Monthly Archives: August 2016

No Dying in the Machines

laundromat-708176_960_720

“I don’t like washing my personal undergarments here. They’s people have a thing for panties. They steal em. Then they bring em home and do Lord knows what with em. If I’m lying I’m dying. “

“Men’s or women’s?”

“Men don’t wear panties. They wear plain old underwears.”

“Drag queens wear panties.”

“Drag queens? Lord have mercy, this Laundromat’s getting too strange for me. Well–the way I was raised. I was raised that girls wore panties and boys wore underwears. That’s how I was raised. In a decent home. Catholic school, for all eight of us kids. Think that was easy for Mama and Papa? Tuition for eight children, not easy, let me tell you. I sure wish I had me a washer and a dryer. Harold, my husband Harold, we had a lovely home that he built for us–with his bare hands he did. Had a washer and a clothesline for when the weather was nice, you know, and a dryer for when it rained. And we had a car, a Buick, mind you, a real car, not one a these cheap plastic things they drive now. From my own Sears Kenmore washer and dryer and a Buick, to the Lots-a-Suds Laundromat and the RTA bus.”

“They spelled dyeing wrong.”

“What darling?”

“On the sign. It says, ‘No Dying in the Machines.’ They mean dyeing, D-Y-E-I-N-G. For dyeing clothes.”

“Oh they did, didn’t they? They must not of been taught by nuns, because let me tell you, the sisters at St. Cecilia’s made sure you could spell, yes indeed. Got hit with a ruler if you spelled like that. I never could spell, got smacked with the ruler for it all the time. Now my Harold, he could spell. He won a ten dollar savings bond in a spelling bee when he was twelve years old.  He sure did. If I’m lying I’m dying. Yes indeed.”

“What happened to Harold? If you don’t mind me asking?”

“Oh honey, he died. He sure did.”

“Not in the machine?”

“Oh, Lord no. That’s funny. Even Harold would’ve laughed at that one. You should be a comedian. “

“Yeah, people say I’m too sarcastic sometimes. Look, you think he’s one of them? A panty thief?”

“Oh, for sure. He looks like one. Way you can tell is—they hangs out all day in the Laundromat. All day. Ain’t washing nothing. Just looking for panties.”

“That guy should wear a T-shirt that says, ‘I’m a panty thief and proud of it.’”

“Oh Lord, you make me laugh. You are too much. So–you make your husband and kids laugh too?”

“No husband, no kids. I bartend in the Quarter.”

“Oh you live The Exciting Life then. I always said there was two kinds of lives. The Plain Old Life, like me and Harold. Married at eighteen. Four kids. A house. Nothing too fancy. And then there’s The Exciting Life. Movie Stars. Ballerinas. Football and Baseball Players. Boxers. Race Car Drivers. Singers like Frank Sinatra and Elvis. And bartending in the French Quarters. Ain’t been in thirty years, if I’m lying I’m dying. Used to go for coffee and donuts when we was kids, Papa would drive us over for a treat, all us kids in the car in our pajamas. Then me and Harold when we was courting. Don’t go now. Can’t see me getting on the 88 St. Claude bus and high-tailing it to the French Quarters.”

“You think bartending’s exciting?”

“Honey, believe you me–it sure sounds more exciting than being married to Harold for fifty years. He worked the hardware store and I scrubbed floors and raised kids. It sounds exciting to me.”

“Don’t forget about Harold winning the spelling bee.”

“Oh, you’re right. We had our moments. Look—he stuck something in his pocket. I think he got one of your purple gouchies.”

“Gouchies?”

“Maw-Maw called em gouchies. In polite company. “

“Hey you! Excuse me, sir. I do believe those are mine. The undergarments. The purple undergarments in your pocket. “

“That’s just my hanky, Miss.”

“Let me see it.”

“Here, you can have them.”

“I can’t believe he tried to kidnap my panties.”

“It’s a crazy world. Takes all kinds. Some days–without Harold–I just want to die. Give up. I could crawl into that machine and die. You’re young, it hasn’t happened to you yet. But when your family and your friends–they just start dying off. And you find yourself alone and too old to go the French Quarters and have a beer. They don’t even make Dixie no more, do they darling?”

