Tag Archives: The Motel Family

The Motel Family: Part Twenty

 Two Parties for Tootsie


Sunday, June 13, 1982

Cara Nonna:


On Tuesday, I walked the Little Kids to their day camp at the Little Red School House, then went to the Bar to talk to Mama.

The Soap Opera crowd was drifting in. Mama always laughs because the Bikers watch the Soap Operas with the Shopping Bag Ladies. Some of these Ladies live at Maison Blanche and some at DH Holmes on Canal Street. They are Homeless, but you wouldn’t know it.  They are middle aged and older, always clean and polite, wearing neat flowered dresses and pretty hats. They hang around in the department store restrooms which have fancy areas with comfy chairs. They also hang around the Holmes cafeteria. When someone gives them money, they come into the Bar to drink coffee and catch their stories.

Mama winked at me and fixed me a cherry coke. She seemed to be in a good mood.

“Listen, I’ve been tryin to tell you something all week, and you never settle down and listen to me.”

She came to the end of the Bar and leaned in close. Her huge brown eyes looked like a child’s freshly woken from a dream. “Honey, Honey. . . Don’t tell me.  It’s a Boy. Oh Honey, believe me, the first time your Heart is Broken, that’s the hardest, but it gets better. There’ll be other Boys.”

“What? What-are-ya talkin about?”

“Well, that’s what you want to tell me, isn’t it? I mean, you ARE at that age, so I figured, well, what’s that song, Everybody Plays the Fool? We all been there, Honey, been there and done that, believe me. Look what I’ve been through with your father. You know what I do when my heart is hurtin? I play me some Irma Thomas on the Jukebox. Irma always makes me feel better.”

“Mama, my heart’s not hurtin. That’s not it at all.  I mean, I do sort of like this Boy. But, no Big Deal. I have more Important Things on my mind.”

“Like what?” She puffed on her More cigarette.

The Weasel sat down next to us and pointed a scraggly skinny finger at a newspaper headline.

“Here’s a guy, a sumbitch, shoots his Wife and Kids and then Kills Himself, in a Jealous Fucking Rage. Now, I ask you, whynta bastid just Shoot his Own Self in the First Place, an leave the Wife an Kids Alone?”  The Weasel kept tapping at the paper, as if his tapping could make sense of such a tragedy. Mama grabbed the newspaper.

“Oh, those babies, those precious babies.”  Accompanying the story was a Sears studio portrait of the couple and their two smiling curly haired boys in happier times.

“Mama, we’ve gotta talk, come here, please,” I dragged her out from behind the bar. We stood outside on Toulouse Street. “I’ve got, I’ve got the money. From Papa’s duffle bag.”

“Honey, that’s wonderful, I knew you could do it.” She hugged me. “But where is it, is it Safe?”

“It’s Safe, it’s locked up, Mr. Carlo locked it up for me.”

“But how did you get it?” She lowered her voice. “and how much is it?”

“I need a BEER here,” yelled the Weasel. “This might be a good place to open up a BAR OVER HERE.”

Crazy Dave zoomed up in his Harley and parked in front of the bar. “What are you Two Lovely Ladies up to?”

“Honey,” Mama kissed me on top of my head. “I’ve gotta get back to work. We’ll talk later.”



The next night at the Bar we had a party for Tootsie. Mr. Carlo rented her old apartment to someone new, so Tootsie moved in with us and Dakota. The party was to celebrate her Quitting Heroin, and Mr. Carlo Getting her a Job dancing at a club down the street.  Everyone was glad she was back, and Dakota hung on her all night like a four year old. I was glad for the Party, which kept Mama busy and kept her from bugging me too much about the Money. She still thought we could use the Money to make a deal with Mr. Beauregard.

“Mama, it’s not enough, he wants five thousand bucks. Besides, it’s too late, the deadline’s over with.”

“But I could talk to him, give him what we have, maybe make payments on the rest. Then Papa would only have to do one year in Angola. That’s not so bad. Then he’ll be back home, out on Parole.  Back with Us, where he belongs.”

She busied herself making a cake for Tootsie. That night we let the Little Kids sleep upstairs by themselves and went to the Party. Ole Red Headed Tootsie was dancing on the bar, downing shots of Cuervo.

“Love ya, Dani,” she grabbed me and made me dance with her, even though I can’t dance too good. Mama says I “got no rhythm.”

Tootsie let me go, then grabbed Blue, our Willie Nelson look-alike.  They twirled each other around, bumping into people in the dark, narrow, jam-packed bar.

I sat on a bar stool next to Dakota. “Guess what? My mom and me are gonna get a new apartment, maybe Uptown, Magazine Street or something.”

“That’ll be good. I like having you guys with us though.”

“Yeah, but it’s so Crowded.” Dakota smiled. “She looks good, doesn’t she?”

“Yeah, she does. She’s not so pale, an she’s eating. She looks better.”

Dakota was happier than I’d seen her in a Long Time. Tootsie danced and danced and danced all night long. I think every guy who came in noticed her. They noticed Mama too. One guy even asked Mama to dance. She turned him down.

“Thank you for asking, but I’m Married, and he is Fine.” Mama laughed. “He is some Fine.”

“Girl, you Crazy,” Tootsie said. “Your Man can’t do nothin now. Have some fun.”

“I am havin fun. This is how I have fun, watchin you be a Crazy Bitch.”

Then Tootsie and Mama sat their butts on the Bar, slid up and down knocking people’s drinks over, shrieking with laughter. Earl the Bartender yelled at them to stop. “NO!  We won’t stop! We’re having fun!”

Earl imitated their high voices. “We’re having fun!

I wondered if me and Dakota would be just like Mama and Tootsie in ten years. With Our Men in Prison and no money or help to raise our kids, drinking and drugging and dancing to forget our troubles. I shrugged the thought away. I know what Mama would say to that. “Girl, you’re Young, you need to Party and have some fun, quit Worrying so much.”


Tootsie took off with some guy she met at the Party that Night. She was eating a piece of the chocolate cake Mama made, some guy said Let’s go for a ride to the Lakefront, and she’s out the door. Dakota was Mad, but Mama said, “Let her go pass a good time.”

She didn’t come home for Two Days and Two Nights. Dakota just stayed home, slept and pouted. We don’t have a phone, but we all knew she’d call the Bar or Mr. Carlo if she got into any trouble.

I stood out in front of the bar and looked down Bourbon Street, hoping Tootsie would show up. Jesse the Hombre, owner of the Steak Pit, came out to talk to me. He’s this little short Mexican guy with shiny silver curly hair who used to go with Tootsie. He likes to boast that the Mob guys like him because he looks Italian.

