the grasshopper in winter

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August 15
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JANUARY 25, 2012 4:44PM

The Outlaw Honey Moses and THE DOG NAMED PUSSY

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kitty 2 - cropped 

Chapter 7 - The Outlaw Honey Moses and





          The Vinegaroon Saloon was a hornets’ nest right in the middle of that town of Passover.  A big swarm of troubles was buzzing around the whole territory ever since the banks' land speculation failures.  The saloon was located right across the street from the Passover Territory Bank.

          Honey Moses, disguised in her ruffled skirt and lace bonnet, stood at the far end of the bar near the entrance with her head bowed to shade her glancing golden eyes.  She sipped a haymaker’s punch.  She studied Rex Ramsey as he stood near the card game where sat the bank’s hired security, Jubilee Dunbar, Clifford Austin, and Deuce Taylor.  Honey then looked over at a far table where sat Kate Grody raising a big glass of what looked to be cactus wine.  Kate was leaning ‘way back in her chair to drain that mixture of tequila and peyote tea.   Kate’s raised elbow was stretching her man’s-shirt across her cupid's kettle drums.  Honey watched the drum roll of glances from men, and some women.  Even the cool sly Jubilee Dunbar got snared and hesitated almost imperceptibly as he played a card.

          Honey’s plan was working so far.

          Just then, Honey felt a damp prod at her ankle.  She looked down, and there was a dusty little red miniature pinscher with uncut ears.  The dog danced backwards and sat and trembled and looked up at Honey with moist pleading eyes.  Honey figured the little guy was thirsty so she knelt down and let him lap her haymaker’s punch; besides the water, the punch’s molasses, cider vinegar, and fresh ginger would give the little guy strength.

          A bearded old fellow was walking in and laughed to Honey, “Lady, better feed your kitty outside.  He’s liable to get stepped on.”  The little dog growled.

          The bartender spoke up, “Don’t feed him, Miss Lady.  He ain’t supposed to come in here.  He keeps coming inside.  I seen him in the alleyways.  He got separated from Dr. H. Moe’s Traveling Medicine Show.  I’m surprised some crow ain’t eaten him already.”  The little dog growled.

          Honey put a coin on the bar, still averting her golden eyes, “Here, Mister.  Now he’s a paying customer.  Another haymaker’s punch, please.”

          Honey thought to herself, What am I doing?  I guess it can’t hurt to get the little guy back on his feet.  She was recollecting herself long ago as the child wandering, orphaned, blind and lost, in from out of that wicked dust storm right into Rex Ramsey’s arms.

          Across the room, Kate Grody stood up and went over to the upright piano in the corner.   She sat down at the piano bench trailing the great curiosity of her furtive admirers, including Jubilee Dunbar.  Kate took a deep rounding breath as she flexed her long strong fingers.  Suddenly, she struck downward to playing from Schubert’s Impromptu in A-flat Major.  I’ll bet you didn’t think we girls at the Whisper Glory knew of such things.  Well, Kate came to us just full of surprises.  Anyway, the whole Vinegaroon Saloon hushed in astonishment.  Soon the doorway darkened with curiosity seekers.

          Jubilee Dunbar arose from the card game.   The dealer was sitting like a statue, mid-deal, and just staring over at Kate Grody.  Right through the middle of that still-life crowd Jubilee glided like a snake over to Kate’s side and coiled there, listening.

          When Kate abruptly ceased playing, musica interruptus, the whole saloon was suspended in silence like a fly in amber.  Then it shattered into whoops and whistles and hurrahs.

          Jubilee Dunbar breathed into Kate’s ear, “My God, that was breathtaking as are you, my dear.  Who are you?  Where did you ever learn?”

          Kate bowed her head without looking at Jubilee, “Thank you.  You are too kind.  I haven’t practiced in a long while, as you can tell.”

          “Not at all.”

          “My mother used to say, ‘One day without practice and you yourself can tell the difference, two days without practice and then the critics can tell, three days without practice and then the audience can tell’.  I was…, I am Katyana.  Katyana Grodonovsky.  My mother taught piano.”

          “Not in this territory!” said Jubilee incredulously.

          “No.  In Chicago.  Long ago.”

          “I knew you were a most extraordinary woman when I saw you walk in here," Jubilee looked around and then whispered, “I would surely like to continue our conversation.  I have a suite at the The Pharaoh.  It would be my honor to offer you an invitation for dinner this evening, if you please.  You are travelling… alone?”

