Streetcar Sandwiches

Streetcar Sandwiches

by Curtis Orloff
Streetcar Sandwiches

Streetcar Sandwiches

by Curtis Orloff

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Overview

Streetcar Sandwiches is a screenplay showing the efforts the owner of a sandwich shop in Uptown New Orleans undertakes to keep her business running. Not only does she have to deal with a menagerie of all types of employees, she has to comply with onerous and often conflicting regulations from several government bureaus. How she handles what turns into an ordeal threatens to change her naturally optimistic and pleasant personality. It leads directly to an outcome that could only have occurred in the Big Easy.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781546260806
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 09/21/2018
Pages: 160
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.34(d)

About the Author

Curtis Orloff is an oilfield geologist whose background was devoid of snobbery. The vicissitudes of the oil industry saw him alternately wearing a suit in a downtown office, coveralls in deserts and jungles, and the uniform of a utility company employee, reading meters. In one downturn, he taught special needs children. In another, he peeled shrimp and delivered po'boys in New Orleans. It was then he saw the drama and comedy on display in a popular sandwich shop. He worked with colorful people from all walks of life while getting to know the business and the problems the owner had to deal with. Ultimately, he returned to the oil industry and did so well he bought into the business. That it went bankrupt did not diminish the glowing memories of all he saw and experienced, as well as of the people he met. The fact all involved were Orleanians ensured they landed on their feet, including the author, who made the city his adopted home.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

NEW ORLEANS FRENCH QUARTER–DAY, 2005

Camera opens on Jackson Square during a slight rain.

The camera follows a hansom on St. Peter's as it passes Jackson Square and turns left on Royal. It pans ahead of the buggy to Canal Street, where it follows a streetcar down St. Charles, past Lee Circle and the summer foliage suffusing the Garden District and Uptown mansions. The streetcar passes by Tulane to the bend at South Carrollton, where a dented convertible with a ragtop pulls up next to it. The neighborhood starts to deteriorate with abandoned buildings and crumbling sidewalks. Side by side, the streetcar and convertible pass a small restaurant on the opposite side of the road. The car turns left at a side street, crosses the tracks behind the trolley, travels another block before making a left opposite a sprawling trolley barn, and then heads into a parking lot.

PARKING LOT — DAY

The camera follows Susan Branson, a youthful-looking middle-aged woman, as she parks her dented old car in the only space available in the public lot. Half the lot is empty, given over to different colored handicap spots, each color representative of the degree of infirmity. The drizzle increases into rain. The collapsible umbrella she opens breaks. She passes signs saying "Stay on the right side of the sidewalk," "Fine for littering," and "Smile, share your happiness." A poster implores people to reelect the incumbent state senator, bragging how "his constituents haven't suffered in the current slow economy." Another shows Uncle Sam asking all citizens to sacrifice "for your country." The sidewalk is in ill repair.

She passes by a boarded-up former bank building and two businesses claiming to be going bankrupt. She turns the corner onto South Carrollton. There are four tables outside her colorful sandwich shop, each sheltered by large umbrellas. A sign on the window indicates they represent the "Smoking Section." Susan pauses in front of the glass door to fix her thick gray-streaked black hair. Signs cover the doorway cautioning patrons to watch their step. A delivery boy loaded with orders rushes out the door.

INTERIOR OF STREETCAR SANDWICHES — DAY

The lobby is crammed with customers, sitting on stools lining the walls or waiting in line in front of the cash register. The floor needs sweeping, and the counters need bussing. Susan stops to collect a plastic tray left by a patron and to inspect the shelves of local sauces and condiments. She passes through the double doors leading into the food preparation area, where workers are frantically preparing sandwiches, and Juanita, the black middle-aged day manager, is talking on the phone. She is patiently trying to soothe a customer.

JUANITA

We do the best we can, sir.

John is Susan's former boyfriend; they started the business together after graduating from the University of Wisconsin; he is busy behind the counter.

JOHN

Tell him we don't discriminate here. Everyone gets his food cold when it rains (he laughs).

SUSAN

That's not what the caller wants to hear.

JOHN

Someone getting a cold sandwich is the least of our worries.

Susan gingerly takes the phone from Juanita and holds her hand over the receiver.

