© Copyright 2014 by Sara Jacobelli
Mama Talks to a Lawyer
Sunday April 18, 1982
The last time I wrote to you, Papa was sitting in Jail. Well, he’s still sitting in Jail, but me and Mama went and talked to a Lawyer on Thursday. The Lawyer’s name is Hippolite Beauregard Landry III. (Sorry if I spelled “Hippolite” wrong, I was writing stuff down in my Notebook while he was talking). This guy was pretty crazy. He had a fat white handlebar moustache and his breath smelled like whiskey. He wore a fancy blue and white striped suit, Mama says it’s called “seersucker.”
His office is on St. Charles Avenue, next to the Please U diner. Mama took me with her. The Little Kids were in school, but Mama let me skip school and ride the streetcar uptown to the lawyer’s office. She told me to take notes so I brought one of my Notebooks.
“What can I do for you Lovely Ladies,” he said, standing up to shake our hands. “Please, have a seat. You can call me ‘Beauregard.’ ”
Mama whispered to me, “That’s MISTER Beauregard, young lady.” She was dressed in a pretty peaches and cream blouse and skirt. I wore my Church Clothes, even though we haven’t been to Church in at least a year. I hate dresses, and it was too small and the material was kind of scratchy.
“My husband is still sitting in OPP, and the Public Defender hasn’t done a damn thing.”
The secretary brought Mama a coffee with chicory and me a Barq’s. I inhaled the deep smell of the coffee while I looked around the office. There were framed diplomas on the wall. There were a lot of framed photographs of Mr. Beauregard fishing in the Bayou and of Mr. Beauregard golfing in tournaments. There were pictures of him with other guys in suits. I figured all those guys must be Rich and Famous. I wondered where Mama thought she was going to get the money to pay for this Fancy Lawyer.
“Ma’am, ma’am.” Mr. Beauregard touched Mama’s hand. She was telling the story of how Papa, Angelo, and Silvio got busted for Dealing Coke. “Ma’am, I am already familiar with the case. I made a few telephone calls after you called me yesterday morning.” He spoke slowly and softly. He reminded me of somebody in a Movie. If you were going to make a Movie with a Southern Lawyer in it, you would use this guy.
Mama stopped sniffling. “Can you get Tony out? How much would it cost? Or will he go to Angola for ten years?”
Mr. Beauregard smiled. “Ma’am, Mrs. Riccio. Young Daniela. “ He made a little steeple using the fingers of both hands. His fingers were as chubby as pork sausages and his fingernails were neatly trimmed.
“I want you lovely ladies to know that all is not lost. There is always a way.” He took a deep breath and leaned back in his comfy leather chair.
“However. This case does pose some particular, shall we say, complications.” He shuffled some papers around on his desk. “Mr. Riccio has numerous charges, including, let’s see. Possession of a controlled substance. Possession with intent to sell. Possession of stolen weapons. Possession of stolen credit cards. Hmmm, that one we can make go away. But still. . .”
“Mr. Beauregard, um.”
“Yes, Daniela.” He looked at me with very light clear watery blue eyes. I almost wanted to laugh at the striped suit.
“Well, uh, isn’t Papa in more trouble cause of, well, if he’s a convicted felon, then it would be a felon with guns?”
Mr. Beauragard smiled. The white moustache twitched. “Young lady, I hope you are not planning on becoming a Lawyer. I surely do not think I could stand the Competition.”
Mama nodded. “She’s very smart. She’s going to be a Lawyer or a Writer or a Teacher. Something Big. She’s not going to work Minimum Wage at Walgreen’s or the K & B, sir. No way.”
He looked at the papers on his desk and wrinkled his brow. “If he IS a convicted felon, it didn’t show up in the records. Which is good.” He winked at me. “And yes, Young Lady, that would add further charges. So we’ll just keep quiet about that and hope it never turns up.”
Mr. Beauregard’s secretary came back in. “Judge Marino wants to have lunch tomorrow.”
“Ahhh, Fridays at Galatoire’s. Ladies, have you ever had the pleasure of dining there? It is the finest establishment in our beloved city, I must say.”
We shook our heads like two school kids. “The closest I ever got to Galatoire’s was this busboy Charlie who worked there. He has a crush on Mama and comes to the Bastille. He says he’s a “busman” not a bus boy.”
