One Trick Pony
Thursday, September 23, 2010
They'd ended up at some dame's place that had turned out to be an amateur whorehouse, with a bunch of average-looking gals they wouldn't have bothered with had they not been in limiting circumstances.
He'd gotten the head dame, he could almost remember her name... Dorothy? Donna? She was a bottle blond and though older than the others, young enough. Her breasts stood up fine and her ass was nice and round. But she had mean eyes that were full of mocking disrespect and a mouth that had the shadow of a toothless hag in the begrudging way she smiled. He looked at her in the harsh morning sunlight coming in through the kitchen window and saw a bitter old women lurking just beneath her young skin. It spooked and repelled him.
He slumped over his coffee cup and waited for her to finish scrambling eggs. He wasn't sure he'd be able to eat them, but she'd offered, and the other guys didn't seem to be up yet, so, what the hell. Two of the other gals wearing wrinkled, slept-in slips, last night's smeared make-up, hair-dos askew, had groped their way past him to get glasses of bromo-seltzer and cups of black coffee, with the beleaguered attitudes of those who must get up and go to work with a hangover. He wondered briefly what the hell kind of jobs they had to go to on Sunday morning, waitressing? Maybe whoring was a part-time gig.
Probably, if he and the guys had gone to the whorehouse in San Angelo that Romeo had insisted was their best, safest bet for nearby entertainment, they'd have had access to a better class of whore. The Shy Violet had a fine reputation and was extra friendly to guys from New York.
Or so Romeo had said. But Sardo had had enough of taking orders from Romeo at the Bella Vista motel, him and his petty dictator routine. You'd think Romeo was running a military school for wayward boys instead of a safe house for gangsters. Enough was fucking enough. So they'd gone to Sonora instead and whooped it up through the little town, starting in a spic bar they'd seen fit to ransack, beating up every sucker they could get their hands on. They'd all of them gotten rip-roaring drunk. He had a faint memory of struggling to get the Packard out of a parking space and scraping against another car. He hoped the Packard was okay. Next thing he knew, they were sacked out at the house of Dorothy, or Doris, or whatever her name was.
She loaded his plate with eggs and deposited it in front of him with all the warmth of someone plunking a dog's bowl on the floor, then turned back to the counter and her own cup of coffee to stare out the window.
"Thanks, Da... uh..." he tried.
"Dolores," she finished for him, without looking back.
"Right," he said, filling his mouth with eggs. They weren't half bad. He had more of an appetite than he thought he did.
He heard the women in a nearby bathroom getting cleaned up, the water running, medicine cabinet door opening and closing, murmuring voices. Jeez, the other guys must be dead to the world, he thought. He wasn't relishing the idea of going back to the motel for another week of Romeo's task-master routines, but they ought to be moving along.
Then the fourth gal appeared in the doorway of the kitchen and stopped short when she saw Sardo sitting at the table. He noticed she had had the decency to wash her make-up off and put on a bathrobe. She looked to be the youngest of the bunch and was not happy to see him. He put another forkful of eggs in his mouth and chewed, staring at her.
She sidled past him to pour herself a cup of coffee and leaned against the counter next to Dolores, pouting. The pouting was clearly not for his benefit, as she kept sighing and shooting glances at the older woman. Dolores finally looked at her after a moment and said firmly, "Peggy, stop it."
The girl sighed again and made a Shirley Temple unhappy face. With the puffed out lower lip and everything. Sardo found her pretty cute, and suppressed the urge to giggle as he shoveled more eggs into his mouth. Dolores paid her no mind, glanced over at Sardo as if to gage how much longer before he'd be finished and then began taking cleaning supplies from beneath the kitchen sink, a bucket, rags, a huge scrub brush, and setting them aside on the floor next to the sink.
Keep your sunny side up, up... Sardo sang in his head, humming the tune to himself as he chewed.
Dolores stepped up to Peggy, cleared her throat meaningfully, and waited as she moved aside resentfully. The young gal took a big gulp of her coffee and glared at Sardo as Dolores opened a drawer and pulled out a really big butcher knife and a huge, wicked-looking meat cleaver, laying them out on a large cutting board.
The other two gals, now cleaned up and dressed, purses in hand, paused in the doorway, peering into Sardo’s eyes strangely, the way you'd look at someone if you were trying to tell if they were awake or not. This time he couldn't suppress the giggle and had to take two stabs at getting the eggs into his mouth. The more he chewed the happier he felt. His hangover was completely gone.
"See you later, Dolores," the gals said, eyeing Peggy smugly.
Dolores crossed her arms and asked them, "Did you do your work?"
"Yes, Ma'am," said one.
"Ready and waiting," said the other.
Dolores gave a curt nod and the gals were out the door.
Peggy stamped her foot on the floor and exclaimed, "It's not fair! I did mine, too, and you haven't even finished yours."
Dolores, imperturbable as ever, raised her eyebrows and gave Peggy a schoolmarm stare that Sardo found absolutely hilarious. The laughter burbled up his throat and he laughed and laughed.