SUSAN

Did someone from the city come by this morning?

JOHN

No one had to come by.

SUSAN

Don't be so negative. That new rule is not etched in stone, or we'd already be labeled a Culturally Defined Business.

JOHN

Name a rule that got interpreted the way we'd like.

SUSAN

(talking into the phone)

I'm awfully sorry. Our delivery boy won't charge you if he's really late or if the sandwich is cold.

JOHN

We don't need anyone's help ruining our business. We can do it fine ourselves.

Susan ignores John and turns to Elaine.

Elaine is of Irish descent. She works part-time while attending community college.

SUSAN

No, honey, use guacamole dip on that kind of sandwich.

ELAINE

You should make handouts on how to make all these.

SUSAN

That's a super idea. I'll write one up as soon as I return home.

JOHN

Yeah, and if you have any time left over, you might want to figure out why we have to bend over backward to stay in business. That new regulation. I don't know.

Susan grabs a fresh roll of paper towels and Windex and rushes into the lobby to clean the windows.

SUSAN

We'll figure out something.

John's wife, Mary, is operating the cash register.

MARY

Maybe we can prove we're not part of the kind of community the rule talks about.

She turns to stare directly into the eyes of an indecisive customer.

MARY

So that will be one barbecue chicken breast?

MALE CUSTOMER

I guess.

MARY

And a large Coke?

MALE CUSTOMER

Sure.

MARY

With chips?

MALE CUSTOMER

I don't know.

MARY

Plain or Cajun flavored?

MALE CUSTOMER

Cajun.

Mary looks to the next person in line.

MARY

And what would you like?

Sitting on the food-warming box located next to the cash register is Bobby, Mary and John's preschooler. He is wearing a cowboy hat and playing with a toy horse.

BOBBY

Get along, little doggie.

Gabriella is a young woman from Guatemala. She does not have proper documentation and probably never will get it, as recordkeeping in her hometown was nearly nonexistent.

GABRIELLA

(Speaking as she builds sandwiches)

He's one tough cowboy. Are cowboys an ethnic group, like those government people talked about?

JOHN

They would be if they were Puerto Rican.

MARY

I wonder who thought it necessary to import them into our neighborhood.

JOHN

It probably was the same geniuses who thought it'd be a great idea we give them jobs.

GABRIELLA

Don't they just want to help people?

JOHN

If the government wanted to help so much, why don't they pay their new pilgrims to be street sweepers? Mardi Gras beads still hanging from wires. Masterminds could just gerrymander the district. Don't need to import constituents.

GABRIELLA

You gave me a job.

JOHN

(Handing out orders}

That was back when just being different was enough, not specifically different.

Tam is young, black, and from the projects.

TAM

That's mean.

JUANITA

I guess it's okay to be that way if you think you are God.

JOHN

What's she going to do?

SUSAN

(Turning to Gabriella)

We hired you because we could tell you'd be a super worker. (To Juanita.) No, honey. The ticket says provolone cheese, not mozzarella. Be sure to warm it; let it melt over the bread.

GABRIELLA

I want to learn all I can. I want you to be proud of me.

SUSAN

I'm proud of you already.

TAM

You'll be proud of me too.

SUSAN

You're doing super. You picked up the job quicker than we hoped.

TAM

Then are you going to keep me if you have to let people go to make room for the people you have to hire?

SUSAN

They've barely started fixing up the houses the new people are moving into.

TAM

But you'll keep me when they do?

MARY

We'll do what we can.

ELAINE

Part-timers are considered different than everyone else, aren't they?

SUSAN

Nobody's going anywhere.

JOHN

We ought to bottle your secret for eternal youth. We can call it naïveté.

JUANITA

I know you'll find a way around our new problem. You found a way around everything else.

MARY

We can bend rules into pretzels if we have to.

JOHN

They're pretzels to begin with. We turn them into mobius strips.

JUANITA

What's a mobius strip?

JOHN

Think French bread with ridges.

GABRIELLA

So no one has anything to worry about?

SUSAN

(Staring at John)

Not as long as I stay Peter Pan.

BOBBY

Peter Pan was a boy.

JOHN

And lived in Never-Never Land.