“That Red Headed Broad, she’s cute but crazy,” the Hombre said. “She got nice shape.” He used his hands to draw an outline of a curvy figure in the air. “So Senorita, you workin for Mr. Carlo now?”

“On Saturdays, I help Mr. Melvin clean up, go to the A & P and stuff.”

“That’s good. Bueno.  Kids nowadays, they don’t know how to work. How old’re you?”

“Gonna make thirteen in July.”

“Then when you’re Fifteen, you come work for me. Bus Girl.  You wanta do that?”

“Yeah, sure. Sounds good.”

It was daytime and Bourbon was still open to cars. Sonny the Cab Driver slowed down in front of us. “Did’ya all hear about Tootsie?”

The Hombre shook his head.

“OD’d.  Rooms over by the Hummingbird.” Sonny’s scarred face looked serious. “She’s gone. So Young.  Ain’t it a shame?” He drove off. The Hombre put his arm around me.

“Senorita, so sorry. Her poor little girl.”

“I’ve gotta go, I’ve gotta tell Mama. I don’t know how we’re gonna tell Dakota.”


Tootsie. I still can’t believe she’s gone. Tootsie with the wild crazy red hair and freckles. Tootsie dancing on the bar. Tootsie dragging me around the room. Tootsie who all the men fell in love with. Tootsie with her laugh. Tootsie: Dakota’s mom and Mama’s Best Friend and my Friend too. How could a person be there with you one minute, and be gone the next?

Mr. Carlo and Jesse the Hombre paid for the funeral at Jacob Schoen’s funeral parlor. Mama dressed me and the Little Kids up in our Church Clothes. Gino and Antonietta cried and cried.  Dakota wore a nice lavender dress with a white flower pinned to it. She stayed very quiet. I couldn’t look at her, couldn’t stand to see those large dark eyes in pain. Everyone from the Bastille came. Everyone from the Steak Pit came.  It seemed like the whole French Quarter was there. After the funeral, they had another party at the Bar. Dakota didn’t go to the party, she went upstairs to our apartment with the Little Kids.

Clayton, the skinny bald headed waiter from the Steak Pit, rapped me on the head, hard with his bony white knuckles. “Whatsa matter, Kid?” He wore the same white shirt and black pants and black bow tie he always wore to work.

“Tootsie.  I can’t believe she died. I still can’t believe she’s gone.  I miss her so much.”

“Kid. What-are-ya gonna do? It’s part of Life. Losing people we love. I been to three funerals this year.”

“Really? This is the first one I’ve ever been to.”

“Kid. Hold the Phone. Hold the Phone.” He downed his drink.  “I wish it could be your last. But it won’t be. All I ken tell ya is, keep on going.  Take care of your loved ones.  Just keep on going Kid.”

“Whattaya mean?”

“I mean. Lead the best life you ken, keep on keepin on. Ya hear me?”

“I hear ya, Mr. Clayton.” He went to get another vodka.

The whole Steak Pit crew was there: the waiters Cookie and Kenny, the dishwashers Rufus and Clarence, Hershey the Cook. Melvin came up to me and hugged me real tight. Jeanie and Dumptruck came, and Angie and her kids Damien and Darius. The Weasel. All the Bastille bartenders:  Earl, Buffalo, Gonzo the Wild Aussie, Cricket who I couldn’t stand. Tinkerbell the Fairy from Molly’s Irish Pub.  Crazy Dave and all the Bikers. The Mobsters. The Shopping Bag Ladies. The Racetrack Guys. Mikey O’Hara, the gay Irish Catholic high school drama teacher who everyone loved, with a cigarette in one hand and a screwdriver in the other. The three black hookers: Chocolate, Sugar and Honey, who liked Tootsie and Mama because they’d let them bring their tricks in, as long as they didn’t rip anyone off.

Everyone told stories about Tootsie.  Remember when she brought that live, crowing Rooster into the Bar? Remember when she drank 29 shots of Jagermeister, on a bet? Remember when she did a strip tease right up on the bar, and some friend of Mr. Carlo’s jumped up and started taking his clothes off too, and Carmela  started screaming because he was so tall she thought the ceiling fan was gonna chop his head off, and the fan blades broke, right on his shoulder?  If I’m lyin I’m dyin.  They got louder and louder and louder and drunker and drunker and drunker. They smoked joints and snorted lines of Coke off the bar. They toasted Tootsie with bottomless shots of Jose Cuervo and shots of Jagermeister and Kamikazes. They blasted Tootsie’s favorite songs on the Jukebox. Some of the stories were funny and made me laugh.  Then I would get sad again. Mama looked so lost without Tootsie.  And I wondered. What would happen to Dakota?


Photo Credit:  “Jose Cuervo Gold.” http://www.totalwine.com


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The Motel Family: Part Nineteen



The Motel Family

Part Nineteen

© Copyright 2014 by Sara Jacobelli


The Reporter and the Movie Star

Sunday, June 6, 1982


Cara Nonna:

I have so much to tell you I don’t know where to begin. First I want to say don’t worry too much about Papa, he’s Going to be OK. He’s a tough guy and he’ll make it. I hope he doesn’t get sent to prison, but right now he’s still in jail. It’s nice to have a break from him and Mama fighting all the time. I know that might be a terrible thing to say, him being your Son and all. It might even be a Sin. But sometimes they fought all night long and the Little Kids would cry and we never got any sleep. They’d scream at each other and throw things and he’d hit Mama and we would be so scared that he might kill her. It was like a bad Scary Movie on TV that you couldn’t turn off, even though it gives you Nightmares. The next day I’d be so tired, I’d fall asleep in class and the teachers would get Mad at me and Write Me Up.

So, this week Mama got to see Papa and he told her: Don’t Worry about Finding the Key. Just go straight down to the Bus Station and tell the guy there that you need to get the duffel bag. Mama said Papa was mad at her for not doing this sooner. “Cazzo! Quanto stupido!” he said. “Somebody mighta already stolen the money by now. Stupid woman!”

Mama was so mad. When she came home, she was bitching about Papa and crying at the same time. She leaned back on the couch and put her feet up on the Coffee Table Jeanie and Dumptruck gave us. “Honey, make me some tea, come sit by me. Wait, rub my neck first.”

We sat on the couch drinking tea while Mama hatched Plans. “We’ll go to the Bus Station and we’ll bring the Little Kids, so maybe the man’ll feel sorry for us. I hope it’s a man, men are easier to deal with. Hmmm, maybe we could borrow a baby. A crying baby would be good.”

