Monthly Archives: May 2014
© Copyright 2014 by Sara Jacobelli
A Pirate’s Treasure!
Sunday, May 30th, 1982
I hope you are doing OK in Sicily. I sure hope I can visit you there some day. I’m sorry that I’m always telling you Bad Stuff about Papa. Mama says I should remember that he is your Son and you love him. She says a Mama loves a Son in a Special Way, different than she loves a daughter. (Which might explain why Gino is such a Spoiled Brat). But I have to finish telling you what happened next:
Mr. Carlo locked the door behind him. The duffel bag was pad-locked, so he took a knife out of his pocket and sliced it open. We both got down on our knees to rifle through the bag.
“Seems like justa lot a magazines and clothes and towels and stuff. Maybe there’s nothin in here.”
“Take those magazines, Kid, go trew em page by page. He probly stuck the money in there.”
I opened up an old Reader’s Digest and sure enough, a hundred dollar bill was Scotch-taped onto the page titled, Laughter is the Best Medicine.
“Wow, Laughter is really the Best Medicine when you got this.” I carefully peeled off the tape and held up the hundred dollar bill. “Soldi. Ho io soldi. Sono ricco.” Mr. Carlo laughed.
Cricket banged on the door. “Mr. Carlo, I need change for da register. An I need some ernge juice.”
“Send Melvin to the A &P.”
“Melvin ain’t nowhere.”
“Alright, give me a few.”
We went through all the magazines and kept finding more hundred dollar bills. Mr. Carlo whistled while he counted. He’s a fast Money Counter. We were two Pirates in this together.
He held up some money. “I could tell how much this is, just by makin a stack and feelin the stack. See this here, this is a grand.”
“So how much is all of it, you think?”
“Looks like four grand, babe. Four grand and some change, some spicci. A nice haul, I’d say. I’ll keep it locked up, while you decide what to do wit it.” He stood up, brushed floor dirt off his immaculate designer jeans.
“You think Papa made all this money selling Coke?”
“Some of it. Some of it he just robbed from Drug Dealers, plain and simple. If I’m lyin I’m dying, your old man’s a piece a work. Piece a work.”
“That’s wrong. He shouldna done that.”
“I know, baby. At least the Drug Dealers are working, running a business. I don’t mind em so much, long as they ain’t doin it in here. Gotta protect my liquor license. But robbin em, that’s pretty low.”
“Mama said you don’t even have a liquor license.”
“Baby, I’m workin on it. You know what I do? I give the code guy a little somethin, I give em a busteralla, a little envelope stuffed with one a these Ben Franklins here. Once a month. That’s my liquor license.”
“You gotta help us, Mr. Carlo. What about the money he owed for gambling debts? They’re not gonna come after me an Mama an Gino an Antonietta?” I pictured gangs of Mob Guys like Al Capone breaking down the door in the middle of the night, shooting all of us with tommy guns and selling Mama to the White Slave Harems.
“Nah, I’ll take a grand a this and straighten it out for ya. That leaves three grand for you to take care of your Mama and the kids.”
“You could do it for free, I bet.”
He touched my face. “Carina. Yes I could. But sweetheart, I can’t be seen playin the fool. Capisce?”
“Si. Capisco.” I looked at the duffel bag. “I could give those towels to Mama? We could sure use em.”
He smiled and winked at me. “Sure, Kid. Leave em here now, first you gotta go to the A & P.”
Cricket banged on the door again. “Mr. Carlo! Melvin’s Missing in Action, I ain’t got no quarters, I can’t give change without a solid quarter. We got no ernge juice for Mrs. Reilly’s screwdrivers.”
“I’ll send Dani.” He gave me two twenties. “Get juice and a roll a quarters, Mr. Bushy’ll give it to ya. Then keep the other twenty to buy a apizza for ya Mama an em tonight.”
“But where’ll I tell Mama I got the money from?”
“Workin. You been working here, this is a Bonus.”
“What about the rest of the Money?”
He leaned in close. “Dani, Don’t tell anyone. Don’t tell your Mama yet, an don’t tell Dakota. Specially don’t tell Tootsie. You might love her, but she’s still a Junkie. Meet me here tomorrow after school.”
“School’s out for the Summer.”
“I forgot, Kid.”
“I’m worried. Mama got to see Papa in Jail. He told her to go on down to the Greyhound station even though she don’t have the key to the locker, talk the guy into giving her his duffle bag.” We walked out of the office. He locked the door behind him.
“And since I already got the bag, Mama’s gonna figure this out.”
