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I'll Never Slip Around Again


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Mature Content: Shameful behavior may be referred to.

With: Miriam Kaufmann, Arabella Mudd.
Location: Mr Pettigrew's Dress Emporium
When: Month  August 1876, 2 days after a Simple Tryst of Fate
Time of Day: Late Morning

 

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While Miriam was busily sewing in back of the store, Jemima stood out front, behind the counter. Others might have busied themselves whilst waiting for the first customers of the day; tidying out drawers full of needles and thread bobbins, or polishing the brass on the cash box, or sorting out the ribbons by colour or... or rearranging the hat and glove displays, or even just whistling a tune, fer cryin' out loud. But no: Jemima just stood there, staring off into space, occasionally sniffing, but basically in a lazy docile dream. And why not? The girl worked about a hundred different jobs around town, if this was her form of relaxation, standing about like a wooden Indian, then why begrudge her?

 

She had to look up, however, when the door to the street creaked open and the little bell above it tinkled a salute to the newcomer. "Oh. It's you." she said flatly to Arabella, by way of greeting. She looked funny, somehow. What was it? Jemima tipped her head. Same old bonnet, shawl and basket. Same old patched smock and worn-out boots. She wasn't particularly happy looking, or angry or sad or... maybe that was it! If the saloon's floor scrubber wasn't laughing her head of about something, she was usually crying her eyes out over nothing. If she wasn't ranting and raving about some imagined insult, she was solicitously commiserating about someone else's misfortune. 

 

But not today. Today she just looked blank; like a zombi; a thing all empty of emotion. She looked like Jemima herself had two seconds ago. It made the Wigfall girl shudder. Something must have happened.

 

"I'm glad it's you. Here, I gotta get these things for Mrs McMahon." she said in an emotionless voice pushing over a note as she did so. 'Mrs McMahon'?! Arabella never called the big black cook at the saloon anything other than 'Mammy Cookie'. This wasn't right. This wasn't right at all.

 

Jemima took the list of items and sort of walked backwards through the dividing curtain that separated front of store to back of store. Miriam was on the rackety sounding sewing machine and had clearly not heard a customer come in. 

 

"You'd better get behind the counter while I go in the stock room" she said to the slight Jewish girl "We got a queer lookin' customer out front." and with that she went to root out the stuff on the list. 

 

When Arabella eventually beheld Miriam coming through the curtain, her greeting was frosty, to say the least.

 

"Hello, Miriam." Miriam? What happened to Dolly-pops... or even just Dolly?! And then the seven little words that all boyfriends, girlfriends, wives, husbands and lovers dread to hear popped out from between her lips. 

 

"Have you got something to tell me?"

 

@Wayfarer

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It was a normal enough work day, Miriam was working at the sewing machine per usual. She actually enjoyed it, her employer was a most kindly fellow who had been unstinting in his attempts to teach her the tricks of the trade and also keeping her appraised of the latest fashion news from the East. Miriam's confidence had grown by leaps and bounds.

 

So she was in one of her usual good moods when Jemima, who had answered the door, informed her "You'd better get behind the counter while I go in the stock room. We got a queer lookin' customer out front."

 

"Huh? Alright, if you say so," Miriam stood up and did as Jemima had asked. Why it was just Arabella, a smile lit up Miriam's face.

 

"Good morning!" Miriam waved but apparently it was not for her best friend.

 

"Hello, Miriam."  That had a stern sound to it. Arabella was definitely not smiling.

 

"Have you got something to tell me?"

 

Then it hit her. Arabella knows! How, Miriam had no idea but she knew alright. The young Jewess went pale and froze in place. (So much for playing dumb.)

 

"Ummm, tell you?  I...what do you mean?" Miriam stammered.

 

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Then it hit her. Arabella knows! How, Miriam had no idea but she knew alright. The young Jewess went pale and froze in place. (So much for playing dumb.)

 

"Ummm, tell you?  I...what do you mean?" Miriam stammered.

 

"Oh, what do you mean?!!" Arabella imitated Miriam's feigned innocence "I'll tell you what I mean Miss Miriam Kaufmann! What I mean is I been talkin' to a certain little dickie bird. I ain't sayin' who it is, but Bridget Monahan's who it is. And... and long time Sunday mornin' she was goin' about - as is her wont - pokin' her big freckled nose up against folks's winders, and she looked through the back winder of your Papa's new butcher store..." Arabella folded her arms and tipped her head like she knew that the next question would be the killer:

 

"... and what do you suppose she saw?"

 

Behind the curtain, Jemima had found the items on Arabella's list and was about to walk back in. Instead, she stopped and listened: this sounded interesting!

