Way out in the boondocks down Barataria Boulevard in Marrero you can hear the gators at night. Out here in the boonies big rigs blow their horns for little boys who dream of one day being truckers. This is where New Orleans sophistication turns countrified. We meet at “Where Ya At Pizzeria” The place is made from a converted warehouse and surrounded by empty lots of abandoned boatyards. Darlene gives me a heads up that her daughter is gorgeous as a model. So when the girl walks up in her tight cotton shorts, I avert my eyes to keep from turning into a pillar of salt.
So my sister and our entourage enter the swanky joint and order our fare. The daughter is all cute smiles. A man displays his tattoo to her and she bursts into laughter. Apparently his ink makes them kindred spirits in some way which mystifies me. April embraces him like a husband come home from war.
The mother, Darlene, dives into her monologue delivered in the Brooklynese accent of a down home New Orlenian. She starts by telling the story of a man she knows who moved to Florida. “He had six children. The first was with a black woman, next a Hispanic, then white, Vietnamese, Indian, and Native American. What was he trying to do taste the rainbow? I told him first he needs to use condoms, next he needs to quit dating, and then he needs an amputation.”
I dig into my muffaletta which drips with cheese. A pizza as wide as a car wheel is delivered to the table. Our gang digs into it. Darlene continues, “The white mayor of this city has a black mistress. She dictates his decisions like taking the statue of Robert E. Lee off Lee circle. That is the problem with our mayor.”
God the place is teaming with a white bread crowd. Darlene imitates the Marlon Brando character in Street Car Named Desire’ “Stella, Stella!” she belts out. I try to keep up with her soliloquies.
April her daughter says, “God that guy with the tattoo was too much. I really don’t belong in this place.”
Darlene says, “I never go to the chain restaurants. I always go to the hole in the wall
She says, “Oh Mom, these guys can’t keep their
hands off me. My Miss. cutie pie smile gives them the green light so they think. They can’t take a hint when the game is over. Being a girl in a joint like this can be tricky. But maybe I should dress like an Amish woman. Perhaps then they would respect me as a teenager even with my curves.”
Darlene gives April a wolfish grin. She tells her daughter, “Honey just tell em you’ll sic Mama bear on them if they lose their manners.”
A guy steps into April’s personal space. She pleads, “Please Mister, don’t breathe your whisky fumes into my face.”
He says, “Hey darlin let’s share a beer. Half a can won’t get you drunk.”
April replies, “Oh come on. Can’t you see I’m underage? Please go find a grown woman to hit on.” April ducks away from the brute.
Darlene asks him, “Are you trying out for the sequel to Planet of the Apes?”
The guy breathing fumes says, “Come on mawmaw, I’ve been busting my ass on an oil rig all
month. Let me have a little clean fun.”
Darlene replies, “There is nothing clean about you. The first mistake you made was treating my daughter like your tootsie. The second was calling me her grandmother. If you don’t want to get kicked out of here and have to explain to your old lady why you aren’t welcome in this joint, you better scram.” The dude slinks away like a nutria into a swamp.
After I lug my full belly to the car, April, the daughter, jumps like a bunny rabbit across the parking lot. I remember when I could do that. And I recall being a recluse at her age with so little playfulness. But my old man eyes awaken to the beauty of her suppleness and relive my own youth. April is all sweet sixteen with giggles from head to toe. April looks at me and says, “Hey mister, you were mighty quiet in there. Do you want to jump with me?”
My grey gaze gallops but my legs stiffen at the prospect. “Doll, it sounds like fun. If I were thirty years younger we’d hop together.” We take our seats in separate cars and rev our engines out into the night.