© Copyright 2013 by Sara Jacobelli
Mama Gets Robbed at the Circle K
Sunday, December 13, 1981
I have a lot to tell you. You wouldn’t believe what has been going on around here. Papa is still selling Weed. So far, he hasn’t gotten busted. Mama gets mad because he blows too much money betting the horses at the Fairgrounds racetrack. Sometimes, when he is sound asleep, Mama sneaks into his wallet and carefully takes out some money. Some ones, a five, or even a ten. She can’t take too much or he will figure it out.
Well, Friday night, one of the things I was afraid of finally happened. Mama got robbed while working the nightshift at the Circle K store. That store has been held up three times since she has been working there, but never on her shift before.
Some skinny young guy about sixteen years old came in and stuck a gun in her face demanding money. His hand was shaking. Mama said the gun was bigger than he was. She gave him the money in the register. Only about fifty, sixty bucks. She said all she could think about was who would take care of us kids if something happened to her.
The policeman gave her a ride back to the Motel. Papa was mad about that. He didn’t like the idea of her being in a car with another man, especially a cop. Then he told Mama, “Couldn’t you have stuck a couple twenties under the tray for us?” Poor Mama, she gets robbed, almost gets killed, and she gets no sympathy.
That night she told us she was quitting her job. “It’s not worth it, not for Minimum Wage,” she said, shaking her head. “Tomorrow, I’m going to see if I can get a bartending job where Tootsie works.” She took some Goody Powders for a bad headache.
Mama’s friend Tootsie bartends at the Bastille in the French Quarter. Mama said she could make good tips there, plus the bar owner has Apartments that he rents out. “I don’t really want you kids living upstairs from a bar,” she said, lighting a cigarette. “But it’s better than this. At least they have little kitchens.”
Mama hates not having a kitchen to cook meals in. It’s such a hassle to cook on the hotplate that we end up eating Cheerios for breakfast and more Cheerios for dinner, or ham and cheese sandwiches, or getting Popeye’s or McDonald’s. Mama says she wants to make us some Spaghetti and some good Red Gravy.
After hugging Mama tightly, the Little Kids fell back asleep. I stayed up late with her and Papa. “Do I have to go to school tomorrow?” I asked. Mama shook her head. “No, honey, that’s OK. You can go with me to the Bastille.”
Papa grabbed Mama roughly by her shoulders. “I don’t like for you to work in a bar,” he said. His accent gets thicker when he’s mad. His eyes get even darker and his scars make him look scary.
“Look, you wanta move outta this place, or what?” Mama stood her ground. She knew he’d hit her more if she worked in a bar. Papa goes into these Jealous Rages if he even thinks another man is looking at her. She also knew the money was better than at the Circle K. I was surprised Papa didn’t start yelling and throwing things. He climbed onto the bed and kicked his shoes off, put his arm around her. “I don’t want you to work at that store. You coulda been killed. Maybe the bar is better.” He leaned against her shoulder the way Gino does when he’s in trouble.
“We might get an apartment right next to Tootsie and Dakota?” I asked Mama.
“Yes, honey. But I don’t want you Running the Streets with Dakota.”
Papa found a channel that had some old Twilight Zones and Outer Limits shows.
“Oh, I love these. These shows are what I useta watch when I was a kid,” Mama said.
“Black and white? It looks so funny.” I poured water into the pan and heated it up on the hot plate to make instant hot chocolate. I filled a mug for each of us and sat between them while we watched TV. She leaned across me and touched his hair.
“Gino’s going to be handsome like you. Bello. With that thick black shiny curly hair. And that darkskin.”
“And Antonietta’s gonna be pretty like you, Mama,” I said. “But what about me?”
“She not so bella, more like smart,” Papa said.
“That’s mean,” I said. “You’re calling me Ugly. Brutta. Just because I wear glasses.”
“Stop it, you’re not Ugly, you’re not brutta, you’re Cute,” she said, sipping her hot chocolate. “But more important than that, you’re Smart.”
“Too Smart. Smart fucking Mouth.” he said. “I hope she marries a man who’ll keep her in line. A Siciliano.”
I fell asleep in their bed. I was vaguely aware of Papa picking me up and gently laying me on a pile of pillows and blankets on the floor. All night I dreamed about Mama at the Circle K getting robbed. In my Dream, she took the teenage robber’s Gun and chased him all around the Store. She grabbed him by the shoulders, shook his skinny body, and screamed at him, “What would your Mama think? You out robbing people like this?”
Nonna, please take care of yourself. I hope you are doing well. Does it snow it Italy? Will it snow for Christmas? It doesn’t snow here except once every hundred years. My Big Wish for Christmas is to get Our Own Apartment and to not be in the Getaway Motel by Christmas Eve. I’ll let you know if that really happens!
PS: We couldn’t play outside at the Sands Motel on Airline Highway because the traffic was too dangerous. Now we can’t play outside at the Getaway Motel on Tulane Avenue because the traffic is too dangerous and there are Drug Dealers and Prostitutes and other Unsavory Characters here. So we are all Cooped Up in this Room. The only games the Little Kids know how to play are Candyland and Shoots and Ladders. I wish Mama would play Monopoly or Scrabble or Life with me but she’s always too tired from working. Mama says that she is “already playing the Game of Life, and Losing.” (Whatever that means).
PSS: I went back to our old Apartment on Spain Street. I sat on the front stoop and talked to the Lady who lives there. Her name is Miss Franny and she has two little boys. She said she sees Old Mr. Kitty sometimes, and puts out food for him. He still hasn’t come close enough to let her pet him.
PSSS: I learned something, Nonna. If you love someone, hold them real close. You never know when you can lose them. I just can’t imagine life without Mama. Now every time I hear her laugh, or smell the shampoo in her hair, or watch her tuck in the Little Kids at Bedtime, I think of how close we came to losing her. It makes my heart stop for just a second, and tiny little goosebumps crawl up my arms.
Photo Credit: “Twenties,” by The.Comedian. License CC NonCommercial. Flickr.