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

The Brute at the Butcher Shop

Savage. An appropriate name for a butcher.

The door ajar, the stench of raw meat penetrated my nose, but the familiar voice inside stopped me from running past. “Hold on, Sadie.”

“What?” Sadie bent down, retying her bootlaces.

I peeked inside the butcher shop. Miss Reba stared up at the burly man towering over her. “No sir, you must’a misunderstood I’s just—”

“Don’t tell me I misunderstood.” He drew his arm across his chest then slapped Miss Reba across the face with the back of his hand. She tumbled sideways, her head smacking the edge of a table before she hit the floor.

“Colored’s always have to wait,” he added.

My blood curdled as I rushed to her side. “Miss Reba!”

“What have you done?” Sadie yelled behind me.

I knelt beside Miss Reba. “Ach Gott. Are you all right?”

She moaned and lifted a limp hand to the side of her head where blood dripped onto the floor.

“She needs to wait her turn, ain’t that right butcher?” the brute said.

Mr. Savage stood there, his mouth open. The patrons gasped and whispered. No one came forth. What was wrong with these people?

Sadie glared at the man and reached inside her small black purse. She unfolded a man’s shaving knife, stood and approached him. “If I pricked you with this, you’d squeal like a stuck pig.”

My mind blurred. What does it take to kill someone? To sacrifice one’s self for a cause?

The bearded man pointed a finger at Sadie. “Whoa, now girlie …”

“And then, our butcher will take you for a hog,” she said. “After hanging you on a meat hook, he’ll slit you from neck to belly until you bleed out. Isn’t that right, Mr. Savage?”

Mr. Savage blinked a few times and cleared his throat. “Sadie, you best look after Miss Reba there.”

The abuser’s nostrils flared. He pointed a finger inches from Sadie’s face. “You need to shut that vulgar trap ‘a yours, Missy. Surely you got a sheriff in town who can lock you up for pulling a weapon on me.”

“ Unmensch! Her weapon?” My words hurled forth, surprising me. “Your hand was a weapon! You hurt Miss Reba.”

Sadie glanced side to side. “We have the best county sheriff in the state. Looks like he’s not here right now. So, the next time any of us return to purchase pork, including this fine lady on the floor bleeding the same color red as everyone else, you might be the pig we get to eat.”

The man clenched both hands into fists. “Why you …”

Excerpt from The Last Bordello

Savage

Missing the country-side

Electric streetcar rails made circular patterns on the paved intersections of busy streets while the trolley’s bells deafened my rural ears. Businesses of every kind lined up one after another, many sharing common walls. Women wore feathers and stuffed birds attached to their hats and paraded them down the street like migrating nests. Barouche carriages transported men and women in their finery. At least the clamor and Jangle of wagons pulled by tried horses reminded me of home.

I set my luggage down and rubbed my tired arms.

Excerpt from The Last Bordello, 1901

daily word prompt: Jangle

School’s out, but …

“Class dismissed.”

After Miss Primrose’s words, the students Dash outside to breathe in the real world.

“Scoot? Want to go to the swimming hole to look for Frank? If he’s there, we can’t stay long. Your Mama will have a hissy fit if we’re late coming home.”

His eyes light up. “Grab your muskets, boys!” he shouts. Then, for the first time today, he pulls out his blues harp. As he plays, his cheeks puff out and suck in, puff out, and suck in like what I picture a blowfish doing.

As we walk to the swimming hole, I think about my birthday even though I don’t want to. Without Mama, it wouldn’t even be a birthday. It would be a few friends, a cake and presents without promise. Now I have to talk to The Secret Keepers, Miss Helen or Miss Delores. If they know where Mama is, maybe they can send word that I refuse to turn twelve without her.

Excerpt from The Moonshine Thicket

 

daily word prompt: Dash

Missing Letters

Saturday is family day, if only two people count as a whole family. We’re not a complete three-legged dog family anymore. Without Mama, Daddy and me have turned into a kangaroo that hops on two feet with sorrow poking out of its pouch.