“Ragazza. Stai zito. Don’t say no more.”
Cricket hovered over me, nosy and suspicious. She didn’t dare say anything til Mr. Carlo left. “What were you two talkin bout in his Office? He don’t even let me IN there.”
I hated everything about her, from her bleached blonde hair to her halter top and denim short shorts and four inch high purple clogs. She’s the Type Papa calls Dumb as a Rock.
“Just Stuff. He an my Mama are Good Friends.”
“Yeah, I bet they’re Good Friends. Very Good Friends. She was smart, she’d let him set her up. These Bar Owners set their Girls up Nice.” She took a drag on her Virginia Slim and let out a long puff of smoke. “I’d go for him myself, but he ain’t intrested. Says I’m too fuckin skinny.” Her green eyes looked at me, searching. “You’re pretty closed mouth for a Little Kid. I ain’t never seen no Kid like you before.”
“I AIN’T a Little Kid.”
“Baby, you ain’t been fucked, you ain’t had your heart broken, you ain’t had a baby, you ain’t loved a man who’s doin time. I’d say that makes ya a Little Kid.” Cricket poured herself a shot a Jose Cuervo and downed it in two seconds.
“Where’s my screwdriver? I’mma tell Mr. Carlo you all are ignorin me. I’mma gonna make-a complaint to the Board a Health, the Effa-Be-Eye an the See-Eye-A.” Mrs. Reilly made piles of pennies an nickels on the bar. “I work, I clean houses every day, I got me a job. I want my God-Damned drink.”
Cricket dumped some ice in a go cup and filled it with bar brand vodka. “There’s your drink, Bitch. You got vodka but no juice. Onna house.” She looked at me. “You goin to the store or what?”
“Alright, I’m going,” I stood in the doorway and turned around to glare at Cricket. She always talked down to me and Dakota, which Mama and Tootsie never did. They yelled, they threw things, they slapped us when we screwed up but they didn’t treat us like stupid no-nothing retarded little Babies. “Hey Cricket, you know what?”
“What?” She plopped on a stool, pulled out a nail file, filed a nail absentmindedly. Her nails were long and painted hot pink.
“It’s true, I never did those first three things. But I do love a man who’s in Jail, an he’s facing doing some Time. Serious Time. My Papa.”
“What baby?” Cricket put down the nail file and stood on a barstool, reaching up to change channels on the TV, a dangerous assignment on the rickety stool, especially since she wore those fancy four inch high chunky clogs. The old Morning News guys were gone, and the Soap Opera crowd was drifting in.
“I said, I know what it means to love a man Behind Bars. My own Father.”
“I know, honey. Your Mama got her some Jail Babies now. Ain’t it a shame?”
The corny music started up, and the deep voiced announcer proclaimed, “These are the Days of Our lives.”
Photo Credit: “Dollar Sign in Space-Illustration,” by DonkeyHotey. CC License Attribution Only.
© Copyright 2014 by Sara Jacobelli
We Get News about Tootsie!
Sunday, May 23, 1982
Well, yesterday was my first day helping Melvin the Porter at the Bastille. I swept the floor, helped take out the trash, and went to the A & P to get orange juice and other stuff. I love the French Quarter A & P, especially pushing the little miniature shopping carts around. Mr. Bushy waves from his way-up–high window office, he always cashes checks for Mama. He loves Mama, he says she looks “like a combination of Sofia Loren and Gina Lolla-bridge-ada.” (Sorry, Nonna, not sure how to spell Ms. Gina’s last name. I’m going to ask my teacher).
I really like Mr. Melvin. He’s medium height, skinny, usually wears a white T-shirt and jeans and a cap. He’s always dressed neatly and is quiet and soft spoken. His eyes are dark brown and sleepy. Mama says he has Robert Mitchum eyes. He always tells me about the Blues. He plays Leadbelly on the jukebox, and BB King and Robert Johnson. I wouldn’t know about any of this stuff if it wasn’t for Mr. Melvin. Plus he tells me old timey black slang that the young kids don’t know nowadays.
He hopped onto the bar and patted the space next to him. I climbed up. He adjusted his cap. “This here, this on my head, know what they call this?”
“A hat, what else? That’s easy.” I sipped my cherry Coke and crunched on the cherries one by one.
“No, no, sugar. This here’s called my sky. My sky.”
“Really? Never heard that before.”
“And my woman. My woman is called my squeeze.”
“Your squeeze? That’s funny. Like squeezing orange juice?” I giggled. Melvin slapped his thighs and chuckled. Then Mr. Carlo walked in.
