It is a dusty spring morning in the Big Easy and Willow Jewett is on her way to Orye Majeen’s house to tutor the African-American short order cook in remedial English. From this innocent beginning, the 32-year-old white middle-class teacher finds herself plunged into the nightmare world of the New Orleans street drug trade. As Willow, Orye, 33, and his neighbors struggle to keep the thugs from terrorizing their 6th Ward neighborhood, they come up with a plan to redeem and revitalize the deteriorating area by creating a gourmet café in an abandoned corner bar.

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VI. Sometimes I am up and sometimes I am down

It’s December. Once Icy complained she was “two blocks down and four blocks over from the graveyard.” And that’s when Orye decided to throw her a party. She’ll be sixty-five on Tuesday, so he’s planning a big affair. Not one to be daunted by the reality of the situation—his dwindling bank account—he’s hired the Olympia Brass Band for the festivities, baked a six-layer birthday cake, one for every decade of her life, and put five big candles on it, made his own special ice cream, asked the mayor and city council to lead the singing. Icy pretends she doesn’t notice, just goes her stoic way,

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