My Life A Bit South of Normal

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

I wish I had a Pencil Thin Mustache

Hollis, who had just walked in with Stella, was making his way from his table over to her. He asked several questions, then turned toward the bar, "Walter can we get a wet towel and some water?"

"On the way."

In 5 minutes or so, Kathleen was back on her feet. Jeb put his arm around her. "No more for you!"

Everybody laughed, relieved that she was okay. 

"Folks, I think we have had enough fun for tonight. 'Fraid we won't make it to Ed's," Jeb apologized.  Assuring everyone that she was okay, Kathleen and Jeb left for home. 

As the rest of the group made their way out of the bar, Mike walked over to speak to Anna Belle and Walter. "We're going to Ed's for burgers. Why don't y'all join us?"

"Mike, I'd love to but I need to get back to the club. Maybe a rain check?"

"OK, but I'm going to hold you to it," Mike said as he kissed Anna Belle on the cheek and shook his grandfather's hand.

Hollis came to bar to order another round for him and Stella. Anna Belle asked, "You sure she is okay?"

"Oh, I think she will be," was all  Hollis said as he thanked Ike for the drinks and returned to their table. 

As he handed Stella her glass of wine, she asked,"You sure there isn't anything seriously wrong with Kathleen?"

"No, she'll be fine. I imagine Jeb will keep a close eye on her."

Walter dropped Anna Belle off at the club. Being the consummate gentleman, he walked her to the door. "I'll call you tomorrow," he said as he kissed her.

Andrew opened the door for Anna Belle. "Welcome mam, I'm glad you are back. There's a gentleman at the bar waiting to speak with you."

"Thank you Andrew." Anna Belle made her way to the bar. It was not unusual for men being there, wanting to speak with her about a membership to the club.

Sure enough, sitting on a bar stool was a man she did not know. With  only his back toward her, she took him in. His jet black hair was shiny, as if either wet or greased. He was wearing a pin stripe suit. Not one of the well cut suits she was used to seeing, made of fine wool, rather one that reminded her of a gangster. But what really caught her attention were his black and white wing tipped shoes. Just then Charles standing behind the bar looked up to see Anna Belle. He must have caught the man's attention. The visitor turned around and faced Ann Belle.

It was all she could do not to laugh. His hair wasn't wet, it was slicked back. The color wasn't natural, it was definitely colored. She had never seen hair that black. The thin line above his lip looked more like a line drawn on by an eye brow pencil, than any mustache she had ever seen.  On the  lapel of his three piece suit was a red carnation. 

"You must be Anna Belle."

"I am," she said shaking his hand. "And, you are?"

"Johnny Ricardo, mam. Or is it madam?"

Ignoring the comment, Anna Belle just hoped she could make this encounter as short as possible. There was no way this man was joining her club. The very idea of him mingling with the members was humorous at best, distasteful at worst.

"What can I do for you?" Anna Belle said trying to be polite as she could.

"Why, I came to see you, Ms. Vontese. I work for The Advocate in New Orleans. Several months ago, while I was going through the archives, I stumbled on a story about a business with quite a reputation. An old establishment long gone that I am sure you are familiar with."

He paused for effect. Anna Belle remained silent.

He continued, "Idella Arnell's House of Pleasures for the Lonely Man". He looked over her shoulder at the game room, then around the bar room, "If I am correct you are familiar with it." He paused again with a smirk. "Must run in the family."

Anna Belle still did not say anything.

"See, when I started researching about it for a story I am writing, I was most interested in this lady, Idella Arnell, a real business woman in her time. Looking into her family, I came across your name. And, now I know why."

Not showing any surprise, Anna Belle asked, "And?" This needed to be short and sweet, she had nothing to add.

"And . .  . when I found out you had a club, I thought I would check it out." He took a sip of drink. "See if the family tradition continues." He looked around. "What kind of 'club' is this anyway?"

"A private one," said Andrew who had been watching from the front door. By now he was standing behind Anna Belle.

"I guessed as much." 

"Then you can understand why we need to ask you to leave," Andrew said.

"Certainly Ms. Vontese is willing for me to finish my drink.

Andrew moved between the man and Anna Belle. "Looks like you have had enough."

Realizing that Andrew was serious and a good 40 pounds more than he was, Johnny smiled, "I'll settle up."

"Not necessary, the drink is on the house."

"What if I want to join."

Andrew smiled, "I'm afraid the membership is full."

"Perhaps I can get on the waiting list."

"How about this," Andrew said as he put his hand on Mr. Ricardo's arm to make sure he understood it was really time to leave. "Don't call us, we'll call you."

