- The Five and Dime Lunch Counter
The three ladies sat together at the crowded counter. Clare sipped her tea and nibbled at her tuna sandwich.
“Samuels is such a creep. A pig.” Red-headed Dottie gulped her black coffee. “Eat, eat, mangia, Clare. You Irish girls are all too skinny.” Dottie lit a Pall Mall.
“Whatt’re ya gonna do, Clare? Don’t quit honey, you need the job. Besides, we love you here.” Irene munched on her BLT, looking nervous behind her thick black Coke-bottle glasses.
“I don’t know. I can’t tell Carlo, you know his temper. Carlo’d bust Samuels’ big head wide open.”
“So,” Dottie pulled a compact out of her huge black pocketbook. She popped open the mirror and squinted into her reflection while touching up her red lipstick. “So, he deserves it, the crummy bastid. Let Carlo rough em up, why dontcha?”
Irene nodded in agreement. Clare looked at her watch. “We better get back, lunch is almost over.”
They left some change on the counter for a tip. Walking back to Leavitts, Dottie and Irene chattered about their mother-in-laws, church, Bingo, weekend tag sales, the fights their kids got into in the neighborhood. Clare wasn’t listening. She wasn’t worried about Carlo beating up Mr. Samuels, even if Carlo went to prison for it. Carlo in state prison would give them all some peace and quiet. She was more worried about him flying into a jealous rage and accusing her of having an affair with Samuels, then beating her up. She was afraid of Carlo. Who wouldn’t be? She was only sixteen when she married him, he was ten years older, a World War II vet. She admired his dark good looks, his easy charm. He used to box, which impressed her. How dumb could you be to marry a jealous ex-boxer with a bad temper?
She wished she could just leave— take her kids somewhere—anywhere—just go. Run to someplace like California or Florida. Now that Nicky was working, they could move somewhere and both get jobs. Tori could pretend she was a boy and get a paper route. They’d just need to find a small apartment. But first they would need money for Greyhound bus tickets. And food. But she had no money, and nowhere to go. And Carlo always said he’d find her and kill her if she left, kill her and the kids too. She never knew if he meant it or was just trying to scare her.
Maybe she should just quit. Get another job. Tomorrow she’ll skip lunch and walk around the downtown stores grabbing applications. She’ll bring them home and have Tori fill them out. Tori was good at stuff like that.
© Copyright 2016 by Sara Jacobelli
Photo Credit: “Lunch Counter at SS Kresge Detroit.” Pinterest.