Monthly Archives: January 2013
© copyright 2013 by Sara Jacobelli
(Flash Fiction) The Evil Mary Fran Series
“Your parents should send you to Catholic school,” declared the Evil Mary Fran. We were on her rickety gray wooden front porch, looking for parked cars with open windows. We used our trusty pea shooters to expertly fill the cars with mountains of dried peas.
“Duck!” I said. We kneeled, giggling as a customer from Fiorito’s Hardware Store got into his car.
“HEY!” the guy yelled. He was wearing a gray plumber’s uniform. “You God Damned kids got God Damned Pea Shooters!”
Mary Fran popped up. “You’re gonna go to Hell, Mister! Takin’ the Lord’s name in vain like that! You’ll roast in Hell! Sister Mary Catherine says so!”
The guy was pissed. He started his car and drove off, still swearing.
Mary Fran and I got bored with the pea shooters. We strolled down East Main. The street was filled with people going to Fiorito’s Hardware, the Department of Motor Vehicles, Fiorello’s Bakery, Gene’s Meat Market, the dry cleaners, the beauty parlor, the Quicki-Wash LaundroMat, the Discount Liquor Store, the fish and chips place, Paolo’s Appiza, and the Royal Palms Tropical Spa, which was not a spa at all, but a deli-lunch counter-candy store. Cars zoomed by in the noontime traffic.
“My parents don’t have the money for St. Charles,” I said. “And I like Beardsley School anyway.”
“Well, if you’re too poor, the nuns and priests pay for you to go. My parents said if you love your kids, you send em to Catholic school. So your parents don’t love you very much.” She scratched the mosquito bites on her bare legs. “Besides, you could go to Hell for goin’ to public school.”
I stopped and looked the Evil Mary Fran in the eyes. I balled up my fists. “Take it back!”
“No, I’m not. It’s true.” Mary Fran was older and bigger. She wouldn’t back down.
“You’re wrong! My parents love me.”
“They drink too much. My mother said so.”
“No they don’t. They just drink coffee,” I lied. We stared at each other for a few minutes.
I got tired of the staring contest and the argument. We walked up and down East Main Street. “What do you wanna do?” I asked.
“Let’s go into Paolo’s.”
“We don’t have any money to buy ah-beetz.”
“We can look for money the pool players drop onna floor. And we can steal tips off the tables.”
“OK.” I entered the side door. I whispered to Mary Fran, “But will we go to Hell for stealing?”
The Evil Mary Fran shook her head. “Nah. Not as long as we don’t get caught.”
Photo Credits: “Discount Liquors-East Main Street,” by Sara Jacobelli
“Stores-East Main Street,” by Sara Jacobelli
Note: If you click on the pictures just one time, they will get bigger. These are pics of present-day East Main Street.
© copyright 2013 by Sara Jacobelli
She knew she had to get away from Sammy. She just didn’t know how.
(Fiction) San Francisco, mid 1980s
“So the landlord tells Billy to get rid of these people, see, he didn’t want them in the building, and Billy, he’s smoking so much crack, see, you know what he does? He burns them out, burns them out, burns the fucking place down.” Sammy passed the joint, laughing and coughing at the same time. “Well, not the whole building, but he burned them out of the apartment.”
“Sammy, do you really think that’s funny? I mean, was anyone killed?” Sofia took a short hit on the joint and passed it to Dixon. Dixon looked oblivious, as usual.
Sammy flipped through his vinyl collection and selected some Coltrane. “Yeah, that’s kind of a fucking problem. It WAS funny, but turns out that one of the tenants was there, sleeping or some shit. Billy thought nobody was home.”
Dixon’s eyes opened wide. “What the fuck you talkin bout, man? Dude, I’m hungry. Let’s go eat somethin.”
Sammy opened the door and Dixon followed him down the stairs. Sofia called after them.
“Sammy, did someone fuckin’ die in that fire?”
“Nah, nobody died. I don’t think the guy died. He got smoke inhalation or some shit. But it’s still arson and Billy’s on the run and it ain’t good, see. There’ll be arson investigators or some shit. Probably cops, too. They’re gonna connect me to Billy, see. So if any cops come by—“
“Yeah. Just say I don’t know nothin’.” Sofia closed the door. She turned the stereo up, looked out the front bay window at Valencia Street. She loved living in the Mission District, loved the hood. But she knew she had to get away from Sammy. She just didn’t know how. She lit a cigarette, listened to Coltrane.
Sofia knew they were cops by the sound of the knock. Cops always knock in this loud persistent I-have-a-right-to-be-here way. She looked through the peephole. Two detectives, a man and a woman. Just like TV. Sofia remembered what all the old time North Beach dealers told her. Grab your keys. Open the door just enough to slip outside. Lock the door behind you. Remember, if they could get a warrant, they’d already HAVE it.