Mr. Ricardo placed his glass on the bar, picked up his hat, and looked at Anna Belle with a smirk. "This is even better than I thought."

He nodded to Anna Belle as he followed Andrew to the door.

Wade had been watching from the game room. After the reporter left, he walked over to Anna Belle. "Everything OK?"

Anna Belle smiled, "You just never know who is going to show up." She recounted the conversation she had just had.

"Johnny Ricardo, huh?"

Anna Belle laughed.

Wade shook his head, "More like the character in that Jimmy Buffett song."

Anna Belle laughed, thanked Wade, and headed toward the front door to thank Andrew.

He just laughed, "That's what you hired me for - remember."

"And, you're doing a great job." 

He shook his head, "And the fun just never ends."

"Never told you it would be boring."

"No, mam, you never did that."

Monday, August 13, 2018

I always Thought he Was a Deviant

It seemed everyone was at Dot's that night. Even Pearce had come into town. Sam and Della were sitting at a table with Bunny and Mike. Vivian and Terse came in a bit later. More chairs were added the table to include them. The Sheriff and Pearce were chatting with Ike at the bar. Conversation around the whole room was animated and loud.

The door opened, Bunny looked over to see Jeb and Kathleen walk in. She motioned for them to come over and join them.  Mike and Sam got up and pulled a table over to join the one they were sitting at. "I haven't seen you in a coon's age," Bunny said as she gave Kathleen a big hug.

 The conversation and laughter continued.  Finally, Kathleen said, "Is anyone else hungry?"

Several folks chimed in. Sam suggested,"Let's have another round then all go to Ed's for burgers." There was agreement from the group.

Mike stood up, "Drinks for everyone." He turned toward the bar, "Ike, put this round on my tab."

Annabelle and Walter had come in earlier and were sitting at the bar with Rascal and Pearce. Ike was pouring the last round for the big table. Pearce, seeing the line of  glasses on the bar, spoke up, "Ike, hand me a tray and I'll help you serve those." Ike thanked him and handed him a small tray holding several drinks. Pearce headed toward the table with Ike following behind with another tray.

While they were gone, Rascal found himself sitting next to Anna Belle. Walter was on his phone. "Annabelle," asked Rascal, "Can I ask you something?"

"Certainly Wade. I'll tell you anything as long as it isn't something I don't want to."

Wade laughed, "Annabelle, they broke the mold when you were born." He smiled, "Seriously, I need some help."

"I'm listening," said Annabelle as she sipped her wine.

"Do you have a young lady at the Club named 'Sara'?"

"That's an interesting question. You know how I like to keep things private."

"Look, this is just between you and me. You know you can trust me."

Anna Belle was quiet for a moment. Rascal had always been more than fair with her. They had an unspoken agreement - as long as everything ran smoothly at the Club, he had no reason to question her business. "I do," she took another sip of her wine.

"You trust me? Or do you have a young lady named 'Sarah'?"

She smiled,"Both".

"How much do you know about her background?"

Not comfortable as to where this was going she was coy, "Not much more than I know about any of my girls. I stay out of their personal lives and backgrounds. As long as they are friendly, polite, and keep our members happy, I don't think it is any of my business."

"You're not helping me here."

"Why are you asking?"

"Let's put it this way - if any of them were married, you would know, right?"

"What do you think?" She paused, "Rascal, why are you interested in Sara?"

"I'm not. We just had an incident that may involve her. Let me rephrase that, she's kind of a side bar - an innocent non knowing participate."

"Okay, now you've got my attention." She was quiet waiting for him to speak.

"Apparently Buck Beaver has been 'peeping' in your windows."

Anna Belle shook her head. "I always thought he was a deviant. That said, even this surprises me." She took a sip of her wine. "Rascal, I hope you are taking care of this."

"Oh, I am. He won't do it again. I thought it best not to make a big deal of it."

"Well, I appreciate that. So what does Sara have to do with this?"

"She doesn't. Maybe her husband does."

"Oh, dear God. Tell me what is going on."

"Let's just say, Buck and Colonel Wadsworth got into it."

Anna Belle put her wine glass down, "Over what?" she said slowly.

"He was defending his wife's honor. But, there was some confusion, because everyone knows the Colonel's wife's name is 'Winfred'." He paused for affect. "However Buck kept referring to a lady named 'Sara'. Said he saw her in a compromising situation with one of your members, and approached the Colonel to tell him about the evils of his wife."

"Through the window?"

"Yep." Rascal took a sip of his beer.

"Perhaps we have a case of mistaken identity?"

"Maybe we have someone living a double life?" Rascal felt for Anna Belle. He realized she was known for her discretion and she cared for her girls. "Look Anna Belle, this is just between me and you. I just want you to know what was going on."