“Mama, you can’t act!”

“I’ll get a baby from that girl, what’s her name, Crystal? No, Cricket. Candy? The little dancer who used to go with Angelo. For a coupla dollars she’ll let me borrow her baby.”

“That’s a Dumb Idea. And you can’t act.”

“Yes, I can, Miss Know-it-All.  I was even in a School Play once, in high school, Young Lady. I played Emily Webb in Our Town. I was the Star.  You’d be surprised at what I can do.”

“But you dropped out.”

“I dropped out because of you. I got pregnant with you when I was fifteen, my own Mama kicked me outta the house and I moved right in with Papa, right into his little weekly room on Rampart Street. He worked down at the docks, unloading trucks. We saved for an apartment, took us months, but we got one.  I felt so grown up. When I cooked for him, he said I made the best Red Gravy. “

“You do Mama.”

“And once you were born, my Mama got over it and came around to see you. She never liked Papa much.”

“Fifteen? That’s too Young. How old was Papa?”

She put her arm around me and leaned in close. I touched her hair, whiffed the smell of her Herbal Essence shampoo.  She closed her eyes. I knew I had to tell Mama about the Duffel Bag before she made a Big Scene at the Bus Station. I pictured poor Mr. Sandy standing there, Dumbfounded, while Mama screamed like a Banshee, whatever a Banshee was, and the Little Kids ran around getting into everything, and Mama held some crying baby she rented from some Drug Addict.

“It is Honey. It is too young.” She opened her eyes, touched my face. “But I thought he was cute.”

“How old was he?”

“I don’t know, twenty three, twenty four.”

“That’s crazy.  He was too old for you.”

“Dani.” She drifted, lost in another world. “Sometimes I think you’re the parent and I’m the child, it’s like we’re all mixed up around here.”

“Mama, I’ve got to, I’ve to tell you something.”

She sat up, sipped her tea. “You got me thinkin, girl. You know before I got pregnant, I wanted to be an Actress. Can you imagine, me, a Movie Star?” She jumped up, swirled around the room.

I grabbed her hairbrush and pretended it was a microphone. “Mrs. Riccio, tell me what it feels like to win the Oscar.”

“No, not Mrs. Riccio, before I was married I was Carmela DelVecchio.”

“Carmela DelVecchio?  Carmela  DelVecchio? That IS a good name for a Movie Star. OK, Miss. DelVecchio, how does it feel to win the Oscar for your latest movie?”

Mama spoke carefully into the hairbrush. “It feels wonderful. All my Hard Work has paid off. This is everything I ever wanted.”

“And what will your Next Movie be, Miss DelVecchio?”

“Well, I plan to take some time to Relax. I’m going to take a cruise to Europe,  and go to the Riviera to visit friends and sip Mimosas and just Relax for awhile.”

“People say you are the next Sofia Loren, what do you think of that?”

Mama  blushed, looked down at the hairbrush. “I’m not as beautiful as her, but I do admire her Grace.”

The door opened and Gino and Antonietta ran in followed by a tired looking Jeanie. “Mama, Mama, we went to City Park!” They jumped up and down and clambered all over her.

We ignored them. “And Mama, I mean Miss DelVecchio, are you dating any Big Famous Movie Stars right now?”

Jeanie and the Little Kids sat on the couch and looked at us like we were crazy.

“No, no one. I just need some time alone. Robert DeNiro and I just broke up, and it’s been hard.” She took a tissue and dabbed at her eyes. “Dudley Moore asked me out, but he’s not my type. We’re just friends. And I do like Al Pacino, but. . . I’m not ready for anything serious.”

“Well, Miss DelVeccio, just one more thing before you go. I see your limousine is waiting for you. Will you give me your autograph?”

“Does anyone have a pen and paper?”

Jeanie flipped through some bills on the kitchen counter and came back with a NOPSI bill and a pen. “Here.”

Mama grabbed the pen. “What’s your name?”

“My name is Daniella Riccio, Famous Reporter, and you are My Favorite Movie Star.”

Jeanie sat on the couch, and her and the Little Kids’ Eyes went back and forth between me and Mama like they were watching a tennis match.

Mama wrote on the back of the bill:

To Daniela the Famous Reporter: May you Travel the World and have Many Big Adventures, Love, Miss Carmela DelVecchio, Famous Movie Star. PS: Always Follow Your Dreams.”

“Oh, thank you, thank you, Miss DelVecchio!”

She hugged me, and I dropped the hairbrush/microphone and the autograph on the floor. Jeanie and the Little Kids clapped. Mama frowned and picked up the bill she autographed. “Shit.”

“What Mama?”

“We’re two months behind on the light bill. They’re gonna turn off our electricity.”



Picture Credit: “abustany_Movie_reel.svg.” free movie clip art.






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The Motel Family: Part Eighteen

Dollar Sign in Space - Illustration

© Copyright 2014 by Sara Jacobelli

A Pirate’s Treasure!


Sunday, May 30th, 1982

Cara Nonna,


I hope you are doing OK in Sicily. I sure hope I can visit you there some day.  I’m sorry that I’m always telling you Bad Stuff about Papa. Mama says I should remember that he is your Son and you love him. She says a Mama loves a Son in a Special Way, different than she loves a daughter. (Which might explain why Gino is such a Spoiled Brat). But I have to finish telling you what happened next:


Mr. Carlo locked the door behind him. The duffel bag was pad-locked, so he took a knife out of his pocket and sliced it open. We both got down on our knees to rifle through the bag.

“Seems like justa lot a magazines and clothes and towels and stuff. Maybe there’s nothin in here.”

“Take those magazines, Kid, go trew em page by page. He probly stuck the money in there.”

I opened up an old Reader’s Digest and sure enough, a hundred dollar bill was Scotch-taped onto the page titled, Laughter is the Best Medicine.

“Wow, Laughter is really the Best Medicine when you got this.” I carefully peeled off the tape and held up the hundred dollar bill. “Soldi. Ho io soldi. Sono ricco.” Mr. Carlo laughed.

Cricket banged on the door. “Mr. Carlo, I need change for da register. An I need some ernge juice.”

“Send Melvin to the A &P.”

“Melvin ain’t nowhere.”

“Alright, give me a few.”

We went through all the magazines and kept finding more hundred dollar bills. Mr. Carlo whistled while he counted. He’s a fast Money Counter. We were two Pirates in this together.

“How much?”

