© Copyright 2014 by Sara Jacobelli
Mama and Papa Split Up!
Sunday, January 10, 1982
Well, I thought 1982 was going to be a Good Year. Now, I’m not so sure.
We went back to school after Christmas/New Year’s Break. The Little Kids were even glad to go back to school. They were getting bored at home. There aren’t too many kids for them to play with around here. Mama said we need to move to a “Family Neighborhood”, whatever that means. Personally, I like living in the French Quarter. I still miss our old apartment on Spain Street, but it is fun living Next Door to Tootsie and Dakota, and it is fun Running the Streets with Dakota, even though Mama doesn’t like it much. I figure Mama gets enough Free Babysitting out of me that I Deserve a Break. Mama is still my Best Friend, even more so than Dakota. But Mama doesn’t always understand me.
Friday night, Mama and Papa had a Big Fight about Papa quitting his job. They were throwing stuff at each other, the Little Kids were crying. Mama waved this big knife around, the kind we use for carving turkey. “Don’t you bring your Drug Dealing Scumbag Friends in This House, around My Kids!” she screamed. I thought she was gonna slice Papa up.
Papa grabbed her roughly by the arm and twisted it; she screamed and dropped the knife. Mama’s arm looked so skinny compared to Papa’s. Then he slapped her hard. “Puttana! No woman tells me what to do!” He shoved her against the wall. I was scared he was going to kill her.
I opened the door and pushed Gino down the hall to get Tootsie. Tootsie and Dakota came in with Hacksaw. Papa was still slapping Mama and she was Howling. Not Crying, but Howling like a Wild Wolf. Hacksaw grabbed Papa. Hacksaw’s a big ole Biker Dude and he’s pretty tough too.
Hacksaw pulled Papa away from Mama. “Don’t fuckin tell me how to treat my Woman!” Papa said, glaring at Hacksaw.
“Nah, man, I wouldn’t do that, brah. Brother, she’s Your Woman, but you’re Dealin and shit, you want the cops comin here? You wanna go to Central Lockup and eat baloney sandwiches?” Papa seemed to calm down a little bit and Hacksaw guided him out the door, winking at me on the way out. “”Let’s go downstairs, brah, have a drink. I’ll buy you a drink brah. I’ll buy ya a Jagermeister.”
“She’s a fuckin Bitch, a Puttana. Menefrego. In Sicily I could kill her no problem, the judge would understand. That’s the Law there.” We could hear Papa complaining as they went down the stairs.
I was glad Hacksaw got Papa out of there. In that moment I hated Papa more than I ever hated anyone in the World. I felt like picking up that Big Old Carving Knife and slicing his neck wide open, til the blood gushed out like Old Faithful in Yellowstone.
Tootsie cleaned Mama up with cold wash rags and hydrogen peroxide. Mama had a black eye and her face was bleeding. She stopped Howling and was crying softly. “Honey, you and Dakota take the Little Kids Next Door in case he comes back.”
“I’ll take them Next Door and put them to bed, but I’m coming right back.” They fell asleep in Dakota’s bed, looking like two little rag dolls, and Dakota fell asleep on a pile of blankets on the floor. I figured it was my Job to take care of Mama.
When I came back, they were sitting on the couch watching Alfred Hitchcock reruns and drinking Hot Tea. Mama was even laughing a little bit. “I Like this one, this episode, where she uses a leg of lamb as the murder weapon, then feeds it to the cops.”
Tootsie rolled her eyes. “That givin you any ideas, Girlfriend?”
“That son of a bitch better not mess with me again, I’ll kill him. Kill him and end up in Angola.”
“St Gabriel. They send the bitches to St. Gabriel and the bastards to Angola.”
I curled up on the couch next to Mama. “Mama, are you and Papa Split Up now?”
“Yes honey.” She touched her face gingerly. “Ooh, I’m going to be too fuckin ugly to make any tips now.”
“No, Mama, you’re not ugly. You’re still pretty. But are you guys gonna Get Divorced, like Demian and Darius’s parents?”
Tootsie stretched out her feet and put them on the coffee table. “Those two lovebirds? No Way!”
“But he Beats her Up when he gets mad!”
Tootsie rolled her eyes. “That’s what Men do. You fuck up, your Man gets Pissed, then he Beats the fuck out of you.” She stood up. “Unless, that is, you wanna hook up with some doctor or lawyer or accountant or architect with clean fingernails and a suit and tie. . .” Tootsie looked at Mama. “You wanna share your bed with a Man like that? A Nice Gentleman?” She mimed opening a car door and bowing. She picked up her tea cup and stuck her little finger out.
“STOP! Stop! It hurts when I laugh,” Mama giggled. “Stop Tootsie, you’re Crazy, girl!”
“What’s wrong with a Nice Man?” I asked. They both looked at me like I was speaking a strange language.
“Honey, nothing wrong with that, but a Man like that probably can’t take care of his woman in bed, I mean—“
“Hey, not in front of My Kid,” Mama said.
“Well, you know you ain’t gonna fuck no Ward Cleaver now,”
“Alright Tootsie, Good Night Tootsie, enough Tootsie, you red headed bitch, time to go,” Mama pushed her toward the door.
“I’m goin downstairs for a few drinks.”
Mama and I both said, “Night, Tootsie, buona notte!”
Mama let me sleep with her. “I sure hope he doesn’t get arrested,” she said, as her head hit the pillow.
“Does it hurt? Does your face hurt?”
“No honey, Tootsie gave me some pain pills. Hacksaw takes em for his back.”
“Why do you care if he gets arrested? Maybe we’d have some peace and quiet around here, if Papa went to jail. He shouldn’t be Selling Coke anyway, and he shouldn’t be hitting you. I don’t know why you even put up with him.”
“Oh I don’t know either. It’s hard to explain.”
“Mama, do you want me to tell them you can’t go to work tomorrow?”
“Um hmm.” Her eyes were closed.
“Mama, you can’t go to work tomorrow.”
She was asleep, snoring softly. This cute funny little snore. I looked at her face, still beautiful but all beat up. And I knew that she would put tons of make up on, and huge sunglasses, and wrap a scarf around her head, to hide the black eye and the swelling and the bruises. And she would take him back. And somewhere, a Nice Lonely Gentleman just finished a TV dinner and is going to bed, thinking about walking his dog in the morning and washing his car and doing his laundry, and sighing, and wishing he had a Good Woman like this, a Good Woman like this to hold in his arms forever.
Photo Credit: “Hollywood Gallery-Sophia Loren,” by erjkprunczyk. License: CC NonCommercial ShareAlike. Flickr.