Meta pretends she’s a prostitute

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His lips mashed together into a thin line. “Hey, wait just a confounded minute. Did you say…? They didn’t hire you to, you know…”

Retaliation. “Yes! I got a job there, and I know I will love it. The clients can be quite challenging. Last night, when I had to explain that I wasn’t warmed up yet—”

“I don’t want to hear more. Hell, I might be street-smart, but I haven’t even turned fifteen yet. Porca miseria!

“Porca what?”

“Just practicing on not saying ‘shit’ all the time. Ma doesn’t like it, and my little sister thumps me between the eyes when I say it. It’s a little Italian cuss word that means pig misery. Like saying ‘damn.’ Where you off to, anyhow?”

“My Aunt Amelia’s. Would you care to accompany me, Mr. Scallywag? I found a job because of you, did I not?”

He tore the cap off his head and rubbed his greasy black curls of hair. “Stop saying that. I had nothing to do with you getting that job!” He pointed his finger eastward and accelerated his pace.

“Oh, but you did,” I said, hurrying to catch up. “If it hadn’t been for you, I wouldn’t be tingling with avidity for this evening to arrive. That’s why I’m going to visit Aunt Amelia, to tell her the good news.”

“What’s avidity mean? Wait, you’re going to tell your great-aunt about your new job? At Fannie Porter’s?”

“Of course. She’ll be thrilled for me. Besides, she knows I’m good at it. I’ve been doing it for years now.” I muzzled the smile aching to form.

His eyes widened into a dumbfounded glare.

“And avidity means eager, like being Avid about something.”

“I gotta go,” he said, turning away.

One more chance at deception. “Giovanni? You said you were fourteen?”

“Yeah. Why?”

“Well, you are too young to be entertained at Miss Fannie’s. However, I’ll ask her if you can watch me perform sometime.”

His jaw dropped, his dander standing taller than his five-foot-five stature. “You want me to…watch?”

“Ah, we’re here. Thanks for the company.” I trotted off with the last laugh.

From The Last Bordello, historical fiction set in 1901

 

 

 

A cranky prostitute

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Sadie threw her arms around me and buried her face in my shoulder. “I’m so grateful you’re here. Maybe it’s time for me to go out. I think Miss Fannie won’t mind as long as I’m with you. I could take you to Brackenridge Park. It’s supposed to be beautiful. It’s named after one of our citizens, George Brackenridge. You know, the waterworks magnate?”

George Brackenridge, Mary Eleanor’s brother.

“I can’t today, Sadie. I’m going to visit Aunt Amelia. Another time, perhaps?”

Sadie withdrew her hug and narrowed her eyes. “I thought you just saw her. Truly, Meta? A visit every day?”

Her sarcastic wrath unwarranted, I clenched my hands into fists. “She is the reason I came here, Sadie. Did you forget?”

Sadie took a step back and glared at me. “I’ve changed my mind about going downstairs. You don’t like me because I’m a prostitute. I know that now. You’re only here so you can play your precious piano.”

“Sadie—”

“Please, do go down without me.”

Veins pulsed in my neck. “And you are only using me to ameliorate your guilt. Your insouciance for others is heartless.”

“You realize, don’t you, that you rely on your big words to puff yourself up. It’s unbecoming.”

Thoughts of Uncle Dirk reappeared. Why? Because Sadie had spoken to me with arrogance and superiority? Because she questioned my intelligence? My stomach churned.

“Let me know if I should move into Etta’s room.” Bitterness dripped from my tongue. I felt happy to descend the stairs alone.

Excerpt from The Last Bordello

Cranky

When your insides go kablooey

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Reba stood over the cookstove and wiped a forearm across her brow. “Least the weather’s turning warmer. Time to start planting. Think it might freeze again?”

“How the hell would I know that?”

Reba shifted her stance and glared at me. “Lawd, I just asked a question. Ain’t no need to hatchet my words right when they come out.”

Hatchet. An ironic word choice. From what I’d gathered, the hatcheting Carry Nation currently sat in jail. “And when are you going to stop saying ‘ain’t’?”

Reba slapped a hot pad on the counter. “When I’s too old to fart, is when. Needs some Pape’s Diapepsin?”

“Sorry, Rebie. Things aren’t settling well right now.”

“You knows what your problem is, Fannie Porter? You worries enough to make your insides go kablooey. Now hang them worries on the hat hook and hand me that mason jar.”

“You think I shouldn’t worry? Sadie’s not herself, John knows about the Wild Bunch, the temperance women are coming, and if word gets out that Etta left with Sundance—”

“Who’s gonna tell?”

Good point. Would any of them cave in, spill our beans of Fortune?

Excerpt from The Last Bordello

 

 

That’s what men (AND WOMEN) do

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Something moved on my left. “Look, Giovanni!” I pointed to the anole sitting on the rim of the Miss Reba’s flowerpot.

“You act like you’ve never seen a lizard before.”

“It’s not just a lizard. It’s an anole. Look, there!” A pink bubble grew from its throat. “The first time I saw one do that, I thought it was about to burst from the inside out. It scared me. It reminds me of Emil.”

“He looks like a lizard, does he?”

“No.” I gave him a gentle backhanded slap on the shoulder. “I was with Emil the first time I saw an anole do that. They camouflage themselves so they won’t be seen. They bob their heads and bubble their throats to show off. They also do it to protect their Territory and scare off intruders. I admire that. He stands his ground.”

Giovanni shrugged. “That’s what men do.”

“Like Miss Fannie does. And what more women need to do.”

“Guess that means you’ll be wanting to vote?”

“Let’s see.” I mocked a faraway gaze, tapped my chin, and turned to him. “Bet meine Arsch I do.”

 

 

Miss Reba’s Elixir won’t stop a bullet

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“So what was in that concoction Miss Reba made for Mr. Davis?” I asked.

“She said it was honey, pepper, licorice, ginger, a couple of other ingredients I don’t remember. She made me hang an onion over his bed, too.”

The thought made me laugh. “And he allowed that?”

“Well, let’s just say it took a bit of doing. He told me he wadn’t scared of no goddamn vampire. I guess he was thinking about garlic.”

The scream pierced the evening like shattered glass.

We didn’t speak. We ran.

Sadie fell, but I couldn’t stop. Couldn’t wait. I recognized the voice behind the scream.

Excerpt from The Last Bordello

Elixir

From sex to an Insane Asylum

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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