From sex to an Insane Asylum

th-20

Earlier, I had been sitting at the piano, thinking of my deceitful yet productive visit with Mr. O’Connell, when Sadie shared her story in the kitchen. Horrifying as it was, curiosity forced me to stay. I heard every word. When she finished and said good-bye to Sheriff Tobin, I crept upstairs to our shared room. I opened my novel but the words blurred without meaning. (Meaningless)

I awoke to find the room I shared with her different, salty and sticky. No wonder Miss Fannie worked so hard to keep Sadie out of jail. It wasn’t just about her guilt or innocence but about Sadie’s demise if she were locked up again, secluded from the rest of the world. I wondered if the man who had raped her knew where she now lived.

I tried to imagine a girl of only fifteen placed in an asylum with no one to defend her, comfort her, or give her hope. Yes, she had been too young to have sex with Timothy, but that didn’t make her crazy enough to be thrown into a madhouse.

Excerpt from The Last Bordello

 

 

The Prostitute takes a position (not on the bed)

f0bd1b0118ebd124d619e79c44b32a50.jpg
photo credit

“What is it, Meta? You seem quiet today,” Sadie <the prostitute> said.

“I’m thinking of Emil. He would love this place.”

“You want to marry this Emil fellow?”

“When the time is right. But I also want to go to college.”

Sadie turned away. “Well, marriage isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It cements a woman’s future and her feet to a kitchen floor.”

I wanted to tell her that some men look at prostitutes as mere fodder for their tumescent phalluses. I held my tongue. “Did you not hear what Miss Fisher said at the meeting? How women need—”

“I do know one thing.” Sadie inhaled a deep, scrappy breath. “I don’t think men care for their wives after they’ve poked them a couple of times. That goal’s already been Conquered. Girls like me? We sleep with money the same way wives do, but we get paid without the bossing.”

Excerpt from The Last Bordello, historical novel set in 1901

 

 

Crazy Olvie

tumblr_inline_n7lmcrZh731sgexy6.jpg
photo credit

The rock crashes through the front window and glass shatters over Gladys. Crazy Olvie reaches for the telephone that sits in its cubby space in the short hallway. “Hurry up, now. Read me the name of the Sheriff’s Department.”

I know she meant to ask me to read the number instead of the name. But I can’t help it. I look at her telephone list of numbers taped to her fridge and say in my best deadpan voice, “Sheriff’s Department.”

“That’s what I said.” Her voice is louder now. “Read it to me!”

She’s clueless.

Her cheeks flush and her eyes look like they belong to one of Dracula’s brides.

“Glendale-4123.”

Mom had laughed when she told me that every time Olvie has to phone her doctor, she freaks out and curses all the zeros. She hates sticking her fingers in the seven-through-zero slots because she doesn’t like waiting for the dial to spin back around to home base.  Lucky for her, these numbers won’t take any time.

Excerpt from my Work in Progress, Olvie and Chicken Coop (working title)

 

Murmuration Agitation (with a little Bible recitation)

3ef024404abdee652d9a1635c923c75aOn my damn lawn, at least twenty people stood behind Mrs. Stoddard. Some chanted, some murmured. I took in a breath and let it out, trying to appear unruffled and bored. “And I won’t rest until Marcy’s true killer is found. Sadie didn’t do it, Mrs. Stoddard. But I assure you, Sheriff Tobin is doing everything he can to find the killer.”

“Tobin, huh!” Stoddard spat the words. “From what I’ve heard, the big sheriff is only protecting you for personal reasons. How’s he going to help if he’s playing nice with you under the covers?” She looked down as if shamed by her words.

Even so, I clenched the fabric of my dress to keep from smacking her clear across the street.

“We want justice,” the crowd chanted, louder each time.

“Now listen here,” I shouted, my patience waning. “We want justice too. We are all upset. Let’s work together and find the real killer. Now, as I said. Get. Off. My. Property.”

“Tells them to kiss your hiney and go to grass,” Reba whispered beside me, still hidden from view.

Reba’s version of “go to hell” gave me the idea. “Good Christian folk…” I forgot the passage, turned to Reba, and whispered out the side of my mouth. “What’s something good to quote from the Bible? Something about judgment.”

Reba put a hand on her chin and peered down at her feet. “You wants Saint John or Deuteronomy?”

“Whichever’s better.”

“Well, Saint John says—”

“Reba! Give me something.”

“Tell ’em, ‘Stop judging by mere appearances and make a right judgment.’”