 

@Wayfarer

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"Oh, what do you mean?!!" Arabella imitated Miriam's feigned innocence "I'll tell you what I mean Miss Miriam Kaufmann! What I mean is I been talkin' to a certain little dickie bird. I ain't sayin' who it is, but Bridget Monahan's who it is. And... and long time Sunday mornin' she was goin' about - as is her wont - pokin' her big freckled nose up against folks's winders, and she looked through the back winder of your Papa's new butcher store..." Arabella folded her arms and tipped her head like she knew that the next question would be the killer:

 

Miriam now was certain the jig was up as the old saying went. She pretty much knew the next question coming up too. It showed in her wide eyes.

 

"... and what do you suppose she saw?"

 

Miriam had never been a good liar, well even more she almost never attempted to lie. And plus, this was Arabella who she would be lying to!  No, she could not do it.

 

"Oh....I'm sorry. I was going to tell you, I was going to explain everything but I had not gotten a chance to get over to the saloon yet. Honest. Besides, it's not what you think. I can explain if you just give me a chance," Miriam now began her desperate defense.

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"Oh....I'm sorry. I was going to tell you, I was going to explain everything but I had not gotten a chance to get over to the saloon yet. Honest. Besides, it's not what you think. I can explain if you just give me a chance," Miriam now began her desperate defense.

 

"Well, here's your chance."  the usually verbose Arabella said, baldly.

 

Behind the curtain, Jemima regretted that she was holding Arabella's goods, it stopped her rubbing her hands with glee: this was going to be good, who didn't enjoy a good bit of gossip? 

 

In truth, Jemima's relationship with the other girls was complex: on the one hand she found their 'activities' together morally appalling and unchristian (maybe forgivable in Miriam, as she was a degenerate Jew, but unbearable in Arabella Mudd, who was always pontificating about her special relationship with Jesus. Huh! In bible times, she'd have been stoned to death for all her wicked sins!) and between the three of them, Arabella, Miriam and Bridget, she wasn't always sure which one of them was supposed to be the brain-damaged idiot. 

 

On the other hand, and this was an extremely weighty factor, nobody else would be Jemima's friend, what with her unpleasant looks, personality and smell. 

 

Still, the idea that Bridget had told Arabella that Miriam had been up to something with, presumably, another girl, sent a frisson of prurient excitement through Jemima's whole body and wicked delight lit her piggy little eyes as she heard Miriam squirming like a rat caught in a trap. Hadn't Jemima warned the Jew girl to at least be true to Arabella, even if the relationship was sinful?

 

The thought of Miriam and Arabella doing 'that stuff' together was disgusting enough, let alone Miriam and... who? Her mind ticked off the various women in the town, starting with Granny Miggins and ending with the most likely candidate, that blonde whore from the saloon. Ugh, the thought of it! Disgraceful, she decided, as she imagined the scene in great detail, including that slack mouthed dumbo, Bridget, watching through the window.

 

@Wayfarer

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"Well, here's your chance."  the usually verbose Arabella said, baldly.

 

"Here? Right now? I'm working and at any moment some customer might come waltzing into the store.  This is the sort of conversation which should be just between the two of us.  I promise I do want to tell you...tell you everything," Miriam explained.

 

"Nothing has really changed ....honest, you still are the most important person in my life, Ara. Just because Bridgette peeked into a window for a moment does not mean she knows what all happened and the reasons why."

 

There was some sort of faint noise in the back, Miriam turned to look before reverting to facing her best friend.

 

"That might be Mr. Pettigrew now. Please....Ara," she pleaded.

 

 

 

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Jemima put her ear right up to the curtain to hear what Miriam was saying, it was so quiet and mealy mouthed. She felt like shouting 'Speak up!'.

 

"Here? Right now? I'm working and at any moment some customer might come waltzing into the store.  This is the sort of conversation which should be just between the two of us.  I promise I do want to tell you...tell you everything," Miriam explained.

 

"If things've changed with you and me, just tell me now! put me outta my misery." Arabella demanded. Jemima had no trouble catching that bit.  

 

"Nothing has really changed ....honest, you still are the most important person in my life, Ara. Just because Bridgette peeked into a window for a moment does not mean she knows what all happened and the reasons why."

 

"Don't lie to me. You and Hector Wigfall were doing it; doing it on the floor like a couple of... I don't need to know reasons why. Most important? That's a laugh, you've broken my heart Miriam Kaufmann, we're through!" Arabella was crying now. 

 

There was some sort of faint noise in the back, Miriam turned to look before reverting to facing her best friend.

 

"That might be Mr. Pettigrew now. Please....Ara," she pleaded.

 

"It isn't Pettigrew, it's me!" roared Jemima as she flew through the curtains and goggled at Miriam like she was looking at some succubus risen from the depths of Hell. 

