Jeanie

Jake

Here’s the follow-up to the Everything’s Jake story.

It’s two hours before dawn, moonlight shafts in through the open window. In a darkened corner, deep in the shadows, sits a woman. She has been sitting there for hours. She looks toward the bed. Lying on the bed is a man, a big man. The woman is crying, the man is snoring, and they are waiting. The man does not know that he is waiting … but he is.

What a mess I’ve made of things, thinks the woman. She recalls back five years when she was just a seventeen-year-old girl in Two Mule, Kansas. Back then her favorite saying was, “This may be Two Mule, but it’s a one-horse town as far as I’m concerned.”

Then the big man came to town; he was handsome in a rugged sort of way. Jeanie took one look at him and knew that he was her ticket to freedom. At that thought, Jeanie has to laugh. Freedom! I haven’t had a free day since I left home. But she did not know what was in store for her then. At the time, all she wanted was to get away, and Mac was only too happy to oblige her.

He told her he would take her to Chicago, maybe even New York. But when they left, in the middle of the night, they headed west. He told her he needed a grubstake and was going to do a little panning for gold. But Mac did his panning with a knife.

They would wander into a gold camp, set up his tent, and Mac would pretend to pan during the day, always out of sight of the others. What he did was mostly drink and sleep. However, at night as the men sat around the fire, he would ascertain the man with the biggest poke, as he listened to their talk.

After two or three days, when he had picked out his target, he would creep into the man’s tent as he slept, slit his throat, and take his dust. Then he and Jeanie would hightail it out there. When you traveled with Mac Conway, you were always leaving places in the middle of the night. And tonight, thought Jeanie, as she sat in her corner, will be no different. Mac, you’ll be leaving in the night, but not with me … not this time.

It wasn’t long before Jeanie cottoned to what Mac was doing. That didn’t bother her too much, but what stuck in her craw was the fact that Mac had no intention of taking her to Chicago or anywhere else but two-bit tank towns. That’s when she first ran away from him.

As he lay passed out, dead drunk, she had lifted his purse and what dust she could find. Her big mistake—if you don’t count her not killing him outright—was leaving his horse.

He had caught up with her pretty fast and gave her a good beating to teach her not to do anything like that again. He said, as he beat her, “You belong to me and if you ever leave me again, I’ll kill ya!” It was then that Jeanie knew she would need the help of a man if she was going to escape Mac.

It was fourteen months before she found the right man; at least he seemed right at the time. Jake was full of talk of all the places he’d been. He said he was passing through town on his way to California where he was going to buy a ranch and raise cattle.

Once she had Jake picked out, she worked on him when Mac wasn’t around.

“You’re not afraid of him, are you?”

“No, of course not.”

“Then you’re the man for me. We can be one hundred miles gone before he even misses me. And don’t worry; he’ll be glad to be quit of me.”

However, after they left and word got around that Mac was looking for them, Jake started to go to pieces. He was always looking over his shoulder and saying things like, “How far back you reckon Mac is?” Or, “I don’t think we’d better stay here more than a day. Mac could be close by.” It was enough to drive a person crazy, thought Jeanie as she sat in her chair, in the corner, in the dark.

After eight months of Jake jumping at every bump in the night and loud noise during the day, she’d had enough of his frightened ways and started to play the piano player, no pun intended. Well … perhaps some pun intended.

The beautiful thing about Señor Piano Player was that he didn’t know of Mac, but Mac soon found out about him. When Mac finally caught up with her and the piano player, he didn’t beat her, he did not kill her, he simply told her she was responsible for the death of two men. He took great joy in telling her how Jake Tapper had died. So, two men were now dead and she was still with Mac.

If she was to get away, she would have to take care of things herself.

It was now a month later and they were in a new town. Mac came in every night roaring drunk. Some nights he would ravage her; other nights he’d just pass out. That is what gave her the idea.

She could have lifted his gun out of the holster as he slept. It was always hanging from the bedpost at night. And she could have pulled back the hammer, placed the barrel in his ear, and squeezed the trigger. But, that is not a woman’s way. And besides, she would most likely be hung for murder if she did it that way.

