This is a collection of four stories I wrote about San Francisco in the 1980s. I’ve set up a free give-away for five days, from December 25th to December 29th, so go ahead and read and review. After that it’s $2.99 to read. (And don’t be afraid to be honest in your reviews, I can take it!) The story, “Nine Dead Dope Dealers” earned an Honorable Mention in the Mystery/Crime category 2016 Writers Digest Popular Fiction Contest. (Just sayin!) (And hopefully it will be a paperback soon!) Dealing, Nine Dead Dope Dealers, The Disappearance of Cookie Bob, and Half Moon Bay are all copyrighted by the author. Sara Jacobelli Copyright© 2017 Saratoga Street Press. New Orleans, Louisiana. United States.
Tag Archives: short stories
Fiction © Copyright 2017 by Sara Jacobelli
The Rooms didn’t have a name, just a hand-lettered sign, “Rooms.” Other weekly rooms on the street had names: “Uncle Mike’s Place” “Sunset Inn” “OK Corral.” The Rooms on Rampart had rules. Guy who ran the place, Pete, wouldn’t rent to women, insisted one man to a room. He made signs on cardboard and posted them in the lobby and hallways. No cooking in the room. No booze. No drugs. No fighting. No guns. No knives. No sneaking broads up to your room. I done enough time, I know how to follow the rules and mind my business.
Rooms were eighteen bucks a week, head down the hall. Soon as they got there, Shorty and Dave broke the rules: Dave rented the room and snuck Shorty in. They’d only have to pay nine bucks a week, long as they dodged Old Pete. Pete had this way about him, reminded me of an old giant snapping turtle I saw at a roadside stand out in Kraemer. When he talked, he bobbed his head, sniveled, cleared his throat. Had this window in his door so he could stick his turtle head out, see what was going on.
Pete had the best spot in the building: one-bedroom, kitchenette, and a TV. He got all that for collecting the rents, kicking out deadbeats, breaking up fights, enforcing the rules. Shorty and Dave were jealous of Pete’s sweetheart deal. I met these two sitting on the front stoop smoking.
Shorty said he was from Chicago, spent his life riding the rails. Dave said he was from Bakersfield. Shorty was short of course, and skinny, clothes too big, shifty dark eyes, pock-marked face. About forty but looked sixty. Dave was younger, taller, bright green eyes, reddish-brown hair, freckles. Shorty looked like a hobo. Dave at first glance could pass for a regular working guy. You looked twice, you could tell by his raggedy teeth and sallow skin and the desperate look in his eyes that he was a man on the edge. Type that would follow around the Manson Family. Shorty drank MD-2020 but Dave scored speed whenever he could. Both claimed to have done hard time. Both were full of shit. I been in the joint and I can pick up right away, by the way a man walks and moves, the way his eyes take in his surroundings, I can tell whose done hard time and who’s talking outta his ass.
“Where you taking the bus to fella?”
“The fuck you care?”
“Don’t gotta get surly with me, Mac. Just making conversation. They call me Shorty. You know what churches give out free food?”
“Right down the block by St. Jude. I don’t bother with it. Pete don’t like cooking in the rooms.”
Shorty smoked his hand-rolled Bugler. “This here’s Dave, my running partner.”
Dave ignored me and picked up an almost-new cigarette he found on the sidewalk. “Bus stop’s the best place for these here.” He held up the cigarette like it was a diamond ring. “People drop em when their bus comes.” He giggled. “Hey, you notice you never see no baby pigeons? You see growed ones all over the place, you see dead ones, but you never see no God-Damned baby pigeons?”
My bus came. We get a lot of strange ones in the Rooms but these two gave me the creeps.
Shorty and Dave brought a girl upstairs, a big-eyed teen-aged speed freak with scraggly black hair and Olive Oyl eyes.
“Old Pete ain’t gonna want her up here.”
“Fuck Pete.” Shorty was the boss. Dave grinned his evil grin.
Olive Oyl leaned against Shorty. “You said you had some shit.”
“She OD’s, the cops come. Nobody wants cops here.”
“Whyn’t you mind your own business, Mac?”