          Kate hesitated just long enough, “Well, that would be interesting, I am sure, thank you.  My niece and I are staying at The Pharaoh as well.”

          Jubilee furrowed his brow at the mention of a niece, but Kate said, “My niece will be spending the evening reading her Bible.”

          Jubilee bowed briefly from the waist under the weight of that satisfied smile.  He turned back to his men at the card table and raised his chin toward the door.  The men arose, Clifford Austin, Deuce Taylor, along with the bearded old fellow who had teased Honey about the little dog, and two other wiry dust devils.  They departed into the slow vortex of people coming and going into the Vinegaroon Saloon.  Jubilee Dunbar then wove over toward Rex Ramsey whom Jubilee had recognized back when Rex first walked in.

          “What are you doing here?” Jubilee asked without ceremony.

          Rex played the simple straight-shooter, “I need a job.”

          “From me?  I thought you were too good for us, Mister Rex Ramsey, former U.S. Marshal.”

          “Had a change in philosophy you might say.”

          “Having no job will do just that for you, won’t it?” scoffed Jubilee, “Can’t afford to be so high-and-mighty when that happens.”

          “I’ve looked around.  You could use me right now.  You know what I can do.”

          “Yes, yes.”  Jubilee stroked his lips as he spied Kate leave.  She took the arm of her “niece” who was at the end of the bar dressed in a bonnet and ruffled dress.  He watched the niece bend over, pick up, and hold out to Kate what looked to be a puppy.  Kate let the animal lick her face.  Jubilee licked his lips.

          “Okay, Ramsey.  We can talk, but not here.  Follow me.”

          Meanwhile, Kate and Honey had to check into their hotel.  The Pharaoh always held one room for us girls from the Whisper Glory.  The hotel clerk, Marten Bêcheur, was a regular of ours.  He was a bespectacled little badger of a man, never married, and “will never have to be” he would always joke to us in the parlor.  He nodded discretely to Kate, whom he knew as well as any man can know a woman.

          Marten asked professionally, “Two of you this evening, ma’am?”

          “Yes, my very good fellow,” smiled Kate.

          “Business or pleasure?” asked Marten with a gleam in his glasses.

          Kate pouted for Marten’s sake, “Business, I am afraid.  A couple of days at least.”

          As Kate wrote their names into the hotel ledger, Katyana G. and niece Honey M., Marten leaned forward and whispered at breast-level, “Then you will owe me a Rainy Day.”

          “The weather should change in a day or so,” replied Kate as if making polite conversation.

          Marten smiled and nodded to Honey.  Then he noticed the miniature red pinscher for the first time, “Will ‘Miss Kitty’ be staying with you as well, my dear?” he laughed.  The dog growled.

          Up in the hotel room they had a view of the main street.  The street was a river of rippling commotion.  They could see the roof of the Passover Territory Bank.  There were men and activities on that roof besides the hired guns looking down.

          Honey set the little dog on the big bed, “Maybe we should name you ‘Kitty’, you poor little orphan,” she teased in baby-talk.  The dog growled and bared his tiny fangs.  “Yeah, that’s a sure way to make you tough out there in that mean ol’ world, isn’t it?” Honey giggled.

          Honey then turned back to the window and stood seriously awhile, trying to figure out what was transpiring on the roof of that bank.

          Kate Grody finally set herself down on the plush chair beside the bed to pull off her boots.  As she raised a knee to her chin, the miniature pinscher jumped off of the bed and dove right between her legs and buried his cold nose.  Kate whooped and picked up the little dog, raising him above her head, “Forget about naming you ‘Kitty’!”  The squirming dog yipped twice and licked downward trying to reach her face.  “I know now what your name is going to be!”  The little dog went limp and cocked his head.















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animals, fiction, western, humor

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You are a namer, your names are like little poems in themselves. A town named Passover. Vinegaroon Saloon. They tell stories in and of themselves. Good to see you carrying on this story, too.
Finally! Yipee...I love this story it's so full of you!
You nailed the Old West dialog and hoopla in the saloon; really well done. It adds a lot to the story, keeps it moving quick when the subtlety of the action—which had to be subtle for the con—padded slowly across the barroom floor. That's a neat trick and you made it look smooth. One thing, tequila and peyote tea? Sacred Sassafras! tell me this is a made up drink and not something you serve at cocktail parties.
"suspended like a fly in amber" I loved this romp. Honey Moses is an endearing character and I have grown to expect anything from her!