a lot you don’t know about me. You’d be surprised. Places I’ve been. Things I’ve done.

MOLLY: Eyes open wide. Wow. Really. You getting wild now that you’re gonna retire? Next week’s your last week right? Then what’re ya gonna do?

BERNADINE: Pulls out a notebook, puts her glasses on. Writes in the notebook. Stops writing, looks off into the distance.  Think I might go take a trip. Visit my granddaughter. That’d be nice. Maybe take her on a trip. Get to know her.

MOLLY: How in the WORLD can you have a grandkid when you’ve never even had ANY kids?

BERNADINE: Oh, none of you at the library know this. But I had a son. My ex-husband kidnapped him, so I didn’t get to raise him. All those years. Missed all those years. Found him, finally, just last year. Good thing for the Internet.

MOLLY: Stands up and looks Bernadine up and down like she never saw her before. And you NEVER told us? You NEVER told us? I can’t believe it!

BERNADINE: I just don’t, I’ve never. I don’t tell people my private personal business. Now you kids, nowadays, you tell everyone everything.  I don’t know.  Looks off into the distance.  Maybe it’s healthier. People didn’t used to talk about private things. My own mother never even told me that I had a sibling that died. A sister. I didn’t find out until after my mother passed. Looked through her papers, found photographs of my sister Angela.  I just didn’t see the point of telling people I had a son. Michael. Then they’d want to ask about school and birthdays and holidays and then I’d have to say I didn’t raise him. Then they’d want to feel sorry for me. Or else they’d judge me. Nope. Nobody’s business.

MOLLY: Jumps up. That’s it! He’s been in there too long. I’m gonna go bang on the door.

BERNADINE: Don’t bother. He’s out.

SUPERMAN: Walks over to the circulation desk. Walks slowly as if he has a lot of aches and pains. Well, how are you lovely young ladies doing today?

MOLLY: We’re doing OK. Dude. But, like, you really can’t spend too much time in the bathroom. We have other patrons, ya’know?

SUPERMAN: Yes, young lady. I know. Don’t mean no harm. It’s just that, there ain’t no more phone booths around this town. Looks at Bernadine.  You remembers phone booths, Miss? Used to be all over, on every corner, and I could change into my suit in one of those. Now everyone has cell phones and iPhones and all a that, and nobody thinks about where Poor Ole Superman is sposed to change into his SUIT.  Shakes his head. It’s a changing world, Miss. No phone booths, no newspapers, no mailboxes.  Nobody even talks to each other anymore. They pass you right by without sayin anythin. All these here new Rich People changing everythin.  If I’m lyin I’m dyin. An rents going through the roof. Now me, I’ve been homeless so long, I ain’t PAID rent in years, but I’m thinkin of you workin folks. How you gonna pay TWO THOUSAND A MONTH rent? There didn’t used to be so many of us homeless. Now there’s so many people any time you line up for a free meal. It’s a crowd. It’s a crying shame.

MOLLY:  Gets up off her stool. Lunch time. Gonna ride my bike to Satsuma. Wanna go, Bernadine?

BERNADINE: Shakes her head. Nah, you go.  Looks at Superman. But as high as the rents are, the street crime’s getting worse and worse. Maybe you can help with that. Get rid of the armed robbers and get rid of the high rents too, while you’re at it.

SUPERMAN:  Laughs.  Darlin, I would. I would if I could. All I have is my fantasies. That’s what keeps me going. Yes, indeed. It’s a changing world. Yes, indeed yes.

BERNADINE: You’re right about that, Superman. It’s a changing world. And we never know what’s coming next. We never know what’s right around the corner.

SUPERMAN: I hope it’s a phone booth. I hope they brings back phone booths. Superman needs a place to change. He sure does.

They both laugh. The curtain closes.

 

THE END

 

Picture Credit: Superman is copyrighted by DC Comics, originally created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in 1933.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Four Rooms on East Main: Part Nine: The Diner

 

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Bridgeport, CT

1967

East Side

 

9. The Diner

 

Carlo ordered coffee and a grilled cheese, ignored the grilled cheese and drank the coffee. He borrowed a pen from the waitress and intently scribbled numbers on the margins of The Bridgeport Post’s sports section.

“Got any idears?” His buddy Jo-Jo Messina crunched on a BLT.

“No. Who cares? I don’t give a fuck, I been in a war for Chrissakes. What’s this country comin to? I can’t pay these jerks all this money.  I been in a God Damn war, over there, Italy, France, Germany. Fuck them.”