I shut the door to my room. I could hear Shorty talking and Dave and the girl giggling. Then they shut up. I figured Dave and Olive Oyl were shooting speed, Shorty was drinking Mad Dog. A radio blared Mama got a squeeze box she wears on her chest, and when Daddy gets home he never gets no rest. Sounded like Dave was screwing Olive Oyl; the mattress squeaked and they banged against the headboard. There was a framed picture on the wall of a sailboat on a blue-green sea. I looked at the painting before I fell asleep, dreaming I was on that boat on that sea. My room was much better than sleeping in abandoned buildings or the Ozaman Inn. I was hoping for a steady gig in the Quarter mopping floors or washing dishes. Life was doing me pretty good and I didn’t want them bastards to ruin it. There’s guys in this town desperate enough they’ll kill somebody for a hundred bucks.
Old Pete said he had nothing but his Routine and he loved his Routine like a man loves his woman. Coffee, cigarettes, newspaper. Lunch at the Clover Grill or the Tally-Ho. The track. Back home to the TV. We had some drunks in the Rooms. Whiners. Deadbeats. Not much trouble. Once in a while a lonely old guy would die in his room and Pete always said the same thing. “Well, you never know. You never know.”
We didn’t have much trouble til those two showed up. Shorty and Dave.
Shorty and Dave wouldn’t shut up about Pete’s apartment. Kept hatching up ways to get rid of him, take over his job. I kinda liked Pete. Had this fridge in the hallway, stocked it with popsicles in the summer, then gripe that everyone stole them. But he kept stocking the fridge with more popsicles. Me and the other roomers, Lucky Dog Daigle and flower-vendor Moonbeam, we raided that fridge. A popsicle tasted just right on sweltering summer nights, specially when you couldn’t scrape up enough quarters and nickels for a sno-ball or a Dixie beer.
“Could put poison in his coffee cup. Just move into his crib, collect the rents. Have us a good ole time.” Shorty picked his nose, inspected the booger, wiped it on his dirty jeans.
Dave pointed a bony finger at me. “That one there’s listening.”
I brushed past them and opened the heavy front door.
I turned around. “Did I tell you the story bout the time they sent me to the loony bin up in De-troit, on accounta I kilt a man?” Dave took his knife out of his pocket and flicked the blade open and shut, open and shut, glared at me with his Charly Manson eyes.
“Pete’s all right. Let’s you pay rent a day or two late. These rooms are two bucks cheaper than Mike’s next door. I don’t got no problems with Pete.”
Shorty rolled his Bugler, leaned against the stair rail. “Don’t seem fair he’s got that place with the windows and the TV. You come in on our plan.” He nodded in the direction of Pete’s door. “We’d collect the dough, split it three ways. No telling what he’s got, we could pawn.”
Old Pete died in his sleep three days after winning twelve hundred bucks in the Trifecta. I moved into Pete’s apartment. I collect the rents, send the California landlord a money order every month. Never told him I raised it from eighteen smackers to twenty-two.
I got rid of Shorty and Dave, with a grand left over. Wash dishes two days a week, spend the rest of the week at the track during the season. When the track’s closed I play bourre’ and knock rummy over by Johnny White’s. Waitresses at the Clover Grill and the Tally-Ho pour my coffee soon’s I walk in the door. Might treat myself to dinner at the Steak Pit on Bourbon Street and drinks at the Bastille on Toulouse. I’m gonna ask out that cute waitress with the nice ass that waits for the bus in front of the Rooms. Take her to the movies over by Canal Street.
Old Pete. Good Luck and Bad Luck in the same week. That’s life for you.
I put the sailboat painting on the wall in my new bedroom. You need a room to rent, you come see me. I kept Pete’s signs up. Just make sure you follow the rules.
Song Lyrics: “Squeeze Box.” The Who. 1975, https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/who/squeezebox.html
Rooms sign: “Greek Islands Rooms.” Dreamstime Stock Photos: https://tinyurl.com/y9rr8yvx
“Sailboat Painting” by Jennifer Branch: https://jenniferbranch.com/PaintingWatercolor/Art-Tutorials/Sailboat-Painting-Tutorial.html
What is Barcation? A Story Time for Adults. Join local writers who will read a story or a poem, or just tell a story. The topic is open: You can tell a story about a bar, a vacation, a vacation in a bar, or whatever you come up with. Or you can share the written work of a favorite author. Participants can sign up for five minutes. Or you can just listen. Light refreshments will be served.
Where: BJ’s in the Bywater, 4301 Burgundy Street, New Orleans
When: Thursday, June 8th, 7-9 pm.