The young gal put her hands on her hips and rolled her eyes. "Oh, all right," she whined, "can we get on with it then?"
She suddenly pulled the table away from Sardo, and he was briefly aware of Dolores stepping up behind him, one hand gripping the hair on the back of his head and pulling back sharply, while the other hand sliced across his throat with the big butcher knife. The last thing he saw was that cute little gal in her bathrobe, a resentful scowl on her face and the big meat cleaver clutched in her hand.
Friday, September 17, 2010
The woman must have stood at the empty front desk for a few moments, looking around and sensing the emptiness of the place before she hit the bell on the countertop. Back in his room behind the lobby, Romeo had stood up from his arm chair and set aside his book hesitantly when he heard the bell, not sure if he'd imagined it.
She was standing in a small puddle of water when he stepped out of the hallway and stopped to stare at her in surprise. He hadn't been expecting anyone, least of all an elegant young woman. Elegant, even though she was soaked straight through her clothes, rainwater running all over her. She was a very light skinned negro with regal features, luminous amber colored eyes. The sharp edges of her bones stretched the fabric of her dress and the taut skin of her cheek. Her body shivered in waves.
"Can I get a room?" She asked. "My car broke down up the road..."
Romeo blew out a breath and hesitated before he said, "I'm sorry, I can't let you stay here."
Her eyes bored into his and he knew exactly what she was thinking. He thought back to the times he'd been turned away from motels in the south on his way out from New York for being too dark a shade of brown, the signs in the windows that read "No coloreds, no Mexicans."
Some old guy in Ardmore who didn't even have any functional front teeth had stepped up and motioned for Romeo to keep going before he could finish turning into a gas station's driveway. Romeo had sat staring at the old guy through his open window trying to figure out what the problem was.
The old guy had glared at him and shouted, "Get on with you, there's a colored station up the road."
"Colored station? What are you talking about? I'm not colored," Romeo had said, laughing.
"We don't serve your kind neither." The old guy had spat on the ground in the general direction of Romeo's car and continued to glare.
Romeo had been stunned. His dark olive complexion had never garnered him anything but tall, dark and handsome compliments from the ladies. "What kind do you think I am?" He'd asked, half serious.
"The god damned kind we don't serve, now get on!" The old guy had stomped his foot in the dust and Romeo saw that he was barefoot. He also saw that a large, scowling young man probably of a similar mind was making his way up off the porch of the gas station's office and coming toward them. He stepped on the gas and peeled out on the dirt road, enjoying the thought of leaving them coughing up his dust, but disturbed and angry nonetheless.
“Listen," he said. "Here’s the thing, this isn’t a general public establishment. I’m not turning you away especially, it’s just our usual policy.” He spread his hands in a helpless gesture that betrayed ambivalence.
He tried to look away from her and stand firm, but her unwavering eyes held him, and he suddenly realized he’d seen her somewhere.
“You been out this way before? Where’re you from?” He asked, peering at her face and trying to place her. She almost smiled.
“You’re from New York, aren’t you?” She said, nodding slowly.
Romeo’s face lit up and he snapped his fingers. “Café Society? You’re a singer?”
She looked down at the puddle of water spreading around her feet and softly tapped her toe in it.
“I remember you now,” he continued enthusiastically, “I saw you a couple of years ago with… ah, I don’t remember… you just sing with a piano and a horn, right? Man, you’re good.”
She continued patting the surface of her puddle, unmoved by his admiration, still shivering. He looked down at the puddle and lost patience with his resolve to enforce the rules.
“This is stupid. What you need is a good, hot bath.”
Her body reacted involuntarily to the suggestion and she leaned in toward him slightly, but only looked at him out of the corner of her eye. He walked behind the desk and pulled a set of keys off their hook. He gestured at the door. She didn’t hesitate.
“I think it’s gonna be pretty quiet around here till tomorrow. It'll be fine for you to stay the night.”
As he held the door open for her, he couldn’t help asking, “You think maybe later, after you’ve had a chance to dry out, I could get a song or two? We got a nice lounge with a piano and a top of the line record player back there…”
She gave him a cold stare. “Wouldn’t be the first time I had to sing for my bed.”
“Aww, come on, I didn’t mean it like that… look at me out here. You think I get any good music like you can do? I’m wearing out my records as fast as I can buy them,” he said, as he led her down the walkway to room number eleven.
“Baby,” she said wearily while he unlocked the door, “I don’t know how much sympathy I got left in me right now.”
She looked into his hopeful face as he held the motel room door open for her. She still couldn’t come up with much of a smile. But she touched his shoulder briefly with a feather light hand on her way into the room. “Maybe later,” she said, as she softly closed the door.
The only music Honey James could think about right then was the siren call of the glass vials of heroin in her purse. She was going to play it loud.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
The result can be read here: Richard Godwin Interviews Pamila Payne
I highly recommend that you check out the other interviews posted as well. The man has a knack for coaxing writers off on interesting tangents. You will probably recognize his other subjects, (Paul D. Brazill, Matt Funk, Charles Gramlich, Eric Beetner just to name a few) and I'm sure you'll find them as illuminating as I did.