17 St. Phillips Street
“Well good morning to you, too!” says Miss Jenny as she cracks an egg on the edge of an iron skillet and opens it over a bowl.
She is a retired beautician and the owner of a boarding house for men on
St. Philip’s Street.
“Good morning, Miss Jenny.” Bobby combs his fingers through his thick black hair and pours a cup of coffee from the percolator.
“You boys was sure havin’ a wild time last night” Miss Jenny pours eggs into simmering grease. “That doorbell rang till two this morning!”
“I’m sorry, Miss Jenny,” Bobby lowers his eyes, “but them was Paul’s friends.”
“Well, you tell Paul I sleep at night!”
“Yes Ma’am.” Bobby straddles the step chair by the sink. “Um…Miss Jenny? Can I pay rent next Friday?”
“But you ain’t paid last Friday!” She flips the eggs before scooping them onto a plate.
“Good morning, Miss Jenny!” Paul glides into the kitchen toward the coffee pot.
“Did someone take my name in vain?”
“That boys layin’ off rent again, Paul!”
“I am not!” says Bobby. “Didn’t you say you’d pay my rent last week, Paul?”
“Yes Bobby.” Paul blows the rising steam from his coffee in Bobby’s direction.
“But you said that you were going to look for a job.”
“I am Paul.” Bobby drops his head.
Miss Jenny tosses bacon into the skillet. “That boy ain’t been outta this house all week ‘cept to drag home strangers!” Miss Jenny smiles sweetly at Paul. “Want some breakfast, darlin?”
Paul smiles sweetly at Bobby. “Why thank you, Miss Jenny!”
Bobby sips his coffee. “I went to that stupid clothing store on Meeting Street and they won’t hire me ‘cause they say my hair’s too long!”
“Paul spreads his hands in a gesture of wisdom and benevolence. “Then cut your hair!”
Bobby angrily crosses his arms over his chest. “Well you’re on unemployment!
Miss Jenny slaps two plates of bacon and eggs on the table. “Paul always pays his rent, don’tja darlin.”
“I ain’t never had a job,” Bobby sighs, “So I don’t qualify.”
“Work for three months and you’ll qualify.” Paul pricks the yolk of an egg with his fork. “That bacon is mighty crisp this mornin’ Miss Jenny!”
Bobby hungrily watches them eat. “To be truthful, they said they was ready to hire me but I said I had to think on it.”
Miss Jenny gnaws on a strip of bacon. “Tell ‘em you thought on it an’ you accept! You outta start chargin’ them men you drag home!”
Maurice materializes in the chair next to Paul.
“Good morning Miss Jenny, Miss Bobby!—Pauline!
Paul glances at Maurice, “Your make-up is tragic this morning, Maurice.”
“Honey you ain’t seen tragic till you look in a mirror an’ Miss Bobby you look like one of them dawgs I hear about in my psychology class!”
Bobby blushes. “I do not! I was just thinkin’ about goin’ to work is all.”
“Oh honey!” Maurice laughs, “Don’t even!” He shoots a glance at Paul. “Mens buy you everything when you’re pretty!”
Miss Jennie narrows her eyes: “I don’t see no mens buyin’ you things, Maurice! You sayin’ you ugly? Bobby! You go down to that clothing store right after breakfast and take that job! You hear?”
“Yes ma’am.” Bobby stares hungrily into his lap.
Miss Jenny grins and jabs her fork at the stove. “Now grab yourself a plate from the shelf and have some breakfast!”
Elton John, Greatest Hits 1970-2002
17 St. Phillip Street, Part One and Portrait of Bobby’s avatar (c) Robert Goldstein 2016 All Rights Reserved
17 St. Phillip Street, Part One