Meta pretends she’s a prostitute

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His lips mashed together into a thin line. “Hey, wait just a confounded minute. Did you say…? They didn’t hire you to, you know…”

Retaliation. “Yes! I got a job there, and I know I will love it. The clients can be quite challenging. Last night, when I had to explain that I wasn’t warmed up yet—”

“I don’t want to hear more. Hell, I might be street-smart, but I haven’t even turned fifteen yet. Porca miseria!

“Porca what?”

“Just practicing on not saying ‘shit’ all the time. Ma doesn’t like it, and my little sister thumps me between the eyes when I say it. It’s a little Italian cuss word that means pig misery. Like saying ‘damn.’ Where you off to, anyhow?”

“My Aunt Amelia’s. Would you care to accompany me, Mr. Scallywag? I found a job because of you, did I not?”

He tore the cap off his head and rubbed his greasy black curls of hair. “Stop saying that. I had nothing to do with you getting that job!” He pointed his finger eastward and accelerated his pace.

“Oh, but you did,” I said, hurrying to catch up. “If it hadn’t been for you, I wouldn’t be tingling with avidity for this evening to arrive. That’s why I’m going to visit Aunt Amelia, to tell her the good news.”

“What’s avidity mean? Wait, you’re going to tell your great-aunt about your new job? At Fannie Porter’s?”

“Of course. She’ll be thrilled for me. Besides, she knows I’m good at it. I’ve been doing it for years now.” I muzzled the smile aching to form.

His eyes widened into a dumbfounded glare.

“And avidity means eager, like being Avid about something.”

“I gotta go,” he said, turning away.

One more chance at deception. “Giovanni? You said you were fourteen?”

“Yeah. Why?”

“Well, you are too young to be entertained at Miss Fannie’s. However, I’ll ask her if you can watch me perform sometime.”

His jaw dropped, his dander standing taller than his five-foot-five stature. “You want me to…watch?”

“Ah, we’re here. Thanks for the company.” I trotted off with the last laugh.

From The Last Bordello, historical fiction set in 1901

 

 

 

Changing Keys

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photo credit

Oh, how the music drew me once –

a cadence with my own –

the perfect pitch, the unison,-

the Harmony of tone. –

 

But change of keys, a sharper chord –

A melody postponed –

That left behind a requiem –

of death from whence it’s grown 

                       – CD-W

 

 

Emma June remembers something

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“Shut up, Betty. You’re drunk.”

“Not enough. I thought this would be easier. I would never have told you except, except, well, now we need your help. The money’s dried up. You’re my only friend.”

“Friend? You’re not my friend. You’re a liar, a traitor. How could you?!’

Mama’s crying now and I think I have to upchuck again.

“But Bernie, I’m all he’s got. And if I don’t have help, I’ll be forced to, to tell everyone. Everyone!”

My head hits the back of Beauty’s seat. Mama has screeched the Model T to a halt.

“You’re threatening me now?” Mama’s words are Spikey like cactus needles. She never yells like this. “Is this why you befriended me in the first place?” Mama sobs. “For money? For …”

It still doesn’t make sense. The only thing that does is being home with Daddy.

I stumble through my front door trying to breathe.

“Emma?” Daddy says. He rushes to me with arms wide enough to hug all of Holly Gap. Choppers licks muck from my face.

“Oh, Daddy, Daddy.” I let him hold me.

He lifts my chin and stares at my dirty, scratched face. “What happened, Emma June? Tell me.”

His voice is worried. But there’s no truth I can tell him. Not now.

 

Excerpt from The Moonshine Thicket, 1928

 

 

Haters

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photo credit

I can’t see anything out of the ordinary, only Olvie’s backyard. But I hear it. Words my mother has heard slammed in her direction.

“<N…> lover!” the boys chant.

Five of them emerge from the backyard bushes and run towards the front yard.

I grab a frying pan and head for the front door.

“Cooking out tonight?” Olvie says.

I ignore her and run outside.

Boys scramble in the cab and the back of the pick-up truck and shoot me the bird. Kent, the last one in, glares at me. “Beam that Fry pan over your own head, Grace. You’re not thinking straight.”

They peel off. Hearing the frying pan slam the sidewalk gives me a bit of satisfaction. But not enough.

“Chicken Coop?”

Olvie stands on the porch, her eyes pinched and curious. “Somebody got shot?”

 

The damp cloth feels good on my forehead, but I could forego Gladys’ positioned arm against mine.

“Want me to call that imbecile Garvey?” Olvie says sitting next to me on the leopard skin couch.

I shake my head. “He couldn’t do anything anyway. Name-calling’s not against the law.”

“So, who were those ragamuffins?”

“I only know one of them. They called me a <n….> lover.”

“Next time,” she says, “Don’t be so stupid. Pull out the cast iron skillet instead of that cheap enamel one. No, never mind that. You’re too scrawny to lift it. Be best if you grab the baseball bat under my bed. But if you swing it, don’t miss.

“I don’t want to be violent,” I say, trying to sound like my parents.

“You hear what I said? Don’t miss.”

 

 

The unenlightened neighbor

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Olvie pours herself another cup of Folgers while I start the pancake mix. “I think that was the door, Olvie.”

“Come in, Wise-Guy,” Olvie yells.

“Well, that was pleasant,” Tanner says, wearing a clean pair of “underground” railroad pants.

I pour circles of batter into the hot skillet. “What?”

“Man came charging toward me from across the street. Said I didn’t have any business being here. Guess he doesn’t like Negros.”

“Asshole,” Olvie mumbles.“That’s because he doesn’t like himself, that stupid son of a bitch.”

Pondering her words, I wonder if Olvie is really smarter than the rest of us. Mom and Dad told me people are often scared of things they don’t understand. And instead of trying to figure out what they’re afraid of, they resist anything new, anything different. Mr. Roberts must not have any Negro friends. If he did, he wouldn’t be afraid of a teenage boy.

“What did you tell him?” I ask.

“Nothing. I ignored him.”

“Why’d you do a thing like that?” Olvie says. “Should have told him off.”

“And why would I do that?” he says. “I don’t want trouble.”

Olvie huffs. “You sound like your uncle. ‘Don’t wants to cause any trouble, ma’am. Yes’m, anything you want, ma’am. Ain’t no good stirring the pot, you see.’ Ugh.”

“You think Uncle Elias should stand up for himself? Like I told Chicken Coop, he’s old school. He’s still afraid of the white man’s world.”

“Oh, and you’re not?” Olvie says.

“Oh, yes’m, I is alright,” he says in dialect. “Jes’ try nots to show it.”

Olvie stops in mid Chuckle. “Elias still thinks garlic hanging over a bed will cure a cold. If you tell him otherwise, he won’t listen. Speaking of, how’s that finger, Wise Guy. Need me to chop it off? You hung those tools up real nice in the utility room. I can find my saw easy now.”

Tanner squeezes his hand. “No thanks. Think I’ll hold on to it for a while.”

This makes Olvie laugh. She has a good laugh, one I’d like to hear more often.

Excerpt from my work in progress set in 1963.

 

NOTE: The photo is of Emmett Till who reminds me of my character, Tanner Ford. This novel will be in honor and memory of Emmett.