We can’t find Scooter!

 

article-2017054-0cc18ad400000578-245_634x692Miss Helen paces and says, “We can’t find Scooter. I even went to the swimming hole.” Now she’s sobbing. “The water’s deep and violent. What if, what if …” She blows her nose on the handkerchief she brought with her.

There can’t be a world without Scooter Hutchings. A world where things Blossom if you believe, and where everything is so good, you can’t see any of the moldy parts. I try not to upchuck.

“What was his fit about?” Frank asks.

Miss Helen shakes her head. “He kept yelling ‘broken bones and bad ladders, broken bones and bad ladders.’ I know my Scooter was mad at the ladder after Leonard fell and broke his leg. A few days after the accident, Scooter took a hammer to it and used the rungs for whittling.”

“That’s where he got those pieces,” Frank mumbles to himself.

“But Scooter never yells. Ever.” Miss Helen keeps going. “So, I told him to go outside and play the harmonica. It helps him relax. But I forgot to check on him. I was—”

The Eveready Hour,” I say, knowing it’s her favorite show.

Frank stands up and fidget’s a stare out the front window.

Miss Helen nods and keeps crying. “The song, It Ain’t Gonna Rain No Mo, came on. I was thinking about the night in the storm shelter, how we were all together.”

“Well, we can’t just sit here,” Mama says, thinking my thoughts.

Think like Scooter. Think like Scooter. He’d heard Brandon’s words, knew Mr. Foley broke his kid’s bones. He took revenge on the ladder. Could he be after Mr. Foley for breaking Rachael’s arm? But Mr. Foley was on the other side of the creek, not our side. Scooter couldn’t get to him. Would he try?”

“Oh, God.” I stand up. My hands shake first, then my body.

“Emma June?” Daddy pulls me toward him and stares in my eyes. “Tell us what you’re thinking.”

So, I do.

Excerpt from The Moonshine Thicket

daily post word prompt: Blossom

The Madam’s Ire

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Meta stood and removed her clothing down to her chemise. “And Mr. Harmon was there. I had the good fortune of meeting his wife.”

“Ah, Ingrid. A delightful woman. Each Christmas, Edgar brings us baskets of fruits, nuts, cheeses and the finest of brandies. It’s really Ingrid who buys the gifts.”

Meta blinked, her eyes rolling to the left. No doubt, Meta’s curiosity rested on why a married woman would support her husband’s attendance at a bordello. Meta didn’t need to know the reason.

“You seem to know a lot about San Antonio’s denizens, Miss Fannie.”

She had no idea. The secrets I knew about San Antonio’s citizens would fill more than a dozen barrels in Otto Koehler’s brewery.

I left Meta and returned to my room. Unless a straggler walked in, no more appointments were scheduled for the night. I had the inclination many of my regulars attended the meeting to please their wives.

I thought of Sadie, her nightmare, her disobedience. I pushed the thought aside and picked up the February 14th edition of Life magazine and stared at the cover—a red heart shot through with Cupid’s arrow.

 

The loud slam of the front door jostled me awake.

Four a.m.

I crept out of my bedroom and found Sadie stumbling and swaying toward the staircase. “Where the hell have you been?”

Sadie collapsed on the first step, laid her head on the third and motioned me away. She lifted her head and vomited.

I left her there to stew in the mess she Created.

Excerpt from The Last Bordello

daily word prompt: Create

A Quick Poke

John drummed his fingers on the table. “Least we caught him.”

God, not Butch and Sundance. “Who?” I tried to keep my voice flat and not give away the flutter in my chest.

“The man who killed his wife last night. Owner of a bit house on the west side. Said he was too drunk to know what he was doing. Said he thought it was an intruder.”

Reba shook her head. “Fool.”

A loud knock struck the front door. Happy for the diversion, I excused myself and hurried to answer. If Mayor Hicks stood behind it, I’d slam it in his smug face.

A far cry from my regulars, the scruffy young man peeled off his cowboy hat and used it to dust off his britches.

“May I help you?”

“Passin’ through, ma’am. Jus’ looking for a quick poke.”

“It’s early, son.” Although he appeared only a few years younger than me, calling him son reminded him who sat on top of the totem pole.

“Yes, ma’am. Won’t take too long.” If a man could salivate with his eyes, this cowboy was doing it.

Maybe he could get Sadie’s mind off Etta and put it back on what she was good at. Besides, a quick poke meant quick pay. He’d be out the door, a grin on his face and a skimpier pocket in our favor. I ran upstairs and received Sadie’s okay.