That afternoon, she had gone to McGuire’s Emporium and bought a bottle of laudanum, which is also known as tincture of opium. Before she left, she asked Mr. McGuire how much was safe to take.

“One tablespoon is alright, two if you are in a lot of pain.”

“How much is dangerous?”

“It depends on body weight.”

“What would happen if I drank half the bottle?”

“You would go to sleep and die.”

“Thank you, Mr. McGuire.”

“Good day, Jeanie. Say hello to Mac for me.”

Like everyone else in town, McGuire was fearful of Mac Conway.

Jeanie returned to the hotel, and before heading upstairs, stopped at the bar to buy a bottle of Mac’s favorite whiskey.

When she was alone in the confines of her room, she poured half the contents of the whiskey bottle into the wash basin. She then uncorked the laudanum and poured all of it into the bottle. Laudanum has a bitter taste. Jeanie was hoping Mac’s inebriation and the whiskey would mask the taste.

That night, Mac slammed opened the door when he returned, he was drunk as usual. As he reached for her, she said, “Hello, lover. Let’s have a drink first.”

Jeanie knew that Mac never declined an invitation for libation. She went to the table and poured a portion of the doctored liquid into a glass. Mac, as she knew he would, grabbed the bottle from her and took a healthy swallow. Well … it would have been a healthy swallow if not for the laudanum.

She was able to keep away from him until the bottle was empty, then she guided him to the bed where he sat for a moment, his head hung low, before he fell backwards and passed out.

That had been hours ago. Now Jeanie sat and waited—waited for the son-of-a-bitch to die. Just before sunrise, the snoring stopped. She hesitated for only a moment before going over to the bed. She had to know.

Yes, he was dead.

Before leaving the room, she went through his pockets and took anything of value. Then she went out to meet the rising sun.

Everything’s Jake

Cowboy

It was early morning when the man rode into town from the east, the sun at his back, his long shadow before him. The street was deserted except for an old mongrel dog sniffing its way home after a long night’s prowl.

He proceeded on the main thoroughfare—the town’s only thoroughfare—until he came abreast of the Blue Moon Café with its “WE NEVER CLOSE” sign hanging from the ramada. Spurring his horse over to the hitching post outside the café, he dismounted and entered the establishment.

At that time in the morning, the chairs were on the tables, and the only occupants were a boy sweeping the floor and a disheveled, overweight man behind the bar wiping a glass with a dirty rag. The barkeep watched the stranger approach.

“How ’bout some whiskey?” said the stranger.

When the barman was slow in responding, the man grabbed his collar, pulled him down until he was bent over the bar — their eyes level.

“I said whiskey,” growled the stranger.

“Yes sir, right away,” was the barkeep’s quick response.

When released, and with a shaking hand, he placed the glass he had been wiping on the bar, grabbed a bottle from beneath the counter, and poured a liberal amount of an amber liquid into it.

As he started to re-cork the bottle, he was told to leave it on the bar.

“Yes sir.”

Turning his back to the bar and placing his elbows thereon, he called to the youth doing the sweeping.

“Hey you, boy, come over here.”

Placing his broom against the nearest table, the boy did as he was bid.

“You got a name, son?”

“Yes sir. It’s Billy.”

“Well, Billy, do you know a man by the name of Jake Tapper?”

“Yes sir.”

“Do you know where he lives?”

“Yes sir.”

Reaching into his vest pocket, the man withdrew a silver dollar and flicked it in the boy’s direction. “You go tell Jake that Mac’s in town.”

*****

Jake lay on his bed, staring at the ceiling. It was much too early to be awake, but since she left, he’d found it hard to sleep. It had been a heady eight months. He had never loved a woman as he had loved Jeanie. Sure, it was taking a chance messing with Mac Conway’s woman, but it had been worth it. Now that she had run off with that piano player from the Blue Moon, he thought he’d just stop running from Mac. Might as well get it over with, thought Jake.

Then there was a knock at his door. “Yes, who is it?”

“It’s me, Mister Tapper. Billy Doyle.”

“Whatcha want, Billy?”

“A man down to the Blue Moon told me to tell you that Mac is in town. I think he wants to talk to you.”

“Alright, Billy. You tell him I’ll be right there.”