Bobby makes mock fighting sounds and gestures. Susan rubs the boy's hair.

SUSAN

We're just frustrated.

ELAINE

Maybe if you make everyone part-time, you can get around the new rule.

MARY

That might work.

ELAINE

Or maybe you can have everyone work at your new place in the Central Business District.

JOHN

If that ever becomes our new place.

ELAINE

You had a great business plan. I earned an A using it in class. Catering to secretaries with little time and money to eat lunch was foolproof.

JOHN

It wasn't idiot proof. Peter Pan, you tell her. You can put a hopeful spin on it. (Moves over to the expediter's counter.) Number eighty-six, a shrimp sandwich.

ELAINE

We didn't give up. We just suspended it.

JOHN

Over his shoulder.

It didn't have to be.

SUSAN

I'm not going to play the kind of games you have to play.

JOHN

Peter Pan was not a saint.

Susan rushes to Tam.

SUSAN

No, honey. Don't mash the trash down with your hands.

TAM

It's not like I won't wash my hands.

SUSAN

I know you will. But the customers can't see those things. We've been reported to the health department too often.

INTERIOR KITCHEN — MOMENTS LATER

Rickey, a former participant of the Cuban Mariel boatlift, mans the wood-burning grill and fry cooker. An Asian girl is peeling shrimp over the sink, and a Pakistani student is operating the meat-cutting machine.

SUSAN

(Looking at the most recent onion rings)

Rickey, when you get the chance, change the shortening. Until then, cut back half a minute frying.

Tam, Juanita, and a delivery boy converge on the Cuban all at once.

TAM

Is that club ready? What about those two fries?

JUANITA

I need two fries.

DELIVERY BOY

I need three fries and two onion rings.

RICKEY

Thank you, thank you.

RICKEY

(To Susan)

So when I get all this time, I will.

Susan isn't listening. She is seen instructing the Asian employee how to peel shrimp more efficiently. She then instructs the Pakistani how to set the slicing machine. She points to a chart on the wall.

SUSAN

(To the Pakistani)

All the settings for cutting food are up here. (She shouts to Rickey.) Oh, and, Rickey, could you see to it all the heads of lettuce are washed before they're sliced?

RICKEY

Sure, sure, I teach a class each morning or after work. I'll stay till 3 a.m. or come in at 6.

Nonplussed, Susan points to the plastic tubs under the sink.

SUSAN

(To Rickey)

Keep these on the shelves. Oh, and make sure to wear your hat.

RICKEY

Yes, Mommy.

The phone rings. Elaine answers it. She gives the phone to Susan. Susan cups the transmitter to keep the conversation private but Tam stays close by, eavesdropping.

SUSAN

Hi mom. I don't mean to be rude, but I am very busy. ... Yes, I care, you know I care, but we can resolve everything after work. No, I am not putting you off. It's just when things aren't hysteric I can be more useful to you, concentrate on your problems. ... Okay, great, love you too.

Susan exits the rear door. A draft causes smoke to billow out the grill.

RICKEY

Esto es estupido.

BACK OF RESTAURANT — MOMENTS LATER

Susan rearranges the hardware stored outside. She also picks up litter as she follows the sidewalk to the small storage house. Homeless people are milling about the dumpster.

HOMELESS MAN NO.1

Hey, where's the bread? It's been three weeks since you've put loaves out.

HOMELESS MAN NO.2

You're supposed to put it out, what, every two weeks?

SUSAN

Since when?

HOMELESS MAN NO.1

Since last month. Didn't you get the word from the Economic Council?

SUSAN

No.

HOMELESS MAN NO.2

You'd better get in step. Those buns there, they're moldy, green mold. According to the class we attended, we're not supposed to eat green mold. We could get sick.

SUSAN

You're in a dumpster.

HOMELESS MAN NO.2

An attitude like that can get you in trouble. You'd better hope that scratch of mine doesn't get infected.

Susan silently goes into the storage house and returns with an antiseptic swab and two Band-Aids in addition to the napkins she was after.

SUSAN

(Hands the man the medical products)

Here, take these.

HOMELESS MAN NO.1

Thanks. We'd hate to see you get in trouble.

