Down at the Low Dive Cafe, Part 2
- By Arthur J Miller
Dil says, "that's Steele Street Moll, she oversees the day "shift of this dive."
"At night you'll find Grandma Marie, she is the one that opened up this dive long ago. She knows most all the truck drivers, longshoremen, sweatshop hands, sea dogs and streetwalkers by first name. She knows of all the lost families, the loneliness, the hard-times and she listens to all the stories of the yet unfulfilled dreams of the dead-end dreamers. They say that she can always say just about the right thing, at the right time to ease their inner pain a bit. But she can be as hard as need be to any night flyin' loser wanting to abuse her. The story is told that in her younger years she wrestled gators out on the bayous and that is where she developed her bouncing technique. She will be in around chummin' time."
But no sooner than Dil had stop yapping when the solemn quietness of the cafe is broken as Moll 86's an obnoxious deadbeat that had been mouthing off to her. Dil chuckles a bit and then remarks "Moll has the appearance of a sweet mid-western woman still picking hay out of her teeth, but, as those who have tired to cross her have found out, under all that sweetness lies a devilish spirit of a barroom bouncer. Moll has the temper of a mamma lion and the gentle side of a beached jellyfish. She is also my mother." With that Dil walks over to Moll and they return to the table together and sit down.
Moll is first to speak; "Dil tells me you are some type of egghead wanting to learn something from me. What would you like to know?"
Not wanting to provoke the wrath of this dreadful woman, the professor chooses his words carefully. "What is your view of the place of women among society's class of less fortunate people?"
Moll lifts her head up takes a few good chumps on her chaw, spits a good wad in a spittoon then snarls a bit under her breath. "A woman's place is any damn place she wants to be!" she roars out. "Men got some women thinkin' that they are only Barbie dolls to play with, and to slave for them. But no matter how big and strong men may think they are, God gave them a weakness; a set of balls hangin' down, makin' a grand target of a well-placed kick as a reminder that women ain't their's to command. As for those men that force themselves on women, castrate them I say! And make them eat their manly jewels. For men who do not seek to keep us women down, well, with those we are comrades in the struggle to rid the world of the blood sucking rich vampires."
With that said Moll got up from the table and went back to work. Even if the professor wanted to say something he could not, for there was a great uneasiness being felt in his groin area.
Then Dil spoke up and said he would get another one to be interviewed. He brought over to the table a Black man who seemed to be in his forties. Once they sat down Dil spoke up and said; "This here is Hilltop Fred and he works as a longshore casual."
"How do you do Fred? I would like to ask you how being an African American effects your life as part of the disadvantaged class?"
"First off, it is Mr. Fred to you, I demand respect from your kind. Next, I don't view myself as an African American; I am a Black Man, what the hell has America ever done for Black people? Why in the hell do you think I wish to be identified with a racist, exploitative nation that kidnaped my ancestors and forced them into slavery? America can go to hell, as far as I'm concerned."
"The self-appointed masters enslaved my people, then the bleeding hearts unlocked the chains of steel, but replaced one form of slavery with another form, that being wage slavery. Then they institutionalized most of my people to the lowest level of wage slaves. And to try to keep us in the place they want us, they would lynch us, burn our homes, throw us in prison and refuse us work in better jobs."
"When Black people rose up in rebellion they allowed a few tokens a better life and told the rest of us that we had the same opportunities, when in fact that was just a lie. Today the masters try to criminalize a generation of our youth and divide our people to the point of killing each other. But I look for the day when the gang-bangers turn the guns that they have been using against each other in the direction of the masters, and their paid mercenaries, the cops."
"I also work for the day that Black people, along with all other exploited people rise up and take back all that was built with our collective labor. So what is my role as a Black Man in what you call the disadvantaged class? It is that of a revolutionary with a fist in the face of the master class!" The whole cafe seemed to shake as he pounded his fist down upon the table.
The professor, with a trembling voice, thanked Mr. Fred for his comments. Next, Dil brought over an older woman who seemed to have had seen far better days. Dil then introduced her: "This here lady is Bed Bug Sally, the scourge of the waterfront flops." Then Sally gave Dil a little punch in the arm and said; "I am a woman, I ain't no lady. A lady is a passive made up doll servant to men, and that I ain't!"
