The scream from upstairs booted us from our chairs. Reba ran to her bedroom yelling, “Don’t you go up there ‘fore me.”
In no time, Reba followed me up to the first door on the left, Ratchet steady in her arms.
The cowboy turned when the door opened, his wicked grin melting. Naked and trembling, Sadie stood an arm’s length from the cowboy.
Blood pounded in my ears. “If you did anything to hurt her…”
The two-syllable ratchet of Reba’s shotgun finished the sentence. She aimed at the target. “I say time’s up.”
“Why, you old pickaninny,” he growled.
Reba’s face Radiated brown flames of fury. The cowboy backed away.
Sadie wiped her eyes and unclenched her teeth. “I told him my rule. He tried to break it.”
I knew the one she referred to—animal and specialty acts. Reba and I knew the reason, knew what had happened to her back then. Never would I allow a client to fracture the boundaries that made my girls feel safe.
“Tried to? Did he?” I draped a dressing robe around Sadie’s bare body and steered her to the bed.
Years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting and training with Ann Wolfe, known as possibly the greatest female boxer of all times. She was tough, no-nonsense. Three of us had the chance to get inside the ring with her. Of course, she wasn’t going to punch us. It was all about our own offense. Needless to say, in that small ring, she was so fast, I couldn’t get even close to her.
After I was commissioned to paint her portrait, she told me that it reminded her of her mother — a wonderful compliment since she loved her deceased mother with total abandon. She told me she hung the original above her mantel.
Here is a great, short documentary on Ann Wolfe and her struggles to become a boxer. If rough language offends you, don’t watch. But if you like seeing how a woman survived the murder of her father, the death of a beloved mother and rose to the top, then watch.
John opened the paper and tapped a small ad on page three. A glance down at the headlines, my smile faded.
The mayor already hated me. Now, he had new artillery.
Mayor Marshall Hicks, the blue-skin Presbyterian, and member of the Knights of Pythias who had taken an oath to abstain from vices. My bordello sat a mere block outside the district; a fact Dick-Hicks pointed out on a regular basis in his crock of shit. The mandate had been established only a year ago, six years after I opened the bordello.
“What is it, Sheriff?” Reba fiddled with the ties of her apron and remained a vigilant guard by the sink.
“San Antonio Women’s Club have asked the Women’s Christian Temperance Union to speak at a public forum,” he said.
“I believe in Lawd Jesus too, but them Thumpers from their Christ Union are full’a horse pucky and needs to mind their own business.”
The WCTU pledged to protect women by banning alcohol, as well as prostitution. Obviously, they’d never known a woman who could have Survived without my profession, me included.
At Madam Fannie’s Boarding House, my girls earned a good living and treated fairly. A client who forgot that rule or broke any others got a hard stare down the barrel of Reba’s Ratchet. Over the years, that shotgun proved well worth every cent we coughed up to buy it. When trouble knocked at our door, Ratchet made its point with one threatening crack.
Great Gatsby Franken-Farter stares at the creek. “I saw my aunt die.”
“I saw my grandpa die, too.” I remember Mama crying when she pulled the bed sheet over him and Daddy hugging her for a long time after. When they buried him, Scooter kept going back to the cemetery to see if Grandpa was sprouting from the dirt.
“Your grandpa. Was he run over by a get-away gangster, too? Like Aunt Sissy was? She didn’t Survive like your dog,” he says.
It sounds too horrible for truth. “Phonus balonus.”
“Suit yourself. You’re next?”
“Okay,” I say. But I won’t mention Miss Helen. I think for a while then decide to tell him another truth. “I’ve been Cooter Browned before,” I say, and almost taste the vomit-varnish from that night.
He’s not so smart after all.
“You know, I’ve been blotto before.”
His eyes crinkle when he laughs. “Let’s drink to that. Plenty of mornings I’ve had to chew my water. Tomorrow might be one of them.” He hands me the Mason jar.
I take it thinking it’s his way of making peace. I pretend to drink then hand it back.
“Where were you when you got drunk?” he says.
“At the carnival. Last weekend. The night Mama left.” I didn’t mean to say the last part. “I gotta go.”
I learned a new word- timely since I took this photo yesterday after leaving the gym. Evanescent (Weekly photo prompt): The beautiful word rolls off my tongue and down the rainbow toward a pot of gold.