Mr. Beauregard arched his eyebrows. “I can see that. Your mother is a lovely woman. A lovely woman. Now, let’s get down to Business.” He grabbed an expensive looking silver pen and wrote some numbers down on a scrap of paper. He handed it to Mama.
Mama held up the paper. On it he had written, “$35,000. $5,000. $0.”
Mama looked at me and looked back at him. “What does this mean?”
“For the first price, that’s our Premium Package, the charges will all go away. Poof.” He waved his hands in the air like he was doing a Magic Trick. “Cash only, of course.”
Mama kept staring at the piece of paper like she thought it was going to explode. Then she put it down on his desk.
“And what happens for $5,000?”
He smiled. “Now, for that second one, that’s our Middle Package, he does some time. Five years, but technically, he only does One Year Locked Up. The other four years are Parole.”
“And the third number. This one just says, ‘$0.’ ?”
“What’s that one mean?” I asked
“That third number is the Booby Prize. That one means, my dear Daniela, that if your dear Mama can’t come up with any money at all, if you pay Zero Dollars, and use a Public Defender—-then Tony, ah, excuse me, Mr. Antonio Riccio, does Five Years in the Angola State Penitentiary.” He looked at his shiny Rolex and added, unnecessarily, “a rather unpleasant place.”
We ate lunch next door at the Please U Diner, where Jeanie works. She gave us both hugs when we walked in the door.
“Mama, this is probably better than Galatoire’s.”
“I don’t know about that.”
“You two want the special? Porkchops and white beans, it’s delicious!”
“Yeah, babe Thanks. And two sweet teas.”
“We can’t really afford this, can we Mama?”
The noisy diner was packed with the lunchtime crowd. Jeanie brought the sweet teas.
“So how’d it go with Mr. Landry?”
“You mean Hippolite-Beauregard-Landry-the -Third with the white moustache and twinkly blue eyes who wears the seersucker suit?”
“Yeah, he’s a character alright.”
Mama sighed. “We don’t have the kind of money a lawyer like that charges. I don’t know what I was thinking. I don’t know what I’m gonna do. I don’t want him to go to Prison.”
“We don’t have any money for any lawyer.”
“Dani, don’t be so fresh. You’re not too big to get slapped.”
“I know but, Mama, I was just thinking. WHERE did all the money go Papa made selling drugs?”
“SHHHH. Dani. Not so loud. Don’t say Selling Drugs out loud like that.”
“Well, the money has to be somewhere. He couldn’t have spent all of it.”
“Yeah, he could. He coulda gambled away every damn penny. You don’t know your father like I do.”
Jeannie ruffled my hair. “You got a point, girlfriend. FIND that money.”
“JEAN! TABLE FOUR!” The manager screeched.
“Gotta go!” She ran off to take care of her other customers.
“What’re we gonna do Mama?”
“I don’t know. Your Father and his Big Ideas to Make Money. Now look at us.”
A lady who looked a lot older than Mama sat at the table next to us. She finished her lunch and stood up, slurping the last sip of her coffee. There was a rumpled copy of The Times-Picayune States-Item on the table. “Dahlin, I know what it’s like to raise up some Jail Babies. I raised four while my ole man did time in Angola. Sure did.” She had bleached blonde hair and wore a ton of makeup and was kind of rough looking
“Does it get any easier?” Mama asked.
“Eight years he was out there. The phone calls are fucking expensive and that trip out to Angola is a Bitch. There’s a bus that’ll take ya though.”
Mama just stared at her.
“But honey. . . ” the blonde said. “Remember you got your Jail Babies with you, keep them close to your Heart. And you know what?”
“At least you KNOW where your man is every night.” She walked out the door.
Jeanie brought our lunch and all I could think of was my porkchop and white beans. I splashed Crystal on the beans and dug into it like I never ate before in my life.
PS: Mama said to tell you not to worry about Papa. She said Papa is tough and he will be alright. So, don’t worry, non ti preoccupare. Besides, she said you have nine or ten other kids and some of them are still there with you in Sicily and that some of them get disability and that some of them Made Good and even have jobs.
Photo Credit: “Seersucker,” http://www.dreamstime.com http://thumbs.dreamstime.com/z/blue-seersucker-fabric-11119808.jpg