“You been to Paris? You ever get any, you know, any of them French broads? Madonne.”

“Sure. They loved us men in uniform. Lemme tell ya though.” Carlo lowered his voice. He waited for Doris to take the order of a retired couple a few booths away. “Them French broads, they’re crazy. One of em had to take a piss, right there in the street in Paris. Went over to the gutter and lifted her dress and squatted. Never seen nothin like that before.”

“Damn.” Jo-ho gulped the last bite of his BLT, some mayonnaise dripped onto his cheek. “I mean, if a man’s gotta piss, sure. He goes in the alley. But a broad. Damn.”

“Sure a man’s gottaa piss. But a broad, right there in the street. Maddona mia.”

“Paris. Shit. Fuckin Paris. I never been in a war. Flat feet.”

“Yeah, well, good for your fuckin feet.  It wasn’t worth it, gettin shot at. Seein your buddies blown to bits.”

A young woman in jeans and a flowered blouse leaned over the table. “You  guys got some free plays onna jukebox.”

“Go ahead sweetie.” Carlo winked at her.

She looked at his wedding band while she picked out songs on the miniature silver jukebox. “So, you’re married?” She brushed her dark hair out of her eyes.

“Babe, I’m married, but I ain’t married like some white guy over in Stratford or Fairfield.  I’m married like an Italian.” He laughed.

She looked at Jo-Jo. “What’s he mean?”

“He means, give em your fuckin phone number, honey.”

She wrote her number on a book of White’s Diner matches and put the matches in Carlo’s hand. He took the matches and shoved them in his pocket. “My name’s Sandy.” Mack the Knife came on the jukebox.

Doris came over and refilled their coffee cups and gave Sandy a dirty look. Carlo and Jo-Jo watched her wiggle away.  Carlo put his arm around Doris’s waist.  She set the coffee pot onto the table, plopped into his lap, ruffled his wavy black hair. “Toldja my nephew’s gonna be a priest.”

“Congrats babe!” Jo-Jo toasted her with his coffee cup.

“Yeah, congrats.” Carlo frowned. “You got ten, twenny grand you can loan me, sweetheart?”

“Huh? Me?  The tips here at White’s Diner ain’t nothin to write home about, believe you me.” She stood up, smoothed her short orange dress, grabbed the coffee pot and headed back to the counter.

“A priest!” Jo-Jo rolled his eyes. “She got two kids inna joint, now a priest inna family for when they go to Death Row.”

Carlo looked out the window. “So everthin’s funny to you. Glad you’re havin such a good time. I got troubles. Big troubles. People I owe money to, they’d be happy to kill me.”

“I know, Carlo. Wish I could help.  But hey, they won’t kill ya, then they’ll never get their fuckin money.” He clicked the glass salt and pepper shakers together. “Hey, Carlo.”

“Quit bangin them things like that, the noise bugs me.”

“You could do some favors for some people.  I mean, ya killed people inna war, what’s the difference?”

“Stattazi.  Not here. Don’t talk about that shit here.”

“Hey Carlo.”

Carlo scribbled more numbers on the newspaper. “What?”

“You gonna eat that there grilled cheese, or what?”

“No. It’s cold. Fuck it. Forget it.”

“I could have it?”

“Alright. Eat it, go ahead, mangia. Fuck if I care. Me ne frego.” He stood up, jingled his car keys. “You need a ride Jo-Jo?”

“Nah. I’ll wait here. The old lady’s pickin me up.”

“Alright. I’m gonna make a few bucks doin pick-ups for Tony Junior. Ciao.”

“Ciao.”

Fiction

  © Copyright 2016 by Sara Jacobelli

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Photo Credit: “Diner-Restaurant.” Pixabay copyright-free images. https://pixabay.com/en/diner-restaurant-caf%C3%A9-interior-1237078/

 

 

 

 

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Faster Than a Speeding Bullet One Minute Play Festival!

tall

My play, “Leaps Tall Buildings” will be in the superhero-themed one minute play festival—Check out this exciting line-up of plays by local playwrights:

http://www.thetheatreatstclaude.com/onstage/faster-than-a-speeding-bullet/

 

Where?   The Theatre at St. Claude

2240 Saint Claude Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70117

 

When?  Friday, June 9th, 8:00 pm and Saturday, June 10th, 8:00 pm

 

How Much?  $12 per ticket online, $15 per ticket at the door

 

Why?  To support local theatre in New Orleans, that’s why!