She did just that. The woman smiled. The man looked at her sternly, a father to a daughter. A teacher to a student.
“We’re looking for Samuel Ruggerio. Is he home?”
Sofia looked the guy in the eyes. “Nope. And I’m going for a walk.” She brushed past them and headed downstairs.
The woman didn’t say anything. The guy yelled down the stairs. “We just want to talk to Sam. He’s not in any trouble.”
They followed her. Sofia went into the Checkpoint Diner downstairs and sat at the counter. Mae set her up with some hot tea. “Mae, I’ll pay you later, OK?”
“Sure, Sofia. No problem.” Mae looked suspiciously at the two cops who followed Sofia and sat on either side of her. “Menus? You want menus?”
They waved her away. Mae looked pissed. “You must buy something. No free sit.”
The woman touched Sofia on the arm. “I’m Detective Berkowitz. Here’s my card. Sofia, we’re just trying to help. He’s Detective Martino.” She smiled again. She looked more like a social worker than a police detective.
Sofia didn’t say anything. She stirred sugar and milk into her tea.
The woman cop looked around the diner. The décor probably hadn’t changed since the 1940s. “Uh, is the food here any good?”
Sofia laughed. She wanted to say, Are you kidding? The food’s fucking terrible but we all love Mae. But she remembered ole Ray Ray in North Beach and Cookie Bob in the Castro. Long time weed dealers. Ray Ray was dead, and Cookie Bob was dying of AIDS. Never talk to the cops, kid. Even about the weather. Or the Giants. Or the 49ers. Once they get you talking, they’ll get to ya.
Sofia stood up. She hated to leave her steeping hot tea. The flavor was just right. She looked at the guy. Fortyish. Some gray flecks in his hair. Deep brown eyes. He was kind of cute, but it was wrong to even think a cop was cute. “Bye Mae, thanks.”
Sofia left the diner and headed to the Bart station on Mission Street. She walked fast, turning only once to look back. The cops were gone. She used a phone booth at the Bart station to call Sammy. They had worked out a system of codes to use on his beeper. When it came time to punch in a phone number, she tapped out 54. Like the old TV show, “Car 54 Where Are You?” Sammy thought his codes were achingly clever.
So Sammy would know not to come home. At least for a few days. The cops were looking for him. Sofia would have the cluttered studio apartment with the Murphy bed all to herself. Maybe she could get some books from the library and study for her GED.
Sammy was only gone a few days. Sofia didn’t bother to ask where he was. And the cops never came back. Sofia figured San Francisco cops had more to do than to bother with Sammy.
No one knew what happened to Billy. Or the guy who got hurt in the fire. But tonight, they were celebrating not getting busted. They went to that place in Chinatown with all the booths hidden by curtains. The one in the side street where you had to know about it, and climb upstairs to get to it. Everyone would eat and smoke joints. The waiters would say, “Here your office,” and Sammy would say, “Yeah, my office alright. “
Sammy met clients there and sold them weed while he, Dixon and Sofia ate Chinese food. Sofia got tired of Dixon following Sammy everywhere, but there wasn’t much she could do about it. Sammy always had some loser guy following him around, running errands for free weed. Sometimes he’d have two or three of them trailing behind him, a poor man’s entourage.
After the last client left, a nervous middle-aged nurse named Allison, Sammy and Dixon really gobbled their food.
“I’m taking the GED next week,” Sofia said.
“The what?” Dixon asked, his eyes popped out more than usual. Sofia knew he was on more than just weed. Crank, probably. Although Sofia had never seen a crankster eat as much as Dixon.
“What’s the point?” Sammy asked. “I mean, whaddaya even NEED a GED for?”
Sofia dug into her Kung Pao shrimp. “Well, you can take classes at City College for free. And I thought—“
“Lemme try some a that.” Sammy scooped some of her shrimp onto his plate. “I took college courses in Chicago, when I was on probation. Film courses. And my student film was the best, see. We even got busted by the cops once. Busted for filming without a permit. And they put us in the local film fest too, see—“
“Yeah. I know.” Sofia knew the story by heart.
Dixon lit a joint. The smoke wafted up to the ceiling.
“Dixon, can’t you at least wait til we finish eating?”
Sammy laughed. “I love this place. You can do anything behind these curtains. People probably get it on on the tables.”
“Oh. . . gross. I hope they at least wiped the tables off before we came in.” Sofia slurped her steaming hot tea. “Anyhow, I’m taking the GED. If anyone cares.”
“Cool.” Dixon nodded his head to tunes only he could hear.
“Well, the point of my story is, see,” Sammy continued. “I took a semester and a half of college, and I’m not exactly USING it now. Except, perhaps my education makes me more acceptable to some of my yuppie-type customers, see.”
The waiter peeked through the curtain. “You have nice business dinner in your office, yes? Time for fortune cookie.”
