Jump to content
Sagas of the Wild West
  • Forum Statistics

    148
    Total Topics
    4,482
    Total Posts

Life Behind Bars


Recommended Posts

Mature Content: No

With: Jay Ryker, Arabella Mudd, A chorus of Imaginary Can Can Dancers
Location: Stardust Saloon
When: Early January 1876
Time of Day: Morning

 

content-divider.png.6a8e0e5e9ebf8f020a1a

 

Mr. Flandry had left very, very strict instructions. If anyone came into the saloon while he was changing the barrel or whatever bit of barmanly duty it was he was doing in the cellar of the place, she was to call him immediately. She was not to serve drinks to customers, she was not to accept payments or extend credit on a bar tab, she was not to touch the till or anything else behind the bar. And, most importantly, under no circumstances whatsoever was she to spark up an ‘interesting conversation’ about any subject under the Sun, past, present or future!

 

Mr. Flandry had hidden the shotgun away entirely.

 

Apart from that, she was totally in charge of the front of house of the saloon for the next ten minutes.

 

She moved a small wooden box that used to contain some unknown something that was the “Product of Chester, PENN.” over to where she was stood behind the bar, so that her head peeped clearly over the top of the ornate wooden structure. So, this was what it was like to stand in Mr. Flandry’s position, she thought to herself:  overseeing the entire saloon, dealing with customers, looking out for trouble, and stopping it before it began. Phew! What a job, and what a man, to be able to do it with all his customary and well assured élan.

 

Arabella tipped her head back, trying to look over the top of her own scalp at the gigantic mirror behind her that reflected the whole of the room, and nearly fell off her box with a yelp when the saloon doors creaked open.

 

“Good Morning and welcome to the Stardust Saloon! How might I be of service to you this fine day?” she squeaked, righting herself on the wobbly box. Oh gosh darn it, she’d forgotten to call Mr. Flandry! Oh well, she decided to carry on for a bit and call him if things started getting a little difficult.

 

@Jack

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It had been weeks without a drop. Jay was never a big drinker but on occassion a glass of whiskey or two was very welcome. Saloons were usually filed with folks, who like to gamble, talk, listen to a piano or meet some nice ladies if present.

None of that was the case for this place. It was empty and Jay almost wished he hadn't entered. Maybe it was too early. The only person present was a girl behind the counter, Perhaps the owners daughter.

 

He pushed on as he decided to have a drink nevertheless.

"Good morning to you, too. Where are all the people of this town? Do you not have any drunks?" He joked and made his way to the bar, where he let his gaze wander around the place before he turned to the girl.

"Are you alone?"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Good morning to you, too. Where are all the people of this town? Do you not have any drunks?" He joked and made his way to the bar, where he let his gaze wander around the place before he turned to the girl.

 

Arabella didn’t want the customer to think that the saloon was lacking in any essential elements, and quickly spoke to counter the notion that they were drunk-less.

 

“Oh, we got plenty of drunks!” she assured him “They’re all sleepin’ it off right now, but you should have been here last night. We got all sorts of drunks: good drunks who want to be your best friend, bad drunks who always want a fight, sleepy drunks, drunks as like to dance about when they’ve had too much red-eye and a fair sprinkling of maudlin drunks too. Maudlin drunks is my favourite, cause they always wants me to play the pianna and sing ‘em songs about Mothers and Home.”

 

Well, that ought to put paid to any rumours about the Saloon being full of sober old biddies.

 

“I reckon the only folks in here who ain’t drunks in this place is me, cause I’m a Methodist, and Mr. Flandry cause, well, I guess it’s like workin’ in a candy store: when it’s easy to hand, you don’t fancy it.”

 

"Are you alone?"

 

“Course not, silly!” she laughed “You’re here, too!” What a funny question.

 

“Now, what can I get you, cowboy? How about a nice sarsaparilla?” she offered, as that was the only drink she knew how to make, and the only one she was allowed to make. She’d very often mix up a sarsaparilla when she was thirsty, sometimes with Mr. Flandry’s permission. The only problem was that it was completely non-alcoholic.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Her joke about not being alone actually made him laugh even though he suspected that it wasn't a joke considering how oblivious and innocent she seemed. "A sarsaparilla? What do I look like to you? 13? Gimme a whiskey,....please."

He lowered himself onto a bar stool and took off his hat to place it on the fairly clean counter. Then he ran a hand through his greasy blonde hair and studied the bottle in front of the mirror behind the bar.

"The old mirror trick..." He muttered to himself.

 

In the mirror he spotted the piano that she'd been talking about. "So you play?" Music had always been a wonder to him. He loved to listen to people sing and play. Sometimes that was a very bad idea because it sounded like cat music, at other times it could take him away to splendid places.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Her joke about not being alone actually made him laugh even though he suspected that it wasn't a joke considering how oblivious and innocent she seemed. "A sarsaparilla? What do I look like to you? 13? Gimme a whiskey,....please."