Professor Armchair, more than a bit nervously then asked; "how does being older effect your conditions in the disadvantaged class?"
"Let me set you straight on something, I ain't disadvantaged, I am exploited! I have worked all my life and raise three kids to boot. When I grew older and my body could no longer keep up with younger folks, them bosses decided I was all used up, no good for nothing any more, and the showed me the door."
"Then some fancy-ass bureaucrats told me that I could have a small bit of cash each month to live on 'till I died. They acted like I was a down and out beggar, and by the kindness of their bleeding hearts, they would give me a helping hand."
"I told them they could take their helping hands and cram them squarely up their asses. I had worked hard all my life and I was not out for no charity, but rather what was due to me. My attitude angered one of them and he pointed at me and said that I was nothing more than an old bed bug. I told him that he maybe right, but that this old bed bug had teeth and I damn near bit off his pointing finger. After I got out of jail folks started calling me Bed Bug Sally."
"Some call me the scourge of the water front flops because I look after other old folks that your society has thrown onto a scrap-heap, that being the waterfront flops. When I see that they have needs that ain't being taken care of, I do a bit of hell-raising . . . Given that the bleeding hearts know about my teeth, they generally respond to the need rather quickly. I may be old and not much to look at, but I am a class warrior and I'll be so until they put me in the ground and lay a stone upon my grave so that I can't get up again to kick more ass."
The professor placed all his fingers in his pocket, after making sure that they were still all there, and then thank Sally for her words.
Next to talk to the professor was a younger women who had both warmth and sorrow in her smile and eyes. "This young friend of mine is called Wharf Rat Pal. She was named that because some of the high class folks call us poor waterfront folks wharf rats, and this dear soul is a pal to all of us."
The professor felt that now he had a bit of a break from the dangerous folks he had listen to so far. "How does being young and poor effect your life?"
"I grew up in a home with a drunken abusive father and a mother who lived in terror of him. One day I came home from school and my mother was gone. To this day I have no idea what happened to her. When I was 13 one night my father was drunk and yelling about something and started to hit me. I bashed him over the head with a fry pan and knocked his ass out cold. The cops took me away and placed me in Juvenile Hall on the charge of assault and battery. The cops, the social workers and the judge did not want to hear what I had to say, nor did the care about what I had been through. "Young lady, there is no justification for assaulting your father!" they all said.
I was sent away to a state youth institution for two years where daily abuse was the norm. After they released me I was place in one Foster Home after another. Then when I was 17 my Foster father raped me and I ran away. I lived on the streets and there was this pimp who was trying to force me to be a hooker for him. I ran from him, but found myself on this dead-end street with nowhere to run. He started to beat me and I screamed and out of this cafe came a few wharf rats that beat that fool to an inch of his life. Moll was a terrifying sight as she beat that pimp for what seemed like a lifetime. Then Dil tied him up and said something about a shark pit."
"Moll, Dil, Sally and Fred took me inside and fed me and cared for my bruised body and gave me a place to stay. Until I met the folks of the Low Dive Cafe all I had in me was hate. I hated my father, I hated my mother for leaving me, and I hated the cops, social workers, judges and everything about this damn society. I hated every well to do person I saw, for they seemed to have everything while I had nothing. And I guess I hated myself because I hated my life and could not understand why I had been born."
"The people of the Low Dive Cafe show me love and kindness that I had never known before. They sat with me for hours as I poured out my heart to them of my horrid life. They did not sit there and judge me or lecture me, but rather they cried with me. Little Dil came up and gave me a hung and asked me if I would be his big sister. Marie, Moll and Sally showed me that women did not have to just take it and that they should fight back. Fred took me under his wing and taught me about being a class warrior. All the other folks here let me know that I was one of them and I became a pal to them all."
"They did not take away my hate of those that did me wrong, for they taught me to direct that hate. They did take away my self-hate and replaced it with self-love and self-purpose. I work here at the cafe part time and I go to school part time. I now have three purposes in life; to learn to do all I can to help with the well-being of my class; to be the best pal that I can to my friends; and to become the most dangerous person possible to our class enemies."
Those words frighten Professor Armchair even more than all the other words he had heard. The passionate mix of both love and hate of one so young was terrifying to him. He also gave some thought to the reference to Dil's rope and a shark pit again.