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

Amen-er’s drinkin’ whiskey

Delma didn’t die. Every day my little sister got stronger and stronger and more and more like her old self again. Dad stayed about the same, hardly ever getting up outta bed. After the quarantine sign was pulled off our door and our prison sentence was over, Aunt Nolie moved from Ranger to Rotan and rescued us once again.   This time she wasn’t alone. She’d gotten herself a new husband by the name of Red Griffice. Back then I thought he was called “Red” since the name matched the color of his face after a few beers.

Bootlegging was their main business. I’m not sure who learned from who, but our neighbors, the Rushing’s and the Gallagher’s were bootleggers too. Mr. Gallagher owned a gas station off the side of the road, but I remember him only having gas in those pumps one or two times. It was a problem for the out of town customers, who pulled up for petrol and there was none. The bigger problem was when Sheriff P.V. Hail. He’d pull up to the “gas station” and Mr. Gallagher had to say, again, “ Ah hell, PV. Ya know how things are. Can ya believe that I’m still waitin’ on that delivery? I got plenty of RC Cola. Can I get one for ye? It’s on the house as always.”

When PV finally left, Mr. Gallagher would wipe his forehead and recheck his supply of beer and whiskey. Nobody, nobody in Rotan knew where he hid it.

When Aunt Nolie and Red would drive up to Sweetwater to stock up on their booze, it was only P.V. they had to watch out for as they crossed that county line from wet to dry. I even heard that on Sundays, somebody from town went to church and sold “eggs” to the Amen-ers. The “eggs” came either in tall bottles or short ones.

Excerpt from No Hill for a Stepper, by C. Dennis-Willingham

Screenshot 2017-08-11 10.45.58.png
Cono’s (my father) Aunt Nolie rests in Ranger, Texas

 

Delivery – 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

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

A Poisoned Past

The door, closed, Sofie could hear Meta resuming the piano, another ragtime piece, people clapping. Pacing the room a few times, she downed a glass of whiskey, the whiskey she had taken from the shining closet when no one was looking. Her mind was foggy. Thoughts separated themselves into tiny bubbles on the murky, poisoned pond of what she assumed was her mind. Sofie lay on her bed and stared at the clock. Tick Tock. Tick Tock, the pendulum pacing like her mother had so long ago across their small family room.

Sofie, what are you doing! Her mother’s voice.

Sofie, what a stupid mistake you’ve made. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Do you think money is easy to come by? Do you, Sofie? Sometimes you have to make hard choices just to survive. I told you not to sing, and look, you’ve gone and made a fool of yourself! A fool!

Sofie looked down at the shattered clock on the floor before her. She vaguely remembered throwing it there.

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

Foggy– Daily word prompt

The color of blood

il_570xN.623003484_4zss.jpg
photo credit

Sofie pulled up the two loose floorboards and reached below into the Shallow crevice. The journal in her hands, the clock’s pendulum lay on the red-velvet front cover. Now it made sense to her, how Meta had scurried around the dark bedroom the night before she left. The traitor had been looking for her journal after all.

Sofie didn’t bother replacing the floorboards but went directly to sit down at the vanity. She stroked the red velvet. Red, the color of blood, seemed everywhere.

Excerpt from Naked, She Lies, by C. D-Willigham

 

Shallow

Fearful trickles of a memory

Unknown-10
photo credit

Thank God for women like them. Unlike her own mother, the Disastrous woman she had lived with for seventeen years, Miss Fannie and Miss Reba were the mothers she always longed for, And then there was her father, the man who walked out and never returned when she was only a few years old.

The feather comforter provided her warmth. Sofie was safe. But then, why was she so cold? Too cold?

Her heart pounded, gaining in intensity. Moist palms. A forehead collecting beads of sweat.  How can I be cold and hot at the same time? Sofie wanted to yell for Miss Fannie or Miss Reba but her lips wouldn’t move. The only movement came from the image that darted through her mind almost too fast to catch. But she grabbed part of it.

A knock on her front door in Seguin. A girl of fourteen standing behind her mother at the front door. Another scruffy stranger from her past. “Go back to your school work, Sofie. Keep practicing, Sofie.” It was her mother’s voice.

Sofie pulled the covers over her head. Erase the thoughts, Sofie. Erase them! But they entered without permission, without regard. Just like the stranger had.

Excerpt from Naked, She Lies by CD-W

 

Disastrous – daily word prompt