Daddy and me climb into Ol’ Bess. His knuckles are white on the steering Wheel as he drives us into town, and I don’t want to ruin family day by asking questions about Mama.

Every Saturday, Rosie’s Café has roast beef and mashed potatoes. We always split a slice of apple pie three ways. This time, I’ll get more than my fair share, but the thought makes my stomach hurt.

Five minutes of quiet later, we pull up in front to the café on Holly Gap’s main street.

“What in tarnation?” Daddy points. “Wonder what happened.”

One of the workers is sweeping up glass on the sidewalk. Just above his head, there’s a big hole in the front window. Now, instead of saying “Best café in Texas,” it says, “Bes… exas.”

Excerpt from The Moonshine Thicket

Daily photo prompt: Wheel

Cleaning a bigot’s plow

“Now what are you talking about? I know what’s right and wrong. And you hanging out with a colored is not right. What would your parents th …”

Kent’s words hang in the air, his sentence unfinished. He knows what my parents do. He knows we’ve had Mr. Overton, our new Local president of the NAACP, over for dinner. Kent saw him when he dropped by that evening last spring.

I point a finger to his chest and feel like Olvie. “It’s time for you to leave, Kent. You’ll never understand.” I turn to go inside.

He grabs my arm. “You’re full of shit, Grace. All this time I thought you were smart enough to—”

My eyes burn coal. “Let go of me.”

“Problem, Chicken Coop?” The familiar voice sounds protective.

Isaac saunters up the walkway and up to the front porch. He’s about the same height as Kent, but thinner. Yet his presence towers over Kent a hundred times over. When he looks at Kent, his eyes don’t shift, don’t blink.

“What are you looking at, colored boy?” Kent says, but his wobbly voice betrays him.

“Not much,” Isaac says.

Kent pulls back a fist then launches it toward Isaac’s face. Isaac catches it somewhere in mid air. Kent opens his mouth, then closes it.

“You see, Massa,” Isaac says. “I ain’t s’posed to fight with white folk. So, my Daddy and my Mammy both taughts me to be quick on these here feet. Ya know, to’s protect m’self from de harms dat be.”

“You stupid, nigg—”

“Nigerian, you were about to say.” Isaac says losing his accent. “Right, Kent? Because when a white person says that other word, it means they are ignorant about walking in the footsteps of humanity. I highly suggest you leave Mrs. Monroe’s porch and bike it to that theater. You show good movies there.”

Kent’s mouth opens. His chin drops. He can’t quite manage the puffing out of his chest. His posture deflates until he reaches the curb. Kent straddles his bike and points to Isaac. “Your plow needs cleaning, boy.”

As he rides off, Isaac yells, “Ain’t got one no mo’. Done sold it to my Massa.”

I turn to Isaac. “I didn’t know you were such a tough guy.”

Excerpt from WIP, Bare Bones of Justice (working title), set in 1963

Daily word prompt: Local

Not Invited

12193765_10206355536185586_976189123626179767_n
Madam Fannie Porter

There he stood, the man whose cleft chin always reminded me of a bare ass. “Well, well, well, Mayor Marshall Hicks. What can I do for you?”

“May I come in?”

I hesitated, my eyes scouring him from head to toe. “What do you need Mayor? I’ve paid my dues.”

“It’s about Sadie.”

“What about her? She’s upstairs sleeping.”

A thunderbolt cracked. The puffed rooster Cringed. “Can I come in?”

“For a minute. I have things to do.”

I opened the door wide enough for him to squeeze through. Too wide would seem like an invitation and asking him to sit a spell was out of the question.

He removed his hat and hung his rain jacket on the hook by the door. Now inside, he took an uninvited seat in the parlor—the same chair William Pinkerton sat on when asking about the Wild Bunch. Not a good omen.

Excerpt from The Last Bordello

Daily word prompt: Cringe