All of the plays will be performed both nights!

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Photo Credit:  “Top Ten Tallest Buildings in Asia.” Listabuzz.com

 

 

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Four Rooms on East Main: Part Eight: The Alley

DSC01501

 

Bridgeport, CT

The East Side

1967

 

  1. The Alley

 

The Alley was two different worlds.  In the daytime kids chased each other back and forth. Tori loved cutting through the alleys in the neighborhood, getting away from bigger kids who chased her and her friends home from Triangle’s Candy Store, wanting to take their candy. In the daytime, grimy kids slid through the Alley on pieces of cardboard, traded baseball cards, shot marbles and played Take a Giant Step and Hide and Seek.   Sometimes a kid would beat up another kid, give him a bloody nose, take his comic books. But that was the most violence the Daytime Alley ever saw.  In daylight, the Alley was a miniature street, almost, a throughway used by kids that adults never seemed to notice.

In the nighttime the Alley changed. Tori first discovered this when she couldn’t sleep one night. Her bed was right next to the window, she pulled aside the curtain, pressed her face against the glass. A man was pissing against the side of the building next door. A three-decker, just like theirs. But right on the other side of that building was Paolo’s Apizza, a bar and pizza parlor.  She was shocked at first to see a grown man pissing, he must have been drunk, had too much beer. But night after night Tori saw many strange things in the Alley.

It was almost like TV.  The Alley was dark, but between the street lights and the big neon sign for Paolo’s she could see. Sometimes there was moonlight which lent an eerie black and white movie feel.  She’d watch the people and make up stories about them. Men and women having drunken arguments, then making up and making out, groaning and pulling at each other’s clothes. She saw teenagers smoke dope and drink beer, boys grab their girlfriends and kiss them, pressing their bodies against the brick wall. She saw a tall man wearing a hat pull a gun on a shorter man, stick the gun to the shorter man’s head.  The shorter man meekly handed over his wallet.  She wondered, Who would be dumb enough to go in the Alley at night with a stranger? She saw a man stab another man, leave him bleeding, blood pouring out like in the movies and Tori thought He’s going to die. I’m going to see someone die. But then the second man got up, and limped away.

Once she saw her own father, Poppy, walk in the Alley and talk to another man. Poppy smoked a cigarette and the other man smoked a cigar. Poppy passed the man a piece of paper, or maybe an envelope. Once she saw a bleached blonde lady, who reminded her of Sally from the Dick Van Dyke Show, come into the Alley with a skinny man wearing glasses. The lady was pretty but kind of drunk, the man gave her money. She stuffed wads of bills into her bra and got down on her knees in front of the man. The skinny man moaned and groaned. It was over pretty quick. Oh. Tori thought. That’s what sex is.  Sometimes the Sally lady would come back, with different men. Tori wanted to tell her she should be with Buddy on the Dick Van Dyke show. Nicky would always say, “Buddy needs to leave Pickles and move in with Sally. They’re great together.” Tori considered the Alley People to be Her People, like the plastic people she made out of Legos, come to life.

These were silent movies, since she kept the window closed. She wanted to open the window, feel the air and hear their voices, but was afraid they’d hear her breathing. She was afraid especially of Poppy. Grown men were afraid of him too. Poppy was like the Alley, Tori thought. In the Daytime he was Poppy, sometimes he could be funny and joked around. At Night Time he was Carlo, serious and mysterious and dangerous. Poppy laughed sometimes, not often, but Carlo never did.

Tori never told anyone about the Night Time Alley. The Alley People didn’t seem like they could see her. Maybe she was invisible. Once she saw the Sally lady in the daytime in the Laundromat across the street. The Sally lady folded her clothes.  Tori, who was with her mom, looked away, embarrassed.  She knew too much about this lady. Clare snapped at Tori. “Quit daydreaming and grab a basket. We’re going home to hang these up on the clothesline. I’m not spending money on dryers.” They waited to cross busy East Main.  At a break in traffic, they ran across the street, carrying heavy baskets piled high with wet laundry.  The Alley People were her people, but they were people of the night. It didn’t seem right to see one in the daytime.