He held up some money. “I could tell how much this is, just by makin a stack and feelin the stack. See this here, this is a grand.”

“So how much is all of it, you think?”

“Looks like four grand, babe. Four grand and some change, some spicci.  A nice haul, I’d say. I’ll keep it locked up,  while you decide what to do wit it.” He stood up, brushed floor dirt off his immaculate designer jeans.

“You think Papa made all this money selling Coke?”

“Some of it. Some of it he just robbed from Drug Dealers, plain and simple. If I’m lyin I’m dying, your old man’s a piece a work. Piece a work.”

“That’s wrong. He shouldna done that.”

“I know, baby. At least the Drug Dealers are working, running a business. I don’t mind em so much, long as they ain’t doin it in here. Gotta protect my liquor license. But robbin em, that’s pretty low.”

“Mama said you don’t even have a liquor license.”

“Baby, I’m workin on it. You know what I do? I give the code guy a little somethin, I give em a busteralla, a little envelope stuffed with one a these Ben Franklins here. Once a month. That’s my liquor license.”

“You gotta help us, Mr. Carlo. What about the money he owed for gambling debts? They’re not gonna come after me an Mama an Gino an Antonietta?” I pictured gangs of Mob Guys like Al Capone breaking down the door in the middle of the night, shooting all of us with tommy guns and selling Mama to the White Slave Harems.

“Nah, I’ll take a grand a this and straighten it out for ya. That leaves three grand for you to take care of your Mama and the kids.”

“You could do it for free, I bet.”

He touched my face. “Carina. Yes I could. But sweetheart, I can’t be seen playin the fool.  Capisce?”

“Si. Capisco.” I looked at the duffel bag. “I could give those towels to Mama? We could sure use em.”

He smiled and winked at me. “Sure, Kid. Leave em here now, first you gotta go to the A & P.”

Cricket banged on the door again. “Mr. Carlo! Melvin’s Missing in Action, I ain’t got no quarters, I can’t give change without a solid quarter. We got no ernge juice for Mrs. Reilly’s screwdrivers.”

“I’ll send Dani.” He gave me two twenties. “Get juice and a roll a quarters, Mr. Bushy’ll give it to ya. Then keep the other twenty to buy a apizza for ya Mama an em tonight.”

“But where’ll I tell Mama I got the money from?”

“Workin. You been working here, this is a Bonus.”

“What about the rest of the Money?”

He leaned in close. “Dani, Don’t tell anyone. Don’t tell your Mama yet, an don’t tell Dakota. Specially don’t tell Tootsie. You might love her, but she’s still a Junkie. Meet me here tomorrow after school.”

“School’s out for the Summer.”

“I forgot, Kid.”

“I’m worried. Mama got to see Papa in Jail. He told her to go on down to the Greyhound station even though she don’t have the key to the locker, talk the guy into giving her his duffle bag.” We walked out of the office. He locked the door behind him.

“And since I already got the bag, Mama’s gonna figure this out.”

“Ragazza. Stai zito. Don’t say no more.”


Cricket hovered over me, nosy and suspicious. She didn’t dare say anything til Mr. Carlo left. “What were you two talkin bout in his Office? He don’t even let me IN there.”

I hated everything about her, from her bleached blonde hair to her halter top and denim short shorts and four inch high purple clogs. She’s the Type Papa calls Dumb as a Rock.

“Just Stuff. He an my Mama are Good Friends.”

“Yeah, I bet they’re Good Friends. Very Good Friends. She was smart, she’d let him set her up. These Bar Owners set their Girls up Nice.” She took a drag on her Virginia Slim and let out a long puff of smoke. “I’d go for him myself, but he ain’t intrested. Says I’m too fuckin skinny.” Her green eyes looked at me, searching. “You’re pretty closed mouth for a Little Kid. I ain’t never seen no Kid like you before.”

“I AIN’T a Little Kid.”

“Baby, you ain’t been fucked, you ain’t had your heart broken, you ain’t had a baby, you ain’t loved a man who’s doin time. I’d say that makes ya a Little Kid.” Cricket poured herself a shot a Jose Cuervo and downed it in two seconds.

“Where’s my screwdriver? I’mma tell Mr. Carlo you all are ignorin me. I’mma gonna make-a complaint to the Board a Health, the Effa-Be-Eye an the See-Eye-A.” Mrs. Reilly made piles of pennies an nickels on the bar.  “I work, I clean houses every day, I got me a job. I want my God-Damned drink.”

Cricket dumped some ice in a go cup and filled it with bar brand vodka. “There’s your drink, Bitch. You got vodka but no juice. Onna house.” She looked at me. “You goin to the store or what?”

“Alright, I’m going,” I stood in the doorway and turned around to glare at Cricket. She always talked down to me and Dakota, which Mama and Tootsie never did. They yelled,  they threw things, they slapped us when we screwed up but they didn’t treat us like stupid no-nothing retarded little Babies. “Hey Cricket, you know what?”

“What?” She plopped on a stool, pulled out a nail file,  filed a nail absentmindedly. Her nails were long and painted hot pink.

“It’s true, I never did those first three things. But I do love a man who’s in Jail, an he’s facing doing some Time.  Serious Time.  My Papa.”

“What baby?” Cricket put down the nail file and stood on a barstool, reaching up to change channels on the TV, a dangerous assignment on the rickety stool, especially since she wore those fancy four inch high chunky clogs. The old Morning News guys were gone, and the Soap Opera crowd was drifting in.

“I said, I know what it means to love a man Behind Bars. My own Father.”

“I know, honey. Your Mama got her some Jail Babies now. Ain’t it a shame?”

The corny music started up, and the deep voiced announcer proclaimed, “These are the Days of Our lives.”



Photo Credit:  “Dollar Sign in Space-Illustration,” by DonkeyHotey. CC License Attribution Only.








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The Motel Family: Part Seventeen



©  Copyright 2014  by Sara Jacobelli


We Get News about Tootsie!

Sunday, May 23, 1982

Cara Nonna:

Well, yesterday was my first day helping Melvin the Porter at the Bastille.  I swept the floor, helped take out the trash, and went to the A & P to get orange juice and other stuff. I love the French Quarter A & P, especially pushing the little miniature shopping carts around. Mr. Bushy waves from his way-up–high window office, he always cashes checks for Mama.  He loves Mama, he says she looks “like a combination of Sofia Loren and Gina Lolla-bridge-ada.” (Sorry, Nonna, not sure how to spell Ms. Gina’s last name. I’m going to ask my teacher).