 

“Oh, sure, er…” she scanned the bottles in front of her: there were fancy bottles labelled Dewar’s Scotch and Old Kentucky Bourbon, but no sign of anything labelled Whiskey. There were also bigger bottles with hand written labels such as ‘Red Eye’ and ‘Coffin Varnish’. The contents looked a very similar color to the liquid in the fancier bottles. Still, no sign of whiskey. She didn’t notice the bottle sitting right behind her. “Now where is that pesky bottle?!” she muttered, pretending she knew what she was looking for and buying time.

 

In the mirror he spotted the piano that she'd been talking about. "So you play?" Music had always been a wonder to him. He loved to listen to people sing and play. Sometimes that was a very bad idea because it sounded like cat music, at other times it could take him away to splendid places.

 

“Oooh, yes!!” Arabella seized the opportunity to avoid breaking the bartender’s rules about not serving any customers while he was absent down below. She jumped off her box and almost disappeared from the Englishman’s view as she ran around bar to the front, her boots drumming on the wooden floorboards as she whizzed around.

 

She appeared and skipped over to the upright piano which had once been a splendid looking instrument, but had now seen too many days and nights in the company of drunken, brawling cowboys and other revelers. It was still more or less in tune though and, like the harmonium in the church, Arabella had worked out which bum keys to avoid if possible.

 

She jumped onto the piano stool and shouted “Let’s have a song before you start drinkin’, you’ll appreciate it more sober!” As she was already in place, it was hard to say ‘no’ although, to tell the truth, she reckoned men appreciated a good tune more when they were completely sozzled.

 

“What’s your favourite song, Tex?” she asked the native of the British Isles. She hadn’t recognized his accent, he was probably from somewhere outlandish like Dakota or Wisconsin, but a lot of cowboys who came in had driven herds up from Texas, so she tended to call any stranger she didn’t know by the name of ‘Tex’ – and this feller looked wild and woolly enough to be a cowboy.

 

“If you can hum it, I can play it!” she boasted “I can play by ear. That don’t mean I bang my head on the keyboard – that’d be ridickulus!” she closed her eyes and laughed. “No, silly, that just means I can hear a tune and just about find the right ones of these black and white keys to play it out. It’s one of my greatest gifts.” she informed him proudly.

 

“Come on then, cowboy, what’s it to be? ‘I come from Alabama with a Banjo on my Knee’? ‘Beautiful Dreamer?’ ‘Camptown Races?’” she quizzed him.

 

lw1949.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Jay squinted his eyes at the her when she couldn't find Whiskey in a long row of bottled containing the requested drink. Then he squinted at the bottles, wondering whether he was reading the labels wrong.

"I mean..." He was about to point to one of the Kentucky Straight Burbon bottles when she dashed away to round the bar and tell him all about her musical skills.

Jay had grown up in a fairly well of British family, when he was younger, with fine instruments like cellos, violins and pianos around. It was onlylater that his father had lost their wealth.

He leaned across the bar and reached for a bottle and a glass to pour himself a drink while her back was to him. A quick sip confirmed that it was really whiskey and tasted just as horrible as he remembered it.

 

"I know how a piano works, darling." He shook his head with amusement at the over eager young woman, who confused him again by calling him Tex. Did she not know that a Texan sounded drastically different from a Brit, even from one, who was trying to mask his accent?

"I'm Jay....just call me Jay. Do you know the song Bonnie Bell?" He tried his best to hum the tune. It was older but perhaps she knew it.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"I'm Jay....just call me Jay. Do you know the song Bonnie Bell?" He tried his best to hum the tune. It was older but perhaps she knew it.

 

She didn’t know that tune, but the name sounded vaguely familiar: then she remembered. Reaching up, she opened up the lid of the instrument, which let you look inside at the fascinating sight of the different thicknesses of taut wire, and the little hammers that beat upon them when you hit a key. There was also a cunning space to store sheet music, and she rifled through the hotch-potch of items there and pulled out the one labelled “Bonnie Bell by Thomas Spencer Lloyd, New York 1860.”

 

Arabella pulled a face: she didn’t know the tune by ear so would have to read the dots. That was all right with slower tunes, like the hymns she played on the harmonium in church, but if this thing had a sprightly pace, it would be tough going. Oh! It said Ballad on the front, that would be all right, nice and slow.

 

130-018-000.jpg?itok=1Lh-nNWq

 

She back sat down on the stool, but now the Englishman was actually humming the melody, she realized that he’d made a bit of a silly mistake.

