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

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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

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

Can’t beat it with an ugly stick

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Cono and his sister, Delma 

At least we are together, Delma and me. It’s just another place that I plan to watch over her. I want to keep her close by, so nobody can snatch her away again. As long as I can do that, it doesn’t make no difference where we are.

The car keeps humming slowly down the highway. I try to sleep but I can’t. Instead, I think about Mr. Ed Rotan and decide right then and there that “Cono, Texas” has a real good ring to it. Cono, Texas won’t just have snow gypsum under the ground and a railroad on top of it. It’ll have oil underground and derricks on the top, pumping night and day. I call them jacks “grasshoppers” because that’s just what they look like when they’re pumping up and down. They’re grasshoppers trying to hop away, but they’re stuck and have to settle for hopping up and down in the same place.

My town will have at least two good cafés that serve T-bone steaks and tea iced in clean tin jars, free to me since it’s my town. I don’t know much about T-bone steaks since one’s never been in my mouth, but I do know about cold iced Tea. A while back, Pa and I went from farmhouse to farmhouse following the thrasher and it was the first time I ever got a swaller of iced tea out of a fruit jar. A couple of them farm ladies knew how to make it real good. But the best was when one of them lady’s had cleaned up an oil can good and shiny. She poured the tea in the can with a bunch of ice and sugar and when I tasted it, it was the coldest and best drink I ever had. Ice is few and far between, sometimes as scarce as food. So when Pa took a sip he said, “Aye God, ye can’t beat that with an ugly stick.”

Excerpt from No Hill for a Stepper

Daily word prompt: Tea

If it crawls up your drawers

“So’s what she found a scarf? Who wouldn’t pick it up if it weren’t attached to a person?” Reba’s hands might have been in the kitchen when Meta came home, but her ears were everywhere in the house. She knew what had happened.

“It belongs to that missing Temperance girl, Rebie.”

“And ‘member that red hat I’s left at Market Square? Belongs to somebody else now. That Sadie might have a stubborn streak miles long, but she wouldn’t hurt a Bumble bee ‘less it crawled up her drawers.”

Had it? Had the Temperance women hovered over her, gotten too close? Invaded her safety? Sadie had become a barbed-wire fence that kept others out or, perhaps herself in.

What was Sadie keeping from me?

Excerpt from The Last Bordello

daily word prompt: Bumble