Nicky didn’t seem to notice her window watching.  His bed was closer to the bedroom door. There was nothing in their room but two beds and two dressers. He only lived on the front porch for a week, then moved back into their room when it rained. He was either at Harding High or working at Food Fair or at one of his friend’s houses. He was always saying stuff like, “I just eat and sleep here, I no longer live here,” or “Two more years and I’m out of here.” Tori hated the thought of Nicky leaving, leaving her alone listening to her parent’s fighting.  She never kept a secret from her big brother before. But she knew Nicky wouldn’t approve of her watching people in the Alley.  Still she wondered. How could people be so different at night? How could a place be a whole different world at night?

 

Fiction

© Copyright 2016 by Sara Jacobelli

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 Photo Credit: “East Main Street Package Store,” by Sara Jacobelli

 

 

 

 

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Four Rooms on East Main: Part Seven: The Front Porch

walkie-talkies

 

Bridgeport, CT

East Side

1967

East Main Street

 

  1. The Front Porch

“What are you two DOING?” Tori asked, leaning against the door frame. Nicky and his friend-from-next-door Johnny Walters were dragging Nicky’s cheap mattress onto the front porch. They set it on the ancient bed frame. The two boys were opposites: Johnny tall and slim and athletic, Nicky short and chubby and awkward. Yet Johnny was Nick’s friend since they were little kids.

“You could help, Victoria Maria, instead of just standing there holding up the walls.”

“But why in the WORLD are you moving all your stuff onto the God Damned front porch?”

“Your Aunty Ruth will wash your mouth out with soap, she hears that.”

Tori ignored him. “Johnny, can I play with your walker talkers sometime? Please?” Johnny’s parents were divorced, and his latest birthday present from his absentee dad had every kid in the neighborhood duly impressed. “They are so cool, so neat, and you never let me even touch em.”

“They’re called WALKIE TALKIES, not WALKER TALKERS, and they are not for ten year olds.” Johnny grabbed one end of the dresser while Nicky took the other end. “They are for international spies, something you are too stupid to know anything about.”

“Does Poppy know you’re doing this? And why, why, oh why would you want to live on the front porch?”

“We gotta empty these drawers first, Nick. This thing’s old. And heavy. Where’ja parents get it? Good Will?”

“Who knows where they got it? Somebody probably gave it to them.” Nicky emptied the drawers and handed the first drawer to Tori. “Here kid. Take these one at a time and throw them on the bed.”

“Don’t you think it’s gonna be COLD out here? In the snow? And it’s not even screened in, what about BUGS? And the RAIN? Your stuff’ll get all soaked.”

Nicky surveyed the mess. “I am entirely too OLD to spend my entire adolescence sharing a bedroom with my annoying little sister. We’re too OLD to share a room.And Poppy has other things on his mind, he’s never home anyway.”

Tori learned over the porch railing. “Kitchen, livingroom, bedroom, bedroom, bathroom. That’s one room for each person, and the cats can have the bathroom. That’s not so small. I have TONS of friends in this neighborhood that have eight, nine, ten kids. One family, the Russos, have ELEVEN. So what’s wrong with four rooms for four people?” Tori leaned over the porch. “Hi Mrs. Riccio! Hi!”  She turned to Nicky. “Don’t you think it’s funny her name is Mrs. Riccio and she’s not even RELATED to us and we’re Riccio’s too? And she’s got NINE kids, by the way.”

“Well, we can thank the Catholic church for that. Good thing Mom sneaks over to another parish to see Father Reilly. Father Reilly,” Nicky raised his eyebrows. “The good Father Reilly doesn’t ASK if they use birth control. Which makes him very popular with the Ladies. Rather ironic, in its way.”

“What’s birth patrol?” Tori asked.

“It’s called ‘birth control’ and I’m going to have to get you a book or something to explain it. How old’re you?”

“Ten! You know I’m TEN!”

“When you’re twelve then. Your parents would never bother, but when you’re twelve I’ll explain it all to you so you don’t end up like Mrs. Russo or Mrs. Rovinelli with a million kids.”

“I think it’d be cool to have about nine kids. They they’d all have someone to play with. And I’d make em all get jobs too, so they could help pay the bills. “

“Hey, this could be kindof a cool place to hang out.” Johnny said. “I mean, you can see everything happening on East Main. We can watch all the cruisers on weekends. We could smoke and drink beer up here.” Johnny lit a cigarette.

“I’m telling,” Tori said, leaning against him.

“No. You’re not. Not if you want to play with my walkie talkies.”