I really like Mr. Melvin. He’s medium height, skinny, usually wears a white T-shirt and jeans and a cap. He’s always dressed neatly and is quiet and soft spoken. His eyes are dark brown and sleepy. Mama says he has Robert Mitchum eyes.  He always tells me about the Blues. He plays Leadbelly on the jukebox, and BB King and Robert Johnson. I wouldn’t know about any of this stuff if it wasn’t for Mr. Melvin. Plus he tells me old timey black slang that the young kids don’t know nowadays.

He hopped onto the bar and patted the space next to him. I climbed up. He adjusted his cap. “This here, this on my head, know what they call this?”

“A hat, what else? That’s easy.” I sipped my cherry Coke and crunched on the cherries one by one.

“No, no, sugar. This here’s called my sky. My sky.”

“Really? Never heard that before.”

“And my woman. My woman is called my squeeze.”

“Your squeeze? That’s funny. Like squeezing orange juice?” I giggled. Melvin slapped his thighs and chuckled. Then Mr. Carlo walked in.

“So you two look like you’re working hard.” Mr. Carlo winked at me. Melvin sighed.

“You know I been workin hard, I always work hard.” He jumped down off the bar and went behind the bar to pour Mr. Carlo his plain ginger ale.  The bar was open twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, but Mr. Carlo decided to shut down on Saturday mornings for two hours so Melvin could clean up.

Melvin took a clean white towel from his back pocket and wiped his face. “Sweat. See this here Sweat. That’s Work Sweat, Mr. Carlo.”

Mr. Carlo smiled. “I got some news about Our Girl Tootsie. She got busted—went to Central Lockup—ended up eatin baloney sandwiches.”

“Oh no, is she alright?”

“She’s alright Dani. I gotta call from Downtown. She mentioned my name, somebody called me. I got her out.”

“Shoot.” Melvin said. “I’m surprised. I know you don’t truck with no Junkies.”

“Yeah, but. It’s Tootsie. Tootsie.  I don’t want her workin for me no more, but can’t stand the thought of her in that place. If she cleans up her act, I can getter a gig dancing again, coupla fellas owe me some favors.”

“I can’t wait to tell Mama and Dakota!”

“Yeah, well. Dakota needs to keep stayin with you all, but I don’t think Tootsie should stay there.  You kids don’t need to be around Drugs. She’s says she quit, but you can’t believe a hop head. I put her up in a Motel for a few nights. We’ll see what happens.”

A car pulled up out front, and one of those serious looking men who were always looking for Mr. Carlo came in. They shook hands. Then a few more guys came in, and Cricket, a new young skinny blonde bartender, came rushing in to open up.

“Sorry I’m so late, Mr. Carlo, but me an JJ got inna fight, it’s a long story.”

Mr. Carlo waved her off and took me by the arm. “Quick walk, Kiddo.”

“What’s up?” We walked a block down Toulouse Street. Porters were hosing down the sidewalks in front of the bars and restaurants, washing away last night’s smell of beer, wine, Pat O’Brien’s Hurricanes and puke.

“I been thinkin, you don’t need to wait three weeks til you can get your Money.”


“We can go in the Back Office and open it now, just keep your Mouth shut about whatever’s innit, OK?”

“OK. I know.”

“Not even Dakota. Cuz with her Mom being strung out, man, if Tootsie gets ahold a that dough, it’s gone. She’d shoot it up in a heartbeat, ya hear me?”

“I hear ya, Mr. Carlo. I won’t say nothing.”

“How long’s your Mama got before she can make that Deal with the Lawyer, Mr. Beauregard?”

“One week.”

“Alright. Well, if there’s any Money in there, you’ll have to decide whether to use if for your Papa’s Lawyer. Or, what else wouldjou do with it?” He looked at me with very sincere blue eyes. “Would you let your own ole man Rot in Angola?”

“No, not rot in Prison. Not like that.  I just want to do what’s best. For Mama and Gino and Antonietta.”

“You’re smart, Sport. Too Smart. You remind me so much of that little girl in that movie, the Gregory Peck Movie.” He ruffled my hair. “Scout. That’s you, you look just like Scout.”

“Yeah, Mama says that too.” We walked back to the Bar.

Half a dozen older men were sitting at the bar drinking coffee. During racing season, they would always have the newspaper or racing forms out, carefully circling horse’s names and scribbling indecipherable notes.  It was their Morning Ritual.  Since the track is closed in the summer,  they all had the sports pages spread out.  I felt bad for them, I think they miss the Horses.  At least they have Football season to look forward to.

Mr. Carlo unlocked the tiny office door and gestured for me to come in. We were finally going to open Papa’s Duffel Bag. I could feel and hear my heart thumping loudly in my chest.



Photo Credit:    “Jukebox,”  by AJ Wms.  License CC NonCommercial. Flickr.

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The Motel Family: Part Sixteen


© Copyright 2014 by Sara Jacobelli

 I Get Papa’s Duffel Bag!


Sunday, May 16, 1982


Cara Nonna:

Well, I hope you are doing well in Italy. Papa always says that you live in Sicily, not Italy. . . but my Social Studies teacher said it’s still the Same Country. Lately I’ve been missing Papa; sometimes I almost wish he would get out of Jail. Maybe it would be better for him to go there and live with you in your Little Village in the Mountains, or wherever. The Little Kids miss him a lot. But I am so scared that if he comes Home, him and Mama will go back to Fighting all the time and that he will beat her up so bad that she goes to the Hospital, or worse than that, that she Dies.

I finally got Papa’s Duffel Bag back from Mr. Sandy at the Greyhound station. I took Dakota’s advice and had a Talk with Mr. Carlo. (Dakota is living with us now. Tootsie is really strung out, she’s crashing in a Shooting Gallery down on Camp Street. She shows up at the Bar once in awhile asking for Money. Dakota won’t even come downstairs to talk to her. I know Dakota, she acts tough, but on the inside her heart is broken).

I waited for Mr. Carlo one day when Mama was working. The only problem was, I had to figure out how to talk to him without Mama sticking her big nose in my Business. He showed up, looking cute in his tight designer jeans. Mama still teases me about having a crush on him. Funny thing is, he’s crazy about her. She doesn’t see it though; all she talks about these days is getting Papa out of Jail.

Mr. Carlo kissed Mama on the cheek. He ruffled my hair like I was six years old. “How’s my two sweethearts today?”

“New cologne? You smell like a French whorehouse!” Mama said, while she fixed me a cherry coke and Mr. Carlo a plain ginger ale. Several quiet men wearing hats were lined up at the bar, waiting to talk to him.