Reba tugged at my elbow. “You gotta say it’s from John 7:24.”

“Stop judging by mere appearances and make a right judgment,” I repeated loudly. “John 7:24. Isn’t that what Jesus taught?” I knew I was pushing it. Over the years, only once or twice had I glanced at the Good Book. The Bible never spoke to me like it did for Reba. “You are judging an innocent woman because of her chosen profession. Shame on you. Shame on you all. Now leave before I have you arrested for trespassing.” I lifted Ratchet slower than necessary and heard the gasps of fear. I perched the shotgun over my shoulder like a marching soldier and closed the front door.

Reba and I waited and listened, our backs against the front door. The thrum of mumblings and chanting didn’t stop. “Now what?” I asked my best friend.

“Whiskey slam?”

Excerpt from The Last Bordello, a historical novel

Murmuration

Caught red (yellow)-handed

 

4-prostitute-the-sphinx-1898-Toulouse-Lautrec-Henri-de.jpg
“Prostitute the Sphinx” by Toulouse Lautrec Henri

 

“My God, it’s Marcy’s!” The temperance union president stared rage into Sadie’s eyes.

The restaurant became silent. No clinking of cutlery, no chattering of women.

Sadie frowned and glanced up at Mrs. Stoddard. “Excuse me?”

“I said that’s my Marcy’s scarf. I gave it to her.” With one swift move, Mrs. Stoddard pulled the scarf from Sadie’s neck and examined the fabric. “See, right here.” She pointed to a tiny section of the material where, in faded ink, “M.S.” was printed.

Sadie squinted and folded her arms. “I found it, ma’am.”

“Where! Where did you find it? Where is Marcy? Tell me this instant. Someone find an officer!”

Sadie froze. “An officer? I don’t understand. You can keep it, if you’d like.”

Patrons murmured and buzzed like a Swarm of bees in a hive with no queen.

Sadie turned her frightened gaze away from Mrs. Stoddard. “Meta, I think we should head back.”

“You are going nowhere, young lady. Not until you answer some questions.” The woman’s lip quivered as she held the silk scarf against her cheek.

I searched the restaurant for support. Anyone. If only Sheriff Tobin were here. But the faces around the tables were unfriendly, their eyes condemning.

Excerpt from The Last Bordello

 

 

A Boxing Tradition-Thanks, Daddy

So recently, my one-year-old granddaughter came to watch me box (see picture below). As many of you know, I love boxing. Not competitively, of course. I do it for fitness. We hit pads and bags, practice defensive, etc. We kick, too, but being a good kicker is not in my DNA. Let me explain.

My paternal grandfather was a carnival boxer in the early 1930’s. That meant he would seek out the carnivals and would box the “main” contender. If he won, which he usually did, he earned 5 buckeroos.

In the later 1940’s, my Dad boxed for the Army as Kid Dennis. I still have his boxing bag, gloves, and trunks that read “Kid.” (The story of Dad’s boxing retaliation against my grandfather is a major plot thread in my novel, No Hill for a Stepper.)

Dad quit boxing when he married my mother but continued the sport by becoming a referee. When my sister was born, he gave her little blue boxing glove rattles. After my parents died, and when my sister and I had to sort through the house, I found them! I told my sister, “I’m keeping these!” (she didn’t fight me for them).  Now, I keep the little rattles in my boxing bag for inspiration.

Here’s my granddaughter holding one of the little rattles.

IMG_0335.jpg
Baby and Me

Do I think my granddaughter should continue the tradition? It matters not. What does matter is that she learns to defend and stand up for herself. And, as Dad often reminded me, “pay attention to your surroundings at all times.” Sound advice.

Thanks, Daddy.

Nervous Sweat

screenshot-2016-08-02-08-55-26

Frank’s nervous, too. The way he strangles the steering wheel reminds me of the time Daddy taught Mama to drive. Mama had Jiggled nervous sweat. Daddy stayed calm and quiet like he was reading the death notices in the Galveston Post. I sat in the back giggling my socks off.

Mama kept turning to see if I was still alive. “You okay, baby? You okay?”

“Bernice, sugar. You have to keep your eyes on the road.”

Daddy and me didn’t have much to worry about. She never went more than five miles an hour.

Daddy had tilted toward me and winked, “Hope you’re not too hungry, Little Tulip. This might take a while.”

When we got home, Mama had to change out of her sweaty clothes. Daddy gave her a big hug and said, “Bernice, you make me proud.”

But that was then.

Excerpt from The Moonshine Thicket