Part Twenty One
Keep On Going, Kid
Wednesday June 23, 1982
I have a lot to tell you. On Monday, Mama dragged me to Mr. Hippolite Beauregard Landry III’s office. He sat behind his desk, still wearing the blue striped suit. He looked surprised to see us.
“Well, well, Beautiful Ladies, it’s good to see you. Charise, bring us some sweet teas.”
“I’d like something stronger,” Mama said. Mr. Beauregard walked over to his antique-looking cabinet, flipped it open and it turned into a little bar. He fixed them both stiff, strong smelling drinks.
Miss Charise brought the tea.
“Now, what can I do for you, Mrs. Riccio? The time has passed to make any deal, for, for Antonio, you understand?” He sat back in his comfy leather chair and looked at Mama’s legs. She wore a short turquoise skirt and kept crossing and uncrossing her legs.
“I have money. Three grand. Can’t we make SOME kinda deal?”
“That’s not quite enough. I’d have to talk to a few people. I’m not sure if that amount will be ah, suitable.”
I stood up. “Mama, it’s too late to make a Deal, and it’s not enough Money. Let’s go.” I wondered why Mr. Beauregard didn’t ask How we got the Money. Then I remembered Mr. Carlo saying, Lawyers NEVER ask where Money comes from.
She took a tissue from a fancy box on Mr. Beauregard’s desk and wiped the corners of her eyes. I heard faint sniffles. I recognized that fake crying, it was the same technique Antonietta used when she wanted us to change channels on the TV so she could watch her Stupid Cartoons.
Mr. Beauregard came out from behind the desk. He touched Mama’s shoulder. “Mrs. Riccio, no need to cry. We’ll think of something.”
She dabbed at her eyes again. “You can call me Carmela.”
He smiled. “Carmela. A beautiful Name for a beautiful Lady.”
I started thinking maybe Mama did have potential as an Actress.
“Mr. Beauregard, um, I went to the Library, and the lady there helped me find some information. I think there might be another solution for Papa.”
Him and Mama looked at each other. He went back to his comfy chair. Mama straightened up, smoothed her hair, blew into the hanky. They both looked at me, questioning.
“Angelo got sent to Angola. But, he was born here. So, I was thinkin, since Silvio wasn’t born here, he got deported back to Sicily. Mama said Papa snuck over into the U.S. and he’s not here legally. So maybe Papa could be deported too.”
Mama didn’t say anything.
Mr. Beauregard made that little steeple thing with his fingers again, that thing he does when he’s thinking. If they were playing Poker, Papa would say That’s his Tell.
“If he got Deported,” Mama said. “I’d still be stuck here raisin three kids without a husband. Four, counting Dakota.”
Mr. Beauregard looked at her and then at me. “Young Daniela, your idea does have some merit. But you do realize that your Papa, Mr. Antonio Riccio, might very well Do Time in Sicily? It’s not likely they’d let him go scott-free.”
My face turned red and I felt hot. “I know but. But. I’ve been thinking. Maybe it’s a Dumb Idea. But, who knows, maybe they’ll screw his papers up, something gets Mixed Up in translating, maybe he’ll get out of this and do less time Over There. And he could always Sneak back here again. He’s pretty Sneaky.”
Mr. Beauregard raised his eyebrows and adjusted his bow-tie. “I’m sure he is, ah, Sneaky.” He downed his drink and refilled his and Mama’s glasses. “I’m not saying that this idea did not cross my mind. It did. I just thought it might be Too Risky. But under the circumstances. Under the circumstances.”
“Could we just give you the three thousand dollars and make payments on the rest? And get that five year deal, that Middle Plan you talked about? One year in Angola plus four years probation?”
“It would be parole, not probation, Mrs. Riccio, ah, Carmela. Any violation of his parole and he’d be back in Angola. And yes, that is a possibility. If you think you can afford the Payments.” He shuffled some papers on his desk, buzzed Charise into his office. “Charise, dahlin, we need those Forms we discussed earlier.”
I stood up. “No. We DON’T need them.”
“Dani, stop.” Mama waved me away.
“Mr. Beauregard, can you please call our Public Defender and tell him my idea? About having Papa Deported?”
Mr. Beauregard looked like he was in a State of Shock.
“Please? Just do that for us?”
“Dani, siddown!” Mama said.
“Mama, NO! We’re not spending every Penny we have to get Papa out of Trouble.”