“You can come see me at the bar where I’m working. The Bastille on Toulouse Street. “

“Oh Lord. I’d look like a drunken old floozy. I sure would. What happened to that cute young chick Harold was courting back in the day?”

“Don’t think like that. You’re not old. And you got kids, grandkids, I’ll never have that.”

“You’re right, darling. Thank the Lord. I am lucky, luckier than most. Sometimes that’s easy to forget. Don’t want to move in with my daughters, though. Just wish I hadn’t lost the house, we had so many of them doctor’s bills and hospital bills with Harold. We just couldn’t pay it all. Ain’t it a shame? You’ll see. You’ll see, hon. There’s a lotta loss in this Life.”

“I’ve had loss.”

“At your age? Honey, you look like you just lost your baby teeth. If I’m lying I’m dying. “

“I’ve had loss already, believe me. My boyfriend JT–he shot this guy–in Johnny’s Bar. Went to Angola State Prison. I was gonna have an abortion, didn’t know what to do. “

“Oh Lord. Abortions. I never knew no one who had one of those. I just went and had the babies. Four of em. Plop. Plop. Plop. Plop. Harold Jr. Harriet. Henry. Henrietta. Harold used to tease me, said I was like a baby-making machine. And they’d all follow me around like little ducklings and I didn’t have a moment of peace. But I was happy, busy every second. All those questions. Lord, they never stopped asking questions. Why is the sky blue? Why does the sun shine? But I was happy. Now it’s too quiet.”

“I had the baby. Named her Angela Marie. I was going to keep her. But I was so scared. No one to help me. So I gave her up, I put her up for adoption. I didn’t have no one to watch her when I went to work. I didn’t want to raise her up on welfare and food stamps. So-“

“But honey, what about your Mama? “

“She died. She OD’d on booze and pills when I was fourteen”

“That’s a crying shame.”

“She wouldn’t have helped anyway. I lived with my dad and stepmom for a while, then split when I was fifteen and a half. So you better not crawl in that machine there and die. Your kids and your grandkids, they need you.”

“Oh Lord, you’re right about that. You think they don’t need you once they’re grown, but sometimes, they need you even more. Hey, look. He’s back. The Purple Panty Thief. “

“I should do a stand-up comedy bit about this. You know, an open mike.”

“Honey, I knew you was a comedian. “

“No–I’ve never had the nerve.”

“Go ahead. Try it. You do your comedy act–I’ll come see it and I’ll sit in the front row. Now go get your panties from that man.”

“I think he’s got YOUR panties this time. Your green striped personal undergarments.”

“Oh, Lord, Harold would’ve loved this. He laughed louder than anyone at the Vagaries of Life. He loved Life. He sure did.”

**********************

Photo Credit: “Laundromat,” Pixabay Copyright-free images.

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Leaps Tall Buildings

superman

 

I wrote this play for the Superhero-themed Faster Than a Speeding Bullet One-Minute Play Festival held at The Theatre at St. Claude. This play is actually five minutes long, but a shorter version was performed at the theatre.  http://www.thetheatreatstclaude.com/

This is the play in its entirety:

 

TITLE: Leaps Tall Buildings

AUTHOR: Sara Jacobelli

A Play in One Act

Five Minute Play

© Copyright 2016 by Sara Jacobelli

 

SETTING:

A small library branch in a New Orleans neighborhood, which is beset by gentrification and changing demographics, yet still dealing with rampant street crime.

 

CHARACTERS:

Molly:  mid to late twenties, a young library staff member with hair dyed (bright, multi-colored), tattoos, dressed young and hip.

Bernadine:  An older librarian lady of the old school, glasses on a chain around her neck, dressed more conservatively.

Superman: A middle aged man who appears to be homeless. He comes into the library daily in regular clothes carrying a backpack. He goes into the restroom and changes into a home-made Superman costume, complete with cape.

 

ACT ONE

The scene takes place at the library circulation desk. Molly and Bernadine are seated at high stools at the desk. Molly is chattering about her nails and thrift shop excursions. Bernadine is absent mindedly stamping books.

 

MOLLY: How long’s he been in there this time?

BERNADINE:  I don’t know. Ten, Fifteen minutes.

MOLLY: Do’ya think he’s violating any rules?