“She how she treats me, Ace?” He always calls me something silly like Sport or Ace or Champ. Lately it’s been Ace since he found out I’m pretty good at cards. I can play pinochle, 500 rummy, gin rummy, knock rummy, spades, hearts.  In study hall at school I make money playing knuckles. (Everything so far but bourre. Can’t figure that game out at all).

“She how she treats me, and after all I’ve done for her. Even offered to buy her a little house in Chalmette, but no, she’s sticking with her Man.” Mr. Carlo touched Mama’s face, gently. For a minute I wondered if they had a thing for each other. I made a Mental Note to ask Dakota, who understands these things.

Mama smiled. “I’ve got good news; the lawyer says he can get me in to see Tony.” She put her arm around me. “I miss him so much. We all miss Papa so much, don’t we honey?”

“The Little Kids do. They cry about him before they go to bed.”

Mr. Carlo looked at me. “He’s your Old Man too. Don’t you miss him?”

“Course she does. He’s her Father. A girl loves her Father.”

“Carina. Let her answer.”

I looked at Mama and at Mr. Carlo. I wasn’t sure if I should be honest or not.

“Well, uh.  I don’t want him to go to Prison. I mean, I don’t like. I don’t like it when you guys Fight so much. I’m scared he’ll hurt you.”

Mama looked mad. “Girl, don’t you be puttin our Business out on the Street like that. No Mettere in Piazza.” She poured some draft beers for the row of silent men who sat solidly on barstools, smoking, fidgeting with their smelly Bic lighters, waiting to discuss Important Matters with Mr. Carlo. “And shouldn’t you be in school, Young Lady, you’re about Two Fucking Hours Late?”

I turned to Mr. Carlo. “Can you give me a ride to school?”

He nodded yes and looked at Mama like she was crazy. He led me out the door, turned and held his index finger up to the waiting men. “Be right back, Gentleman, and we’ll Take Care of Things, gotta take care a my little niece here.”


When we got in his trademark gun-metal gray Cadillac, I told Mr. Carlo where we were really going.

“Please drive me to the Greyhound Station. Please. It’s very Important.”

“What-are-ya, what-are-ya doin, you running away, Kiddo? Where’s your suitcase?”

“No, sir.  Nothin like that. But I need Twenty Seven Dollars to get this duffel bag from the bus station. Papa’s duffel bag. Mama doesn’t know. It’s got money innit, I think. Maybe a lotta money.” I looked out the window as we passed Barber Shops with laughing people out front, and neutral grounds with old men sitting on mismatched lawn chairs playing cards on battered card tables, boom boxes blaring. Seemed like everyone in Town was outside drinking beer today and no one was working.

“Twenty Seven dollars?” He steered the car smoothly. I was surprised that he drove carefully, even slowly. I thought he’d careen down the street like a movie gangster, gun shots blazing in every direction.

“Why’do ya need this Money?”

He pulled into the cab stand in front of the bus station, peeled three tens from his wallet and handed them to me, ignoring the yelling cab drivers.

“I gotta get this bag; the locker fee is Twenty Seven Dollars.”

“Go get it. I’ll wait for you. And Dani—“


“Nothin’s Free in Life. You’re gonna have to work for me to earn that Money. You can clean up with Melvin the Porter on Saturdays, run errands; go to the A &P to get ernge juice, shit like that.”

“OK.” Why would a rich guy like Mr. Carlo care about Twenty Seven Dollars? I went into the bus station, paid Mr. Sandy and got the bag. He seemed happy to see me.

“Well, Young Lady, I am glad you came. Looks like the Good Lord takes care of His People. Yes, indeed, he does. Yes, indeed. He Truly Does.”

“You gotta new sign.” A neatly hand-lettered sign written in red and blue magic markers proclaimed, “We Need to Get Our Earl Back from the Ay-Rabs.” Underneath the words was a crudely drawn American flag.

“Thank you, you like it?”

“It’s nice. Thanks for saving my Papa’s bag for me.”

“Good luck to you and Your Family, Young Lady. I hope he comes home from the Hospital soon.”


“Didn’t you say he was Sick? Dying? Heart attack or cancer or something?”

“Oh, right. He’s better now. He’s pretty tough.”

Mr. Sandy nodded. He probably heard all kinds of lame excuses from people trying to get their stuff back.

I dragged the heavy bag back to Mr. Carlo’s car. He was surrounded by a mob of angry cabbies. I saw him talking to one big black guy who seemed to know everybody. Then that guy told the other guys to back off, and they all did. The black guy shook Mr. Carlo’s hand.  I remembered what Dakota had said about Mr. Carlo and his Connections.

He popped open the trunk, winked at me, and threw in the bag. We got back in the car.

“So where are we bringing this bag to, raggazina?”

“Home. I’m going to sneak it upstairs.”

“That’s never gonna work. Your Mama will find it in a hot minute. She don’t miss a trick, that one.” He turned on the radio. Irma Thomas was singing, “Sugar Pie honey bunch, sugar pie honey bunch, I love you and nobody else, Sugar Pie honey bunch.” We both sang along with Irma, laughing.

“I’ll drop you off at School. I’ll stick this bag in my office back at the bar, lock it up. No one but me has keys. She won’t think it has any connection to you.  Once you work off the Thirty Bucks, I’ll give it to you. I won’t even open it.”

“I could give you the three dollars change now.”

“No.  I don’t deal with Small Change.”

“OK. “ I looked at the blue blueness of his eyes. “Mr. Carlo, did you really offer to buy Mama a house in Chalmette? I mean, you’re married with kids and all that.”

He pulled up in front of my middle school. I was surprised that he even knew what school I went to.

“Listen, kid. Every bar owner in the Quarter, has a wife an kids on da Lakefront or out in Metry, then they got the girl in the Quarter. That’s just the way it is. You might as well learn that now.”

“Oh, you mean like a cuma, cumare?”

“Don’t say that about your Own Mother, it’s fresh.” He lit one of his brown More cigarettes. I wanted to ask for one, but figured he’d say No.

“She’s a beautiful woman, but not too Bright sometimes. She should let a man set her up nice. She’s got kids to take care of. She don’t think sometimes.”

“But women always say Papa’s a good lookin guy. I don’t get it, but that’s what they say.”

“They like that dark tough boxer look.  Women don’t always know what they want. But he’s a malandrino. Malviventi. “

“You mean a Gangster?”

“Nah.” He put out his cigarette and offered me a stick of gum.