See you there!
Photo Credit: “Chilled Martini Glass.” Pixabay Free Images: 1660179.
My short story, “We’re Ready When You Are” won fifth place in the 8th Annual Dialogue Only Short Story Contest and has been published in Bartleby Snopes Magazine Issue Number 15. You can purchase a print copy, an e-copy, or read a downloadable pdf:
Author’s note: I wrote this in 1995, and lost it for many years. It’s a very politically-incorrect Private Eye Spoof set in 1990s San Francisco. I found it recently, while going through boxes of old papers and stuff to get rid of. The writing is a little rough, but hey this was written twenty two years ago. (I cleaned it up a tiny bit–but not much. If I rewrote it that would be cheating.) It’s still a nice memory piece of my days in North Beach before San Francisco was completely taken over by super-wealthy stuck-up techies. This was written right around the time I was the editor and a regular contributor to the now-defunct zine The Dagger. Shortly after this, I went to work as a reporter for the AVA (Anderson Valley Advertiser) in Boonville, CA. Mark Heimann and I teamed up as investigative reporters for several years. In 1999, we moved back to New Orleans, Mark got his P.I. license and we worked together as private investigators for a few years before Hurricane Katrina. SJ 2017
The Adventures of Joe Blade, (unlicensed) Private Eye
Fiction (Written in 1995) © Copyright 2017 by Sara Jacobelli
“The Big Fish”
(Heaton Fenton gets a new name and a new career!)
I rented a depressing windowless dump in the Tenderloin on Hyde Street. So this is San Francisco. Big Fuckin Deal. Started drinking in neighborhood dives Bacchus-Kirk and the Overflo. It was a miserable rotten rainy January. My unemployment checks would run out on February 1st. “Fuck,” I said, taking a drag on a smoke while walking down Powell Street. “It’s like knowing when you’re gonna die.” Picked up a free paper called the Learning Annex, flipped through the pages while sitting at a grimy lunch counter. “Get a new career!” “Take a class!” I stubbed out an unfiltered Camel.
“Tuna on toast. Whole wheat. Black coffee.” I ordered. “Yes, yes. Coffee, coffee” said the old Chinese broad. What can my new career be? I wondered. All I’ve ever done is: cab driver, bartender, bouncer, heroin addict, alcoholic, pick-pocket, second-story man, drug dealer, prison convict, security guard. Hmmm, what do they got here? “Be a screenwriter.” Nah, can’t spell, got that dyslexia thing. “Underwear model.” Nah, beer belly. “Cake decorator.” No way. Sounds too fruity. It’s gotta be something the babes go for.”Run a day-care center.” Fuck no! I hate screaming brats. They’d probably run a background check on me and find out I owe all that back child support. What else? “Be a clown at children’s parties.” Ditto. Here’s one! “Learn to be a real Private Eye. Attend a one-day seminar with licensed Private Investigator Sam Black, author of “Be Real Nosy and Get Paid for it!” Only $49.95. “Hey, that’s it. That’s me. I can sign up for this here class.” I emptied my pockets. “Only twenty bucks left. Can’t really afford it. Uh, fuck this Sam Black dude, stupid yuppie. I’ll bounce a check on em.”
I took a gulp of coffee. “Let’s see, now all I need’s a new name. Heaton Fenton’s a lousy handle for a Private Eye. Hmm. Sam Spade. Taken. Sam Black. Ditto. Hey, sweetheart, can I take a look-see at them there white pages?” Flip. Flip. “Lemmessee, Antonio Anzollone. Nah, too ethnic. Barry Baggot. Too wimpy. Heh-heh, here’s one. Joe Blade. Macho. Sexy. Easy to spell. Got that dyslexia thing. Hope this dude’s got good credit. That’s me, Joe Blade. Private Dick.”
“Well!” The cute blonde with the big boobs sitting next to me split, gave me a dirty look on her way out the door. “Hey, I ain’t talkin nasty or nothin, honey, I’m a Private Eye. It’s my New Career.”
“Very nice. Private Eye. New Career.” The old Chinese broad plopped down my sandwich and refilled the coffee.
“Oh fuck.” I looked around the dingy, forties style diner. “Soon’s as the cases and cake start rollin in, I’ll be eatin at the–what’s that joint fifty stories up? The Cornelius Room? Cornelian Room? Whatever.” I crunched on potato chips.