Jake packed his few belongings and left the room. Instead of going to the Blue Moon, he went to the livery stable and saddled his horse. Then he mounted and headed out of town as fast as the beast could carry him.

It is one thing to think brave thoughts in the seclusion of your room, but it’s another thing to face Mac Conway in a saloon. Hell, it ain’t healthy to face off with Mac anywhere. Now that Jeanie’s gone, there’s no reason to git myself killed.

The next day Mac caught up with Jake, and then he went looking for Jeanie.

New Orleans

Andrew Joyce AuthorHere’s another one of my stories from my youth. Not too much happened here, but what the hell, I’m gonna tell it anyway. I wrote this last night as a comment on my friend John Howell’s blog. So, if John doesn’t mind me stealing from his blog, here goes. If he he does mind, I’ll take it down … after everyone (all seven of my followers) have read it.

Disclaimer: My editor was not available. So any errors are her fault. She should have been around.

My only time in New Orleans (18 yrs. of age) was when I was hitchin’ to California and got picked up by this guy that was passing through New Orleans. He was telling me about it and telling my 18 year-old self about the bars. He asked me if I wanted to hit a bar or two with him. Of course, I said yes. Then he said I could have my choice of bars. One that played blues or one that had strippers. Guess which one I chose? I was a virgin at the time.

So I’m sitting at the bar with my new friend while this woman pranced on the bar in front of me. She and all the other girls knew what a cherry I was. But I didn’t know that at the time. I thought I was so cool. But they knew better. She winked at my friend and laughed. He nodded and smiled back.

All too soon it was time to leave. So we got back in his car and headed west. On the outskirts of town, he pulled into a motel parking lot. “I’m gonna hit the hay. You’re welcome to share my room if you want,” he said.

Now, you gotta understand this guy was macho-plus. Six-foot, three inches tall. Deep voice, cowboy boots, the whole nine yards. I’m a kid. 140 pounds and wet wet behind the ears. Green beyond belief.

Well, I took him up on his kind offer. When we got in the room, I laid out my sleeping bag on floor over against the far wall. The guy turned off the lights and got into the bed. Things were quite for a little while. Then out of the darkness I heard, “You can sleep in the bed if you want.”

“No, thank you. I’m cool.”

“Please.”

“No … thank you.”

He started to cry. I stayed where I was. I went to sleep and was surprised when I woke up the next morning not dead.

I rolled up my bag and left while he was still asleep. I went out to the road in the early morning mist and stuck out my thumb and left New Orleans and my friend far behind.

That is what I think of when I think of New Orleans.

John, Clark, & John

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, movies were the premier form of entertainment in our land. There was no Netflix, no streaming from YouTube, no Hulu, and definitely no checking out Kim Kardashian’s butt every week on television because there was no television. No Kim Kardashian, for that matter.

Back in those prehistoric days, one man ruled over Hollywood. He was known as the “King,” much like—decades later—Elvis would be The King. But Elvis was the King of Rock and Roll; the man I’m speaking of was the King of Hollywood. His name was Clark Gable, and he was the best-known man in America. He was better known than the President of the United States and probably better loved.

John Huston was a director and screenwriter. Of the thirty-seven movies he directed, three top the list: The Maltese Falcon, The African Queen, and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (where that great line was uttered: “We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!”).

John Steinbeck needs no introduction, but I will say that, at the time this story takes place, his book, The Grapes of Wrath, was a best seller, had won the Pulitzer Prize, and had been made into a movie starring Henry Fonda. So he was well known in his own right.

SteinbeckNow that you have been introduced to the players, on to my story, and this yarn happens to be true. It will make evident the wit, the quick thinking, and the humor of John Steinbeck.

John Huston was friends with Gable and Steinbeck, but Gable and Steinbeck did not know one another. Huston loved to hunt; in fact, he wrote The African Queen just so the studio would pay for a trip to Africa for the filming. But the movie was of a secondary importance to Huston. He wanted to bag himself an elephant. And he would not start the filming until he had done so. Incidentally, a movie was made of the whole affair entitled, White Hunter, Black Heart, starring Clint Eastwood. But I digress.