“So you two look like you’re working hard.” Mr. Carlo winked at me. Melvin sighed.
“You know I been workin hard, I always work hard.” He jumped down off the bar and went behind the bar to pour Mr. Carlo his plain ginger ale. The bar was open twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, but Mr. Carlo decided to shut down on Saturday mornings for two hours so Melvin could clean up.
Melvin took a clean white towel from his back pocket and wiped his face. “Sweat. See this here Sweat. That’s Work Sweat, Mr. Carlo.”
Mr. Carlo smiled. “I got some news about Our Girl Tootsie. She got busted—went to Central Lockup—ended up eatin baloney sandwiches.”
“Oh no, is she alright?”
“She’s alright Dani. I gotta call from Downtown. She mentioned my name, somebody called me. I got her out.”
“Shoot.” Melvin said. “I’m surprised. I know you don’t truck with no Junkies.”
“Yeah, but. It’s Tootsie. Tootsie. I don’t want her workin for me no more, but can’t stand the thought of her in that place. If she cleans up her act, I can getter a gig dancing again, coupla fellas owe me some favors.”
“I can’t wait to tell Mama and Dakota!”
“Yeah, well. Dakota needs to keep stayin with you all, but I don’t think Tootsie should stay there. You kids don’t need to be around Drugs. She’s says she quit, but you can’t believe a hop head. I put her up in a Motel for a few nights. We’ll see what happens.”
A car pulled up out front, and one of those serious looking men who were always looking for Mr. Carlo came in. They shook hands. Then a few more guys came in, and Cricket, a new young skinny blonde bartender, came rushing in to open up.
“Sorry I’m so late, Mr. Carlo, but me an JJ got inna fight, it’s a long story.”
Mr. Carlo waved her off and took me by the arm. “Quick walk, Kiddo.”
“What’s up?” We walked a block down Toulouse Street. Porters were hosing down the sidewalks in front of the bars and restaurants, washing away last night’s smell of beer, wine, Pat O’Brien’s Hurricanes and puke.
“I been thinkin, you don’t need to wait three weeks til you can get your Money.”
“We can go in the Back Office and open it now, just keep your Mouth shut about whatever’s innit, OK?”
“OK. I know.”
“Not even Dakota. Cuz with her Mom being strung out, man, if Tootsie gets ahold a that dough, it’s gone. She’d shoot it up in a heartbeat, ya hear me?”
“I hear ya, Mr. Carlo. I won’t say nothing.”
“How long’s your Mama got before she can make that Deal with the Lawyer, Mr. Beauregard?”
“Alright. Well, if there’s any Money in there, you’ll have to decide whether to use if for your Papa’s Lawyer. Or, what else wouldjou do with it?” He looked at me with very sincere blue eyes. “Would you let your own ole man Rot in Angola?”
“No, not rot in Prison. Not like that. I just want to do what’s best. For Mama and Gino and Antonietta.”
“You’re smart, Sport. Too Smart. You remind me so much of that little girl in that movie, the Gregory Peck Movie.” He ruffled my hair. “Scout. That’s you, you look just like Scout.”
“Yeah, Mama says that too.” We walked back to the Bar.
Half a dozen older men were sitting at the bar drinking coffee. During racing season, they would always have the newspaper or racing forms out, carefully circling horse’s names and scribbling indecipherable notes. It was their Morning Ritual. Since the track is closed in the summer, they all had the sports pages spread out. I felt bad for them, I think they miss the Horses. At least they have Football season to look forward to.
Mr. Carlo unlocked the tiny office door and gestured for me to come in. We were finally going to open Papa’s Duffel Bag. I could feel and hear my heart thumping loudly in my chest.
Photo Credit: “Jukebox,” by AJ Wms. License CC NonCommercial. Flickr.
- First Prize: Amy Blakemore “Previously, Sparrows”
- Runner up: Michael Capel “Florida Arizona Buffalo Hawaii”
- Runner up: Frank Fucile “Slow and Steady”
- Honorable Mention:
Jennifer Genest “Ways to Prepare White Perch”
Landon Houle “My Mother, Aged 58, Tattoos Her Face”
Carrie Mullins “The Last Supper”
No, I didn’t win anything. But I read my entry, the short story, “Hustler Boy” at BJs in da Bywater, along with some other stories, both fiction and nonfiction. I will submit the story elsewhere and see what happens. Remember, the Bloodjet Poetry Series hosted by Megan Burns, is every Wednesday, 8:00 pm, BJs, 4301 Burgundy Street, NOLA, 70117.