The Madam

Never, ever, will I regret saving that woman from the hangman’s noose eleven years ago. That good-for-nothing she killed deserved being plugged. Even so, a Negro woman who murdered a white man might as well start braiding her own rope.

“’Nough mess … ” Parts of her newest grumble bounced from the parlor into the kitchen. I muzzled my laughter then I heard the thwack, thwack of a dishtowel slapping the velvet settees–Reba’s version of dusting.

Without Reba Mae Tyler, I wouldn’t be grinning at the cash stacked on my desk and organized by denominations. Who better than me, and my five-foot-three-of-nothing-but-glory best friend, to earn this kind of money?

Madam Volvino down the road would have scammed the Wild Bunch. I pictured that dollymop charging a lesser fee for her bawdyhouse services then afterward, jiggling her fat rump straight to the law to collect the one grand in bounty—one grand for Butch alone.

Excerpt from The Last Bordello by C. Dennis-Willingham

 

Organize– daily word prompt

Those judging biddies

Unknown-3.jpeg
photo credit

Sofie secured her hat with one hand, lifted her skirt with the other and continued running toward Sunset Station. Her legs burned and her black-laced boots were too small, crimping her toes. There was no choice. She had to get to there before the train left.

Beatrice was making a terrible mistake and needed to be stopped. Gullible prostitutes like Beatrice think it possible to leave for love, that the man will be honest and sincere, wooing her to a better place. But no matter how many gifts he had given her, over time they would mean nothing. Beatrice would learn. He would leave her heart when the sex got old. He would stray and what kindness he had would leave just after the matrimonial words passed over stupid lips.

Turning right on West Commerce street, the women at Milam market stared as she ran past. Their eyes, the ones glaring at the whore running for her life, would not distract her. The young maidens and the old mares would stare anyway. Running, dancing, strolling or even walking made no difference. People talked. Even in this large city, gossip spread like influenza.

Excerpt from Naked, She Lies, a historical novel by C. Dennis-Willingham

 

Glaring– daily word prompt

The crooning crowd

“Prostitution is a sin. Prostitution is a sin.” The crooning continued.

Ugh. My blood boiled. I thought of ignoring them, but John said they were a persistent bunch. Even when thrown out of saloons they remained outside badgering customers.

“We expose an evil vice. Are you men or are you mice?”

I wanted to yell, “Yes, for an admission price.” They wouldn’t appreciate the humor.

Floyd, the client who had left dissatisfied the night Sadie had gone to the meeting, nudged Lillie off his lap and ambled toward me. “What the hell’s going on out there?”

“Protestors, hon.”

“Cain’t you get rid of them?”

Only one reason these women knew about my bordello. Sadie. And, since Mayor Hicks had sat in on her interrogation, he must have told Mrs. Stoddard where she worked. A sly devil, I’d give him that much. I’d also give him a whack with my broom, maybe shove it up his bloated ass next time I saw him.

Firecrackers popped.

I moved closer to the window and spotted the bocce cap outside to the left.

A woman shrieked. “They’re shooting at us.”

Enough! I smoothed my dress and opened the door. “Ladies, ladies. No one is shooting at you. And Giovanni, stop it this instant.”

“You!” Another woman yelled out to me. “You house prostitutes and liars.”

I stood firm. “Prostitutes, yes. At least that part is correct.”

“That girl of yours took our Marcy’s scarf. She knows more than she’s telling.”

A new client approached and stood next to Floyd, also out of view.

“Madam Fannie,” Floyd whispered behind the door. “We’re gonna skedaddle. We didn’t bargain for an ugly women chant show.”

I trailed my fingers along his cheek. “Floyd, darlin’. They won’t come in. You can do your business and no one will be the wiser. Go back and sit down. Enjoy yourselves. The women outside think all men are ignorant of their wants. But look at the pretty girls you’ve left on the settee. They’ve been waiting all day for you, and they know exactly what you want,” I winked.

“They can’t come in?” his friend asked.

“No, sir. This house is made of stone, my friend.” And a lot of manipulative persuasion. “Now look behind you. See what you’re missing.”

Both men turned. Lillie held a sensuous finger just inside her mouth. Greta rubbed the inside of her thick thigh.

Floyd and his friend returned to the waiting girls who smartly escorted them upstairs. I opened the door wider. “Now, ladies. It’s time for y’all to be mozying along. Obviously, you’re not interested in anything in here. Or are you?” my words flirted.

