New Orleans Hustler

It's been ten years. Katrina had ruined her home. Louise pressed her forehead against the glass of the plane window. She didn't look forward to this. Her mother would be asking her why she hadn't bothered to call or write. Louise rolled her eyes.

"I need a cigarette," she muttered to herself. A ping filled the air.

"Attention passengers," the voice came through the intercom. "We are about to take off. Please buckle up. I repeat. We are about to take off. Please buckle up. That is all." Louise sighed. Might as well get this over with. She buckled up and looked out the window.

"I really need a cigarette," the woman muttered to herself.

It would take hours to land in America. Louise stood in the airport. No one was coming to greet her. That was fine with her. She slipped her shades on and walked over to collect her suitcases. Should she get a hotel or go home? Probably better to go home. Who knows who she would run into in town? Yeah, she should go home.

New Orleans had taken time to repair itself since 2005. In fact, the city looked better than before. Just goes to show that you can't keep down the New Orleans' spirit if you tried. Louise had to smirk to herself with her cigarette between her lips.

"Good to see that you are still up and running," she said to the city around her. Louise lit up and started walking down the street. From last she could remember her mother and grandparents were moved into small apartments after the storm. She still had her mother's address. Louise pulled out her phone and looked at the screen. Nearly eleven, huh? Make she could catch a quick bite to eat. Lucky for her, Louise knew the perfect place to go.

Sal's. Louise whistled at the shiny glass against the deep red bricks. Forty-fours years and still going, huh? The woman couldn't help but smile. Those were the days. Louise remembered her wild teenage years in this little diner. Why not go in for old time's sake? She pushed open the door and went inside.

"Hello?" the woman asked. A boy at the counter looked over at her. Louise had a confused look on her face.

"Uh… who are you?" she asked. The boy stared back at her for a moment. His eyes grew wider than moons when a flash of recognition washed over his face

"Louise?" he asked. Louise's mouth hung open with shock.

"Dante?" she asked. "Dante, is that you?"

"Uh-huh," the young man said. Louise whistled aloud.

"Damn! You 've grown so big. Damn!" she said. "The last time I saw you was when you were a skinny little awkward kid." Dante nervously laughed with a sweat drop on his head.

"Uh… yeah…" he mumbled. The boy cleared his throat. "I haven't seen you in a while. How have you been?"

"Good," Louise said. "And you? How have you been?"

"Great," Dante said, nodding. "I'm helping out around the diner during fall break."

"I see," she said. "Where's your old man now? Is he here?"

"He went across the street getting on a haircut," Dante said. "He'll be back in a few minutes. I'm just holding down the diner for the moment. Can I get you anything?" Louise gave him a grin.

"You remember my usual?" she asked. Dante grinned back.

"Medium-well spicy ghost burger, no onions, no pickles, no mayo?" he suggested. Louise patted him on the head.

"You got it," she said.

"Fries or onion rings?" the boy asked.

"Onion rings," Louise said. "With a Dr. Pepper."

"You got it!" Dante said. He rang up her order. Louise paid and took a seat. Damn this felt like old times. She had to count up to the last time she was here. Seventeen, was it? She might have been with a boyfriend. Was it Daryl or another guy? Louise frowned as she tried to block out her ex.

She looked when she heard the glass door swing open. A round black man walked into the diner with a new haircut. Louise sat up with a huge grin on her face.

"Sal!" she said. The big man turned around. His face lit up brighter than a Christmas tree.

"Louise! When did you get here?" he asked.

"I got in this morning," she said. "How have you been?" Sal sat down across from her.

"Tired," he said. "A bit sore but I'm okay. You?"

"I have been doing well," Louise said. She paused for a moment. "How's my family doing?" Sal frowned at her. The woman raised her eyebrow.

"What?" she asked. Sal gently put his hand on hers.

"You know to see your folks," he said. Louise frowned and sighed.

"I will," she said. "Just let me eat first."

"I mean it," Sal said. "You really have to see them."

"I will," Louise said.

"Do you promise?" the older man asked. She frowned as she puffed up her cheeks. Louise drew back her hands.

"I promise," she said. "What do I have to do to convince you that I will?" Sal sat back with a serious look on his face.

"Okay, I believe you," he said. Louise took a breath.

"Thank you," she said. Suddenly, the bell rang.

"Order up!" Dante said. He came over to the table and served Louise her food. She forced herself to grin.

"Thank you," the woman said. Louise picked up her burger and took a bite.

Welcome Home, Louise