I paid the tab and swiped the buck tip the blonde left. “This here’s for you, babe.” I put the dollar under my coffee cup.
“Thank you very much! Good by! Good luck, Mister New Career!”
“It’s BLADE! Joe Blade!”
“OK. Bye Mr. Joe Brade! You come back soon! I’m Mae, Mae Wong! Welcome to Mae’s Diner.”
I headed toward Market Street. Stopped and listened to a fat black dude sing some dynamite blues. “The thrill is gone. . . oh yeah, baby.”
I walked past the chess players and incense sellers near the cable car turn-around. “I need a fuckin trench coat. Like Bogart. Sam Spade. William Powell. The Thin Man.” I marched to Union Square and walked into Macy’s like I owned the joint. Might as well get the best. I selected a grey London Fog, it fit like a glove. Found the perfect dashing black fedora. Slunk out the door without paying. “Hey, my career’s movin right along. Tomorrow, I’ll take that class. Then–before you know it—I’m on a case.”
That night I hung out in North Beach. Shot nine-ball for ten bucks a game at Gino and Carlo’s. A hot, young red-head sidled up to me. “Whadda-you-do?” She winked seductively. How else do you wink?
“Can’t tell you, babe. It’s a secret.”
She wiggled. Ran her hand along my neck, tickled my ear with her finger. Jesus Christ. I was glad I kept the trench coat on.
“Sounds exciting. Can I have some money for the jukebox? Do you like classical music, like the Stones and the Dead?”
“Yeah, sure. My stones ain’t dead. Heh-heh.” I gave her two bucks. I knew I had to win the pool game. I was down to three dollars and would have to back-door it if I lost. I watched her squiggle through the crowd. “Hey, play some Coltrane while you’re at it.”
“WHO? Hey, Mister, I’m twenty-three. I don’t know EVERY has-been sixties rock band.”
“Hey, Casanova, your turn.”
“Right.” I stuck a cigarette between my teeth. I slammed the balls into the pockets. Twenty fuckin three. Great. I’m forty-six. It’s depressing being exactly twice as old as some babe. What am I gonna do? Invite her to my one room cell with the Murphy bed, black and white TV and no cable? She’s probably never even SEEN a black and white TV.
I slurped my Budweiser. I finished it and crushed the can. I decided to switch to gin. Sounds more Bogart-like.
“Hey pal, ya won.” The dude handed me a crisp ten-spot. “I’m surprised, you seemed distracted. The name’s Sergio.”
We shook hands. “I’m Joe. Joe Black. I mean, Joe Blade.” I pocketed the ten. “Guess I should get some card’s printed up, so’s I can remember my fuckin name,” I mumbled. Seems like ever since I became a Private Eye, I couldn’t stop mumbling.
Yeah, I’ll have some business cards made. Soon’s I can afford a phone. Blade. Joe Blade. Private Eye.
Photo Credit: “Bogart Wearing Fedora.” Hub pages. http://tinyurl.com/z95rhfs
“The Maltese Falcon.” Misterio Press. http://tinyurl.com/jmogr92
Fiction Copyright © 2016 by Sara Jacobelli
“Seems to me that a man, don’t know how to treat a woman, he deserves to lose that woman. Seems to me that a woman, being treated shitty by a man, she should leave that man.” Hanover tapped his spoon against the side of his coffee cup.
“Will you stop that tapping?” Casey drank her orange juice and flipped through the paper. “Lookit the prices of these rents? A thousand a month? Who could pay that?”
“Seems to me that, a woman, if her man’s beating on her, she should leave. You know. Even if it means living in her car. Or the library. Lotsa homeless folks live at the public library. Seems to me it’s better to be homeless than dead. Just saying.”
“Seems to me some people talk too fucking much.”
The waitress held her coffee pot in mid-air above their cups. “Refills?”
“Yeah. Sure. Lemme see the sports section.” Hanover grabbed the paper. “Saints are bums again.”
“No more coffee for me.” Casey stood up. “My car broke down, can’t even make it out of the driveway. And if you think I’m sleeping under the overpass and taking a bath at the library, you really are senile. Like your wife says.”
“You don’t know my wife. My wife.”
Casey went outside to smoke a cigarette. The waitress leaned over the counter. “That one don’t know Gwen died?”
“She never knew Gwen. Just heard me chat about her right here, sitting at the counter. Every Sunday.”