So, Huston invites Gable and Steinbeck for a little hunting up in the Sierra Nevadas. They all meet at Huston’s ranch one crisp, cool morning. Quick introductions are made; Steinbeck and Gable shake hands. Very little is said, and they all pile into Huston’s car for the trip to the mountains.

Now, before I go any further, picture this: Huston is driving, Steinbeck is sitting in the front passenger seat, and Gable is in the back.

Things are quiet in the car for the first few miles. Finally, just to say something, Gable asks Steinbeck what he did for a living. He asked that of the man who had the number one best-selling book in all of America. And the movie that was based on that book was currently playing in theaters all across the country.

“I’m a writer,” answered Steinbeck without turning to face Gable. And then, without missing a beat, John Steinbeck turned to the most famous man in America—if not the world—and inquired, “And what do you do for a living, Mr. Gable?”

 

Ellen’s Long Shot

ellen

Here’s a story from my youth. I’m proud of this story. Not because of my sexual prowess. I’m proud of it because I finally did something right. I did something right with the help of a higher power. It wasn’t the first or the last time I did something right, but they’ve been so far and in between, this one kinda stands out in my mind. This is a true story.

******

Ellen Long was beautiful. Ellen Long was hip. Ellen Long was my lover, and Ellen Long could sure get herself into big trouble for such a little girl.

I do not remember how I came to know Ellen Long, but I do remember it was shortly after our first meeting that we were in bed devouring each other’s bodies. For a couple of wonderful months, we ran together and made love together. And, I must admit, I was smitten. Although, once I got to know her a little better, it was obvious that it was not going to be a long-term relationship. I took my cues from Ellen Long and decided to enjoy her while I could.

To give you an example of her way of thinking—which was very progressive—two days after a weekend in which we locked ourselves on my boat and did nothing but drink and make love, she called me to say she was having trouble recuperating from the intensity of our weekend sexual adventures. She went on to inform me that she had told her sister the salacious details and, seeing as how she was going to be out of commission for a few days, would it be alright if her sister came over that night. It seems the sister wanted to find out what all the fuss was about; well, that was the first of five women Ellen Long sent my way.

With that sort of attitude, it’s no wonder the relationship lasted only two months. However, once the sex stopped, we remained close. We had no choice. I drank at whatever bar she was working. At least I was assured of a decent drink.

Every time Ellen Long had a new lover, I heard about it in great detail. There was the time she told me of the guy who was flying her to England. My only comment: “Make sure you get a round trip ticket.” Wouldn’t you know it? She calls me a week later and says, “I’m stuck in London, can you send me an airline ticket?” I make sure there’s one at the airline counter within the hour. I didn’t hear from her after that for about a month. No phone call to say I’m back. No call of thanks … nothing.

I finally ran into her at a bar we both frequented and the first thing out of her mouth was the fact she had a new love. She went on and on, telling me of his great beauty, his gorgeous skin, etc. After a few minutes of that, I started calling him “Pretty Boy” to myself. At that point, I had had enough of her crazy loves, so I feigned business elsewhere and excused myself. I should not have been so hasty. If I had waited around and met Pretty Boy, I might have averted the defining moment in Ellen Long’s and my relationship.

Fast-forward two weeks.

The loud, incessant ringing of the telephone brought me out of a sound sleep. I looked at the clock next to the bed … 4:07 a.m. I put the receiver to my ear and I heard, “He’s going to kill me; he just tried to throw me off a roof!” It was 1978, a time long before cell phones, and the person on the other end of the line was Ellen Long. In a whispering voice, her words came tumbling out of the receiver so fast, it was hard to grasp what she was saying. Eventually, she slowed down enough so I could understand her.

She told me she had been riding in Pretty Boy’s car, and he had become enraged when she told him she did not want to see him anymore. He drove into the parking area of an apartment complex, pulled her from the car, and dragged her up the stairs and onto the roof of one of the buildings.

Ellen Long was a bartender; she’d had plenty of experience dealing with drunks, so she thought she could handle this nut. It wasn’t until he tried to throw her off the roof that the seriousness of the situation struck her, and her training in dealing with angry people kicked in. She somehow convinced him that everything would be all right. And if he would allow her to first find a bathroom, she would then go wherever he wished.