BERNADINE:  Holds up a card about the size of a postcard.  Says here, it says, “No shaving in the restroom, No bathing in the restroom, No washing clothes in the restroom, No smoking in the restroom, No sleeping in the restroom.” Doesn’t say a damn thing about changing into a Superman suit.

MOLLY: Admires her nails. Laughs.  Dude. Never heard you swear before, Bernadine. Had you for a church-lady type.  Looks at her nails again. These are mood nails. They change colors with your mood.

BERNADINE:  Reminds me of mood rings!  Shakes her head. There’s a lot you don’t know about me. You’d be surprised. Places I’ve been. Things I’ve done.

MOLLY: Eyes open wide. Wow. Really. You getting wild now that you’re gonna retire? Next week’s your last week right? Then what’re ya gonna do?

BERNADINE: Pulls out a notebook, puts her glasses on. Writes in the notebook. Stops writing, looks off into the distance.  Think I might go take a trip. Visit my granddaughter. That’d be nice. Maybe take her on a trip. Get to know her.

MOLLY: How in the WORLD can you have a grandkid when you’ve never even had ANY kids?

BERNADINE: Oh, none of you at the library know this. But I had a son. My ex-husband kidnapped him, so I didn’t get to raise him. All those years. Missed all those years. Found him, finally, just last year. Good thing for the Internet.

MOLLY: Stands up and looks Bernadine up and down like she never saw her before. And you NEVER told us? You NEVER told us? I can’t believe it!

BERNADINE: I just don’t, I’ve never. I don’t tell people my private personal business. Now you kids, nowadays, you tell everyone everything.  I don’t know.  Looks off into the distance.  Maybe it’s healthier. People didn’t used to talk about private things. My own mother never even told me that I had a sibling that died. A sister. I didn’t find out until after my mother passed. Looked through her papers, found photographs of my sister Angela.  I just didn’t see the point of telling people I had a son. Michael. Then they’d want to ask about school and birthdays and holidays and then I’d have to say I didn’t raise him. Then they’d want to feel sorry for me. Or else they’d judge me. Nope. Nobody’s business.

MOLLY: Jumps up. That’s it! He’s been in there too long. I’m gonna go bang on the door.

BERNADINE: Don’t bother. He’s out.

SUPERMAN: Walks over to the circulation desk. Walks slowly as if he has a lot of aches and pains. Well, how are you lovely young ladies doing today?

MOLLY: We’re doing OK. Dude. But, like, you really can’t spend too much time in the bathroom. We have other patrons, ya’know?

SUPERMAN: Yes, young lady. I know. Don’t mean no harm. It’s just that, there ain’t no more phone booths around this town. Looks at Bernadine.  You remembers phone booths, Miss? Used to be all over, on every corner, and I could change into my suit in one of those. Now everyone has cell phones and iPhones and all a that, and nobody thinks about where Poor Ole Superman is sposed to change into his SUIT.  Shakes his head. It’s a changing world, Miss. No phone booths, no newspapers, no mailboxes.  Nobody even talks to each other anymore. They pass you right by without sayin anythin. All these here new Rich People changing everythin.  If I’m lyin I’m dyin. An rents going through the roof. Now me, I’ve been homeless so long, I ain’t PAID rent in years, but I’m thinkin of you workin folks. How you gonna pay TWO THOUSAND A MONTH rent? There didn’t used to be so many of us homeless. Now there’s so many people any time you line up for a free meal. It’s a crowd. It’s a crying shame.

MOLLY:  Gets up off her stool. Lunch time. Gonna ride my bike to Satsuma. Wanna go, Bernadine?

BERNADINE: Shakes her head. Nah, you go.  Looks at Superman. But as high as the rents are, the street crime’s getting worse and worse. Maybe you can help with that. Get rid of the armed robbers and get rid of the high rents too, while you’re at it.

SUPERMAN:  Laughs.  Darlin, I would. I would if I could. All I have is my fantasies. That’s what keeps me going. Yes, indeed. It’s a changing world. Yes, indeed yes.

BERNADINE: You’re right about that, Superman. It’s a changing world. And we never know what’s coming next. We never know what’s right around the corner.

SUPERMAN: I hope it’s a phone booth. I hope they brings back phone booths. Superman needs a place to change. He sure does.

They both laugh. The curtain closes.

 

THE END

 

Picture Credit: Superman is copyrighted by DC Comics, originally created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in 1933.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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