"Should I mention this to Sara?"

"That's up to you."

Walter put his phone down and turned around.

"Problems?" asked Anna Belle.

"No, Ms, Harbuck was just letting me know that the wedding at Chateau Belmond went through all the wine they had planned on using. She was going to get more from the cellar."

"Certainly, she didn't need to call you about that?" Anna Belle laughed. "Ms. Harbuck can run that place better than you."

"Not only can, but does - quite well I may add. However, when the father of the bride wanted a few bottles of my prized Caymus Suisun, she knew she better check with me."

"That doesn't sound cheap?"

"Oh, it's not."

They all laughed.

"Well, I'll that depends on how bottles you are purchasing. A bottle of Caymus Suisun Grand Durif, Petite Sirah from Suisun Valley, is only $60 or so a bottle, however when you want to serve it as your dinner wine for the meat course at a sit down meal for 75 of your good friends, that can get a little pricey." He took a sip of his Scotch. "Now what were you 2 talking so seriously about?" He laughed.

"Just catching up. Seems like I never get to visit with Anna Belle."

"Well, she's married to her work," Walter smiled. "That is until a better offer comes along."

Rascal smiled, "I know better than to go there. Great seeing y'all." He looked toward the end of the bar where Ike was filling the beer cooler. "Ike, you got this on my tab?"

"Yes sir, have a good night."

"You too." With that Rascal left the bar.

The group was settling their tabs with Ike before they made their way to Ed's. Bunny walked up to Anna Belle and kissed her on her cheek. "I can't believe you are away from the club?" Bunny looked at Walter, "And, on a date."

Their conversation was interrupted by some commotion behind them. They turned to see Kathleen on the floor with Jeb and Mike kneeling beside her. 

Friday, August 10, 2018

Green Velvet and Buck Shot

Della just smiled, thinking of the green velvet corseted dress Bunny had just described, 'Only Bunny would be thrilled with that get up'. "And all the bridesmaids wore them?"

"We did, but that didn't work out so good."

Vivian laughed, "Were the corsets too tight?"

"No, it wasn't that. Jon Bo didn't show up for the wedding."

"John Bo?"

"Her groom. Well,  his mama named him Jonas Buchanan, but we all called him 'Jon Bo'."

"So he stood her up?"

"No, he wouldn't have done that. Come to find out later he was in the hospital. So we only got to wear the dresses for an hour or so."

"That's dreadful?

"It sure was - those dresses cost a lot"

"But, the bride didn't know?" asked Vivian.

"Oh, she knew, but her mama ordered them and sent us bill before Princetta knew anything about it."

"No, not the dresses, Princetta didn't know what had happened to Jon Bo?"

"No one did, well except his best friend Ned. They finally found him stark naked, passed out behind the A&P."

Bunny's story was interrupted when the office phone rang. Della answered it. Bunny turned to go into her office.

Vivian followed her, "So what happened to Jon Bo?"

"Oh, he had been shot in the rear end at his bachelor's party." Bunny was quiet as she thumbed through the mail Della had handed her. The other ladies were waiting to hear more. Finally Bunny looked up and realized she hadn't finished the story. "They were drunk as skunks and those crazy boys decided to play Russian Roulette with a shot gun. Took them over an hour to get that buckshot out of his tail - couldn't sit down for 2 weeks."

"Oh, that is horrible," said Della.

Vivian was shocked,"No, that's not 'horrible', that is insane."

"Not with those boys. They were crazy as Hell. I don't think Princetta wanted to marry Jon Bo any how. She always had a thing for Ned. But he was dating Calista. Of course, Calista broke up with Ned that day after news got out about the boys."

"I guess so, shooting the groom," laughed Della.

"No, the shootin' didn't bother her. He had done worse things than that before. Calista's mama put a stop to that relationship. She was more pissed than a boiled owl. Said finding that boy stark naked in public was the final straw. Anyway, didn't bother Calista much, 'cause she and Jon Bo eloped the next day. Had Preacher Rick do it at the hospital."

"Poor Princetta," said Della trying to imagine this scenario.

"Bet she was upset?"

"Probably so, but I think she was more concerned about trying to get her money back from the Elks Lodge where they had planned the reception."

Della was laughing, "Bunny, no offense to your cousin, but that's the funniest wedding story I've ever heard."

Before Bunny could say anything else,  Wade stuck his head into Bunny's office. " 'Gotta minute? I need to show you something."

Bunny didn't reply, just grabbed her bag and followed Wade out of the office. As soon as the door closed, Vivian said, "This is better than any soap opera."