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Papa John, Crawfish Pizza, and The Monkey (Swamp Series Part II)

Short story By: Victoria Reid

This is NOT the Papa John's we know so well today...

Submitted:Sep 6, 2009    Reads: 198    Comments: 3    Likes: 9   

So, while I was spending time being a part-time resident of Morgan City, LA, I made a lot of friends. Awesome! It did help being the entertainer at the hot spot in town - the Red Slipper Lounge at the Holiday Inn.

Since I was in town for at least 8 weeks at a pop, and there 3 times within a year, I felt pretty official. But my buddies never ever, in all that time, ran out of surprises. I've got a lot of stories here! But I digress. Since my hours were 9:00 PM - 1:00 AM, I was available for lunch when I woke up. In the afternoons, I entertained poolside at the Holiday Inn with my custom blend of genuine PiƱa Coladas - Dole Pineapple Juice, Coco Lopez Coconut Syrup, and lotsa Myers Rum. Shaken in a pitcher of ice and poured into plastic cups. Ahhhhh. Digressing again.

So here's a lunch adventure I'll never forget! Three of my friends came to pick me up. I knew better than to ask where we were going - I never knew, and it was always amazing. Down Highway 90, a ways from Morgan City, we turned off the main road onto a small road - well, sort of like a lane, actually - with a tiny sign reading, "Patterson, LA"

I love that all the roads in the area are "paved" with crushed shells - plenty on hand from dredging the gulf. They are white and bright and they crunch nicely under your tires. Down the lane we went, through the groves of fir trees and their lacy drapery of Spanish moss. We crunched into the little parking lot of a tiny restaurant with a giant sign - "Papa John's Pizza." Keep in mind, this was about 1974ish, so it's not the Papa John's you might think.

Anyway. Pizza? Huh. Usually it's something more exotic. Oh well. We piled out, and in we went. It was dark inside of Papa John's, and rather dusty. The place was older than dirt, and so was Papa John, who came over to take our order. We were the only four patrons in the place. By this time, it was about 2:00 in the afternoon.

"What'll you kids have?" "One Large Crawfish Pizza and a Pitcher of Dixie, please." Papa John wrote in silence, turned on his heel, yelled "One Large Special!" into the kitchen where Mama John (do not know that this was her name - just guessing) was already hard at work, constructing one of the finest things I have ever eaten before or since. Huge thin pizza, all home made, covered with crawfish tails. Indescribable - you must believe me.

So my friends had come through once more! Papa John delivered the beer, Mama John the pizza. But now my pals were exchanging sly grins and thinly-disguised giggles. They knew something. And I, clearly, did not. "Time for the entertainment!" What?? Papa John seated himself at the organ. It was so dim, I hadn't even noticed the grizzled pump organ in the corner. And on top, perched on a tatted greasy doily, was a moth-eaten wind-up monkey. You know the kind. Like in the B horror flicks. With the little hat and the cymbals.

Papa John pumped the old organ to life as it wheezed in preparation for the performance. Then he wound up the monkey. As soon as the little guy kicked in, as background percussion you see, Papa John began playing the heck out of some old traditional Cajun songs, sung in Cajun French. Each was timed perfectly so that when the monkey pooped out, the song ended. I believe we were treated to about 5 or 6 tunes. My friends are leaning back in their chairs, listening attentively, applauding complete with Cajun hollers, after each number. Meanwhile, I appeared to be completely overcome with emotion during the concert. I had my big gingham napkin clutched to my face, making choking squeaky noises, with tears streaming down my face. They kicked me under the table. No good. Couldn't stop. I finally got a grip, we threw a fiver into the "tip pitcher" atop the organ, thanked them both most kindly and walked back out into the glaring sunlight, gleaming off the white shells, where I made a solemn promise to my friends that I would some day find a way to pay them back. In SO many ways!


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