“Who is the Parent Here and Who is the Child, Daniela?” Mama’s eyes looked fierce, like Old Mister Kitty’s eyes when he stalked a mouse or a lizard.
Mr. Beauregard put down his paperwork and picked up the phone. “I’ll try to get ahold of that Public Defender, Mr. James Smith, I believe? If I can’t get him by phone, I’ll take a stroll by Tulane and Broad.”
I tugged at Mama to get her out of the chair. She finished her drink and followed me out the door into the Please-U Diner.
“I should Slap you,” she said, as Jeanie poured Mama a coffee and me a sweet tea.
“Why?” Jeanie asked. “What’d my girl do now?”
“She’s got a Smart Mouth, thinks she knows everything, thinks she gets to Make all the Decisions around here.” Mama squinted at the chalkboard. “What’s the Daily Special? I can’t see it.”
“That’s because she Needs Glasses and won’t wear them,” I said.
“Smoked sausage, get it, it’s delicious.” Jeanie leaned in close. “Any news about Tony?”
Mama glared at me. She stirred milk and sugar into her strong smelling chicory coffee. “She wants to get her own father Deported. Ungrateful Kid, this one.”
“Deported?” Jeanie looked confused.
“JEAN! Table Nine! Order’s up! An Table Seven, they need Ketchup an Crystal!”
Jeanie bustled off to take care of her customers.
“Mama, are you gonna stay Mad at Me Forever?”
She didn’t say anything.
“MAMA! Are you gonna stay Mad?”
I thought she would yell and scream and throw things. She sipped her coffee. And then she started crying. For real.
Saturday, July 3rd, 1982
I turned thirteen today. I thought I would feel different, being a real teenager. I feel about the same though.
Tomorrow we are going to watch the fireworks on the barges on the Mississippi River. The Little Kids are so excited. I guess that’s my birthday celebration. Tootsie really loved fireworks, so this Fourth of July is for her.
We didn’t really do anything for my birthday today. Mama is still sad about Tootsie dying. Dakota lives with us now. With her father in Prison, she has nowhere else to go and we’re happy to have her. Mama said it’s better that we don’t mention keeping Dakota to CPS. “What they don’t know won’t hurt em.”
She’s still sad about Papa. Mr. Beauregard talked to Mr. Carlo and the two of them made some phone calls. They worked it out that Papa’s being Deported back to Sicily. Mama got to see him one last time. I was going to write him a letter, but then Mama reminded me that he can’t read. So Mama said our Goodbyes from all of us. She said Papa said he will come back to this Country some day. Like Mama always says, “We’ll see.” I guess you will be seeing him. I don’t know when they are going to send him there, or how long it will take him to get to Sicily.
Mama isn’t mad at me anymore. I remember what she said about her Mama being so mad when she got pregnant with me. When you love someone, you have to forgive them. I hope that Mama understands that I kept the money Secret, because I wanted to take care of her and the Little Kids. It’s not that I don’t love Papa. I do. Maybe it’s wrong, but I just want to take care of Mama.
Today we walked around our old neighborhood and saw the lady who lives in our Old House on Spain Street. Her name is Miss Franny. We joined her on her front stoop. She’s older than Mama and kind of chunky. Her hair’s always in curlers and she wears shorts and scruffy white tennis shoes. She opened up a cooler and gave Mama a Dixie beer and us kids each a Barq’s. She said she gets Old Mister Kitty to come sit by her on the stoop sometimes. “Canned food, that’s what he likes. I go to the Cuban store over dere, onna coinder, buy him some canned food, an he sits by me. Still won’t let me pet em, that one. He’s stubborn. Stubborn as they come.”
Me and Dakota sat on the stoop, hoping he would show up for his special canned cat food.
“That stuff smells stinky,” Gino said.
“You’re stinky,” Antonietta said.
“Go play in the street, Brats.” Dakota laughed. I haven’t seen her laugh for awhile.
Mama laughed too. “Yeah, Kids, Go Play in Traffic.”
Miss Franny’s two little boys came outside and threw a Frisbee around with Gino and Antonietta. Some bigger kids came out and set off fireworks in the middle of the street. Miss Franny gave all the kids sparklers. I lit up a sparkler and swirled it around. Mama showed her a picture of Papa.