The back door opened and Clare walked down the hallway, huffing and puffing from carrying a heavy brown paper grocery bag up the stairs. “What’s going on back here?” She looked at Nicky’s clothes, books, record albums, and furniture scattered around the front porch.  She nodded at Johnny’s cigarette.“Does your mom know you smoke?” She looked at Nicky. “What’s all your junk doing out here?”

“He’s moving OUT ONTO THE FRONT PORCH,” Tori announced. “And it’s not even screened in.”

Clare raised her eyebrows. Tori recognized the same expression on her face that Nicky often had. “Oh well, good luck when it snows.” She chuckled to herself as she headed back to the kitchen to put away the milk, bread and hamburger.

“Let’s split, “Johnny said.  “Let’s go over to Briarwoods, get something to eat. I got two bucks.”

“OK. I got one.” Nicky followed Johnny down the stairs.

“Can I borrow your walkie talkies?” Tori stood in the doorway yelling down the back stairs. They ignored her.

Clare sat at the cluttered kitchen table opening mail. “I forgot smokes, here’s a dollar.  Run across the street and get one pack a non filters Lucky Strikes for me, one pack a L & M’s for your father.”

“Don’t you even CARE that Nicky’s movin out to the porch?”

She laughed. “No. He’ll come in when it gets cold.”

Tori flew down the stairs with the dollar in her hand.

“Remember I want the non filters! And bring back the EXACT change, Victoria Maria! No funny stuff!”

Tori rolled her eyes. She decided she’d make a brief stop at Paolo’s Apizza, just to peek in. See if any drunk pool players dropped money on the floor. No one spotted dropped money faster than her.

 

Fiction

©  Copyright 2016 by Sara Jacobelli

**********************************

 

Photo Credit: 

“Vintage GE Walkie Talkies.” Pinterest. http://tinyurl.com/jmzxvoh

 

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Four Rooms on East Main:Part Six: The Five and Dime Lunch Counter

lunch-counter

 

Bridgeport, CT

Downtown

1967

 

  1. The Five and Dime Lunch Counter

 

The three ladies sat together at the crowded counter. Clare sipped her tea and nibbled at her tuna sandwich.

“Samuels is such a creep. A pig.” Red-headed Dottie gulped her black coffee. “Eat, eat, mangia, Clare. You Irish girls are all too skinny.” Dottie lit a Pall Mall.

“Whatt’re ya gonna do, Clare? Don’t quit honey, you need the job. Besides, we love you here.” Irene munched on her BLT, looking nervous behind her thick black Coke-bottle glasses.

“I don’t know. I can’t tell Carlo, you know his temper. Carlo’d bust Samuels’ big head wide open.”

“So,” Dottie pulled a compact out of her huge black pocketbook. She popped open the mirror and squinted into her reflection while touching up her red lipstick. “So, he deserves it, the crummy bastid. Let Carlo rough em up, why dontcha?”

Irene nodded in agreement. Clare looked at her watch. “We better get back, lunch is almost over.”

They left some change on the counter for a tip. Walking back to Leavitts, Dottie and Irene chattered about their mother-in-laws, church, Bingo, weekend tag sales, the fights their kids got into in the neighborhood. Clare wasn’t listening. She wasn’t worried about Carlo beating up Mr. Samuels, even if Carlo went to prison for it. Carlo in state prison would give them all some peace and quiet. She was more worried about him flying into a jealous rage and accusing her of having an affair with Samuels, then beating her up.  She was afraid of Carlo. Who wouldn’t be? She was only sixteen when she married him, he was ten years older, a World War II vet. She admired his dark good looks, his easy charm. He used to box, which impressed her.  How dumb could you be to marry a jealous ex-boxer with a bad temper?

She wished she could just leave— take her kids somewhere—anywhere—just go. Run to someplace like California or Florida. Now that Nicky was working, they could move somewhere and both get jobs. Tori could pretend she was a boy and get a paper route. They’d just need to find a small apartment. But first they would need money for Greyhound bus tickets. And food.  But she had no money, and nowhere to go.  And Carlo always said he’d find her and kill her if she left, kill her and the kids too. She never knew if he meant it or was just trying to scare her.

Maybe she should just quit. Get another job. Tomorrow she’ll skip lunch and walk around the downtown stores grabbing applications. She’ll bring them home and have Tori fill them out. Tori was good at stuff like that.

 

Fiction

©  Copyright 2016 by Sara Jacobelli

 

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Photo Credit: “Lunch Counter at SS Kresge Detroit.” Pinterest.

http://tinyurl.com/zj6ngwh

 

 

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