 

“Oh, I know that tune Mr. Jay, but it ain’t called Bonnie Bell, it’s called The Smiling Spring. I know that one, it’s just an old timey song, that’s easy!” and indeed, it was a old, old Scottish folk melody, affixed to the words of one of Robbie Burns’ more Anglophonic poems at the end of the last century, which had travelled at the side of settlers who had left old Caledonian highlands to cross the seas and settle in the still virgin and verdant bosom of the new world.

 

It might have, like those settlers themselves, adapted, taken on local characteristics fitted to its new environment and even changed its name, but it was still the same basic song, and the girl, who somewhere forgotten in her blood, carried the very same race memories as Jay of that sceptred isle that both their ancestors had once called home, played out the simple melody and sang to an uncluttered accompaniment, that ancient air in a clear bel canto voice.

 

🎶 The Smiling Spring comes in rejoicing,

And surly Winter grimly flies;

Now crystal clear are the falling waters,

And bonny blue are the sunny skies.

Fresh over the mountains breaks forth the morning,

The evening gilds the Ocean's swell;

All creatures joy in the sun's returning,

And I rejoice in my Bonny Bell. 🎶

 

For a raw country girl, singing in her untutored voice and banging out an accompaniment extempore on a decrepit piano in a saloon in the territories, it was a pretty good performance. She smiled happily as she played on and hummed the melody, for the words of the second verse escaped her. She might not have smiled so happily had she known that behind her back, Mr. Jay was secretly guzzling the whiskey.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

He wet his lips when the whiskey had burnt down his throat. After a bit of confusion about the song, the girl finally knew what he was talking about and started playing the tune.

The old piano sounded almost harsh compared to some of instruments Jay had heard in England. So did her voice but she knew how to hit the right notes and she sang from her heart.

Something inside of him was suddenly moved as he stood still and listened very carefully. It was as if a long moment of joy filled him, taking him back to his home that he had left so long ago.

Jay's heart was filled with joy by the singing and playing of this young lady. A smile tugged on his lips when he heard the words and decided to sing along. His own voice was much deeper,a whole octave actually but they were a good match.

 

When the song ended he clapped his hands and nodded. "Thank you. That was lovely."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When the song ended he clapped his hands and nodded. "Thank you. That was lovely."

 

Arabella clapped her hands with delight “Ha ha, that was nice when you sang, too. Now let’s have somethin’ more jolly!” she was so obsessed with music and performing it, that she didn’t even turn round and so remained in ignorance of Jay’s whiskey snaffling activities.

 

“Listen, I been tryin’ this one out!” she cried and started into a somewhat inaccurate and heavy handed version of Offenbach’s Galop Infernal. To be fair, she only knew the music from the singing of some drunken revelers a week ago who had demanded that she give them a dance and when she demurred, citing her pot collecting duties, for she was usually more than willing to ‘shake a leg’, one of the men, the town’s undertaker, had climbed on a table and executed a drunken version of the dance himself, before falling off to the general hilarity of the company, and getting escorted outside by Mr. Flandry.

 

“This here’s called the Can Can!” she yelped excitedly as she ploughed out the upbeat tempo “You ever heard o’ that Mr. Jay?! I read in the papers that some ladies back East dance it and kick up their legs ‘n’ show their unmentionables! Can you imagine that? And I reckon we should get some Can Can dancers here, and I reckon lots of new customers would come in to see such a curious thing, don’t you?”

 

She wanted to pitch the idea to the Saloon management. She'd sneak it into conversation with  Mr. Flandry first because, although he was a saturnine and taciturn sort of a man, he somehow seemed more open to her exciting and brilliant new ideas than Ms. Devereau, who had quickly fallen into the habit of issuing a peremptory “No!” almost as soon as Arabella opened her mouth about anything. As for Cookie, she had just looked on with a sort of bemused horror when Arabella had demonstrated the dance to her in the kitchen last Saturday.

 

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Of course he had heard of the Can Can. He was a traveler, who spent a lot of time in pubs and saloons plus he had been part of Thomas' gang.

The Can Can was every non married mans delight. Who didn't like to peek under womens skirts? It was a very enticing dance.

That this little girl was playing it was a little irritating, though. Did she aspire to be a Can Can dancer?

 

It was fun to hear the tune nevertheless and put a big grin on his face as he clapped along and whistled the famous tune.

"That would be a splendid idea. You'd be making a fortune. People would come from near and far...and it's not that uncivilized...I think it's French!"

Jay knew that no saloon owner in his right mind would cart in French dancers...but who knew. Maybe the local girls wanted to swing their legs in unruly ways. He poured himself another glass and had a sip. "You could be playing the piano...Maybe dance a bit, too?"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • JulieS locked this topic
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...