SUSAN

Just don't make a mess. And don't go into the supply house or bother any of my workers.

HOMELESS MAN NO.2

I'm sure the local labor department would be interested in what you call your stakeholders. Don't forget, we're stakeholders too.

SUSAN

Someone as sharp as you should be employed.

HOMELESS MAN NO.2

Don't be surprised if you find an OSHA complaint lodged against you.

Susan retreats into the kitchen. Smoke billows out of the stove.

RICKEY

Mierda!

Susan returns to the food preparation area. The line in front of her register has dwindled. Customers sit on stools lining the walls, waiting for their orders.

MARY

(Pores over a ledger in a small washroom converted into an office)

I can only do so much. I should teach a class in bookkeeping. From what I learned here, the government wouldn't have a budget deficit.

BOBBY

Does that mean you can raise my allowance?

MARY

From what I've learned, I can pay you less and prove on paper I'm paying you more.

BOBBY

That doesn't make sense.

MARY

You can't worry about making sense.

BOBBY

Is that another thing I've got to learn to be a grown-up?

MARY

One of many.

BOBBY

Maybe if I can do that, it won't be so hard to do other stuff.

GABRIELLA

Both you and Susan know the ropes.

SUSAN

I may know the ropes, but I don't know how to tie them.

JOHN

You know how to tie knots.

SUSAN

You tied the knot.

JOHN

I found the right hemp.

GABRIELLA

You made a go of this restaurant. That is something.

SUSAN

We started at the right time.

The phone rings above the sixties-era music being played on the big radio in the dining area. Juanita answers the phone.

JUANITA

Patty's not going to come in.

JOHN

Is it sick leave, emergency leave, or family leave this time?

SUSAN

It has to be emergency. She has used up her sick leave.

JOHN

Why doesn't she hand us her schedule at the beginning of the week?

TAM

Why can't you give me her hours? She doesn't do anything.

MARY

We need her.

TAM

All I know is that I haven't missed a day or been a minute late.

SUSAN

And we think that's super.

TAM

What are you not telling me?

JOHN

We're not telling you Patty is our only Italian-American. We're the ones who get to make it up to them for all the times they were caricaturized as mafiosos.

TAM

I look Italian.

JOHN

That's because Hannibal's army interbred with the people he conquered.

TAM

Who's Hannibal?

BOBBY

He's the African who conquered Rome. He rode his elephants across the Alps.

TAM

A brother took Italy? No way!

John places his arm around his precocious son and winks, sharing the nuance Tam didn't get.

BOBBY

Before Caesar.

JUANITA

And he hasn't been to school yet. Maybe he shouldn't ever go. Look what all that fancy schooling has done for Patty.

TAM

What good is college if you can't show up for work?

Ricky bursts through the double doors with a bowl of club steaks.

RICKEY

What good is college? I tell you what good is college. It gets you thrown in jail. That's what Castro did to me. You don't know what it's like not to be able to speak your mind.

JOHN

And you have been making up for it ever since.

RICKEY

Damn right.

Susan looks as if she's engrossed in preparing orders, but her mind wanders.

FLASHBACK TO HER COLLEGE DAYS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN, MADISON, HER ALMA MATER — SAME TIME

A scratchy black-and-white film appears as she is seen in a protest march on the state capitol. The placard she carries says "We want a people-oriented government." Her long black hair is parted in the middle. She wears a flowing granny dress and sandals. A cloud of marijuana smoke hangs over the throng.

SUSAN

(Shouting)

We want a government that is responsive to the people. That cares about people and their needs.

Paddy wagons, police cars, and news vans arrive. The crowd surges. Sporadic cries give way to a unified chant of "The revolution is now" as policemen in riot gear and reporters and cameramen rush from their vehicles. Susan is pushed and shoved and taken into custody; she and John are dragged away. They manage a kiss before they are parted. She displays a Black Power salute before being shoved into another paddy wagon.

BACK AT THE RESTAURANT — SAME TIME

An obese woman in an electric wheelchair struggles across the slight rise at the door and motors to the swinging double doors leading into the work area.

JOHN

I was afraid of this.

MARY

For God's sake, be careful what you say to her.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Streetcar Sandwiches"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Curtis Orloff.
Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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