“Thought you two was good friends.” Marie stacked plates and wiped down the counter.
“Nah, never seen her outside the diner. We just talk, joke around. I always tease her, tell her her old man don’t know how lucky he is. Hate to see a pretty girl cover up black eyes and bruises with make-up and sunglasses. Hate to see it.”
“Hanover, you’re a pretty observant fellow.”
“When I was a kid, my mama useta get beat like that. She took us all down to the Greyhound station in the middle of the night. Would you believe? Would you believe he marched right down and dragged us all home? He beat her so bad, she never tried to leave again. Never. And it was my fault. I told her we should leave. Take the bus to Disneyland, that was my Big Idea.” Hanover tapped his spoon against his coffee cop in a steady beat. “You know, Marie?”
“Hmmm. Yeah, Hanover.” Marie pulled out a small mirror from her apron pocket and attempted to tweeze a wayward eyebrow.
“I always said, I always said, ‘Life woulda been different.'”
“If mama and us kids left him, life. My whole life, woulda been different.”
“Well, you turned out alright. You met Gwen, got married. You know. What more do ya want, Hanover?”
Casey came back in and sat at the counter. “Those little silver jukeboxes? What happened to them?”
“Oh honey,” Marie said. “Nobody played em no more so Moe took em out.”
“Oh. I played em. Used to play all kinds a songs. Willie Nelson. I love his songs.”
“Yeah. Sure. You played love songs for me.” Hanover pulled a twenty out of his wallet to pay the bill.
“You wish, old timer.”
“Seems to me, that a man who don’t treat his woman right, seems to me he don’t got no complaints if she walks right out that door.”
“Moe hiring here, Marie? I could wait tables. Never done it, but I could learn. Only had two jobs in my whole life. Worked at McDonald’s in high school, and I did telemarketing for a while after I got married. One a them places they call boiler rooms.” Casey made a face. “He made me quit. Said my boss was hitting on me.”
“Moe don’t need no waitresses, but he could use a dishwasher. Jesse quit just yesterday.”
“I washed plenty dishes in my time.” Casey grabbed a napkin. “Hanover, you gotta pen?”
“You gonna wash dishes? Now, that’s a good start. I washed dishes when I got outta the army. Sure did. Now it seems to me, if a young lady can’t afford an apartment, she could rent a room somewheres. Miss Betsy down the road rents rooms. Rents rooms to single ladies, she does.”
Casey wrote her name and number on the napkin and gave it to Marie. “Maybe you could put a word in for me with Moe.”
“Sure honey. I can do that.” She went to wait on a family of redheads who sat at the corner table by the window.
“My wife Gwen, she always gave good advice. One time she told me, she said, ‘Hanover, you sleep too much. Don’t just sleep in on your day off, get up and accomplish something.’ So I did. I built me a garden shed, a garage, all kinds a things. Built a canoe for the kids and they bout wore it out. Built em with my own bare hands, I did. Built something every weekend, til the damn heart attack slowed me down.”
“Your wife calls you Hanover? Don’t you even have a first name?”
“First name’s Dick. She hated that. Said she wasn’t gonna stand at the back door and yell, ‘Dick! Dick! Time for dinner, Dick!’ So it’s always been Hanover.”
“You should have me over to meet her sometime. Play some cards, order a pizza.”
“Yeah. Sure. Seems to me, seems to me you gonna be mighty busy, with this here new life you’re planning.”
“See ya later alligator.” Casey touched Hanover on the arm.
“In a while, crocodile.” Hanover watched her walk out the door and cross the street to the bus stop.
Marie rang up Hanover’s bill and brought him his change. “So, whatcha got planned for the rest of the day?”
“I don’t know. Funny, isn’t it Marie? Life coulda been different.”
“You gotta be careful you don’t spend too much time alone, thinking about stuff like that. Ain’t healthy. Sitting there in that house with nothing but Judge Judy on the TV for company. Go join a bowling team, go over by St. Cecilia’s and play Bingo, why dontcha?” Marie pulled out a file and began filing her nails. “Go date one of them old ladies at church.”
Hanover stood up. “Just saying, life woulda been different. If she coulda left him.”
“Yeah. Well. And I coulda been a beauty queen, honey. And I’m slinging eggs and grits at Moe’s.”
Photo Credit: “Jukebox.” Pixabay Copyright-free images.