“No disrespect, he’s still your Papa. But he’s a Wannabe. A jerk. Not only were him and his buddies dealing Coke, they were robbing people, robbing other drug dealers and card games. Bad news. If I’m lyin I’m dyin.  Bringin down all this Heat. He had other women stashed around town too, but he didn’t take care of them like I do. Then he’d come home and beat your Mama, beat er black an blue he did, and here she is, workin and takin care of you kids.  Bastardo. Son-uvva-bitch. She deserves better.”

“I know she does.”

“So whattareya gonna do with this Money, this Money in the Duffel Bag?  If the Money’s really there? Give it to her for the Lawyer?”

“I don’t know.”

“You know your Papa owes money for Gambling Debts?”

“Yeah, I know. How much?”

“He owed five grand, but he paid two. Still owes tree more, plus the vig. I can talk to some people. I can talk to some people, knock the vig down, maybe get the principle down a bit too.” He chewed on a toothpick. “If I do it, it’s for you kids and your Mama. So nobody gets hurt. Not for him.”

“Why didn’t he bet with you?” I wasn’t quite sure what a vig was, but the men always talked about it in hushed tones. Gotta pay the vig. The fuckin vig is so high these days.

“I don’t like Trouble. I wouldn’t take his bets, no way. But enough of this, you gotta get to school. Go.”

When he saw I wasn’t moving, he got out of the car, came around to the passenger’s side, and opened the car door.

He held my face in his hands, held my chin firmly, in that way Italian men have. He kissed my cheek, looked into my eyes.

“Dani. Sometimes. . . “

“Sometimes what?”

“Sometimes, Kid. Sometimes you gotta make a Decision.”

I walked into school, bells were clanging, classes were changing. Down the crowded hallways,  into that hot sweaty familiar mass of jumbling jostling bouncing jumping pushing shoving swearing, sneering bodies, the fighting and strutting and yelling and shrieking and screaming and laughing, the smell of cigarette smoke and weed and cheap beer, the sound of girls going “hey bitch” and “hey brah” and snapping gum and going “tch tch tch”;  the sound of boys going “hey brah” and “hey homeboy”, and “fuck you motherfucker” not caring about any of it.  No time for Teenage Stuff.  I had a Decision to make.









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The Motel Family: Part Fifteen

Dollar Sign in Space - Illustration

I Need 27 Whole Dollars!

©  copyright 2014 by Sara Jacobelli

Sunday, May 9, 1982

Cara Nonna:

You’re probably wondering where in the world am I going to get the money to get Papa’s duffle bag back from the Greyhound Bus Station. Believe me, Nonna, my head has been spinning with ideas. I stay up late at night, laying in bed thinking about it. And when I’m supposed to be fixing the Little Kids a snack or helping them with their homework, all I’m doing is thinking about that money.  Mama keeps saying I’m getting Spacey because I’m turning into a Teenager. Plus I’m so worried that Mr. Sandy’ll keep the bag if I don’t get back there soon. He seems to like me, but still.  .  .

After school Monday I walked all the way over to Banks Street in Mid-City to where Tootsie and Dakota are staying with Hacksaw.  I had already given Gino strict instructions to walk home from school with Antonietta, and not to let Mama know where I was. I figured Maybe Dakota had some of that money left that we found in the coffee can. I banged and banged on their door. The building is pretty run down, and every time I banged, dogs barked and babies cried. It’s noisier than our place, and we live upstairs from a 24 hour bar!

Dakota answered the door. She’d been sleeping in her clothes, on the couch. The TV was turned onto some dumb soap opera. The place was a mess, like someone’s been fighting and throwing things. Empty beer bottles, overflowing ash trays, candy wrappers and empty cigarette packs strewn everywhere. Broken glass.  Tipped over furniture. Piles of crusty smelly laundry. Half full coffee cups with coffee turning green and moldy. Dirty dishes stacked high in the sink being stalked by a silent army of determined Roaches.

“What’s up girl? Where’ve you been? Skippin school without me?”

Dakota lit a cigarette. She’s been smoking lately and looks like she’s been crying. I look at her and envy her long eyelashes, the shiny blackness of her hair, the smooth dark good looks emerging, almost like a preview of the beautiful woman she will soon be.

“Life’s fucked up,” she mumbles, sinking back into the couch, wrapping blankets around herself.  “Just fucked up.” I noticed a Purple Stuffed Bear sitting next to her, forlornly, a sad piece of childhood, not quite forgotten. I almost teased her about the Bear. Almost. Something stopped me.

“Dakota, I don’t know what’s up with you, brah, but I need some a that money. I need twenty seven bucks. I was gonna bring you with me to the bus station, but you never came to school last week.” I plopped onto the couch next to her.

“I don’t have it, Kid. Don’t have it.”

“Why you callin me a Kid? I’m only one year younger than you. Bitch. ” I punched her on the arm.

“Ouch.” She pushed me. “Sorry, Dani. I’m sorry. Uh, it’s just fucked up. And all that money’s gone. My Mom got into it.”

“I can’t stand soap operas, they’re so slow and boring.” I changed the channel to the Three O’clock Money Movie. They were playing Angels with Dirty Faces, one of me and Mama’s favorites. Humphrey Bogart and James Cagney.

“She spent the money getting high.”

“You mean she’s doing Coke again?”

“Nah, I wish. I could handle that. She’s back into the smack.”


“Heroin, girlfriend. Tootsie’s been clean for two years, at least from that shit. So, she got into my money, my share of the coffee can money, and she got all fucked up. Hacksaw’s screamin pissed. They had a Big Fight, look at this place.”

“You got anything to eat?” I opened the fridge, figuring to rummage inside.  There was nothing. Well, one beer, and I was sure that was Hacksaw’s. But not one ounce of anything else. I knew Mama would hate to see that. She always says there’s nothing Sadder and Lonelier than the sight of an empty fridge.

“So where’s your Mom now?”

“Ole Tootsie ain’t been home in days. Who the fuck knows? And who the fuck cares? Hacksaw said he hates Needles, he don’t want no damned Junkie Woman, so he’s kickin us out. Our asses be out on the street soon, Girlfriend.

“You shouldn’t be callin her “Tootise”—and you shouldn’t say you Don’t Care.  She’s your Mama.”

“She sure as shit ain’t acting like one.” Dakota looked older.  Older, serious and angry.

“Hey, wasn’t yesterday your Birthday? I’m sorry, I forgot. I guess we all forgot.”

“That’s OK. Tootsie forgot too.”