 

"You did it with my brother?!!!" she asked incredulously. She felt shocked and emotional, very emotional: she just couldn't quite put her finger on exactly what emotion it was. Her appearance made Arabella jump, and just in case Jemima's emotion should turn out to be anger, Arabella grabbed some pinking shears, threw herself in front of Miriam and yelled "You keep away from her. Go away, this ain't nuthin' to do with you!" 

 

@Wayfarer

 

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"Most important? That's a laugh, you've broken my heart Miriam Kaufmann, we're through!" Arabella was crying now. 

 

"I'm telling you the truth!" tears were welling up in Miriam's eyes too, one trickling down a cheek. This was a nightmare!

 

Just when she thought it couldn't get any worse, there had been a noise in back but it was not her kindly boss, it was...........oy vey!  Hector's sister!

 

"It isn't Pettigrew, it's me!" roared Jemima as she flew through the curtains and goggled at Miriam.

 

Her first sentence already indicated to Miriam she knew what had happened between her and Hector. That was it.............her life was ruined.  It was crumbling right there and then. She half expected Jemima to physically attack her. Maybe Arabella thought the same?

 

Arabella grabbed some pinking shears, threw herself in front of Miriam and yelled "You keep away from her. Go away, this ain't nuthin' to do with you!" 

 

It was all too much for the once shy mousey girl (before she had met Arabella that is) and at this very moment Miriam did not even think about something as mundane as her job. Sobbing aloud now, she raced from the behind the counter straight for the front door, flung it open, and exited this scene which she simply could not deal with!

 

 

 

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Worcester Pettigrew was just returning to his store from the bank when the door was flung open and a light blue blur of teenage girl shot out and straight into him: it wasn't so much the force of the collision as the shock that sent him backwards like a big round humpty dumpty, his legs wiggling for a second comically in the air. 

 

Jemima and Arabella came right up behind Miriam and despite the fact that they had clearly just been fighting (Arabella's smock was torn and she was gripping the pinking shears in one hand and a hunk of Jemima's hair in the other) they both burst out laughing at the ridiculous sight of Pettigrew on the ground. If it was funny enough to make Jemima laugh, it was funny. 

 

"Good Lord!" he shouted from the ground "Get me up, get me up I say! What the Devil is going on here?" 

 

The girls rushed forward to help the portly man up, Jemima and Arabella scarcely able to contain their mirth, especially when Mr Pettigrew's fragile ginger 'comb-over' used to disguise his baldness, sort of flipped open like the lid of a half-opened tin can. 

 

"In all my born days..." he rumbled as he regained his feet and pulled his comb-over back into place. "Inside, all three of you!! I will know what this is all about!!"

 

@Wayfarer 

 

 

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Miriam was crying so hard while she rushed out the shop that too late to notice she plowed straight into a wide form coming her way on the boardwalk, about to enter the very place she was leaving so hastily. Both of them went down, the victim onto his back and her just to the side onto all fours. Only then did she realize just who she had collided with - her employer!

 

Well, if she wasn't going to be fired for abandoning her shift at the store, this would certainly seal her doom. Besides, did it even matter at this point? Her life was over - she was going to lose everything - job, reputation, the love and trust of her strict parents, and most of all, Arabella.

 

From behind her she heard the girls laughing! Well, Mr. Pettigrew certainly wasn't.

 

"Good Lord!" he shouted from the boardwalk "Get me up, get me up I say! What the Devil is going on here?"

 

Miriam turned her face toward the man, who was red with apoplexy. Hopefully he was injured other than his dignity. Tears streaming she sobbed, "I'm so sorry sir."

 

No sooner had she got that out but all the stress and emotion not to mention the sudden jolt of the collision was too much for her constitution. Turning her head away from him, the girl then vomited up her morning's breakfast.

 

Meanwhile the two more functioning young ladies had indeed yanked and tugged the rotund businessman up to his feet.

 

"In all my born days..." he rumbled as he regained his feet and pulled his comb-over back into place. "Inside, all three of you!! I will know what this is all about!!" 

 

Oh god! Yet another person was about to know....at this pace by nightfall the entire town will have become aware. Along with the sadness and yes, guilt, something else came over Miriam then, a sense of total crushing defeat.  Though still crying, she got up, ignoring a sizeable sliver in the palm of her hand from the wood of the boardwalk, she obeyed the man's orders because that was the more usual Miriam, meek, obedient, and proper. Who that was the other day with Hector, that person had been someone else quite different, an abberation.

 

So the four of them ended up back within the shop, Miriam looking quite miserable.

miriamdistraught.gif

 

 

 

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