“Handsome devil. It’s a shame, it’s a cryin shame. Yer Ole Man gettin busted like that. An these here politicians wit all the money. What-are-ya gonna do? It’ll work out, Honey. Gawd Don’t Sleep.” Miss Franny shook her head. “Ya got a Decent Place to live? If yer lookin fer a house, Ole Man Sullivan’s sellin his. Cheap. Movin in with his daughter over by Metry.”
Mama didn’t pay any attention.
I stopped twirling the sparkler. “How much does it cost to buy a house? Is three thousand dollars enough?”
“Honey, that’s the down payment. I bet you give em two grand, that’ll do er. Then about two fifty a month, Dere’s yer mortgage. House cost about twenny five grand or so. Needs some fixin up.”
“How many bedrooms?”
“Two each side. Shotgun double. Little yard. Tell em you ken only afford two grand down, use the rest to getchou some furniture, a little car. Ole Man Sullivan’s lookin to sell, I’m tellin ya. If ya rent the other side out, that’ll pay yer mortgage. Don’t give em too much money, I’m tellin ya. His daughter Made Good. She married some Rich Doctor, twenny years older’n er. Met em dancing over by Luthgen’s. They got plenny, if I’m lyin I’m dyin. We got a nice block here, everbody goes to Church. We gotta nice priest too, innis Parish.”
“I know. We miss living here. Mama, listen. Listen to Miss Franny.”
“Dani, quite bossin me around.” She lit a cigarette. “So my best friend’s dead, my Ole Man’s gone, I don’t have nobody.” Mama waved her arms in the air like the Italian ladies in the Movies.
“Honey, they some Cute kids. You lucked out wit dem kids.”
Mama rolled her eyes. “Yeah. Yeah you right. At least I got them. I shouldn’t complain so much. Don’t really wanna be raisin em upstairs from a Bar though.”
“Mama, we could come back to our street. We could buy that house. And maybe Old Mister Kitty will come see us.”
“You weren’t paying any attention, Mama. Miss Franny says Ole Man Sullivan’s house is for sale. Cheap. Right down the street. Two bedrooms, an a little yard for the kids. Mama, we have the money.”
“The Kids, she says. Like she’s a Grown-up over here.”
“Mama, please. I’m thirteen. I’m not a baby. Can’t we just look at it?”
“Yeah.” Dakota’s eyes brightened. “We could all live there together. Me an Dani in one room and you an the Little Kids in the other.”
“Is that what you want, Dani?”
I thought about Being Evicted and all of us crammed into the weekly Motel Rooms with no fridge and the Little Kids getting Cheerios for dinner and Mama getting robbed at the Circle K and the Shoot Out at the Getaway Motel. I thought about Thanksgiving at the Salvation Army and no stockings or presents or tree at Christmas. I thought about all the times Papa beat Mama up and she wore big sunglasses and a scarf to cover up the black eyes and bruises. I thought about the Little Kids living upstairs from a Bar with no yard and no other kids to play with. I thought about Papa getting Busted and Going to Jail and almost going to Angola and now waiting to be Deported to Sicily. I thought about getting Papa’s duffle bag with the money from Mr. Sandy. I thought about Mr. Carlo keeping the Bad Guys from coming after us because Papa Sold Drugs and owed Gambling Debts and robbed Drug Dealers. I thought about Mr. Carlo telling me to Make a Decision. And Mr. Beauregard telling me How Smart I am. I thought about the man who shot and killed his wife and two little boys and how that could have been us. I thought about Dakota’s Dad Lightning being in Prison for Life and Tootsie ODing on heroin and Dakota living with us and what Mr. Clayton told me about taking care of the ones you love.
“Honey, is that what you really want?”
“Yes it is. Yes Mama.”
“Really? F’sure? ” She ran her fingers through my hair like she used to when I was Little. “Well, I don’t know nothin about buyin no house. I guess it wouldn’t hurt to look at it.”
“Come see.” Me and Mama and Dakota followed Miss Franny to Ole Man Sullivan’s house. She gulped down her Dixie Beer as we walked up the steps. “He’s kinda Deef, ya gotta pound onna door.”
The Little Kids trailed after us with Miss Franny’s two boys.
la fine della storia
Photo Credit: “Daisy Mae standing in for Old Mr. Kitty,” by SJ.
Author’s note: The serialized stories of The Motel Family: Part One through Part Twenty One, will be edited and combined into a book. I hope you have enjoyed reading them as much as I have enjoyed writing them.