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

 

 

Drinking to Dead Relatives

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Great Gatsby Franken-Farter stares at the creek. “I saw my aunt die.”

“I saw my grandpa die, too.” I remember Mama crying when she pulled the bed sheet over him and Daddy hugging her for a long time after. When they buried him, Scooter kept going back to the cemetery to see if Grandpa was sprouting from the dirt.

“Your grandpa. Was he run over by a get-away gangster, too? Like Aunt Sissy was? She didn’t Survive like your dog,” he says.

It sounds too horrible for truth. “Phonus balonus.”

“Suit yourself. You’re next?”

“Okay,” I say. But I won’t mention Miss Helen. I think for a while then decide to tell him another truth. “I’ve been Cooter Browned before,” I say, and almost taste the vomit-varnish from that night.

“Who?”

He’s not so smart after all.

“You know, I’ve been blotto before.”

His eyes crinkle when he laughs. “Let’s drink to that. Plenty of mornings I’ve had to chew my water. Tomorrow might be one of them.” He hands me the Mason jar.

I take it thinking it’s his way of making peace. I pretend to drink then hand it back.

“Where were you when you got drunk?” he says.

“At the carnival. Last weekend. The night Mama left.” I didn’t mean to say the last part. “I gotta go.”

Excerpt from The Moonshine Thicket

 

Fighting for rights

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A man, close to the front, pumped his fist. “My wife don’t have time for more learning. We got six kids needing supper on the table.”

A melee of querulous male voices erupted from the crowd.

“Why do women prostitute themselves to the abnormal passion of man?” Miss Fisher continued. “Because they are poverty-stricken, destitute above temptation and driven by necessity. They sell themselves, in marriage or out, for bread and shelter, for the necessities of life. How can we blame them? They have no other recourse but to live in a society that dictates what they, we, can and cannot do. To solve this problem, we demand that women be allowed to exercise their inherent, personal, citizen’s right to be a voice in the government, municipal, state, and national. Then, women will have the power to protect themselves.”

“We men protect our women just fine,” a voice shouted. Other men shouted their agreement.

Mayor Hicks stepped to the podium, his lips pursed. “Enough of your heckling. Save your disagreements for editorials in the newspapers. She has a right to free speech.”

“So do we,” someone boomed back.

The mayor banged a fist on the podium. “These women are invited guests. By God, we will show them our southern Hospitality.”

The raw egg came from nowhere. It narrowly missed the Mayor’s head before landing on the bandstand floor. He squinted, searching the crowd.

Poor Mrs. Fenwick held a shaky hand over her mouth.

Miss Fisher reached below the dais and pulled out a speaking trumpet. “The true relation of the sexes can never be attained until women are free and equal with man,” she continued, her determination thundering above the chaos.

The second egg hit the podium dead center.

Excerpt from The Last Bordello

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A bullet past an ear

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Cono and his grandfather, Ike

Further up on the right is another house. It looks kinda like an old Wayne Dennis house, falling down on one side. Car parts litter the front yard.

“Who lives there?” I say.

“Oh, some damn white man,” says Ike.

“Still like that Cherokee part ’a ye, huh Ike?”

“Damn straight.”

We get to the bar and meet Andres, Ike’s friend. “This here’s my grandson, Cono,” Ike says.

“Pleasure,” I say, shaking his hand.

The three of us sit down at a table for four and a short little old lady in a Pink uniform comes over to take our order.

“Bring us three Pearl beers,” says Ike.

“No beer fer me,” I say.

“Still not a drinker, Cono?”

“Still not,” I say.

“Sody Pop then?”

I turn to the waitress and say, “Ye got Nehi Grape?”

She nods and says, “Be right back.”

For eleven o’clock in the morning the place is busy. The early lunch crowd has come in. Andres starts to talk while Ike listens. And I’ll be damned, Ike’s twirling his index finger around his thumb. They say an apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. This is one habit Dad’s pulled down from his father, but as far as I can see, and unfortunately, the only one.

Ike starts to talk but Andres keeps saying, “What are you saying? I can’t hear.”

Finally, after gulping down his beer, Andres says, “Hell, let’s go someplace quiet where we can talk.” I pull out my wallet to pay but Ike says, “Put that away, Cono. You need ta save yer money.” I do as I’m told, grateful of the man beside me who appreciates my hard work.

Ike and me gulp down our drinks and head down the street to a little dive of a bar, a place that doesn’t sell food.

“This is better,” says Andres. We all sit down at a table and order another round from the bartender, the only person working here.

In the middle of cow talk, a man with a black mustache that matches the color of his eyes opens the door, pulls out a pistol, and shoots a bullet right past Ike’s ears and into the mirror behind the bar. The bartender pulls out his shotgun, aims it at the shooter and says, “Jose, you drop that gun right now. This ain’t no way to settle a bar tab.” The man backs down and yells something I don’t understand, and then he leaves.

As cool as a cucumber, Ike clicks the left side of his cheek, turns to Andres and says, “Ye got another quiet place ye wanna go?”

Excerpt from No Hill for a Stepper

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Trying to keep a straight spine

In the glow of the kitchen lantern, I spotted the lone tear in Reba’s eye. “So, what’s now?” she asked.

“It’s only Temporary, Rebie. She’ll be back before we know it. I just hope the plan works. We’ll find out in the morning.”

“Fannie, notice how this catawampus started when the Wild Bunch come here?”

“How do you see that?”

Reba folded her hand. “Etta leaving with Sundance. That’s when Sadie’s trigger got pulled. Pushed her over that ledge.”

I shook my head. “It was before that.”

She glanced up at the ceiling. “Yes’m, suppose so. Plopped out in a cabbage patch with nobody around to comfort her ’cept for devil mother.”

“Rebie, we’ve all had our sorrows. Some just can’t seem to recover from them.”

“You dids, though. Came outta that orphanage with a straight spine.”

“It didn’t feel so straight at the time.”

“Mmm. Never does.”

Excerpt from:

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Body Removal

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Betty doesn’t look like Betty unless you stare long enough and Miss Helen’s too busy with body removal to take a good look.

“What’s she got, Miss Helen?” Frank asks.

“I have an inkling and, if I’m right, she needs medicine right away.”

They carry her to Moonbeam like soldiers hauling the injured.

“Open both back doors,” Miss Helen snaps at me.

I open the near door first then scramble around to the other side.

“Now come back over here and hold her the front corners long enough for me to go on the other side and pull her in.”

“I …”

“You’re strong enough to hold her up for three seconds, aren’t you?” she squawks.

I take Miss Helen’s place. Now, it’s me who’s keeping up the top half of Betty, but she’s sinking in the middle. Frank stays quiet holding the corners next to his ma’s feet.

Miss Helen climbs in the back seat and grabs the sheet corners by Betty’s head. She pulls Frank’s ma inside Moonbeam like threading a human Yarn through the eye of the needle.

 

Excerpt from The Moonshine Thicket set in 1928