Sammy laughed again. “Thanks.” The waiters liked Sammy because he tipped generously.
Sofia stood up. “I have to go to the bathroom. I just hope I can find our booth again. I don’t want to peak through the wrong curtain, in case anyone’s screwing on the table.”
Dixon laughed. “She’s so funny. Wait, Sofia, we gotta read our fortunes.”
Sammy read his, crunching loudly on the fortune cookie. “You will achieve great success in business. Wait. How did THEY know?”
Dixon opened his fortune. “Mine says, You are a seeker of truth and knowledge. Man, that is so deep.”
“Yeah, you’re a deep one, Dixon.” Sofia bowed before Dixon. “O Wise One. You’re as deep as David Carradine in King Fu reruns.”
Dixon looked blank. “Who’s David Carradine?”
“What’s yours say?” Sammy tried to grab Sofia’s fortune.
“No, stop. I want to read it. It says, You are a true friend.” Sofia stuck the small slip of paper into her jeans pocket.
“That’s it? BORING!” Sammy looked disappointed.
“Yeah, that one’s boring.” Dixon nodded in agreement with Sammy.
Sofia went to the lady’s room. Behind the locked stall door, she took out her fortune and read it again. “You will get a fine education, write many books, and travel the world.” She didn’t want Sammy to see it. If he never saw it, he’d never be able to take it away from her.
Photo Credits: “San Francisco By Night: Mission Street,” by Franco Folini. CC ShareAlike License.
“Out of fog Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco in fog,” by Wikipedia. GNU Free Documentation License.
“Car 54 Where are You?” was a popular sitcom about bumbling cops. It aired on the American TV station NBC from 1961-1963.
“Kung Fu,” was an unusual western drama series starring David Carradine. It aired on the American TV station ABC from 1972-1975.
As for John Coltrane? There’s no excuse for not knowing who Coltrane is.
Author’s Note: The narrator is a male character.
Colour My World
© copyright 2013 by Sara Jacobelli
“I hadn’t a drink in nearly ten years.” Famous last words. But that’s what I was thinking when I walked into the Harding High 1975 Class Reunion, at the Holiday Inn in downtown Bridgeport.
That’s what I was thinking when I ordered a vodka cranberry at the open bar. Figured, if I could handle being sober for ten years, I could handle being tipsy a few hours. Then go back to my sober life: the boring AA meetings, the gallons of cappuccino.
“Tony? Tony Ruggerio, from Mr. Licamele’s homeroom?”
A middle-aged woman with hair dyed a poor choice of red peered up at me from thick glasses. I looked at her name tag.
“Angie Cervone?” I juggled my drink and paper plate piled high with cheese and crackers. “Good to see ya, Ange!” She hugged me. I wasn’t sure if I remembered her. There was a ton of Angies at Harding, along with numerous Donnas, Carmens, Vickis, Tinas, and Marias.
I noticed the crinkly laugh lines around her eyes. Everyone looked old.
I headed for the men’s room as an excuse to dodge Angie, then got back-slapped on the way by a few guys I used to play football with. A convention of fat and balding Angelos, Carmines, Ginos, Peters, Paulies, and more Tonys.
Looking in the mirror and combing my thick, dark, wavy hair, I mumbled, “They’re old. Shit, I got a thirty year old girlfriend.”
One of the Tonys came into the can and looked at me strangely.
He nodded on the way out. “Hey, you’re still a dreamboat.”
Back at the party, I got buttonholed by Tina Tattaglia. She was flipping through photos on her digital camera, showing off kids and grandkids. In the 70s we slow-danced to Colour My World, she smelled like lilacs, held tight to my shoulders.
“They’re cute.” I wanted to call my girl back in San Francisco. Misty. A razor-thin Starbucks barista slash artist. God, I was lucky to still look so good. And to be so free.
“Tony, you married? Kids?” Tina had chosen not to die her hair. The natural gray highlights looked kind of pretty, if you go for that sweet grandma type.
“Nah. . . never was the settling down sort.”
“Well. . . “ Tina puffed on one of those fake electronic cigarettes. “There’s something I need to tell you.”
I gulped down my third vodka cranberry.”Yeah, what? Been carrying a torch for me all these years, babe?” I kissed her on the cheek.
“No, it’s just that. Well, Orazio died last year. Remember Razzy? Two years ahead of us? He dropped out and went into construction with his father?”
“Razzy. Nice guy. Sorry.” I put my arm around her shoulder. Felt sorry for her.
Tina held up the camera. “Our oldest, Giovanni? He’s thirty-seven. I never told you, but he’s yours.”
Lyrics to “Colour My World”:
Chicago performing “Colour My World”:
“Colour My World,” written by James Pankow.
Photo Credits: “If you leave me now,” Chicago Album, Non Free, could qualify as Fair Use. Wikipedia.