Archive for October 13th, 2011

…as soon as she heard me she came down, opened the door, and asked me to come in…she set me on a richly decorated seat inlaid with silver, there was a footstool also under my feet, and she mixed…a golden goblet for me to drink… – Homer, Odyssey (X)

By the time the black-and-white car had come to a stop in front of the grand old house, the girl on the porch had vanished inside.  And by the time the uniformed man had made it to the front door, it was opened by a beautiful, seemingly-ageless woman he knew well.

“Good afternoon, Tommy.  Congratulations on your election!”

“Afternoon, Miss Kay; mind if I come in for a spell?”

“Well, I wasn’t going to make you sit on the porch!  Come on in, and rest your feet for a while.”

He followed her in to the beautifully-furnished parlor and accepted the glass of wine she poured him; he had known her long enough to understand that it was best just to accept it because she wouldn’t take “no” for an answer.  Not that he particularly wanted to resist; she made the finest homemade wine in the state.

“I was beginning to wonder when you were going to show your face up here, young man; your father (may he rest in peace) came every week to hear the gossip.  He always said I helped him so much that I should have been on the county payroll.”

“Well, Miss Kay, that’s sort of what I wanted to talk to you about,” he said hesitantly.

“Oh?” she asked, refilling his glass.

“Well…see, it’s like this.  Things are different now from when Daddy was sheriff.  There’s a lot of talk up at the state capital about cleanin’ up crime, and about morality and all.”

“What’s that got to do with me?  There hasn’t been a major crime in this county since the end of Prohibition, and the rumors we heard helped your father deal with the minor ones.”

“Yeah, but what about your operation here?”

“Why, whatever do you mean?”

“Come on, Miss Kay, you ain’t dumb.  You do a whole lot more’n raise hogs up here.”

She laughed.  “That?  Tommy Carson, don’t be a fool; nobody in this county cares about that.  I bought this house soon after I arrived in this country, and I’ve been taking in girls and entertaining travelling gentlemen ever since.  The people around here know me for a good neighbor.”

“Folks around here, sure.  But like I said, they’re startin’ to make noise in the capital, and puttin’ pressure on local officials like me to clean up.”

“Rulers do that from time to time; it’s the way of things.  They won’t know anything about what goes on here unless somebody tells them, and nobody’s going to do that.”

“Well, maybe.  But it’s not like it was no more; it’s gettin’ a lot harder to cover up.  An’ I’m thinkin’ that extra effort has to be worth somethin’ to you.”

She put down the bottle with barely-controlled anger.  “How dare you?” she hissed.  “Boy, I delivered you, and I gave your mother poultices and medicines for your ailments and rashes and the like.  And when she came here sick with worry because you were going off to fight the Germans, who gave her a charm to protect you?”

Tommy remembered the ancient bronze coin with its faded hawk image and Greek letters; he had worn it on the chain beside his dog tags and though he would not admit it aloud, it had given him great comfort on that beach in Normandy when other men were dying all around him.  “And I appreciate all that, Ma’am, I really do.  But I figure if a man don’t look out for himself, nobody else is like to.  You of all people should understand that.”

After a long, tense pause her face relaxed, and she poured him another glass.  “Of course I do, Tommy.  You’re right.  Things change, and we have to change with them.  Let me go over my books, and we’ll see what we can arrange.”

“I’m glad you decided to see it my way, Miss Kay; I’ll come back after the weekend, OK?”

“That’ll be fine, Sheriff,” she said, seeing him to the door.  “Now, mind you drive carefully; that wine is more powerful than you think.”

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

“Now, Miss Kay, it’s not your fault.”

“Yes it is, Bart, I should never have let him drive; I told him that wine was much more powerful than he thought, but he insisted he could handle it!”

“You know how Tommy is; once he gets a mind to do somethin’ neither you nor nobody else is gonna stop him.”

“But he could have been killed!”

“Well, he can’t be hurt that bad because he was nowhere near the car; after the crash he must’ve wandered off somewhere to sleep it off.  I’m sure he’ll turn up; we just figured we’d check here in case he came back to use your phone.”

“Please, Bart, let me know as soon as he turns up.”

“I’ll certainly do that, Ma’am.  Oh, by the way, there was a pig wandering around near the wreck; he was real tame so the boys caught him easy and I’ve got him in the truck.  We figured he must be one of yours.”

“Yes,” she said.  “He’s one of mine.”

(With grateful acknowledgement to the work of Margaret St. Clair).

One Year Ago Today

Dry Spell” is a fictional interlude which tells the sad tale of Bea Becket, the top girl in the finest brothel in her city in October of 1929.

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