I held out my palm. “Five dollars for a chit, young man.”

“A chit?”

“A token, darlin’. Our legal Tender ” I reached into my pocket and retrieved the metal coin that read Madam Fannie Porter’s Sporting House. Most often, clients bought more than one chit to exchange for booze. Each morning, the girls returned the tokens to me and received half their value in hard cash. “Hand it to Sadie. First door on the left.”

I traded him the chit for his five dollars and returned to the kitchen.

Excerpt from The Last Bordello

Daily post prompt: Tender

Why shear a pig?

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I look out at the monster contraption in the moonshine thicket. A coiled snake-looking tube sits on top of a barrel and is attached to a copper boiler pot.

Two of me could fit inside the barrel that I tap. “What all’s in here, Miss Helen? Besides prunes and yeast.”

“Corn, rye, and a few other secrets.”

“It smells stronger? How come?”

She stands straight and proud and looks me in the eye. “Fermentation.” She smiles. “And ready to be poured.”

“I bet you wish prohibition was over so you didn’t have to work so hard at moonshining,” I say.

She lifts one eyebrow and glares at me. “Why shear a pig? I like seeing Ulysses S. Grant smile at me on his Crisp bills.”

I look at the scars on the insides of her arms. “Even if you burn yourself?”

“Those are nothing but hard work kisses. What’s important is temperature, filtration and whether or not the beading’s right.” She sets down a box of Mason jars. “Besides, what would the Mayor give his constituents if I didn’t do my job?”

Excerpt from The Moonshine Thicket

Daily prompt: Crisp

Time to separate the sheep from the goats

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Met by only the dark, I’m finally off the train. I walk the fifteen minutes to the house, all the while grateful for the time to stretch my legs. I’m eager to see Mother, Sis and Pooch, but my hands sweat when I think about seeing Dad again. It’s not because he can beat me anymore, I know he can’t. It’s because I’ve promised myself to show him a thing or two from a man’s perspective, this man’s perspective. I want him to know he’s done us wrong over the years and I want him to be accountable for it. It’s time to separate the sheep from the goats.

The house looks the same. I stare at the window, the one I’d escaped from. I see the light shining in the kitchen window. I smooth out the wrinkles in my Uniform as best I can. I take a deep breath and walk into the house.

Excerpt from No Hill for a Stepper

Daily Word Prompt: Uniform

Tick tock, tick tock, they’ll put you under key and lock.

 

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Tick tock, tick tock, they’ll put you under key and lock. Lucinda had made good on her threat.

Too skinny from institution mush, my skin peeled off a layer at a time. Curled on top of a thin, lumpy mattress on a rusted bed frame, the fingers of my left hand Traced the wall where another’s bloodied nails had scratched—dark red stains proof of another’s determination to escape a world unworthy of its inhabitant.

Earlier, the attendant had pushed my forehead back and forced open my jaw. Unnecessary effort on his part. The medicinal haze thickened. I found myself calm but without spirit.

Strange how I felt erased by a pencil yet without the rubber remnants reminding me I once existed.

Any bits of green paint that remained on the wall, I peeled off the first day. I didn’t know if I had been there three weeks or three months.

The chamber’s confines remained still, inactive, and almost empty. A bucket to catch my excrement. The bed fetid like the bucket, the whole place a shithole.

A cockroach scurrying across the floor would have been a welcome sight. Or, a black widow working tirelessly to create a fine net to catch its prey. I stared at idle hands.

I wanted to float outside where flowers bloomed, where the great oaks of San Antonio provided shade from the sun. The rattle of trains and trolleys would have been welcome sounds over the never-ending cries and moans of despair.

Despair. “Do not cry. Do not cry,” I told myself. But tears came anyway. It didn’t matter. If they heard, they never came.

My eyes blurred as if drunk. My body trembled like the women escorted to surgery before their reproductive parts were cut away and discarded like the contents of my bucket.

I heard the click of a door key. It wasn’t mealtime. They had already drugged me. What did they want? Confusion—as potent as a heaping spoonful of laudanum laced with arsenic.

The attendant in white stood firm, stoic. “Come with me.”

Excerpt from The Last Bordello

Daily word prompt: Trace

Madam Fannie defends her bordello

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The real Madam Fannie Porter made famous by harboring Butch Cassidy and his Wild Bunch

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.

Excerpt from The Last Bordello

Daily word prompt: Survive