The Motel Family: Part Fourteen
© Copyright 2014 by Sara Jacobelli
Greyhound Station Locker Number 27
Sunday, May 2, 1982
Well, you know how I planned to go to the Greyhound Station to get Papa’s money? This is what ended up happening:
Monday morning I walked Gino and Antonietta to school at the Little Red Schoolhouse in the Quarter. Then I took the bus to my Middle School. I wasn’t able to get out of the house the night before, to make an excuse to use the pay phone at the Bastille to call Dakota. I figured I’d find her in school and we would skip school. But Dakota never showed up in school! So I had to sneak out by myself at Lunch Time, and walk all the way to the Greyhound Station downtown.
The bus station is real seedy looking and all of these strange guys were hanging around. I had to laugh, because I knew that Mama would call them “Unsavory Characters.” I was pretty nervous about finding the lockers. I did find them, but just my luck, number 27 had a big old ugly padlock on it! And here I thought I was going to find all this money and be some kind of big hero to Mama and the Little Kids. As bad as it sounds, I wasn’t planning on giving Mama the money to pay Papa’s lawyer. I thought maybe we could use the money to buy a car and maybe even buy a house. And bikes for all us kids too, and new haircuts and clothes and shoes for all of us. It would be like Winning the Lottery.
So I’m standing there daydreaming, just staring at this stupid locker and this young black guy mopping the floor stops mopping and looks at me.
“That your locker?” he asked.
I nodded yes and held up the key.
“Uh huh. Uh huh. They gots the padlock on it, cuz someone dint pay the bill. Yes, indeed. Yes. Uh huh.” He shook his head solemnly.
“But—but—it’s my Papa’s locker. Um, he’s sick. He’s in the hospital.” I figured Hospital sure sounded better than Jail.
He went back to mopping. “You got to see Mr. Sandy.”
The janitor used the handle of the mop as a pointer, “Mr. Sandy. He the Man. That his Office.”
I headed in the direction of what looked almost like a cage. A tiny cluttered room walled in by wire mesh. There was an office chair and a desk, but both were covered with ancient Reader’s Digests and Popular Mechanics, piles of ashtrays overflowing with non-filtered Pall Malls and half filled coffee mugs, not to mention a thick layer of fuzzy dust. All kinds of hand lettered cardboard signs were tied to the wire mesh cage with knotted strings. “30 Days Late and Yore Lokker is Pad-lokked. Come see MR. Sandy” said one. “You Must Pay 2 Doller eech day you Late” said another. The Biggest sign proudly proclaimed, “The Lord Givveth and the Lord Takketh Away.” I stood there reading the Mysterious Signs and mentally correcting the Spelling. I’ve always been a good Speller.
“Can I help you Young Lady?” an older black man asked. He was holding a ceramic coffee mug that said “The Boss” on it. He was heavy and kind of stern looking. He wore a wrinkled faded light blue uniform that had a patch with the Greyhound symbol and the name “Sandy” printed in script above the cigarette pocket. His deep voice was kind of intimidating, but his eyes did have a friendly twinkle.
“Uh, well. My father’s sick, in Charity Hospital, he might not make it, you know.” I held out the key with the “27” on it.
“Um hmm. And his locker’s Pad-locked and you can’t get into it. Um hmm.” Mr. Sandy shuffled through a stack of file folders on his desk. They were perched so high I thought the whole pile might tip over.
He found something and frowned. “Seems this Mr. Carter character ain’t paid his Locker Rent in months. Seb-ral months. It’s gonna cost you, it’s gonna cost you—” Mr. Sandy shoved the magazines off of his chair and sat down. He took a pencil out of a desk drawer, found a tablet, and carefully wrote and crossed out numbers on the yellow lined paper.
“This here Mister Carter your Daddy?”
I nodded. Papa was so Italian “Mr. Carter” sounded funny. I held back a giggle.
“It’ll cost you, Young Lady, Twenny seben dollar. Just like the Locker Number, 27. Um Hmmm.”
“I don’t have the money now. I have to get it. Can I see what was in the Locker?”
Mr. Sandy nodded in the direction of an unruly pile of suitcases and duffle bags. They all had tags on them with Locker Numbers. I found Number 27, a plain black army duffle bag. It looked just like the one Earl the Bartender’s son packed to go off to Basic Training when he joined the Army. I tugged at the bag. It was heavy and locked with a miniature padlock.
Mr. Sandy poured himself another cup of coffee. “You bring me the Money tomorra, you ken bring the bag home.”
“Um, can I have it now? And then bring the Money tomorrow?”
“No.” He pointed to a sign that said, “MR. Sandy Makes the Rulles.”
He wasn’t budging. I didn’t know where I was going to get the Money, or even how I was going to drag that heavy bag home. I shoved the key back in my pocket.
“See ya tomorrow, Mr. Sandy!” I headed towards the exit.
“OK. But Young Lady. . .”
I turned around. “What?”
“Ain’t you sposedta be in school? My grandbabies’ all in school today.”
“Well, it’sa long story. On Accounta my father being in, being in Charity Hospital and all.”
“Where’s your Mama?”
“She’s there with him.”
“And what’s wrong with him? Heart attack? Diabetes? What he have? Them stones in the Kidney? Gall bladda? The Curse of Cancer?”
“I don’t know, Mr. Sandy. He’s just sick, real sick.” I hung my head and tried to look Sad. The truth was, Papa wasn’t Sick, but he was in a Mess all right. A Mess he made himself.
“Uh huh. Uh huh. Well it be’s in the Lord’s hands now. See ya tomorra with that Twenny Seben dollar. Cash. Or whenebber ya get here.” He pointed to a sign that said, “Cash Only No Chekks Alloyed. The Rulles. MR. Sandy.” He smiled a little bit, and I caught the eye twinkle. Mr. Sandy knew I was lying. My face turned beet red. As I walked home through the dingy downtown streets, all I could think of was “Liar Liar pants on fire.”
Photo Credit: “Padlock.” CC Public Domain Image. 1195 x 1600. Flickr.