On the way down from the roof, the first door she knocked on was answered—as luck would have it—by a nice, little old lady who had no problem letting two strangers into her apartment at 4:00 o’clock in the morning. Really! But it was 1978 after all.

Once inside the apartment, Ellen could not tell of her predicament without putting the nice, little old lady in danger. By then the nut was mollified enough to allow Ellen to leave his sight, though he stood guard at the door as she went to the back of the apartment where the bathroom was located.

Instead of going into the bathroom, she slipped into the bedroom, picked up the phone, and called me. She didn’t have the exact address, but gave me the intersection of two streets and asked me to come to her rescue. By then I was halfway out the door, the length of the telephone cord the only thing keeping me from being all the way out the door.

As I got behind the steering wheel of my car, a voice in my head said, “She gave you the wrong location. The place she gave is miles from where she is. She is on the opposite side of the island” (Miami Beach). I then had a mental vision of her location.

Starting the car, I decided not to go where Ellen Long told me to go. Instead, I went in the opposite direction. When I got to the place I believed her to be, I saw Ellen and Pretty Boy standing alone in the parking lot of the apartment complex. She expected me—he did not.

She calmly walked up to the car and said, “Hello,” like we were meeting accidentally in the middle of the day, and not the early hours of the morning. She then introduced her “friend,” and while his attention was momentarily diverted in my direction, she ran around to the other side of the car, dove through the open window into the passenger seat, and yelled, “Get the fuck outta here!”

It took Pretty Boy half a second longer than I to realize what was happening, and that half of a second was all we needed to effect our getaway. The only thing he could do at that point was grab onto the side-view mirror and scream incoherent fulminations as loud as he could. Though slight of stature, he was so enraged, he had the strength to tear the mirror from the car and throw it at us as we sped away.

As I drove her home that morning, she told me I had arrived just in the nick of time. She had stalled him as long as she could and he was about to drag her to his car as I drove up. Just in the nick of time? What would have happened to Ellen if I had not listened to that voice telling me where to go? What would have happened if I had gone to where she had directed me?

After that morning, I never saw Ellen Long again, except once about a year later, for a few minutes, in a real dive of a bar. She was with friends, and we were both genuinely glad when we saw one another. After saying hello, she turned to her friends and said the following: “This is Billy. He saved my life.”

I had finally made an impression on Ellen Long.

Hot Love

She passed him every day. He was young, well built … and he was handsome. Just her type. She had tried everything to attract his attention. She had dressed provocatively, she had loitered, she had even taken a pratfall hoping he would come to her rescue, but some busybody stuck his big nose into her business by helping her up from the sidewalk where she lay waiting for Mr. Right to come to her aid.

In desperation, she came up with a plan. It centered on his profession. She would make some work for him and be there when he arrived. Then let him ignore her!

The plan was daring. A few blocks from where she saw him every day was an abandoned building; she would simply set fire to it and wait for her dream man to come to her.

You see, he was a firefighter. She walked past the firehouse daily, and that is where she saw the love of her life talking to his mates—paying her no mind.

The fire had spread fast and became larger than she had envisioned. But she stayed in place, awaiting her dream man. Finally he came. Now she could show herself at the window.

There he was—just below her—only a few feet away. His arms were reaching out to her and he was telling her to jump.

You bet I’ll jump, big boy—catch me!

In mid-air and halfway to his waiting arms, she thought, There must be an easier way to meet a man.

Fireman

The Righteous and the Holy

What are we to do about the righteous and the holy?

Lord, please tell me.

Some of ’em hurt my head.

Some of ’em are evil.

Some of ’em are real.

How do I tell the difference?

Yes, I see what you’re saying, Lord.

If they preach fear and hate.

If they yell from the roof tops how holy they are.

If they look me in the eye and I do not see Jesus

Then you’re saying I should take a walk.

If they’re quiet about their holiness.

If they feed the poor.

If they radiate love.

Then you’re saying I should embrace ’em with all the Love I have in me.

Thank you, Lord.

I knew you would set me straight

But please, Lord, don’t ever let me get righteous and holy.

I kinda like being a sinner.