“I can’t believe you’re fourteen. Wow. Whyncha come stay with us for a few days? Me and Mama can make you a birthday cake, we just need to getta box of mix, some eggs and milk. Some candles.”

“OK.” She stuffed some clothes and a toothbrush into a little pink travel bag decorated with dainty looking ballerinas. She grabbed her cigarettes, lighter, and keys, picked up the Purple Stuffed Bear. “Can I bring Henry the Bear?”

“Sure. Why not? I bet he doesn’t eat much.”

“Nah. ” She laughed and locked the door. “Not too much. Maybe some chips and dip.”

“I bet he likes Hubig’s Pies.”

“Sure he does.”

We walked down the stairs and out onto the crumbling sidewalk.

“So, why d’ya need money so bad?”

“It’s kind of a Long Story, but the Main Thing is, I need twenty seven dollars. And I need it right away. It’s important. VERY important.”

Dakota stopped and looked directly into my eyes. “I’ll help you. We’ll get that Money.”

We walked all the way back to the Quarter, Dakota carrying her little pink bag and me carrying the silly Purple Bear. We held the Bear up and made funny voices for him, stuck our tongues out at anyone who looked at us.  We made fun of all the people we walked by, and giggled so much when we saw cute guys that they practically ran away.


When we got to the Bastille, I forgot about keeping my mouth shut and just dragged Dakota in the door.

“Mama, can she stay with us? It’s messed up at her house.”

“Dakota!” Mama came out from behind the bar and gave her a big hug. “Lookit you, Bella. Carina.” She smooched Dakota on the cheek and Dakota turned beet read.

“You Never Even Call Me by My Name” by David Allen Coe came on the jukebox, and everyone in the bar stood up, as if on cue, and started singing it.  “Well, I was drunk, the day my Mama, got out of Prison. . .” We all put our arms around each other while we sang, and when we got to the last line, everyone screamed, “You never even call me by my FUCKING name!!!”

I whispered to Mama, “It was her birthday yesterday,” but it was so noisy she couldn’t hear me. Everyone in the bar was yelling, “Jagermeister!”

“Lookit that there hot JailBait.” Danger nodded in our direction. He looked like Fred Flintstone covered in Jailhouse Tattoos.

“Now, upstairs you two, before I get arrested for having minors in the bar,”

Dakota shook her head.”Don’t worry. Won’t happen. Mr. Carlo has Connections.”

“And no more Skipping School, Young Lady!” Mama yelled at me as we headed up the stairs. I ignored her.

“What da’ ya mean, Connections?”

“I don’t know, I  heard people say it, is all.”

We got up to the apartment. The Little Kids were lying on the floor eating chocolate chip cookies and watching cartoons. I walked out to the balcony and looked out over Bourbon and Toulouse. I loved these moments in the Quarter, when it just turns dark, and the neon lights come alive. When it’s springtime, and the air feels good. When you know summer thunderstorms with their electricity charging through you will come soon. I felt a little bit sad that Dakota and I weren’t Kids anymore. That part of Life was Over. But we were still Young, there was still so much more to come. And Mama was beautiful. And Tootsie was a mess, and Papa was still in Jail. But Mama was beautiful and hugged us and yelled at us and made the best Red Gravy ever and the Little Kids were cute, with their shiny dark curly hair, even though they were brats.

Dakota joined me on the balcony. We waved to the clueless out-of-towners on the hotel balcony across the street. We watched the dumb tourists hit Bourbon Street, and the Hustlers watch their every move.  We knew most every pimp, hooker, tranny, hustler, biker, gangster, street kid, tap dancer/shoe shiner, barker, dancer, bartender, cocktail waitress, drug dealer, crazy person and Quarter Character. Ruthie the Duck Lady. The Lucky Bead Lady. Chicken Man.  Tinkerbell. Tiny. Bourbon Street Red. Bourbon Street Bob. Little Joe.  Gonzo.  Crazy Dave. Loose Dave.  Hot Dog Dave. Mormon Dave.  Danger. A guy called Slut. Long haired Mike.  Joe Howard. Little Al Demarco.  Larry Fontaine.   Curly the Lucky Dog Vendor. Speed the Pimp. Goodwill George.  Mr. Carlo.  Rocky. John the Pollack. Blue, who tried to convince college girls that he was Willie Nelson.  Nick the Greek. Nick the Wop. Joe Nunzio. Raymond the Mouse, his brothers Crazy Peter and Little Paulie and Jimmy the Accountant. Beachball Benny. Jesse the Hombre.  Buffalo. Heineken Earl. Rockmore the Artist.  George the Artist.  Tuba Fats.  Pops the Tap Dancer, and his woman Big  Mama who collected and counted his earnings every evening and called him her Mule.  David, who claimed to be related to some famous artist named Day-gah, and barely had time to wait tables  because he rode his old red bicycle from party to party. The Lady with the Cross. The Two Homeless Ladies who slept in doorways and were always together.The Cascio Brothers. The Riccio Cousins. We pointed at people we knew, yelled their names. Some of them looked up, laughed and made faces and waved back.

“Hey, Dakota, What’s that song?”

“What song?”

“The one my Mama and your Mom like so much? About summer? Summer is Easy? You’re good lookin? Somethin like that?”

“Oh, I think I know. Summer-time, and the living is ea-sy. You’re Daddy’s rich, and your Mama’s good lookin. . ”  Dakota has a clear sweet high pretty voice, when she was a little girl she sang all the time. “That’s all the words I know.”

“That’s OK.” I can’t carry a tune at all, but I joined in. Summer was coming. .  and that meant barbecues, drive-in nights, the rides at Lake Pontchartrain.  If only we knew someone who would take us Camping. . .

Dakota and I leaned out over the balcony, looked at the sky, the stars, which you could hardly make out with all the city lights, but we knew they were there. We felt the spring air on our bare arms. I shivered. This was a moment that I would long remember. I wanted to hold onto it, but you can’t do that. You just can’t. All you can do is take a deep breath, look around you, and live it.  I wanted to scream, “It’s almost Summer and I’m almost Thirteen and I’m Here I’m Here I’m Here.

“Summer-time. Summer-time. Summer-time. . . and the living is easy. . . ”




Photo Credit: “Dollar Sign in Space-Illustration,” by DonkeyHotey. CC License Attribution Only. Flickr.

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The Motel Family: Part Fourteen

The Motel Family: Part Fourteen

© Copyright 2014 by Sara Jacobelli


Greyhound Station Locker Number 27


Sunday, May 2, 1982

Care Nonna:

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.

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