Reba nudged me. “Tell them maggots to let Jesus calm their storm.”

“Should I wash their feet too, Rebie?” I whispered.

“No need goin’ that far,” she whispered back.

Excerpt from The Last Bordello by C. Dennis-Willingham

Amble -daily word prompt

Wrong place at the right time?

If I weren’t so frightened, it would, or could be, comical. I felt plunked into the pages of a lecherous novel.

Greta and Lillie wore corsets that barely covered their nipples. Their legs shimmered inside shiny silk stockings attached with garters. Trying to be nonchalant, I squinted in the dim light and read Greta’s novelty garter atop her thick thigh. “Good things come high,” it read.

Sassy Sarah and Sadie both wore dresses pitched long in the back but rose above their knees in the front.

Another thought amused me. Except for Miss Fannie, I felt overdressed. A farm girl is rarely overdressed.

Excerpt from The Last Bordello by C. Dennis-Willingham

Shimmer– daily word prompt

The Bullied Newsboy

th-13

Giovanni spit a honker on Houston Street. Damn that Western Union boy. The only gold he ever saw, his precious tobacco, half spilled on the ground. Giovanni tried to look casual as he plucked himself up off the dusty street and replaced his cap. Why was he always picked on? The rolling of a cigarette would take his mind off the embarrassment.

He sat down outside Sommers corner drugstore, his preferred spot. Here he could watch the comings and goings from all directions. San Antonio was his for the taking. The biggest city in Texas just didn’t know it yet.

The fur nudging against his back made him jump. Damn, he was jittery. Turning around, he patted the head of the scruffy dog. Even the coarse fur of a flea infested mutt felt good after a little bullying and a long day’s work. Rising early, collecting papers from the office and bundling them into stacks to haul to his corner meant the day started at four-thirty in the morning. Now mid-afternoon, his workday had come and gone.

“Hey, buddy, don’t you have somebody looking for you?” he said, the dog settling down next to him.

The drawstring of his cloth tobacco sack hanging from the side of his mouth, Giovanni sprinkled part of what was left onto the rolling paper. Sometimes he would break the rule and, instead of accepting money for his newspapers, he’d bargain for tobacco and rolling papers.

Packing the tobacco neatly onto the paper was easy. Rolling it with one hand was the hard part.

Porca miseria!” he said, loud enough to scare off the poor mutt, his rolling papers torn. The Italian words came out before he could stop them. He’d had enough of bullies the first part of the day, and being called a “wop” wouldn’t be a good way to end one.

Excerpt from Naked, She Lies by C. Dennis-Willingham

Casual– Daily Word Prompt

Still stupid

Now, the Charleston ends. Victor Victrola’s needle ch-ch, ch-ch, ch-ch’s searching for something that’s already been used up. Like my memory at the end of carnival night. And Beauty was wrong. My worries are still here.

Big Chief Tablet glares at me from the kitchen table. I tell it to shut up, that homework can wait till I’m good and ready.

I’m extra careful when I plant the needle on the beginning of a different recording. I turn the crank again. The green and yellow squares of our sitting room rug melt together as I spin, and my braid pings one shoulder then the next like two different suitors asking to be my dance Partner. My skirt puffs up like a wild mushroom and it’s swoosh seems to say, “Everything will be right again, Emma June.”

“How do you know that when I can’t even remember?” I yell. Then I jump up and down trying to stomp out my stupid. It’s still there.

Excerpt from The Moonshine Thicket by C. Dennis-Willingham

 

daily prompt: Partner

Tick forward

Papa’s hands, so stiff and cold I could feel my guilt when I touched them.

I could not go with him beneath our Texas soil. Instead, I had to swallow the bitter taste of a life void of his teachings and wisdom.

Hands of a clock that have ticked forward four years.

Emil. Funny how knowing a man since childhood, before the development of my breasts or his facial hair, could lead us in a direction of … What is the word exactly? Love seems too strong yet Lust seems tawdry. What I do know is that Emil Eckhardt is slowing squeezing my heart and expanding it at the same time. Leaving him, even for three months, seems unfathomable to me. How do I go about asking him to help me?

Hands. My own forming into fists, as I figuratively spit on the transplanted shoes of the man who swindled his way into my family and tries to take Papa’s place.

A change of course is overdue.

Excerpt from Naked, She Lies, a novel by C. Dennis-Willingham

 

Lust- daily word prompt